Everything you need to know about planning a Sunrise Amphitheater wedding at one of the most beautiful outdoor ceremony venues in Boulder County.
After ten years in Boulder and countless trips up and down the stone stairs of Sunrise Amphitheater, I’ve learned a thing or two about this iconic ceremony venue. I’ll show you how to apply for a permit, the best time of day for ceremonies, and give you ideas for different reception venues where you can continue the party.
If you’ve landed here, chances are high you’re considering Sunrise Amphitheater as your own ceremony venue. (Or you’re a photographer who wants to shoot there – I promise there’s some good stuff in this guide for you too!)
Are you ready to learn everything you need to know about having a wedding at Sunrise Amphitheater?
Great! Let’s get to it.
Why rent Sunrise Amphitheater for your wedding
There are many options for wedding reception venues in Boulder (over thirty of them, in fact), but none of them have ceremony views quite like Sunrise Amphitheater. With the impressive circular stone benches and a breathtaking view over Boulder, it’s the perfect choice for any couple who loves the mountains.
If you want to make the mountains part of your wedding day, then party it up with your people in the happiest town in the country, you can have the best of both worlds when you combine a ceremony at Sunrise Amphitheater with a reception at one of the many Boulder wedding venues. (If you’re planning a smaller elopement with few or no guests, there are better place to elope in Boulder!)
There are many reasons why you should rent Sunrise Amphitheater for your wedding, but here are some of my top reasons:
- It has the best views in Boulder. There, I said it.
- Your guests will have a great time seeing the best of Boulder.
- You can dress up the venue or keep it simple and let the views speak for themselves.
- You can combine it with any style of reception venue.
- It’s very affordable!
Are you convinced that you should have your wedding ceremony at Sunrise Amphitheater yet? Let me show you how to make it happen!
Best timing for a Sunrise Amphitheater wedding ceremony
First things first; you need to choose a date for your wedding. You can look up the availability for Sunrise Amphitheater on Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks’ website. The Amphitheater is usually open from May 1st to October 31st every year, with slight variations on those dates if there’s heavy snow. You can’t drive to the amphitheater in winter, but you can always hike in along the closed road or trails. You can reserve the venue up to two years in advance of your wedding date.
Things to think about when picking a time and date:
- There’s often snow in Boulder into the first half of May
- There’s a high chance of quick thunderstorms with rain passing through between 2pm-6pm in summer
- You might want to offer white umbrellas or fans for your guests in summer, and make sure to have water and sunscreen available. It can be very hot in the direct sun of the amphitheater.
- The drive from Boulder up Flagstaff Mountain can be sketchy for people who aren’t used to narrow winding mountain roads. There’s also limited parking at the trailhead. I highly recommend renting shuttles to get your guests to and from the ceremony if you have more than just a few cars worth of guests.
Next, you’ll need to choose a time of day for your ceremony. Sunrise Amphitheater is available in the following time blocks:
6:00 am – 7:00 am Perfect for couples who want to exchange their vows at sunrise. This one-hour rental is generally not long enough for a ceremony with more than 25 guests, as it always takes people a while to get settled in, and leave after. It’s also best for ceremonies without any decorations. On the bright side, the light is magical here this early in the morning (when it’s not snowing, like in the photo above), and there are hardly any tourists around even on busy weekends.
7:00 am – 8:00 am Similar to the earlier time slot, but a little warmer and brighter since the sun is fully up now. Very little traffic still, even on weekends.
8:00 am – 9:00 am Similar to the two earlier time slots, but there are now starting to be more hikers and tourists on Flagstaff.
12:00pm ceremony in August
10:00 am – 1:00 pm This three-hour time slot is great for ceremonies with brunch or early afternoon receptions. (Pro tip: nearby Flagstaff House has a great deal on early receptions, and their restaurant is one of the very best in Boulder!) Having three hours gives you enough time for decorations, if you’re having elaborate florals or a ceremony arch. And it leaves enough time for your guests to enjoy the amphitheater without having to rush out of there after your ceremony. The light can be a little harsh in the middle of the day, but there’s less chance of thunder storms than later in the afternoon. Expect the area to be busy on weekends.
3:30pm ceremony in October
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm Similar to the earlier time, but with more chance of thunder storms than earlier or later in the day. The light is very direct on the “stage” area at this time of day, but it does mean that your guests aren’t facing into the sun. Less busy than the earlier time slot, but still plenty traffic up and down Flagstaff.
6:00pm ceremony in August
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Less direct sun than the earlier time slot, which means more pleasant temperatures in the heat of summer. Depending on the time of year, part of the rental will be after dark. Less busy than the earlier three-hour time slots. The light can be very spotty as the sun starts disappearing into the trees, which is not ideal for photos.
Once you’ve picked a date and time for your ceremony, it’s important to make sure your choice of reception venue is available on the same date. I’ve listed some of my favorite Boulder reception venues towards the bottom of this page.
How to rent Sunrise Amphitheater for your wedding
When you’ve decided on a date and time for your wedding, renting Sunrise Amphitheater is a simple process.
- Go to the Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks website
- Select Sunrise Amphitheater from Shelter Rentals.
- Pick your date and time
- Select the approximate number of guests. It’s okay if this changes later!
- Fill out the form, pay the rental fee, and you’re all set!
The three hour rental fee is $400 for non-residents and $300 for residents of Boulder, CO. The one hour rental fee is $150 for non-residents and $100 for residents of Boulder.
If you have any questions about the rental process, I recommend that you talk directly with the Boulder OSMP staff. They’ll always have the most specific and up-to-date information!
Where to go for photos before or after your Sunrise Amphitheater ceremony
Sunrise Amphitheater is of course a gorgeous place for photos in itself. But most couples choose to do photos in one or more other locations on Flagstaff Mountain as well, to get a variety of backdrops and looks.
Here are some of my favorite spots in Boulder for wedding photos, that are easy to combine with a ceremony at Sunrise Amphitheater.
Lost Gulch is a local favorite for a reason: you get epic mountain views with very little effort. It’s a beautiful spot for wedding photos, but I don’t recommend it for weekend weddings unless you’re okay with having lots of strangers around. There are some more private spots where we can tuck away, but the best views and angles are open and used by all.
Artist Point is only a short walk or drive away from Sunrise Amphitheater, and the perfect spot to sneak away for portraits after your ceremony. It doesn’t have the most expansive views, but in exchange there are fewer people around, and often plenty of deer!
It wouldn’t be Boulder without mentioning Chautauqua, so here it is! You have to drive right past Chautauqua to get to or from Sunrise Amphitheater, so it’s the perfect spot to stop for photos if you want those classic views of the Flatirons. Just be prepared for lots of shouts of “congratulations” from all the hikers down here on the weekends!
If your having a reception downtown, there are lots of cute alleys and parks where you can get the perfect Boulder wedding photos.
Halfway House is another of Boulder OSMP’s shelter rentals, but you don’t have to rent the venue to stop there for photos on your way up or down Flagstaff. It’s a beautiful spot to combine Flatiron views with hiking trails and woods, and with way fewer people in the background than at Chautauqua!
Choosing a reception venue for your Boulder wedding
Most couples who get married at Sunrise Amphitheater choose a second location for their reception. And with over 30 venues to choose from in Boulder County, you’re guaranteed to find one you love!
These are my absolute favorite reception venues to combine with a ceremony at Sunrise Amphitheater.
Outdoor ceremony combined with reception at an art gallery in downtown Boulder? It doesn’t get much better than that! This is by far one of the most popular ceremony and reception venue combos in town. Rembrandt Yard can also double as a backup ceremony venue, in case one of the infamous Colorado thunder storms come through.
The Riverside is a historic building right on the creek in downtown Boulder. With a huge outdoor patio and an indoor reception room with exposed brick walls, it’s a great reception venue for when you’re not ready to move the party fully indoors.
Flagstaff House has the best patio views of any Boulder wedding venue – and the best food, too! This restaurant has won countless awards over the years, including “100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America.” And with an easy location down-hill from Sunrise Amphitheater, it’s the perfect place for foodie receptions.
Dushanbe Teahouse is one of the most unique Boulder wedding venues. The building was a gift from Dushanbe, Boulder’s sister city in Tajikistan, and was built there by over 40 artisans before being shipped to Boulder and put together here! It’s a popular choice for intimate weddings, and receptions can be held either on the patio by the creek or inside the teahouse.
Chautauqua Dining Hall
The Chautauqua Dining Hall was built in 1898, and has been hosting weddings for over 100 years now! Hold your ceremony at Sunrise Amphitheater, then drive down Flagstaff to Chautauqua for cocktail hour on the covered wrap-around porch, then finishing the evening with dinner and dancing inside the dining hall.
The Kitchen and The Kitchen Upstairs Lounge are sister-restaurants located on the west end of Pearl Street, centrally downtown in Boulder. This reception venue is perfect for foodies, and can fit intimate receptions from 25-60 guests.
Sunrise Amphitheater Rental Rules & Regulations
Boulder OSMP Facility Rules & Regulations
- No glass containers anywhere on OSMP land: no wine glasses, champagne bottles, glass vases, etc. You can use and break glass for religious ceremonies if done on a sturdy tarp, and all glass is contained and removed.
- Use of live bands and amplification is restricted. You can use a microphone for the ceremony, as long as the noise is not disturbing other visitors. There is no electricity at Sunrise Amphitheater.
- You cannot start any form of fire there: no candles, sparklers, or any other open flame.
- The facilities must be left in a clean and orderly condition.
- Under no circumstances are signs, balloons, or any other items to be nailed, pinned, stapled or otherwise attached to any tree, park sign, facility, and/or along the roadways.
- No rice, confetti, birdseed, flower petals or straw shall be used at events.
- All attendees not displaying a Boulder County license plate must have a parking permit.
- You cannot erect any tents or other structures at the amphitheater.
Read the full rules & regulations directly on the City of Boulder’s website.
Boulder Wedding Vendors
Looking for the best wedding vendors in Boulder? Here are my absolute favorite people and companies to work with for weddings and elopements at Sunrise Amphitheater
Start planning your Sunrise Amphitheater wedding today
If you’re ready to plan your own wedding or elopement at Sunrise Amphitheater, I would love to photograph the big day. Get in touch to schedule a no-obligation call to make sure we’re a good fit!