Liz and Bo’s hot air balloon elopement in Boulder from July is easily the most epic thing I’ve ever photographed. Getting to check “ride a hot air balloon” off my bucket list WHILE photographing a gorgeous couple who’s exchanging vows in the air? Heck yes!
Are you thinking about having your own hot air balloon elopement? I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking about how this all works, so hopefully this will help you get started on planning!
Liz and Bo booked a private hot air balloon ride (with Aero-Cruise Balloon Adventures in Boulder, CO), to make sure they didn’t have to share a basket with strangers. This is more expensive than purchasing individual tickets – but still a lot cheaper, and way more unique, than most wedding venues. Whether you have guests coming along, hire a photographer or officiant, or just plan to self-solemnize your elopement alone, privacy will make it more special. (If you are hiring a photographer or officiant, you will be paying for their spots as well, either by renting the whole basket or purchasing separate tickets.)
Hot air balloon rides in Colorado almost always happen at sunrise, which means you have to be prepared for an early morning start. The balloon company will give you specific instructions about when to show up – make sure to follow these, and don’t arrive late as you’ll miss important information.
The half hour on the ground while the balloon was inflating also gave us the perfect time to take photos before getting in the air. If you’re lucky, you can even go into the balloon as it’s inflating, which we unfortunately didn’t get to try since it was a bit windy that morning, and the crew didn’t think it would be safe. But we still got some incredible silhouette photos of the couple walking around the balloon while it was inflating!
Once the balloon was fully inflated, it was time to board the basket. Some baskets have doors that open so you can step right in, but most require you to climb a step ladder to get in. Keep this in mind when you’re picking your outfit – it could be really tricky to get in while wearing a big wedding dress!
Another part of riding in a hot air balloon that I was completely unprepared for, was the heat that radiates down from the burner when the balloon is rising. When standing right underneath it, it was very hot. But it did give us something to laugh about!
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I got photos of the balloon from the outside, and one person even asked if I used a drone to get the photos above here. The answer is much simpler – there were lots of balloons in the air at the same time, so I just took photos of other hot air balloons from inside the basket of ours.
There is not much space to move around inside a hot air balloon basket, so I was mostly stuck in one place with one angle for Liz and Bo’s ceremony. Having a wide angle lens was really key to getting good photos, but I also used my 35mm quite a bit to get more flattering close-up photos. The balloon is constantly rotating in the air, so there’s also no control over the direction of light. But all the limitations aside, photographing a hot air balloon elopement is by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever done!
When the balloon first touched down, I got to jump out so that I could take some photos from the ground of the final landing. After the balloon had landed and everyone was out, we got to take a few final photos on top of the landing tarp as the balloon was deflating, and they’re some of my favorites from the day.
The whole hot air balloon elopement, from meeting at the takeoff lot before sunrise until we arrived back to our cars after the landing and transportation back to the starting point, took about four hours. What an epic way to spend a morning – and get married!