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PNW Elopement and Intimate Wedding Guide – Oregon, Washington, & N. California Videographer

May 22, 2024

PNW Elopement and Intimate Wedding Guide

Are you prepared to weave your love story amidst the enchanting landscapes of the PNW? Let’s embark on the journey toward your ideal intimate wedding or elopement. Here’s your guide to crafting a celebration filled with romance, adventure, and unforgettable moments. Your wedding day should be nothing short of genuine and extraordinary, a true reflection of you and your spouse to be. A wedding day that is an experience! In this blog, I’ll walk you through the steps to plan a successful elopement or intimate wedding, highlight some picturesque locations to look into, and offer a list of unique activity ideas to include on your day. Don’t forget to watch the film at the end for added inspiration!

Steps to Plan a Successful Elopement or Intimate Wedding In The PNW

Congratulations on deciding to elope or have an intimate wedding in the breathtaking Pacific Northwest (PNW)! Whether you’re drawn to the misty forests of Washington, the rugged coastline of Oregon, or the stunning cliff sides / redwoods of northern California, this region offers a plethora of stunning locations for your special day. To ensure your elopement or intimate wedding is everything you’ve dreamed of, follow these essential steps:

Step 1. Pick Your Dream Location

The PNW is teeming with picturesque spots, from majestic mountains to secluded beaches. Take time to research and explore different locations that resonate with you as a couple. Consider factors like accessibility, scenery, and the overall vibe you want for your ceremony. Whether you envision exchanging vows atop a mountain peak, amidst towering redwoods, or by a tranquil waterfall, the PNW has it all.

Step 1 and Step 2 can be interchangeable. Simply because often times your photographer and your videographer can assist you with picking a location. If you have already decided on the PNW, but not sure where among these states, hiring these vendors may be your next thing to decide. If you are hiring a seasoned intimate wedding and elopement photographer / videographer, they will then assist you with picking a location based on their knowledge. However, if you are already set on a location then more power to ya!

Step 2. Hire a Photographer and Videographer

Beyond just snapping shots, your chosen photographer and videographer can become your partners in planning. Capturing your special moments on photo & video is crucial for preserving memories that will last a lifetime. A skilled videographer will artfully document the emotions, scenery, and intimate details of your day, allowing you to relive the magic again and again. (shameless plug – don’t skip on a videographer! Your memories of you day are SO worth it!)

Look for professionals experienced in elopements and intimate weddings who understand the unique dynamics of smaller ceremonies and can beautifully capture the essence of your love story. A wedding film breathes life into your memories, preserving not just what was said and done, but how it felt.

Step 3. Consider Your Guest List and Accommodations

While eloping can be just the two of you, some couples opt to include close friends and family. Decide whether you’ll be eloping just the two of you or if you’ll be inviting a select few guests to share in your celebration. Keep in mind that some locations in the PNW may have restrictions on group sizes, so it is something to keep in mind when planning on if / how many guest you want to invite. If guests are joining you, consider their accommodations and any logistical arrangements they may need, such as transportation and lodging. This is when accommodations and travel plans will be put into place, if any!

Step 4. Hire Additional Vendors and Plan Details

While eloping or having an intimate wedding allows for simplicity, you may still want to enlist the help of other vendors to enhance your day. Consider hiring a hair and makeup artist to help you look and feel your best, an officiant to solemnize your union, and perhaps a florist to create beautiful bouquets and arrangements. Plan out the timeline and details of your day, ensuring everything flows smoothly. Your photographer and videographer should be able assist with planning your timeline!

I have had couples get elaborate cakes or cupcakes from local bakers, inspired by the scenery. I have seen couples set up a beautifully decorated arch next to a lake – and I have also seen bride’s florals extend to only a bouquet. Hiring a HMUA is always worth the investment. My brides always love feeling truly beautiful on their special day.

As far as an officiant goes – my recommendation is to convince a family member or friend to get ordained online and conduct your ceremony. It makes it more personalized to you two as a couple. If this is not your jam, you can also hire great officiants who will absolutely make your ceremony so special. Although, if you are eloping just you two – you can simply exchange vows + rings and skip the ‘ceremony’ or an officiant all together. In that case though, one of your vendors (usually the photographer) will have to be ordained and can sign your license / assist you with the legal side of making it official!

Step 5. Navigate the legal things

Before your big day, take care of the legal aspects of getting married in the PNW. Research the requirements for obtaining a marriage license in the specific area where you’ll be tying the knot. Additionally, some locations may require permits for ceremonies, especially if you’re planning to exchange vows in a national park or other protected area. Make sure to obtain any necessary permits well in advance to avoid any last-minute stress.

In fact, many areas need these permits completed months in advance or only allow a certain number of people to use the area as a ceremony space. Some locations (especially if they are in a national or state park), require a permit to get married on the land. Don’t let this stop you! It is meant to protect the space. Usually local government websites will let you easily learn about what permits need to be obtained. Make sure you also look into the legal side of making your marriage official / obtaining a marriage license. This can vary depending on state or county.

Stunning Location In The PNW To Consider

In the Pacific Northwest, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to breathtaking locations for your elopement or intimate wedding. You may want to decide if you are more drawn to a beach, cliffside, or forest. Do you want a to be in the mountains by a lake? Or in the giant redwood treees of Northern California? Consider these stunning options:

  • Crescent City, CA or Brookings, OR (this is great if you want both the redwoods and the coastal cliff side locations.)
  • Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, CA
  • Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, CA
  • Cannon Beach, OR
  • Cape Blanco State Park, OR
  • Crater Lake National Park, OR
  • Umpqua National Forest, OR
  • Mount Rainer National Park, WA
  • Olympic National Park, WA
  • North Cascades National Park, WA
  • Mount Hood National Forest, OR
  • Smith Rock State Park, Or
  • Elk Lake, OR
  • La Push, WA
  • Port Angeles, WA
  • Silver Falls State Park, OR

Activity Ideas To Make Your Day An Experience

In addition to capturing stunning photos and videos, exchanging vows and rings, and officially tying the knot, I always encourage couples to add an extra touch of magic to their special day! Since you’ve opted for something less conventional, why not make it even more memorable? Personalize the experience to reflect your unique bond as a couple or go all out and create something truly extraordinary. Here’s a curated list of ideas inspired by other couples and a few creative suggestions of my own to make your day unforgettable!

  • Get tattoos (I once saw a couple who hired tattoo artists to come to them!)
  • Go on a helicopter ride (I had a couple do this in Zion, and it was epic!)
  • Take a boat ride
  • Have a picnic
  • Go on a sunrise or sunset hike
  • Hire a private chef to make you a dinner at your rental property
  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Go canoeing or kayaking
  • Rent 4×4’s or jeeps and go off roading
  • Have a private first dance by a lake or cliffside
  • Do a stargazing tour or photoshoot
  • Pop champagne
  • Depending on the legality of the state you’re in, smoke a little. (I once had a couple in Joshua Tree do a joint ceremony… if ya know what I mean.)
  • Read letters from people who aren’t in attendance
  • Wine tasting
  • Cliff jump
  • Ski / snowboard
  • Hot tub or got to a hot spring
  • Have a campfire and roast s’mores
  • Do a cake cutting
  • Make a charcuterie board

I trust that this guide has provided valuable insights for planning your PNW elopement or intimate wedding. Don’t hesitate to reach out for information about videography packages through my contact form. Additionally, I’m delighted to offer a curated list of recommended vendors, including exceptional photographers specializing in elopements and intimate weddings, to enhance your special day.

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