| June 6, 2020

Elopement Dresses

Table of Contents

How to Choose the Perfect Dress for Your Elopement

The perfect elopement wedding dress is whichever one makes you feel the best! Seriously – we’ve witnessed brides get married in all styles of dress, and there’s no one-dress-fits-all perfect option for elopements. Over the years we’ve seen a pattern that leads us to know which dresses are preferred by a majority of eloping couples, but only you know which style will make you happiest!

Bride and groom stand on dark gray rocks on their wedding day.

We mean it when we say we’ve seen it all. We’ve photographed people wearing ballroom-style wedding dresses on top of mountains, and we’ve also photographed couples wearing white dresses purchased for under $100 that weren’t being sold as a “wedding dress” at all. Your elopement day is your day to showcase your style – white dress, blue suit, jumpsuit, romper, or brightly-colored skirt, we firmly believe your elopement style is totally up to you!

If you are planning to wear a dress on your wedding day, we’ve compiled a list of things to look for to make sure you’ll be comfortable in your chosen attire. We go over the difference between wedding dresses and elopement dress, how to choose a dress for your destination, how to hike/pack your dress, how to change outdoors, and even list a few brands we love very much! 

Whatever you wear on your elopement day, hopefully, this will help guide you to the elopement dress perfect for you!

Wedding Dresses vs. Elopement Dresses

What makes an elopement dress different from a traditional wedding dress? Well, there are a few things! First, an elopement dress is typically much easier to move in than a traditional wedding dress – you’ll be looking for something that isn’t tight-fitting below your hips so you can comfortably explore your surroundings. Second, an elopement dress is often going to be chosen based on the weather and location, which are factors you don’t have to consider as seriously when you’re getting married indoors. Third, the traditional structure of wedding dresses that make them stiff (from a corset and boning in the bodice or skirt structure) make it difficult to pack your dress for a destination elopement – choose something that travels more easily. Lastly, you’ll want a dress you don’t need four sets of hands to get into! Many couples choose to change into their wedding attire after hiking or backpacking into their elopement location, and you want to be able to get yourself dressed. 

Bride and groom pop champagne on their wedding day in front of a waterfall.

Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Elopement Dress:

  1. How easily can I move around in this?
  2. Will I be comfortable wearing this for hours?
  3. Will this dress be the right temperature for my location (can I layer it in the cold)?
  4. How easily can I pack this dress to travel to my destination?
  5. Can I get into this dress on my own?
  6. How will this dress look depending on the weather (rain, wind, etc.)?

Once you’ve found your perfect dress, wear it around the house. Move your body the way you will on your elopement day – climb stairs, sit down, imagine taking a leap over a mountain stream…adventurous wedding stuff! You don’t want to feel limited by your attire on the day of your elopement. We cannot stress this enough – get a comfortable dress!

There are a few physical features of elopement dresses that make them stand out from many wedding dress options:

Weight & Flexibility – Elopement dresses are often lightweight and made from materials comfortable to move around in. 

A-Line & Natural Materials – Elopement dress silhouettes tend toward styles that give you a lot of room to move your legs while hiking. Similarly, natural materials like cotton or silk help you maintain a comfortable temperature better than synthetic fibers.

Packable & Durable – Elopement dresses often travel, and you’ll want something easily packable to get to your destination safely. 

A bride in a white, flowy elopement dress runs across the beach with her groom.

How to Pick an Elopement Dress Based on Your Destination

While you’ve been scrolling through elopement inspo, have you ever thought, “that dress looks SO good there!” Well, that didn’t happen by accident! The couple in that photograph likely chose attire specifically with their elopement destination in mind – the result is clothing that looks like it was made to be photographed on that mountain top/beach/desert…you get the idea. 

So how do you make a dress look so perfect outdoors? First, choose movement – not just your ability to move in the dress, but the ability for the dress to move around you. Choose something with a flowy skirt or lightweight pieces that will play in the wind – loose sleeves to drape across your partner’s shoulders as you hug them – tassels or beads or sequins that catch the light and reflect your surroundings.

Aside from looking good outside, you’re also going to want to feel amazing! You’ll have a much better day if you’re the right temperature and not fighting with your garments to stay cozy. Depending on the season you elope, there are a few things you’ll want to consider when choosing your perfect dress.

How to Choose the Right Elopement Dress for the Season

WINTER – No frostbite allowed! Elopement dresses for winter have a few particular criteria – they need to work well when layering, ideally would look adorable with the addition of a jacket and can be made from a warmer material! Not all winter elopements mean snow, but even winter mornings or evenings in the desert are chilly – you’ll want to be ready for that icy breeze to come through while you watch the sunset. Our go-to solution during winter elopements is a pair of nude leggings! They fit well under all dresses and most of the time you can’t even see them in photos. Plus, leggings come in dozens of shades so you can find one to better match your skin tone!

Bride dressed in a white elopement dress  is wearing a fur shawl and has a purple flower crown and bouquet.

SPRING – So many layers! Elopement dresses for spring will best serve you if they can comfortably hide a couple of extra layers throughout the day. It might get especially cold in the morning or evening, so you’ll want to be properly prepared for that with a jacket, leggings, or even body warmers. But during the day, it can get warm with the sun out, so don’t go for a super heavy dress. A lightweight dress you can layer is more versatile than a heavy dress made from warm materials. Spring showers are also something to consider! Don’t choose a dress that can’t handle a little moisture, and especially avoid materials that hold onto water – anything that sheds rain easily will prevent you from gaining 20 pounds to carry as the skirt drags through wet grass.  

Bride and groom walk hand in hand with their dog on their wedding day in Norway.

SUMMER – It’s getting hot! Lightweight dresses are your solution to the summer heat. Silk or cotton will do better to wick moisture and keep you cooler than synthetic materials – but ultimately choose a material based on what feels best against your skin! Nothing will ruin your day faster than heat rash from a dress that becomes hot and itchy. If you’re going to be active in your dress, avoid styles with sleeves or high necks as those features can feel especially restricting in the sun.

Bride and groom walk hand in hand on the sand dunes on their wedding day.

FALL – Autumn elopements are remembered for warm days and soft evening breezes! There’s a reason this is considered the traditional wedding season – fall weather is reliably nice and welcoming, and gives you a wide variety of styles to choose from when you’re picking the perfect dress. If you’re on the beach or in the desert, a lightweight dress would be ideal. If you’re getting married amongst the aspens higher in the mountains, you can comfortably get away with a somewhat warmer dress. This is the season to show your style because we can’t think of any reason to avoid any type of elopement dress – there’s a place in the autumn where any choice would suit you perfectly!

Two brides, both wearing white lace elopement dresses walk hand in hand with their dog on their wedding day.

How to Choose the Right Elopement Dress to Fit the Landscape

There’s no right or wrong answer to which dress would be the perfect dress for your elopement destination. However, we would love to give our opinion once you’ve chosen a location! There are a few general things to look for, but there are so many diverse landscapes – this list would be impossibly long if we named them all. The dress that looks best anywhere is going to be the dress you love the most – but we want to help you make sure it stands out well against the colors and texture of your landscape!

Basic Rules For Ensuring Your Dress Looks Amazing At Your Destination:

  1. Choose colors that contrast the landscape.
  2. A dress that moves with the wind will always look amazing!
  3. In a textured environment, choose a smooth material.
  4. In a more simple environment, choose a textured material.
  5. Don’t be afraid to be bold!

Our favorite images where elopement attire really stands out often break the rules of traditional weddings. For example, we love black dresses against a red desert, or pops of color instead of just plain white! When the wind picks up and your hair and dress no longer sit “perfect”, that movement brings so much life to a photo – we cannot stress enough that you should let nature take part in your styling. If your hair wants to get caught on the wind, let it! If your skirt wants to start whipping around your legs, don’t fight it!

Bride and groom wear black in front of the orange arches on their wedding day.

How to Hike with an Elopement Dress

If your elopement involves a hike, you’re probably wondering, “how the heck do I hike without ruining my dress?” Well, that does take a bit of planning. Just remember that this day can go however you want. So, if you really don’t want to hike in your dress, change when you reach your destination! There’s no rule that says you have to wear your wedding dress your whole wedding day.

If you choose to hike in your elopement dress, make sure you’ve picked one that gives your legs a lot of room! You’ll want to have the freedom to take long strides, stay balanced, and remain comfortable throughout your hike – all the same reasons you’d probably hike in athletic wear normally. Try to find a way to tie up part of your skirt and get it off your ankles without having to hold it up – you want both hands free! If you’re wearing a backpack, make there are no points on the dress that dig into your shoulders, back, or around your hips.

If you want to get images hiking in your wedding attire, but it’s a long or steep hike, a way around that would be to change near the summit or wear your dress on the way back down! Then, you’ll be able to remain comfortable during the majority of your hike or throughout the ascent, but we’ll still get to document your dress being the adventurous garment it is. Hiking in an elopement dress can be a challenge, but we’re here to help you hike it up, tie it up, or hold the train when you’re leaping across a mountain stream – we’ve done it all before!

Most importantly – don’t be afraid to get dirty! Wedding dresses can be expensive, we know. And it can feel especially painful to watch this gorgeous dress get dirt or mud stains on it – but, we like to see those marks are part of the story. Wedding dresses often only get one day to shine, so don’t be afraid to wear the heck out of it! At the end of the day, the ombré skirt and little sticks or grass caught in the edges should make you smile and think, “today was amazing!” Plus, you’ll be surprised what a good dry cleaning can do! 

Bride and groom walk hand in hand while wearing backpacks in Yosemite National Park on their wedding day.

How to Pack an Elopement Dress

If you’re traveling to a destination for your elopement, you’ll likely be packing your dress to come with you. Even if you’re changing on a hike, you’ll have to pack the dress in your backpack to get it to the summit! But how do you pack a dress without it getting wrinkled?! Surely there isn’t a steamer at the top of that mountain…

No, we don’t have a pocket steamer (though someone should invent that ASAP)! But, there are ways to pack a dress to give it the best chance of remaining wrinkle-free and ready for pictures. First, roll instead of fold. If you have no boning or structure in the bodice of your dress, get a sturdy packing roll and start from top-down. Fold in your skirt to lay as flat as possible at the same width as your bodice. If you’re doing this for a hike, once you’ve rolled up your dress put it in a large waterproof bag. If it starts raining or you traverse any water on your hike, this will ensure your dress stays pristine. A waterproof bag will also protect your dress from anything else in your backpack as well – you wouldn’t want that wine to spill!

If your dress does have structure, or you’re flying and want it to lay flat in a suitcase, follow this method:

First – hang your dress up high so you can work with the whole skirt and train.

Second – take the left and right sides of your gown and fold them in toward the center. This should result in your skirt laying flat at the same width as your bodice.

Third – roll up whatever excess train is longer than your garment bag. Zip up the bag carefully, making sure you don’t catch any of the fabric!

Last – fold the garment bag over as few times as possible to get it to fit in your suitcase or bag.

Follow these methods and your dress will arrive at your elopement destination as good as new! Some fabrics do wrinkle much more easily than others, so if that’s a concern for you – try and pick a material that is more wrinkle-resistant. There are also patterns that make wrinkles significantly less visible, lace dresses being one of the best options. If you’re worried about traveling with your dress, consult us! We’ve helped so many couples pack, unpack, hang and get into their wedding dresses – we’ll be certain to have a few tricks up our sleeves to fit your specific situation.

Bride and groom wear backpacks while hiking on their wedding day.

When to Change into Wedding Attire During an Elopement

When you’ll change into your wedding attire is entirely dependent upon your location and activities! It also depends upon your personal comforts – whether you’re comfortable wearing a dress while hiking, or if you’d have a more enjoyable time in casual wear. If you’ll be hiking a long way, you’ll likely want to change into your elopement dress at the top of your hike. But, we want to stress there is no right or wrong way to elope. We’ve photographed couples wearing wedding dressed up and down the mountain and we’ve photographed couples wearing wedding attire only at their ceremony location. 

Don’t get caught up in what other people did for their photos. It’s not an adventure elopement because you hiked in a wedding dress – this is an adventure elopement because you eloped!

If you’re eloping in a wedding dress, let’s just acknowledge right now that it’s going to get dirty

Bride zips up the back of her white wedding dress.

Best Brands When Buying an Elopement Dress

Nordeen

Nordeen is new on the scene, but already setting themselves up to become a leader in the adventurous wedding dress world! The founder was an eloping bride herself, and after witnessing how few clothing options fit her idea of a perfect dress – flowy, lightweight, easy to travel with – Brenna took her experience working in fashion to start Nordeen. Her first collection “Prelude” is available now – each dress is handmade in the USA from 100% silk. Inspired by desert landscapes and a warm summer breeze, these dresses flow!”

“I started Nordeen because while I was planning my own intimate elopement and searching for the perfect dress, I realized there was something missing in the bridal market. I got married in the mountains of Colorado, so I was looking to wear something that would, at the same time, blend in and stand out from the beautifully majestic landscape around us, without taking away or distracting from it. I wanted something minimally elegant, still having the details to create that wow moment, and wouldn’t be harmful to the environment. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot out there and what I did find involved an excessive amount of research and digging. In the back of my mind, I wished there was a brand that was known for outdoor wedding attire. A place that had attire that would for sure look incredible in that environment and that I could go to find all the pieces I was looking for. That is when I started thinking about what Nordeen could be!” – Brenna Simmons, Founder of Nordeen Bridal

Kate Edmondson Bridal

“Contemporary bridal luxury for the style-conscious bride”

These gowns are elegant, beautiful but most of all, functional for both a big wedding and an elopement. If you’re already crafting a wedding day that is “perfectly you”, why not have an elopement dress that is the same? Kate Edmondson dresses combine classic wedding styles with a contemporary edge. Each dress is custom made in London.

Reclamation

Reclamation dresses are the ones you’ve stopped to stare at on Etsy and Pinterest! The bold lace patterns and dramatic silhouettes complement every figure – and each dress is personally crafted by the founder of Reclamation herself. Trista works with each wearer to personalize and perfect their dress, and we are obsessed with every single one we’ve seen! In fact, Maddie’s elopement dress was from Reclamation, so we’re speaking from experience when we say these dresses are ideal for adventures! 

Leanne Marshall

Lightweight and ideal for outdoor elopements, Leanne Marshall makes dresses that beg for a little wind – these are some of our favorite dresses for capturing movement! The delicate silk skirts and comfort-oriented features mean you can wear a Leanne Marshall all day, in the heat of summer, and run around through the desert without wanting to shed layers. We also love that a lot of these dress offerings come in bold color! 

Dreamers and Lovers

We are for the bride who appreciates artistry, handmade, and wants to raise their comfort level.”

Dreamers and Lovers has an epic collection of thoughtfully designed bohemian wedding dresses that are perfect for any eloping bride. You’ll find your dream elopement dress here if you’re looking for a blend of uniqueness and comfort. All of their dresses are designed and made in California.

Bride holds her dress next to her husband in front of the mountains.
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Maddie Mae

Elopement Photographer

& Planning Consultant

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Adventure Instead

Your Elopement Photographers & Planning Consultants. We are Maddie Mae, Amber, and Tori. We're your photographers, your elopement consultants, your cheerleaders, and your go-to adventure buddy on the day you say your vows.

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