Where ponderosa pines meet the jagged peaks of the high desert, here you’ll find Bend, Oregon, the state’s outdoor playground. This small mountain city is a lively hub for outdoor activities, craft breweries, award-winning restaurants, and so much more. Through its heart runs the mighty Deschutes River with the Cascade Mountains to its west. Bend boasts diverse natural beauty from snow-capped mountain peaks and lush forests to desert-like terrain and gushing rivers. No matter what you’re looking for, Bend, Oregon has it all.
As an Oregon elopement photographer, I couldn’t dream of a better place to elope. To help you navigate planning an elopement, here are a few of my best tips for planning an epic elopement in and around Bend.
1. Decide when you’ll elope
Bend is located in the Great Basin, which means it enjoys a mostly dry, desert-like climate with 300 days of sunshine throughout the year. Daytime temperatures are usually pretty moderate with cooler evenings year-round. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect during the different seasons:
Although weather can be a bit more unpredictable, the climate in Central Oregon usually brings plenty of sunshine and lower precipitation than other parts of the state during springtime. Temperatures are generally pretty mild but early spring can see some colder days while late spring sees fairly pleasant weather.
Abundant sunshine and low humidity make summer the perfect time to elope in Bend. Temperatures can range anywhere from the mid-40s to the low 80s during the day which makes the weather in the summer perfect for outdoor activities. Summer can be a popular time for visitors and you may need to keep a jacket handy, especially for cool summer nights.
Fall in Bend is simply the best. Moderate temperatures, crisp air, and minimal rainfall make this time of year one of the best for elopements. Falling between the popular summer and winter seasons, there are usually fewer crowds during the fall season. I highly recommend eloping in Bend in September or October!
In winter, Bend transforms into a winter wonderland with blankets of snow covering the ground. Mt. Bachelor is a popular ski area and draws plenty of winter visitors ready to hit the slopes. Temperatures range from low 20s to low 40s during the day but can get even colder at night.
2. Choose your Bend elopement location
Once you’ve decided when you want to elope, next it’s time to choose an epic location for your elopement ceremony and celebrations! Fortunately, Bend has no shortage of amazing elopement spots. From pristine lakes to the rugged high desert, no matter what kind of elopement setting you’re looking for, Bend is sure to have it. Here are some of my favorite locations for a Bend elopement:
Just 25 miles west of Bend, Sparks Lake is located in Deschutes National Forest. The lake is a part of 370 acres of scenic wetlands and is surrounded by open meadows and pine forests. Here you’ll find incredible views of the distant mountains of South Sister, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor. Check out this creative Bend elopement I shot at Sparks Lake.
An eroded stratovolcano surrounded by wilderness, Broken Top is one of Bend’s most popular destinations. Its jagged peaks tower over 9000 feet into the sky. One of its best features is No Name Lake, a beautifully bright turquoise blue lake tucked on the mountain’s east side. With beautiful views, colorful wildflowers, and rugged terrain, Broken Top is perfect for adventurous couples.
Smith Rock State Park
In contrast to the lush forests of Central Oregon, Smith Rock State Park boasts high mountain desert-like terrain. The state park is one of Oregon’s seven wonders and it’s easy to see why when you’re there. Here you’ll discover towering peaks, rugged desert, and a deep river canyon flowing through the heart of it all. For inspiration, check out this gorgeous Smith Rock State Park elopement I shot.
The Metolius River flows for 20 miles meandering through Deschutes National Forest past old-growth ponderosa pines and tall grass meadows. Beginning at the base of the Black Butte and emptying into Lake Billy Chinook, the Metolius is one of the largest spring-fed rivers in the U.S. which gives the river its deep blue color.
About 20 miles west of Bend, Tumalo Mountain lies within the Cascade Mountain Range. The shield volcano’s barren peak provides breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness. To get to the summit, you can take a moderate four-mile hike through a forest of whitebark pines and alongside rugged lava terrain. At the top, you’ll be treated to epic vistas of Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor.
3. Book your elopement vendors
First things first, you’ll need an amazing adventure elopement photographer! That’s me, of course 🙂 Not only will I be your photographer, but I’ll also be your Bend tour guide, planner, and new friend! I’m a big fan of shooting elopements for fun-loving, adventurous couples, and I’m always down for whatever you can dream up! You can see some of my recent elopements here. Whether you decide to choose me or someone else as your elopement photographer, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Figure out your preferred photography style: Do you prefer dark and moody photos or light and airy? Check out Instagram for inspiration using hashtags like #bendelopementphotogrpaher and once you’ve found a few photographers you like, be sure to check a few of their galleries on their website.
- Find the right fit for you: Elopements are super intimate and it’s so important to choose a photographer that you can be yourself around. Hop on a call to see if you and the photographer click. You’ll get a better idea of what it might be like to work with them, and they’ll be able to get to know you too!
- Book your elopement photographer early: Elopements are becoming even more popular and photographers can book up pretty quickly. I highly recommend starting your search early on so you don’t have to worry too much about their availability.
Another vendor you’ll likely need (aside from your elopement photographer!) is an officiant. Your officiant might be someone you hire or it can be a friend or family member as long as they’re ordained (which can easily be done online). I also know some lovely officiants that I’d happily recommend. One other benefit to including an officiant—they count as a second witness, which you’ll need when eloping in Oregon. More on this below!
Hair and makeup
Hair and makeup aren’t a necessity, but if you prefer not to do your own the morning of your elopement day, I would suggest hiring someone to help you out! Plus, it’s always fun to get a little pampered on your elopement day and you won’t have to worry about doing it yourself. You can just relax and soak everything up!
You may not need all the fancy florals that typically come with a traditional wedding, but incorporating a small bridal bouquet, flower crown, or flower in your hair is always a fun touch!
Aside from the vendors above, there’s not much else you really need and that’s the beauty of elopements. With that being said, there are some really cool and unique vendors you may want to include on your elopement day. A videographer, private chef, musician, live painter—really whatever you can dream up! If you’re looking for a particular vendor, I’m happy to provide you with some recommendations.
4. Book travel accommodations for your elopement
Once you’ve decided on an elopement location and begun to book your vendors, it’s time to book your trip to Bend! Here are a few travel essentials to figure out before your elopement:
How to get to Bend, Oregon
If you’re not within driving distance, you’ll likely need to book flights. The closest major airport to Bend is Portland International Airport (PDX). Bend is just about 3 hour drive from Portland. If you’re coming from a major west coast city, you may also be able to find a non-stop flight to Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) which is only a short 20 minute drive from Bend.
Where to stay in Bend, Oregon
Since Bend is a popular destination for visitors, there are plenty of amazing places to stay, whether you’re wanting to stay at a renowned resort or a cozy campsite. Here are a few of my recommendations:
- Campgrounds: Smith Rock Bivouac Campground, Tumalo Campground, and Soda Creek Campground near Sparks Lake are popular public campground options close to Bend.
- Campervan and RV rentals: Opt for a more boutique camping experience at The Camp where you can rent on-site vintage trailers or bring your own. If you’re looking for campervan rentals, check out Ramblin Vans. You can rent one of their decked-out campervans and pick it up right from the Portland airport.
- Hotels and Resorts: For a stay at a luxury resort, Riverhouse on the Deschutes sits right along the Deschutes River and is just minutes from downtown Bend. For a more boutique hotel, try The Oxford Hotel located in the heart of downtown Bend.
- Airbnbs and VRBO rentals: Choose from unique Airbnbs like this historic home with a hot tub, this rustic cottage retreat, this Scandinavian-inspired cabin, and so many more.
5. Plan your elopement activities
One of the best parts about eloping in Bend is all the outdoor activities and fun places to explore while you’re there. If you’re thinking of spending a little extra time in Bend, here are a few activities I recommend:
Rock Climbing at Smith Rock
If you like rock climbing, I highly recommend a visit to nearby Smith Rock State Park. The park is often credited as the birthplace of U.S. sport climbing and is a popular climbing spot in Oregon. Check out this helpful breakdown of the main rock climbing areas in the park.
Hike the Surrounding Areas
Bend really is an outdoor-lovers paradise. It’s home to miles and miles of hiking trails with plenty of epic views of the surrounding landscape. Here are some of the most popular hikes close to Bend.
Explore Downtown Bend
Bend is a charming mountain town and is definitely worth exploring all on its own. The city is home to more than 18 craft breweries, coffee shops, restaurants, and cute boutiques. Catch a concert by the river at Les Schwab outdoor amphitheater or visit the city’s Old Mill District to shop and grab a bite to eat.
Ski Mt. Bachelor
If you decide to elope in Bend in the winter, I highly recommend a visit to Mt. Bachelor for some skiing or snowboarding. Just 30 miles from Bend, Mt. Bachelor is the 6th largest ski area in the U.S. and a popular ski destination in Central Oregon.
Explore the Bend Ale Trail
Bend is most definitely a beer town. In fact, it has more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon! If you’re a fan of good craft beer, the best way to get a taste of the city’s breweries is the self-guided Bend Ale Trail. You can download the Ale Trail Passport before you head out and collect stamps at each brewery as you go.
6. Make your elopement legal
Last but definitely not least, you’ll want to ensure you have everything you need to make your elopement in Bend legal. To do so, you’ll need two things:
A marriage license
No sooner than 60 days before your ceremony (and no later than 3 days beforehand), you’ll need to apply for a marriage license. You can start this process online but you’ll need to visit an Oregon county clerk’s office to complete your application and sign your license. After you’re married, just be sure to submit the application to the same county that issued it. The cost of a marriage license in Oregon typically ranges from $50 to $60.
To legally elope in Oregon, you’ll also need at least two witnesses present during your elopement. Don’t forget to choose your witnesses ahead of time so you can rest assured you have everything you need to make your elopement official. Don’t worry, your photographer counts as one! You’ll just need one more which could be an officiant, a friend, or a family member.
After you’ve finished planning, it’s finally time to elope somewhere epic in Bend! If you’re still looking for a photographer to capture your Bend, Oregon elopement, I’d love to hear from you!