What to consider when booking a vacation house for your Colorado small intimate micro-wedding or elopement
With a vast number of incredibly luxurious, large vacation homes in Colorado that feature stunning views, it is no wonder this trend has been increasing - especially for small, intimate micro-weddings. But, before you go down a rabbit-hole searching for that perfect AirBNB, VRBO, Vacasa…. Or even send off that deposit, there are a number of things to consider.
I got married in a vacation home with 22 guests in Keystone in 2007, well before the term "micro-wedding" was coined. In my 20 years as a wedding planner, I’ve also helped over a thousand couples with their small intimate weddings, many of whom each year decide that a vacation home rental in the Colorado Rockies as their venue where they can find privacy, freedom, luxury, customization and uniqueness.
This article will explain what to expect when searching for the perfect rental property for your ceremony and/or dinner celebration. And, while it's exhausting trying to keep up with the thousands of home listings, we will highlight some locales and property management companies at the end.
Before reading further, I must dispel a myth that a vacation house wedding is affordable. While that may be true when comparing the cost to an expensive and expansive large event venue, it is NOT affordable compared finding a more off-the-beaten-path ceremony site (which is our specialty for couples) that may either be free or minimal permits (less than $500). The cost in the vacation house may be the minimum night stay required, cleaning fees and if you are in a resort area.... its just plain expensive. But, keep reading from more explanation and ideas as the cost and benefits may be just the right fit for you!
1. Decide your format
What attracts many couples to a vacation home wedding is the 1-stop-shop idea. Its as all-inclusive as you can get: from hosting all or most the guests overnight to the wedding day getting ready, from the ceremony to the private-chef catered dinner, at the vacation house. It is the epitome of easy….. at first thought.
When considering this format, reflect on the relationships among your guests. If there are any conflicts, like divorces or habits that others may object, it might be a good idea to give people some room and options to stay at their own choice of lodging. Also, if the locale features fun activities and great restaurants, your guests may want to explore and experience what is in the area. Finally, you may get a little cabin-fever if everything is housed at one place.
Therefore, think about mixing-up some of those components. Here are some examples:
2. Variable and Amenities
Vacation home offerings are as unique as the couples we marry. Before you start searching, consider the following and make a list of your negotiable and your non-negotiable.
3. Permits, approvals and fees
Make sure that you are clear with the homeowner about your plans for an event at the vacation house. Many towns have permitting requirements on vacation rentals for hosting events due to considerations like noise, parking, and sewage. And, we wouldn’t want you to put a huge deposits down only to find out it won’t be allowed, thus you having to change your plans. Worse yet, having the fire-department arrive because parking isn’t allowed on the street and then having your event shut down while in the middle of the ceremony. So please be open and clear about your wedding plans with the home owners BEFORE booking and sending any deposits.
Permitting regulations will likely maximum capacities for the number of people allowed on property. These capacities for permitting can vary depending on the owner and permitting, even within the same town. Additionally, companies like AirBNB have put restrictions on owners for hosting events, especially during the COVID pandemic. Often we see houses permitted up to #25, #35, sometimes #50 guests, and occasionally up to #75.
Most often, we see regulations around parking - so, be sure that you know how many vehicles can park at the house and specifically where they can park. And, even if the house accommodates more parking, consider the time of year: it can be more limited due to snow removal in winter than what would be available in summer.
When having conversations with the homeowner, be up front about any furniture moving or rental deliveries. They may not allow this because they don’t want scratches or dents in any flooring or furniture. Also be honest about dancing as heels and cowboy boots it can ruin custom wood floors. Thus, home owners may charge an event fee or ask for more of a damage deposit. Be understanding that this isn’t an opportunistic fee, there are expenses incurred by the owner such as additional cleaning, additional security in case of damage, and even additional trash removal.
For micro weddings where your guests counts may be less than the maximum occupancy of the house (for example #12 guests when the house accommodates up to #16), permitting and approvals may not be necessary. But, we believe honesty is the best policy and be very clear with owners on what your event plans entail. Regardless of any allowances, regulations, parking situations or permitting (or not), it is absolutely essential to get approval in writing from any homeowner or property management company if you plan to host an event at the vacation home.
4. Booking Expectations
In Colorado, we experience high, low, and premium seasons. Each one will have different sets of fee structures and minimum night stays. While we’d like to give you exactly what those might be, it varies from owner-to-owner during different season and regions across the state. For example winter may be peak season in ski-resort communities, in other areas of the state where there aren’t ski resorts, it may be low season. Generally summer season is our peak and the shoulder seasons are in April & May, and then again in November. Here is an article that explains our weather and seasonal patterns in Colorado.
Depending on the season, you could see 2-night minimum night stays in low seasons, 5-night minimums in high season, and 7-night stays in premium seasons (like around the Holidays). Finally, make sure to ask about all fees: cleaning fees, pet fees, damage deposits and occupancy taxes - along with those event fees that we mentioned above.
5. Property Management Companies
We recommend working through a reputable property management company rather than an owner-source such as AirBNB, VRBO or Vacasa. Property management companies usually respond to any kind of service or maintenance requests immediately. Also, if something happens to the house (like a sewage leak), they have other properties in which they can move the group and the staffing to assist with the move. We once had wildfire breakout near a vacation the couple had rented - strict evacuation orders were called out TWO HOURS before the couples ceremony. The group had just enough time to pack their belongings before we were scheduled to depart for the ceremony. The property management company moved the group’s belongings while they were getting married.
Now, that isn’t to say that you won’t receive they same kind of service with an AirBNB, VRBO or Vacasa as many property management companies will post their properties on these sites. And, many owners also have connections and are extremely responsive to their client’s needs. So, read the reviews carefully, ask questions and build rapport with the owners.
This may seem like a lot to consider before selecting a property and sending off a booking fee. With a little conscious, thoughtful decisions, you’ll have a good plan and know what to expect when searching for the perfect wedding home rental:
I would love any comments or questions - what did you decide? Will you books a vacation home for any portion of your wedding weekend? Have you already hosted your event? If so, please let us know how it went. ~ Wendee
P.S. Here are some great Galleries to vacation home weddings that we've planned & coordinated. Some of them did the entire wedding at the vacation house, others did a portion (like the dinner only) at the vacation house.
By Wendee Vezzetti
Mother, student, planner, gardener, mountain biker, entrepreneur, librarian, hiker, snowboarder, reader, dork, chocoholic, trail runner and creative.
Though we offer "done-for-you" packages in Colorado, if you are wanting to DIY your small wedding, or if your wedding will be out-of-state, join Wendee's online course for couples on how to plan your own small wedding with confidence, focus & ease, saving you time and avoiding overwhelm.
Colorado's most experienced planner for intimate weddings, elopements and micro-weddings. We don't do the big weddings, which means you receive quality vendors and a planner who knows how to pull together your logistics efficiently & easily. Reach out to Wendee today.