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Planning Your Hiking Elopement – The Ultimate Guide

Your wedding day is one that you’ll cherish forever! If you and your partner are the adventurous type, love hiking and being outdoor, and are looking to add a special adventurous touch to your wedding day, then a hiking elopement might be the perfect plan for you. Hiking elopements can be adventurous, beautiful and intimate! Simply because it’s an elopement though doesn’t mean there isn’t a decent amount of planning involved. Just as weddings involve planning, so do hiking elopements.

Bride and groom are getting ready by the alpine lake for their hiking elopement in British Columbia

What is a hiking elopement?

Any adventurous wedding that involves some hiking to a wedding ceremony location has earned it’s title as a hiking elopement! Hiking elopements are filled with natural beauty, walks, fun and adventure. As British Columbia adventure elopement photographers, we love helping our adventurous couples with the planning process. So we decided to put together an ultimate guide of how to plan your dream hiking elopement!

First look of the bride and groom in the mountains during their backpacking wedding

Step 1: Choose Your Elopement Location

It can be difficult to choose the perfect location for where you want your hiking wedding to take place. There are endless options of amazing destinations to choose from in British Columbia!

To start brainstorming your location ideas, ask yourselves a few questions. If you could go anywhere in BC, where would you go? What national parks haven’t you been to? Where is that one spot in British Columbia that you could explore countless times and never grow tired of it? What does the ideal scenery look like? Would you prefer snow capped mountains, sandy beaches, wooded forests, glistening waterfalls, frozen ice caves, or an expansive desert to be your backdrop? Is there a new place you want to explore? Is there a spot that’s meaningful to you and your fiancé where you want to spend this special moment?

Planning Your Hiking Elopement The Ultimate Guide

Step 2: Choose A Time Of Year

First, imagine the scenery you want to be surrounded by during your dream elopement. Do you dream of eloping among stunning fall colors, wildflowers, or snow? When picking a time of year to elope during, we recommend that you research average temperatures, precipitation, and weather for your chosen location. This will help you make your final decision. Additionally, some popular destinations have high and low traffic seasons which can impact how busy your elopement day would be. Consider eloping during “off season” to avoid crowds and to have a more intimate experience.

Intimate mountaintop elopement ceremony by the alpine lake in Squamish

Step 3: Choose A Trail For Your Hiking Wedding

Once you’ve decided on your location and time of year, plan out the trail you want to hit during your hiking elopement. Sometimes backpacking weddings are a great excuse to finally do that bucket list trip you’ve always wanted! Don’t feel that you have to do your “most challenging hike” ever simply because you’re getting married.  Don’t overlook your own personal safety and don’t try to manage something that is beyond your ability and experience.

Backpacking wedding in British Columbia

Things To Consider When Choosing A Trail

Trail length – Everyone has different experience and comfort levels with hiking. So identify a length you’re both comfortable completing. If you don’t normally hike 10 km, your wedding day probably isn’t the day to start.
Elevation gain – More often than not, elevation gain is what defines the difficulty of a hike, not its length.
Type of view – What type of view do you want during your ceremony? Are you looking to be in front of a gorgeous lake, or that ‘top of the mountain’ feeling where you’re surrounded by 360 degree snow-capped mountain views?
Terrain & level of difficulty – Some trails require creek or glacier crossing, scrambling, or maybe even rock-climbing.
Season accessibility – Some routes may be accessible all year, but may require specialist equipment, such as crampons if the route is prone to snow and ice.
Access to the trailhead – Oftentimes you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle to get to the trail. Some hikes (like for example Widgeon Falls near Pitt Meadows or Cirque Lake in Callaghan Valley) require a boat or kayak to reach the trailhead.
Your guest list – If it’s not going to be just two of you, consider the hiking abilities of all your guests.

Newlyweds are celebrating their marriage on the top of the mountain by popping up a bottle of champagne

Tips For Choosing A Trail

– Your hike should be one that’s well within your abilities, so you’ll have a truly enjoyable day.
– If you don’t have a lot of experience hiking or time to dedicate to your wedding’s day hike, avoid long and tricky trails.
– Do your own research about the trail. There are a lot of resources on the Internet to check the status of the trail. Be sure to read recent reports and reviews.
– Check if a trail needs any kind of permits.
– Commit to finding a trail you’re both excited about!

Planning your adventurous hiking elopement

Step 4: Decide If You Want An Officiant Or Not

The next question to ask yourself is if you want to get married “officially” while on your elopement hike. For hiking weddings, there are a few options: you can find an officiant who’s up to the challenge of hiking with you and your partner. The other option is to take care of the official paperwork before (or after) your hiking elopement.

To officially get married in BC, you’ll need two witnesses. If you decide to officially get married while hiking, a photographer can be one of the witnesses. In addition to the photographer, you’ll need to find one more witness willing to share your epic elopement adventure with you.

Touching moment between bride and groom after they read their vows during their mountain top hiking elopement

Step 5: Find Your Vendors

For a “traditional” wedding, you usually need a large number of vendors to make the event a success. Some usual vendors include: catering, florist, baker, décor, wedding planner, décor rentals, officiant – the list goes on and on. But what vendors do you need for your hiking elopement? Do they need to hike with you?

Bride and groom in wedding attire with backpacks hiking to their mountain wedding ceremony location

Vendors That’ll Need To Hike With You

Let’s start with the wedding vendors you’ll need to make this hike with you. The main vendor is your hiking elopement photographer! This is the biggest and most obvious person that you’ll need by your side. They will not just document your wedding day. They’ll help you plan, prepare, and give you valuable advice for your big day. Officiant and videographer are your other main vendors! Although it’s fantastic to have them, but they’re optional.

Vendors You’ll Work With Prior To Your Elopement

There may also be vendors you’ll work with prior to the big day.

Florist – if you want to bring a bouquet.

Baker – if your hike isn’t going to be extremely long, you may be able to bring a tiny cake or cupcakes with you to eat after your ceremony!

Hair and makeup – there are two ways you can go about hair and make up for your big day. You can do it on your own if you are comfortable with it. Another option is to hire a makeup artist that’ll get you ready in the morning before you go on your hike. You could also ask your hair and makeup stylist to join you on the hike if you’re worried about your hair or makeup being messed up along the way. Your hair and makeup artists might be up for some adventure also!

Bride and groom sitting on the blanket surrounded by the mountains and reading letters from their families during their hiking elopement in British Columbia

Step 6: Plan your elopement day

A hiking elopement is more than simply walking to a spot and saying your vows. That’s why it’s important to allocate enough time for all of the activities you want to do. Have appropriate expectations on how long the day will be. Keep in mind you won’t just be hiking! You’ll be changing clothes, touching up your makeup, having a ceremony, and taking photos. If you want you can also have a first dance, picnic, or visit a second location.

You’ll also want to build in extra time for spontaneous views, spots, and hiking during your mountain elopement. You don’t want to feel rushed on elopement day. You want to give yourself time to take in each and every moment and enjoy the beauty of nature you’ll be surrounded by.

Planning Your Hiking Elopement

Step 7: Prepare A Backup Plan

Nothing is guaranteed with the outdoors and anything can happen. You should have at least one solid backup location (one that you’re equally excited about if you’re unable to elope at your primary location). Weather can be unpredictable and roads can unexpectedly be shut down. Due to this, it may be necessary to change your hiking elopement plans at the last minute. To have an amazing experience, be spontaneous, go with the flow, and be okay with a backup plan.

Hiking elopements are very unpredictable and your plans may change a lot (but that’s part of the fun and excitement!).

9 steps of how to plan your perfect hiking elopement in British Columbia

Step 8: Pack For Your Adventure

Just as you’d normally prepare for anything on a hike, you should be extra prepared on your hiking elopement day. This isn’t just any casual hike – this is the most important hike of your life!

While packing light is usually the goal when hiking or backpacking, this isn’t the time to skimp on essentials or backup items. Pack everything you normally would for a trip of this length. On top of that, include any extra items that will ensure you’re comfortable getting ready for your elopement. You’ll want to make sure you’re warm enough, have lots of water and snacks, and have everything you need for your wedding wardrobe.

Bride and groom reading their vows during their mountaintop backpacking wedding in BC Canada

Add A Personal Touch To Your Adventure Wedding

Just because you’re going hiking doesn’t mean that you can’t add personal touches to your wedding day! We always recommend leaving some space in your pack for luxury items that’ll make your elopement special. Do you want that one special blanket to keep you cozy as the sun goes down? Are you thinking to bring that bottle of champagne to celebrate with? Have you dreamed to bring a Bluetooth speaker for a first dance? Be sure to incorporate any items like this into your elopement day plan to make it special.

Mountaintop adventure backpacking in British Columbia

Step 9: Have Fun And Enjoy The Day!

If there’s one thing you don’t want to feel, it’s rushed on your wedding day. Make sure to give yourselves plenty of time throughout your trip to enjoy the different parts of your elopement experience. Slow down, soak in every single moment, be present for the hike itself, your getting ready moments, the first time you see your partner in their wedding clothes, and your vow exchange. Remember that this is your wedding day, therefor, give yourself time to relax and enjoy yourselves. Remind yourself to pause occasionally, take some deep breaths, and really soak it all in.

Because of the nature of an adventurous hiking elopement, there’s a good chance things won’t go as planned. Embrace it, and make it part of the adventure! After all, what would an adventure be without the excitement for the unexpected.

Are you thinking about hiking for your mountaintop wedding?
Get more info about hiking elopements!

Happy bride and groom with backpacks in the mountains

Learn more about British Columbia Mountain Wedding Photographers

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