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, 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 badass 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, costs, locations, weather, etc--kind of like a one-stop-shop!
I hope it's helpful and that you learn some information that you didn't know you needed to know along the way!
What really is an elopement?
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!
It’s the day you and your beloved commit your lives to each other, and you’re 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.
There are no rules here, so make space and time to do what gets you dreaming for the best day of your lives!
This is a day with just the couple or the couple and 1-10 of their loved-ones.
This type of elopement is perfect for a couple that wants all the privacy and wants to focus their day on just the two of them! Special use permits may still be required, but your ability to have a ceremony in remote places is much easier because you have less people!
This is a day with the couple and up to 10-25 loved-ones.
This is a great option for couples that want to bring their family and loved-ones along for the ride, and couldn’t imagine their day without them! With this option, you’ll need to rent a space, book a venue, or get a special-use permit to conduct a ceremony because of the larger group size!
If you want all the privacy, 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!
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!
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! 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:
There’s no waiting period for your marriage license, so you can get married the same day you get it! I would 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 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 private as possible.
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!
- A VALID ID (this could be your state ID, your passport, your military ID, your driver’s
- 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
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, there are several factors that affect how secluded a location may be!
Here, let me break it down:
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. Winter would be your best bet if you want the most privacy.
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!
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!
These are not the *only* locations to elope in Georgia, and a lot of these are some of the more popular locations for elopements! If none of these do it for you, and you want to dig deeper, I love finding more of the hidden “gems” for couples when they book me! In order to preserve these beautiful places and to abide by Leave No Trace ethics, I don't give out exact locations until a couple's booked me!
I wear a lot of hats as a photographer, and location scouting is one of those hats! I’m so passionate about scouting because I get to help couples find locations that really speak to their love story, and help to make for a bespoke elopement experience!
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!
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, park approval is required!
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!
This park has SO much to offer, and is one of the largest state parks in Georgia! 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!
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, and is often a little cooler than some of the other parks mentioned here (if you like cooler temps) because of its elevation!
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 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, and 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!
You can spend your money on whatever you want, and spend as much or as little as you see fit for your elopement! These cost breakdowns below are merely examples (the dollar amounts can and do vary), and are meant to give you a basis for your elopement planning! But, overall, eloping is much cheaper than the average traditional wedding!
In the USA, it’s a national average to spend at least 30k or more on a big, traditional wedding day; and honestly, that’s A LOT!
With elopements, you’re boiling all the details down to what matters most to you, and by doing this, you’re investing your money less on STUFF, and investing more on experiences that truly speak to your love story.
Take a look at these cost breakdowns below to get a general idea of what you might spend on a Georgia elopement experience!
- Photographer: $6,000
- Wedding dress/accessories: $3,500
- Suit/accessories: $900
- Permit: $100
- Bouquet/Boutonniere and florals for ceremony/reception: $600
- Hair/Make-up: $350
- Resort or Cabin stay: $1,000
- GA Marriage License: $56
- Photographer: $2,500
- Pre-loved wedding dress/accessories: $900
- Suit/accessories: $400
- Permit: $100
- Bouquet/Flower Crown/Boutonniere: $300
- Hair/Make-up: $150
- Cabin or Airbnb stay for 2-4 nights: $500
- GA Marriage license: $56.00
You might be thinking, "Hey, Kayla! All of this information is really great, but HOW DO I START!?"
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!
Before you begin planning any part of your day, 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. What do you imagine yourself wearing? What makes your hearts flutter? What gets you both excited? Make a day out of this daydreaming with one another, and just have fun with it! I don’t believe that planning your elopement should be stressful when you’re planning a reflection of your love story.
Maybe even make a mood board on Pinterest, or “save” locations or ideas on Instagram. This gets your brain storming engine running, and gets you both inspired because you’re seeing some visuals of how your day could look!
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., so the earlier you can book one, the better off you'll be!
To start your photographer search, maybe scour Google, Pinterest or Instagram, and go through websites, and 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.
Ultimately, there are SO many photographers out there, 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. With your decision to hire a photographer, it’s vital to go with your intuition—I don’t believe our intuitions lie to us! Trust it!
To book your photographer, reach out via their contact form! A contract is required along with a retainer to retain your elopement date in their books!
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!
Choosing to have an intimate wedding as opposed to an elopement may impact where you can have your ceremony, so if you’re thinking about inviting 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!
Like choosing a photographer, the earlier you can set up your travel, the better! The earlier you set up your travel, the better deals you can get on flights, stays at cabins or Airbnbs, and the easier it is to acquire special-use permits (if needed) for eloping in state parks and or in national forests! It’s also much easier to make reservations with other venders of your creative team!
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!
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 so excited to experience your adventure!
If you need some more inspiration for activities for your day, or ideas for your ceremony, 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!
As aforementioned, getting a marriage license is a pretty simple process in Georgia! Make sure you get your license a day or two out so all you have to worry about the day of your elopement is getting married to your love!
All of your daydreams come to reality, and you have the most amazing elopement full of presence, beauty, adventure and connection.
Dresses that are really 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!
PRO TIP: To make sure your wedding dress isn’t restricting, I suggest going to a boutique or bridal shop and trying on dresses. During COVID, this might be difficult, but certain boutiques/shops take appointments! When you try on dresses, move around A LOT! Twirl around, sit down, run through the hall, etc.
NOTE: For winter, make sure you have some skin-colored wool, or fleece-lined leggings to go under your dress! You won’t even notice them in the photos, and they keep you nice and toasty!
For warmer temps, you have more flexibility in your shoe choice, but in general, I typically 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!
Just like 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! They can crease or stain a little more easily than other fabrics, but are perfect for adventure elopements because the mentality is to have fun, and be present, so who cares if your suit gets a little stained or creased? Linen is especially great for warmer weather!
WARMTH TIP: If you’re eloping in winter, 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!
If you and your love decide you want to hike a longer distance for your elopement, having a backpack with a waist belt is so important! It 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, but 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, and have your torso measured correctly (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) to 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 because you want to enjoy it to its fullest, so invest in a good pack!
When we spend time out in nature, leaving it as good as or better than we found it is paramount for the preservation of the beautiful spaces we enjoy, and 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!
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’re backpacking, climbing, swimming, or getting married in the outdoors, here are the seven steps that we should all try our hardest to uphold and respect:
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
I’m a Leave No Trace Aware Photographer!
This means I passed an assessment given by the Leave No Trace Center for my knowledge and commitment to preserving and protecting our natural spaces!