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How to Elope in Priest Lake Idaho

Priest Lake Idaho: Idaho’s Crown Jewel known for its exceptionally clear waters surrounded by the Selkirk Mountains. This area is thoroughly enjoyed year round, and makes it one of my top recommendations for elopements in North Idaho! With cedar forests, pristine waters, rocky snow covered mountains, and 5 star resorts, Priest Lake offers you all you could need for the perfect wedding day. If you’re looking for more information on how to actually get married in this area, this blog post will go over everything you’ll need to know to elope in this northern mountain paradise of Priest Lake, Idaho.


If you’re looking for even more information on eloping in this gorgeous gem state of Idaho, I have a blog going over even more stunning locations and information perfect for planning your elopement in the state of Idaho - all from a local!


bride and groom standing on a dock with their dog at sunset in priest lake

Table of Contents:


Why You Should Elope in Priest Lake Idaho

If you love the area of Coeur d’Alene but want somewhere more secluded and private, then Priest Lake is a great alternative! Priest Lake is great because you have easy access to stunning places, perfect for including some family or if you want a more relaxed day! Or even if you’re craving a hiking adventure in the Selkirks, then there are so many great options nearby as well! With secluded alpine lakes in the mountains, miles of untouched forest, and the lake itself, there’s no reason to not elope in Priest!


Where is Priest Lake Located?

Priest Lake is located near the Canadian border in the Northern Idaho panhandle. Priest Lake’s state park is located just 30 miles south of the Canadian border. With Priest Lake also having a secluded upper lake that you can only get to by boating or kayaking the thoroughfare, or by hiking, this gets you even closer to Canada with even more privacy and seclusion!

-Nearest Towns to Priest Lake

  • Coeur d’Alene: 2 hours South

  • Sandpoint: 1.5 hours South


-Nearest Airport to Priest Lake

  • Spokane International Airport: 2 hours and 10 minutes away


Best Times of Year to Elope

Whether you’re looking to elope here in the summer or winter, Priest Lake is perfect for any time of year! 

Summer/Fall

Summer and Fall are going to be the most popular times of the year to elope! Summer opens up the world of being on the lake. Imagine starting your day with a kayak or paddleboard ride on the lake before you start getting ready! Hikes in the area are also finally accessible this time of year, and the resorts and local restaurants are in full swing! This time of year often has some form of wildfire smoke in the air, so definitely keep that in mind for the photos and views you want, as well as older family and guests.


Fall is a lot like the spring season, the weather and colors are perfect, and the tourist crowds die down. Early September is often warm enough to still enjoy the lake, while going into October there’s chances of snow starting to fall. We get gorgeous fall colors with all the foliage lining the trails, and fall rains often help clear the air of any smoke. So definitely consider the fall season for your elopement here!



Winter/Spring

With Priest Lake being further North, it’s going to have more snow, so I always recommend Priest Lake if you are wanting to elope in North Idaho in the winter. You’ll still get to be surrounded by the beauty of the area, and not surrounded by crowds here in the winter. You’ll likely get the place to yourself!


Late spring elopements are also absolutely gorgeous! The weather is perfect, there’s fresh wildflowers popping their heads up, and everything is turning green with the season’s new blooms. May is great because it isn’t quite the peak tourist season yet, so you can enjoy the outdoors to yourself. The lake is melted off by this point, but you can still enjoy spots of snow in the surrounding mountaintops.


bride and groom having their first dance on a snowy beach at sunset in priest lake

Where to Elope in Priest Lake

As I mentioned earlier, Priest Lake is perfect if you want to include family and have easy access to incredible views, or if you want a full on mountain hiking adventure, or even a little bit of both!

Priest Lake Elopement Locations

  • Priest Lake State Park - Located towards the northern end of the lake and by the Indian Creek Campground Unit, Priest Lake State Park gives you access to gorgeous forests and access to the lake. I used to camp here a ton as a kid, it’s one of my favorite spots!


  • Ledgewood Picnic Area - A gorgeous private spot in the off season is Ledgewood Picnic Area! With picnic tables and a large beach area with views of Chimney Rock, this beach is perfect for a picnic, sunset bridals, launching a kayak in the water, or all three!

a couple and their family walking on a snowy beach in north idaho

  • Hanna Flats Nature Trail - A cedar grove trail just 15 minutes North of Hill’s Resort, this 0.7 mile easy loop trail is perfect for a bit of seclusion like for an intimate first look under the trees.  

a bride and groom having their first look on a forest trail in priest lake idaho

  • Hill’s Resort, Elkins Resort, or Resort at Cavanaugh’s - These are highly rated resorts all located on the beaches of the lake. With available lodging, restaurants, marinas, and cabins, these are the perfect addition to your Priest Lake elopement. The photo below is Hill's Resort.

a bride and groom walking on a dock with their dog

  • Upper Priest Lake - Being only accessible by boat or hiking, this area of the lake has some private beaches you can pull your boat up to! The views are absolutely breathtaking as you exit the thorofare into the upper part of the lake. This part of the lake is perfect if you want to enjoy some time on the water and some seclusion. Check out this Upper Priest Lake elopement!

a family sitting on the beach with chairs

  • Airbnb’s - Airbnb’s make a great spot for getting ready, ceremonies (if allowed), bridal photos, and post-elopement celebrations!

a dress hanging on the porch of a cabin

  • Hikes - If you book an elopement with me, you’ll receive a custom list of locations perfect for your elopement, along with hikes that I’ve done with previous couples that are exclusively for you! There’s a lot of awesome ones on the east side of the lake between there and Bonners Ferry perfect for if you’re wanting an adventurous hike in the mountains and to explore some epic alpine lakes!

a bride and groom in wedding attire hiking with backpacks in the mountains

Elopement Permit Information

Depending on where you want to elope in Priest Lake, you might need permission from either the Airbnb host, and/or permits to have a ceremony or take bridal photographs in the area. Typically, you’d want to reach out to the corresponding national forest that the location you want to take photos at is on, but as your photographer I do that for you! I make sure all the places we are going will allow us to take photos there, along with making sure you are legally allowed to get married at the spot you want!


Typically, having things like a larger guest count, arbor setups for ceremony, chairs for guests, etc. will determine if you need a permit or not. Each state’s national forest is going to have different rules and regulations, so once we have your locations and timeline ready to go, I’ll be able to reach out with all the needed information and let you know what you need!


Idaho Marriage License Information

Can You Get Married if You’re Not an Idaho Resident?

Absolutely! Almost all of my couples come from out of state to get married here.


Are Witnesses Required?

Idaho is one of the easiest states to get married in because Idaho doesn’t require any witnesses! You will still just need a registered officiant to sign off on your license for you.


How Much Does a Marriage License Cost?

Approximately $30 in cash. Obtaining the license on a weekend may cost more, so going in during the week to get one is best!


How Long is the License Valid For?

There is no expiration on the license, though it should be used within the year.


Is there a Waiting Period?

There is no waiting period, so you can get married the same day you acquire the license.


What Documents Do I Need to Bring?

First off, you’ll need to appear together at a county office. You’ll just need to bring about $30 in cash, and you’ll need an SSN. Then you’ll need one of these documents to provide proof of age and identity: driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, or a state issued identification card.


Best Places to Stay

Local Lodging in Priest Lake


Airbnb’s in Priest Lake

Here’s some incredible Airbnb’s/VRBO’s that you can rent for your Priest Lake elopement! Whether you want a fairytale cabin in a forest, or a modern lakefront escape, there’s plenty to choose from to fit your elopement vision!

a winter cabin airbnb in priest lake idaho

Elopement Tip: Have your family stay at local lodging, and you and your partner can rent an Airbnb for you to stay at after the elopement together! This is the perfect way to explore more of the area and get some beautiful photos at your Airbnb - as long as your host is okay with your planned activities. You can get ready here, do a first look at a gorgeous property, have a stunning table setup for dinner, sit by a bonfire and roast smores, the options are endless! For more Airbnb elopement inspiration, check out this blog post on why you should rent an Airbnb for your elopement!



Best Places to Eat


a couple feeding each other pizza gif

 Along with these, Hills, Elkins, and Cavanaugh's also offer dining experiences right on the lake!


Reception/Venue Options

These options are great if you want a group of guests with you for either a ceremony or reception, and/or a place to have your guests hang out while you’re out adventuring!



Elopement Activity Ideas

  • Start your morning with a sunrise paddleboard adventure

  • Camp overnight at Priest Lake State Park and drink coffees together

  • Rent a pontoon boat from Priest Lake Boat Rental for a sunset reception on the water

  • Take a guided snowmobile tour for a winter wonderland experience

  • Go off-roading in a UTV rental to take photos where no one else has before

  • Meet up with friends and family at Priest Lake Brewing for a mini reception

  • Have a picnic on a mountaintop, or down on the beach

  • Bring your dog along for the adventure

  • Hike in the Selkirks to a secluded alpine lake for private vows

  • Relax on the beach at sunset

  • Snowshoe at a Park N’ Ski location like Hanna Flats, Priest Lake State Park, Chipmunk Rapids, and the Priest Lake Golf Course.

  • Relax in a hammock in the trees after ceremony and read letters from friends and family

  • Kayak the thoroughfare and watch for wildlife


a bride and groom in the mountains with their dog

Check here for more fun adventurous activity ideas for your timeline!


Priest Lake Idaho Elopement Vendors

There are some incredible vendors in the area! With Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint nearby, there will be plenty of vendors to choose from to make your elopement vision come to life!


North Idaho Elopement Vendors


Priest Lake Elopement Timeline Examples

Whether you’re looking for a more relaxed day or an adventurous hike in the mountains (or a little bit of both), Priest Lake is the perfect place to get the best of both worlds. Here’s some real timelines previous clients of mine have had for their Priest Lake elopements!


Real All Day Timeline Examples

-Adventurous Hiking Elopement to an Alpine Lake in the Selkirks

  • Meet at store to follow each other to trailhead

  • Arrive at trailhead, photo coverage starts here

  • Get geared up for hike, hike to ceremony spot

  • Arrive at ceremony spot

  • Get changed into bridal attire and do first look

  • Ceremony, private vows, and group photos

  • Fishing photos

  • Hike back down to cars

  • Drive to Hill’s Resort

  • Photos at Hill’s Resort, meet up with other family

a bride and groom sitting on a log by an alpine lake

-Relaxed Airbnb Elopement in the Forest

  • Getting ready at forested cabin Airbnb

  • Drive to Hanna Flats trail for first look

  • First look at Hanna Flats trail

  • Forest bridals

  • Meet back up with family for ceremony at family cabin

  • Ceremony in the forest

  • Group photos

  • Dinner/reception at cabin with dancing

a groom kissing his bride while in the forest

-Winter Elopement at Cabin near Hill’s Resort

  • Arrive at cabin - coverage starts here

  • Take detail shots while everyone gets ready

  • Write vows for ceremony

  • Get in dress and get ready for first look

  • First looks outside with family

  • Ceremony

  • Snowy bridals outside and family group shots

  • Head to Ledgewood Picnic Area for whisky shots

  • Sunset bridals

  • Head back to Airbnb for blue hour lantern photos

  • Celebrate with Pizza from Millie’s   

a winter elopement ceremony in priest lake idaho

-Upper Priest Lake Boating Elopement

  • Meet up with groom and his family at Lionhead boat launch

  • Drive boat up the thorofare to private beach location

  • Take groom getting ready photos

  • Wait for bride to arrive with her family on their boat

  • Ceremony in the water

  • Bridals and photos with friends and family

  • Boat ride back to boat dock and boat bridals

a bride and groom sitting in the front of the boat looking at a mountain

Priest Lake Idaho Elopement Photographer

Living less than an hour away from this Crown Jewel, I can firsthand tell you how pristine this area is, perfect for your outdoor elopement!


a photographer taking a selfie with her couple in the mountains

Priest Lake Elopement Packages and Pricing

From getting into your dress while you look out over the trees, to walking to a pristine beach for a first look, to going on a hiking adventure in your wedding dress with hiking boots on, all the way down to the end of the day where you’ll reflect on the amazing day you had, I’ll be there for every part of your adventure. Here are the things included in my Priest Lake elopement packages! 


↠ Booking Gift

↠ 72 Hour Turn-Around Time for Sneak Peek Images

​↠ Day of Elopement Gift

↠ Beautifully Edited Final Images

↠ Access to High Quality Print Products

↠ Free Phone Consultation or Zoom Call​

↠ Timeline Creation

↠ Leave No Trace Guide

↠ 30+ Page Planning Guide

↠ Vendor Recommendations

↠ Unlimited Planning and Assistance

↠ 6 Week Turnaround Time for Full Elopement Gallery

↠ Travel & Accommodations are Covered for Photographer


Click here to see pricing and more info! I can't wait to hear from you!


As a born and raised local to the area, I’m so happy to provide you with this How to Elope in Priest Lake planning guide! Now that you know everything you need to elope in this gorgeous spot, let’s start planning your Idaho elopement together! I love working with my couples to not only photograph their day, but to help them create an unforgettable experience in the outdoors! Trust me, you’ll love eloping in Idaho!


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