Tips for Planning a Hiking Elopement

Suzy + Tyler
Couple hiking through a green meadow in BC during their elopement

Eloping is about creating an experience that you’ll never forget – focusing on what matters to the two of you, making sure the day you get married is one you’ll actually love. And if your relationship includes outdoor adventures, mountain peaks, wildflower meadows, rushing waterfalls, or lush green forests, getting married amongst some breathtaking scenery is probably much more up your alley than a stuffy ballroom! A hiking elopement is the perfect way for adventurous couples to celebrate their day – so if you’re dreaming of tying the knot at the end of the trail, this guide is for you.

We’ll talk about how to plan a hiking elopement, from picking the location to hiking in a wedding attire. Here’s everything you need to know about planning a hiking elopement!

CHOOSING A LOCATION FOR YOUR HIKING ELOPEMENT

One of the first things you’ll need to do is decide where you want to elope, and pick a trail! Of course, any hiker knows that trails can range from easy nature walks in the woods to strenuous climbs up a mountain – so here are some things to consider when you choose a location for your hiking elopement.

Landscapes and Scenery

Your main priority is likely going to be what the views are like at your elopement location! Before you start thinking about specific trails, it can be helpful to decide what kind of scenery you want as your backdrop. Is there a type of landscape that you’re drawn to? When you close your eyes and picture the perfect wedding day, do you see yourself surrounded by mountains? Wandering through the forest? Standing on a cliff over the ocean?

Chat with your partner and talk about your vision for your elopement day! This will help you narrow down your options, as you’ll be able to look for locations that have the type of scenery that your heart is drawn to.

How Far Do You Want to Hike?

Once you’re ready to start looking for the perfect trail, the first thing you should ask yourself is how far you actually want to hike! Hiking elopements offer an amazing challenge on your wedding day, and it can be so rewarding to tackle a difficult trail – but, you definitely don’t want to overdo it, so when it comes to choosing the perfect hike, and deciding how long of a trail you want, think about these things: 

  • Your hiking experience – if you’ve never gone backpacking, the day you get married may not be the best time to try it out! Make sure that the hike you choose is one that you’re physically prepared for.
  • Personal preference – just because you can do a certain trail, may not mean that you want to! Remember that on your elopement day, you’ll be carrying more things than you probably usually do on a hike, and keep in mind that you may not want to be completely exhausted once you reach the top and it’s time to exchange vows. Be honest with yourself and think about how hard you want to work for those views on the day you get married.
  • Any guests you invite – if you’re eloping with family, inviting some friends, or even bringing your dog, you’ll have to think about their needs too! If you’re planning a hiking elopement with guests, think about what they’re willing and able to do. Make sure that the hike you choose is one that they’ll be able to join you for! But, keep in mind that if you want to invite some loved ones, but you know that they aren’t up for a difficult trek, you can also split up your elopement day (or even do a two day celebration) and have your ceremony with your guests before going for a hike by yourselves. Best of both worlds!
  • Elevation gain – remember that length is just one aspect of how hard a hike is. How steep it is will make a significant difference, so be sure to look at that too when you’re looking for the right trail.
couple hiking through wildflower meadow on their elopement day

CHOOSING A DATE FOR YOUR HIKING ELOPEMENT

I typically recommend that couples have an idea of where they want to elope before they settle on a date – you don’t need to have a specific trail picked out, but knowing that you want to elope in the mountains can give you some idea of what your options are when it comes to choosing a date. Staying flexible with your elopement dates before you contact an elopement photographer can ensure that you’re able to work with your favorite vendors, but think about potential seasons or time frames that you may want to elope in!

For example, there’s going to be a huge difference between eloping in Banff National Park in the summer, when the trails are usually snow free and you can hike up to mountain peaks for incredible views, and tying the knot in the winter, when hiking in Banff would mean post-holing constantly! 

In general, summer is the best time for hiking elopements (as long as you’re in the northern hemisphere). For hikes in lower elevation areas, spring and fall can work as well, but when you set your elopement date, make sure to look into weather at your dream location, and remember that it can change dramatically as you gain elevation!

Couple walking through a hut on a mountaintop during their elopement

TIPS FOR HIKING IN YOUR WEDDING ATTIRE

A big question that couples tend to have when it comes to their hiking elopement is how they’re going to hike in their wedding attire! Here are some tips, and questions to ask yourself when it comes to hiking in your wedding attire.

Couple hiking on a trail at Lake Louise on their elopement day.
couple sharing a kissing in the wildflowers on their elopement day
couple taking a break and enjoying the view during their hike in chilliwack

Hike in Your Wedding Attire, or Pack It With You?

First, decide if you actually want to hike in your wedding attire, or if you want to pack it with you and change once you get there.

For shorter hikes, it’s often easier to just wear your attire. This way, you can get some photos as you hike, and you don’t have to worry about finding a spot to change.

But, for long or difficult hikes, wearing a dress or a suit the entire time can get pretty tiring! Luckily, you can definitely pack your attire in your hiking bag. Don’t worry, I can show you how to do this in a way that prevents wrinkles (and also how to safely store a bouquet on a hike)! 

Think about the hike you’ll be doing, and read trail reports– because if it’s a really popular hike, and there isn’t a lot of privacy at the top, or maybe it’s an open space where there aren’t any trees to duck behind, it can be more difficult to change. A great solution to this is to get a pop up changing room! These are pretty lightweight and pack down small, so it can be a good thing to put in your hiking backpack if you plan to change once you reach your ceremony spot.

couple hiking to a mountaintop in chilliwack on their elopement day

Choosing a Wedding Dress for a Hiking Elopement

Suits tend to be a little bit easier, because they’re usually less bulky, and have layers that you can remove. Suits also typically have less variation when it comes to fit and style, while some dresses are definitely better suited (see what I did there?) for hikes than others! 

When you’re shopping for the perfect elopement dress, here are some things to consider to make sure that it’ll work for your hiking elopement:

  • The style – one of the most important things is the style and fit of your dress! Especially if you plan to wear it while you hike, avoid tight skirts that restrict movement. Princess, A-line, and empire waist dresses tend to be the most comfortable, because they have flowy skirts.
  • Weight – whether you plan to pack your dress or hike in it, a big, bulky dress is going to be more difficult! Avoid big ball gowns or huge skirts, as these will make it hard to move around, and will also make it hard to put your dress in your backpack if needed.
  • Fabric – there are two things to think about when it comes to fabric. First, if you’re going to put your dress in your hiking backpack, think about getting something that is more wrinkle resistant! Another thing to think about is the weather, because if you’re hiking you’ll likely be pretty warm, so lighter fabrics will help you stay cool.
couple walking through a wildflower meadow during their hiking elopement in chilliwack

Hiring a Photographer for Your Hiking Elopement

Your photographer will be a huge part of your day, and especially if you’re planning a hiking elopement, it’s important to book someone who’s experienced with adventure weddings! 

As an elopement photographer, part of my job is to create personalized location recommendations for my couples, so I’ll help you find the perfect hike. I’ll also give you all my tips and advice, including things like Leave No Trace guidelines for your location, creating a perfect elopement timeline, and making sure that you’re prepared to adventure in the backcountry!

If you’re ready to plan an adventurous hiking elopement, contact me!

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