What is a Hiking Elopement?
A modern day elopement between couples is a day of intimacy focused solely on each other and the love you share. This can either be done just between the two of you or with a small group of close friends and family. A hiking elopement takes your special day and turns it into a unique experience where you’ll spend a day focused on your love, and filled with the natural beauty of mother nature.
Being an adventurer at heart, you want to reach places that are very far and few between. You love intimacy and want the day to be spent doing the things you love most! SO LET'S PLAN THIS!
Where to Look?
Do you have a favorite place you love to be with your significant other? A favorite mountain range? Whatever your heart looks to, I bet you can get married there! And a photographer who is adept at hiking elopements will have some amazing ideas and knowledge of locations to help guide you and assist in making your plan succeed. Scroll down to the bottom to view my favorite hikes in Montana, Wyoming and Washington.
Making a Plan!
-First step is to choose a time and location:
It can be quite difficult to choose the perfect location to set your elopement ceremony. To come up with some location ideas try to picture the ideal scenery that you would love to spend your day in. Some key advice is to make sure both of you love whatever location you end up choosing, it will make your special day have more meaning if you both share a connection with the place.
Picking a time of year to hold your hiking elopement is another important step in making your ceremony memorable. The different seasons can set different scenes and you’ll have to decide what colors you’ll want to be surrounded by. Do you want your wedding to be held during spring where new life has just begun to bloom with hints of green or would you prefer the luscious colors of wildflowers in full bloom usually found in summers. If you prefer stunning yellow, red and orange colors fall might be an ideal choice, while there’s also winter wonderland scenery for those who are really adventurous and love the dramatic and contrasting mountains.
Whatever season you choose, you’ll need to consider weather conditions for your chosen location. Such things as temperatures, precipitation, winds, etc. Also keep in mind checking the road and trail accessibility for your location, as some may be closed during a particular season. Something else to consider is that some popular destinations may be crowded during high tourist season which can impact how intimate your experience can be.
Deciding your exact location to hold your hiking elopement ceremony will also come with it’s set of decisions to make. Hiking distance, elevation gain, terrain and access to trail head. Everyone has different hiking experience and ability, here you’ll want to make a choice both of you will be comfortable with and not leave you both exhausted before your ceremony has even started!
There’s also the matter of your guests if you have invited any. Making sure they’ll be able to arrive at the location safely and without issue is another important component to remember. If choosing to have guests for your ceremony, it may be best to select a more accessible location to avoid any difficulties. Another option to include guests would be to have a group celebration after your hiking elopement. You can also consider using video calls for your guests if you feel it’s a better option for you so they can still take part in your ceremony (that is of course, if there will be service at your destination!).
Legalities Involved in Hiking Elopements
For planning a hiking elopement in Montana you’ll want to consider if you’ll need permits or not. Some places don’t require any permits while places like National Parks require permits to get married on those lands.
Researching the permit requirements is an important step, and should be done sooner rather than later, as every area can have different rules or regulations and some offices can be very busy. Some have designated ceremony locations that even can have varying restrictions on the number of guests you may have.
Booking Your Officiant, Vendors and Lodging
A hiking elopements is a very personal ceremony, and you get to decide what you want to have! You get to decide what parts of a "traditional" wedding ceremony you want to include, or omit. You don't have to follow a scripted sequence of events, or use traditional wording. Most people have the ability to become official officiants. So if you have someone special you want to perform the ceremony, that may be able to be arranged. If you do want a traditional officiant, make sure you book them early enough as sometimes they can be booked up to a year or two ahead of time depending on the location!
Your elopement photographer is an important choice as they’ll be hiking with you to your chosen location. They will not only take photos to document your wedding day but they can help you plan and prepare, and give valuable advice for your big day. Outside of capturing magical moments and memories on your important day, my favorite part of helping as an elopement photographer is being your friend through-out the whole process and being your hype girl!
Some Other Vendor Suggestions to Consider
-A florist is an important vendor you may want to consider if you want to bring a bouquet or boutonnieres (lapel flower) with you on your hike.
-A baker, caterer, or other food specialist may be an important vendor if you hike isn’t going to be very long, which would allow you to bring tiny cakes, cupcakes or donuts with you to celebrate and eat after your ceremony. You could also consider having a nice charcuterie board professionally prepared for your hike!
-Hair and makeup artists can help you prepare the morning before you go on your hike, or you could ask them if they are willing to join you. Not all of them will join you, but it may be something to consider, especially if you are worried about your hair and makeup being messed up along the way.
-Lodging - When selecting your lodging there are tons of options to consider. You can choose to stay in a local hotel, rent a bed and breakfast or a cabin from a mobile app, or even camp in a tent at your location. If you are taking "getting ready" pictures indoors, make sure that the space is clean and it is well lit with lots of windows! The more natural light, the more natural your photos will look!
If you need help finding your vendors-- ask me for my preferred vendor list!
Choosing How to Spend Your Wedding Day
Creating a timeline of how you’ll spend your day is important. You'll want to decide on things like whether or not you plan to hike up to your location in time for sunrise photos, have a mid-day picnic, or if there are any other activities you want to include as part of your adventure.
Having a plan or timeline for the day ensures that you have enough time to change into wedding attire, touching up makeup/hair, and have a plan for your ceremony in place. If you want great photos, you need to consider what time of day you are doing things like reading vows, popping champagne, or simply taking photos at the location. Sunlight is an important factor!!! At the end of the day, as an adventurer, it’s not just about the ceremony, but the entire day. When I shoot your elopement, your photo gallery will tell a story. It will be filled with all of the in-between moments - the moments you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.
ALWAYS prepare a backup plan. Nature is anything but predictable. Anything can happen and having a backup location in case things don’t happen according to plan can save your joyous day from becoming ruined.
What to Bring?
During your hiking elopement everything you’ll need has to be packed in on the hike, and packed back out when you're all done, so it’s best to consider the fabric weight of your attire. Wedding dresses can be very heavy!
No HEELS! Yes, heels are gorgeous, but adding the extra weight and allowing your feet to feel colder in the elements will make you less comfortable. ( I promise- you will wear them for maybe 5 minutes and put them back in). Find some cute hiking shoes/boots! You can hike in your wedding attire if you want, but changing after arriving at your chosen location might be something to think about, especially if you want a "first look" at the location.
If you are planning to hike before sunrise and/or after sunset to catch that spectacular scenery for your wedding photos, remember you'll need LAYERS.
Packing a wedding dress on your hike, and how you will do so, is another important thing to consider. One option is to hang it off the backpack. This is great for shorter hikes. It allows the dress to stay wrinkle free and leaves you with enough room in your pack for other goodies. If choosing to go on a longer hike and you are worried about keeping the dress out of the elements, you can put the dress in a bigger pack or keep the other goods separate in another pack to avoid the difficulties of taking things in and out, and risking doing something to your dress. You can always hike in your dress too! If you are down for the adventure and getting your dress DIRTY!! (my personal favorite)
Wedding Dress types: Having a dress you feel comfortable in is the most important aspect of your attire. Think about all the moving you will be doing during the hike, ceremony, and for portraits! Having a dress that you can MOVE AND WALK IN will save your body x1000000 and allow you to stay comfortable during your day!
Headlamps: Are you planning on catching the sunrise or sunset? Make sure to bring headlamps in case it gets dark on the hike!
All Trails app: Are you hiking a popular trail? Download the All Trails app and save your trail! This app is amazing will help make sure that you are on the right trail!
Top Location Recommendations for your Elopement
Glacier National Park
Mount Siyeh (extreme)
Other Montana Hikes
Chinese Wall (Backpacking Elopement) (DREAM!!!)
Paliside Falls (Bozeman)
Mount Aeneas (Flathead National Forest)
BeeHive Basin Trail (Big Sky)
Ousel Falls (Big Sky)
Holland Falls (Flathead National Forest)
The Beaten Path (Beartooth Mountains)
Trapper Peak (Bitterroot National Forest)
Ross Creek Nature Trail (Kootenai National Forest)
Stuart Peak (Lolo National Forest)
Sweetgrass Trail (Crazy Mountains)
Crystal Lake (Helena-Lewis)
Natural Brides Trail (Terry Badlands)