THE ULTIMATE, ONE-STOP-SHOP GUIDE FOR INTENTIONAL COUPLES LOOKING TO ELOPE IN THE GEORGIA MOUNTAINS.
If you’re searching for helpful information about eloping in Georgia, and aren’t sure where to begin in your planning process, you’ve come to the right place!
For over twenty years, I lived in Blairsville. It’s a small mountain town, and I spent so much time backpacking, rock climbing, and exploring its blue mountains. There’s so much beauty, and I truly believe my state has so much to offer for eloping couples!
Over time, I’ve learned a thing or two about helping couples have the best day ever! So in this guide, I cover lots of information like legalities, locations, weather, etc–kind of like a one-stop-shop!
I hope it’s helpful and that you feel more prepared for planning your elopement in Georgia after reading this!
- What is an elopement?
- Eloping with Family in Georgia
- How to Elope in Georgia
- Best Time of Year to Elope in Georgia
- Places to Elope in Georgia
- Georgia Elopement Planning Timeline
- What to Wear for Eloping in Georgia
- Leave No Trace for Georgia Elopements
What is an elopement?
Let’s start off with the basics!
Over time, languages and the words in those languages evolve. So, the definition of “elopement” or “eloping” changed drastically, especially within the last 5 years or so.
Eloping no longer means getting married on a whim, or having a really fast wedding in secret—it’s so much more mindful and intentional than that!
With elopements, couples now realize that they don’t have to just *accept* their special day, they can get excited about it. They can have an unforgettable *experience* tailored to them without the distractions, expectations, and stress that oftentimes comes with a bigger, more traditional wedding.
Your wedding is the day you and your beloved commit your lives to each other. And, with elopements, it’s all about that. You two are making a conscious and intentional decision to break free from familial and societal expectations so that you can have a day all about the two of you; so you can feel present and connected with yourself, your love, and the earth.
Most adventure elopements involve just the couple plus 1-10 family members, or loved-ones to maximize the experience and the privacy of their day!
Eloping with Family in Georgia
Just because you’re ditching tradition and doing your wedding day differently doesn’t mean you can’t invite loved-ones!
Elopements that involve the couple plus 11-25 of their loved ones is what I call a small wedding or intimate wedding!
Small Wedding (or Intimate Wedding)
This is a great option for couples that want to bring their family and loved-ones along for the ride! In Georgia, there aren’t as many spaces that would be Leave No Trace friendly for groups larger than 10 people, so having a private space rented out would be a more feasible and ethical option for eloping with family in Georgia! For couples looking to have small wedding in Georgia, they’ll need to rent a space to conduct a ceremony or have a reception!
If you want all the privacy of an adventure elopement, but still want to celebrate with your family in some way, you can still get the best of both worlds! You do this by eloping in a beautiful spot just the two of you one day, and having a celebration/reception with your family the next! This solves the internal struggle that many couples experience if they resonate with both a small wedding and an adventure elopement.
How to Elope in Georgia
Overall, GA makes it pretty simple to get legally married—which is awesome!
Below, I’ve provided some information regarding how to elope in Georgia legally!
Requirements for a Marriage License in Georgia
Firstly, you’ll need your marriage license to legally elope in GA. You can get your marriage license from the county clerk’s office the same day you apply, and should only take 20-30 minutes for a walk-in appointment (call ahead concerning COVID-19 restrictions, though)!
If you’re not local to GA, you’ll have to get your marriage license from the county in which your marriage ceremony will take place!
Here is what the state of GA requires to attain your marriage license:
- A VALID ID (this could be your state ID, passport, military ID, driver’s license, etc)
- A fee of $56 dollars! Note: the price for marriage licenses may vary depending on the county you’re in!
- Social Security ID numbers! Remember to have this on-hand, or memorized for your application!
You Don’t Have to Wait:
Marriage licenses in Georgia have no waiting periods, so you can get married the same day you get it! I still suggest getting your license a day or two before your elopement day if you’re planning on hiking for a sunrise ceremony just to reduce stress, and save time!
I’m Ordained (Yes, Really)!
I’m actually ordained and can “say the words” for your ceremony, and sign your marriage license in the state of Georgia to keep your elopement or intimate wedding as simple or as private as you want.
Georgia Doesn’t Require Witnesses:
Georgia does require someone to marry the two of you (you can’t self-solemnize). But, Georgia doesn’t require any witnesses, and only requires that you have an officiant who can sign your marriage license after the ceremony!
Following your elopement, you can mail in your marriage license (signed by your officiant) to the county to obtain your official marriage certificate!
Best Time of Year to Elope in Georgia
Each season varies, and has its own beauty, and the weather in Georgia is relatively temperate, so you can make pretty much any season work for your elopement! But, the answer to this question lies heavily on the amount of privacy a location, time of day, or time of year can give you!
Here are some brief descriptions of weather by each season in Georgia:
The summers are lush, but hot and humid.
The winters are damp and cold, but way less crowded.
The spring has a lot of variability in weather (rain, and temperature), but has many beautiful wildflowers and lush new foliage growth!
The fall is a really popular time here in Appalachia because of the colors of the trees, and the crispness of the air. It’s also one of our driest seasons, so you won’t run into as many rain showers. As a result, it’s CROWDED. Many folks choose this time of year to get married at venues or visit to take part in all the festivities Appalachia offers during this time of year. Even though most resources claim that fall is the best time to get married, privacy can be an issue during this season, and I want you to have the best experience possible!
Privacy on your elopement day can be difficult to gage, but with an experienced photographer, you’ll be able to plan around the crowds! The whole point of having an elopement day all about the two of you is the privacy that allows you to be 100% yourselves in a place that you love.
You don’t want twenty strangers recording your ceremony just for kicks, or asking to take photos with you because you look nice in your wedding dress (I’ve seriously had this happen to me after my own elopement ceremony)!
If you’re introverted like I am, privacy is super important to you! For privacy to happen on your elopement day, several factors affect the seclusion of a location!
Here, let me break it down:
What Day of the Week or Season It Is:
If a couple doesn’t have a particular date in mind for their elopement, I normally guide them to eloping on a weekday because weekdays are so much less crowded than weekends! Venders also have more availability and reservations are easier to make during the week! Trails and roads are likely to have less traffic!
As I mentioned above, each season varies in the amount of people visiting the mountains of Georgia. But, winter offers the most privacy for elopements.
What Time of Day It Is:
Generally speaking, really early in the morning or really late into the evening, you won’t run into crowds or many people! Certain trails are either known for their sunrises or sunsets, so work with your photographer and plan accordingly depending on the location you choose to get a more private experience!
How Long a Trail Is:
Since many travelers who visit the mountains are day visitors (the mountains are only two hours north of Atlanta, so not a bad day drive for travelers), the longer the trail is, the likelier it is you won’t run into crowds on the trail!
Backcountry locations often come with less crowds, but require more prepping and planning ahead because there aren’t as many accommodations as front-country locations!
For the best season, I wish I could give a one-size-fits-all kind of answer. But the truth is, you can make any season work with proper planning. Even fall—the most popular season in GA—can work with an experienced photographer guiding you through the process! But, ultimately, it depends on your comfortability with crowds, types of weather/seasons, and your want for privacy!
Places to Elope in Georgia
A pivotal role of an elopement photographer is their ability to location scout. Location scouting is all about helping you find and choose a place that truly speaks to your love story so that you can say your vows, and adventure there for your elopement day!
Since I’m a North Georgia native and an avid backpacker, I already know of so many spots that would be suitable for your adventure elopement!
These locations listed below however are not the *only* locations to elope in Georgia! So, if none of these excite you, I’d love to dig deeper with you, and find a hidden gem for you and your love!
In order to preserve these beautiful places and to abide by Leave No Trace ethics and park or land regulations, I don’t give out exact locations until a couple’s booked with me (that means a signed contract and a paid retainer)! But, I hope these locations listed below get the gears in your brain turning, and get you excited!
Locations on the Appalachian Trail (AT)
Many of the most beautiful locations I’ve found backpacking in Georgia are on the Appalachian Trail! The Georgia section of the AT is managed by the National Park Service, and has about 76 miles of trail. There are summits (and knobs), waterfalls, and valleys, and the trail winds through some of the state’s most beautiful forests and mountains!
Certain sections of the AT in GA are easy to get to since they’re located close to roads, and these locations can be a little more populated than others, but with proper preparation and planning ahead with your photographer, you can find a beautiful spot to elope while hiking on the AT!
For a family elopement, these locations would be more difficult to access/not as Leave No Trace friendly with a larger group. So, for locations on the AT, I’d suggest more of an elopement (2-5 people) as opposed to an intimate wedding (10-25 people)! When considering locations on the AT as an option for your elopement experience, consider mobility levels and experience levels hiking!
Vogel State Park
A part of the Blood Mountain Wilderness, and located at the base of Blood Mountain, Vogel State Park is one of Georgia’s oldest parks! I used to live four miles away from here, and visited all the time for running and backpacking, so I know lots of awesome spots! There’s a beautiful lake right in the middle of the park, some lovely waterfalls, and mountain views! As I mentioned above about fall, Vogel can see a lot of crowds during fall for the beautiful mountain colors, and for its beauty, so planning ahead is a must!
In addition to the lake in the middle of the park, there’s a backcountry trail and a smaller loop trail that would make for a gorgeous forest elopement! In order to elope or have a ceremony here though, the park requires their approval!
Unlike locations on the AT, Vogel would be more LNT appropriate for an intimate wedding (10- 25 people) if you both decided you wanted your loved-ones with you for the adventure!
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Cloudland Canyon State Park has SO much to offer for couples eloping in Georgia, and is one of the largest parks in the state! It has beautiful canyon vistas, sandstone cliffs, wild caves, gorgeous waterfalls, and so many other amazing features! As an elopement day example, you could elope at one of their canyon vistas as the sun’s rising, spend the day adventuring and picnicking around, and celebrate the night away with your love in one of their quirky yurts or hygge-like cottages!
If you wanted more of an intimate wedding experience at this location (10-25 people), this park would be more LNT friendly for larger groups than locations on the AT would be!
Park approval is required to elope here!
Black Rock Mountain State Park
The highest park in terms of elevation (nestled at 3,640 feet), this location offers some of the most beautiful vistas of Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains! For this reason, it’s often a little cooler than some of the other parks mentioned here.
There’s a 17-acre lake, 11 miles of trails, lush forests and small waterfalls, so this park offers a lovely background for elopements. If you want to be a little adventurous, you could elope with the mountains as your background, and hike to one of their backcountry campsites for a celebration!
Tallulah Gorge State Park
Tallulah is known for its 1,000 foot gorge and its 2 mile long canyon—seriously it’s GORGE-ous. Get it? Get it? The views are breathtaking, and it can be quite the popular spot!
Free, day-of permits are required to access the gorge floor trail! With COVID permeating our lives this year, access to the gorge floor is even more limited. But, there are plenty of other spots to choose from for your elopement adventure if the gorge floor isn’t available for exploring!
Georgia Elopement Planning Timeline
There are A LOT of details to think about. So it might be hard to know where to begin.
For this, I’ve given you a chronological planning timeline for your elopement to help organize your planning, and give structure to all the planning madness!
Having a step-by-step timeline of the planning process gives so much clarity, and helps reduce any stress that may come with planning such an important day!
But, throughout this process, just remember this: relax and be present. Have fun. Your elopement day can be as simple or as complex as you want, so don’t think of the planning process as a set of “have-to’s” or “should-do’s.” This is merely to give structure, and assistance!
Before you begin planning any part of your day, make a date with your beloved. Cuddle up somewhere cozy, hike to a beautiful mountain vista, picnic in a meadow or do whatever it is that is most you two as a couple. While you’re relaxed and present, start dreaming about your day together.
Ask yourself questions and brainstorm!
What do you imagine yourself wearing? Does it make your hearts flutter to read private vows to each other? Do you explode with excitement when you think about watching the stars together?
Make a day out of this daydreaming with one another, and just have fun with it! Maybe even make a mood board on Pinterest to get your brain storming engine running!
2. Book Your Photographer
The earlier you can book a photographer, the better off you’ll be! More than any other vender you might hire for your elopement day, elopement photographers are heavily involved because they help with locations, venders, permits, timelines, etc.
To start your photographer search, maybe scour Google, Pinterest or Instagram, and go through websites. Follow the words that really stick out to you. If you feel connected with their photos, and their words, reach out to them, and see where it leads.
There are SO many photographers out there. Thousands upon thousands. So the most important thing is to feel safe and connected with your photographer because you spend SO much time with them, and share the most important day of your lives with them alongside you. It’s vital to choose a photographer who you feel like you can be your most authentic self around.
To book your photographer, reach out via their contact form! Photographers require a signed contract along with a paid retainer to retain your elopement date in their books!
3. Decide on a Location & Set Up Travel
Once you hire your photographer, this is the time to start working on narrowing down a location! With my couples, I send out a questionnaire after they book, and it helps me to get to know them! Based on their answers to the questions in the questionnaire, I provide for them a tailored-to-them location idea and inspiration list so they don’t have to do all the hard research!
Choosing to have a small wedding as opposed to an elopement may impact where you can have your ceremony. So, if you want to invite guests (10-25 people), let your photographer know so they can help scout out locations suitable for you and your family! It’s also super important to mention the mobility levels of all family members or guests wanting to attend the ceremony!
For your travel, make sure to book it sooner than later! The earlier you set up your travel, the better deals you can get on flights, stays at cabins or Airbnbs. It’s also easier to acquire special-use permits (if needed) for eloping in state parks and or in national forests!
4. Book Other Creative Team Venders
Other venders that could be a part of your creative team might be a videographer, a hair and makeup artist, a chef, a florist, a violinist—whatever you want! You can ask your photographer for vender recommendations or search Google or Instagram to find venders that excite you in the location that you’re eloping!
5. Plan The Details
This is where those daydreams from the first section start to take more shape! During this time, you might work on your timeline with your photographer! A timeline is a powerful, visual tool to see your day unfold in a chronological way, and gets you excited to experience your adventure!
If you need some more inspiration for activities or details of your day, pick your photographer’s brain! An experienced photographer has photographed MANY elopements, and can suggest fun, creative, innovative, tailored-to-you ideas for your day you might never have thought of!
6. Get your Marriage License
As aforementioned, getting a marriage license is a pretty simple process in Georgia! Make sure to obtain your license a day or two before your special day to reduce stress and have fun the day of your elopement!
7. Have the Day of Your Dreams
All of your daydreams come to fruition, and you have the most amazing elopement full of presence, beauty, adventure and connection.
What to Wear for Eloping in Georgia
Dresses great for adventure elopements are ones that are easy to move in. Chiffon, silk, rayon, or cotton fabrics are typically lighter, less restricting materials! Restricting wedding gowns like the mermaid or trumpet style make it difficult or uncomfortable to hike in, hard to move around in, and take a lot of time to put on!
NOTE: Winters in Georgia may not get as frigid as winters in Alaska, but it’s STILL cold, especially on mountaintops. It’s important to plan and prepare.
If you’re eloping in winter in Georgia, make sure you have some skin-colored wool, or fleece-lined leggings to go under your dress! I have some extra fleece-lined leggings that I take with me for couples on elopement days, and you don’t even notice them in the photos!
Like wedding dresses, you need to feel comfortable in your suit and have freedom of movement! When you’re trying on suits, bend down, sit, jump, or walk! You not only want it to look snazzy, you want it to feel super comfortable, too!
Some more flexible fabrics for suits are cotton or linen! Keep in mind that they can crease or stain a little more easily than other fabrics, but they’re great for warmer weather!
WARMTH TIP: If you’re eloping in winter in Georgia, it can get really damp out and therefore super chilling! Think of alternative materials like tweed, wool, or flannel to keep yourself warm! Just like wedding dresses, you can also wear some fleece or wool-lined leggings underneath the pants of your suit!
For warmer temps, you have more flexibility in your shoe choice, but in general, I recommend some type of hiking boot for starters!
Hiking boots are durable, water-resistant, and comfortable! You can’t really go wrong with them! Some of my favorite brands are Merrell, Vasque, or Keen! I’ve even hiked in my vintage doc martens for my own elopement, and they did wonderfully because they’re broken in, and hug my feet really well!
If you do purchase new hiking boots, make sure to give yourself enough time to break them in! The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable in your hiking boots on your elopement day!
If you both decide to hike a longer distance for your elopement, having a backpack with a waist belt is so important! The belt distributes your weight onto your waist, and keeps the majority of the weight off of your shoulders for a much smoother and more enjoyable backpacking experience. The most optimal weight distribution for a pack is 80% of weight on your waist and 20% on your shoulders!
Osprey is my particular favorite brand for packs! However, there are plenty of other brands that are just as great like Kelty, Mountain Hardware, REI, etc!
To get fitted properly, make sure you visit your local gear store or REI. They’ll measure your torso (from the top of your neck—also called the C7 or 7th cervical vertebrae—to the top of your hip bone—also called the iliac crest) so that you can choose the best sized, most suitable pack for your body!
Just like your shoes, dress, or suit, you do NOT want to be uncomfortable for your elopement day. Instead, you want to enjoy it to its fullest, so invest in a good pack!
Also, if you want to make your own DIY elopement sign like the one in the photo, check out my recent post about making your own DIY elopement sign for your hiking elopement!
Leave No Trace for Georgia Elopements
When we spend time out in nature, leaving our surroundings as good as or better than we found them is paramount for the preservation of the beautiful spaces we enjoy. It also ensures our continued access to places that move us.
We’ve all made mistakes in this, but it’s so important for us to move past those mistakes, and continue doing our parts, however small, to preserve these pristine places in Georgia!
Instead of thinking of Leave No Trace as a set of rules we have to follow when we go outside, we should think of it more as a code of ethics when we recreate in the outdoors. Whether we backpack, climb, swim, or elope in the outdoors, we should uphold and respect these seven steps:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
I'm a small wedding and elopement photographer based in the beautiful and mountainous North Georgia. I absolutely LOVE what I do, and truly believe that it's my life's calling to capture and craft incredible elopement days for intentional, eco-conscious couples! But, when I'm not adventuring with couples, you can find me out in nature with my adventure pup Kamots and my love Robert.