Once you've decided to elope and thrown out the rulebook for traditional weddings, you're probably wondering how you're going to plan this elopement you're dreaming of. Chances are you've never planned a wedding before, and you most likely haven't attended an elopement, so where do you start?
If you want to invite grandparents or anyone who is not able to hike long distances, you'll want to get married at an easily accessible spot like an overlook or short hike.
The Blue Ridge Parkway allows 25 guests total. For over 25 guests, I would recommend booking a small venue.
There are many ways to include others when you're keeping it small. You can ask family members to write you a letter to read on your elopement day, live stream your ceremony, or host a post-elopement party to celebrate.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most versatile places to get married, with stunning mountain views and a variety of overlooks and trails.
North Carolina is home to 4 National Forests. Pisgah National Forest is the most prominent forest in Western NC and offers many trails including balds with 360º veiws.
If you're looking for mountain views with the comfort of a venue, there are many elopement and small wedding venues here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Pros: Privacy on the trails, beautiful snowy scenery.
Cons: Possibility of road closures, colder temperatures.
Tip: Have a solid plan B location in case your location is inaccessible due to weather or road closures.
Pros: Privacy on the trails, spring colors, comfortable temperatures for hiking.
Cons: Possibility of rain.
Tip: Prepare for rain with umbrellas and ponchos.
Pros: Brightest colors, warm weather.
Cons: Busier trails, temperatures can be hot for hiking.
Tip: Get married on a weekday during the summer to avoid large crowds.
Pros: Cool weather, beautiful fall colors.
Cons: Busy trails during peak foliage, BRP does not issue permits for October.
Tip: Get married at a venue to avoid tourist crowds, or on the parkway in early November.
Pisgah National Forest does not require permits for weddings with under 75 guests.
You are required to obtain a permit for ceremonies on the Blue Ridge Parkway, capped at 25 guests total.
Couples usually book with me before they have a location or a date, so reaching out is a great first step to begin planning.
You will need to hire an officiant to officiate your ceremony, make sure they are comfortable with hiking and/or specialize in elopements.
If you're getting married on the BRP, live florals are unfortunately not allowed, so you could opt for silk florals instead.
Book a hair and makeup artist that can ensure your hair and makeup will last through the adventures of an elopement day!
Many couples choose to hire a caterer for a family dinner at their Airbnb, or a picnic company to set up a luxury picnic at their elopement location.
Once you've chosen a general location for your elopement, begin looking at places to stay for you (and your guests) if needed.
12:30 pm: Erin Arrives at Airbnb
12:30 pm: Getting Ready
1:00 pm: First Look at Airbnb
1:30 pm: Head to Ceremony Location
2:00 pm: Arrive at the Trailhead
2:10 pm: Begin Hiking to Overlook
2:30 pm: Ceremony
3:00 pm: Family & Couple’s Portraits at the Ceremony Spot
4:00 pm: Hike Down
5:00 pm: Head to Dinner Location
5:30 pm: Celebratory Dinner with Guests
6:30 pm: Head to Sunset Hike Location
6:45 pm: Arrive at Trailhead
7:00 pm: Sunset Portraits
8:30 pm: End of the Day
1. Google search the sunrise and sunset times for your location and elopement date. Keep in mind that the sun will likely disappear behind the mountains earlier than the sunset time.
2. Overestimate how much time you will need. Weddings are unpredictable and don't always go 100% according to plan, so budgeting extra time for each part of the day will reduce stress if something goes late.
3. Similarly, you'll want to estimate an extra 10-15 minutes for driving to account for unexpected traffic.
4. Remember that you don't have to wait until after your ceremony to do portraits! Lots of couples will choose to have a first look, take portraits, and then head to the ceremony.
You can obtain your marriage license at any Register of Deeds Office in North Carolina. The license is valid for 60 days, so you can visit the office anywhere for 2 months-the day before your elopement to get your license.
The state of North Carolina requires that 2 witnesses and an ordained officiant sign your marriage license. Decide who you'd like those 2 witnesses to be (I can sign as one!).
Your officiant will need to sign the marriage license as well, and most professionals will take care of submitting the license and mailing you the official certificate. Make sure to check with your officiant about this!
Before you hit the trails, review the 7 principles of Leave No Trace so that you know how to best care for and preserve the land you're getting married on.
- Review the 7 principles of Leave No Trace.
- Choose a location and review the specific rules for that area.
- Apply for any permits you’ll need.
- Hire vendors that are knowledgable and share the same values as you.
- Research hiking and trail conditions & pack the necessary gear.
- Always bring an emergency/first aid kit.
- Stay on an established trial as much as possible.
- Stay on rock, sand, and gravel. These surfaces are the most durable and can withstand foot traffic. Avoid stepping on vegetation such as live plants, meadows, fields and wildflowers.
- Pack it in, pack it out: Whatever you bring with you on trail, you should bring out.
- If you pop champagne, don't let the cork fly off. Pack it out with the wire cage & wrapper as well.
- Bring a trash bag with you.
- Inspect the area before you leave to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind.
- Leave the area just as, if not better, than you found it.
- Do not throw confetti on public lands.
- Avoid damaging trees and plants. Don’t carve anything into trees, and refrain from collecting rocks, sticks or flowers.
Campfires are one of my personal favorite ways to end an elopement day. If you plan to have a campfire during your elopement, make sure you’re familiar with the specific rules and regulations for the area. Have fires within an existing fire pit, never leave a fire unattended, and thoroughly extinguish the fire.
- Don’t disturb wildlife. Although it may be tempting to get a photo with a dear you see along the trail, refrain from moving too quickly towards them or making a lot of noise. These things will often scare them, so observe from a distance.
- Don’t feed animals. Feeding animals can cause them to depend on humans for food. As a result, making them more aggressive, and less afraid to go up to people for food.
- If you plan to bring your own pet for your elopement, keep them on a leash so that they’re not tempted to chase after other animals.
- Be aware of the amount of space your group is taking up. Let hikers pass, and be considerate of everyone on the trail.
- Let others take photos and enjoy the views too. Refrain from staying in one area for too long so that everyone around you has their turn.
- It’s okay to ask other’s for a turn as well. Politely ask others if you can step in for a quick photo, and move quickly so that the next person has a turn.