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Looking for information on how to elope in North Carolina? I’ve got you covered!
A lot of pictures and blog posts will show either a lot of vague information, outdated content, or things that are not allowed at certain locations, so I’m here to provide the most up-to-date, comprehensive guide on how to elope in North Carolina for 2022.
Now I may be totally biased, but I think North Carolina is the perfect place to elope on the east coast. Located in the mid-Atlantic, it’s an easy-to-reach destination for much of the country and has so much diversity in such a concentrated area. Whether you are looking for a waterfall to stand and say your vows in front of, or an epic mountain ridge to look out upon, or a dense old-growth forest to explore, North Carolina offers all that and so much more.
If you have any questions about eloping in North Carolina, don’t hesitate to reach out! All of my elopement packages include unlimited consultation & planning assistance, local vendor recommendations, and exclusive access to The Ultimate Intimate Wedding & Elopement Guide, sporting over 90 pages of elopement inspiration, ideas, and all the logistical tips and tricks to make your day the best day ever.
How to Elope in North Carolina : Table of Contents
State Requirements for Eloping in North Carolina
Per the North Carolina Judicial Branch, you can legally elope in NC with a marriage license, an officiant, and two witnesses. While I am not ordained, I typically serve as one of the witnesses. It also makes our client relationship that much more meaningful since I got to legally help you get married!
You must obtain the marriage license prior to the ceremony (obviously!). There’s no waiting period between when you obtain the license and when you hold the ceremony, but the marriage license will expire 60 days after issuance.
If you opt for an elopement day with no guests present, we have always found a hiker who has served as the second witness to sign your license. The spontaneity adds an exciting and unexpected element to your day.
Whether or not you invite guests to your elopement, you also have the option to get married where you live; Simply visit your local courthouse to handle the paperwork side of things, then consider your elopement day to be the celebratory part, without the need to plan for an ordained officiant and legal witnesses.
Choosing A Location for Your North Carolina Elopement
Lucky for us, there really is no shortage of amazing spots around, each with their own unique character and story to tell. There are also many factors to consider too.
When choosing a location in North Carolina for your elopement, think of it like having three choices, but you can only pick two. Those three options are:
- Amazing views
- Easy access
I’m all about providing couples with realistic expectations, and honestly you’ll be hard-pressed to find all three of those outside of a private venue. If you are wanting to invite guests, especially ones that have limiting factors such as not being able to hike long distances, I encourage you to look into booking a private venue. More properties are beginning to recognize the importance of elopements to couples and the value of what their land offers, and you still have the opportunity for beautiful pictures in pristine-looking landscapes.
If you don’t want to book a venue but still want to invite guests, you’re going to have to consider their physical abilities in addition to your own. A lot of my couples who choose to invite guests for their elopement opt for an easy-to-access ceremony spot to accommodate their loved ones, then the couple and myself will branch off and go somewhere else for perhaps a more technical location. Whether the next location is more challenging or not, it provides an opportunity for some privacy for you as a couple on your elopement day.
If you like the idea of doing something similar to the last point mentioned, it’s important to remember that you are inviting your guests (for a possible destination elopement) to travel and put forth time, money, and effort to see you get married and that’s it. If you want to go to another location alone, you will not be spending the time with your guests that you typically would on a more traditional wedding day. In most cases, it’s not too feasible and seems like a big ask. Keep in mind how realistic the timeline might be if you are chasing a sunset at a mountainous location miles away that requires a hike in or something like that. Another idea, in this instance, would be to book a multi-day elopement package, where you celebrate with your guests fully on one day, and venture off by yourselves the next!
When exploring the option of getting married in open public lands (think forests, the top of a mountain, middle of nowhere, etc.), it’s important to remember that just because it may be a free area to access doesn’t mean there might not be rules to follow, or even permits to secure, for your wedding. Doing your research is key here more than anywhere else. You’ll want to find out who manages the area you are looking at, and see if you can find any information about weddings on their website. If not, do not hesitate to reach out to their office via email or a phone call.
Permits can take anywhere from a handful of weeks to process to a couples months depending on the location. Not only that, but in some instances only one permit per day (or at least the best time of day) will be issued to a couple, so you’ll want to act fast on reserving your spot.
Deciding on What Time of Year to Elope
Fortunately North Carolina is a place where you can elope pretty much any time of year. It basically just depends on what sort of weather and activities you’re into.
The peak times to elope in North Carolina are September through the first half of November and mid-April through early June, so you’ll want to start planning early out for things like accommodations, venues/ceremony spots, and permits if you’re looking to elope during those times. The busiest month of every year is October, because that is peak fall foliage in the western North Carolina mountains, which means you’re not only working around other couples looking to elope at the same time, but also the tourists who visit our famous mountains from all over. You will realistically be looking at very little to no privacy on your day during this time either if you want to elope out on the trails, unless you plan a ceremony super early or hike a decent distance in somewhere. Places like the Blue Ridge Parkway do not issue permits to marry for the entire month of October.
Winter is a great time of year to elope in North Carolina that is often overlooked. I, for one, love hiking in the winter, and I know I’m not the only one. If you’re into winter sports, a winter adventure elopement sounds perfect for your two adventurous souls. Ideas for your winter elopement include, but are definitely not limited to, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, skiing, winter tubing, winter hikes, waterfall exploring, waking up early to jet boil some hot water for a coffee on top of a mountain to watch a beautiful sunrise, and cuddling up by the fire (inside or out!) to finish out the day.
Late Spring into Summer is a great time of year around here, and popular as well. The dense forests tend to hold a lot of humidity during the warm days of those months but the waters are crisp and refreshing, persuading you to come in for a quick dip, and the majestic mountains are always cooler than the valleys. The landscapes are lush and inviting and the days are long, making it a prime time for long activities such as kayaking, whitewater rafting, off-roading and more, all in time to be back for a hearty meal and a beautiful sunset.
Vendors for Your North Carolina Elopement
North Carolina has a number of vendors who are excited to serve you and create the elopement day of your dreams. Ideas for elopement vendors and details span far and wide, depending on your vision for the day. Some may be a little harder to find than others since elopements in the internet world are not as mainstream as traditional wedding days are, which is why I love to help couples find vendors in the area you plan on eloping. It’s just one of the many exclusive services I love to provide to my couples once we’ve narrowed down a location in the planning process, and I’d love to help you find the perfect vendors, too!
When it comes to who will officiate your wedding, there are a number of ideas you can consider. The traditional officiant is an ordained minister from your church. I know how sentimental it is to some couples to share a friendship with the one who will marry them! If you don’t have someone in your life who will fill those shoes, luckily there are some amazing officiants out there who would love to help get you married. Having an officiant does not mean your wedding needs to be under religious means either, as there are those who practice non-denominational ceremonies. The best advice for finding an officiant is to find one who you really connect with and who will customize your ceremony to reflect who you are, as well as incorporate any traditions or wedding vows you’d care to include as well.
Finding local florists is pretty easy once you’ve decided on a location for your elopement and where you’ll be staying. If you are traveling from out of the area, it may make more sense to pick up flowers locally rather than try and travel with them. The closer you can pick up the flowers to your elopement day, the fresher they will be, too!
It’s important to remember to research your elopement locations and their specific special event rules, because there are certain places, such as anywhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway, that do not allow live or dried natural plant/flower material, which means that cut flowers is off limits. The reason for this is to avoid the introduction of any nonnative, invasive species to the area, and as someone with a Biology degree, I can totally respect that (and you should, too!). Any type of fake arrangements such as wood flowers, silk, or paper flowers are allowed. Don’t knock ’em ’til you tried ’em! In my years photographing weddings and elopements I can tell you that fake florals have come a long way from what they used to be and you really can’t tell a difference in your photos. It’s absolutely amazing. Trust me–these are not those gross fake arrangements collecting dust in the corner of your grandma’s living room that’s stuck in the ’70s. I promise you that.
Hair & Makeup Artists
There are great teams of hair and makeup artists located all over willing to help you create a beautiful look for your elopement day. Just like with florists, finding hair & makeup artists for your day is easy once you’ve decided on a location for your elopement. Most teams are willing to travel to your Airbnb, vacation chalet, etc., but the closer they are to that spot the less you may have to pay for travel.
Food & Drinks
The possibilities are endless when it comes to food & drinks on your elopement day. Depending on how you see your elopement day unfolding may be a good way to start brainstorming how you’ll incorporate those aspects into your day.
A stop at a local brewery might be in the cards whether you have guests or not.If you’re planning on a long hiking elopement, you can pack a lunch in with you and we can have lunch somewhere deep in the wilderness. You can even plan for a picnic without hiking by choosing to pack your own picnic or hiring a local picnic setup company to cater it for you.
Hiring a private chef to cook for you on the night of your wedding is one of my favorite ideas for the ultimate luxury package. You can have the same experience by renting out a private room at an upscale restaurant as well.
Don’t forget about dessert! You can pick up your cake locally, have it delivered to you, or have it made in house at the restaurant you’ll be dining at. Other great elopement dessert ideas include cupcakes, donuts, cake pops, or custom cookies!
Places to Stay
When planning your North Carolina elopement, figuring out where you’ll stay is going to make a big difference in whether you spend your day enjoying activities or whether you have to end up driving for most of it. The roads here in the mountains are slow and winding, and depending on how well everyone in your party fares with car sickness, you may find yourself going even slower. That means that a location that may only be 10 miles up the road may take closer to 25-30 minutes to get there.
I’m located in Asheville, where I consider it as a central reference point for the mountains here in western North Carolina. While Asheville is a great location to consider staying for your elopement, it may be smart to look into other mountain towns as well.
My favorite mountain towns in western North Carolina are Blowing Rock, Highlands, Bryson City, Cherokee, Brevard, Franklin, and Lake Lure. All of them have their own cute small mountain town charm to them and offer a nice variety of accommodations, restaurants, breweries, shops, and unique local sights to see.
You’ll want to think about what sort of activities you will want to do and what sort of gear you’ll need for them!
Even if we plan on doing a relatively short hike, for example, the trail may include some muddy sports and/or exposed roots, so the appropriate footwear such as ankle-supporting hiking boots would be necessary. The last thing you want to do is ruin a nice pair of shoes or, even worse, roll an ankle on your wedding day! Bring backpacks to easily carry items you wish to take with you (such as those nice shoes you can switch into later) so your arms are free and your hikes are enjoyable.
Don’t forget layers! Even in the summertime the mountains can get a bit chilly. Think of what you want to do on your elopement day and what sort of extra layers you might need your specific adventure.
Feeling inspired to start planning your very own North Carolina elopement?
The first step is contacting me today to get the conversation started!