How to Elope In Asheville
Elopements in Asheville, NC are definitely some of my favorites! We may not have the same scenery as out west, but we do have some epic mountains, lakes, waterfalls, fields with the mountains in the distance, & so much more. This guide for elopements in Asheville, NC has everything you need to know for eloping in & around Asheville. As an Asheville elopement photographer, part of my job is to help my couples plan the most epic & adventurous elopements in North Carolina!
Asheville is a cute city that has a little bit of everything. It’s a great home base for adventure seekers & tourists who want to experience the outdoors while still being able to enjoy city life. Whether you want to go rock climbing, hike to a waterfall, or spend some time shopping around downtown, Asheville and the surrounding area has it all.
What is the average cost to Elope in Asheville?
This honestly depends! But, it will definitely be significantly less than if you plan a more traditional wedding. The most expensive purchase for your elopement will most likely be your photographer and/or videographer. Trust me, it’s worth splurging on! Elopements don’t have to mean there’s less celebrating. It just means you can explore and adventure on your big day (and have me tag along to capture every special moment!) You can expect to spend anywhere from $1500 for a couple hours of coverage to $13k or more for multi-day elopement photography. The cost to elope in Asheville will also depend on what you choose to do on your day.
Where to Elope
City elopement locations
Buncombe County Courthouse
Located in the heart of Asheville, North Carolina, this courthouse has the charm and stunning architecture to make the backdrop of your photos beautiful! Say your vows and then explore what downtown has to offer.
60 Court Plaza, Asheville, NC 28801
Love beer? A handful of the breweries here in Asheville will actually let you get married at their location!
Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest spans over 500,000 acres. There are loads of trails to explore whether you want an easy hike or a more difficult one. Having an elopement here does come with some restrictions.
There are certain locations that the forest service has asked photographers & couples to avoid whenever possible due to over crowding. Personally, I will only do an elopement at these locations on a weekday when there are far less people visiting them or if it’s an off season. To avoid the crowds even more, I’d highly suggest a sunrise elopement. The lighting is perfect!
For more info on one of my favorite places, checkout my Roan Mountain Elopement Guide.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a road that spans from the Smoky Mountains all the way up to the Shenandoahs in Virginia. There are tons of pull offs & view points along the road that make the perfect backdrop to an elopement in Asheville, North Carolina. There’s also a number of short hikes right off the parkway that have the most beautiful views.
The parkway does have some restrictions & requirements. The most important being that a permit is required for your ceremony location. Permits cost $100 & are non-refundable, even if the weather prevents you from being able to get to the location for your ceremony. Although there are some locations where ceremonies are not permitted along the parkway, photographs are still allowed at these locations. Many couples will pay for a permit to have their ceremony at a viewpoint & then hike to the locations such as Rough Ridge, Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail, or Graveyard Fields for their portraits.
Group sizes must be 25 people or less (including vendors) & there are some locations where you must have an even smaller amount of guests.
As with most locations for elopements, week days at sunrise are the best time for your portraits & ceremony due to lighting & the fact that there are less people visiting the Parkway during that time.
State Parks & Forests
These include Grandfather Mountain, Mt. Mitchell, Chimney Rock, & DuPont.
When people think about adventure elopements they picture epic landscapes or unique landmarks. But sometimes it’s just nice to elope at a cute airbnb or venue with a pretty view & spend the rest of the week or weekend exploring those locations on your own time.
One reason to have an airbnb elopement in Asheville, North Carolina is so that you can have whatever props or decorations that you’d like. When you elope in the wilderness, you’re not able to have an extravagant archway or picnic with chairs and a table. But when you rent an airbnb or small venue, the options are endless.
Some traditional wedding venues offer smaller elopement packages. These tend to be shorter, on week days, & may have a limit to the number of guests permitted.
These are just a few of the many different options for locations to elope in Asheville, North Carolina. Western North Carolina is known for its beautiful locations such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Smoky Mountain National Park, & the Pisgah National Forest. In the Asheville area you can find mountains, old growth forests, waterfalls, open fields, & so many more amazing places to elope.
As an Asheville elopement photographer, part of my job is to help come up with a suggested location list based off of what you want the backdrop of your elopement to be. A lot of the best places aren’t in any book or blog online. When I send a location suggestion list, it includes the difficulty of the hike (if any), the elevation gain, how popular the location is, the best time of day to have your ceremony there, photos of the location as well as any other information I find to be pertinent for you to know. I always look forward to helping my couples throughout the planning process of their elopements in Asheville!
Leave No Trace in Asheville
If you’re not familiar with LNT, here’s the gist. The land we use and enjoy can only continue to be enjoyed if we take the precautions to take care of it. There are many activities (wedding related & not) that can harm the land & eventually destroy its beauty. This is why as guests to public land, we are asked to Leave No Trace. This means no littering, not straying from the trails, getting permits when required, & to be considerate of others who are also enjoying the scenery.Littering
Some ways that you may not even realize are considered littering when eloping are using live flowers where they are restricted or using “biodegradable” confetti. The flowers could have pests (bugs) that could harm the ecosystem. & the “biodegradable” confetti still takes a looooooong time to actually disintegrate. And no, it won’t disappear after the first rain storm. Or the second. Or even the third. Claiming that confetti is “eco-friendly” or “biodegradable” is just a marketing scheme.
Staying on trails
It’s extremely important to stay on marked trails, especially at higher elevations. I know it might look cool out in a grassy clearing or near a mossy rock, but there are reasons to stay on the trail. Walking on surfaces that aren’t durable can cause erosion of the land & impacts it in a way that ruins its beauty. When you step off trail, you’re destroying plants that could take years to recover. If you’re wondering what the outcome of walking off trail looks like, go hike Black Balsam & you’ll see.
Permits to elope in asheville
Permits might seem like a hassle or unneeded expense when planning your elopement, but they do have an important purpose. In order to obtain a wedding ceremony permit whether through the National Park System, or the National Forest, a ranger will have to view & approve your request. This ensures that we are following the rules & that future couples can also enjoy their elopements on national forest land. The permits are significantly cheaper than booking a wedding venue & the money goes towards the park.
One aspect of LNT that a lot of people don’t realize, is to be considerate of others. In an elopement setting, this means not forcing other park guests to move for your ceremony or photos. The land is for everyone to enjoy. But don’t worry, if there’s a person in the background of your photo, most likely I can just photoshop them out!
When to Elope
When Is the best time of year to elope in Asheville?
Asheville is a very popular tourist town. The weather can also be dicey at certain times of the year, Knowing when to elope in Asheville, NC is so important to ensuring you have less stress on your wedding day.
The best time of year can also be the worst time of year to elope in Asheville. That’s because the prettiest (in my opinion) month is October, when the leaves change. But, that means there will most likely be crowds of people on the trails. So, if you plan on eloping in Asheville in the fall, I highly suggest choosing a week day, & be willing to do a longer or more strenuous hike to get to the spots where the crowds won’t be. The next best would be late spring or early summer when the weather is nice & the flowers start coming out at higher elevations.
Elope in Asheville in Autumn
Fall in Asheville is by far the most beautiful time of year. This also means it’s the most busy time of year with thousands of visitors each day. If you’re going to plan an elopement in Asheville in the fall, make sure you do a sunrise hike up to a mountain with a view of the fall foliage. The weather is generally dry & mild which makes it perfect for elopements.
Elope in Asheville in Winter
The weather in the winter can be so unpredictable! But once we get our first ice or snow storm, you can expect the parkway to be shut down until March/April. This year the parkway didn’t close until around January, but in years past it’s closed in November. The good thing about winter elopements here, is that there are far less people & it’s very easy to find a private place for your ceremony. Just make sure to have a plan A, B, C, & D! I always suggest to my couples to rent a cute airbnb for their stay here that we can use in case of inclement weather for their elopement.
Elope in Asheville in Spring
If you’re a lover of spring wildflowers & budding greenery, late spring would be the time of year for you to get eloped. There are so many different mountaintops & even flower farms where you can get married surrounded by colorful flowers. It does rain quite often in the late spring here, so just be prepared to either have an indoor backup plan or bring your rain boots & umbrellas.
Elope in Asheville in Summer
Summer is the perfect time to elope if you want to have the classic lush green forests with the purple-ish pink rhododendron flowers blooming in your photos. It does rain a lot in the summer. Pisgah National Forest has almost enough rain each summer to be considered a temperate rain forest! I highly suggest being flexible when planning your summer elopement in Asheville, NC. It could be sunny in the morning and a full blown thunderstorm in the afternoon. When I book an elopement, I make sure to not have any other plans that day even if you only book me for a few hours. I’m always willing to push your timeline up or down to accommodate with the weather. Summers are also a very popular time of year for visitors so consider eloping on a weekday to avoid crowds.
Why you should elope in Asheville on a weekday
In case you didn’t notice earlier, I am a HUGE fan of weekday elopements. Most people aren’t going to take a week long trip to visit Asheville. They usually only plan to be here for a long weekend. That leaves Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays pretty open and available for couples to elope without having to wait for tourists to get out of the way of their photos or ceremony spot. Parking is a lot easier to find & the most popular locations will be more enjoyable since you won’t have to be surrounded by other people trying to get a photo at the same place as us. It’s also great because you’ll have an easier time finding a place to stay in Asheville. It’ll be much easier to find an affordable airbnb, campsite, or hotel to stay at during the week.
What time of day should you elope?
If at all possible, aim for the portraits to be taken at sunrise or sunset! These are the times of day with the best lighting (if the weather cooperates). This doesn’t mean a ceremony at noon will look bad in photos – just that we’ll have to get a little creative to ensure there’s no harsh shadows cast on anyone’s faces. For all day elopements, I highly recommend hiking in the dark to get to the ceremony/vow reading location. I have a popup changing tent so you can get ready as the sun starts to come up. Then the lighting will be absolutely perfect for your vows! Then we can spend the day adventuring and doing your favorite things, take a mid-day break, and then get back outside for a sunset and nighttime portrait session. Best of both worlds!
Another thing to keep in mind is where the sun will be relative to your location at any given time. Some locations face sunset and others face sunrise. Some don’t face either. I can help you choose the best time for the location you want!
Benefits of Sunrise
Sunrise is the BEST time of day for popular locations. No one seems to want to wake up before dark even though at many locations, sunrise is much more beautiful than sunset! You’ll avoid the crowds if you choose to wake up early enough.
Marriage License in Buncombe County, North Carolina
Asheville is located within Buncombe County in North Carolina. Both parties must be present at the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office & pay a $60 fee for the marriage license. Valid photo ID & social security cards are required to receive the license. Before visiting the Register of Deeds office, you must first complete the marriage license application. This can be done online. After you’ve received your marriage license, it’s valid for 60 days and can be used anywhere in North Carolina.
North Carolina requires that all ceremonies be conducted by a recognized officiant. Something important to note is that North Carolina does NOT recognize online ordained ministers as valid. If you want a friend or family member to perform your ceremony, one way around this is to have a civil ceremony at the courthouse & then have your friend or family member perform your ceremony at your elopement.
If you’re hiring a recognized officiant for your elopement day, you’ll also need two witnesses to sign the marriage license. Luckily, as your photographer, I’m able to be one of those witnesses! If you don’t want to invite anyone else, or if you can’t find someone to be your second witness, I am more than happy to help find someone. After your elopement ceremony you’ll have 10 days to return the marriage license to the Register of Deeds Office. Most officiants offer this as part of their services.
Where to apply for your marriage license in Asheville: 205 College St, Asheville, NC 28801
Officiants in Asheville
One of the vendor suggestions I always give is for officiants in Asheville. It’s so important to find someone you mesh with & will be able to tell a little snippit of your love story through your ceremony. A lot of times couples save booking their officiant for last but it’s honestly one of the most important aspects of planning your ceremony!
Where to Stay In Asheville
There’s a lot of really nice places to stay in Asheville depending on what type of vibe you’re going for. There’s tons of airbnb’s, The Omni Grove Park Inn, Hotel Indigo, & even places to go glamping.
Getting to & traveling around Asheville
Asheville is full of lyfts & ubers, so if your plan is to stay in the city, you won’t need a rental car. But, if you plan on going anywhere outside of town you will definitely need a rental car. Lyfts & Ubers won’t take you to any of the adventurous locations you see in this blog post. As far as getting here, we’re very lucky in that we have an airport right at the edge of town. If you plan on doing some hikes more off the beaten path, I’d definitely suggest renting a 4WD vehicle. Some of the backroads off of the parkway do not get maintained at all.
What to wear
Depending on the locations you choose to go throughout the day, dresses can add so much to your photos! If you’re on a breezy mountaintop, a flowy dress will look best! Keep in mind that you need to be able to move around in your dress & that it will get dirty.
Shirt, Pants, & Jacket
If you’re wanting to wear a suit, keep in mind that it will get toasty! Which could be a nice thing in the spring or fall months. Make sure that your outfit is stretchy so you can walk around comfortably.
The footwear that you choose to wear to your elopement is SO important! You want to be comfy but I’m also guessing you’ll want them to look cute! Opt for footwear that fits the environment – even if that means bringing a couple pairs. Dr. Martens, hiking boots, & Blundstones are super cute for hiking elopement! While some slip ons may be better for waterfalls so you can take them off and walk barefoot in the water.
Make sure the shoes you wear are already broken in & comfortable. I highly recommend Darn Tough socks for hiking elopements because they help prevent blisters.
Asheville is full of so many fun ideas and activities for your elopement. Here’s a list of some of my favorites.
- Backpacking or Camping
- Mountain Biking
- Wine tasting
- Brewery Hopping
- Hot Air Balloon Rides
- Helicopter Rides
- Splashing in waterfalls
- Visiting your favorite or a new restaurant
- Watching the sunset
- Stargazing (I can take photos of y’all with the stars!)
- Picnics (Checkout Asheville Luxury Picnics)
- Drive on the blue ridge in a vintage car
- Climbing at the climbing gym
- Picking your own bouquet at a flower farm
- Jeep Tour
- Explore downtown
Eloping can help alleviate the stress of wedding planning significantly, but there’s still some important planning aspects you need to keep in mind with planning your elopement in Asheville, North Carolina.
First think about what your dream elopement day would look like. What do you want to do with your partner? What type of location do you picture being the backdrop of your ceremony and photos? Once you’ve narrowed down these ideas & have booked me as your photographer, I’ll be here to help plan everything. I’ll help with permit requirement research, finding an officiant, helping you figure out what to pack, & help with anything else I can.
Elopement Gear Essentials
For your elopement you’re going to want to bring:
- a wedding dress/suit that is comfortable to move around in. You don’t want something that’s too restrictive. And you also don’t want something with too much fabric that will get in the way of walking.
- a good & sturdy pair of hiking boots or trail runners. If you want nice shoes for some photos feel free to bring them. But make sure you do the hiking in your boots
- More water than you think you’ll need. Camelbacks are good if haven’t mastered the art of grabbing your water bottle from your pack without taking it off.
- A copy of your permit if applicable.
Should I book an all inclusive asheville elopement package?
In my honest & professional opinion, no. It may be super tempting to hand all the responsibility to a company to figure out all the details, but then you’re losing sight of why you chose to elope in the first place. You’re eloping because you don’t want traditional. You don’t want your wedding day to fit into a nice neat little box. With all inclusive elopement packages, your elopement day is a carbon copy of the next. They have pre-determined locations, vendors, and even the florals and details will be exactly the same as their other clients. Your vendors will be hit or miss. They could have 10 years of experience or 6 months of experience. They won’t take your day seriously & will not be able to deliver unique emotional images that feel like you.
How do I know this? Because I have photographed for companies like this. They don’t pay their vendors well which results in vendors cutting corners to make sure they’re making it worth the time they’re putting in. Instead of taking the time to get to know you and choose prompts that will let your personalities shine, you’ll be asked to do poses from a list that are used for everyones elopements. The goal with all inclusive companies is for everyone from the owners to the vendors they contract to make the most money they can with the least amount of effort. They book loads of elopements per year so they don’t have the time to give each couple the attention and positive experience you deserve.
If you’re not really concerned about any of this and are just going through the motions, that’s totally fine. I’m just not the photographer for you. But, I highly highly suggest you take the time to imagine what your day would be like with no limits.
Looking for an asheville wedding & elopement photographer?
How Many Hours of Coverage Do I Need?
That depends! Do you want to hike up a mountain, say your vows, and then spend the day brewery hopping? You’ll need a full day package. Want to do a first look at your airbnb, hike to an overlook for your ceremony, explore a waterfall for portraits and then meet up with family later in the day for a reception? You’ll need my 10 hour package. Or if you just want to do a short hike, read your vows, have a picnic breakfast, then you’re looking at a half day package. The best part is that you get to choose what you do on your day & exactly what you want covered.
Will you help me plan my elopement?
Not sure where to start with planning? No worries! When working with me, the only thing you need to narrow down before booking is a date & some ideas of what you want your day to look like! Here are some of the things I’ll help you with when planning your elopement.
- Vendor suggestions for cakes, makeup, florals, etc.
- Location suggestions & personal scouting. If in our search we discover a location I’ve never been to before, I will drive out to check it out before your big day & send you photos so you’re able to picture yourself there!
- I’ll research any permit requirements or other regulation info that may be applicable to your specific location.
- Personalized timeline. Even smaller elopements & weddings need a timeline to keep the day running smoothly.
- Gear help! While many of my couples are seasoned hikers, a lot of them aren’t! And that’s totally okay! I’ll be here to help you with any gear suggestions & give you a packing list to make sure you have everything you need for your elopement.
- Activity suggestions. – Who says an elopement has to be a short ceremony & some photos and that’s it? The best part about eloping is that you get to do whatever you want on your wedding day! Whether you want to do a sunrise hike, visit your favorite pizza shop in your wedding attire, or even go on a hot air balloon ride, I’m here for it. It’s your day, so make it a fun one!
- & so much more!
Meet your elopement photographer
Hey! I’m Kirsten, & I’m the photographer behind this blog & Kirsten Alexandria Photography. I specialize in weddings & adventure elopements here in Western North Carolina. Asheville is a very special place to me! In 2017 I hiked most of the Appalachian Trail & absolutely fell in love with the mountains here in North Carolina. The bald mountains and luscious forests are incredibly stunning & I really love sharing the beauty of these places with others like you. If you’re planning to elope in Asheville, I’ll help make it a day you’ll look back on & want to remember every little detail of.
Maybe you’ve never pictured yourself walking down the aisle. you’re wanting to avoid all of the stress of planning a traditional wedding. Traditional weddings don’t allow you to be your true & authentic self anyway! Inevitably you’ll make a decision based off of what someone else wants for you & your dream wedding no longer feels like you. So ditch those traditions and get married in the great outdoors! Say your vows to your partner with the birds chirping & the wind blowing in your hair. An intimate wedding or elopement is the perfect way to create memories you’ll want to remember forever. I’ll be there to take some epic photos of your whole experience. And while my job is to be your photographer, I like to be so much more than that for my couples. I’ll help carry your gear up the mountain, help you find other vendors, locations, & more.
What to expect
I live in Asheville but I’m always open to traveling wherever you see yourself getting eloped in the USA. There are so many elopement photographers in the Asheville area to choose from. Like a lot. So what makes me any different than the next? I love taking photos that show the true emotions & in between moments of your wedding day. My edits are in a natural, golden, & dreamy style. I always make sure that my images reflect the colors the way we saw them that day. I put your experience and needs ahead of my portfolio wants or needs.
I’ve made sure to be as educated as I can on all of the different regulations on the land when it comes to weddings & have thousands of miles of hiking & backpacking experience. I’m also a wilderness first responder for your peace of mind while we’re in the backcountry. I’m an adventure seeker & aim to make your wedding day photo experience a fun, comfortable, & adventurous one. Let’s chat about how we can make your dream elopement in Asheville NC come true!
If you think we’d be a good fit, I’d love to chat! Check out my elopement photography info, and then let’s schedule a video call to get to know each other better.
Get In Touch
If you’re looking for a photographer and you connect with my work, I would love to hear from you! Please allow up to 72 hours for a response.