One of the most exciting parts of officially planning your wedding day is finding the attire that fits you and your vision for the day perfectly. If you’ve decided to go down the path of planning an elopement rather than a traditional wedding then congrats, this is even MORE exciting! You’ve probably chosen an elopement day because you’re looking for something unique and personalized for you. I highly suggest approaching finding your dream elopement wedding dress the same way!
As an elopement photographer for the past five years I’ve seen all sorts of dresses- every length, every fabric, every shape, and even different colors! Don’t feel like you cannot wear a certain kind of dress while eloping. It will be important to keep in mind what your elopement day is going to entail! I’ve found some ways to make adventuring in any kind of dress possible so make sure you read through this guide for all sorts of tips and tricks! Good luck finding your dream elopement wedding dress! It’s going to be such a FUN adventure!
Every couple’s reason to elope is completely personal to them. Over the years we’ve heard a variety of reasons ranging from wanting to have a day more personal and unique to them, wanting a more adventurous day, or because they never really connected to the idea of a traditional wedding. The common denominator for almost every eloping couple is them wanting a day that is THEIRS.
Short answer- There is no difference! Any wedding dress can be an elopement dress. When finding your elopement dress it’s important to take in a handful of factors to make sure it’ll work for everything you have planned! Whether that be hiking, off-roading, brewery-hopping, kayaking, or whatever else you’ve been dreaming of! Some people think that an elopement dress has to be simple and flowy. Let me tell you that you don’t have to put yourself in that box!
What do you wear for an elopement?
You can wear whatever you want to your elopement! Some people feel more comfortable in a suit, others feel more comfortable in a dress. This blog post is specifically focused on elopement dresses but be assured that not everyone wants to wear a dress and that’s okay! Your elopement dress can be formal or casual, whatever shape and style you love, and whatever color you love! If you choose an elopement location that involves more hiking you may end up wearing hiking clothes at some point on your elopement day.
Do you wear a wedding dress to elope?
Lots of people wear wedding dresses to elope but you don’t have to if that isn’t your preference!
Do you wear a veil when you elope?
As a photographer I’m a sucker for a veil paired with a wedding dress! It can compliment your dress and enhance your look so much! If you aren’t a fan of veils, no problem! Later on I’ll be chatting more about different ways to accessorize your elopement wedding dress.
Tops Things you Need to Consider BEFORE Finding Your Dress:
How to find the perfect dress
As someone who has gotten two wedding dresses (one for my original intimate wedding in Olympic National Park and another for my 5 year vow renewal in Iceland) I’ve learned some tricks to finding your dream dress!
A-Line: This style of dress typically comes in at the waist and the skirt freely flows. Some A-lines have very light and flowy skirts while others hold more shape and fullness.
Mermaid: This is a curvy still dress that enhances an hourglass shape with a skirt that flares somewhere around the knee or thigh area.
Trumpet: A trumpet style gown is similar to a mermaid shape but with a more fuller skirt.
Ballgown: Ballgowns have a tight bodice that sinch at the waist and a very full skirt that may resemble a bell shape.
Slip/Sheath: A slip or sheath gown would be one that doesn’t have a very defined skirt and instead would freely flow straight down.
Two Piece: Exactly as it sounds, this is a dress that is a separate top and skirt.
If you are planning on flying with your wedding dress make sure you plan accordingly. My biggest piece of advice is to fly with a mini dress steamer because your dress may get wrinkled on the route. For the flight all you’ll need to do is have your wedding dress in a dress bag. You’ll bring it as a carry on and when you get onto the plane you can ask the flight attendant if they have closet space for it. If they don’t or if they decline you’ll want to put it in the overhead storage. If you put it in the coat closet make sure you don’t forget it (speaking from personal experience!).
If you’ve chosen to have an adventurous kind of elopement experience then there is a good chance you’ll hike in your wedding dress at some point. Believe it or not, most eloping individuals who wear a dress on their day end up really enjoying it! It can be exhilarating to wear such a gorgeous gown in an amazing location. After being an elopement photographer for five years I’ve found some really great tips that can make hiking in your elopement dress a lot more manageable.
Consider your specific elopement locations. Would it be smarter to wear hiking clothes to get to your location then change? Sometimes it’s actually easier to keep your dress on and preserve through it being a bit tougher to hike in if your dress is complicated to get on. Remember that you’ll be on a trail changing rather than a house!
The first step to being able to successful and comfortably hike in your elopement dress is your shoes! Having proper shoes will not only make it easier but also safer. Some people choose to have two pairs of shoes on their elopement day- one nicer pair for their ceremony and one pair to hike in. I suggest proper hiking boots for most locations but of course this will depend on your exact elopement location. Hiking sandals, exercise shoes, or even shoes like Birkenstocks could be an option if you have a lighter dress and flatter terrain.
Don’t forget to add bustles. It’s common to get a bustle on the bottom back of your gown for traditional weddings and I do suggest you get this for your elopement. I’ve also seen people add a bustle to the front as well to make it easier to hike in. If your dress isn’t a plain material then I would highly suggest this since you probably won’t see it anyways!
Use your wristlet! A lot of dresses either come with a wristlet (basically a fabric hoop on the inside bottom of your gown) or you can have your seamstress add this. I highly recommend this for any dress because it’s much easier to gather and hold the longest point of the dress.
Wear layers underneath that will make you comfortable to hold up your dress skirt. If you’re eloping in the summer months then spandex shorts are great! Leggings or tights are awesome for winter elopements. You can always remove these once we’ve arrived to your location if you’re worried about them showing.
If it’s a better option for you to change into your elopement dress after hiking then now it’s time to consider how to pack it! If your dress is able to roll and fit into a hiking pack then you can do that. Another option is to keep the dress in the dress bag and hook it onto your hiking pack.
Wanna know my biggest tip for hiking in your wedding dress? Embrace it! You are only going to do it once. Yep, it might be a little tricky. Laugh about it! I can promise you that your mindset about it will affect your day the most. Have fun with it!
As I mentioned earlier, some people choose to bring two pairs of shoes to the elopement day. One pair may be designated for the ceremony and the other is the pair you’ll primarily hike in. If you want to only have one pair of wedding shoes, no problem! Do what works best for you! I do not suggest very tall, stiletto heels on an elopement day because they can be a safety hazard. If you want some height I’d suggest a more block heel and try to keep it as short as you can. Lots of people bring a cute pair of heels for the ceremony and call it good!
If you aren’t a heels person you can also consider just wearing your favorite pair of casual shoes- Converse, Vans, Birkenstocks, combat boots, etc! Don’t be afraid to do something more unique 🙂 Bring your favorite shoes to hike in for the adventure part of your day. Some locations require actual hiking boots while running shoes or hiking sandals may suffice for other spots. Make sure you consider your locations when packing for your elopement!
Here’s my warning that if you want to keep your wedding dress perfectly clean that eloping may not be right for you! As a photographer I can never guarantee your dress not getting dirt on it if we are outside. No matter how much you hold up your dress it still may pick up some dirt. Some people love to rock the dirty wedding dress and wear it as a proud badge after the most epic adventure and refuse to clean it afterwards. Others may have loved getting it dirty on the day of but they will still decide to get it professionally cleaned to *try* to restore it to it’s original color. I say *try* with emphasis because you never truly know if the dirt or stains can be removed until you try. Some materials hold on to the color more than others so just be aware of that!
If you want to try to clean it I’d suggest rinsing it in warm water with dawn dish soap the day after your elopement. This works surprisingly well with most stains. Once you are back home from your elopement you can find a professional wedding dress cleaner to take care of it fully, as well as get it preserved if you’d like! If you don’t want to get it cleaned, don’t! I still have my wedding dress dirty from running into a waterfall 5 years ago!
Wedding accessories are an amazing way to elevate your wedding day look to be even more personalized and unique. Over the years I’ve seen cute jackets, capes, hats, veils, attachable sleeves, shawls, flower crowns, and more!
Finding a cute jacket for the evening portion of your elopement is a great way to have an entirely different feel from the rest of the day. There are amazing artists on sites like Etsy who custom make bridal jackets or you can get a simple jean or leather jacket. If you would rather cozy vibes than consider a cardigan. If your elopement day is taking place during more extreme cold or windy weather I’d suggest getting some sort of down or puffer jacket. You don’t have to keep this on during all of the photos but you’ll want to have it in between and while hiking!
Some people think that you can’t wear a veil to an elopement but let me just tell you that they are wrong! Tons of people who elope choose to wear a veil at some point on their wedding day. I will admit that hiking with a veil can be a bit annoying so don’t expect yourself to wear it all day long! It can be fun to just wear it during the ceremony or to add it on during your portrait session.
Veils come in a variety of lengths ranging from fingertip to full cathedral. They also come in many designs ranging from plain tulle, to lace, to lace tipped, and I’ve even been seeing more unique ones with pearls, sparkles, and flowers. Amazon is a great spot to buy a veil if you don’t want to splurge on it and if you’re unsure how much use you’d actually get from it on your wedding day.
Bridal capes are a fun alternative accessory to a veil if you want something different. Some wedding dresses may be made with a cape sewn on or you can buy an attachable cape. You can also consider having your seamstress add on a cape to your dress during alterations. I personally bought a pin-able wedding cape for our vow renewal and it was my favorite part of my wedding look. It added beautiful drama to my bridal look!
One of my favorite new trends is the bridal hat! Imagine a cute hipster hat but *elevated*. I’ve seen more simple ones with just ribbon added, as well as custom made hand embroiled hats. Some people even choose to add a floral piece to their bridal hat. If you really love flowers you can ditch the hat and go for a floral headband (also called a flower crown!) or just a smaller headpiece. Don’t forget to ask your florist to make one of these for you if you are interested so they can perfectly match your bouquet.
As I mentioned earlier, some people choose to bring two pairs of shoes to the elopement day. One pair may be designated for the ceremony and the other is the pair you’ll primarily hike in. If you want to only have one pair of wedding shoes, no problem! Do what works best for you! I do not suggest very tall, stiletto heels on an elopement day because they can be a safety hazard. If you want some height I’d suggest a more block heel and try to keep it as short as you can.
Lots of people bring a cute pair of heels for the ceremony and call it good! If you aren’t a heels person you can also consider just wearing your favorite pair of casual shoes- Converse, Vans, Birkenstocks, combat boots, etc! Don’t be afraid to do something more unique 🙂 Bring your favorite shoes to hike in for the adventure part of your day. Some locations require actual hiking boots while running shoes or hiking sandals may suffice for other spots. Make sure you consider your locations when packing for your elopement!
Here’s my warning that if you want to keep your wedding dress perfectly clean that eloping may not be right for you! As a photographer I can never guarantee your dress not getting dirt on it if we are outside. No matter how much you hold up your dress it still may pick up some dirt. Some people love to rock the dirty wedding dress and wear it as a proud badge after the most epic adventure and refuse to clean it afterwards. Others may have loved getting it dirty on the day of but they will still decide to get it professionally cleaned to *try* to restore it to it’s original color.
I say *try* with emphasis because you never truly know if the dirt or stains can be removed until you try. Some materials hold on to the color more than others so just be aware of that! If you want to try to clean it I’d suggest rinsing it in warm water with dawn dish soap the day after your elopement. This works surprisingly well with most stains. Once you are back home from your elopement you can find a professional wedding dress cleaner to take care of it fully, as well as get it preserved if you’d like!
If you don’t want to get it cleaned, don’t! I still have my wedding dress dirty from running into a waterfall 5 years ago!
If you’ve decided to get married in the winter then make sure you consider that when picking your dress! Look for dresses with thicker, heavier materials as those with help keep you insulated. Long sleeves are always a great option too but don’t forget that you can always add on layers if you fall in love with a short sleeve dress! If you are drawn to slits then consider whether or not you’d be okay with tights or leggings showing rather than your skin.
Layers, layers, and more layers are going to be your best friend if it’s going to be really cold out! Consider thick tights, fleece lined leggings (they sell skin toned ones!), and tops layers like cardigans and coats. Don’t forget to pack a scarf and gloves too!
When you are picking your summer elopement dress you’ll need to consider how easily you can cool down. The most important thing to consider to keep you cool is dress breathability! Lighter, flowy dress typically work best but that doesn’t mean you have to go that route. Materials like satin, tulle, and thin lace can be great for letting air in. Don’t forget to pack some sunscreen if you’re opting for a short sleeve gown!
Now that you’ve figured out your dress budget and found some wedding dress inspiration it’s time to find your dream gown! As I mentioned above, it is important to consider how much time you have until your elopement day. I’d suggest calling your local wedding dress stores to see how long their dresses take to come in and if they have off the rack options available. Make sure you only try on dresses that will work with your elopement timeframe!
When looking for your elopement dress I always suggest trying them on in person if possible. Research your local bridal boutiques and also consider driving to nearby bigger cities for more options. If you have specific dress designers that you love, try researching to see if stores nearby carry them.
One of my favorite, lesser known places to buy a wedding gown is Etsy. Firstly, I do suggest that you still go and try on wedding gowns in person to confirm what styles you love! Etsy is a great option if you are looking for more unique gowns that some dress stores might not carry. I also love Etsy because a lot of designers on there will custom make your dress which means you may only need minimal to no alterations! Make sure you confirm when your dress will be shipped so it won’t arrive too late for your elopement.
Buying your elopement wedding dress secondhand is a great option if you know of specific designers and gowns that you love and you are okay with not getting a perfectly new gown! This is my favorite option if you’re like me and you’ve fallen in love with higher end designers like Rue de Seine! I suggest checking out websites like Stillwhite, Nearlynewlywed, Oncewed, and Ebay!
If you have a smaller budget for your elopement wedding dress, don’t worry! Online stores have started to carry more lower budget friendly wedding dress options that are especially great for elopements with shorter timeframes. My biggest tip is to specifically search for maxi white dresses. Here are some of my favorite stores to check out and some of my favorite dresses I’ve seen!
I hope that this elopement wedding dress guide was helpful for your adventure of finding your perfect dress! Remember-all that matters is that YOU love and feel confident in your dress. You don’t need a “wedding body” to get your dream dress. You already have a wedding body! Enjoy this experience and most of all, enjoy your elopement!
Hello!! We are the Wilder West Team! We are a husband and wife photo video team based in sunny Sedona, Arizona. Caitlyn is the lead photographer and your personal elopement guide aka elopement wizard, question-answerer, location scouter, and designated hype woman. Chad is the lead videographer who you can expect to supply all the dad jokes, carrier of the Mary Poppins backpack, and mountain goat to get all the rad shots! We’ve been lucky enough to call this place our home for the past 6 years, going on 100+ adventures with couples from all over the world.
We’d love to show you around our home & help you plan your dream Sedona elopement experience.
We believe that all couples deserve to have an adventurous and meaningful wedding experience that reflects them and their love. Let’s work together to design your “best day” from start to finish. We can’t wait to hear all about what you are dreaming for your elopement experience so we can work together to make it happen seamlessly and care free.
Photo Only Packages Beginning at $4500
Photo & Video Packages Beginning at $7000