How to Hike on your Wedding Day
Advice from an Adventure Elopement Photographer Team
(Updated for 2023)
As an adventure elopement photographer we have photographed over 150 couple hiking on their wedding day. We have hit the trails with our couples in Arizona, Utah, California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon! We have hiked with couples who are avid backpackers and couples who have never hiked before! I think we could write a whole book on the best ways to hike on your wedding, tips for planning a hiking elopement and more! However, in this blog we hope to give you the most important basics to consider and plan for your own hiking elopement!! Congrats on your big adventure ahead!
(Note: this page has affiliate links to items we use while out hiking!)
- Tip 1: Wear the Right Hiking Shoes
- Tip 2: Dress Properly
- Tip 3: Decide if you want to hike in the wedding dress or not
- Tip 4: Be Prepared – bring what you need
- Tip 5: Properly Prepare your Guests
- Tip 6: Pick the Right Trail
- Tip 7: Stay Hydrated
- Tip 8: Take your Time
- Tip 9: Use the Trail as your Aisle
- Tip 10: Keep your hair and make up looking just how you want it!
- Bonus Tip: Always Be Sure To Follow Leave No Trace
Tip 1: Wear the Right Hiking Shoes
If we could only give you one piece of advice, it would be to wear the right shoes. We say this for very important reasons. While this is a topic that can receive a lot of debate between hikers who have put countless miles under their feet, one thing can be agreed on regardless of personal opinion. The proper foot wear for the environment where you’ll be getting married in will give you the maximum grip and comfort on the trail and protect your feet. Apart from wearing the right shoes wearing the right socks is also important.
Your adventurous wedding is likely taking place somewhere where you will want to wear a proper hiking shoe for safety. Different environments will call for different footwear or equipment.
If you and your partner are already avid hikers who find yourselves out on the trails every chance you get, then you already have your favorite pair of shoes or two that you swear by and you’re well dialed into staying safe while recreating. If you’re a couple who is looking to have an adventure wedding as a completely unique experience and getting out into the backcountry is a whole new world for you (which we absolutely love), then walking into a gear store and looking at all the different pairs of footwear can leave you feeling more confused than informed. Before you commit to walking into a shop and picking the first pair that jumps out at you, we highly advise that you know where you will be getting married first and to base the purchase on the environment which they will be worn in. A fantastic resource for getting your feet wet (or keeping them dry) when it comes to learning about the basics of outdoor recreating is REI. Here is a blog from their site all about picking your first pair of hiking boots.
In terms of our personal opinions, If you are eloping in the desert through sand or anywhere with relatively flat and stable ground, you could wear something like a Chaco sandal instead of a traditional hiking boots. Traci loves them and wears them every chance she gets, even on the occasional more challenging hike where a hiking boot might be better suited. If you’re looking for open toed footwear with amazing tread and minimal support, then Chaco’s are definitely a top contender. Maybe something with mid to high ankle support that feels perfect right out of the box is more of your vibe. Many newer hikers tend to favor the soft and supple shoe brands like Merrell. The softer rubber and more cushioned design is perfect for the recent enthusiast.
**** Extra tip: Be sure to wear the shoes you are going to wear to your wedding day prior to the big day. REI has a great article on breaking in your hiking boots if they’re brand new. If you are going to wear hiking boots and they are new, be sure to go on a similar hike once or twice before hand.
Tip 2: Dress Properly
One of my favorite blogs I have ever put together is How to Select an Elopement Wedding Dress. Which leads me to say, before I can talk about hiking in your dress we need to talk about if you should hike in your dress. The questions to ask yourself to decide if you can or should hike in your dress are:
- Do you want to hike in your wedding dress? If you do not want to get your dress dirty then chances are you shouldn’t hike in your dress.
Is the dress appropriate for the trail? If your dress is tight and you need to scramble on part of the trail, chances are you don’t want to hike in it. If the dress is loose and flowy and you don’t have to hike more than an easy, well maintained trail, you could totally hike in the dress. If the dress is super heavy and you need to go 5 miles you may not want to hike in it.
- How is the weather? If it is pouring rain you may want to change into your dress once you have gotten to the location, but you could still hike back out in your dress!
When it comes to being fully present in an experience, prioritizing comfort is an absolute must. We always tell our couples to be prepared for both the high and low possibilities for an area. While Sedona in spring is usually perfect for a t-shirt and shorts all day, that doesn’t mean that a cold front isn’t possible. So when it comes to what to wear, we tell our couples to bring the extra layers that they would love to be photographed in. We 100% support the brave bride who wants to throw off her jacket for a quick and chilly five minutes to catch some stunning portraits, but we always emphasize that an unforgettable experience and the amazing photographs that come from it are rooted in feeling comfortable throughout the entire day.
Tip 3: Decide if you want to hike in the wedding dress or not
As we tell all of our couples, you just want to think about the experience you want to have and if that lines up with hiking in your dress, do it! So if you have decided to hike in your dress here are a few tips:
- For shorter trails that are three miles or less you could easily hike in your dress the whole time. For trails that are longer or considered hard you could hike in your dress part of the time.
- Sew a wrist band to the bottom of the dress in one or two places so when you are hiking it’s easier to gather and hold the dress.
- You can make the dress a short dress just for the hike by using something to attach the bottom to your waist or you can use a sewing method with a draw string.
If it is cold, wear a nude tight or white leggings under your dress.
- Have your partner help you carry the train of the dress
- Take your time on the hike!
For more tips on how to hike in your wedding dress specifically watch this Tiktok I made showcasing a couple of different ways to do it in different dresses.
So let’s say you decided not to hike in your dress and you want to change into the dress once you get to the ceremony location. How does this work?
- You will want to bring your dress in a dress bag or you can pack it into a pack. Often times we attach the brides dress in a dress bag to the outside of a backpack.
- Hike in an outfit that is great for the trail and something you don’t mind having photos taken of you in. For some examples, we have been along for a wedding where a bride hiked in all white leggings and a cute white top. We have also experienced a bride hiking in a rad shirt that said ‘she hiked happily every after.’ This is a great chance to bring some fun personality to your day.
- Be prepared to change at the top of the trail. This depends on your comfort level, which trail you have selected, how hard your dress is to put on etc. We have a pop up changing tent that couples will utilize if we’re on a busier trail. If it’s a super secluded area it’s also common for the bride to go find a private nook or we face the opposite direction while they put on the dress.
Tip 4: Be Prepared – bring what you need
What you should bring to your elopement is different per couple, per trail, per area and per weather situation. Here are some basics that almost every single time you will need no matter what:
- water and for longer hikes a water filter
- headlamps and batteries
- vows/wedding documents + a pen
- a day pack
- first aid
- wag bags or a proper way to use the restroom while on the trail
- layers – even on warm days it can be cold for sunrise or sunset
Other things to consider are anything you need for putting your dress on or things to keep your dress in its spot (aka sticky tape). Be sure to pack any items, blankets or other things you may need specific to your day. Being over prepared doesn’t hurt on a day this important, you could bring any medications you may need, sunscreen, a change of clothing, band aids, etc.
Tip 5: Properly Prepare your Guests
Just as you and your partner are preparing, you need to prepare your guests properly if you’ll be including some in your day. If your guests are hiking with you, then they also need to wear attire they can hike in. We always send our couples a lot of prep information in regards to their location and the trail they have selected, along with Leave No Trace principals and their timeline with coordinates and more. We always tell our couples, just forward everything to your guests too so everyone is ready to go the day of your wedding and check in with them the week before at least. Here are the top things to consider for your guests and make sure they fully understand:
- Will there be service at the location?
- Do they know how to get to the location?
- Do they know what the terrain will be? The distance?
- Make sure they have: proper shoes, water, snack and an extra layer if needed.
Bringing your pup?! Well, they count as a guest too! If you want more information on how to elope with your dog check out this blog post.
Tip 6: Pick the Right Trail
When selecting the right trail for your elopement day adventure, here are the main things to put into consideration:
- Trail difficulty. This not only includes the distance, but also the elevation gain. Sometimes even what elevation the trail is at in general.
- Overall experience. Does this fit your vision?
- How busy is the trail? Do you want privacy or does it not matter?
- Lastly, the view. You may be thinking hiking for your elopement day is purely about the view, but really that is the smallest part of it sometimes.
The most important thing from the list above is by far picking something that is within you abilities when it comes to trail difficulty. Two apps that are awesome for having this information readily at your fingertips are AllTrails and GaiaGPS. Here we are all about getting out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself, but you have to know your limitations. We are not saying that if you have never hiked 15 miles before in one day to not do it. What we are saying is if you are going to do something completely out of your normal to train for it and be honest with yourself about what you want to do.
Tip 7: Stay Hydrated
Keeping your energy on the trail and after the trail is completed is so dependent on staying hydrated. We really want you to enjoy your elopement day and if you aren’t staying hydrated there is a chance that could effect your hike or your big day. So please be sure to drink water before and throughout your hike. We like to remind our couples that staying hydrated can also often mean skipping drinking the night before. Be sure to keep water on hand throughout your entire adventure. It is easy to forget to drink water with all of the excitement and activities going on.
To know if you are drinking enough water, on average you should be drinking 1/2 liter of water per hour out on the trail. We recommend getting a nalgene water bottle because they have ounces on the side so it is easy to track and the bottles are durable and light weight.
Tip 8: Take your Time
This is not just a hike, this is your wedding day! Be sure to take your time and take breaks when needed. Not only is this important for not getting too fatigued, but also taking in the day and enjoying it!! You are not just hiking to a destination to get back down the mountain, you’re walking down the aisle!
We help all of our couples plan their timeline. We typically allow 1 hour per mile. Seem long? Well it is 🙂 On average it takes 30 minutes to hike one mile on easy to medium difficulty hiking terrain. We allow extra time for a lot of reason – adjusting what you are carrying or your attire, taking photos, taking breaks, etc.
Tip 9: Use the Trail as your Aisle
Just because you are not getting married in a chapel or a venue doesn’t mean you can not “walk down the aisle” if you want to! The trail itself can be a great way to share a private first look with your partner OR do a first look down the “aisle” when you first see each other during your ceremony! This works really well because the trail can be a leading line right to where your partner is standing! If you have guests and someone who wants to walk you down the aisle, they still can.
If this is something you think you may want to do, share that with your photographer during the planning stage. This may effect what locations you consider for your ceremony or even the time of day during your ceremony.
Tip 10: Keep your hair and make up looking just how you want it!
Well, how do you do this exactly?? There are a few different tips and ideas for this! If you are having your hair and make up done prior to heading out on the hike, be sure to let your artist know this so they can properly plan ahead. They may use a specific make up or extra support in the hair. I can speak from experience watching hundreds of brides hike that typically when a professional does the make up, it lasts through the entire hike. Typically, a professional will leave you with items that you can use to do a touch up before the ceremony. It is also important on the hike to take your time so you do not sweat all your make up off. If you have a tear or need to wipe your face be sure to blot rather than smear anything.
If you are doing your own hair and make up you can do it before you leave for the hike OR you can do it on the trail!! If you want to do your hair and make up on the trail bring these items with you:
- On the go mirror – even perfect for sunrise!
- On the go make up wipes, you are hiking you dont need to bring an entire pack
- Only the items you need for the specific look you plan to do
- Travel size hairbrush
- Travel size hair spray or items you need specifically for that.
If you plan to do your hair and make up on the trail just let your photographer know ahead of time so they can put that into the timeline and plan for the group to arrive early so no one has to rush!!
Bonus Tip: Always Be Sure To Follow Leave No Trace
The reason that we all love the outdoor areas that draw us in are as varied as the people on our beautiful earth. However, it’s the responsibility of each visitor to be sure that we are mindful of our impact so that all future visitors are able to visit the same pristine landscape. Thankfully, there are seven principles that are perfect guidelines to follow to be respectful of the land. Here they are in simple list form:
- 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 Others
If you’d like more information on each of these topics, we highly recommend that you check out LNT’s website for a depth of detail on each of these principles.
Your hiking wedding photographers!
Hi – we are Traci and Bill! The team here at Adventure and Vow! We ourselves hiked 78 miles to our elopement ceremony as we backpacked around Mount Rainier National Park! We would love to help you plan your dream elopement day out on the trails! To us, elopements are all about authenticity, experience and connection. We can’t wait to hear why you feel the same!
Check out more elopement planning guides!
Always such a fan of your work! Your photos always look so clean and natural. Plus, hiking weddings are always an A+!
Thank you so much, I try to represent what it is actually like.
such good advice for a couple wanting to hike on their wedding day! your work is amazing!
Thank you! I hope this inspires many couples to hit the trails 🙂
Great tips for whether or not to hike in a wedding dress- so helpful!
This is such a great resource for elopements! I look forward to the day I get a hiking elopement! 😍 I’ll totally use this to help!
Right?! I cant wait for my day either!
SO FREAKING GOOD!!! So much great info for hiking on your wedding day in here. You rock!
These are such good tips on hiking on your wedding day – especially for hiking in your wedding dress! There are so many factors to consider and your blog lays at all the facts so well. Also loved your photos in this blog!
Thank you! Hiking on your wedding day is so exciting I think!
So many great tips on hiking on your wedding day! Love the images as well!