Elopement vs Wedding – How much can you save?

There are lots of aspects about eloping to get excited about, but one of the most motivating reasons couples might choose to elope over hosting a traditional wedding is the cost. Overall, it is a lot less expensive to elope than to have a wedding.

In this post I’m going to share some of the actual prices I was quoted for my own 80 person wedding, and then compare them to a real, full day, destination elopement.

Obviously, you can expect price variation depending on your market, number of guests in attendance, and how you’d like to celebrate your marriage but hopefully this will give you a good baseline idea of what to expect when budgeting for an elopement or wedding, and for choosing whether saving money and eloping is right for you.

Eloping is a way to treat yourself, and still make practical financial choices.

The days when “eloping” meant “cheap wedding” are over. There’s a wide margin between the extravagant expense of a traditional wedding and how much a luxury elopement costs.

And I’m going to use real numbers to prove it to you!

Let’s say you are thinking about hosing a traditional wedding and hosting a reception during which a meal will be served. 

For this comparison I’m going to use the actual costs from my own backyard wedding with 80 guests and a sit down dinner. 80 was the absolute smallest we were able to manage between local friends, long term partners of guests, immediate family, one cousin, and a few aunts and uncles.

My Actual Wedding:Cost:
Food for 80 people (salad, rolls, two main dishes, and a side)$1,619.12 (~$20/person)

Reallocate Your Budget and Treat Yourself

If you take what you might spend just feeding your guests and allocate it to your elopement , you can completely cover not only your own travel expenses, but also a stay in a luxury hotel or extravagant airbnb, AND cover a private chef at your elopement.

Here are the numbers: 

Private Chef:~ $200 for two
Round Trip Flights:$602 ($301/person)
Fancy Airbnb for two nights:$475
Total =$1477 (saving $142.12)

The possibilities here are endless. Skip the private chef and make an epic grocery store run to stock up for the week on all of your fanciest favorites, or dine out at the nicest restaurant in town and STILL have money leftover.

And that’s just your food budget!

Let’s talk event space. I was surprised to find out that even though we hosted our wedding on our own land, we spent almost as much renting a tent (to provide shade and as a back up in case of rain) as we would have to rent a venue for the day. 

We also learned that the rental company wouldn’t rent us just tables and chairs without having a rain plan.

My Actual Wedding:
Tent and Rental Items (flatware, glassware, napkins, tables and chairs) $3,380.48

If you’re eloping this entire amount can be saved altogether, or you can put some of it towards having a bad ass experience on your wedding day. 

That could be:

Can you imagine having such a luxury elopement experience like that and still saving money!? It’s so possible!

Here’s the full cost breakdown between my actual wedding and a real, full day destination elopement:

My Actual Wedding
(80 guests)
A Real, Full Day Destination Elopement
Invitations & Thank you cards
$342Round Trip
Plane Tickets (2)
Tent and Rental Items$3,380.48Rental Car and Gas
(5 days)
Cupcakes$280Airbnb (5 nights)$998
Porta Potties$280Wedding Dress$329
Photographer$3,500Make up for Bride$200
Hair & Makeup
for Bride
$300Groom clothing$300
Flowers (bouquet &
table arrangements)
Groom Clothing$300
Wedding Dress$2,153
Dress Alterations$329
Misc (ice,
extension cords, buckets, etc)
Custom Party Favors ($131.80
Total =$14,609.80Total = $7,527

So, how much does it cost to elope? That’s really up to you! Most elopements that I photograph have an overall budget of between $5,000 and $8,000. This includes photography, attire, and flowers. If you’re staying local, you can often find photography packages that begin at just $1000.

That’s a huge savings compared to the average wedding price in the United States (which is a whopping $33,900 according to a study by TheKnot)

And don’t forget, the real elopement budget we shared above covers expenses for a full 5 days- your entire destination elopement! That’s a huge difference in experience when you compare it to the cost incurred for just a single day.

Other ways to save money when planning an elopement

Wedding Dresses for Elopements

If you’re planning on adventuring (hiking, climbing, etc) on your wedding day, I would reconsider against spending $2,000-$3000 on a wedding dress and another $329 on alterations.

Check out this beautiful white dress from Lulus– pictured on two adventurous brides above- only $329 total! I’ve photographed this dress twice, for Emily’s elopement at Mt Rainier National Park, and Shelby’s winter elopement in Colorado, and it is just as stunning in person as it looks. You can’t beat the price and the best part about it is you don’t have to stress about getting your dress dirty!!

I loved my pricey Rue de Seine handmade lace wedding gown, but that price tag -and keeping the dress clean- was definitely on my mind when I wore it, even though I got also got a deal by buying a sample dress.

If I could do it over, I would definitely skip the worry and the expense and have something much more lightweight, flexible, and breathable. And if it gets dirty- who cares!?

Now, if you are comfortable with buying a Rue, I won’t talk you out of it- the makers are masters of design and every one of their dresses is a work of art. In the spirit of this entire exercise, you could comfortably have the budget for your dream designer wedding gown with all of the money you are saving by eloping! Treat yourself!

DIY Elopement Bouquet

Bouquets and floral arrangement are another area where it’s easy to make room. I’ve photographed plenty of DIY bouquets made by brides and grooms that didn’t have any prior experience in the craft!

You can spend $100 on a nice, professionally made bouquet that will last all day, and still be out ahead of the cost of outfitting an entire venue and table settings with floral arrangements.

Have a friend or family member officiate, or self-solemnize.

These days, becoming ordained is super easy and takes less than 2 minutes to do online. I’ve even done this myself through the Universal Life Church. It’s 100% free and is an accepted way to officiate weddings in most states, including Oregon.

Other states, such as Colorado, have provisions that allow you to self-officiate (“self-solemnize”) your own wedding. I’ve written more this topic here: Should You Have An Officiant for your Elopement?

So, what will you do with all the money you saved on your wedding?

Most couples I’ve surveyed are excited about these ways they are using their savings to:

  • Put a downpayment on a house
  • Renovate their current house
  • Go on an international honeymoon
  • Start a family
  • Invest in their business or continue their education
  • Or just feel good about the amount they spent on their wedding!

How to Elope in Oregon

Oregon is one of the most beautiful places in the United States to elope and boasts a number of radically different landscapes to choose from. In eastern Oregon, you will find desert climes, unique geologic formations, and plenty of adventure sports. The coastal western side of the state will awe you with lush cedar forests, dramatic cliffs, sea life, and classic moody weather. This complete guide was designed for everyone who is considering getting married among Oregon’s grand landscapes and beautiful scenery.

Will you need an officiant to elope in Oregon?

Short Answer: You need a licensed officiant to sign your marriage certificate in Oregon.

Long Answer: Your elopement ceremony can be as private as you want it to be. You may choose to have an ordained or licensed officiant or celebrant at your ceremony, but you can also decide to declare your vows to each other privately.
If you choose the later, you can have a judge or court clerk sign as your officiant when you file your paperwork. You’ll need to make an appointment, and it must be at least three days after obtaining your license. Bring at least two witnesses over 18 years of age and pay a court cost of $117.

Marriage License Cost: $60
Court Officiant Cost: $117
Private Officiant Cost: Couples can spend anywhere between $200-$3,000 on an officiant who comes to you.

Read More: Should You Have an Officiant at Your Elopement Ceremony?

How to get your Oregon marriage license:

You can easily apply for a marriage license online at your county clerk’s office (smaller towns and cities may require you to submit a paper application). If you live overseas, or out of state, is may be easier to handle your paperwork in your home state or country.

There is a 3 day waiting period after application until the license is granted – or you can pay a rush fee of $10. Once you have your marriage license, it’s valid for 60 days. This means you’ll need to fill it out and return it within that time.

How to elope in Oregon State Parks

Equipped with bathrooms and parking areas, state parks are a great choice for a low key elopement or intimate weddings, especially when guests may need maintained trails or mobility accessible accommodation.

To host a wedding ceremony in Oregon State Parks you’ll need to contact the park manager of the park you’ll want to get married in. Each park has their own rules and policies because each of our parks has its own unique natural resources. Typically the costs to get married in the state park are minimal, and many times you can get married for fee if you have fewer than 75 guests in attendance.

You can find the phone numbers for each park on their website: It’s important to obtain permission for your event so that the park can help you have a day that runs smoothly.

Some of my favorite state parks for elopements and small weddings are:

  • Shore Acres State Park

    15 minutes south of Coos Bay on the Oregon Coast is one of the best outdoor wedding venues. You’ll get a mix of landscaped grounds, flower gardens and rugged and wild coastline. Packages range from $100-$400 (in addition to parking fees for your guests).

  • L.L. Stub Stewart State Park

    Located just under 40 mins from Portland, Stub Stewart State Park has secluded forest clearings for your ceremony- so perfect you will hardly believe this is in a state park! The Hilltop Day-use Area is also a solid option for a ceremony site with accessibility and a view, as this part of the park is very close to the 15 reservable cabins (and plenty of tent sites!) the park offers. With flush toilets and hot showers, you won’t feel like you are roughing it at all! View the park’s very affordable rates here.

  • Silver Falls State Park

    Silver Falls is a very hospitable location for an elopement or wedding celebration with a lodge on site that offer both elopement and wedding packages and has procedures in place to mitigate exposure to COVID-19. Elopement and intimate wedding packages begin at $594 for 5 people (Couple, Officiant, and 2 Witnesses) and each additional person (like your photographer!) is $40. Larger wedding celebration packages at Silver Falls State Park begin at $1779 for 10 people. Check out the full details on Silver Falls State Park wedding and elopement packages here.

  • Smith Rock State Park

    To elope in front of the towering rock formations at Smith Rock in Terrebonne, all you need to do is pay a $5 entry fee. You do not need to apply for a permit to get elope at Smith Rock unless you are having more than 50 guests. However, keep in mind that the park is extremely busy on weekends and during the peak climbing season!

  • Ecola State Park

    Cannon Beach, moody forests and epic coastal views, just an hour and a half from downtown Portland.

Other places to consider for your elopement:

Crater Lake National Park

Best Features: Easy, drive-up access, waterfalls, and hiking trails.

A permit is required for ceremonies inside Crater Lake National Park. The park offers 45 locations at which to hold your marriage ceremony, but it’s important to know that you won’t be able to bring in generators for power, speakers or other amplified music, and you won’t be able to restrict access to other park guests.

Oregon National Forests

Best Features: Lava flows and volcanic mountains, wildflower meadows, and the moss covered evergreen forests that the Pacific Northwest is known for.

Oregon has a fascinating geologic history, and is one of the few states where you can find visible evidence of the ancient tectonic forces that have shaped it. The central Cascades feature dark igneous rock and vast lava fields, often alongside epic vistas of The Sisters, Mt Washington, Mt Jefferson, and (my favorite) Three Fingered Jack. Backcountry trails make the central Cascades one of the most best places to find wildflower meadows and alpine beauty. Mid to late summer is the best time of year for high elevation elopements.

Oregon coastline

Best Features: Sea stacks, marine life, epic sunsets, bonfires, and coastal redwoods.

The famously scenic Oregon coast offers a plethora of gigantic coastal boulders, or sea stacks, that make for a scenic backdrop to any wedding. Oregon’s coast is referred to as “The People’s Coast” because the entire coastline was designated as public property in 1967. Dotted with state parks, campgrounds, yurts and lodges, there are many options for accommodations along the coast. Consider a fairy tale-like ceremony followed by a cozy night by the fireplace.

Read More: Why Your Should Choose the Oregon Coast for Your Elopement

The Painted Hills and the Oregon Desert

Best Features: unique, brightly colored layered sediment.

The Painted Hills of eastern Oregon, one of Oregon’s 7 natural wonders, are a striking backdrop for a small wedding or elopement. The colored bands of sediment were formed 35 million years ago during its time as a river floodplain. Protected within John Day National Monument, guests are allowed within the park year round. Guests must be aware that stepping off designated paths is strictly forbidden in order to preserve the delicate landscape- but you won’t need to stray to have an epic and beautiful experience here!

Fern-and-Moss-Covered Forests

Oregon is known for its tall, evergreen fir trees, covered in moss and shrouded in fog. You’ll see this spectacular landscape at its best in autumn and winter when the weather is gloriously wet and lush. Consider a fairy tale-like ceremony followed by a cozy night by the fireplace.


Oregon’s waterfalls are truly countless- giving you many options to suit your elopement vision. Latourell, Multnomah, and Wahclella are the most easily accessible and popular falls in the Columbia River Gorge and ideal for those wishing to elope near Portland and for guests with accessibility needs. In the Willamette Valley, my favorites are Abiqua Falls, Moon Falls, and Spirit Falls. Getting married near the crushing power of thousands of gallons of flow per minute, feeling the wind and spray on your face as you commit yourself to your partner is a magical thing indeed. (Related: How and Where to Elope in the Columbia River Gorge)

Mountains and wildflower meadows

Mt Hood and the other mountains in the central part of the state are awash with colorful wildflowers for a few months each year depending on the spot’s specific elevation. If you love hiking, sunrises, backpacking, or otherwise find your glory in the mountains, eloping on a mountain peak surrounded by wildflowers is for you.

Why You Should Elope on the Oregon Coast

The Oregon coast is truly #thecoastwiththemost – and you can find it all here! It’s a pretty BIG area, and I’ve broken it down into three parts to help you decide where to elope.

The Southern Oregon Coast

Best Features:

  • Warmer
  • Fewer people
  • Redwoods!

Nearest airport: Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR)

The Southern Oregon coast is absolutely one of my favorite parts of the state. It’s an area that’s far enough away from big cities to not be overwhelmed by tourists, but epic enough that you wonder why there aren’t more people around!

Here you can find some of Oregon’s best and most instagrammed beaches, snugged in cozy towns with lots of cute airbnbs, amazing seafood (if that’s your thing!). The coast offers more than beaches- you can also spend your day exploring the forests, which often grow right up to the edges of the beaches! The star of the show are those epic giants: the coast redwoods!

Yes, Oregon has redwoods!! You’ll also be within a half hours drive of California redwoods state parks! (where they filmed scenes from Jurassic Park!) Epic!

If you’re looking for secluded views that make you feel like you’re in New Zealand, this is the place for you!

Best time to elope: 

There is almost always great weather in Southern Oregon. Sometimes this can even mean 80 degree winter days thanks to something called the Brookings effect or Chetco effect– yep there’s even a wikipedia page about it!

Essentially, high pressure systems move into the southern coast around Brookings, and this air warms up as it nears the coast. So don’t believe it when you hear that Oregon is always cold and rainy- you can find downright balmy beaches in the tourist off-season.

My favorite times to visit are  February- June, and September and October. Avoid August and the higher risk that smoke from wildfires may impact your day.

As with any location, if you choose to elope on a weekday you’ll be ten times more likely to have a private experience. 

Example Timeline for an epic all day Oregon coast adventure elopement:

12:30 – 2:00 Getting Ready at both airbnbs
2:00 – 2:30 –Travel- Redwoods
2:30 -3:15 First Look & Portraits in the Redwoods
3:15 – 3:45 –Travel– – Drive to second portrait location
3:45 – 4:45: Portraits at second location
5:00 – 5:15 Ceremony
5:30 – 5:45 Family Portraits
5:45 – 7:00 Candlelit first dance on the beach at sunset
6:30- 8:00 – Regroup with guests for outdoor dinner at restaurant.

The Central Oregon Coast

Best Features

Nearest Airport: Eugene Regional Airport (EUG)

Ok, so no one calls this area the “central coast” – it’s all “the coast” to locals- but I think that the areas between Florence and Lincoln City have their own vibe! That is to say, you’ll find glorious tide pools, laid back small towns, and fantastic campgrounds. 

For this stretch of the coast, the Highway 101 snugs right up against the ocean, so it’s easy to miss all that this area has to offer. Stop in a Yachats (YA-HOTS) for an easy going, super walkable seaside community, or head up to Newport and get up close and personal with marine life.

Lincoln City is home to a popular elopement spot named “God’s Thumb” – a short but strenuous hike up to a point knob (the thumb) where many couples have chosen to tie the knot.

The “central coast” transitions seamlessly into the vistas of the northern coast from here.

The Northern Oregon Coast

Best Features

  • Epic cliffs of basalt columns
  • Closer to Portland
  • Moody as heck
  • Sea stacks

Nearest airport: Portland International Airport (PDX)

The Northern Oregon Coast is like the older, more trendy sister to the other coasts. It’s got a vibe and it wants you to know it. (That vibe is “Game of Thrones, but romantic”) Catch this coast in its foggier and rainier months for epic crashing waves and deep, dark forests.

While you might be more likely to run into lots of other tourists, there are definitely some unique and harder-to-find lists for your adventure elopement or intimate wedding on the northern side of the Oregon coast.

Best times to elope:

For moody PNW vibes (and if you aren’t afraid of a little rain) the northern coast is gorgeously moody in the early spring. Summer is more reliably for sunny days, but I can’t say enough about the moody vibes of the cooler months. August and September are great choice. Be aware that “king tides” typically form in the winter along the coast. It’s important to be aware of high and low tides to access the coastline safely.

Photography for central Oregon Coast Elopements begin at $1000 for 2 hours of photography.

Example timeline for an elopement on the central Oregon Coast

Wondering what 2 hours on the Oregon coast could look like?

Here’s an example timeline for Kel’s and Robin’s Cape Kiwanda Elopement

  • 5:00 pm Meet at the Hungry Harbor Rd parking lot
  • 5-5:20 Walk across the beach to the big dune
  • 5:30-  Choose ceremony site
  • 5:45-6:00 Exchange vows
  • 6:00-6:15 Photos with guests
  • 6:20- 7:00 Couple’s Sunset Portraits

View more example timelines and Oregon coast elopement package prices here!

How to Plan Your Elopement Reception.

So you’ve decided to elope and skip the performance and stress of a traditional wedding- go you! Spending your wedding day with just your partner is an amazing way to get married and will radically change your perspective on weddings forever. Many couples who elope find that they still want to celebrate with friends and family- and you can absolutely make this happen by planning your own elopement reception.

Why Couples Elope

The reasons some couples choose to elope is as unique as their love story.

Large, traditional weddings are expensive.

For some couples the decision to elope is simply a matter of budget. Forward-thinking lovers these days would rather save for a house or epic globe trotting honeymoon than host 150+ friends and relatives for dinner, drinks, and the Cha Cha Slide on the dance floor.  That doesn’t mean your elopement can’t be luxurious, in fact you can plan and enjoy a higher quality of experience for fewer people than a lower quality for more people.

The thought of being at the center of attention makes you cringe.

This was my biggest source of stress at my wedding! I put off writing my vows until the morning of my wedding simply because I did NOT want to say them in front of people! Your relationship is private- and it’s perfectly OK to keep it that way.

You or your partner may be contending with stressful or painful family situations.

Many people have complicated experiences and feelings when it comes to the traditional expectations of the day. Engaged couples may not be accepted by their families, whether for cultural, religious, or sadly, just plain discriminatory reasons.

Let’s face it, planning a wedding isn’t suuuper fun.

Everyone who has planned a wedding knows this- some couples start the process, realize it’s horrors, and bail. Who can blame them?

Everyone deserves a wedding day that is free of meaningless pressures and everyone deserves to get married in a way that makes them feel safe and valued. Eloping can be an incredible meaningful and intimate way to do things differently; to do the marriage thing in exactly the way that works for their personality and values.

You’re eloping- now what? Reasons to have an elopement reception.


You and your partner love the idea of exchanging your vows in the great outdoors but grandma isn’t going to make it on that 5 mile sunrise hike. Accessibility is a huge reason adventurous elopers choose to also have a reception.

You still want to celebrate with friends and family.

There are plenty of people who elope have a community of people that they want to celebrate with, and for them, an elopement reception is the perfect option to have their private wedding day and not have to give up the chance to celebrate with friends.

You’re eloping internationally.

If you’re eloping internationally, it’s might not be an option to have guests come along for a destination elopement. Throwing the party at home will allow your friends and family to feel included.

An elopement reception is less stressful that a wedding reception.

Even if you have an elopement reception that is identical to a traditional wedding reception, separating the reception from your actual wedding day will take a lot of pressure off both events and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself more.

Although couples who have made the decision to elope have already broken free of the heavy expectation laid on them to plan a traditional wedding, it’s common to slide back into the trap of “What are we supposed to do?” when thinking about an elopement reception.

Soon, you might be right back where you started- planning a large, stressful, expensive party- just what you were trying to avoid!

With that in mind, I’ve created a list of a few important considerations when planning your elopement reception. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that what works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. Empower yourself to create an experience that is perfect for you, and you will plan the best elopement reception ever!

5 Tips for planing your elopement reception.

Decide when you want to have your reception or celebration.

Elopements are about freedom, and you need not feel any pressure to have a same day celebration. Your friends and family will be just as happy to celebrate with you 3 months later as they would on the day you say your vows to your partner. Plus, if you are jet setting to a far off and exciting destination to say your vows, you’ll have new tales of adventure to share with your guests. Showing off your elopement day photos in a reception slideshow is a fantastic way to make everyone feel included in your private experience.

Decide where to host your elopement reception.

As an elopement photographer, I’ve seen it all. You can have a casual, laid back backyard BBQ, a potluck-style garden party, or rent a room in a local brewpub. Offer light tapas and two drink tickets per guest for a guaranteed good time!Even the expense of renting a private room for a small group of friends and family will be less expensive than a sit down dinner at a traditional wedding, so you’ll still be living the thrifty life. Do what fits your lifestyle, and remember that guest lists can easily get out of hand. If you would be happier making a reservation at your favorite pizza joint with five of your closest friends, then that’s the reception you should have.

Should you send invitations to your elopement reception?

Well you do have to invite people somehow.
If you’ve already changed your Facebook relationship status to “Married” and your elopement is pretty much public knowledge, consider this: Formal invites are not expected for elopement receptions, and a (free!) Facebook event will surely get the job done. For those friends yet unyoked to our Facebook overlords, you’ll find the extra effort to give them a phone call or send an email to be worth the expense saved with formal invitations. My favorite part of this plan is that you don’t have to make a trip to the Post Office!

If you’ve waited to announce your elopement – you might consider how fun the surprise announcement of your elopement will be when delivered alongside the elopement reception invitation.

Pro Tip: To avoid hurt feelings, do tell close friends and family in person or by phone FIRST. (If anyone in your life struggles with your decision to elope, keep this phrase handy: “We are celebrating our marriage in a way that works for us, and we’d hate for you to take it personally. Eloping doesn’t mean that we don’t care for you.”)

To register or not to register?

There’s a prevailing fear among some couples that sharing a registry for an elopement is gauche, with or without a reception. To ease those fears I recommend a simple note along with your registry: “Gifts are not necessary, but for those who would like to contribute to our future, here’s how.” Simple, humble, and generally speaking, quite likely to bring in returns.

As an added bonus, you will not have to field questions about your registry later on. It will come up! You can easily include your registry link on your Facebook event, email, or formal invitations.

If you enjoy abundance in your life, a marriage celebration is a great excuse to rally around a cause. In lieu of gifts, many thoughtful couples have chosen to register in support of a charitable organization close to their hearts, like collecting donations to the local animal shelter.

Entertaining your guests- There’s a reason some traditions stick around.

Some couples might feel a little lost at the thought of entertaining guests at an elopement reception without the “main event” of a ceremony to organize around. Entertaining guests is always important to a good time, and if you have a larger crowd you might want to circle back to some of the traditional reception activities to keep the party going. Smaller crowds are more easily entertained with good conversation or simple table games.

Arrange for speeches and toasts.

Everyone loves a good speech! Personally, speeches and toasts are my favorite part of reception parties! Asking friends or family ahead of time to prepare a toast is the best bet to make sure you have some material in the wings. Assign a casual MC to a good friend and task them with opening up the floor to anyone who wants to chime in after the scheduled speeches results in some of the best dedications. Toast-giving is the most popular and FREE entertainment you can provide your elopement reception guests.

Show a slideshow of photos from your elopement.

This is a great way to make friends and family feel included in your elopement day, even if they weren’t present. It’s a spectacular conversation starter, and you’ll enjoy retelling your adventure. You’ve already paid for your photos and most photographer’s online gallery comes with an animated slideshow feature that makes it all too simple to share your day.

Create a “How well do you know the couple” game.

A simple 10-15 question worksheet printed and placed at each table is fun ice breaker for guests who might not know each other well or for sit down style receptions. When the answers are announced (typically right before or after toasts) it’s entertaining to bond with your guests.

Hire a DJ, local band, or create a dance party playlist.

You may not be thrilled at the idea of springing for a professional DJ- but if you are expecting a large group of people (40+) you will be grateful for a professional to keep the evening flowing. If you have a smaller group of folks, queue up a your favorite dance playlist for background music and see what happens! Think about the weddings you’ve attended as a guest- if you love the dance floor, why not end the night in a club crawl? Make sure you mention you’re newlyweds and you might get a drink on the house!

Reenact your ceremony or first dance.

Some couples have their heart set on a ceremony reenactment, or sometimes they feel obligated to do this for family. At other times, they may not have yet signed their official paperwork and want to do this in front of their guests. Either way, choosing to perform a second ceremony will be a nice focal point for the reception and may help reduce any lingering guilt (if you have it, which you shouldn’t!) about eloping.

Six creative ways to include your family in your elopement reception.

Honor them with a special speech.

I will always remember a very touching speech from a groom who had lost his father young and wanted to honor his the adults in his life who stepped in as mentors. As the groom described what these relationships meant to him, his bride pass around shots of bourbon to the honored guests- his father’s favorite brand.You don’t have to be walked down the aisle by your dad to have a person in your life who is worth a special thank you. Likewise, you don’t have to designate a list of your best friends as a bridal party to let them know how you’ve appreciated their friendship. Ask yourself who has been important in shaping your life choices and who has made you into the person you are today?

Have them plan the dang thing!

If your parents, in-laws, or close friends would LOVE to throw you an elopement reception, go ahead and let them! A party thrown by someone else will take all the pressure off of you. All you have to do it show up!

My mother-in-law threw us a fantastic post-wedding party in another state for all of my husband’s older relatives who couldn’t travel. It was fun and casual and a great way to meet the extended family.

Give gifts.

This is a perfect companion to a speech or toast but it can be done in a private moment. Gifts to your new in laws will be especially meaningful. If you’ve had a destination elopement, souvenirs are the best wedding gifts!

Ask family to sign as witnesses on your marriage license.

Signing a marriage license is a special honor and your family or best friends would love to be official witnesses to the completion of your marriage license.

Pre-record a video to your guests from your elopement day and play it at your ceremony.

This is a ton of fun and a sweet reminder that you were thinking of your friends and family on your wedding day.

Plan father- daughter dances and mother- son dances.

If this is one wedding tradition you’ve always dreamed of doing, your elopement reception is the perfect time for special family dances.

What do we even wear to our elopement reception? What should the dress code be?

Let’s remember there is no wrong way to get married, just like there is no wrong way to celebrate it!

If your party is leaning towards the fancier side,  go ahead and bring out the wedding dress and wedding suit. You won’t have another chance to wear them! This is plus if you enjoy strangers calling out congratulations to you- it will happen!

If you are dressing down for your reception, you can find beautiful, inexpensive, and comfortable “white maxi dresses” in many online stores (I love LulusForever21, and Asos for this!) modern and stunning white suits for women (Macy’sNordstrom), and dapper outfits for men (ASOS).

Creative Ways to Announce Your Elopement!

Whether your elopement is a surprise, or if everyone is in the know, elopement announcements are a fun way to share the good news with everyone you love. Here are the most popular and creative ways to announce your elopement.

Video call your friends and family as soon as you say “I do!” 

If you don’t have cell service, go ahead and record a video instead. Making your announcement at the exact spot that you said “I do” helps share your experience with those you care about. Turn the camera around and share your views, and don’t forget to let them know that even though they aren’t present today, you are carrying them in your thoughts on your wedding day.

Record individual, more personalized videos for family members or friends who might feel a little bit left out! 

Make a sign!

Pose with a sign that says “We eloped!” and ask your photographer to include the image in your sneak peek so that you can mail/text/or post the good news right away! 

Printed elopement announcement cards take a bit longer, but are a great way to include a registry link or a personalized note. (Older family members especially will love having a print to display.)

If you want to bask in all of your reacts at once- post your announcement to social media as soon as you get that sneak peek! Don’t forget your hashtags: #wedidthething! #surprise! #weeloped #justmarried #weddingday are the most popular.

More great elopement announcement sign ideas:

  • Inscribe “Mr & Mr” “Mr & Mrs” “Mrs & Mrs” or “Mx & Mx” on a pair of balloons, cupcakes, puppy dogs (!!), custom embroidered jackets, or whatever flavor of Etsy paraphernalia does it for you!
Custom embroidered jacket from SunnyshopbyOlesea on Etsy.

Some other phrases to use for your elopement announcement are:

“We do, we did, we eloped!”
“We said yes!”
“So, this happened”
“We tied the knot!”

And of course the classic “Just Married” works wonderfully too!

Tip: For mountain elopements, include the elevation of where you said “I do.”


Sneak peek previews of your elopement photos are pretty standard, and you can download these, set them to music, and play them at your elopement reception!

How to Prepare for a Winter Elopement

There are few landscapes that are more peaceful and magical than a snowy winter’s sunrise high in the mountains. A pink and blue dawn gives way to an explosion of golden light, reflecting from the snow and turning the landscape into a storybook painting. 

You can exchange vows in this beautiful winter wonderland and be warm and comfortable the entire time with these tips!

Know the Terrain

Snow can make even the most familiar trails confusing. Having a reliable guide, map, or GPS is essential. Don’t rely on your cell phone, as service issues and functionality in extreme temps can render this tool useless. Make sure you are not planning to hike in an area near steep inclines where avalanches can be a hazard.

Wear Your Best Boots

If you’ll be walking through snow, it’s important to have waterproof boots that are high enough that the snow won’t fall down the tops and make your feet cold and wet on your big day! Ankle high boots are appropriate if you wear thick socks. Snow gaiters are a great option if you want something that will keep you dry through deep snow drifts, but are quickly removable for changing into your wedding clothes or for photos.

Bring Extra Socks

You’ll be glad you did! Even if your snow boot is impenetrable, changing into fresh clean socks at the end of your hike is an exquisite pleasure that you will not regret!

Consider Hand Warmers or Heated Apparel

Heated gloves for your winter elopement make a big difference!

While I love the snow, staying warm is imperative to a good experience. I always bring Ororo Wear’s heated gloves and heated vests for snowy elopement adventures. Hot Hands hand warmers, found in every store’s sporting good’s section, can make the difference between numb hands and ones ready to throw some snowballs!

Wear Layers

Nude colored tights can turn a delicate dress from a frigid scrap of fabric into an elegant snow gown- matching your tights to your skin tone means no one is the wiser for your warmth! For those who won’t be in dresses, tights of any shade or long underwear tops and bottoms will make a huge difference in your comfort level. Layering is important, because once your body starts moving and getting warm you’ll will want to start stripping off your outer layers quickly! Being warm enough also means not getting too warm. Sweating can put you at risk for getting too cold later as your sweat cools and leaves you wet and cold!

Don’t forget about your head and your ears

We lose a lot of heat through the tops of ours heads and our ears- having a hat on hand is a game changer! If you have a freshly styled coif fuzzy ear warmers will keep you comfortable while keeping your hair in style.

Incorporate a snack or a warm drink into your elopement celebration

Toast to your nuptials with hot toddies fresh from the thermos. A fresh breakfast bagel will give you the extra energy you’ll need for snowy wedding adventures.

Bonus Rad Winter Elopement Ideas:

  • Hike or ski up to spend your wedding night in a cozy backcountry hut or cabin. Extra cozy points if you can find one with a wood stove.
  • After vows, celebrate with an epic bridal party snowball fight!
  • Go for the truly bad ass profile pic shot and ski or snow board in your wedding attire!

Wildfires and Weddings

When wildfires and smoke affect your elopement plans, learn how to view near real-time data in Google Earth Pro.

It’s fire season, but it’s still wedding season- and you’re planning an elopement during it.

Here’s a quick way to find recent fire information and smoke imagery overlaid on Google Earth Pro.

Use this tool as part of your planning process and be prepared to make back up plans out of the way of fires, smoke, and first responders. Even if you are far away from a wildfire, smoke levels can get unhealthy and uncomfortable very quickly!

First, visit the US Forest Service’s Active Fire Mapping program – You’ll download files from here and import them into your desktop version of Google Earth Pro. 

  • Select a state from the map.
  • Make a selection from the drop down menu that says “Satellite/Sensor Image Band Combination”  The instruments that take gather this data are on two orbiting satellites: Terra and Aqua. You can download images from each satellite. I like using a True Color Composition.
  • Select the image date from the pop up menu. If you don’t get a pop up menu, try a different browser.
  • Select “KMZ” for the Product Type and click “Generate Subset” This will start your download.
  • Next, open up Google Earth Pro and select File -> Open. Select your downloaded KMZ file and you’ll see the new layer open up in Google Earth Pro as “Worldview snapshot”. Enable the layer.

Active Fire Mapping program has a lot of useful information that is publicly accessible, including files containing detailed fire reports.

When you add more files to Google, you can view them together as layers.

Now that you know how to import files to Google, you can look for satellite imagery files to plan for snow and large, slower weather events like hurricanes and be prepared for nearly anything 😉

Look around and click through- and let me know if this helps you!

Stay safe friends! 

Emily and Brad’s Sunrise Mt Rainier Elopement

Emily and Brad celebrate getting married in front of Mt Rainier!

Emily and Brad were already secretly married and planned to surprise their family and friends with epic elopement announcement photos. The view of Mt Rainier at sunrise from the Fremont Fire Lookout tour was the perfect backdrop for the surprise!

We arrived at the Paradise campground at 3 am, and I was impressed to see lots of cars and other sunrise warriors heading out for their hikes! As we hiked through the dusty trails in the dark, we could see a long line of headlamps bobbing ahead of us up the trail. We stopped for a quick star photo in front of the mountain- which we still couldn’t see with the naked eye! Every once in a while we could make out the lights of the most adventurous climbers already on Rainier.

We arrived at the lookout tower landing just as the sky began to lighten. Emily and Brad’s best friends were there to lend a helping hand- carry suits and dresses, and make sure everything looked perfect. Although it was August, there was a large area of snow where Emily and Brad decided to have their “first dance” – as their friends cheered from behind! The easterly view was phenomenal, but we knew that Rainier was about to light up right behind us in just a few moments.

Sure enough, as soon as the sun peeked above the horizon, Rainier was awash in a pink and orange glow- a truly spectacular vista of this great mountain, and an incredibly special inclusion in Brad and Emily’s wedding photos. They are both in the Army, and about to leave Washington behind on deployments. For this couple, making sure to celebrate in the National Park where they love to climb and hike together was the perfect embodiment of their decision to adventure together for the rest of their lives!

We explored the fire lookout tower and took a few more portraits before heading back down to the trail. This time, we could take our time and enjoy the alpine wildflowers, glacial ice at Frozen Lake, and look for wildlife. Although Emily’s hopes of seeing a bear didn’t pan out, we saw a stately grey fox, deer, and plenty of cheeky squirrels!

Kenzie and Cameron’s Colorful Painted Hills Elopement

Table of Contents

The Landscape of the Painted Hills

It’s hard to believe that Oregon can have so many different types of landscapes- that you can go from lush verdant forests and waterfalls to mountains and desert in just a few hours. John Day National Monument is one of the “seven wonders” of Oregon- and once you arrive you will immediately agree that this special place has earned it’s title. One of the most striking features is the red dirt and ash along the Painted Cove trail. This deep red substrate fell from the sky as hot ash millions of years ago from the surrounding volcanoes, preserving ancient flora and fauna, as well as information about the changing climate.
It’s important to protect this fragile landscape, so visitors to the park must stay on the boardwalk at all times. The boardwalk views are the best way to see these features!

Getting Married in the Park

Getting married in the Painted Hills is easy and affordable! Couples should note that a wedding permit is required, but it is very affordable (150-$300 depending on your group’s size). Places to consider include the Painted Cove trail pictured below!

How to Get There

From Portland: 3 h 56 min 
From Bend: 1 h 52 min
From Eugene: 3 h 51 min

Hair and Makeup: Katya LaPierre 
Find her on Instagram: @la.pierrestylist

Wild Earth Weddings specializes in the planning and photography of epic wedding days.

Top 3 Ways to Livestream Your Wedding in 2020

In the time of the novel coronavirus, couples all over the world are adapting their wedding plans to be socially responsible and safe for all of their guests. Thankfully, a strong internet connection is available to a great majority, and we can use this technology to celebrate together and livestream your wedding celebration! Here’s how:

For the Moderately Tech Savvy:
How to livestream your wedding on Zoom

Zoom has enjoyed breakout success in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and it’s a great choice for streaming your wedding (although you should be aware of certain security issues facing the platform). Participants to Zoom meetings do not have to have a Zoom account.

The biggest benefit to choosing Zoom as your livestream wedding service is that you will be able to see the faces of your virtual guests and talk to them chat-room style. You can even take a group photo to commemorate your wedding guests!

Here’s what you need to know about Zoom’s subscription levels:

Free level membership:

  • Up to 100 users per meeting
  • 40 min duration only

Pro level membership:

  • up to 100 users per meeting, with the option to buy an extra 900 user slots for $100 for a one-time “Large Meeting.”
  • Comes with the ability to record up to 1 gb.
  • 24 hr duration of meetings

Business level membership:

* includes up to 300 users per meeting, and also has the option to buy the total 1000 users for a large meeting for around the same price.

  • Comes with the ability to record up to 1 gb.
  • 24 hr duration of meetings

Conclusion: The Pro Level is best for most weddings.

How to set up your Zoom Account

Zoom has recommended paid levels of memberships to any guests who need to dial in by phone. While dial in service is normally supported at the free level, they have had to prioritize paid accounts due to the increased usage that came with COVID-19.

How to do it:

  • Step 1: Create a Zoom account. You’ll need an email address, or you can sign in with Facebook or Google.
  • Step 2: From the Zoom home screen ( click “My Account” on the right hand side of the screen, and then “Schedule a Meeting” which will also be on the right hand side of the page.
    It’s a good idea to schedule a test run with any guests or family members who might need a bit of help with technology. During your test run, stand where you will be during your ceremony and speak at a normal volume. Ask your guests if they can hear you. If not, you might need to purchase a microphone before the big day.
  • Step 3: Follow the simple steps to set up your meeting. I recommend selecting “Record the meeting automatically on the local computer” to test your ability to record your ceremony later.

Remember to make sure to mute all participants so you don’t get loud feedback loops!

That’s it! Pretty simple, huh?

For the Pro:
How to livestream and record your wedding in HD with Facebook

Facebook is a great choice for a wedding livestream because almost everyone is familiar with the platform already, and it’s easy to re-watch your service! Facebook also does not have a limit on how many people can join your group.

If you are not technically inclined, hire a local videographer to handle the details for you.  You will need professional equipment for this method. A professional is always worth it when you have once chance to get it right.

Here’s the basics of to set up a professional livestream:

  • Created a private Facebook Group and invite guests.
  • Set up a video camera with SDI out feed
  • Attach a lavalier microphone to the officiant. This feeds into a mixer along with the camera’s audio from a second, shotgun style microphone.
  • All of these signals are encoded with a Teradek Vidiu Pro – which streams over WIFI via a subscription Sharelink service- (or you can choose to use a wired connection depending on your ceremony location).

Here’s a fantastic video tutorial on using the Teradek Vidiu Pro to stream to Facebook.

For the average user:

If you don’t want to deal with new platforms and fancy tech, the best way to stream your wedding great a private Facebook group and “go live” in the group from your phone, tablet, or computer, or even DSLR (with an HDMI converter that runs between $200-$300).

Here’s a great tutorial on hooking up your DSLR to Facebook/Zoom.

It’s still a good idea to do test runs to check the audio, and your guests will need to have a Facebook account to join.

If you plan to say your vows without a wifi connection at all, such as for elopements in the great outdoors, hire a pro videographer to capture your ceremony from a socially responsible distance. Their professional touch will make your friends and family feel like they were right there with you.

Check out this post on ways to include your family in your elopement reception.