October 20, 2020
The gem of the Pacific Northwest – Oregon is the best place to elope because the incredible cities, quirky towns, and abundant natural spaces come together to provide eloping couples endless opportunities to elope THEIR WAY. Rocky coastlines, mossy forests, and dynamic mountain ranges make this state one of the most beautiful places on earth! In this Oregon elopement guide you’ll learn all about marriage licensing laws & requirements, the best elopement locations, get the inside scoop on weather & seasons, plus details on photography packages & tips from a local Oregon elopement photographer. If you’re looking for the perfect place to elope, and you love the outdoors, Oregon sounds like the ideal place for you!
Oregon is one of the easier states to get married in legally – you can pay an additional $5 (on top of the $60 license) to waive the 3-day waiting period, and there are no additional tests or forms to fill out beyond the license application. You’ll need a certified officiant to sign the papers – either a judge, an ordained minister, or a celebrant. You’ll also need two adult witnesses. If you want to get married just the two of you, you could plan to get legally married at the courthouse, and then share your vows during a commitment ceremony somewhere private.
To get married in Oregon:
Pay a $60 marriage license fee
Wait 3 days (or pay an extra $5 to waive)
Have a certified officiant sign the license
Have 2 witnesses sign the license
If you’re traveling to Oregon for your elopement, I highly recommend applying for your license online and paying the additional $5 to waive the waiting period. Or, you could arrive early and handle the legal stuff before your elopement ceremony. The only downside to becoming legally married on a different date than you say your vows is that the legal date will be what you use on paperwork in the future. If anything about the legal side of marriage confuses you, or you simply want to double check everything before eloping, I’m here to help explain the process!
What you need to bring to apply for an Oregon marriage license:
The application form
The confirmation page, which lists your ID
Copy of your ID & your partner’s ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.)
A $60 (or $65 to waive the waiting period) cashier’s check or money order.
There are slight differences in the process depending on which county you get your license from, but you can read all about Multnomah County’s requirements HERE.
This blog would become way too long if I listed every exact location in Oregon that I think is ideal for elopements! Instead, I’m going to explain my 5 Favorite Regions – each with a multitude of incredible places to get married. Location scouting is part of what I offer the couples I work with, so if you’re interested in digging deep to find your perfect place to say, “I do,” let’s talk!
Oregon’s biggest city gets its own regional category because the number of elopement locations within the city, or just outside, are expansive! With one of the largest urban forests in the US, Portland is close to nature in a lot of ways that can create a great experience for eloping couples – adventure into the woods for photos, then it’s a short drive to a local brewery or restaurant to continue the celebration! Some of my favorite places within Portland are the Hoyt Arboretum, Cathedral Park, Peninsula Park, Pomarius Nursery, and Tryon Creek State Park.
Oregon’s rocky coastline is world-renowned. The rocky islands, called ‘sea stacks’ create an iconic backdrop to elopement photos. Some of the beaches are sandy, while others are more rocky, but you can also enjoy the Oregon coast without actually being on the beach. Something beautiful about Oregon’s coast is how close to the forests it is – you don’t have to explore far from the ocean to find waterfalls cascading off forested cliff sides and straight into the ocean! Even in places too steep to reach the beach, there are overlooks and trails to locations wildly beautiful. Can you tell I love the Oregon coast? My favorite locations specifically for elopements would be Hug Point Beach & Falls, Indian Beach, Arch Cape, and Drift Creek Falls.
A short 30-minute drive east of Portland is the Columbia River Gorge. This section of Oregon connects the wetter western region with the drier eastern towns by cutting straight through the Cascade mountain range. The Gorge has more than a dozen waterfalls that are easily accessible, and quite a few hikes that overlook the Columbia River. Some of my favorite locations are Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Multnomah Falls, Wahclella Falls, Government Cove, and Rowena Crest.
Where the mountains meet the desert – central Oregon is one of the most diverse landscapes in the state, with thick pine forests and mountain hikes, or dry rocky desert landscapes. It’s an expansive region, comprising unique towns and abundant recreation areas. Breaking up the land are lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, which bring abundant plant life to some of the drier areas in Oregon. Some of my favorite central Oregon elopement locations are Smith Rock State Park, Loloma Lodge, Sparks Lake, Crater Lake National Park, and Sahalie Falls.
The tallest mountain in Oregon, nearly 2 hours outside of Portland. The whole Mt. Hood area is ideal for elopements year-round! Plan a winter wonderland wedding on the shores of Trillium Lake, or a summer wildflower hike above Timberline Lodge. There are waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and hundreds of miles of trails to view it all. There are also some incredibly unique rental cabins, which would be the perfect place to stay and turn your Oregon elopement into a multi-day adventure! Some other favorite spots are Tamanawas Falls, Umbrella Falls, and The Woodlands House.
You’ve probably heard it rains a bit in Portland, Oregon. I mean, at least it’s not Seattle, am I right?! Jokes aside, Oregon is actually known for having a fairly temperate climate, though there are moments where seasons push toward the extremes – well, extreme for the Pacific Northwest at least! Eastern Oregon will see some significant snowfall in the winter, Portland will have days with high temperatures in the summer, blossoming trees will erupt everywhere for a few weeks in the spring, and the mountains will have spots of color in the autumn. It’s not always dark and moody!
No matter what season you want to get married, there will always be an outdoors location that is accessible in Oregon. There are waterfalls that are still accessible in the winter, and there are places where you can find snow in the summer. The biggest difference I’ve noticed year round is the sky – you’ll rarely find blue skies in the colder months in Oregon, but conversely you’ll rarely find cloudy skies in the summer. When you inquire, we’ll discuss the realities of your vision and how it correlates to the day you want to get married. However, no matter how much planning you put into your elopement, it’s possible for the weather to turn unexpectedly!
Proper preparation for an Oregon elopement includes a rain plan. Whether you want to have a Plan B location locked down, or you’re happy to bring an umbrella on a hike, at least acknowledging the chance of rain is a factor to getting married in Oregon. For more information, check out this blog for tips on how to prepare for a chance of rain on your wedding day! While the stereotype is a little unfair, Oregon’s rainfall is still one of the highest in the U.S. What activities you want to do will change with the seasons, so below I’ve listed what I think are the BEST things to do at each time of year, plus a brief description of Oregon’s seasons!
High heat is not uncommon, though the eastern side of the state is definitely the hottest. The beaches get busy, but only because they are a paradise on sunny days. Hiking trails at higher elevations can still get a bit cold, but the clearer skies provide incredible lookouts at locations that are socked in with fog during the colder months. Activities: Hiking, biking, chasing waterfalls, running barefoot at the beach, kayaking.
You’ll find some autumn color in the hills, though most of Oregon is fir and pine, which are green year-round. The lower temperatures and increased rainfall turn the forest floors into a beautiful place to search for plant life unique to the coastal climates. Activities: Hiking, mushroom hunting, camping, biking, star gazing.
The coast becomes extremely rainy while inland gets a significant amount of snow. Many higher-elevation hikes become more difficult or inaccessible, whereas a lot of the hikes to water-features now also feature ice. A thick moody fog will cling to lower hills earlier in the day and everything seems to have a layer of ‘wet’ at lower elevations. To some, this might sound like a good time to shelter by the fireplace, but for others it can be a winter wonderland! Activities: Skiing, snow-shoeing, hiking (with a parka), evenings by the fireplaces.
The cities are blooming with cherry blossoms and tulips. Fields of daffodils and wildflowers seem to pop up everywhere. The waterfalls and rivers are all flowing their strongest as the snow begins to melt in the mountains. Sunny days have returned! Activities: Chasing waterfalls, foggy morning hikes, sunset picnics, bike rides.
Oregon is truly the best of the Pacific Northwest – choose from a wild coastline, lush green forests, craggy mountain peaks, or even dried desert lake beds! Portland is the largest city, but you’re never far from nature, even in the heart of Oregon’s metropolis. In fact, just 30 minutes out of Portland is the Columbia River Gorge, which is home to the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America. Oregon has over 230 waterfalls that are gorgeous elopement destinations!
In Oregon, nature rules. There are 50 named mountain ranges to explore, the highest peak being Mount Hood. More than half of Oregon’s 61 millions acres is public land – 1 national park, 256 state parks, 13 national forests, 4 national monuments, and 47 wilderness areas!
I don’t believe being close to nature means you need to limit your luxuries! An Oregon elopement isn’t just camping and hiking – this state has incredible food and drinks in every city! Portland specifically is a foodie paradise, and you can find multiple restaurants to suit the preferences of all diets. For those who drink, scattered across the state are 725 wineries, more than a dozen distilleries, and 200+ breweries!
Oregon truly has it all, and it is the ideal elopement location for those who love abundant nature, quirky towns, and friendly people. Of course, I’m a little biased, but there’s no place I’ve found in all my travels that quite fulfills me like my home state. As a photographer, my goal is to provide a service that helps couples craft a beautiful true-to-them experience – each time I see the joy in their eyes, I fall in love with Oregon a little more. How could I not advocate for this space, which has given so many people incredible adventures!?
If you need a bit more convincing, check out this waterfall elopement and see for yourself just how beautiful your Oregon elopement experience can be!
Oregon elopement photography packages start at $3200 for 6 hours of coverage, high-resolution digital images delivered via an online gallery, personal printing & download rights, extensive planning & consultation, plus travel within Oregon & Washington included!
Add more hours, personalize your photography coverage, & plan an elopement anywhere in the world.
1. Leave No Trace – Since a lot of my photography sessions happen outdoors, it is extremely important that we follow environmentally-friendly guidelines to ensure the places we love are protected for future visitors. If you’re not familiar with Leave No Trace, maybe you’ve heard the phrase “leave it better than you found it.” In the environment, and in life, I try to leave places better for having been there. If you have questions about how this applies to your photography session – please ask!
2. Weekdays Are For Elopements – Trails are less crowded during the week, and wedding vendors are often more available since Saturday is still the most popular wedding day! Of course, you don’t have to get married on a weekday to elope, but you’ll likely find Monday-Friday to be more private outdoors.
3. Research Permits – It really depends on where you want to elope, but some outdoors locations require special event permits! Don’t worry too much about this, because I’ll make sure that we don’t get surprised by any requirements. I have all the contacts for local ranger stations, forestry offices, and state recreation offices. We’ll make sure everything is perfectly arranged before any photo session!
4. Support Local – Hiring local vendors gets you access to folx who know how to make your Oregon elopement truly an experience to remember. In Oregon you can find elopement vendors who have insider knowledge about the areas you’re visiting – like florists who source native plants, bakers who use fresh ingredients and local produce, and Oregon elopement photographers (like me) who have spent years adventuring to find the best hidden gems and stunning locations to elope in Oregon!
It is extremely important to me the vendors I recommend to couples are people I’ve worked with before, and are inclusive to all bodies, genders, sexualities, and abilities. That’s the base requirement – beyond inclusivity, I also try to recommend vendors who are doing their part to source locally, protect the environment, and support their communities. I can recommend florists (like Small Yard Flowers) who sustainably grow their own flowers on a micro-farm in Portland, officiants of all backgrounds & affiliations who can craft personalized ceremonies and honor your elopement location with a Native Land Acknowledgement (like Old Ways Ceremonies). I know local jewelers who offer workshops where couples can make their own wedding rings (like Ringed). I know hair and makeup artists (like Shantilly Artistry) who are comfortable and familiar working with all skin tones and hair types.
“When we had to cancel our wedding due to COVID, my partner and I didn’t know what to do next— we knew we still wanted to get married, but where? When? What would it look like?
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Marissa saved our day. Not only did she roll with the punches of having to rethink what photography would look like on the day— she also helped us plan and coordinate the entire day’s events. From scouting elopement locations to hiking with us to find the perfect photo spots, she really went above and beyond to help us feel special. She made what could have been a stressful, and possibly sad, day into one of the best days of the entire year. On top of all that, the photos she took are gorgeous! They’re tasteful, intimate, and so so fun. If you’re nervous in front of a camera, don’t worry— Marissa will get to know you and make you feel not just comfortable during the photo session, but like a cool/fashionable/more confident person too. Really, there’s no downside. She’s such a blast to work with, and we really couldn’t imagine having a better day with any other photographer.” – Katie & Alex