Backcountry Bride Guide

You know who you are! You spend time in the woods, on the water, on the mountain top, in the stand, so why not get married in the outdoor location you love?

Weddings in the Woods

You know who you are. You hike, kayak, climb, hunt, fish, raft, guide. You spend time outdoors and love the land, so why not get married in the places you love? Yes, in the backcountry! Whether it be a mountain top, a rocky beach only accessible by boat, or in the middle of a gorgeous prairie with nothing but the wind for a witness, you can get married in the place that means the most to you and your partner. This guide is a starting point for you to create the wedding (or elopement) of your dreams. There are more vendors and resources available than just those featured in this list. Do some searching and ask within your outdoor community.

Bonus! In Colorado (and a few other states), you can self solemnize, meaning you do not need an officiant to perform a marriage ceremony!

Locations

If your dream backcountry elopement is just the two of you, an officiant and one or two others, then the world is open to you. Of course, if specific skills and abilities are needed to get to your location, make sure you choose an officiant, photographer and witnesses with those skills! More details on photographers and vendors later in this post.

Adventurous locations: Mountain summits, fire lookouts, rocky islands, backcountry campsites, heli ski bowls (often available in the summer too, with or without snow!), secluded lakes, and equestrian trails.

What if you want to have a small wedding with guests who may not have the skills or equipment to get to a location like the ones listed above? There are still a wide variety of backcountry wedding locations that are accessible to everyone most guests, though they should be prepared for an outdoor environment!

More accessible locations: The local sportsman’s club, environmental learning centers, cabins accessible by 4×4 or quad bikes, mountain tops accessible by hiking or climbing as well as driving, guest ranches, state park shelters and national parks (think off season for a more private experience).

You certainly won’t forget the details of you wedding in a location like this.

Image by adventure elopement photog Andres Molina.

Bride and groom at the base of mountains.

Permits, Reservations & Fees

Just because you are hiking 10 miles in to the wilderness, it does not mean that you don’t need a permit or permission to get married!

On Land: Always check with the land manager for use restrictions, permits and fees. Examples of land managers include: state parks departments, the national park service, the national forest service, county or city parks departments, department of natural resources and private owners. This applies to islands in any bodies of water as well. If you are unsure who the land manager is for a backcountry location, find out the county that the property is in and then use the county’s parcel lookup to find the owner.

On water: Just because you rented a boat with a captain, it does not mean the captain is authorized to perform marriages. For example, Washington State Ferries allows weddings during regularly scheduled sailings (how awesome is this!), however you will need to bring your own officiant. Some water based recreation areas cross state and international borders. Make sure you know where you are on the chart so that you do not get married over a border you did not mean to cross.

What about the dress?

Just because you are hiking 10 miles in to the wilderness, it does not mean that you can’t wear a wedding dress! You just have to pack it 🙂 A quick look on Instagram and it is clear that brides, grooms and partners are willing to pack in a wide variety of dresses and suits.

Keep In Mind:

  • How big/puffy/heavy is the dress? Think about how it will fit in a backpack or bag and be carried, strapped or hoisted.
  • Wrinkles! Choose a style and fabric where this won’t matter (Same for suits and ties!).
  • Buttons, straps, complicated bits that may make getting into the dress complicated or require assistance.

Should I hire someone?

When planning your backcountry wedding or elopement, decide what is important. Are incredible photos a must? Is carrying a bouquet non-negotiable? Will professional hair and makeup make or break the day? Answering these questions honestly will help you decide if hiring professional help will make the day easier and more memorable.

Many adventure elopement photographers also offer planning assistance and take care of much more than photography, such as, transportation, guiding, equipment and supplies. Some can even do makeup and hair on location!

How to find a backcountry elopement photographer: Search Instagram for hashtags such as #adventurewedding #adventureelopement. Look at posts and vendor websites to get a feel for the photographer’s style and see if it is a match for you vision. If you are also looking for someone with specialized skills, such as mountaineering or kayaking, you may have to expand your search to sports and outdoors photographers. If you are involved in a community, such as rock climbing, ask your climbing community or post to an online community group.

If you are looking for a place to start, check out Colorado based adventure elopement photographers (And they do so much more!) Wild Brides Backcountry, Vows and Peaks or Vow of the Wild.

Don’t Forget

Bride with a wedding cape in the dessert

Pack A Veil

It’s a lot easier to pack a veil in a backpack than a dress and heels! A veil over your climbing helmet or hiking gear adds a touch of formality and glamor to even the most rugged elopement photos. We especially love the DIY patterns from One Blushing Bride. Find more tips and tricks for making a DIY veil in our latest post on the topic. Image from One Blushing Bride.

Wedding planner from One Blushing Bride

Digital Wedding Planning

Stay organized and banish stress with the fabulous digital wedding planner from One Blushing Bride. The planner includes over 150 pages that can be printed or edited digitally. Build an esthetic board, seating charts, check off the to do list! 

Backcountry DIY Weddings

DIY weddings are a meaningful way to share your love with your family and friends. Whether your wedding is on a mountain top, 20 miles down a dirt road, on the water, at the sportsman’s club, or in a traditional venue, you can have the DIY wedding of your dreams. Denver DIY Bride curates supplies and ideas for DIY weddings. We are here for you with ideas, supplies and support. Don’t forget to breathe, relax and enjoy the process!

Have you created a wedding registry yet?