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10 Tips For Planning a Waterfall Elopement



February 11, 2020


Valerie Savercool


It’s no secret that we love when couples decide on a waterfall elopement. We consider ourselves lucky growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Michael and I have had literally hundreds of waterfalls in our backyard our whole lives. Some are well known around the world like Multnomah falls.  Others are hidden gems that can require a hefty hike to get to them. We love recommending waterfalls for couples who are having a hard time deciding if they want a forest or water setting for their elopement. It’s truly the best of both worlds. And nothing compares standing and staring up at the roaring water leaves you feeling connected to nature in a very powerful way.

As always, any time you are planning to elope in the outdoors, there are lots of things to consider. Below are our best pieces of advice for making sure your day goes smoothly.

10 tips for having a waterfall elopement

tip 1 – Make sure you can actually access and (elope at) that particular waterfall

This is really step one for choosing any elopement location, especially before you get your heart set on it. There are a few considerations here. Some more obvious ones include making sure the road to the falls is open the time of year you want to go. Additionally, make sure that you have the proper permit required to have a ceremony there. For the most accurate information, we recommend contacting the forest service or the ranger in charge of that area of land.

A less often considered one is to make sure that there is actually trail access to the bottom of the waterfall. An important thing to remember here is that even if there are photos of elopements or portraits taking place there, that does not necessarily mean it is allowed. A sad example of this is Toketee Falls in Oregon. Sooooo many people climb down to the bottom of the falls, but it is off trail and a violation of Leave No Trace principles.

waterfall elopement

Tip 2 – Avoid the crowds

We’re willing to bet that if you decided to elope the last thing you want is a huge audience as you have your intimate ceremony. The good news is that there is no shortage of waterfalls to choose from, especially in the Pacific Northwest. We advise against selecting a highly popular waterfall if you want to avoid the crowds. For example, Multnomah Falls and Silver Falls State Park in Oregon are absolutely breathtaking and easily accessible. However, they are often therefore quite crowded. Waterfalls that require longer hikes naturally will have fewer hikers on the trail. But if you absolutely have your heart set on a specific popular waterfall, it’s not impossible. Consider having your elopement on a weekday and near sunrise for the best chance of having some privacy.

Tip 3 – consider the time of year

Not all waterfalls flow in full force year round. Lack of rain can turn smaller falls from a full fledged waterfall to more of a trickle in the middle of summer. If you want to elope with the full force of the waterfall, consider eloping in late fall or spring. Winter can be an incredible time as well, though road closures are of course more common and you may have to snowshoe in rather than hike.

Tip 4 – Take portraits early in the morning or later in the evening

The position of the sun makes a huge difference in how your photos look. Taking photos at noon when the sun is directly overhead results in unflattering harsh shadows. At waterfalls in particular the light is incredibly important, as harsh direct sun will reflect off the falls making it appear a blinding white behind you. Shooting when the sun is lower in the sky or behind clouds means lots of open shade and flattering light.

Tip 5 – be thoughtful of where you share your vows (aka big waterfalls are loud!)

This is one of those tips where when you hear it you say “no duh,” but is important to consider nevertheless. If you’ve settled on an epic roaring waterfall and want those photos of you and your partner looking beautiful and romantic in front if it – awesome! But take into consideration the noise and spray happening at the bottom. The last thing you want to do is shout your vows at each other to compete with the roar of the waterfall. You also don’t want to be shivering and drenched for the rest of the day. If the location allows for it, have your ceremony further back along the river or at an alternative location on the trail. After that, you can get closer for those epic photos.

Tip 6 – Take portraits at the base of the waterfall last (aka big waterfalls are wet!)

This one goes hand in hand with tip 3. The bigger the waterfall, the more spray and mist if you’re anywhere near the base. So unless you want to go full-on Notebook-esque and be drenched for the entirety of your elopement day, we recommend saving those epic shots for last. Spend the time  hiking in, having your ceremony, and doing portraits in locations that won’t leave you soaked. Bonus tips: The spray will also mean the rocks will be mossy and slippery, so be careful as you explore. And bring a towel or blanket to dry off and keep warm, and a dry change of clothes for the hike back!

Tip 7 – Best attire and shoes for waterfall elopements

Our usual advice when couples ask us what to wear for their adventurous elopement day is “whatever you love and feel comfortable in!” For the most part, waterfall elopements are no exception. One thing to consider if you are wearing a dress, however, is the weight of the fabric. If you’re planning on getting down to the base of the falls where you are likely to get wet, having a lighter dress will make your adventure so much easier. Plus, super flowy skirts look freaking epic! For shoes, we recommend hiking shoes with good traction to stay safe while scrambling on damp moss and slick rocks. We think wedding dresses and hiking boots are beautiful together!

waterfall elopement

Tip 8 – Where do I get ready for my waterfall elopement?

“Where do I get changed?” is a common question from our couples who choose to elope or have adventure sessions in the outdoors. There are a few ways to do this. For very short (1-2 mile), non-strenuous hikes most couples opt to hike in their wedding attire. Perks of doing it this way include not having to change in the woods and getting cute photos of the two of you hiking with backpacks and wedding attire. You’ll also have other hikers congratulate you as they pass on the trail. For longer or more strenuous hikes, trekking in your regular hiking clothes and changing on the trail works just fine. Lots of couples choose to duck behind trees, otherwise we always bring a pop-up changing tent for some more privacy.

Tip 9 – Budget lots of time (and Don’t forget to explore the surrounding area)

Yes, the waterfall might be the ultimate destination for your elopement, but don’t forget to soak in the rest of the scenery on your wedding day! Our favorite waterfalls include gorgeous hikes with mossy trees and ferns for days. We believe your elopement is all about the experience and adventure of the whole day, not just the few minutes you share your vows. When we help couples make their elopement day timeline, we recommend building in about one hour per mile of the hike. This means you won’t be rushing to get to the end and won’t be super sweaty. And it gives you plenty of time to explore different areas of the trail on the way.

oregon waterfall elopement

Tip 10 – Practice Leave No trace principles

Alright, this one is less of a tip and more of a rule for the outdoors in general. If you’re having an adventure elopement you probably care an awful lot about the outdoors. If you’re unfamiliar with leave no trace principles, you can find them on the LNT website here. Essentially these are guidelines for using the outdoors in safe and respectful ways to ensure that the land can be enjoyed by future generations. An additional consideration to leave no trace for elopements is in your bouquet or flower arrangements if you choose to have them. Be careful to pick up any flowers and leave that might fall out on the hike. Or even better – use fake flowers or coordinate with the local ranger and your florist to be sure you are not bringing in any invasive species!

Are you ready to get started planning your own epic elopement adventure?

We can’t wait to get started helping you make all your wedding dreams come true. With 3 years of practice helping guide couples in crafting their perfect wedding day experience, we’ve got all the tools you need to make your dreams a reality. From support with picking the best, unique location, connecting you with local vendors, and creating an adventure-filled and stress-free timeline for the day so all you have to do is have an amazing time together and get married! We can’t wait to wander with you. Contact us to get started.