With over three hundred and sixty miles of coastline and a diverse range of scenery to explore, it’s not surprising that so many couples choose to elope somewhere on the Oregon coast. You can find pretty much everything here, from sandy beaches and coastal forests, to hidden trails and epic rock formations. However, with the rugged and wild nature of the Oregon coast come a few additional considerations when planning your elopement. So without further ado, below are our top tips for planning your own Oregon coast elopement. Let’s start with the legal stuff first.
Apply for your marriage license in any Oregon county. Both partners must be present to obtain the marriage license, and the fee ranges from $50-$60. Marriage licenses are good for 60 days, and there is typically a 3 day waiting period from the time the license is issued to when you can get married. However, in most counties the waiting period can be waved for an additional fee.
Any religious leader, county clerk, or judge can legally perform an elopement ceremony in Oregon. Additionally, anyone can become ordained online in just a few minutes, so if you want your mom or best friend to officiate your ceremony, you can do that! When we photograph two person elopements, we often sign as the couple’s witnesses. Lynn is also ordained and can sign as your legal officiant if you have one other person to sign as a witness. Some couples have even opted to be super spontaneous and ask a stranger to sign as a witness!
Most of the time the answer to this one is no, as the coastline is considered public land. Exceptions to this are groups larger than 50 or the use of structures in your elopement. Therefore, if you intend to have seating, an arch, or another type of ceremony backdrop as pictured above, make sure to get a permit. We always recommend confirming whether you need a permit (in writing!) for your specific location. A good place to start is by contacting the point person for the area through the Oregon State Park website to clarify if you need a special use permit for your elopement.
The “when and where” part of planning your elopement can be one of the hardest pieces to nail down. Oregon legit has some of the absolute best places to elope on the west coast. Did you know there are 57 different state parks along the coast? And that’s not including a state forest, national forest, five wildlife refuges, and more. Some of our favorite regions include:
The Southern Oregon coast, especially the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. This area is a wonderland of coastal forests, secret beaches, unique rock formations, and jaw-dropping overlooks.
Everything between Newport and Pacific City, with highlights including Neskowin, Cape Kiwanda, and God’s Thumb, which towers over Lincoln City and looks like it’s straight out of Ireland.
The northernmost part of the Oregon coast, home of the Goonies, and a mushroom-hunter’s dream (who wants to go mushroom hunting on their elopement day??) There are so many beautiful areas here, plus Astoria is the perfect coastal town for a celebratory dinner and drinks after sharing your vows. Bonus – did you know that the beach in Astoria is home to the remnants of a 1906 shipwreck?
Cannon Beach and Haystack rock might get the spotlight, but it isn’t the only gem this part of the coast has to offer. Ecola State Park, the Tillamook Lighthouse, Hug Point, and Oswald West State Park all offer stunning views of the coastline.
Unfortunately, a potential downside to having your elopement on public land is that seclusion is not guaranteed. For the best chances of avoiding onlookers and potential photo-bombers, we recommend steering clear of the most popular beaches for your elopement. Places like Cannon Beach are beautiful for a reason, but its popularity also means large crowds. With that said, there are plenty of gorgeous hidden gems up and down the Oregon coast perfect for an elopement. Spend some time exploring the coast yourselves, utilize Google maps and AllTrails to hunt down less frequented spots. And of course ask, your photographer!
The Oregon coast is well known for its somewhat unpredictable weather. Rainy days and foggy gloom can be present any time of year, and locals say that if you “don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Summer is of course more likely to have warm and sunny days, but there are plenty of unseasonably warm days in the winter. In fact, there has been more than one occasion that we’ve ditched a snowy day in town for a warmer one on the coast in January.
Additionally, wind is also a factor to consider, particularly in the evenings. This comes into play with being able to hear each other share your vows, or battling with your hair flying in your face. Ultimately, if you’re going to elope on the coast, always have a backup ceremony location available. Whether it’s a place indoors or a wooded area with enough tree cover for protection, it’s essential to have options so you can pivot if the weather decides not to cooperate.
This VRBO rental in Neskowin made the perfect setting for an intimate elopement with family
If you haven’t been using AirBNB for travel accommodations in general, you’re missing out. These vacation rentals are often way cuter and more affordable than a hotel room, and you get the whole place to yourselves. Every town on the coast has a plethora of rental options. An AirBNB can serve as the perfect space as a place to get ready in the morning, or as a place to host guests if you are inviting a few close friends and family to celebrate your elopement.
Look through the photos online to get a sense for how much natural light is available. If you’re planning to take photos in the house (like of getting ready),this is crucial for quality photos.
In some cases, you’ll need to ensure the property owners allow events to take place on site. This is especially important if you are inviting guests or holding the ceremony on the property.
Check the reviews! There is always a little risk involved when booking something online. However, this can be mitigated by a simple scan for bad reviews. Additionally, we recommend you make sure there are more than a couple of reviews (unless it is a brand new listing).
Remember that wind we mentioned in the weather section? Well if you’re wearing a dress it works freaking MAGIC with lightweight, flowy fabrics. Movement on camera looks so good, and can add some serious drama to your elopement images. Keeping to lightweight fabrics also means your dress won’t be five hundred pounds at the end of the day. Even if it’s rainy, foggy, or you want to dip your toes in the ocean!
As for footwear, we recommend sticking to flats or sandals. Toms makes some lace ones that are comfy and cute for weddings. Or you can of course just go barefoot!
Bonus tip: bring a change of clothes and dry socks to change into at the end of the day! Especially if you’re driving somewhere afterward.
We have to give a shout out to Nicole of Pacific Coast Floral Design — she designed this stunning bouquet and floral crown
Finding local vendors on the coast can be tricky, especially in the smaller coastal towns. Of course, there is the age old advice of “ask your photographer.” (Seriously though, we have worked with so many folks that we can recommend!) Another great place to start is to see who has worked in the area you’re planning to elope, even if they aren’t based there. For example, if you search for “Cape Kiwanda Elopement” on Google, you’ll find a variety of blog posts. Most blogs of elopement days will have the vendors involved linked at the end. Using this, you can see who is nearby or has already been willing to travel there.
Ben Guerra was the private chef for this elopement, and it was hands down the best meal we’ve ever had.
Okay, this can still count as a vendor, but we wanted to give it its own section. You have a variety of dining options after your elopement on the coast. If there’s a restaurant you love, you can call ahead to reserve a table, or room if they have an event area. You can do a potluck or picnic style dinner with any guests at the AirBNB or right on the beach. Or, our personal favorite, you can hire a personal chef to come cook for you.
There are so many benefits to going the private chef route. First, having a chef come to you in your rental space means total privacy, rather than a crowded restaurant. Second, none of your guests have to cook or worry about coordinating the meal. And last, your menu will be 100% customizable and exactly what you want.
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 Oregon coast elopements is to refrain from taking anything home. And yes this includes shells! Shells are often home to a plethora of organisms and microorganisms and play a crucial ecological role. Removal of shells can also impact shoreline erosion patterns!
Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs. And we promise you’ll have some freaking rad photographs to take with you.
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. We’re ready to help you pick the best, unique location, connect you with local vendors, and create an adventure-filled and stress-free day. All you have to do is have an amazing time together and get married! We can’t wait to be your elopement photographer and wander with you. Contact us to get started.