The Ultimate Guide for Eloping in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Eloping in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is a magical experience. You don’t have to live here to elope here, couples come from all across the US to say their vows amid the iconic mountain vistas. Here’s a rundown of some important points for planning your elopement.
Marriage Licenses in North Carolina
Couples getting married in North Carolina must get a marriage license before the wedding and you can obtain one from the Register of Deeds in any county in the state. Here’s a link to finding the right one for your county.
You’ll need to have one before your elopement takes place, but a marriage license will expire after 60 days so make sure you don’t grab one too early in the planning process if you’re still many months away from your elopement date.
While some states allow for self solemnization which means just the two of you can say your vows without an officiant, North Carolina is not one of them. A ceremony must be performed by a magistrate or ordained minister.
Elopement Locations in North Carolina
There are three mountain balds here and the first one is (in my opinion) the best and also the easiest to get to. The view of the mountains in the distance can’t be beat and this location often gets a pretty blanket of snow in the winter months.
Distance from Asheville: 1.5 hours
Hiking trail to ceremony spot: 3/4 Mile
This is a popular spot and has recently undergone changes to only allow for ceremonies with under ten guests. The views are breathtaking but it’s frequently crowded so aim for a weekday. Also, be aware that the road to get there is BUMPY and filled with potholes. This location frequently undergoes regulation changes by the park service so make sure you do your research on what is allowed and what isn’t before showing up. Your photographer should have the most up to date guidelines.
Distance from Asheville: 1 hour 15 min
Hiking trail to ceremony spot: 1.7 miles round trip
Black Balsam Knob
The treeless mountains of this location are so unique and an amazing choice for your elopement. You’ll even have a fun forest area to hike through before you reach the top to make for beautiful photos with plenty of variety.
Distance from Asheville: 1 hour
Hiking trail to ceremony spot: Roughly 1/2 mile
This is an often overlooked option when it comes to eloping! You don’t have to be directly inside a national park to still have those beautiful mountain views, and as a bonus when you rent a private location you don’t have to share with other hikers.
These are only a few of the many location options in North Carolina with mountain views. There’s no shortage of other locations from waterfalls, to mountains, to majestic open fields and forests amid the trees. I even have a few ‘secret spots’ I share with all my couples.
The Best Time of Year to Elope in North Carolina
Any time of year is a good time to elope in the North Carolina Mountains but there are some considerations regarding weather to be mindful of.
In general, late spring and summer are going to give you those lush backdrops that make up the signature blue mountain waves. By then, the leaves have come back on the trees, the weather is perfect (and cooler up the mountain!) and while rain still happens you won’t face the frequent storms that pop up so often in early spring.
Fall is by far the next most popular time to elope in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The brilliant colors on changing leaves go far as the eye can see and make for the most magical elopement experience. It may be a little chilly, but the oranges and reds are worth it. Just be aware that the peak time for seeing all these colors is a bit earlier because of change in elevation, so discuss with your photographer when to book your elopement to make sure you pick a date that’ll land you smack in the middle of the best time frame.
Elope on a Weekday
Weekends are crowded! If you don’t mind struggling to find parking (unless it’s the off season) and sharing your elopement with a multitude of strangers, then weekends can work just fine, but a weekday will give you the space and freedom to have a ceremony that’s a lot more private.
Best Time Of Day To Elope In North Carolina
Sunrise or sunset is always going to provide the best lighting for amazing wedding photos.
You want to try your best to avoid eloping in the middle of the day at high noon at all costs. If it’s a sunny day, then the harsh shadows can be unflattering in photos on everyone.
In general, I always encourage my couples to aim for 1.5 to 2 hours prior to sunset as this gives you plenty of time to hike up to your location, have your ceremony and then get some amazing sunset after photos, both with any guests and by yourselves as a couple.
You only get one shot at this so setting yourself up for success with the best lighting conditions is going to pay off for years to come with knockout photos.
Where To Stay For Your North Carolina Elopement
Asheville, NC is centrally located between all the best elopement locations. You can expect to be only 30 minutes to 1.5 hours away from multiple mountain overlooks for your ceremony. Craggy Gardens, Black Balsam Knob and Biltmore Estate are all close enough to Asheville that you won’t be stressing about your drive to and from the ceremony spot
Boone, NC is close to multiple elopement spots such as Roan Mountain and Linville Gorge. If you know you’ll be eloping in the northern part of North Carolina near the Tennessee border then Boone is a great choice for booking your hotel or AirBnb.
Eloping with Your Dog in North Carolina
Yes, dogs are allowed on many of the best hiking trails in North Carolina national parks! It’s always a good idea to double-check with the park’s official website, and your photographer can help you make sure your location allows for bringing your best furry friend along.
In most cases, your dog will be required to stay on a leash so bringing someone along who can handle your pup during the ceremony often makes things easier. Sometimes your photographer can help, but it really requires three hands to take photos and hold a leash at the same time!
Be sure to bring enough water to keep your dog hydrated during any hikes, plastic bags to take care of any waste, and some extra treats or toys to get that perfect head tilt during photo time.
Your dog is part of the family and some of my favorite elopements have been ones that include them!
Leave No Trace in North Carolina
Leave no trace is a simple concept, we leave the area we visit the same way it was before we showed up. Picking up trash (even that wine cork!) is very important to make sure that all these lovely spots couples enjoy eloping to stay open to the public instead of facing restrictions.
Beyond that, some mountain locations have extra rules to abide by, such as not bringing any flowers to your ceremony that aren’t native to the area, staying off certain rock ledges to protect rare plants and animals, and not setting up any large props. Your photographer will know the ins and outs of what’s allowed and what isn’t so Leave No Trace is easy to follow regardless of where you elope.
Eloping Doesn’t Always Mean Not Including Your Family or Friends
Sometimes an elopement is just the two of you and other times it’s with close friends and family along for the ride. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t have guests at your elopement. Including the people who mean the most can be another way to elevate your experience and there’s always plenty of room up on the mountain tops for whoever you’d like to have with you.
What to Wear to Your North Carolina Elopement
The obvious wedding attire aside, there are a few other considerations. You’ll want some comfortable hiking boots or shoes, either for the trail up to your ceremony spot or to wear throughout the occasion. No one wants to hike in heels!
A backpack or two to hold your essential is a good idea and can make for some fun photos as you make your way up the mountain.
If you’re eloping in the winter be advised it will be COLD in the North Carolina mountains, and while this is certainly doable and snow on those peaks is worth it, you’ll want to dress accordingly. Gloves, hats, thick insulated jackets. Body warmers to wear under your dress clothes is never a bad thought and has kept many couples from shivering! Don’t make the mistake of assuming it’ll be fine because the hike up is short. Being warm will ensure you enjoy every moment of your elopement.
Do I Have to Hike to See An Amazing View?
Short answer, No!
While it can be fun to take a short hiking trail (or a longer one) to an overlook, there are a lot of locations that are right off the parking area or even just a short walk. You don’t have to sweat to have those jaw-dropping vistas. Here’s a couple of options that are more easily accessible.
Wisemans’s View near Linville Gorge. Wheelchair accessible.
Beacon Heights in Pisgah National Forest. Only a 0.6 mile round trip walk to the overlook.
I’ll also throw another shout out here for booking an AirBnB for your elopement since these rarely require hikes and your ceremony could be right in your temporary backyard.