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How to Elope in Oregon

KATIE BERG PHOTO || WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER – UPDATED GUIDE FOR 2022

Ready to take the Oregon Trail?

There are few places in the country or the world that are as diverse and consistently jaw-dropping as Oregon. Moody gray coasts, lovely dark and deep old-growth forests, stellar waterfalls, red rock formations, snow capped peaks, lakes in volcano craters and frickin’ deserts! And we’re just getting started with the array of landscapes to choose from in the beaver state.

Ready for your next adventure?

Let me be your guide!

elope in the heart of the pacific northwest

Wanting to get married somewhere with a diversity of landscapes that are just as unique and monumental as your love? You’ve found it! Take it from a professional Oregon wedding and elopement photographer – Oregon is the place to be to experience all the beauty the Pacific Northwest has to offer, and then some!

If you’re wondering how to elope in Oregon, you came to the right place. I’ll be there to capture every second of your experience, as well as the stunning backdrop of wherever you choose to get hitched. You deserve an unforgettable day, the ultimate adventure and, of course, the incredible photos to capture your love forever. It’s all right here in Oregon!

Let me be your guide. I’ll show you all that Oregon has to offer for your adventure elopement.

I’ve been around, mmmkay? I’ve seen some gorgeous places and gotten to explore so much of the U.S. and the world (it’s kind of my job). But Oregon holds a very special place in my heart. I love Oregon so much! I want to share this beautiful state with you. And I want you to be as prepared as possible before you take this adventure of a lifetime and say your “I dos” in this stunning part of the Pacific Northwest.

If you’re a fan of organization and preparation, like me, here’s what we'll cover:

In this guide, we will cover:

  • Why You Should Definitely Elope
  • Best Time of Year
  • Weekdays vs. Weekends
  • Permits & Marriage Licenses
  • The Best Locations
  • Leave No Trace
  • newly married couple embrace while standing alongside canyon in Moab, Utah

    Why elope?

    My husband and I eloped! So, yeah, I’m biased when it comes to elopements. We had that HUGE wedding vision of 300+ people, but the more we thought about it, the more it felt like someone else’s dream, not ours. After some talking and soul searching, we made the decision to have an intimate, intentional and meaningful wedding day in a national park with only 25 of our closest family members.

    And it was magic! Like the most enchanting, epic and meaningful day of our lives. Best. Decision. Ever. And this is why I’m so passionate about helping couples explore their most authentic wedding vision.

    Eloping isn't about saving money or cutting out the stress of a bigger, more traditional wedding (though these are some great perks of eloping!). What eloping is really all about is YOU. The two of you and the connection you share. It's about creating the most meaningful and incredible experience for you and honoring the commitment you’re making in the most unforgettable way. It's beautiful, emotional, intimate and once-in-a-lifetime.

    Whatever your reasons are for eloping, it truly is the most incredible way to start your new life together. Kick off your new chapter with an extraordinary adventure in the most special and unique way and as an extra added bonus ... it opens up all the possibilities of marrying in an absolutely EPIC location! Still not sold on whether or not you should elope? Well, I could give you ten reasons, or you could read the rest of this blog and get totally pumped about an Oregon elopement!

    FOR THAT ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME “JUST THE TWO OF US” EXPERIENCE

    How to elope in Oregon

    Once you decide that an Oregon elopement is totally your jam, here’s all you need to know about how to elope in Oregon and how to make your dreams come true.

    1. Choose your dates and length of trip

    2. Send me an inquiry for a FREE elopement consultation

    3. Hire me to help you plan your epic day — I’ll help you plan EVERYTHING from locations, vendors and timelines to day-of activities, permits, accommodations and anything in between

    4. Apply for a marriage license

    5. We’ll have an adventure in the location you chose in Oregon, create some epic pics and celebrate the start of a new chapter of your lives together!

    Best time to elope in Oregon

    The real deal is that there’s no bad time of year to elope in Oregon. It’s just a matter of personal preference and picking the season that speaks to you. When most people picture Oregon’s climate, they think of the gray skies, the rain and the lush, green vegetation. But Oregon actually has a diverse range of climates that makes it unique in the U.S. Honestly, I think there are beautiful things about every season, so I’ll just give you the lowdown on what you can expect throughout the year in Oregon.

    Spring: If pink cherry blossoms are your thing, then spring might be your time to elope in Oregon. But along with the explosion of green and blossoming buds comes rain, so bring your raincoat! The best locations in spring are the coast or the high desert. You could even take a trip to Rowena Crest to see the explosions of wildflowers. You can pretty much plan on everything west of the Cascades being wet, but the tradeoff are those awesome blossoms! Everything east of the Cascades will be drier but less flowering blossoms. However, spring can be a great time to visit the high desert region of Oregon, particularly Alvord Desert (see more below).

    Summer: As far as weather goes, summer (mid-June to September) is probably the best time of year to elope in Oregon, with the warmest and driest months. But it really depends on the location you choose. For instance, summer is a great time to hang by the coast, visit Portland, or catch some surging waterfalls. But summer is not a great time to visit the desert regions, for obvious reasons (unless extreme heat is up your alley).

    Summer is also great for wine time! Oregon’s wine country is not to be missed. Willamette Valley is the most iconic but wineries are spread out all across the state, particularly in the valleys stretching from north to south between the Cascade Mountains and Oregon’s Coastal Range.

    Fall: If we were ranking seasons, fall is the second best time to elope in Oregon. This is the time to visit the high desert and see some truly one-of-a-kind scenery. It’s also a great time to elope on the coast, the lower elevation mountains and Columbia River Gorge. If you’re looking for those fall colors popping off, then plan on an Oregon elopement in mid to late October. Oregon has a broad and beautiful color palette that would make any artist (or photographer, or eloper!) drool.

    Winter: Winter is best for that snowy Oregon elopement in the mountains. If you’re a skier you could throw in some slope time in the Blue, Elkhorn or Wallowa mountains. And, of course, Mt. Hood takes the cake for a snowy cabin elopement. I’d recommend a winter elopement in Oregon to be snow-centric, as it’s not a particularly great time to be on the coast, the desert or other parts of the state.

    weekdays or weekends?

    WEEKDAYS

    MORE PRIVACY: More privacy - If privacy and intimacy is a priority, weekdays are perfect. Public land, trails, and spaces are almost always significantly busier and more crowded on the weekends. If you head to a popular waterfall or mountain peak during the week, you’ll more than likely have it all to yourselves.

    LESS TRAFFIC: No one loves a traffic jam when you’re trying to get to your ceremony location! Plus, you don’t want to worry about how to plan around lines to the entrance of parks, parking space availability, or how busy the trails will be.

    EASIER RESERVATIONS: Some places require reservations and permits—and they can fill up to a year in advance! It is a lot easier to secure your reservation for a weekday, especially if you have a specific location in mind!

    Should I elope on a weekday or weekend? When we’re talking about how to elope in Oregon, or anywhere, really, this is a real dilemma, and it’s one of the most asked questions I get from couples. One of the best things about eloping is that you don’t have to plan around other people’s schedules! While the weekend might always be the top choice for a traditional wedding, you can beat the crowds and enjoy more space to yourself by choosing a weekday.

    So, weekday or weekend? My personal recommendation is to always choose a weekday when possible. Here are a few factors you may want to consider:

    WEEKENDS

    MUST-HAVE DATES: If the date is something special to you and you want to have your ceremony on a certain day, then the weekend might be your best bet. Maybe you want your wedding to align exactly with your first date and it just happens to fall on a weekend. If that’s what matters to you, we’ll make it work!

    GUEST ACCOMMODATIONS: If you’re having some VIPs and want to give them time to travel, or need to work around their schedule then a weekend date might be better for them. Elopements are all about you, but they can also be about those very special people in your lives. If you need to schedule on a weekend to get your Grandma up there on the canyon edge with you (don’t worry, I’ll make sure she’s safe and the location is accessible), then that’s what we’re going to do!

    Whether you choose the weekday or weekend is totally up to you. Know that I’m here to help you plan around any and every eventuality. No matter when you plan your Oregon elopement, I’m here to make the magic happen!

    Getting your Permits & Marriage

    license

    Along with dreaming and scheming for how to elope in Oregon, we also have to get logistical and make sure all of our ducks in a row. This means making sure that your dream location is open and that you have the permit to be there if necessary. You also want to make sure your marriage is legit, so don’t forget about that marriage license...

    PERMITS:

    Each location will need a different type of permit or possibly none at all. The permitting process is typically very easy and can usually be done online with a few clicks of a button. But the last thing you want is to make all the plans and find out you don’t have permission to get married in that epic waterfall scene (don’t worry I would never let that happen!).

    Make sure to review your location with the local parks department for more in depth information. I’m here to help guide you through this whole process, so don’t worry if you don’t know much about the permitting process. I got you!

    MARRIAGE LICENSES:

    Start your application online at https://multco.us/recording/marriage-licenses

  • Pay the $60 fee and you’ll be good for 60 days. This is a big one. Make sure you don’t apply too soon (although I love your preparedness!) or the application will expire.
  • You have a 3 day waiting period for most counties before you get your official certificate. However, you can get this period waived for “good cause” for $5.
  • An officiant and two witnesses over 18 are required. This means someone that’s not the officiant and not the two of you. One bonus of choosing me as your Oregon elopement photographer is that I can also act as your officiant (thanks Universal Life Church!) or a witness if you have someone else officiate.
  • *Oh, and one last note, double check that you are not “first cousins or any nearer of kin.” Apparently Oregon frowns upon that. (HAHA! Sorry, just had to include that little tidbit)

    There’s only one problem with figuring out how to elope in Oregon. There are just too dang many gorgeous locations!

    the best locations in oregon

    Maybe you already have a vision of the kind of scenery you’re looking for. If so, that’s great! Your next step is to figure out what exact location matches the picture you have in your head and make sure you hit that spot in the right season.

    But if the setting is a little more unformed in your elopement dream, you get to do some really fun location exploration! The whole state is your Oregon oyster, time to shuck it!

    I’ve done the heavy lifting when it comes to the best Oregon elopement locations around. Here are the best of the best for you to pick through.

    THE OREGON COAST

    Stunning cliffs, soft sand, wild rock formations and even old growth redwoods, the Oregon Coast is almost as diverse as the state itself. You can find tide pools, sleepy fishing towns, lighthouses and even do some whale watching. From north to south you have 363 miles of shoreline to pick from.

    You can fly into Portland from the north or San Francisco from the south and have access to more locations than you could imagine. My top picks are Cannon Beach, Cape Kiwanda, Hug Point and Nehalem State Park. I go into much more detail on Oregon Coast elopements in this blog.

    CATHEDRAL PARK

    If you’re looking for something more urban, Cathedral Park is your place. In North Portland on the banks of the Willamette River, this iconic location has it all: lush greenery, water and gorgeous architecture. But what people come here for is the St. John’s Bridge, the tallest bridge in Portland, with its gothic arches and timeless feel.

    This is a great location to have your Oregon elopement year round because the park is partially covered by the bridge itself, but it’s particularly epic in fall when the leaves are turning. Permitting is affordable and easy through Portland Parks and Rec.

    ALVORD DESERT

    How does the Death Valley of Oregon sound to you? Desert landscapes aren’t for everyone but those who know the desert know if they want to elope in this climate. In southeastern Oregon, the Alvord Desert is for the rugged adventurers who love the outdoors, camping and roughing it.

    You’ll need a 4x4 vehicle to get here and it’s 100+ miles from the nearest gas station. But once you arrive, you enter a land that’s as magical as it is otherworldly. Fall is the best time of year to visit. You’ll never see sunsets or sunrises like these anywhere else and it’s also a geothermal hotpot with multiple hot springs in the area, so bring your swimsuit along with your wedding dress. And one of the best parts is no permits are needed here!

    THE WALLOWA MOUNTAINS / JOSEPH

    The Wallowa Mountains are known as the Alps of Oregon, and for good reason. With stunning peaks, alpine meadows and breathtaking views, this is where you come when you want to feel like you’re scraping the sky in your Oregon elopement. These are not the lush, wet mountains you’d expect in the Pacific Northwest. They’re arid, rugged and snowcapped.

    The town of Joseph is the place to stay when you’re visiting the area. It’s got that remote, small town feel but it’s also full of charm, culture, artisan shops and all the creature comforts. If you come here you absolutely must take the gondola up to the top of Mt. Howard for 360 degree views of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and Wallowa Lake. If your party is less than 30 people you won’t need a permit in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

    THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE

    This canyon, up to 4,000 feet deep, forms the border between Oregon and Washington and stretches for over 80 miles. It’s known for its secluded waterfalls, sprawls of hiking trails and epic views of the gorge. It’s accessible year-round, but the best times to come are late spring, summer and fall.

    GOVERNMENT COVE

    If you’re looking for the greatest views of the Gorge, Government Cove is your place and it’s also easy to access for those who are adventure-ish elopers or have guests that can’t do a 12-mile hike. If dramatic waterfalls are more your speed, Latourell Falls and Wahelalla Falls are there for you to explore and elope in. Latourell Falls is especially accessible and perfect for a sunrise elopement.

    ROWENA CREST

    Rowena Crest is a special part of the Columbia River Gorge. The best time of year to come here, without a doubt, is the spring, May-ish. This is when the lupines, balsam roots and other native wildflowers start exploding with color. Fields of flowers, dramatic cliff sides with the Columbia River in the background and views that stretch for miles. Yeah, it’s as beautiful as you can imagine.

    It’s easy to get here and easy to get some epic shots without an exhausting hike, or really much hiking at all. It’s free to elope on Rowena Crest and in the Columbia River Gorge as long as your guest list is less than 75, which shouldn’t be a problem when you know how to elope in Oregon ;).

    BROOKINGS

    In southern Oregon, right near the California border lies one of the most iconic beaches for your Oregon elopement. We’re talking rugged beaches, driftwood, sea stacks and mind blowing rock formations – basically exactly what you see in your mind when you picture the Oregon oceanside.

    My favorite spots to get the best elopement pictures and the most out of the experience are the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Viewpoint and Whales Head Beach. One of the best things about this part of Oregon is that it gets more sunshine than a lot of other parts of the coast. Plan on coming here in the summer, but late spring and fall can work too.

    SMITH ROCK STATE PARK

    Right near Bend, Oregon (which is one of the coolest towns in Oregon), you can find Smith Rock State Park. You’ll come here and be in awe of the insanely diverse landscapes that Oregon has to offer. You’ll think you magically transported to the red rock formations of the Four Corners states.

    If you want to throw some adventure into your Oregon elopement, Smith Rock State Park is well-known to rock climbers. Come here if you want those towering red rock formations as your backdrop, which light up in the most fantastical ways during sunset. Summer will be your best bet for an Oregon elopement here.

    CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK

    How does eloping on a lake formed in the mouth of a sleeping volcano sound? One of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country and one of the purest in the world. Surrounded by massive cliffs, with a myth-like island (aptly named Wizard Island!) in the middle, Crater Lake is a pretty magical place. It's a color of blue you’ll never see anywhere else. You honestly have to see it to believe it.

    You can get epic views of the caldera, Pumice Desert and even do some stargazing photos. Plan on coming here in the summer when the weather is mildest. But at its elevation, weather can change quickly, so bring layers. You will need a permit here. It’s only about $100 total, but make sure you give yourself at least 8 weeks for processing.

    PAINTED HILLS

    The Painted Hills of Oregon are a picture of millions of years of geological stratification – the end result, elopement photos that look like you traveled to Mars or some other planet. Another one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, the Painted Hill in the John Day Fossil Beds Monument are, yet again, a landscape that you’d never expect in this state.

    Summer can get pretty dang toasty here so early fall and late spring are the best times to elope here. Even though there’s a higher chance of rain during these times (is this starting to sound familiar? Yeah, it’s Oregon), the rain can actually make the painted hills even more picturesque. Sunset photos here are particularly gorgeous. A permit is required to get married here, but it’s easy and affordable.

    practicing leave no trace

    When we’re talking about how to elope in Oregon, it’s always crucial to remember that we want to leave the landscape pristine for all the travelers and elopers to come after us. Always make sure you’re practicing good Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles when planning your Oregon adventure elopement.

    Oregon is host to so many beautiful landscapes and climates, but each one is a delicate ecosystem that needs to be taken care of. As a certified LNT photographer, I’ll be vigilant about ensuring that we are always exercising best practices, but you can do your part too!

    Ready for your Oregon adventure elopement?

    And that’s a wrap, folks! I sincerely hope this helped answer many of your questions about how to elope in Oregon. You can always reach out if you have more questions. I’m here for you.

    If I didn’t make it clear, I looooove Oregon and I’m always so happy to share the marvels of this beautiful state with others. Especially when you’re coming here to kick off the real adventure of a lifetime – your wedding!

    This is one of the most exciting times in your life, so I’ll reiterate that it’s so, so, so incredibly important that you follow your vision and get married on YOUR terms! I’m rooting for you all the way!

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