Elope in Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park with Outshined Photography

The Power of Eloping in Nature

Elopements have become a popular way to get married in recent years, largely due to the increasing popularity of epic images of couples in wedding attire on mountain tops, before waterfalls, barefoot on the beach, or in dense dramatic forest scenes. I’m willing to bet you’re reading this after seeing one of those epic elopement images in nature! Was it Washington State, Colorado, or Hawaii?

You’re seeing so many people choose to elope in these beautiful places for a couple of reasons. First, because media and photography are growing in accessibility and importance. If you’re going to get photos of your wedding, ones that you’ll be inspired by and love to revisit are high priorities for many couples. Second, people are eloping because our values as a society are changing. Big, traditional weddings don’t represent couples who value sustainability, authenticity, and new ideas. For many, wedding traditions feel like an antithesis to their daily values. Eloping is an alternative way to plan a true-to-you celebration.

Elopements can be personalized to fit your vision for your wedding – there are no rules you need to follow! Choosing to elope in nature is a way for people getting married to be sustainable and adventurous, authentic and unique. The outdoors is therapeutic, beautiful, and free. You don’t need to rent a mountain to have a stunning backdrop, and the fresh scent of wildflowers in the wind is more invigorating than any florally perfumed dance hall. There are permits for getting married in many popular locations, but $100 to have your ceremony as the sun rises in Mount Rainier National Park and say your vows while gazing at The Mountain is much cheaper than $5,000 for a poorly lit reception hall with no windows and plastic garland.

Imagine your wedding day. Imagine crisp, fresh mountain air or a salty sea breeze. Feel the moss beneath your feet or sand run through your toes. You already love the outdoors and spend your weekends hiking, biking, or walking through the park. Why wouldn’t you want to celebrate your commitment to each other in the place that already brings you so much joy and peace?

The radical power of eloping in nature

Nature is therapeutic. Weddings are stressful. Both those ideas are so widely accepted I shake my head thinking how obvious the solution seems, yet still so few choose it. Instead of planning a stressful wedding, elope outdoors and remember your radically different wedding experience as the peaceful and beautiful celebration it will be!

Get married somewhere that feels like home to you. A place that pleases your senses; where the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings evoke deep emotion. The photos of your elopement will remind you of the whole experience and how it made you feel emotionally, as well as physically.

An adventure elopement is the perfect combination of physical and mental health activities. I believe we should reshape the concept of weddings to be less stress, less drama, and less about pleasing others. How many weddings have you heard described as events the planners are glad are behind them? It makes me so sad when I hear couples describe their past wedding as something they regret in part. Nature is a powerful tool for relieving stress and worries and can therefore completely shift weddings from being memorable for all the wrong reasons, to becoming experiences you’ll love to relive in memory forever.

Nature therapy, sometimes referred to as ecotherapy, describes the broad techniques used to improve a person’s mental or physical health in the presence of nature or within an outdoor setting. In a way, an outdoor elopement is applying nature therapy to your wedding experience and reshaping it to be peaceful, healthful, and positive. One example of nature therapy is ‘forest bathing’ – where one spends time outdoors for the purpose of improving their health and wellbeing. Life is stressful enough already – spend your wedding day immersed in nature.

Want to get married outdoors but aren’t sure where? These three words describe people who have a particular affinity for certain environments. Which word best describes you?

  • Dendrophile – one who loves trees and would choose to be in a forest.
  • Acrophile –  one who loves mountains and wants to stay in the mountains.
  • Aquaphile – one who loves water and is drawn to oceans, lakes, rivers or waterfalls.
couple walks through the forest to their elopement ceremony

Many options for eloping in the PNW

The Pacific Northwest is my home, and one of the best places to elope in nature! Really, the PNW has it all. Looking for mountains? Mt. Rainier, Olympic National Park, Mt. Hood, Mount Baker or the North Cascades are some of your peakbagging elopement options. Looking for a desert but don’t want the heat? Let’s go to Oregon and you’ll see the immense beauty of the Alvord Desert or Smith Rock rivals even southern California. Does the ocean call to you? Long Beach or Cannon Beach are sandy strips of beauty along the coast, or Ruby Beach and Kalaloch are rocky beaches ideal for saying “I do.” Alpine lakes in the Cascades or the Olympics will satisfy even the most experienced mountaineer familiar with Colorado’s beauty (I lived there for 20 years and still choose the PNW). Or choose from more waterfalls than I can count, some easily accessible in the Columbia River Gorge or wildly secluded in the Gifford Pinchot forest.

The Pacific Northwest has every kind of environment you would want to explore for your elopement day. Choose from four National Parks between Oregon and Washington, or many other options within the millions of acres of public land. Recreation in the PNW is split between state parks, national forests, and national parks. Your America the Beautiful Pass will get you into the national parks. The national forests are free to enter and only some established campsites and trailheads take fees, and the state parks usually require a parking pass, either the Northwest Forest Pass or Discover Pass.

One of my personal favorite areas of the PNW is in Washington state – the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. It’s an extremely beautiful area of the Cascade mountains and within the Snoqualmie Valley, an area I wrote about in detail in “Best Places to Elope in Snoqualmie Valley“. The forest has gorgeous mountain backdrops, stunning waterfalls and rivers, as well as dense mossy forests. Wherever you choose to elope in the Pacific Northwest, the list of options will be extensive! I’ve explored many corners of this place and I’d love to help you find the perfect place for you.

PNW Elopement Photographer, Eloping in nature, View of Tolmie Peak in Mount Rainier National Park

The top reasons for eloping in National Parks

If you want to elope in nature, you have a whole world of beauty to choose from! One way to narrow down options and plan a clear structure for your elopement is to find a national park that suits your desires. National parks are popular places to elope because they serve as protected spaces for some of the most beautiful features found in nature – waterfalls, forests, mountains and lakes with particular beauty are protected within the national parks system.

If you’re drawn to forests, the biggest trees in the world are preserved within Sequoia National Park, Redwood National Park, or even in Yosemite. If you love mountains, the Pacific Northwest, Grand Tetons or Rocky Mountain National Park would be perfect for you! If you love beaches, as well as mountains and forests all in the same area, then Olympic National Park is the best in the US! These places are only a few of many well-preserved sites I think you’d find perfect for your outdoor elopement, wherever you’re currently imagining.

Eloping in a national park also means you’ll be able to find a location less trafficked than most state parks or urban areas. Permits are required for wedding ceremonies in all our national parks, but that actually helps narrow down and secure your location, rather than limit you. Acquiring all the right permitting and eloping in a national park means there is a structure to ensure your day is not interrupted by rangers or people who might be surprised to find a wedding taking place. Yes, you’ll have to share the space with other park visitors, but I can plan your timeline around popular hours to find moments of privacy.

The permitting system in our national parks is different for each location, but some things are the same. For instance, you can acquire an America The Beautiful Pass, which gives you access to visit any of our national parks for a year, no further entrance fees. If you have the time, purchase this pass and visit as many parks as you can before choosing which one is going to be perfect for your elopement! Or let me know what you’re looking for and I will help you find the best option.

Elopement photographers often double as elopement planners and have extensive knowledge of the permitting process for elopements in national parks. If you know this is the route you want to take to get married, reach out to your photographer and get their advice on when to apply for permits, as well as determine which permits you’ll need. Your photographer should also be aware of Leave No Trace ethics and ensure those guidelines are followed. You can also read my resource about how to incorporate Leave No Trace principles into your elopement.

Olympic National Park Elopement Photographer

The radical power of eloping in your favorite outdoor location

Wherever you choose to elope, the memories you gain from your adventurous elopement experience are ones you’ll cherish forever. If you choose to elope in a place you know well, or at least a place you can go back to in the future, it’ll always bring you back to these memories when you revisit. Having a physical space to look back on, and to visit, can bring an incredible amount of joy to your future excursions in that area. Your next camping trip, climb, or hike at your wedding location will prompt smiles and discussions of “remember when?”.

Eloping in nature at your favorite outdoor location gives you the opportunity to feel a sense of ownership and stewardship for an environment you are now connected with. Getting married at an expensive venue or inside a building you won’t revisit will never have the same kind of emotional draw as a hike you can return to over and over again.

If you aren’t yet convinced an elopement in nature is the best way to get married, I have one last idea for you to mull over! I have never encountered an unhappy person in nature. Yes, I have gone to nature when I’ve been upset, or maybe even cried while on a hike. But, be honest, it wasn’t nature bringing you down. In fact, nature is where we’ve all turned to feel right again when things go wrong. Instead of letting yourself get worked up over seating charts and stressed about planning a big wedding that just doesn’t feel like you, elope in nature!

I’m a treehugger, I’ll admit it. The only thing I love more than getting outside is sharing the places I love with the people willing to go adventure with me. Ready to plan the best day of your life? Reach out!

Thank you for reading about the power of eloping in nature! If you identified with anything that I said in this article, I would love to talk to you more and see how I can help you plan your epic elopement and be your elopement photographer and friend on your journey to a beautiful wedding day. You can click here to Contact Me or read more about My Process and My Packages or learn more About Me. I also have a resource that helps you plan your elopement in the Pacific Northwest. ~ Stacy

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  1. There’s something so special about nature and even more special to commit your life to your partner in nature. ?

  2. I’ve never really thought about ‘the profound power’ of outdoor elopements (though I certainly know the feeling) and I couldn’t agree more with everything you said! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post!

    1. Thank you so much Jenn! I’m glad to hear that the images help you feel the awesomeness of eloping in nature.