For many of us, our most important relationships are both created and sustained by this shared loved of the outdoors. Choosing to incorporate the outdoors in your wedding day is an expression of who you are and where you feel the most like yourself. In this article we’ll break down exactly what to expect when planning a hiking elopement- from considerations on how far to hike to what exactly makes this new trend in weddings so popular.
Take any Pinterest-worthy quote about hiking and you can easily apply it to a marriage. Creating a fulfilling partnership by overcoming challenges might indeed be the perfect equivalence to pushing your body and mind in pursuit of dazzling views and almost spiritual sense of accomplishment.
If you’ve never heard of a hiking elopement, or are exploring whether this might be right for you, you’re in the right place.
What is a hiking elopement?
Any wedding that requires some hiking has earned it’s title as a hiking elopement! The length of time spent hiking is entirely up to your goals for your wedding day. Just as there are near-infinite types of trails- from 1 miles to multi-day backpacking treks, you can plan a hiking elopement to fit your needs. (You can also expect your elopement photographer to do the bulk of the planning for you).
While your plan will have a foundation of what types of trails and scenes are available in the area you’d like to elope, most hiking elopements involve relatively short hikes (5 miles or less). Even serious adventurers who love a good strenuous trek do not want to spend a full day hiking on their wedding day!
When planning a hiking elopement, you should consider these important points :
Your wedding day is not the time to push yourself physically.
Your hike should be one that is well within your abilities. Be honest with your photographer and planner about what those abilities are, so that you have a truly enjoyable day. Have appropriate expectations on how long the day will be : you’re not just hiking! You’ll be changing clothes, having a ceremony, taking photos, having a first dance, or a picnic, go for a swim or visit a second location. When I plan hiking elopements for couples, I have a fully planned itinerary so you can visualize your entire day in advance. A hiking elopement is more than just walking to a spot and saying vows so it’s important to allot time for all of the activities you want to do.
The type of trail you select matters.
Is your selected trail a loop, or out-and-back? Think about the overall distance of your hike, not just the miles it will take you to get to your ceremony spot. Make sure you are comfortable with this number. Take a neighborhood walk or in-town hike to fix it in your mind, remembering that a flat 7 miles is way easier than 7 miles with a steady elevation gain, which brings me to my next tip.
Elevation gain and you own elevation acclimation.
Consider the hike’s overall elevation gain as well as your acclimation to the area’s elevation. This is especially important if you are traveling from a low elevation state like Florida (sea level) to a higher elevation state, like Colorado (5,280’). It’s difficult to predict whether you will be affected by altitude sickness, so it’s important to be cautious. Even experienced hikers may find themselves short of breath, with a severe headache, or even suffering from nausea with more extreme changes in elevation.
Arriving a few days ahead of your hike is a good idea, but don’t expect to be rid of the effects of a change in elevation so quickly. Studies have shown that the ideal time to acclimate is at least 10 days. If you don’t have that time, there are ways to help your body along, including making sure you are drinking lots of water and avoid alcohol. On the plus side, experts say eating a high carb diet can help speed up your acclimatization, so go for that big carb heavy breakfast!
Another thing to note about high elevation locations is that the sun is stronger and snow more common even in the summer months. In these conditions, the amount of light reflected all around can be very intense. If you have sensitive eyes, a snow covered hike at a higher elevation will likely be uncomfortably bright without eye protection (and you will probably not want to wear sunglasses during your wedding!). Subdued light is yet another reason why sunrise and sunset elopements are the best times of day beautiful photos.
Hiking and wedding attire.
What you wear on and after your hike is also an important thing to give serious thought to. Luckily, I think hiking elopements have a huge advantage in this regard. Wear your usual hiking clothes. Many couples change into wedding clothes once they reach their destination (depending on the length of the hike). It’s safe to assume that your wedding dress will get dirty, even if you change into it after hiking. I encourage you to purchase a dress with this in mind. You will not want to worry about the condition of a $3,000 dress on your wedding day!
Choose a dress that isn’t heavy or difficult to move your legs in (I don’t recommend mermaid styles!). Unless you’ll have a team of hiking bridesmaids to undress you in the woods every time you need to pee, lightweight, flowy dresses are the way to go! This advice holds even for winter elopements. Traditional wedding dresses can be heavy- some can weigh up to 8 pounds! That’s 8 more pounds in your pack (and on your back!) and is unlikely to make a huge difference in warmth. Instead, lined nude leggings, gloves, bridal shawls, and oxygen activated body warmers will be your best friends.
Here are some great examples of wedding dress styles that work for elopements:
The same advice goes for footwear- I love a wedding dress paired with a pair of well loved hiking boots. A trail is no place for dress shoes! I strongly advise against them as their slick bottoms- made for dance floors- can be a serious hazard in the outdoors. If you must, stick-on tread can make things easier but will not replace the safety and comfort of a dedicated hiking shoe. Many people will also choose to change into a simple flat or sandal after the main hike is over. Nothing is better than kicking off your boots after a hike! This is a great choice too.
Another common question about hiking elopements is whether to have an officiant or not. My opinions on whether to have an officiant or not have been formed by my years working as an elopement photographer in Colorado – a state where you can self-solemnize (no officiant is required). I’ve written more about my thoughts on whether you need an officiant or not on your elopement here. In short, I recommend couples perform their own ceremony on hiking elopements, unless you are having a friend officiate. Having a more intimate ceremony is one of the greatest reasons to have a hiking wedding- and I think that less formal ceremonies are perfect for this.
Sunrise Hikes on Elopement Days
The ability to incorporate sunrise into your wedding day is a unique aspect of elopements. Traditional wedding is busy and long enough. Sunrise is a magical time of day, and if you’ve chosen a beautiful wilderness vista at which to get married, I strongly recommend going the extra mile (figuratively!) and including sunrise. You can start your hike at sunrise, or arrive and camp the day before so that you can wake up at your ceremony spot. Both options are wonderful ways to begin a wedding day. Visit this link for more tips on eloping at sunrise.
Why are hiking elopements so popular?
Couples that love spending time in the outdoors together are beginning to see hiking elopements as an option for the first time ever. For a long time, traditional wedding days seemed like the only option. Eloping was always paired with the idea of an Elvis impersonator and a drive through chapel in Vegas. The media, movies and tv and popular culture, have always presented elopements this way. Elopement specific wedding vendors and all of the happy couples who have made the decision to free their wedding from those rigid expectations have changed the landscape for all of the couples who come after them- and that is a wonderful thing to be a part of.
Hiking Elopement Photographer and Planner
Wild Earth Weddings is a full service elopement photographer and planner. I offer elopement packages in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and beyond.