February 17, 2021

How to Elope in Georgia

Couple in wedding attire and backpacks for their elopement.

If you’re searching for helpful information about how to elope 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, Georgia. 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 elope in Georgia and have the best day ever! So in this guide, I cover lots of information–kind of like a one-stop-shop–for how to elope in the Georgia mountains! 

I hope it’s helpful and that you feel more prepared for eloping in Georgia after reading this!

How to Get Your Marriage License 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!

A couple is reading their vows to each other for their Georgia elopement ceremony.

Firstly, you’ll need your marriage license to legally elope in Georgia. You can get your marriage license from the probate court the same day you apply, and should only take 20-30 minutes for a walk-in appointment!

If you’re not local to Georgia, 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 Georgia requires to attain your marriage license:

  • A VALID ID (passport, military ID, or driver’s license)
  • $56 dollars (payable by check, credit card or cash)
  • Social Security ID Numbers

You can also get $40 dollars off your fee if you provide the court with a Premarital Education Program completion certificate!

For more information on Georgia marriage licenses, please visit the Georgia.gov website!

You Can Elope the Same Day

Marriage licenses in Georgia have no waiting periods, so you can get married the same day you apply! You don’t have to wait! 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!

You Do Not Need Witnesses to Elope in Georgia

Georgia does require someone to marry the two of you (you can’t self-solemnize). But, Georgia does not require any witnesses. Cool, huh!? Georgia only requires that you have an officiant who can sign your marriage license after the ceremony! This makes having a super private ceremony really easy, and makes logistics a little more efficient on your elopement day.

Following your elopement, you can mail in your marriage license (signed by your officiant) to the county to obtain your official marriage certificate!

Fun Fact – I’m Ordained!

Eloping in Georgia with Family

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!

A couple surrounded by friends and loved-ones during their small wedding ceremony.

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.

Choosing the 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 lies heavily on what you want. If you’re unsure of which season to choose, really sit down and think about what weather makes you feel most comfortable and most yourself. If you’re in the dark about Georgia weather in general, I’ve listed some helpful information below.

The weather by 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 elope at venues or visit to take part in all the festivities Appalachia offers during this time of year. Even though most resources claim that you should choose fall to get married in Georgia, privacy can often be an issue during this season!

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 Georgia—can work with an experienced photographer guiding you through the process! But, ultimately, the best time of year depends on your comfortability with crowds, and with types of weather and seasons!

A mountain view during the summer on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
Summer on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia
Trees and their changing colors during the fall in Georgia.
Fall foliage in Georgia
Trees and fog during a winter morning on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
Foggy winter morning on the Appalachian Trail

How to Plan A Private Elopement in The Outdoors

Privacy on your elopement day can be difficult to gauge, but with an experienced elopement 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 details to consider that can affect the seclusion of a location! I’ve provided some tips below.

Elope on a Weekday

If a couple doesn’t have a particular date in mind for their elopement, I normally guide them to eloping in Georgia on a weekday because weekdays are so much less crowded than weekends! Vendors 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.

Elope at Sunrise or Sunset

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! But typically, sunrise or sunset elopements can often see less crowds.

Elope in the Backcountry, Not in the Front-Country

The mountains are only two hours north of Atlanta, so not a bad day drive for travelers. As a result, many travelers who visit the mountains are day visitors. So, the longer a trail is, the likelier it is you won’t run into crowds on the trail!

Front-country elopements often are easy-access spots that have accommodations, like cell service, pit toilets, trash bins, etc. But with front-country locations, you’re often likelier to see crowds.

Backcountry locations often come with less crowds, but the drawback is that they require more prepping, and hiking because there aren’t as many accommodations like front-country or easy-access locations!

A bride and groom kissing with the moon and mountains in the background.

Choosing Your Georgia Elopement Location

The location you choose for your elopement day relies heavily upon the sort of experience you want to have, and the sort of scenery that really speaks to you as a couple.

If you’re not looking to hire a photographer (I do highly recommend hiring one), really make sure to do your research on Google, AllTrails, and other travel resources to help you find what you’re envisioning for your elopement day.

No matter if you’re hiring an elopement photographer or not, always make sure to check laws pertaining to permitting for outdoor locations and always abide by Leave No Trace while eloping in the nature.

Normally, though, locations are where I come in as your elopement photographer. Most of my couples have NO IDEA where they want to elope when they hire me, and it’s so fun to help couples find the most perfect location(s) for their elopement.

A pivotal role I have as your elopement photographer is to location scout for you both. Location scouting is all about helping you to find a place that truly speaks to your love story so that you can say your vows, and adventure there for your elopement day! In order for me to location scout for you, I get to know you two as much as I can–through our emails, our phone calls, and questionnaires that I send. Once I get an adequate amount of information, I deliver a truly customized-to-you location list tailored entirely to your logistical preferences and elopement day vision.

And since I’m a North Georgia native, I already know of so many spots that would be suitable for your adventure elopement in Georgia.

To view a detailed guide on some of the best places to elope in Georgia, please visit my guide Best Places to Elope in Georgia.

A bride and groom on the morning of their Georgia elopement hiking to their ceremony location with the stars above.

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!

1. Daydream

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 member of your creative team you might hire for your elopement day, elopement photographers are heavily involved in your day. They help with locations, vendors, permits, timelines, gear lists–all sorts of helpful details.

To start your photographer search, maybe scour Google, Pinterest or Instagram, and go through websites. Follow the words that really stick out to you on websites. If you feel connected with their photos, and their words, reach out to them, and see where it leads.

There are SO many elopement 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 elopement 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 better! Based on their answers, 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 in Georgia. 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 to your photographer the mobility levels of all family members or guests wanting to attend the ceremony. If some of your family members have mobility concerns, this will require easy-access locations!

For your travel, make sure to book it sooner rather than later! The earlier you set up your travel, the better deals you can get on flights, and 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 Vendors

Other vendors 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 vendor recommendations or search Google or Instagram to find vendors that excite you in the location that you’re eloping!

An open leather-bound vow book as a couple reads their promises to each other on their elopement day.

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 for 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. I’ll be alongside you cheering you on, and capturing all of the amazing moments in between!

Cost of Eloping in Georgia

The cost of eloping in Georgia greatly varies depending on the sort of experience you’re wanting for your special day! As with most decisions in this guide, it depends on what you want!

If you only care about having a legal ceremony, you’d only have to get your marriage license, and pay $56 dollars for your entire elopement. Viola! You’re done!

However, if you’re wanting more for your elopement day, perhaps with creative team vendors, wedding attire, tailored-to-you locations, Airbnb stays, etc–you’ll have to spend a little more.

For this type of experience, the average cost of eloping in Georgia can vary from $7,000 to $15,000. Of course, you can spend way more or way less than this, but this is merely an estimate of the average costs you might see for an adventure elopement.

If you’re looking to hire an elopement photographer for your special day, please check out my elopement pricing and packages page!

What to Wear for Eloping in Georgia

A mother-of-the-bride helping the bride button her dress before their waterfall ceremony.

For Dresses

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 Georgia in the winter months, 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!

A groom smiling and laughing while holding his bow tie.

For Suits

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 Georgia in the winter, 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 Shoes

For warmer temps while eloping in Georgia, 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!

For Backpacks

If you both decide to hike a longer distance while eloping in Georgia, 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!

Leaving No Trace While Eloping in Georgia

A couple eloping in Georgia close to the Appalachian Trail.

When we spend time out in nature (yes, even while we’re eloping in Georgia), 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, allows to continue to elope on public lands, and allows us to visit our elopement location for years and years to come for anniversaries or nostalgic trips.

None of us are perfect in Leave No Trace. We’ve all made mistakes, but it’s so important for us to move past those mistakes, and continue doing our parts, however small, to preserve these pristine places so we can continue to elope in the beautiful state of 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:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors.

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