Secret Engagement and Elopement at Great Sand Dunes, CO

Secret Engagement and Elopement at Great Sand Dunes, CO

Lidia and Dalton eloped at the courthouse and then immediately headed to the dunes for their elopement photo session. They wanted to be as intimate and intentional with their day as possible. It was a surprise engagement and elopement at the Great Sand Dunes. So none of their loved ones knew about their engagement or elopement and wouldn’t know until after they were married.

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About This Great Sand Dunes Elopement

“Their day was all about honoring them and their love as a couple. Lidia made her cake and then transported it across the country, it was as gorgeous as it was delicious. They didn’t have a ton of plans for their day other than to capture their love and special moments in this phase of their life together. They popped champagne, took photos with Dalton’s beloved car, adventured around the dunes and shared some pretty emotional vows, took polaroids of each other, had a custom tapestry made to celebrate the occasion, and we found the hidden gems of the sand dunes to take some stunning sunset photos. All in all, it was such an intentional, intimate, and special day and exactly what they wanted for their elopement day.” [Claire, the photographer]

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Eloping at Great Sand Dunes in CO

“There is a permit for portraits only and a permit for an actual ceremony. Only a max of 15 people are allowed for ceremonies and you can only be at the dunes for a max of 2 hours. If you’re just wanting your elopement portraits in the park, your photographer needs the CUA and it’s good for 2 years. At the time I purchased the permit it was $200. For ceremonies, you’ll need the SUP which is also $200. LNT applies at the actual trails, but because of the sand environment, there aren’t really any trails to follow. However, it’s always good to clean up after yourself (including champagne pops + corks) and respect other visitors in the park.” [Claire, the photographer]

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Top Tips When Eloping at the Sand Dunes

“Elope 2 hours before sunset and then enjoy taking portraits immediately after for the best lighting. The sand dunes are truly endless too, so you can pick your favorite spot once you arrive and you really can’t go wrong.

Eloping in the spring (after snow season) or fall is best for the Sand Dunes. The sand is very hot and it’s packed during the summer months. So if you want more privacy and comfortable weather/sand temperatures, spring or fall is best! The wind can get strong, so be prepared with warm, skin colored leggings or a cute jacket. Sometimes you’ll get sand in your eyes too, so just being prepared for that is helpful!” [Claire, the photographer]

Deciding to Elope

“We just felt like we wanted to enjoy the day for ourselves without the stress of a wedding and actually enjoy and cherish each others company intimately and fully take in the most important day of our lives. Also, without the expense of a wedding that we felt we both would not have enjoyed because we view weddings to be more for the guests not the bride and groom…Dalton was so excited to tell me that Colorado had Sand Dunes and that we should definitely elope there cause the Sand Dunes looked so magical. And they definitely were!” [Lidia, the bride]

Planning Process

“The planning I’m sure wasn’t nearly as stressful as a wedding, however, it was somewhat stressful nonetheless. With me living in DC and Dalton in Colorado, it was difficult looking up things together, so we pretty much planned everything together over the phone through FaceTime. We had to search for a table where we would set up our cake and sign our marriage license, and we just had to search online cause it was difficult without me being in Colorado trying to search for one in stores. Then, budget wise it was just more affordable for us to make our own cake then ordering one; I flew into Colorado the day before we were eloping so I had to figure out a way to make the cake in DC and fly it across the country with me haha, that was definitely and adventure.” [Lidia, the bride]

Estimated Cost From This Elopement

Wedding Dress/Shoes
Bridal Hair Accessories and Jewelry
Cake Table
Table Runner


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Memorable Moments During This Elopement

From the photographer:

“Dalton loved his car so Lidia knew she wanted to focus on that some and we had a great time playing with reflections and the dust from the car taking off. Additionally, I loved that they shared their handwritten vows while the sand was blowing up from the ground.”

From the couple:

“Getting to spend the full day together. Also, finding a photographer that did not coordinate our day but instead captured/documented our day how we wanted it. There was no doing things for anyone except each other and having a photographer who was able to capture all of that, candidly was super important because our hope was that by doing that, everyone who we chose to share the photos with, would still feel deeply included in the day. Lastly, we didn’t have to have your basic wedding food. There is nothing comparable to eating In-and-Out the night of getting married. It had always been a dream of mine (Lidia) to go and eat in and out after getting married and it was definitely a dream come true of mine. Marrying the person you live above anyone on earth and eating THE best fast food? Nothing beats that.”

Advice From The Couple

“Sometimes when someone asks us how much our photographer was they are like “wow! Your elopement ended up being expensive then!” And we always say, no we don’t view our photographer as just an expense. It was an INVESTMENT, an investment for our elopement, and even our future because we have photographs that give us the ability to relive that day over and over again no matter how many year pass by and they will forever remind us and give us the ability to share with others how magical that day was for us.

Don’t feel guilty for splurging on the dress of your dreams or the shoes you love or the headband or veil you want to experience wearing, or the suit you want to buy and have tailored. You are still a bride and a groom and your elopement is no less important than the bride or groom who is having an actual wedding. Pick an extravagant destination (like the Sand Dunes haha) and if you find your planning too stressful or can’t think of enough things to do, hire a planner, because an elopement deserve all of the importance and attention that a wedding does. Go big and make that day everything you’ve ever dreamed of! You won’t regret it.” [Lidia, the bride]


Photography | Claire Hunt Photography

Location | Great Sand Dunes NPP 

Florals | Emma Lea Floral 

Hat | Lack of Color Hats  

Accessories | LELET NY 

Custom tapestry | Madison | Custom Canvas Signs | Courier Collective

Table runner | not PERFECT LINEN 

Photos From This Secret Elopement at Great Sand Dunes


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