Elopements

The Best Locations to Elope in Each Season

Best Adventure Wedding Locations By Season

All photos by Kat Carney of Swell & Stone

California

California

You know what they say- LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! And it rings especially true for adventure weddings and elopements. Picking the right location at the right time is one of the most important parts of creating a wildly unforgettable and different adventure wedding experience. So if you’ve never been to the location you’ve been dreaming of for your wedding it’s best to find a photographer who has, and who can help steer you in the right direction when it comes to what time of year to plan your event. With that said, depending on the type of experience you’re looking for the off-season might be the on-season for your if you’re in search of fewer crowds and a sometimes more adventurous experience.

During “high season” you are likely to find the nicest weather, but don’t rule out low season. I like booking elopements in a locations “low season” because it means fewer crowds, easier transportation, and seeing a different side of a place. However, it also means potential road closures, restricted access, and bad weather. Contact a local, ranger, or guide service to find out what is possible in your location during the time frame you are considering for your elopement.

You can only do so much to avoid bad weather. Start by researching beforehand to determine seasonal average temps, rain/snow fall and wind.

If you want to go in the low season to avoid crowds make sure to research seasonal road and transportation closures that may impact your day. Also, think about extreme weather like wildfires, floods tornadoes, and hurricanes.

There is always the chance of bad weather during an outdoor elopement. It’s best to be prepared with the right gear and mindset. Remember, sometimes bad weather makes for the best story and photos.

Each season has its pluses and minuses. The best thing to do is keep in mind what is most important to you and also what works best with your schedule. Summer tends to be the time most people want to get married, but depending on your comfort level in the outdoors, the dead of winter could be the perfect time for you.

North Cascades, Washington

North Cascades, Washington

Winter

Winter has so many amazing things to offer. If you’re a skier or mountaineer, or if you like snowshoeing or hiking in the snow this season might be for you. There is nothing quite like getting your wedding portraits taken in front of an ice waterfall. Just ask Hannah and Collins in the photo above!

Here’s the thing about winter- there are so many fewer people out and about. A winter hike can be calm, serene, and silent, and if you plan it right you might not be all that cold either. Alternatively, there are a ton of locations you can drive to, stay warm in the car, and pop out for a few minutes at a time to take photos. But there are some locations that even in winter are perfect for spending the whole day outside.

Southern Utah Desert

Southern Utah Desert

The Desert Southwest

Winter is the perfect time to explore the desert southwest, which includes southern Utah, Arizona, and parts of Nevada and California. These places remain mostly temperate in the winter, so planning your adventure wedding can be a breeze. Also, these places are mostly dry during this time, although there are always exceptions. The desert is ideal for eloping in winter because even though the weather can be nice there are still fewer people out and about. This is partly because winter nights can easily drop well below freezing, making camping still a bit dicey for some.

The day before I photographed Cam & Rick’s adventure wedding pictured above, it rained the entire day. We were nervous that the 4x4 roads out to this spot would be impassable, but they weren’t and this spot was enhanced by the myriad of pools dotting the desert floor- a rare sight indeed! It made for the most memorable adventure wedding experience. And that is an important tidbit about planning an adventure wedding- YOU NEED TO BE READY FOR ADVENTURE. Just as when you’re adventuring any other time, inclement weather and adapting to things as they come is part of the fun.

Spring

Rhode Island Coast

Rhode Island Coast

Spring can be wet season just about anywhere, but if you plan it right it’s also beautiful in a number of locations. It’s best to stay lower elevations in the spring because high in the mountains will still be snowy and sometime wet and muddy.

Coastal Regions- Southern Rhode Island & Southern California & Florida

Southern California

Southern California

These spots are often nice on the coast, but can still be really nice inland during this time of year as well. When considering weather as a factor places like Florida become too hot in the summer months, so it’s best to take advantage of the nice spring weather and plan your elopement then. Also, as long as you avoid spring break you can still take advantage of some of the relative peace of fewer crowds before summer comes.

Check out Kuv & Brice’s spring adventure wedding that took place in a tree grove in Florida! Or Makeda & Tej’s adventure anniversary session that we shot on the coast of southern Rhode Island at Castle Hill Lighthouse and Fort Adams State Park. Logistics become very difficult at these locations in the summer because of huge tourism crowds. It’s best to plan sessions in these places for either spring or fall.

Florida

Florida

Summer

Ahhh summer, when it’s finally in the air and everyone you know plans to get married. It can often seem like your summer is lost to attending weddings. Well if you’re going to plan your wedding in the summer it may as well be somewhere awesome!

High Altitude Alpine Locations

Unless you’re an extreme adventurer, this is really the only time of year you can plan an adventure elopement or wedding high in the mountains, so you may as well take advantage. Include a small hike to the ceremony location to break away from the crowds. There are so many beautiful options, but here are some of my favorites.

From mountain meadows to alpine lakes, this is the best time of year to get away from it all and

California

California

Alaska

Alaska

North Cascades, Washington

North Cascades, Washington

Colorado

Colorado

Wildflowers and mountains in Utah

Wildflowers and mountains in Utah

But the waterfalls and picturesque pools of New England and the Pacific Northwest are calling as well. It’s up to you, but no matter what you choose in the summer months make sure you’re either prepared to work around the crowds, or work with your photographer to find a location that is a little more secluded. Sometimes this can be as easy as going early in the morning at what will be a very crowded location later in the day.

Upstate New York

Upstate New York

Upstate New York

Upstate New York

Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest

Fall

And finally, fall. It’s my favorite season to photograph and my absolute favorite place spend the fall is in the Northeast. From the mountains of the Adirondacks to the waterfalls of Vermont. New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts have unbelievable views during this time too. Enjoy the crisp air, fog covering the valleys in the morning, and an absolute feast of color for the eyes.

Vermont

Vermont

New York

New York

Vermont

Vermont

autumn-vermont-elopement

Epic 4x4 Outdoor Adventure Wedding in Southern Utah Backcountry | Swell & Stone- Utah Elopement Photographer

adventure-wedding-star-trails-backcountry-utah-elopement

I can honestly say that in terms of weather for Cam & Rick's adventure elopement in the backcountry of Southern Utah, or Northern Arizona (who even knows ;P) we got about as lucky as we possibly could have.
I drove in the day before and it literally rained the entire length of Arizona- I drove from Phoenix. It NEVER rains the ENTIRE length of Arizona! But the morning of their wedding day it was clear and beautiful. Cam was a flurry of calls and texts in the days leading up to the day, but ultimately she and Rick made the best call- to GO FOR IT!
Four 4x4 vehicles met me at the access road. We figured with enough wo(man) power and tow straps we would be fine even if the roads weren't passable. And hell, it'd make for a great wedding day story either way. And make for a great wedding day story it did! We all made the 1.5 hr drive safely, but we all had to navigate frozen puddles that covered entire sections of road! As soon as we arrived we went to hike around the area. We were able to see it in a completely unique way, reflecting pools of water dotted the whole desert, a rare sight!
Cam & Rick had known each other for a while before they started dating. They are both part of the canyoneering community, which happens to be fairly tight knit. Rick had a crush on Cam, and one of her friends asked if she liked him back. She responded, "I wish I liked Rick!" But as she spent more time with him and their mutual friend group she realized that she did, in fact, like Rick. Fast forward to their beautiful, love filled wedding day.
The day was spent hiking, marveling at nature, spending time with family and friends in on of their favorite places. Cam was walked down the aisle by her soon-to-be step son Gavin, and her good friend, Everett. Rick's daughter Hannah looked adorable in her lavender dress and Vans.
After the ceremony, and some group photos the group enjoyed some food and watched the sun get low on the horizon before heading out. Cam & Rick stayed back with me and venturing back out to a spot when the stars came out. There had been scattered clouds all day, but they cleared to the north just after sunset. Even in very cold temps Cam & Rick were stoked to help create the star photo you see above. A perfect ending to an absolutely perfect day with one some of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with.

Stunning Winter Adventure Wedding in the North Cascades | Swell & Stone- Elopement Photographer

When Hannah first contacted me about photographing her and Collins in Washington I was so excited...except it was going to be in the dead of winter, in the North Cascades. But I truly had nothing to worry about, they are the super adventurous, and tough as nails. Their ceremony was actually on Saturday in Seattle. After listening to their family and friends tell stories about taking on challenging outdoor endeavors with them I knew they would be troopers for our adventure shoot the next day.
We headed out in clear weather Sunday morning. I had found a webcam online that show beautiful sunny skies in the mountains, so even though they had a whirlwind wedding the day before Hannah and Collins were down to push up the timeline a little and get to the mountains. They chatted on the way there about how nice it was to be escaping to the mountains, if only for the day. When we drove in the weather was still nice, but cold. And the clouds where moving in, an indication of a storm building for the afternoon.
Hannah and I had exchanged quite a few emails regarding road closures in the North Cascades in the winter. We were able to park at Diablo Lake. We saw so many beautiful landscapes that day, from the mountains with a storm moving in, to ice waterfalls, to whirlwinds of snow on the dam. We explored the varied landscapes, and then warmed up in the car when it got too cold.
The laughed and explored together easily, even in freezing temps. To be honest everything with Hannah and Collins seemed easy- their love for each other and their family and friends' love for them.
The last place we stopped was the first place they ever camped together. They reminisced about that trip, and where they are now, and they walked down the road with Hannah's gown gathering an array of pine cones and needles in the train. It was an absolutely perfect way to end their weekend of celebration, and to continue their life together.