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How to Elope in Idaho in 2024 - The Ultimate Guide from a Local

Having been born and raised here in Idaho, let me just tell you how perfect Idaho is for elopements! Most people don't consider Idaho for their elopement, but this state has so many hidden gems that will suit any adventure elopement. I am so passionate about showing my eloping clients what Idaho has to offer to the elopement world. Idaho offers seclusion without sacrificing scenery - there are spots just as pretty as the popular elopement areas in the Pacific Northwest/the rest of the Rockies. Idaho is definitely perfect if you love outdoor adventures and you want to incorporate that for your elopement! So here I present to you a guide on how to elope in Idaho - from a local! Here's how you can elope in this gorgeous gem state.


bride and groom sitting on a log

What even is an Elopement?

Starting with the basics, you might be wondering what an elopement even is. Is it a wedding done in secret without family or friends? No. Is it a quick and meaningless, cheap way to get married? Not at all! I like to describe elopements as a meaningful, experience based way to get married. Since I live in this gorgeous state, I chose to specialize in adventure elopements, which in short just means I co-create and photograph outdoor experiences with my couples for their wedding day. Many of my couples come from out of state to enjoy what Idaho has to offer, and they do that for their wedding day! How amazing is that?!


Why is Idaho a Great State to Elope in?

I could go on forever on why Idaho is a great state to elope in because I love it so much, but I'll just touch on the main points that stand out the most to me and ones that I think will be most beneficial to you.


Seclusion and Privacy

As I started to mention how Idaho has breathtaking scenery without the crowds in the intro to this blog post, that just truly stands out to me as an elopement photographer based here in Idaho. There are alpine lakes that untouched by crowds, forests that have been touched just by wildlife, and mountains that have unending 360 degree views at the top. The sheer amount of beauty that is readily available everywhere you look makes for several perfect elopement locations that offer the utmost of seclusion and privacy.


Millions of Acres of National Forest

Just in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest alone, there are 2.5 million acres of national forest! Idaho has seven total national forests, with all of them combined covering a total of 20.4 million acres of Idaho, which makes up about 40% of the entire state! Idaho has unmatched forest lands, and they make such beautiful elopement locations if you want an enchanting forest elopement. Within these national forests are waterfalls, lookout towers, hiking trails, an abundance of lakes and rivers, and so many more opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast!


Pristine Lakes and Rivers

Speaking of an abundance of pristine lakes and rivers, Idaho is known for its pristine waters. Whether you enjoy the waters recreationally with fishing, boating, or swimming, Idaho's lakes and rivers stand out as some of the best in the entire country.


Outdoor Lovers Paradise

Along with boating, fishing, and swimming, Idaho is an outdoor lovers paradise for several other reasons as well. Biking, hiking, and backpacking, river rafting, and horseback riding, are other popular options. Any of these activities can be part of your Idaho elopement!


bride and groom fishing

Best Locations in Idaho for Your Elopement

Having travelled all over Idaho to document numerous outdoor elopements in Idaho, I have a list of places that are the most popular that my clients pick - and for good reason! Let's do a mini dive into each location and why these are some of the best locations in Idaho for your elopement.


Priest Lake - North Idaho

Priest Lake is the northern most lake located in the panhandle of Idaho, making it only 30 miles from the Canadian border! This lake is nestled beneath the Selkirk Mountains. The lake has 3 main resorts right on the lake that you can stay at (Elkins Resort, Hill's Resort, and Cavanaugh's), and in the summer you can spend the day hiking, swimming, kayaking, etc. It has plenty of options for adventure for your elopement! I also love this location for winter elopements, since it's further north, it has significantly more snow than places like Coeur d'Alene.

winter elopement on priest lake

Farragut State Park/Lake Pend Oreille - North Idaho


Spanning over 65 miles long and having a depth of 1,150 feet, this is a beautiful lake with many features that would be amazing to incorporate into your Idaho elopement! This lake starts right outside of Athol and goes all the way up to Sandpoint. Growing up, I've lived within about 10 minutes of this lake. I've done many photo shoots and elopements here, as it has the best views of the mountains with it being easy access. It has crystal clear water and there are mountains that rise straight up out of the water, complete with mountain goats. This lake is definitely a must-see.

sunset elopement on lake pend oreille

Sandpoint - North Idaho

Sandpoint is located at the northern tip of Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced pond-er-ay) and below Schweitzer Mountain. This stunning mountain town has amazing places to eat and views to offer. My favorite restaurant up there is Second Ave. Pizza (they have the best pizza)! With a main street full of local shops and more restaurants, this is a great place to visit if you're in the area. The surrounding area of Lake Pend Oreille has many beautiful hikes to offer that would be perfect for your Idaho elopement! I have them listed in my Idaho Location Guide available exclusively for my couples!

first look on a deck

Coeur d'Alene - North Idaho


Lake Coeur d'Alene is known as the Playground of the Pacific Northwest, and for good reason! There are so many things you can do here. From watersports, to parasailing, ziplining, hiking, or taking a cruise, there are plenty of things to do to keep busy! If you want to go further out of town, the Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe River are popular summer places to hang out, especially if you like fly fishing or more summer activities like camping. A popular steakhouse is Wolf Lodge which is just down the interstate. No matter what you like, Coeur d'Alene has it all for the perfect North Idaho elopement.

sunset bridals on a boat

Wallace/Kellogg - North Idaho

Home of the popular Hiawatha Trail and Trail of the Coeur d'Alene's, Wallace has many outdoor activities to enjoy. Mountain biking, hiking, ziplining, and snow sports in the winter surround this beautiful area of the Silver Valley. If you love snow sports or want to explore the slopes without snow, go to Silver Mountain Resort! This is a resort to ski or snowboard at, along with an indoor water park and America's longest gondola for exploring the slopes and mountain biking for the summertime.

silver mountain resort elopement

McCall - Southern Idaho


McCall is a popular place to visit in the summer and in the winter. Located right at the base of Payette Lake and just north of Lake Cascade, this little town is so cute! Ponderosa State Park is a great place for photos, and the lake itself is beautiful, surrounded by mountains. In the winter, there are plenty of ski resorts to go to, and they have an activity barn with some winter activities great for kids! They also have a winter carnival. Other winter sports include snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and Nordic skiing. There are also hot springs in the area - an outdoor winter elopement favorite! In the summer you can do things like hike, camp, mountain bike, rock climb, zipline, kayak, ride horses, and swim. The Shore Lodge is a beautiful place to stay right on the lake as well - it would make for a beautiful place to get ready before getting married among the scenery!

couple kissing in the snow

Stanley - Southern Idaho


Located in the Sawtooth Mountain Range, Stanley is a little town with big views and tons of outdoor activities! There are amazing hot springs to visit anytime of the year. Other outdoor activities include swimming, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, rafting, horseback riding, backpacking, and so much more! The nearby town of Sun Valley is also a great place to consider. Nearby Redfish Lake is a popular destination, for good reason. It has great views of the Sawtooth's and is a great family recreation area. Stanley Lake offers stunning views of the mountains along with an amazing campsite. Many alpine lakes surround the area and are perfect if you love hiking or backpacking. Just about all the places you could stay at in town offer majestic views of the mountains as well. This charming mountain town is definitely an Idaho elopement hotspot - and it's definitely one of my top picks an Idaho elopement location.

stanley lake at sunrise with mountain reflection

When is The Best Time of Year to Elope in Idaho?

You can't go wrong with eloping in Idaho anytime of the year! Here's a seasonal breakdown so you can determine what time of year might be best for you!


Idaho Elopements in Spring

Spring elopements in Idaho are great if you stick to a local, low elevation area. The snow stays in the mountains well into early summer, so if you want wildflowers with waterfalls flowing fully, spring is great for these options, as well as to beat any summer crowds! Late spring is also great because the wildfire threat we have here is low, so May and June are beautiful outside! I personally love late May/early June because the mountains still have snow, but in the lower elevations we have lush greenery and wildflowers - my favorite!

ring box in wildflowers

Idaho Elopements in Summer

Summertime in Idaho is the most popular time to elope! With everything being open, and the snow fully melted, it's the most popular time to visit. Hiking trails are accessible, it's warm outside, and the amount of activities to choose from are fully available. Some hikes and locations in Idaho are 6000+ feet in elevation, so if you want to access these high elevation locations, you'll have to wait until around July when the snow has finished melting off. But summer offers the small window of being able to access these amazing places! The one thing we have to be cautious of is wildfires, but as your elopement photographer I make sure you are aware and we will pick more than one backup location in case there is one nearby on your elopement day.

couple kissing with hiking backpacks

Idaho Elopements in Fall

I think fall elopements are my absolute favorite besides late spring elopements. Everyone goes back to school and travelling slows down, meaning that this is the ideal time to hike in the mountains with less people around. The colors in the mountains are absolutely breathtaking, and it's cooler outside if you like colder weather. Snow usually shows up by late October/early November, so September and most of October are usually great for outdoor mountain elopements!

fall foliage in the mountains

Idaho Elopements in Winter

Winter is such an underrated time to elope in Idaho! I absolutely love winter elopements, there's just something so cozy and romantic about them! I love that Idaho gets to experience all 4 seasons, and winter shouldn't be left out for elopements. Winters are cozy, the pine trees flocked in sparkling white snow, and you can find the most beautiful dresses to complement the winter scenery! Snowmobile elopement, anyone?!

winter ceremony in mccall idaho


And speaking of dresses and wedding attire, I also have this blog post about how to pick the best dress for your elopement!


How to Elope in Idaho in 5 Easy Steps

Now that you know the options of when and where to elope in Idaho (since these are the first two steps), let me break down how to start planning your elopement in 5 easy steps!


1. Pick Your Location

The first step you'll want to complete when eloping anywhere is choosing your location. Some questions you can ask yourself to help you find the answer to this question are: What are my favorite outdoor activities? What time of year do I prefer to be outside? Do I want family and friends there, or do we want it just us? If you're having guests, does it need to be a location that's easily accessed, or are they willing to hike?


Questions like these can help you pick out a location, or at least get an idea. When you reach out to your photographer, it helps to give them a general location that you're thinking about eloping in so we can send you the proper pricing guide. But if you are open to any ideas, that's totally fine too! We would love to help you find the location of your dreams!


Idaho has lots of variety! What do you envision your day looking like? Hiking to an alpine lake, or adventuring around in a cedar forest that resembles the redwoods? Or maybe get married under the falling snow? It generally is best to have at least an idea of the place you want to elope, whether that be a specific state, trail, or scenery when reaching out to an elopement photographer. If you start with this, it will help you narrow down which photographer to pick based on their location and specialty.


2. Consider the Best Time of Year to Access That Location

Step 1 and step 2 can be switched depending on what you have in mind first for your elopement. For example, if you have a location you for sure want to elope at, then you'll pick a date that you can access that location best. Or vice versa, if there's a date that's sentimental to you or you just like the time of year, then your photographer can help you pick the best spot in that area according to your needs and wants. Once you have those two things figured out, then you'll be able to consider accessibility of that location.


Accessibility can mean two things: one just being able to access it safely (snow at higher elevations, for example), or if you want to have guests there with you. A lot of my eloping couples have a small group of family and friends present for the ceremony and/or dinner. This allows them to have privacy and intimacy for a good majority of the day, but they can still share their special day with a smaller group. Let your photographer know what you're thinking and they can help you plan a day that's just right for you!


3. Pick an Elopement Specific Photographer

Once you've narrowed down your ideas, reach out to a photographer who specializes in adventure elopements. Traditional wedding photographers and elopement photographers are quite different. I used to shoot traditional weddings, so I know most photographers of traditional weddings basically just show up as any other vendor does and does their job. Not much pre-planning is involved except writing a timeline and getting a shot list.


Now with elopements, I take so much more time planning! I help my couple plan out their day by providing custom location and activity ideas, help with permits, provide a hands-on, personalized experience, and so much more! I want to get to know my couple and talk to them about their day before they even book. I am so passionate about what I do and I care so much for my couples! I help you plan a day around your interests, and provide ideas based off of what's most important to you!


This all being said, if you have no idea where or when to elope, I can help you with that as well!


So yes, find yourself a photographer who specializes in elopements! If you are interested in hiring me for your elopement, click here to contact me!


Idaho Elopement Lodging & Vendors

4. Book Your Lodging and Other Vendors

Woo, you just booked your elopement photographer! Now the fun starts! Now you'll want to find a place to stay at the location you ended up picking, whether that's an adorable Airbnb or a fun cabin, or even a campsite. Idaho has lots of gorgeous Airbnb's like wooded cabins, yurts, a-frames, and places to stay right on one of our many lakes. You'll want to book in advance, especially if you're eloping in a popular tourist time in a more popular location. For example, in the Sawtooth's in Stanley, their June and summer schedules book up super fast, so you'll want to book as soon as you're able!


When picking accommodations, keep in mind if you want some indoor getting ready photos, pick a place with good window light for the best photos! Or find a place with a cute porch or deck for detail photos as well, or if you're wanting a mini reception afterwards, book a place that will accommodate your guests comfortably.

priest lake vrbo


Moving onto vendors for your elopement, you'll also want to reach out to them as soon as possible. If they're popular, they'll book out really fast, so reach out as soon as possible.


If you're eloping in a small mountain town in Idaho like McCall, Wallace, or Stanley, you will most likely have to book vendors from bigger towns like Boise and Coeur d'Alene, depending on the location.


If looking for vendors stresses you out, I research them for you! I provide vendor recommendation lists for the location of your elopement, helping make your day as stress free as possible! I've worked with some incredible elopement vendors, and I provide their information just for you.


Idaho Marriage License Information

5: Get your Idaho Marriage License

Yay! It's time to get your Idaho marriage license! Luckily the process is super easy and not complicated at all. Here's everything you need to know about obtaining an Idaho marriage license!


Can you Get Married in Idaho if you're not a Resident?

Yes! You don't have to be a resident of Idaho to obtain an Idaho marriage license, but the ceremony must be preformed in Idaho.


How Much Does an Idaho Marriage License Cost?

An Idaho marriage license costs about $30. They recommend bringing cash with you to cover the fees. It may be up to $20 more if you go on the weekend (depending on the county), so going during a weekday is best!


What Documents Do I Need to Bring to Get a Marriage License?

You will need two forms of identification, your SSN plus another form for proof of identity and age, such as your driver's license. You can also bring a state-issued identification card, a passport, or your birth certificate.


How Long is an Idaho Marriage License Valid For?

There is no expiration date on the license, though it should be used within the year. There is also no waiting period on the license either, so you can get married the same day! This is perfect if you traveled here to elope, because it can be done all in the same day if needed!

Do You Need Witnesses to Elope in Idaho?

Idaho is one of the few states where witnesses are not required! If you chose to elope somewhere more private, this is great as well because we don't need to ask other random hikers, for example, to sign the license for you. In other states where witnesses are required, people who elope on a mountaintop usually ask the hikers they run into to sign as their witnesses. But in this case, we won't have to worry about doing that! This is also super nice if it's just the two of you eloping alone, without guests.


How to Legally Get Married in Idaho when Eloping - Officiant Information

Now that you have your marriage license, you need an officiant to make it, well, official! An authorized clergy member, judge, or other designated official must perform the ceremony.


ceremony at farragut state park

Now, here's a couple options for your ceremony:

  • You can pick from a list of people to officiate. If it's religious, there is a designated official for that.


  • If you would prefer to have someone closer to you officiate, they can become ordained online if they so choose.

  • The last way you can do this is to have an actual legal ceremony, either with guests or not, and at a later date, go up in the mountains (or your choice of location) for vows and photos (commitment ceremony). Then, you will be able to read your vows privately to each other, without anyone else present if you'd like! As the photographer, I have a longer lens that will allow me to not be right in your faces, so I can still capture the moment while giving you space.


Activity Ideas for Your Idaho Elopement

Idaho provides endless activity ideas that you can include in your elopement. Here are some really fun adventurous ideas to help get you brainstorming on your elopement timeline, and no, nothing is too crazy! The wildest adventures make for the most unforgettable experiences!


picnic in the sawtooth mountains

Adventurous Elopement Activities:

  • Smore's by a campfire

  • Kayaking during sunset

  • Walks on the beach

  • Eat dinner made by a personal chef

  • Exploring or off-roading in a Jeep

  • Hiking

  • Helicopter ride

  • Boating or fishing

  • Stargazing

  • A mountaintop picnic

  • Sledding, snowmobiling, snowboarding or skiing

  • Spend the morning together in a cute Airbnb

  • Rent a lookout tower to have all to yourselves

  • Watch the sunrise and the sunset

  • Eat your favorite dessert together

  • Include your fur babies


For some more adventurous elopement activity ideas, check out this blog with even more fun ideas! This blog also has some great all day timeline examples, which is perfect for the next section!


All Day Timeline Examples

It's always easier for me to learn from visual examples, so I'm gonna provide an example of an all day timeline idea so you can see how your elopement really can be more than just a couple hours! Elopements are still your wedding day, so treat it like one, you deserve it! Get ready together, have a private first look, read vows that no one can hear, cut some cake (or whatever dessert you like best)... include what's important to you and what you love to do!



bride hiking with a dirty wedding dress

Sunrise Mountain Hike + Adventures on the Lake | 12 Hours

  • 4:00 am - Wake up and get ready in your Airbnb for your sunrise hike. You pack up a breakfast picnic to eat at the overlook in a little bit.

  • 5:00 am - Leave for trailhead

  • 6:00 am - Arrive at trailhead to hike a short ways in to the overlook

  • 6:30 am - Arrive at overlook for a sunrise commitment ceremony

  • 7:00 am - You're married! Woo! Time for some epic bridals of you two exploring and hiking around the area while enjoying some time together just the two of you.

  • 7:45 am - After we adventured around taking some epic photos, it's time for that breakfast picnic! You sit down and watch the world wake up and enjoy your favorite breakfast, and you make mimosas.

  • 8:45 am - We hike back down to the car and drive to the lake for a morning kayak session

  • 11:00 am - After some kayaking, you head back to the Airbnb for a bit to relax and freshen up.

  • 1:00 pm - You meet up with a few family members and friends that you wanted there for your elopement. You all head back down to the lake and pick up the pontoon boat you rented to spend time together on the lake, and eat lunch together.

  • 4:00 pm - After a day on the water, you all head back to the Airbnb for a dinner already prepared by a private chef. You enjoy the rest of your night and do first dances, eat dessert, and reflect on the amazing day you had!


See how absolutely amazing your day can be? My goal is to help you create an adventure that is meaningful, and also memorable. Planning a full day for yourself allows for this!


Elopement Packing and Gear List

As your day approaches, you'll probably start to wonder what the little things are that you need to bring with! If you're renting gear, you can pick it up when you arrive on location. If you're gonna hike, you'll start gathering up your basic gear - check out this list of gear to bring for your adventure elopement!


dirty wedding dress and hiking boots close up

Day of Elopement Checklist:

-Marriage license

-Vow books

-Rings

-Hiking Gear

-Cell phone and car charger/portable charger

-Flowers

-Food and water

-Any remaining payments for vendors

-Bluetooth speaker for music

-Anything you want incorporated in photos


You'll get a full planning checklist, guides, and more when you book an elopement with me!


Cost of Eloping in Idaho

Did you know that the average price of traditional weddings is over $30,000?! Eloping is not only cheaper, but you can get everything you want and more for a fraction of the cost. With eloping outdoors, you don't have to pay thousands of dollars for a venue for your ceremony. You can use the saved funds for a honeymoon, splurging on elopement details that matter to you, cross activities off your bucket list, or even having enough for a good start of a down payment for a place to live. Here are the most popular things my couples include in their elopement budget!



Elopement Vendors & Items to Include in Your Budget:

  • Photographer and/or videographer

  • Florist

  • Wedding attire

  • Accommodations

  • Hair and/or makeup artist

  • Officiant services

  • Caterers

  • Travel

  • Permits

  • Personalized details


Click here to see more of a budgeting breakdown for these vendors and other items.


Idaho Elopement Packages

As a local Idaho elopement photographer, I make sure to be by your side throughout the entire planning process to make sure your Idaho elopement is as stress free as possible! I am very hands on, from the very beginning stages of your inquiry to the day of your elopement, and even after that!


What's included with every one of my elopement packages:

  • Photo Documentation of Every Part of Your Adventure

  • All Your Full Resolution Images in a Beautiful Online Gallery

  • Unlimited Planning Assistance + Guidance

  • 3 Day Turnaround Time for Sneak Peek Images

  • Welcome & Day of Gifts

  • My Travel is Included


For more in depth information on my Idaho elopement packages, head on over to my pricing and info page. There I answer common FAQ's, talk more about elopements, and provide more details that come with my packages!


Idaho Elopement Photographer

I hope this post on how to elope in Idaho helps you in planning your elopement in this state, and I'm so happy you're considering eloping in Idaho! Idaho is called the gem state for good reason, there are so many hidden gems out there just waiting for you to say your I do's at! I can't wait to show you my home of Idaho - you can contact me here if you're ready to elope with me like these amazing couples did!



Looking for more elopement planning resources? Head on over to my blog where you can find more free elopement planning resources and real elopement inspiration.


Testimonials from couples who eloped with me here in Idaho:


couple kissing in front of truck

"We just eloped in May and Karlie was our photographer again. She did such an incredible job making sure we had everything we needed for the day. She encouraged us to just enjoy the day and not worry about any stress. She helped us plan different activities to do and incorporate things we enjoy like fishing. Karlie was absolutely fantastic and got all the photos we could have hoped for. She was all in for our crazy adventure of doing our ceremony in the middle of the woods, to driving to another location to fish and have a picnic, then joining us to have a small reception with our family and friends. We couldn’t have asked for a better photographer to make our day so special!"

-Kayla & Jace




couple saying private vows on a mountain

"We are so grateful we found Karlie to help us plan and capture our wedding day!! She was truly the best to work with. We are from Texas and it was our first time traveling to Idaho! Karlie was such a big help in providing local recommendations for things like hikes, ceremony locations, places to stay and eat, things to do, how to get our marriage license, etc. This took so much stress off of us while planning! Karlie was extremely communicative throughout the entire booking and planning process, which we greatly appreciated. Our wedding day was so much fun!! We had a beautiful lakeside ceremony, trekked up a very steep hike on a very hot day, then had a few drinks and some cake at a local brewery. Karlie felt like a close friend the entire day and we loved having her tag along to capture every moment! We are absolutely obsessed with all of our images and feel like we are reliving that day every time we look at them. Don’t hesitate!! Book Karlie ASAP! You won’t regret it :)" -Keira & Mark



ceremony in farragut state park

"From the moment we saw Karlie’s talented work, we thought she would be the perfect photographer for us. After meeting her via Zoom, there was no question she was! Karlie was responsive, accommodating, knowledgeable and so incredibly friendly and organized! She made the planning process so easy and we felt completely confident that our day would be exactly what we hoped for.

Not only was our wedding day an absolute dream come true, Karlie had become a genuine friend along the way. The photos she took allowed us to relive each moment of that amazing day. She captured the beauty of Idaho, the love between the two of us, and the FUN we had celebrating our marriage! Don’t shop around…don’t wait. Book Karlie to capture your special day! She’s a gem!

PS She is a true adventure photographer…we even took her ziplining with us!" -Ann & Chad


"Memories made in the mountains stay in our hearts forever."


how to elope in idaho pinterest pin

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