How to Choose the Right Elopement Location for You

bride and groom standing in the mountains

Post Summary: This is a complete guide to how to choose the right elopement location for you, where I’m walking you through everything you need to consider when looking at your options. From weather to permits to accessibility considerations, this is a blog post you won’t want to miss out on if you’re in the process of planning your elopement or will be planning one soon!

bride and groom in utah painted hills

If you were to ask me what the #1 most important thing is when it comes to planning your dream elopement, my answer would be LOCATION, location, location, without a doubt. Location plays such a huge role in helping your bring your vision for your unique day to life, and in how the day itself plays out! But it’s not just as easy as picking out a place on the map and saying “let’s elope there!” – although I wish it were! There are quite a few factors you need to take into consideration when you’re picking out where you want to elope, and not just the weather: guest count, accessibility, permits, transportation, privacy, crowds, and so much more.

That’s why I put together this full guide to picking the right elopement location, so you can be 1000% confident in the place you choose and know that it’ll be the perfect setting for your dream day!

bride and groom kissing at fire lookout

Big Weddings vs. Elopements

Before we get started, it’s important to make sure you know what type of celebration you’re looking to have. If you’re still in the phase of choosing between an elopement and wedding, and you’re still figuring out what you want the basics of your day to look like, then I’d recommend popping on over to this blog post before continuing with this one! It’s all about choosing between an elopement and a big wedding, and the 12 things you need to consider.

Once you’re confident in your decision and know that you do want to elope, come back here and let’s talk location, baby!

How to Choose the Right Elopement Location: Things to Consider

Now, let’s get into the meat of this guide: everything you need to consider when picking out your elopement location

How the location represents you as a couple

First, you should think about what locations would accurately, authentically represent you as a couple! One awesome thing about elopements is that they can literally be held anywhere (where it’s legal & respectful of the environment, of course), especially if you have a small guest list – so how cool is it that you could pick a place that’s meaningful to you as a couple, rather than just a big venue that can accommodate all of your guests?! 

Start by answering these two questions: 

1) Where are some places that are already meaningful to your relationship? 

2) Where are some places that you haven’t been yet, but that you really want to visit together?

A location that’s meaningful to one or the both of you could look like:

  • The first road trip you took together as a couple
  • A cabin in the forests of Mount Rainier that you visit every summer with your family
  • The place you had your first date/first kiss/where you got engaged
  • Where you took your first vacation as a couple

Really, it could be anywhere that holds some sort of sentimental value or is significant to one/both of your lives.

Alternatively, you can pick somewhere new that you’ve always wanted to go together, or somewhere with an activity that you just really want to check off of your bucket list! Maybe you reallyyy want to go skydiving together, so you pick Oahu because of the incredible skydiving opportunities. Or maybe Jordan has always been on your bucket list, so you spend a week traveling around Jordan for your elopement and your honeymoon. The options are endless!


Next, you should consider the distance that both you & your guests will need to travel to get to your location. Think about how long it’ll take you to travel to your elopement location, how long it’ll take you to get back, and how long it would take all of your guests to get there from wherever they live.

Obviously, choosing a local spot will make traveling the easiest and will save you a ton of money on gas, accommodations, airfare, etc. Picking an out-of-state location will likely require you to buy plane tickets, but you could also opt for a road trip depending on how far away it is! And picking an international location will definitely require airfare and for you to extend your trip a little bit longer.

You should also think about your guests’ work schedules and financial limitations – are they able to take just a day off? A weekend? Can they afford to take a week off and travel to Europe? Who’s paying for the flights – you or them? All of these factors will affect how far of a location you’re able to realistically choose.

mount rainier wildflower landscape

Guest count

Next, it’s important to consider how many guests you actually want to invite! Most national parks cannot accommodate more than a handful of guests (I usually suggest that couples cap it at around 10 guests), and many state parks or forests also have a maximum group size. If you want to have more guests, than a natural wilderness area might not be the best option for you – you’d be better off picking a venue or a private property (such as an Airbnb/VRBO rental) that has more space to host a larger group! You can totally have your ceremony at the larger space with your family and friends, and then venture off into the nearest national park for portraits of just the two of you.

couple getting married at golden hour in mountains

Accessiblity & logistics

Logstically, there are a few primary things to keep in mind when picking your location:

  1. Transportation: How are you and your guests going to get from one place to another; e.g. from your Airbnb to your ceremony location, or from the trailhead after you hike to the place you’ll be having dinner? Some national parks have limited parking or only allow a certain number of vehicles at permitted ceremony locations, so pay attention to any restrictions that will affect your transportation. If you need to condense the amount of vehicles your group uses, carpooling is your best bet, or you can hire a party bus/limo/van/etc. to take you around if you’re closer to a more urban area!
  1. Accommodations: Where are you and your guests going to stay? Do you want to stay at the same place as them so you can have as much time together as possible, or would you rather stay separately and then meet up with them during the day? If you want to stay with your guests, you could rent a giant cabin in the woods, rent out campsites that are next to each other, or stay in the same hotel/resort. 
  1. Time changes: If you’re eloping across the country or internationally, don’t forget to plan for jetlag! I recommend adding in an extra day or two at the front end of your trip to help you get settled and adjust to the time difference, rather than going straight into your elopement adventure. Rest up and use it as extra time to be together, or with your loved ones!
  1. Permits & regulations: National parks require you to obtain a Special Use Permit in order to have your ceremony within park bounds, and many state parks, state forests, & even local parks/beaches in some places will require a special type of permit, too. Plan ahead so that you have plenty of time to apply for your permit and receive it in time for your elopement – most permits require you to apply at LEAST a month or two in advance, some even asking for your application 6+ months before your desired date! Make sure to plan for the cost of any necessary permits, and to follow the rules & restrictions it puts in place.
  1. Accessibility: If you’re inviting any loved ones with physical limitations, or any kids, keep accessibility in mind when you’re looking at potential locations. Pick a trail that everybody will be able to safely & comfortably explore, or opt for a more challenging hike just the two of you, and meet back up with everyone later. Be realistic about kids’ capabilities and how much energy they’ll have, as well as what types of terrain/elevation gain/etc. all of your guests will be able to handle!

Scenery & landscapes

When you picture you & your partner exchanging your vows, what does it look like around you? Do you envision jagged mountain peaks in the background? Are you dreaming of being on top of a mountain, above forested valleys and wildflower meadows? Or would you rather explore red rock deserts and wide-open landscapes? 

One of the first steps to picking the right elopement location is choosing what type of scenery & landscapes you want, and that’ll begin narrowing down your options for you! Here are some types of landscapes to consider:

  • Views from the top of a mountain
  • Views of a mountain in the background
  • Beaches/coasts
  • Red rock deserts
  • Glaciers
  • Alpine lakes
  • Wildflower meadows
  • Rainforests
  • Sand dunes
  • Canyons
couple walking through mountains

Time of year

It’s really important to not only think about what type of landscapes and scenery you want, but also what time of year will be your best option for what you’re envisioning! You’ll want to think about the weather (espeically in the PNW), crowds/tourists, fluctuating travel costs, permit restrictions, road closures, trail closures, foliage, and how the season affects the landscape. For example, if you’re dreaming of eloping at Mount Rainier in the wildflowers but you elope in mid-September, you’re going to miss out on peak wildflower bloom! Or if you want to elope at Mount Baker but you plan for a May elopement, the road up to the prettiest spots won’t even be open yet. In general, the best time of year to elope as far as the weather goes, especially in the PNW, is between summer and early fall. This is when you’ll most likely get the best weather, and when most locations, trails, & roads are accessible!

I could write a whole separate blog post on how to choose the best time of year for your elopement – oh wait, I already did that 😉 Head over to my recent guide to the Best Time of Year to Elope in the PNW for more of my top tips + things to keep in mind when picking a date!

couple kissing under umbrella in the rain

Privacy & crowds

Like I briefly mentioned already, crowds are another biggg factor when it comes to choosing your elopement location. How much privacy do you want on your elopement day? And how far are you willing to go to get it (literally & figuratively)?! The easier it is to access a location, the more likely it is that there will be other tourists/hikers/visitors around. And vice-versa: the harder it is to get to the location, the less likely you are to run into large crowds. 

If privacy is a priority to you, then you should:

1) Elope during your location’s shoulder season (off-season)

2) Elope on a weekday (bonus points for eloping at sunrise, before most visitors come out)

and/or 3) Elope somewhere more off-the-beaten-path rather than a super popular, easily-accessible spot.

brides kissing on the beach at night


If you want to bring your pets along to your ceremony, make sure your location is pet-friendly! Not all places in nature are created equally when it comes to pets. For example, Mount Rainier National Park doesn’t allow dogs anywhere in the park, but North Cascades National Park does on most trails. If your location doesn’t allow pets, you can always leave them at your Airbnb with a friend/family member while you have your private ceremony, and then find a pet-friendly location to head to afterward – but in general, if it’s important to you to have your pup at your ceremony, then make sure your location allows for it. And make sure to always, always clean up after them!

groom kissing bride's hand


If you want to incorporate specific activities into your elopement, then you need to make sure you choose a location where those activities are possible! E.g. if you want to try a new coffee shop together like you love to do on weekends, don’t elope way out in the middle of nowhere – stay closer to a more urban area. If you want to go kayaking, find a lake where you can easily rent kayaks for you & your guests. If you want to have a picnic, pick a trail in the mountains that has a spot where you can sit and eat!

Here are a few fun activity ideas for your adventure elopement:

  • Helicopter tour
  • Wine tasting
  • Paddleboarding
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Stargazing
  • Horseback riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Offroading

For more activity ideas, check out the huge guide I put together with 100 Unique Elopement Ideas + Activities for an Epic Celebration!

brides having picnic on rialto beach


I recommend planning your elopement as far in advance as possible (a year out is a safe bet), just to be sure you have time to do everything you need to do! Some locations book out months or even years in advance, especially if they have a high demand of couples looking to book. And some locations can take a long time to complete the permit process, such as Rocky Mountain National Park – which actually also has a permit cap, meaning if you apply too late you may not even receive a permit! It’s super important to also have at least one backup location on hand, just in case something happens at the last minute. Stay extra safe by having another location in mind that you know could be available on short notice! Be sure to read my blog post about Why You NEED to Have Backup Plans for Your Elopement!

couple standing at fire lookout


Lastly, it can be really helpful to consider photography when you’re choosing your elopement location! Think about what the lighting at the location will look like in photos, depending on the time of day and the weather. Maybe your dream location looks absolutely magical at sunset, but the lighting is a bit harsh and unflattering at sunrise – so you want to aoid planning a sunrise elopement.

What will the scenery look like in your photo album? What type of aesthetic are you going for? Do you want to have a certain theme? 

Hiring a professional photographer (hello!) who specializes in adventure elopements is key – they’ll be able to help provide guidance on your best options! 

stargazing at arches national park

Final Tips for Choosing Your Elopement Location

I’ll wrap this up with a couple final tips that you should keep at the front of your mind when choosing your elopement location!

Elope in nature responsibly

Whenever you’re exploring out in nature, it’s incredibly important to respect the land you walk on and minimize your impact as MUCH as possible. You would be shocked at how much damage can be done to vulnerable land by just one couple, or just one photographer – and the ripple effect that one couple has can be massive. If you and your partner take a step into the wildflowers “just for one photo!” it’s easy for other couples to see your photo online, and assume that it’s okay for them to do the same! 

The best way for you to minimize your impact anytime you’re outdoors, but especially when you’re eloping & using the land for your benefit, is to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. Learn all about the principles and why they’re important in my Leave No Trace Elopement Planning Guide!

bride and groom at horseshoe bend

Dream big – but be realistic

Finally, give yourselves permission to dream BIG when it comes to your elopement location – and make sure you’re being realistic at the same time! Setting proper expectations ahead of time is the key to ensuring you’re ready for any type of weather, or any unpredictable scenarios that you may run into – rather than being disappointed if your day doesn’t turn out exactly as planned – and is the best way to set yourselves up for success. 

If you’re wanting mountain peak views in Washington but you want to elope in April, it’s just not going to happen no matter how badly you want it to.

If you’re wanting tons of privacy, but no hiking, in the middle of peak busy season, you’re probably going to have to just deal with the crowds!

You should absolutely hire an expert elopement photographer to help you narrow down your options and choose what’s best for you, since they’ve got way more experience than you and can provide really great firsthand insight.

bride and groom kissing in mountains

Adventure Elopement and Intimate Wedding Photographer

Speaking of expert elopement photographers who know their stuff 😉 I’m Katie, an adventure elopement & intimate wedding photographer based in Washington state, but serving couples worldwide! I’d freaking love to help you find the perfect location for your unique elopement day and to be a guiding hand during the planning process. You can take a look at my packages & pricing below, and get in touch with me here when you’re ready to tell me all about the magical adventure you’re dreaming up!

bride and groom in zion national park

Adventure Elopement and Intimate Wedding Photography Packages

Elopement & Intimate Wedding Packages

  • Full day of elopement photography coverage
  • Your own personal elopement guide & consultant
    • Unique and personalized location scouting
    • Vendor recommendations
    • Permit and marriage license assistance
    • Hand-crafted elopement timeline
    • Created just-for-you activity list
    • Unlimited guides and resources
    • 100+ page How to Elope Guidebook
  • Optional complimentary officiant service
  • Digital online gallery with full resolution image and printing rights
  • Sneak peek images within 1 week
  • Photographer travel fees covered

Starting at $6,500 for U.S. elopements & $10,000 for international elopements

Don’t miss my huge library of location-based elopement guides if you need more location ideas + inspiration, and check out a few of my recent favorite planning resources below!

A Complete Guide to Picking Your Perfect Hiking Elopement Dress

The Importance Of Wedding “Getting Ready” Photos

10 Reasons Why You Should Elope in 2023


In order to make your dream elopement day happen, it's super important that we connect and that you feel comfortable with me! The best way to do this is to reach out and schedule a call so you can learn more about me and I can learn about you two so i can document what's real + the most important to you.

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