When a big event just isn’t your thing, Elope! Invite just your closest friends and family (or just the two of you) somewhere beautiful to make it official. Create an experience for yourselves and remember every moment. Go somewhere new or revisit a place special to your relationship. Pop champagne. Bring a box of donuts. Sing Karaoke. Drive into the sunset. Whatever makes you feel all the feels.
Choosing A Location
Choosing a location can sometimes be overwhelming because your options are endless. But here are a few factors that will help you when narrowing down the best spot.
What kind of surroundings do you love most? Rainforested 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.
When you begin to get an idea of where you’d like to elope, imagine getting there and the logistics involved. Are you going to drive right up to the ceremony location or will there be some hiking involved? Will you be flying in or taking a ferry? Consider the costs and time involved in arriving at that perfect place. If you’re inviting guest, will they be willing and able to get there too?
Asking these questions can help you choose the locations that work and eliminate the places that don’t fit. Keep it simple or embrace your adventurous side!
Are you picturing a wedding in a cozy cabin surrounded by snow or a warm glowing beach in the dog days of summer? Oregon has beautiful scenery year-round, however, you can expect to get rain in the winter months and sun (usually) in the summer. Spring and fall have their own special feeling. Portland in the Spring is covered in blooming flowers, while the fall showcases the most beautiful hues of yellow, orange, and red.
So ask yourself what type of weather you’d like to elope and the scenery that comes along with that, and what your location will look like. You’re well on your way to choosing the right time of year for your elopement.
Many couples choose to elope because they want to have the privacy to be themselves on such an important day. There are many places in the great outdoors that offer a sense of solitude, but popular destinations do tend to get crowded at certain times of the year, or even at certain times of the day.
Can you find a private spot at your location, for example, Cannon beach is massive and its fairly easy to find a secluded spot at any time. If you’re hiking to a waterfall with a single trail, make sure you know when the trail will have the least visitors.
Want guaranteed privacy? Find an Airbnb with an awesome view and a beautiful setting.
Marriage License & Legal Stuff
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
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 as well (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.
Favorite Locations in Oregon
Portland and the surrounding regions are full of beautiful locations. I’ve made a list of my favorites for couples looking for the perfect place to elope in Oregon. Each location has its own unique qualities. If a certain location seems to be a perfect fit for you, let me know and I can give you even more information about what to expect.
Hoyt Arboretum Redwood Deck
The Hoyt Arboretum feels like it’s out in the middle of the forest, but it sits in the hills just above the city. There are hundreds of different species of trees, from giant Redwoods to Japanese Pines. Winding paths take you through lush forests covered in ferns and flowering bushes. The Redwood Deck itself looks out over the forest. On a sunny day, the afternoon light coming through the trees creates the perfect backdrop for a ceremony.
Website: Hoyt Arboretum
On Portland’s Eastside, there is a big historic neighborhood park with brick stairways a pond full of geese and a canopy of trees. In the Spring and Fall, it’s particularly beautiful with the blooming flowers or changing trees.
Website: Laurelhurst Park
In the northwest hills, near downtown Portland, is an oasis of rose gardens and forested walking paths. There are several locations to hold a ceremony. Some have views of the city skyline and, on a clear day, Mt. Hood.
Website: Washington Park
Located in Southeast Portland, Mt. Tabor is actually a small volcano. The park is full of towering trees and there are several water reservoirs that look like tiny lakes. From the West side of the mountain, you can see Downtown Portland and from the East, you can see Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens.
Website: Mt. Tabor
St. Johns Bridge
This isn’t your average bridge. It was constructed in the 1920s and after the people of Portland complained that the cities bridges had a reputation of being… Well, ugly, the St. John’s bridge was to be different and architecturally beautiful. Standing under the green bridge, the support beams look like the ceiling of a cathedral. Thus the name Cathedral park.
Website: Cathedral Park
Located just a few miles from the Oregon coast is Saddle Mountain. The drive to the parking lot itself is gorgeous and it’s easily accessible from HWY 26. However, to get to the viewpoint, you’ll have to make your way up a series of steep switchbacks. Experienced and beginning hikers alike can accomplish it within 45 mins – 1 hour. Bring water, snacks, champagne, and a headlamp for the hike down! The views at the top are well worth it.
Website: Saddle Mountain
I’m not entirely sure how this place got its name but I’m assuming it’s the way the ocean “hugs” the coastline. At low tide, you can walk around one of the cliffs where you’ll find a secret beach with a waterfall and a few caves to explore. Above the beach is a patch of forested trees with amazing views.
Website: Hug Point
A small town, the little sister of the ever popular Cannon Beach, sits below the cliffs of Neahkahnie Mountain. Endless sand dunes covered in tall sea grass provide a barrier between the sea and the town. Here you’ll find people on horses riding across the never-ending beach and even a few wild elk if you’re lucky.
Website: Nehalem Bay State Park
If rugged colorful cliff, Haystack rocks, and wide sandy beaches are your thing, Cape Kiwanda is the place for you. The place feels remote but there are plenty of breweries on the beach. There are ceremony spots near the cliffs or on the beach. After, you can get a beer, make your own fire, and watch the sunset.
Website: Cape Kiwanda
Sou’ Wester / Smugglers Cove
Ok, this one is actually in Washington, only just! Across the 4 mile bridge from Astoria is Cape Disappointment. Contrary to the name, this place is anything but a disappointment. There is a beautiful cove with big pine trees and piles of driftwood. Smugglers Cove got its name from the days of pirate ships. The perfect spot for a secret getaway. Stay at the Sou’ Wester Lodge just a few miles from the cove. The owners have refurbished a bunch of old travel trailers into permanent lodging.
Website: Sou’ Wester Lodge
Located in the John Day National Park, these colorful hills are quite a spectacle for the eyes. Layers of deep reds and oranges stack up on each other and form the most dreamy landscape. There is camping nearby and facilities to support a longer stay in the area if you choose.
Trail map and park info for Painted Hills
Just outside of Bend, Oregon, Sparks Lake is a truly beautiful ceremony location. There is a wide open meadow next to the lake surrounded by distant mountains. You feel like you’re truly out in the wild here, but only 30 minutes to Bend.
Website: Sparks Lake
Northeastern Oregon is a truly remote place. The quaint town of Joseph sits in the valley below the Wallows (aka the Oregon Alps). Wallowa Lake is very picturesque against these giant mountains that seem to come out of nowhere. A gondola runs daily to take visitors all the way up to the tallest peak.
Trail maps and camping info for Wallowa Lake State Park
Smith Rock State Park
A landmark spot for rock climbers worldwide, this stunning series of rock formations seems to come out of nowhere amongst the dry deserts of central Oregon. The Crooked River cuts through the formation and there are plenty of winding trails throughout the park. There is a rather steep trail that rewards hikers at the end with a spectacular view of the valley below. If you’re lucky you will see climbers coming up over the rocks.
A scenic drive through the Mackenzie River forest and a short hike will lead you to Proxy Falls. It’s a beautiful spot year-round but especially magical in the fall when the autumn leaves are at their brightest.
Proxy Falls Trail map and hiking info
Columbia River Gorge
Government Cove is an island just outside of the city of Cascade Locks. Used mostly as a recreational area for people picnicking or fishing, the trails lead you out to a viewpoint of the Columbia River Surrounded but the walls of the Gorge. At sunset it’s particularly beautiful and the perfect spot for popping champagne.
More trail info about Government Cove
One of the most easily accessible falls in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s a small but powerful waterfall surrounded by basalt columns. A small bridge in front of the falls makes for the perfect ceremony location. Although you might have to speak up a bit over the roar of the water.
More info about Latourell Falls
Cape Horn Overlook
Over on the Washington side of the Gorge (just off of Hwy 14) is Cape Horn. What was once just a trail has been turned into a structured overlook with sweeping views of the Columbia River. Perfect for a sunrise ceremony.
Trail map and more information about Cape Horn