Idaho Elopement Guide

THE ULTIMATE resource for ELOPing IN IDAHO

This guide will help you plan your Idaho elopement from start to finish!

I am guessing you’re here because you want a wedding day that allows you to celebrate your love and commitment to each other… but maybe you’re just not sure where to start. That’s were this guide and myself come into play (Hi 👋! My name is Autumn and I am your Idaho elopement photographer + planner). I want to help you plan your unique and epic wedding from start to finish!

Why? Because you deserve the wedding day of your dreams and my Idaho elopement guide is here to help achieve this.

In this guide, I talk about places to elope, how to get your Idaho marriage license, why you should elope on a weekday and so much more!

What is an elopement?

Bride and groom stand on the back of a moving jet boat during their river elopement on the Salmon River in Idaho.

Eloping is a way of getting married that places you and your commitment to each other above wedding traditions and other people. It is a way of getting married that doesn’t have rules. Simply put, eloping is a wedding experience that is created by you and for you.

Some couples choose to elope alone and others choose to elope with their loved ones. How you define an elopement is entirely up to you! I have been part of small weddings that had the same feel as “two people elopements”. The key to eloping with family and friends is staying strong to your vision and keeping your day about you.

The best part of eloping is that you can literally do anything. If you can dream it, we can make it a reality. Read on to learn how you can make your Idaho elopement happen!

Why should we plan an Idaho elopement?

Idaho is a hidden gem! It hosts countless alpine lakes, jagged mountain ranges and beautiful free flowing rivers. It has less crowds than many of the popular national parks in the US and has thousands of miles of dedicated wilderness that offers seclusion for intimate weddings and elopements alike.

Here are a few things that make Idaho easy to elope in:

You don’t need witnesses

Idaho is one of the few states that doesn’t require witnesses to sign your marriage license. If you are wanting a truly private wedding experience you can hire a wedding photographer that is also an ordained officiate and legally elope just the two of you. I am an Idaho elopement photographer + an ordained officiate 😉.

You can get married the same day

There is no waiting period in Idaho, so this means you can get married the same day you obtain our marriage license. Here is a guide to getting your marriage license in Idaho: Click Here

Couple embraces, with mountains behind them, during their Stanley, Idaho elopement.

Seclusion

I have had numerous out-of-state couples comment on how quiet and secluded hiking locations in Idaho are. If you do your homework, it’s so easy to find trails and locations where you are the only people on them.  A large chunk of Idaho’s public land is wilderness, this means you have the option to head into thousands of acres of untouched land. Here you will not experience motorized vehicles or crowds of people. This is a huge plus if you are looking for a truly private and intimate elopement day.

Locations for any vibe

Idaho offers a variety of locations to choose to elope in. If you love high desert you can head to Southern Idaho for sand dunes and sagebrush. If you want rugged mountain vibes you can head to the Sawtooth Mountains for amazing mountain views. If a river elopement is calling your name, you can head to the Salmon River and catch a jet boat and say your vows on a white sand beach. 

How does eloping in Idaho work?

When should we plan our Idaho elopement?

Time of year will have an impact on how you plan your Idaho elopement. If you are into hiking and camping, think May-October. If you love winter, think December-February. If you love spring, think April – May.

Wildfires are becoming a way of life during the summer and fall in the Northwest. If you want to avoid smoke all together the best months to elope are November-June. If you elope during peak fire season (July-October), eloping at sunrise will help you have clearer skies.

Weather can be very unpredictable in the high country. Taking steps to ensure you are prepared for thunderstorms, blizzards and flash floods is important. I have experienced snowstorms in June and 3 feet of snow in the middle of September. Be prepared for weather and create a Plan B for your elopement in case weather or a natural disaster infers with your original plan.

The two photos below are of the same locations, just 5 weeks apart.

Couple exchanges vows on the banks of a river during their Idaho elopement ceremony in McCall.
Payette River in McCall on 10/09/20.
Couple kisses during their snowy engagement session in McCall, Idaho.
Payette River in McCall on 11/14/20.

Best Places for your Idaho Elopement

Idaho has countless mountain peaks, alpine lakes and beautiful rivers to explore during your elopement. I grow up adventuring in Idaho and there are so many amazing, hidden gem places! I help the majority of my couples decide on a place for their elopement. The locations I am listed below are popular areas. I don’t not tag exact locations (trails, lakes etc.) because I want to do my part to follow Leave No Trace. Helping keep these amazing places pristine is so important!

Leave No Trace Idaho Elopement Photographer

Here are some general locations to Google:

  • The Salmon River
  • The Snake River
  • Lake Ponderay
  • Lake Coeur d’Alene
  • Payette Lake
  • Seven Devils Mountains
  • White Cloud Mountains

Below are elopement guides to eloping in my favorite places in Idaho. I love sharing my hidden gem locations with my couples, so if you don’t see what you are looking for, get in touch and I will help you find the best place to elope in Idaho.

Couple stands on a large rock with Payette Lake behind them during their elopement in McCall, Idaho.

Idaho Elopement Guide: How to Elope in McCall

McCall is a sleepy mountain town situated along the banks of Payette Lake. You could choose to find a secluded spot along the lake to hold a ceremony with your loved ones or you could hike to an overlook and exchange your vows at sunrise. McCall is a larger town making it easier to plan an elopement in.

Couple kisses with the Sawtooth Mountains behind them during their Stanley, Idaho elopement.

Idaho Elopement Guide: How to Elope in Stanley

Stanley is one of the most popular places to elope in Idaho because it sits right on the edge of the Sawtooth Mountain Range. You can choose to hop in a car and head to the city park for your ceremony or you can strap on your boots and hike into an alpine lake and exchange your vows. The options are endless and everywhere you turn you will find rugged mountain peaks.

Idaho Elopement Location Guide: 6 of the Best Places to Elope in Idaho

 If you are looking for the best places to elope in Idaho, this guide is for you. In this article, you will find everything you need to know about choosing the right spot for your adventurous wedding experience. Let’s get scrolling and find the best place to elope in Idaho… for you!

Do we need elopement vendors?

Absolutely! Vendors are just as important to an elopement as they are to a traditional wedding but you want to hire wedding vendors that specialize in elopement. Vendors that work specifically with eloping couples understand what it takes to create an elopement. An elopement florist will know what flowers to include in your bouquet, so that it will stand up to hiking and won’t drop seeds in the wilderness (LTN bouquets!). A makeup artist that specializes in elopements will understand that ‘full wedding makeup’ won’t stand up to adventuring and they will have products and a look that will.

If you are going to splurge on one detail for your elopement day, it should be flowers! Bouquets bring a whimsical and romantic feeling to an elopement day because bouquets aren’t typically associated with adventurous activities like climbing mountains and snowshoeing. They also bring that ‘wedding vibe’ and give you something to do with your hands!

Couple embraces on a ridge in the Sawtooth Mountains during their Stanley, Idaho elopement.
Bride holds a bouquet of red and orange flowers from a Stanley, Idaho florist.

Should we elope on a weekday or weekend?

If your date is flexible, you should definitely consider eloping on a weekday. You’re choosing to elope because you value intimacy and seclusion and both of these are going to be challenged on a weekend. The weekend warriors will be crowding those easy to get to locations and putting a dent in your ability to be fully connected to each other. Whenever possible, I encourage my coupes to elope Tuesday – Thursday.

Groom brushes brides hair from her face during their Mackay Bar elopement. Couple is standing with the confluence of the South Fork and Main Salmon River behind them.

Here are 3 reasons why you should elope on a weekday:

1) Seclusion

2020 pushed people outside and I don’t see that trend ending soon. The #1 factor in creating an amazing elopement day is finding a location that you don’t have to share with others. People are at work during the week and not out exploring, so this gives you a head start in having an intimate day.

2) Vendor Availability

Vendors will book up on weekends first, so having a weekday elopement will mean more vendors are going to be available. Also, it’s not uncommon for wedding vendors to be booked a year out. If you are planning to get married in a quicker time frame you definitely want to consider a weekday date.

3) Reservation Availability

If you are booking airfare, an Airbnb or a venue space you will have a much easier time coordinating a rental date if you are booking a weekday.

Resources for hiking elopements

Wedding Attire for your Idaho elopement

There are no rules when you are choosing your elopement attire but you do want to choose something that makes you feel like a million bucks! Maybe that’s the only rule! Your wedding attire needs to make you feel like you’re standing on the top of the world.

You want to make sure it is comfortable and flexible because you are going to be wearing it for most of your elopement adventure. Consider what kind of activities you will be doing and what impact wearing your wedding attire will have on those activities.

Bride tosses a lightweight wedding dress make of Chiffon in the air. Dresses that move easily are ideal for adventure elopement dresses.

Lightweight Fabrics

Fabric matters when choosing an ‘adventure rated’ wedding dress. You want a dress that is made from material that is easy to move in and breathable. Materials like Chiffon, Tulle and Georgetta are ideal for adventuring and hiking because they are lightweight and breathable. The sheer nature and layering of these fabrics catch the wind and sunlight beautifully!

Heavier Fabrics

Materials like Polyester, Satin, Charmeuse and Silk are heavier, less breathable and don’t have as much natural movement. This doesn’t mean they aren’t elopement worthy! They are great for colder weather adventuring because they are warmer. Gowns made of these materials have an elegant and classic feel that contrasts beautifully against a wild landscape.

Bride standing on a log leans down to kiss groom. Bride is wearing a pink tule dress and groom is wearing a light blue suit. Couple is standing in a forest.

It’s probably better to start your wedding dress search in a bridal shop where you can try on a variety of styles and see which ones are adventure rated. When you are trying on dresses, do jumping-jacks, squats and step-ups. If you can comfortably do all these motions then you will be able to adventure in your wedding dress. Shopping online will give you a wider variety of adventure rated wedding dresses but starting in a bridal shop is a great way to figure out what styles work for you and then you can shop online if need be.

Here are some awesome adventure rated wedding dress designers to checkout:

Idaho elopement guide checklist

Begin your elopement journey by spending sometime envisioning ‘your perfect day’ together. Are you biking together, climbing a mountain or rafting down a river? There is nothing saying eloping means climbing a mountain either! Instead it could be enjoying your favorite craft beer together, building a campfire or renting a lake boat. Your elopement is your best day ever and should be filled with things you love to do as a couple. The sky’s the limit.

Spent some time looking through Google and Instagram for locations you like. Hope on Pinterest and browse elopement photos to get ideas of activities and details that you would like to include in your day.

This is a good time to start thinking about whether or not you are including others in your elopement. Try to keep your elopement guest list between 2-25 people. This will open up more options for locations and keep your day stress free. When you get over 25 people you will want to start looking at a venue space to host your guests in.

Elopement planning checklist:

1) Find your photographer

Start your Idaho elopement by finding an elopement photographer. Photographers that specialize in elopements take the stress out of eloping! Pss… I am an Idaho elopement photographer!

Your photographer will be the most involved vendor in your elopement, so you want to make sure you find someone you really connect with! Start by searching on Google, Pinterest and Instagram for Idaho elopement photographers that serve the area you are considering eloping in. Spend time looking through multiple photographers websites, so you can get an idea of who they are and what they offer.

Your Photographer is the vendor you will spend the most time with on your elopement day. It is so important that you find someone you click with and are over the moon excited to have them along on your wedding day.

2) Choose a location

Once you book your Idaho elopement photographer the fun begins. A qualified elopement photographer should help you choose a location. When a couple books with me I send off a questionnaire that allows me to understand what they are looking for in a location. I then send off a customized list of location ideas that are tailored to their answers.

Couple stands among rock cliffs along the Salmon River during their Idaho elopement.

3) Plan your elopement details

This is the fun part of your elopement but it can also feel overwhelming! This is where your elopement photographer will help guide you and keep you focused. I am available via text, email and phone to my couples as they plan their elopement.

Ceremony

Your ceremony will be the highlight of your elopement day. Spend some time thinking about ideas to include in your ceremony. This could be handwritten vows, handfasting, music, wedding lasso tradition or letters from your loved ones.

If you are exchanging handwritten vows, write them in a vow book or on a sturdy card. Vows written on a piece of paper will crumple, waive in the wind and get lost. Nicely written vows will photograph beautifully during your ceremony and will become a keepsake you will treasure.

Layflat photograph showing wedding details with pink bridal shoes, vow book and jewelry.

Celebration

Even if it’s just the two of you, you should plan a celebration for after your ceremony. This could be eating donuts and drinking whisky, popping a bottle of champagne or zooming with your loved ones.

Food

Food is an important part of your elopement. No one wants to be hangry on their wedding day! You could pack a charcuterie board, plan a picnic or hire a private chef.

Adventure Activities

This is where you decide on what you want to do during your elopement day. Do you want to hike, canoe around a lake or take a jet boat tour?

Couple canoes at sunrise on Red Fish Lake in Stanley, Idaho.

4) Book your vendor team

Vendors aren’t just for big weddings! Your elopement photographer will be a resource for finding awesome elopement specific vendors. As part of my service I give my couples a detailed list of vendors that serve their elopement location. At a minimum you will want a florist, officiant, hair/makeup, wedding attire and a caterer/restaurant/private chef or a charcuterie board.

Couple performs a wedding lasso tradition during their elopement ceremony at Rocky Mountain Ranch in Stanley, Idaho.

5) Book your travel

If you are renting an Airbnb or booking travel as part of your elopement you will want to make arrangements as soon as possible. Airbnb’s fill up quickly during the summer in places like Stanley and McCall, so booking early will ensure you are able to reserve lodging around your elopement date.

If you are flying into Idaho, you will mostly likely fly into Boise. You will need to rent a car there for your elopement adventure. If you are eloping during the winter months or planning to drive into a remote area you will want to rent a 4WD vehicle.

Bride does her makeup in the side  mirror of her pickup on the Main Salmon River in Idaho.

7) Book your lodging

Looking online at AirBnB and VRBO is a great place to start. You can also checkout this article on AirBnB wedding venues and this article on wedding venues in McCall, Idaho.

8) Obtain your marriage license

The best practice for getting your marriage license is to call ahead to the Recorder’s Office you plan to use. You will likely need to make an appointment and both of you will need to be present to apply for your license.

  • You will need to bring:
    • A driver’s license or passport
    • Social Security numbers
    • $30 cash fee (most offices only accept cash)

You can opt to have your officiant return your completed marriage license or you can mail it back. A marriage license must be returned to the Recorder’s Office it was issued at.

9) Go elope

Yay! 👏🏻 It’s elopement day and you are marrying your best friend in a way that is stress free, relaxed and totally focused on your love.

Thats a wrap! I hope my Idaho elopement guide helps you start dreaming up your epic elopement adventure.

Interested in having me plan & capture your elopement day?​

Reach out today to schedule a free, no-obligation consult to see if I am the right Idaho elopement photographer for you.