New England Adventure Wedding Photographer

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

Serene Anniversary Adventure Session at Castle Hill Lighthouse- Newport, Rhode Island | Swell & Stone- Rhode Island Elopement Photographer

Lighthouse and Cliff Explorations- Makeda & Tej

Swell & Stone / Adventure Elopement Photographer / New England and Beyond

couple-adventure-anniversay-newport-rhode-island

Makeda and Tej where visiting Newport, RI from New Jersey for the their 10 Anniversary. Makeda reached out and said she wanted to take photos on the cliffs, and if possible, with a classic New England lighthouse in the background. Of course, my first thought was Castle Hill! This is such a cool, historic, lighthouse with beautiful cliffs, and we were super lucky with timing, because the day before was nothing but rain. The trail was still a bit muddy, but we made due, and we were able to capture her vision, and so much more.

After Castle Hill lighthouse we headed over to Fort Adams State Park for more photos, including sunset shots with the Newport Bridge in the background. It was cold outside, but these two where champs for lasting as long as they did. I was so honored to be the photographer they chose to celebrate 10 years together. Congrats Makeda & Tej!

How to Choose An Elopement Spot

How to Choose an Elopement Location- It’s Easier Than You Think

SWELL & STONE / ADVENTURE ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER / UNITED STATES AND BEYOND

When it comes time to think about choosing an elopement location there are a number of factors to consider. In this case it really pays to hire your photographer first if you’re unsure about a location and they can help you pick a spot that meets your desires and makes for great photos. Keep reading for some other things to think about when picking an elopement location of your dreams!

bride-mountains-wildflowers-sunset

CHOOSE A PLACE THAT IS MEANINGFUL TO YOUR RELATIONSHIP

My husband and I met in between years of college working on Lake Powell in Northern Arizona / Southern Utah. We had an amazing summer exploring the lake and the magnificent red rock canyons of the desert southwest. Eight summers later Craig proposed to me while we were back flipping off Lone Rock in Lake Powell. We've laughed and cried at Lake Powell, gotten stuck in the mud, had customers get angry with us when we worked in the restaurant as teenagers. We have so many memories there, and we still return often to explore a place we know so well. Do you have a place like this?

It can be in your backyard or across the country. You don't have to have spent a lot of time in the place. Perhaps you've made some of your best memories there, or maybe it's a place you have both always dreamed of visiting. There is still time, and there are great memories to be made!

Talk to your partner and about whether you want to soak in old memories in a place that means a lot to you, like your hometown State Park, or if you’d like to make new memories and discover a new place that neither of you have been to before.

LET YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITY GUIDE YOU

Whether you're an avid hiker or climbing rock walls is your style, let what you love doing be your guide. Maybe your adventure session or elopement should take place at the top of your favorite mountain, or perhaps in your favorite backcountry meadow. If you love canyons, we can find a gorgeous, secluded canyon to say your vows. Maybe you prefer an epic overlook while the sun is setting? The possibilities are endless for where your dream wedding could take place!

Sometimes couples come to me with a plan already hatched, but if you want to hike to a certain spot, rappel to a cliff and say your vows with only a waterfall as your backdrop, or get deep into a canyon, let me know and we can make that dream a reality. I will also suggest weather dependent alternatives, so no matter the weather on your wedding day you will have the experience of a lifetime. Being prepared for anything is most of that battle.

ASK YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER

After a decade as an outdoor adventure photographer, I've been a few places and know about some back roads with unbelievable and un-crowded views at the end of them. I love helping couples find the perfect spot to create their dream intimate wedding, elopement, or adventure engagement or anniversary session.

I was recently contacted by clients who thought they wanted to elope to the Grand Canyon... or maybe to the Great Smoky Mountains. They weren’t quite sure, but they were sure about how they wanted their day to feel. We worked together and after going over a few locations, they decided on Vermont- a place neither of them had been to before! Now they get to explore a new place together and make incredible memories on their elopement day.

CONSULT GOOGLE

And then there is the age-old Google consultation. But seriously, I've found some of my favorite locations of all time by Google Image searching, or typing in "waterfalls near me." Or if you know the general are you'd like to go, but want to get off the beaten path a little bit further, Google Earth is your best friend. You can see drop offs and drainages you never knew existed before, and you might even spot a 4x4 road that will help you get there.

Most of my adventures now are off the beaten path or at 6 AM, and that’s just because it’s a great way to be the crowds and have great photo light. Doing your research before is the best way to make the most out of your day- especially if you’re eloping in a place neither partner has been to before. Having a detailed timeline created with the help of your photographer is key.

KNOW YOURSELF

Not everyone needs to summit a mountain on their wedding day, and that is more than okay. Decide what is best for you and your partner and what will be the most fun. If that means paddling your favorite river and stopping along the way, great! If it means walking a half-mile loop to a scenic overlook so your whole family can come too, that’s awesome. Some people want to pack as much as possible into their day, and others want to relish each moment and sit in it for a while. Determine which style of adventure you and your partner like the most and work with your photographer to make it happen!

It’s important to know what’s most important to you. The word “adventure” means something different to everyone, and it’s just as okay if you want to walk down a beach as it is if your idea of fun is summiting a mountain.

Decide What Time of Year is Best in Your Chosen Location

Some locations really shine in certain times of year more than others. For instance, I love going to the desert in the winter and spring, but don’t enjoy it as much in the summer and part of the fall. The Pacific Northwest is amazing in the summer and fall, and you might think that it wouldn’t be as great in the winter. However, I recently photographed a couple there in the winter, and although it was cold, they chose a location they could drive to and shoot in multiple different spots. So they would get out and shoot for 10 minutes and then warm up in the car for 10 minutes. The result was stunning photos of ice falls and gently falling snowflakes. The couple was blown away at the range of images we were able to get in a short amount of time because there were absolutely no crowds anywhere!

While there are so many things you can’t control or plan for your elopement, your location is something you can. Make sure to do your research, hire an expert photographer with prior knowledge and experience shooting at your desired location, and be prepared for weather based on seasonal conditions- This way you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way on your big day.