Elopements are awesome. An Oregon elopement is even better! Why? Because Oregon is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I know I’m a little bias of course, but I’ve seen couples from all over the world travel to Oregon to get married, so you know Oregon is doing something right.
Eloping allows you to design an amazing day that is truly about the two of you starting your lives together. Although planning an elopement is much less time intensive than a wedding, it’s still important to start planning a few months in advance. I’ve photographed tons of elopements and I’ve learned a few things that will elevate your elopement experience. I’m going to cover everything you need to know about eloping in Oregon. I’ll share my favorite elopement locations in Oregon, tell you everything you need to know about getting an Oregon marriage license, and a few things about elopement planning that you probably haven’t considered yet. Let’s jump in!
Things to Consider When Choosing Where to Elope in Oregon
Most couples I work with elope because they want to swap the stuffy ballroom for some epic natural beauty. Ask yourselves what kind of surroundings do you love most? Rain forest trails of the Oregon Coast? Wide open deserts as far as the eye can see? Ocean? Forests? Both? Figure out your scenic jam and take off from there. Luckily Oregon has tons of diverse landscapes and you can find just about anything to fit your style.
Imagine arriving at the perfect spot and the logistics involved. Are you going to drive right up to the ceremony location or will there be some hiking involved? If you’re inviting guest, will they be willing and able to get there too?
Narrow down the locations that work and eliminate the places that don’t. Keep it simple or embrace the adventure.
Summer is the obvious time to elope in Oregon but don’t overlook spring, fall, and YES even winter. Sunshine and lush landscape might be ideal but you could also cozy up in a snowy Mt. Hood Cabin. Eloping in the off season means less crowds at all of Oregon’s state parks and hiking trails.
Privacy & Solitude
Many couples elope because they want to have privacy while they exchange vows. Popular destinations do tend to get crowded at certain times of the year, or even at certain times of the day. If you’re hiking to a waterfall with a single trail, make sure you know when the trail will have the least visitors.
My best advice here is to elope at sunrise on a weekday if you have your heart set on a high-traffic spot. The light is typically best at sunrise and you’ll be the only two determinded enough to wake up that early!
Oregon Marriage License & Legal Stuff
Obtaining an Oregon Marriage License
Luckily the legal stuff is pretty straightforward and simple when it comes to elopements in Oregon. There are a few basics you’ll want to know to make sure your marriage is legit.
It’s as simple as going to the nearest Oregon courthouse together and obtaining a license. Most counties in Oregon require you to wait three days after obtaining a license. So make sure you get everything squared away well before the ceremony. If you’re in Oregon for less than 3 days you can have the grace period waived for $5. Easy.
Find out everything you need to know about Oregon Marriage Licenses
Find An Oregon Elopement Officiant
When it comes to the ceremony you must have an officiant who is legally ordained. Some couples choose to hire an officiant (recommendations below) and some have a friend or family member obtain a license online.
You must have at least two witnesses to elope in Oregon (I can be one of them, and I have been many times!) I’ve even had couples ask two passing hikers to witness their ceremony and sign the marriage certificate.
Oregon Elopement Locations
Oregon is one of the best places to elope in the US and let me tell you why. We’ve got it all from forests to deserts to mountains to the city streets. Choosing just one spot can be tough but I’ve done the heavy lifting to make your decision easy.
Portland Elopement Locations
The city of Portland itself is quickly becoming a destination for travellers from all over the world. Eloping in Portland has become extremely popular due to its close proximity to nature, it’s gorgeous public spaces, and the rapidly emerging food and drink scene. Many visiting couples I photograph in Portland have plans to spend a few days exploring the city and a few days road tripping along the Oregon Coast. Locals and first time visitors alike will appreciate these Portland elopement locations.
Spanning the ridgeline above downtown Portland, Hoyt Arboretum is a 190 acre conservation area with miles of trails lined with over 2000 species of trees from 6 continents! In the late 1920’s there was a big effort to preserve Earth’s trees and Hoyt Arboretum was born. It’s amazing to take a short walk and see trees from all over the world.
Steven’s Pavilion is the most iconic structure in the park. The open-air A-frame shelter is made of exposed timber and you’ll have views of the park from every side. Just a short walk down the trail is the Redwood Deck, an observation area that looks out over a small valley of dense ferns and massive redwood trees.
A third option is the wedding meadow. An open green field shaded by huge Douglas Fir trees. It’s popular to rent these areas in conjunction with one another for the ceremony and reception.
Just below Hoyt Arboretum is Washington Park, and although they are technically one in the same, Washington Park encompasses a much larger area of the Portland Hillside. I love this location because there are many places to shoot portraits like The International Rose Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, and the Washington Park Amphitheater
Right in the heart of Portland’s eastside, Laurelhurst park is a historic and charming place to elope. I love the long brick staircase surrounded by a lush canopy of trees. In Spring, the park is filled with a burst of colorful blooming flowers and in Autumn the changing trees are stunning. There are several different ceremony locations and the area is surrounded by amazing bars and restaurants for after ceremony libations.
Originally the Mt. Tabor Park was designed as a water reservoir way back in the 1800’s. Today it still holds much of the city’s water in 3 beautiful ponds. From the top of Mt. Tabor you’ll have expansive views of the Willamette Valley and Downtown Portland. With miles of paths that wind through groves of giant trees throughout the park, there are many options when choosing a ceremony location. Picnic areas can be reserved for small receptions. On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens from the east side of the park.
In the 1930’s a steel suspension bridge was built connecting Linton to St. Johns. In the 1980’s the city established a public park underneath the bridge with its cathedral-like arches and gave it the name Catedral Park. Standing on the top steps that lead into the park, it looks as if you are standing in the world’s largest catedral. The pavilion is popular for elopements and even large weddings. In the late afternoon the sunsets created some spectacular lighting, so plan your ceremony schedule accordingly!
Where to Stay in Portland
Weather you’re looking for a private ceremony spot or just a beautiful space to get ready and relax – these are some of my favorite airbnbs in Portland.
Oregon Coast Elopement Locations
One of the most beautiful places in the world (according to moi) is the Oregon Coast. Reaching the coast takes about an hour and a half from Downtown Portland, which is close enough for a day trip but still far enough to keep things relatively untouched and pristine. The Oregon Coast has endless beaches, coves, state parks, and view points, so I’ve narrowed it down to just a few locations that I love to photograph and share with eloping couples.
On Hwy 26, just before you reach Cannon Beach, there is a tiny road that leads to the Saddle Mountain trail head. This spot is for the adventurous couples who are down to hike a couple miles of moderately steep trail. The views from the top of Saddle Mountain are just plain stunning. To the west you can see the Ocean and Neahkahnie Mountain and to the east you’ll see the endlessness of the Cascade Mountain Range. This mountain was made for taking in the beauty of nature. Not a bad spot to elope if you ask me.
The popularity of Cannon Beach and Oswald West State Park have pushed me to find the lesser known coves nearby. Hug Point (I know it’s cute right?) is a secluded beach with giant sandstone cliffs and a small waterfall. If you want to get a chance to see the falls and the big cave, be sure to arrive at low tide, and make sure you don’t get trapped as the tide comes in! Check the tide chart for your elopement date.
Nehalem Bay State Park
Just south of Manzanita, Nahalem Bay is a gorgeous beach that stretches for miles. The tall sand grass and views of Neahkahnie mountain make this one of my favorite beaches in Oregon. The sheer size of the beach means you’ll hardly see another person. On a calm day it’s the perfect place to build a bonfire and watch the sunset into the ocean. Camp at the beach or find one of many awesome vacation homes in the area.
Moving further south down the coast, Cape Kiwanda is another spectacular location. The sandstone cliffs here are a rusty orange color that have a very glow at sunset. At sunset the beach is popular with locals who drive their trucks out onto the beach for brews and bonfires. The Pelican Pub has ocean views and a casual vibe that is perfect for a post-ceremony dinner.
Ecola State Park
Getting yourself a dose of pristine nature is easy in Ecola State Park. Eloping here on a weekday will almost guarantee you some privacy. I love shooting elopements here because there is so much variety. Winding forest trails mixed with rugged beaches and cliff side viewpoints make this one of my favorite elopement locations on the coast. Notable ceremony locations include Indian Beach, Crescent Beach, and a beautiful secret spot that is, well, a secret.
Eastern Oregon Elopement Locations
At first glance you might think of Eastern Oregon as nothing but farmland and nothing as far as the eye can see. However, I’ve spent a lot of time road tripping through the vast prairies and deserts of Eastern Oregon, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite landscapes to get lost in. Fill up your gas tank and save your gps coordinates because we are going off the grid to my favorite elopement locations in Eastern Oregon.
Known as the death valley of Oregon, the Alvord Desert is an incredible place to disconnect from the world. It’s about 100 miles from the nearest gas station or grocery store, so planning food and supplies ahead of your desert adventure is crucial. A 4×4 vehicle is a must for the bumpy gravel road. Pack your swimsuit (or not) to experience the relaxing natural hot springs that dot the area. Get married on the “playa” and dance all night under the stars.
The Wallowa Mountains are known as the Alps of Oregon and Joseph is the gateway town. Joseph may be small but there are several awesome small breweries, restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops. My favorite place to stay is The Jennings Hotel.
At the south end of Wallowa Lake you’ll find a gondola that will take you to the top of Mount Howard. With 360 degree views of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, this would be an exceptional ceremony spot. Another potential ceremony spot would be at the north end of the lake with the mountains as your backdrop.
This is as far east as it gets. Hells Canyon and the Snake River is the natural border between Oregon and Idaho. There are several viewpoints that offer incredible views of the canyon and the distant peaks of Idaho’s mountains. Plan for a sunset ceremony to capture the canyon’s twilight glow.
This prestine alpine lake is the jewel of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Strawberry lake is a moderately difficult hike at 6.2 miles out and back. You’ll want to plan your elopement during the week so you can have the wilderness to yourself and avoid the crowds. Why not bring your backpack and camping gear and stay the night? There are campsites at the lake and this could be ideal for a sunrise or sunset ceremony. The best time of year to visit is late summer and early fall.
Bordering the Alvord Desert, Steens mountain contrast dramatically with the vast desert landscape. From the top of the mountain you can see storms forming over the valley floor. In the springtime the mountain is covered in native wildflowers and wildlife! Nearby Wildhorse Lake makes for a beautiful, calming ceremony location. This remote oasis is for those who truly want to get away from it all.
Columbia River Gorge Elopement Locations
The Columbia River Gorge has long been known for its waterfalls, hiking trails, and epic views. It’s one of the most accessible nature areas in Oregon because the interstate runs straight through the canyon. Don’t expect much privacy in the more popular areas, but do expect some gorgeous encounters with Oregon’s natural beauty.
Drive about an hour east of Portland on Interstate 84 and you’ll reach the turn off to Government Cove. This once unknown piece of land is now quite popular, understandably so, as it has some of the best views of the Columbia River and the Surrounding Mountains. I still love shooting elopements here, and it is still far less crowded than any popular hiking trails along the Gorge. At sunset this spot cannot be beat. Bring your champagne and toast to the majestic beauty all around.
The hike to Wahchella falls is just as beautiful as the main attraction. The trail begins at the mouth of a winding creek and then it climbs up the cliffside where you’ll have views of the lush canyon. There are several smaller waterfalls and two bridge crossings along the way. The trail is relatively short (only ¾ mile out and back) and it’s easy for people of all ages and abilities.
The most dramatic waterfall is Lautorell falls with its black basalt columns jutting out from underneath the water. It’s very accessible from the parking lot and easy for anyone to reach. This is a very popular spot on the weekends and even weekday afternoons. For the most privacy I would suggest planning a sunrise elopement on a weekday.
This place is almost completely unknown probably because its right next to a popular hiking area called Beacon Rock State Park. I love Hamilton Island and the Strawberry Loop Trail because of the rolling hills and tall grass surrounded by mountains that look out over the Columbia River. This is an ideal portrait location but could also be suitable for a ceremony as well. Plan for a sunset ceremony to bask in that twilight alpenglow.
This is probably the most strenuous hike on my list. Angel’s rest is a tough slog up an incredibly steep trail, but the views at the top are totally worth the 5 mile round trip hike. Make sure to pack extra snacks and feel free to change into your dress/suit at the top after you’ve sweat through your hiking clothes. The natural rock platform at the top of Angel’s Rest is perfect for an elopement ceremony. Bring a bottle of champagne to pop as you look out at the incredible views of the Gorge.
Mt. Hood Elopement Locations
The area surrounding Mt. Hood is bursting with gorgeous meadows and alpine lakes. With so many elopement location options its hard to select just a few. This famous volcano creates a landscape unlike any other. The high elevation creates this “on top of the world” sensation and the peak of Mt. Hood can be seen from just about anywhere.
The best time of year to elope on Mt. Hood is definitely in the late Summer or Early fall. Any other time of the year and you risk that the roads may be covered in snow or closed. Unsurprisingly, Mt. Hood is a very popular place to be on the weekends when all of Portland retreats to nature. Plan to elope on a weekday for a chance to have these special places all to yourself.
On a clear evening, Trillium Lake showcases a brilliant reflection of Mount hood on its calm surface. It’s one of the most popular lakes in the area for good reason. The lake is easily accessible and the view of the Mt. Hood’s peak is unbeatable. Trillium Lake is about 45 minutes from Portland and just across the Hwy from Timberline Lodge. My advice; stay the night at a nearby vacation rental and plan a sunrise elopement for privacy and that beautiful dawn light.
Although Timberline Lodge is a popular wedding venue, It’s also the perfect place to elope. The last elopement I shot here was in August when the wildflowers were in full bloom. We hiked a short distance up the mountain and found a beautiful spot with mountain views. There are several different trails and and a thousand photo opportunities around the mountain. When hiking on Mt. Hood you literally feel on top of the world. After the ceremony grab a few cocktails in the super cozy lodge and cuddle up next to the fire.
Lost Lake Resort
The historic cabins and lodge make Lost Lake Resort a cozy and relaxed atmosphere for an elopement. Lost lake is the deepest lake on Mt. Hood and just like Trillium Lake, the views of Mt. Hood are awesome! You can access Lost Lake via Hood River or take the shortcut (gravel route) via Zigzag. Stay at one of the cute historic cabins for strong summer camp vibes.
This lesser known Mt. Hood lake is more rustic than Lost Lake or Trillium lake, but the views are just as stunning. Frog Lake is just over an hour from Portland and easily accessible by car. There are a few dozen campsites where you can pitch a tent and stay the night. Government Camp is the nearest town with all of the amenities you’ll need. The best time to plan your elopement at Frog Lake is late Summer and early Fall.
If you’re up for a moderate 4-mile hike, umbrella falls and Sahalie Falls are both beautiful elopement settings. In the summer the meadows along the trail are full of wildflowers like lupine and paintbrush. The trail between the two falls is lined with Douglas Firs, making the walk particularly beautiful at sunset or sunrise. Stay at Timberline Lodge and make a weekend out of your elopement.
Southern Oregon Elopement Locations
One of the most remote and beautiful areas in the state is Southern Oregon. The coastal areas have just one main Hwy and any road that is not the I-5 is likely winding and desolate. That’s good news for elopements. There’s nothing better than having a pristine slice of nature to yourself when you’re exchanging vows with your partner, and in Southern Oregon you can make it a reality. Of course you have to be willing to drive or hike your way to seclusion. Luckily I’ve already found a few locations that are well worth the journey.
One of the Seven wonders of Oregon, Crater Lake is a world famous natural landmark. Formed by what I can only imagine was a dramatic geological event millions of years ago, the crater brings you a beautifully unusual landscape. Crater Lake is popular year-round because of its excellent hiking trails and cross country skiing opportunities. The area is fairly remote but there are plenty of cozy cabins, vacation rentals, and campsites available. Stay for a few days and explore the area before you elope at Crater Lake.
Located in Umpqua national forest, Watson Falls is a stunning 294-foot basalt waterfall is the tallest in Southwestern Oregon and the third largest in the state. It’s similar to Multnomah falls in its sheer size. The falls are just off of the Umpqua Hwy and are easily accessible. Its a remote area but a popular hike so plan your elopement during the week.
I think Toketee Falls is the most beautiful in southern Oregon. Its easy to access because it’s just off the Umpqua Hwy. The rock formation at the base of the falls is perfect for an elopement ceremony. After you exchange vows drive up the road to Umpqua hot springs to relax in the naturally formed pools.
Near the Oregon/California Border, Brookings is a gorgeous coastal town with killer views. There are several different beaches that feel almost untouched. Southern Oregon is one of the most remote places in the state because it only has one road in and out. It’s a journey to get here but it’s well worth the drive. My favorite ceremony locations in the area include Samuel H Boardman Scenic Viewpoint, Whales Head Beach, and Harris Beach.
Bandon brings all of the tiny coastal town charm with its cozy coffee shops and souviner huts. Bandon Beach is one of the most beautiful spots on the Oregon Coast. I love the rugged cliffs and haystack rocks that trail out into the ocean. From Florence to Bandon you’ll find huge swaths of coastal sand dunes, and you can even rent a dune buggie and spend the afternoon cruising the coast before you elope!
Central Oregon Elopement Locations
I love driving over the Cascades to Bend or Sun River and experiencing the transition from lush forest to high desert. The contrasting landscapes make this area of Oregon extra special. Wedged between the desert and the rain forest is the McKenzie River. It’s really a combination of the two climates and the rugged landscapes here are incredible. If you haven’t been to this part of the world, let me introduce you to some amazing locations.
About 25 miles west of Bend, Oregon, Sparks lake rests in the valley below Mt. Bachelor. In the summer months the lake is surrounded by wildflowers and bright green meadows. The lake is a popular spot for paddle boarding and you’ll undoubtedly find the outdoor community of Bend here every weekend. Several campsites are located on the shores of the lake and access is just off of the cascades Hwy. An Elopement ceremony at the lake is ideal when the sun is just setting behind Mt. Bachelor.
Based on the aesthetics of Wes Anderson films, Suttle Lodge is a quirky, cozy lakeside resort that will give you all of the summer camp vibes. From large suits in the main lodge to rustic cabins, it’s really a choose your own adventure style. Hike the Lakeside trail to find a remote ceremony spot and rent your own canoe at the lodge for a sunset paddle. The resort is located just outside of Sisters, Oregon, a town with many amenities and recreational activities. This place is gorgeous all summer, but it has a particularly special feeling in the fall when the leaves are bursting with color.
Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock is a well known world-class climbing area. The rock formations dramatically rise out of the valley floor. The hiking trails surrounding the rocks and river are great areas for pre-ceremony photos. My favorite spot is on top of the plateau because you can see for miles and the sunset light hits the rocks for a perfect desert glow. Plan to hike up the steep switch back for the best ceremony location.
One of my favorite Central Oregon elopement locations has to be the Painted Hills. Located in the John Day Fossil Beds Monument, these dazzling hillsides get their name from the colorful stratifications of soil that resemble a painting. The best time to visit these hills is at sunset when the yellows, oranges, and reds really begin to glow. Get out here during the week for no crowds and awesome views!
This somewhat hidden waterfall is one of the most beautiful in Central Oregon. The Proxy Falls trail head is located in the McKenzie River area just off of Hwy 242. I love this waterfall because it cascades gently down a series of boulders and spreads wide, giving it a real fern gully effect. The hike in is relatively easy and there are plenty of areas for photos along the way. Visit Proxy Falls in the late Summer or early Autumn before the snow closes the forest road!