Let’s be honest, a big wedding is not for everyone. Whether you are a little more introverted or would rather have a more intimate ceremony with just your partner or your closest friends and family, an elopement may be the perfect option for you. If you are a fan of the outdoors, a forest elopement may be the perfect choice! 

One of the things that I love about eloping is that there is so much more flexibility than you normally have with a full wedding. Since most elopements are small, the world is really your oyster when it comes to your venue. If you and your partner are outdoor lovers, then why not mix two of your loves and head into nature to have a forest elopement? 

This is exactly what Brooke and Ellen did and their elopement was absolutely magical. They tied the knot in a small ceremony with just a few close friends and it was an honor to be a part of their special day. 

Before you run off into the woods with your partner, let’s take a look at some of my top tips for a forest elopement and how we brought this magical dream to life for Brooke and Ellen. 

Tips for a Forest Elopement 

Understand how many people are going to be there 

Wedding couple standing in a forest looking at each other.

The first thing you want to hash out is how many people are actually going to be at your ceremony. Now, when it comes to elopements, you can really make them as small as possible to give you and your partner the perfect intimate moment to start your life together. 

I will say that it is important to make sure you know any legal requirements for your marriage license. Most states require you to have one or two witnesses to sign your marriage license (although there are some states that don’t require a witness at all). For example, South Carolina does not require a witness, but North Carolina requires at least two. If you do opt for an elopement, you want to ensure you have enough people to sign your marriage license (pro tip: your photographer can sign your marriage license as a witness!) 

Aside from having witnesses for your marriage license, it’s also important to know how many people are coming to make sure you can sort out any of the logistics of getting to the ceremony spot and make sure the actual spot you choose to say I do has enough space for everyone to enjoy the ceremony. 

I know, this may sound weird because, after all, it is a forest. But if you have a group of people coming with you, you want to make sure that half of them aren’t standing behind trees and bushes that make it so they can’t actually see you and your partner. 

Make sure you check the weather and plan for everything 

Close up views of two people's feet as they stand on a small wooden step.

Honestly, this is an important tip for any outdoor wedding regardless of the size, but it is still worth mentioning. While you can never 100% guarantee that your wedding day is going to have blue skies and perfect weather, there are a few things you can do to help plan your elopement to have the best weather possible. 

First, think about where you are having your ceremony and what season it is. For example, if you’re planning a forest elopement in the South, you may want to think about when hurricane season is and try to plan around that (also that it will most likely be HOT). Similarly, if you are in the Northeast or the Midwest, the dead of winter may not be the best time to have an outdoor elopement. 

You also want to make sure you plan for everything. Bring some umbrellas or boots just in case you get a surprise rainfall. If you are going out in the colder seasons, make sure you bring layers. You can always take them on and off for your ceremony and portraits, but it’s better to have them than to be freezing the whole time! 

Know the route and any travel that is going to be involved 

A woman kissing another woman's head as they stand in front of a small wooden gazebo.

When it comes to a forest elopement, I highly recommend visiting your ceremony site at least once (if not a few times) before your wedding day. There are a few reasons why this is a must-do for you and your partner. 

First, you don’t want to be surprised by anything on your wedding day. It’s important that you know exactly how long it is going to take you to get to the actual ceremony site, and what the path there looks like. 

Every single forest is going to be different and some forest elopement spots may require a bit more hiking than others so you want to make sure that you and anyone who is coming to your elopement is properly prepared. 

The other reason I suggest exploring your elopement spot a bit before your wedding is so that you can find any spots along the way or around the site that would be perfect for your photos. This can be things like lookouts, rivers, lakes, or even old bridges. 

Check and make sure you have any permits if necessary 

A wedding couple kissing in front of an old red barn.

Finally, make sure you check and see if you need any permits to have your forest elopement. A lot of beautiful wooded areas are parts of State or National Parks and Forests that sometimes require special permits to have your ceremony. 

Now, when it comes to this, there is no set rule. Each park is going to have its own guidelines and requirements for what you have to do and some may even have limits on how many people can be present during the ceremony. Most of the time, the permits are required for photography but, you will also have to purchase a pass to get into the park as well. 

When it comes to these situations, the best option is to reach out to each park directly. They will be able to guide you through any requirements they have because the last thing you want is to get kicked out of a park on your wedding day. 

Now, if you are picking a local forest or a wooded area around where you live, you may not need to worry about this, but I still recommend this to anyone thinking about a forest elopement to make sure all of their bases are covered! 

Brooke + Ellen’s Forest Elopement 

About the couple 

A couple standing in a forest next to each other laughing together.

Brooke and Ellen got engaged back in 2015 and were engaged for a bit before they finally got married (which they were both super excited to do). They opted for a forest elopement with a small group of friends and it was an absolutely magical day. 

Not only did they have a beautiful ceremony in the forest, but they also spent the weekend in a treehouse following the ceremony which I thought was a beautiful way to start their new life together! 

About the ceremony 

Wedding couple during a handfasting ceremony.

Now, let’s dive into Brooke + Ellen’s actual ceremony (which spoiler alert was absolutely amazing). If we rewind to what I said earlier about checking the weather and planning for everything, we really lucked out with their wedding. A hurricane actually blew through the forest the day before, but, thankfully, it was perfectly clear the day of their ceremony. 

Luckily, not only did we get the perfect weather and the perfect day, but the storm left everything in the area sort of wet and misty and added this beautiful and magical vibe to the day. 

Aside from the beauty of the forest itself, Brooke and Ellen added some personal touches throughout the day that made it even more special. Ellen gifted personalized cross stitches to all of their friends that came to the wedding. 

They also added a few pagan elements throughout the ceremony like a hand-fasting ceremony as well as a blessing by the officiant in the four cardinal directions. All of this was so uniquely them and it made for a really special ceremony for everyone! 

After the wedding, everyone got to relax in the treehouse and enjoyed brunch food. It was all very relaxed and everyone got good quality time together. The freedom and flexibility that comes with elopements is one of my favorite things about them and what makes each and every one of them so special. 

Final thoughts on having a forest elopement

So, as you can see, forest elopements can be absolutely magical and is a great way to start your new life off together out in nature. While there is still a little bit of planning that will have to go into your elopement, this is a great way to have a more low-key and intimate ceremony that will (hopefully) be a little less stressful for you and your partner. 

If you are still looking for the perfect photographer to capture your magical day, click here to get in touch and see how we can make that happen! 

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