You’ve made the decision to elope in Oregon and now it’s time to start the planning. Don’t worry, planning an elopement doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, it should be fun! To help you plan the Oregon elopement of your dreams, I put together this epic planning guide.
1. Create an elopement day mood board
The first step to planning your elopement is figuring out what kind of elopement you want. One of the best parts about eloping? It’s entirely up to you! There’s no pressure to meet anyone’s expectations. When you envision your perfect elopement day, what does it look like? If you have no idea, try asking yourself these questions to get you started:
- What type of scenery do you want for your elopement? Do you dream of a moody elopement along the windswept coast or an epic adventure elopement on top of a mountain peak?
- What do you and your partner love to do together? How can it be incorporated into your day? Do you both love charcuterie boards? Pick one up for a post-elopement picnic! Are you avid hikers? Tackle a new trail together as newlyweds!
- Are there any traditions, new or old, that you want to incorporate in your day? Hand-fasting ceremonies, reading letters from loved ones, honoring your heritage with traditional attire, or creating a new tradition entirely your own!
For more unique elopement ideas, check out this post!
2. Choose your location
One of the best parts about eloping in Oregon? No matter what type of elopement you’re dreaming up, in Oregon the possibilities are endless. Coastal, mountainous, waterfall, desert, you name it, Oregon has it!
The Best Portland Area Elopement Locations
Tucked in the northwest corner of the state, you’ll find some of the best elopement spots in Oregon just a stone’s throw away from Portland.
Mt. Hood National Forest
One of Oregon’s seven wonders, Mt. Hood is the state’s highest peak standing at just about 12,000 ft. Dotted with a colorful blanket of alpine wildflowers in the spring and coated with a thick layer of fluffy snow in the winter. Its proximity to Portland and unbeatable scenery make it an incredible place to elope.
Columbia River Gorge
Not too far from Portland, the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains and flows along a deep canyon. With countless waterfalls, vast old growth forests, and incredible views, it’s no wonder the Columbia River Gorge is a very popular elopement destination.
The Best Central Oregon Elopement Locations
Central Oregon is full of adventure and breathtaking scenery, from the high desert plains to the forested mountains.
Smith Rock State Park
In Oregon’s high desert, you’ll find the incredible natural beauty of Smith Rock State Park, another of Oregon’s seven wonders. Defined by its jagged rock formations and desert-like landscape, it can feel like you’re actually in the desert southwest rather than Central Oregon. This is one of my favorite elopement spots!
It’s hard not to love Bend. This charming mountain town is surrounded by stunning landscapes. To the east, Bend gives way to the high desert plains, and to the west, the Cascade Mountains and Deschutes National Forest. There are so many amazing elopement options in and around Bend.
Willamette National Forest
Gushing waterfalls, lush green forests, pristine lakes, and mountain peaks. Willamette National Forest is exactly what you might picture when you think of the Pacific Northwest wilderness. The possibilities are endless!
The Best Oregon Coast Elopement Locations
From north to south, the Oregon Coast is full of amazing elopement spots perfect for any adventure-loving couple.
A quaint seaside town along the northern coast, Cannon Beach has vast stretches of sandy beaches and towering basalt sea stacks. Most well-known as the home to the iconic Haystack Rock that rises over 200 feet above the coastline. It’s a gorgeous place to elope along the coast.
Along Oregon’s central coast, you’ll find Heceta Head. This scenic headland is home to Heceta Head Lighthouse, one of the most popular lighthouses in the United States. Dating back to the 1800s, this historic white and red-roofed guided mariners along the rocky Oregon coastline at night. The perfect rugged Oregon coast elopement spot!
Samuel H Boardman State Park
With 12 miles of rugged coastline and an abundance of hiking trails, Samuel H Boardman State Park is one of my favorite coastal elopement locations. Lush forest, rocky shores, and plenty of epic spots for an elopement ceremony including Arch Rock, Secret Beach, and the Natural Bridges.
For more Oregon Coast elopement location ideas, check out my post How to Elope on the Oregon Coast.
The Best Southern Oregon Elopement Locations
Home to the state’s only national park, southern Oregon is a place of beauty and wonder.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is as unique as it is stunning. Oregon’s only National Park boasts an impressive caldera formed by an explosive volcano that erupted almost 8,000 years ago. With its vibrant, indigo blue lake as a backdrop, the park makes for a truly one-of-a-kind elopement.
Highway of Waterfalls (Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway)
It’s all in the name. If you love majestic waterfalls, this location is for you! The Highway of Waterfalls is a scenic byway that takes you along the North Umpqua River and past countless waterfalls. Toketee Falls, Watson Falls, and Susan Creek Falls would all make for beautiful elopement locations.
The Best Eastern Oregon Elopement Locations
From the mountainous northeast to the southeastern desert, Eastern Oregon is home to a diverse landscape rooted in history.
One of Oregon’s seven wonders, the Painted Hills make you feel as if you’ve been transported to another planet. The hues of golden, yellow, red, and orange rock are actually stratified soil layers that were shaped by different climates throughout time (the colors are most vibrant in the afternoon light!). Although a little remote, this is a perfect elopement location if you’re looking for something more unique.
Another of Oregon’s seven wonders, the Wallowa Mountains are a 40 mile mountain range in eastern Oregon. Sometimes referred to as the “Oregon Alps,” this area is home to alpine lakes, high peaks, and breathtaking vistas. Dramatic scenery and rugged wilderness make this elopement location a true contender.
The Alvord Desert
Located in southeastern Oregon, the Alvord Desert is a sight to behold (and totally not what you would expect to find in Oregon!). Surrounded by towering mountain peaks, what was once a deep lake is now a dried-up desert. Although different from what you might imagine when you picture Oregon, its cracked landscape would make the perfect backdrop for a desert-style elopement.
Tip: Check location permits
Depending on where you choose to elope, you may need to get a permit for your elopement ceremony. Be sure to check locally to see if you need might need one. As your elopement photographer, I’ll help you make sure all these details are figured out beforehand!
3. Check the marriage laws
To legally elope in Oregon, you’ll just need two things: a signed marriage license and two witnesses present during your ceremony. Before your elopement ceremony, you’ll need to apply for a marriage license in Oregon. To do this, you can visit any county clerk’s office in Oregon where you can complete your application and sign your marriage license.
What you’ll need:
- A marriage license issued by an Oregon county clerk’s office
- Two witnesses
Important things to note:
- If you don’t live in Oregon, you can submit the application online but you’ll still need to visit an Oregon county clerk’s office to complete and sign your license.
- You can start this process up to 60 days before your ceremony but you’ll need your signed marriage license no later than 3 days before.
- The cost of a marriage license in Oregon ranges from $50 to $60.
- After your ceremony, you’ll want to be sure to submit your license to the same county clerk’s office that issued it.
- You’ll need at least two witnesses present during your elopement ceremony. Luckily, your photographer counts! You’ll just need to choose one more witness which could be a family member, close friend, or your officiant.
4. Pick a date
When picking an elopement date, most couples choose a date that’s significant to them in some way or one based on the weather. Whatever date you decide, it’s good to have an understanding of the different seasons in Oregon and what you can expect weather-wise.
No matter what the season, just know that Oregon’s weather can be unpredictable at times, and may vary quite a bit depending on which part of the state you’re in. But even if it’s raining or windy on your elopement day, I can assure you, it will still be beautiful. You just have to roll with what Mother Nature hands you and have fun!
Blooming wildflowers, gushing waterfalls, and warmer weather are some of my favorite things about spring in Oregon. Although the weather can be less predictable with wetter weather, it’s a beautiful time of year to elope.
Best elopement spots in spring:
- Smith Rock State Park
- Willamette Valley
Beautiful sunshine and less rainfall make this an ideal time to elope in Oregon. But the summer season also brings more crowds and higher temps, especially in Central and Eastern Oregon.
Best elopement spots in summer:
- Mt. Hood
- Columbia River Gorge
- Crater Lake
- Oregon Coast
- Willamette Valley
Colorful fall foliage, cooler temps, and crisp air is why fall is one of my favorite times of year. Fall in Oregon is just the best. I highly recommend this time of year for elopements! The crowds have dwindled which also makes this time of year an excellent choice to elope!
Best elopement spots in fall:
- Oregon Coast
- Central Oregon
- Painted Hills
Cold temps and wetter weather are common in the wintertime, but also fewer crowds and the possibility of snow depending on where you choose to elope. Although a winter elopement may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it might be yours if you’re looking for those moody PNW vibes or a snowy winter wonderland!
Best elopement spots in winter
- Mt. Hood
- Columbia River Gorge
- Central Oregon
5. Make a guest list
Many couples choose to elope because they want to forgo the guest list and share this special moment as a couple. This is a beautiful thing and I 100% support it! After all, your marriage is between you and your partner. But sometimes, you do want to include those few special people in your life, whether it be your parents, siblings, grandparents, or best friends.
If you’re wanting to include those special people in your life, think about who you want to be with you on that day. Even if you don’t have them there for your ceremony, you can always celebrate with them afterward!
6. Book your vendors
- Photographer: Me, of course! 🙂 I will not only be your adventure elopement photographer but also your Oregon tour guide, planner, and new friend! I love shooting elopements for adventurous, nature-loving couples, and I’m always down for whatever you can dream up!
- Officiant: If you’re looking for another witness, an officiant is a great vendor to include. There are some lovely officiants I’d be happy to recommend or you could always ask a close friend or family member.
- Hair and Makeup: You only get married once! I highly recommend splurging on hair and makeup. It can be a fun way to treat yourself like a queen on this very special day!
- Florist: If you want a touch of floral on your elopement day, I definitely recommend a bridal bouquet or flower crown. It can be nice to have flowers to add some pop to your images.
- Other vendors: Elopements may require fewer vendors than a traditional wedding, but even still, there are so many other unique vendors that you might want to include. Videography, private chefs, musicians, or even a live painter! The options really are endless. But remember, prioritize the things that are the most meaningful to you!
7. Set a timeline
This is where I come in and will help you create your wedding day timeline! When planning an elopement, there’s not necessarily a strict timeline you have to adhere to. But it may be helpful to think through the structure and events of the day. One important thing to decide is the time of day you want to elope. Sunrise sessions are perfect for fewer crowds and beautiful lighting, but they also require you to wake up early and navigate to your ceremony location in the dark. Sunset sessions also make for the most amazing photos but it may be more crowded depending on where your ceremony is. Definitely avoid a ceremony in the middle of the day because the lighting is not ideal.
Once we’ve narrowed down the time of day for your ceremony, work backward or forward from there. If you choose a sunrise ceremony, you may want to take a hike, share a brunch, or do a fun activity afterward. For a sunset ceremony, you’ll start the day getting ready in your Airbnb, followed by a hike (or drive) to your ceremony, and a private chef-made dinner or celebration with your closest friends and family. Don’t forget to think about the travel time between photo locations. Whatever you have envisioned for your day, having a rough timeline is always a good idea, and I always work with my couples to help them come up with a timeline that works best for them!
8. Book travel accommodations
If you’re coming in from out of town, first, you’ll want to figure out the best way to get to Oregon. If you’re flying in, the best major airport to fly into is most likely Portland International Airport (PDX). Portland is about one to four hours away from most elopement locations in Oregon. It’s a bit further away from places in eastern Oregon like the Wallowa Mountains or Alvord Desert (but still doable if you’re down for a road trip!). Eugene and Medford have smaller airports and are great options if you’re eloping in Southern Oregon.
Aside from booking a flight, I highly recommend booking a place to stay overnight after your elopement. There are so many awesome Airbnbs, rustic cabins, and super cool campgrounds in Oregon, no matter where you decide to elope. This also adds a wonderful addition to your getting ready photos. I’m always happy to provide you with recommendations too!
9. Prepare for your elopement day
Because an elopement isn’t quite the same as a typical wedding, there are a few things you might want to do to ensure you’re prepared. Oftentimes, this involves packing a few extra items to bring with you the day of, including:
- Sturdy hiking shoes or boots
- Headlamp (for sunrise and sunset elopements!)
- Marriage license (don’t forget this!)
- Warm jacket and extra layers
- Umbrella or rain jacket
- Any extras! (picnic blanket, champagne, vow books)
And that’s it! I know planning an elopement can be overwhelming, but I hope this guide can help you navigate the planning and ultimately, bring the elopement day of your dreams to life. If you’re thinking about eloping in Oregon, I’d love to be there to take part in your special day and capture those meaningful memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Contact me today and let’s start planning!
Ready to book your epic Oregon elopement or intimate wedding?!