How to Plan the Perfect Ski Wedding

Some heroes wear capes, so do some brides – and the most rad of them all wear it while snowboarding | Picture: Gabrielle Stowe @skitheday

A wedding is the celebration of two people’s love and life, and when those two people love the snow and mountains, what better way to celebrate this love than by getting married in the mountains? A ski wedding combines romance and adventure, offering a unique and unforgettable celebration for ‘outdoorsy’ couples. Whether you are a seasoned skier or love the mountains, a ski resort can provide the perfect setting for your wedding day, with the natural beauty of the mountains as the only backdrop you could need.

Ski weddingWhat better backdrop for your wedding pictures than the stunning snow-capped mountains? | Picture: Nate Shepard — Telluride wedding

Destination weddings are popular and grew an estimated 29% in 2022. While most people think of ‘tropical islands’ or ‘beach destinations’ for their destination weddings, there is a strongly growing segment of ski weddings. Many millennials are turning their weddings into grand, once-in-a-lifetime vacations, and Switzerland, France, and Italy are high on the list of destination weddings. The increasing influence of social media on people’s wedding planning has given a boost to destination weddings, and social media has been flooded with incredible pictures from weddings on the snow. The wedding pictures of pro-skier Owen Leeper and Hayley Badenhop in April 2022 went viral on social media and were featured across several websites and Instagram accounts.

Owen LeeperThe ski wedding of Owen and Hayley Leeper in April 2022 | Picture: Elise Sterck Photographer (@roundtheworldgirl) via Haley Leeper’s (@haleybhop) Instagram Page

The pro skier’s wedding is not the only one to go viral. Colorado ski wedding photographer Gabrielle Stowe — better known as @skitheday on Insta — posted a short video of a February 2022 wedding at Steamboat that went viral. The video shows the bride and groom skiing and boarding with their guests and has thus far racked up more than 91 million views and 5 million likes on her Instagram account alone. The video has been shared and reposted on numerous other Instagram and TikTok accounts and featured on ESPN and ABC News. The videographer, Silk and Sage Films, shared the full wedding video on their Instagram account @silkandsagefilms after Gabrielle’s mix of their video combined with her pictures broke the internet.

“These couples get married on skis because it is their favorite thing to do with their favorite person. Ski weddings are much more laid back and fun than traditional weddings. My favorite part is seeing people having their best time on their wedding day. It is such a fun atmosphere.”

– Gabrielle Stowe @skitheday

Inspired by the viral ski wedding video by Gabrielle Stowe, SnowBrains took a look at ski weddings on social media and spoke with a few experts in the market about how to plan the perfect ski wedding. Every photographer we spoke with agrees that ski weddings require a lot of logistical planning but are uniquely beautiful, memorable, and worth the extra logistics.

Colorado-based wedding photographer Nate Shepard stressed: “A good wedding planner is key for a successful ski wedding.” He has worked closely with Calluna Events in Colorado, specializing in wedding planning, and has done several ski weddings. “Elopements are fun and make planning easier,” he adds, “but of course, not everyone can or wants to elope and potentially upset close family members. Some of my clients had a civil service at the courthouse back at home with family,” he explains, “and then eloped for a ski ceremony.”

Nate has covered several elopements in beautiful Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, but has also traveled across the American Rockies, helping local and inter-state couples capture the most magical day of their lives. His portfolio is littered with stunning pictures, but Nate quite humbly acknowledges: “The mountains are such a stunning backdrop. You really don’t need much else when you have the stunning nature and a couple that is just happy to be together to take great pictures.”

Ski weddingWho needs decorations when you have the stunning Swiss Alps as your backdrop? | Picture: Nate Shepard Lauterbrunnen — Switzerland Elopement

Pro Tips:

Paul Keppel is a UK-based wedding photographer who has accompanied many US-based couples on elopements to Zermatt, Switzerland. He has accompanied many American couples on destination weddings to Switzerland and has assembled a list of his most essential tips for a successful ski wedding for our SnowBrains readers:

1. What goes up must come down: While you’re swept up in the magic of your wedding day, family and friends will need to travel to and from your wedding with ease. Though a sky-high wedding venue may deliver the dramatic views and superb facilities you want, what will access be like for your guests on the day? Gondolas and ski lifts shut off at certain times, which vary according to the day of the week and time of day. There are many ways of descending the slopes, so you can be as creative as you wish but keep your guest’s needs in mind. If you’re planning to party into the early hours, remember to arrange transport so everyone else can leave when they want. Little nieces, nephews, and aging grandparents will want to go before the music stops. How appropriate will the transport you have in mind be for them?

Ski WeddingHere comes the bride — on skis | Picture: Paul Keppel Photography – Zermatt Wedding

2. Dress Code? Ski wedding gear: The pressure to fulfill every wedding dream is real, but so is the weather. You can’t remind yourselves and each other enough that you’re getting married on ski terrain. From solid-soled shoes to cover-ups, ski boots for you, sunglasses, and more, you and your guests must adapt your usual wedding attire to accommodate the weather. For you both, flexibility is key. Long trains and tight-fitting clothes won’t work. You both need to be able to move with ease and stay warm! Slips and falls, cold guests, and photos of you trying not to look cold are the last things you want.

Ski WeddingWho needs decorations when you have the Matterhorn as backdrop | Picture: Paul Keppel Photography – Zermatt Wedding

3. A photographer who can scale the slopes: You’ll need an experienced ski wedding photographer who can ski, understand the terrain, and get the fantastic shots you want. As a ski wedding photographer and ski instructor, I pick out all the best spots for my couples in advance, move around the terrain easily, and even ski backward while shooting — just saying! Regardless of how much you like their photography, a wedding photographer who can’t ski won’t be much use.

Zermatt weddingA stunning wedding in Zermatt with the Matterhorn in the background | Picture: Paul Keppel Photography – Zermatt Wedding

4. Accept assistance with suppliers: From changing weather to afternoon access, your suppliers may encounter several obstacles which prevent them from arriving at your venue at the right time. Many alpine venues do not let suppliers arrive before 2.30 pm because they are not dedicated wedding spaces. In other cases, changes in the weather or logistical issues may mean suppliers experience transportation problems. Employing the help of a professional ski wedding planner can ensure any issues are dealt with swiftly on the day, and common challenges are pre-empted in advance.

Les Arcs weddingThis couple eloped to Les Arcs, France, for their dreamy ski wedding | Picture: Paul Keppel Photography – Les Arcs Wedding

5. Think flexibly about organization: Be practical when considering where you want to get married and when you want to take photos on the slopes. You may keep your wedding in one place, so transportation is easy. You might even decide to have a photo shoot on the slopes the day before your wedding.

Ski weddingCouples who t-bar together, stay together | Picture: Paul Keppel Photography – Swiss Alps

When and Where:

Nate Shepard has accompanied many weddings across North America but has also been overseas for elopements. He admits that while potentially more costly, going in peak season will yield the best pictures: “You want the fairytale, you want the full season, whichever one it is. If you want fall, you go right when the leaves are at their brightest, all yellow and red, bursting with color. And likewise, if you want snow, you don’t go in November when it is muddy, you want the absolute peak of the season, you want February or March for the best snow, so you get that winter wonderland you want for your pictures. March will also be warmer and have better light, but depending on the resort, some areas can start shutting down at the end of March, so be mindful of that.”

Ski weddingYes, skiers and snowboarders can live happily ever after | Picture: Nate Shepard Photography

He is also quick to stress to keep not just resort but also lift closing times in mind when planning your wedding and pictures. “You don’t want to be running for the last lift in your bridal gown,” he says, reminiscing about a recent wedding where the bride had to duck the rope in front of stunned skiers to make the last gondola before closing time. “None of the skiers or lifties said anything about her skipping the queues,” he chuckles, “but it could have been quite stressful.”

Choosing a ski resort for your wedding may depend on any special connection to a certain ski area. He has photographed couples who met on the local ski team in a resort, so it was a no-brainer as to where they would get married. Others, like a couple from Florida he recently photographed, just wanted that unique mountain wedding. If you are free to choose, you can opt for the larger, more well-known resorts with a wide variety of activities and amenities or go for the smaller, more intimate resorts that could be more relaxed but possibly more limited in their offerings.

Ski weddingMr & Mrs. SnowBrains | Picture: Nate Shepard Photography

A ski wedding is a perfect excuse to do something different for your special day. Ski weddings can be relaxed and casual but also sophisticated and elegant, depending on your style. Food offerings in big resorts are limitless, so you can easily go for a banquet-style dinner at a Michelin-star restaurant in a big ski resort, but you can just as easily have s’mores and a hearty soup or stew for your guests instead of a formal sit down dinner. Options on the snow vary widely, so which way you go is entirely up to you. Just make sure you communicate your decisions with any guests you will have in attendance so they are dressed in the appropriate attire for the occasion, especially if you want them to ski with you before or after you say ‘I do’ on your favorite mountain. Whichever way you choose to celebrate, remember to stay flexible with an outdoor wedding. You never know what mother nature will give you on the day.

What is essential to consider is the proximity and infrastructure of the resort concerning any of your own, as well as your guest requirements, especially if you plan skiing with your entourage. Nate Shepard has worked in the following Colorado resorts, which he all highly recommends:

Bride AspenThe new bride in the Silver Queen gondola at Aspen, CO | Picture: Nate Shepard Photography

Aspen, CO

“Little Nell is a great wedding venue, it is right by the slopes, and you can ride up the Little Nell gondola. Going in the gondola at night in Aspen is truly magical. You are floating through the dark, and everything around you is still. It is incredible. Aspen has great infrastructure, and weddings are popular in summer and winter.”

Telluride, CO

“I have done several Telluride weddings. It is such a beautiful resort. There is a deck for weddings which you can book, called the San Sophia Overlook, and it is just breathtaking for your ceremony.”

Beaver Creek, CO

” Beaver Creek has a deck for weddings at the bottom of the runs, which you can book. I had a couple that had met on the ski team, and they got married in Beaver Creek. It was fantastic. They skied right to the ceremony on the deck, unclipped their skis, and walked into the ceremony. There is also a stunning log cabin on top of the mountain called ‘Beano’s Cabin,’ and you can take a snowcat with your wedding party up at night and have your reception there. It is just stunning!”

Ski weddingThe bridal party at the foot of the mountain at Beaver Creek, CO | Picture: Nate Shepard Photography

Ski weddings are the perfect way for mountain-loving couples to celebrate their love for each other. The stunning mountain scenery delivers the most spectacular backdrop, and you can style it to your liking. Ultimately the only thing that is important on the day is who you marry, and the rest will fall into place.

Ski WeddingPhotographer: @melislifeinpictures, Event planner: @herzensangelegenheiten_events, Styling: @beautyglowbyteresa, Clothes: @atmodasposa, Flowers: @wunderkammer6, Accessories: @katrin_schmuckelster, Couple: @daveandjaninamaria