Adventure Elopement Dress Tips + Ideas

Tips for how to find and where to buy adventure elopement wedding dresses

You’re planning an elopement (yay!), and now you’re on the hunt for the perfect elopement outfit that fits your location and you. There are so many beautiful elopement wedding dresses in the world, so how do you know where to start? And once you find THE dress for your elopement, should you add a veil and hiking boots? Find out the answers to all your questions and see elopement dress ideas, inspiration, and tips below!

Tips for the Perfect Elopement Dress

 

Bride and groom walk hand in hand through grassy hills with big mountains in the background and trees. Bride wears a long cathedral veil and dramatic ballgown wedding dress while groom wears simple dress shirt and dark slacks.

Add a Little Drama

If you’re choosing to elope adventurously, you’re probably a fan of stunning landscapes (but really, who isn’t?). Add a little more drama to the scene by choosing a wedding dress with a full skirt and/or long train so that it really stands out in the landscape. Or, if you prefer something a little more understated, go with light and flowy fabrics that will move with the breeze. Chiffon, soft tulle, silk, and other lightweight fabrics blowing in the wind really add to the romance of your adventure elopement photos!

Bride wearing red strapless wedding dress for desert elopement

Don’t be Afraid to Get Nontraditional

Since Queen Victoria wore a white lace gown for her wedding in 1840, white wedding dresses have been in fashion and eventually became traditional for brides to wear. But there’s no real reason you have to wear white or stick to traditional fabrics or patterns! If you feel gorgeous in a sage velvet dress, go for it! Or if floral lace doesn’t fit your personality at all, skip it! Two-piece elopement dresses are also a great way to change things up and really customize your look. And don’t be afraid to look for a dress in unconventional places – just because it’s not labeled “bridal” doesn’t mean it’s not your dream dress! You can have so much fun with the style of your elopement dress, so don’t be afraid to try something different!

Groom in grey suit holds bride in leaf pattern lace white dress from behind.

Choose an Elopement Dress You Love

This might sound obvious, but look for a dress that you totally love! You should feel awesome wearing the dress, and it should fit your personality. And whether you’re wearing it for just a couple of hours or all day, the dress should be comfortable and easy to move in. If you’re constantly pulling up an ill-fitting dress or wondering if the fabric is laying right, you’ll be distracted and detracting from the special moments of such an incredible day. Be comfortable, amazing, and be you!

And wear what you want. Who says it has to be white? Or even a dress at all? Patterns? Yes please! A huge part of eloping is doing what makes you happy and celebrates your love. So forget the “wedding rules” and find an outfit that makes you feel amazing!

Bride and groom hike forest trail while holding hands. Groom is wearing a backpack with a bouquet sticking out, and bride is wearing an off the shoulder lace dress with blue ribbon belt.

Hiking Wedding Dresses

If you’re eloping outside, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing at least a little bit of hiking, and that makes a difference on what kind of wedding dress you choose. The biggest factor is being able to move around freely. Fitted silhouettes like trumpet or mermaid wedding gowns can be a bit too restricting for more than a little bit of walking. Large ball gown style dresses are gorgeous in dramatic landscapes, but keep in mind that you will have to hike with all that fabric. If you’re riding in a car, off-road vehicle, helicopter, ski lift, etc. to your ceremony, you won’t need to worry as much about hiking in your dress and you’ll have more flexibility in what style you choose (but make sure it will fit inside, haha!). 

Now, if you are planning to hike (or mountain bike or kayak) for your adventure wedding but will change into your dress at the destination, there are a few things to consider. You’ll need a dress that easily fits into the backpack you plan to bring and that doesn’t add more weight than you’re willing to hike with. That weight limit will really depend on what you’re used to and how long the hike is, so it’s different for everyone. I highly recommend packing up everything you’ll need before your wedding day and testing out to make sure you’re comfortable and the weight distribution is okay. For kayaking, make sure the dress fits in a dry bag, and the filled bag will fit in your kayak or strapped to the deck.  If you’re trying to cut down on the weight or bulkiness of the dress, look for lighter fabrics like chiffon, cotton, silk, or rayon. Also think about how the dress will look after it’s been stuffed in a backpack or dry bag for several hours (pro tip: roll it up for less wrinkles!). Materials that are less likely to wrinkle, like crepe, lace, or silk tulle are ideal!

One last thing to note about dress fabrics: Tulle and lace tend to pick up dirt, leaves, and small sticks easily and can potentially rip. Tulle in particular often becomes statically charged and attracts dust and particles like you wouldn’t believe! I personally don’t think this is a huge deal for elopement dresses because adventurous brides aren’t usually too concerned about their outfits getting dirty. A dirty hemline is a sign of an awesome adventure wedding! But if that would bother you,  steer clear of these materials or choose a short dress.

Elopement Dresses for Every Season

Bride and groom smile while snow falls on them amongst the red rocks on their elopement day. Bride wears a white flower crown and white faux fur stole wrap over her tulle wedding dress.

Winter Elopement Dresses

If you’re eloping in cold weather or snow, you’ll definitely want to be strategic in what elopement dress you choose! The key to staying warm and cozy for a winter elopement is to layer well.  Thermal or fleece lined leggings are invaluable for keeping you warm! Get them in a nude color so they don’t show under your dress. A dress with a high slit or a tight skirt probably won’t work well for your cold weather accessories. And also consider a long sleeved dress or a stole, cardigan, jacket or wrap to keep you warm and stylish while you have photos taken. You’ll be putting on your big warm jacket in between photo shots, so be mindful of what dresses will work well with something over them. For instance, big bell sleeves will be really hard to get in and out of your puffy jacket! 

Bride and groom share a sweet moment with their eyes closed and foreheads touching while they're in a red rock slot canyon. Bride wears a Reclamation lace dress and a wide brim hat while groom has a light grew suit jacket and rust colored tie.

Spring Elopement Dresses

In many areas, spring can be a bit unpredictable weather-wise with the potential for rain and fluctuating temperatures. Look for elopement dresses that allow you to layer up if it’s cold, but that can allow you to cool down if it gets really warm. Nude leggings under your skirt and a cute jacket or wrap over your bodice can go a long way! Many places in the world are also rainy in the springtime, so think about bringing a cute rain jacket or umbrella just in case.

Bride and groom walk along bank of a high alpine lake surrounded by mountains. Bride holds her dress skirt and shows her leg through dress slit

Summer Elopement Dresses

Natural fabrics like cotton and silk keep you cooler and offer more breathability. But if you opt for a synthetic fabric elopement dress, try to find one with less layers underneath and no need for crinoline or a bustier. Short sleeve, strapless, or sleeveless dresses keep your arms cool, and a slit in the skirt can get some air flow to your legs. Make sure you don’t feel constricted by a high neckline or super tight fabric so that you can be comfortable all day. Are you getting married at the ocean or a lake and want to do some photos in the water at the end of the day? Choose a super light fabric so that your dress doesn’t weigh you down! One last thing to note. If you’re eloping in the mountains, even in the summer you may need a jacket or wrap at high elevations or in the mornings and evenings.

Bride wearing traditional Mexican off the shoulder dress walks hand in hand with groom

Fall Elopement Dresses

Fall days are often cool in the mornings and evenings, with warm-ish temperatures during the day. You’ll want to have layers available to put on and take off depending on how you’re feeling. If you want to go for a long sleeve elopement dress, consider lace or a sheer fabric to give you some warmth, but not too much. Fall is also a time for colorful landscapes, so maybe think outside of the white dress box and go for something fun like this gorgeous golden gradient dress from Leanne Marshall.

 

Eloping couple walks down pathway through desert canyon while holding hands. Bride carries her dress train and bouquet.

Where to Buy Elopement Wedding Dresses

Whether you’re looking for a traditional white dress for your elopement, or something ultra unique, it’s out there! Trying on dresses in person is such a valuable experience (and fun!), so check out your local bridal shops (and support small businesses). Etsy is also an incredible resource for finding beautiful dresses (or non-dresses) in just the style you’re looking for. You’ll find everything from boho elopement dresses to modern, to one-of-a-kind quirky dresses that are handmade or vintage. Online bridal boutiques are becoming more and more popular and offer so many styles. Many shops even offer a try-on service or a flexible return policy so that you don’t have to fully commit to the dress before you try it on. And don’t forget to look for an elopement dress in unexpected places! Department stores, everyday clothing shops, and second-hand virtual or in-person stores can offer great options!

Best Wedding Dresses to Elope In

Reclamation – Stunning elopement dresses made from up-cycled lace.

Claire Pettibone – The ultimate romantic style! Lots of lace options including some in non-white colors.

Sweet Caroline Styles – Unique two-piece wedding dresses

Carol Hannah – Beautiful elopement dresses with unique fabrics. CH’s sister company, Dear Heart, blows me away every time, especially with the gold-flecked “Goldie” gown and the Jane Austen inspired “Austen”.

Natalie Wynn – Modern and romantic dresses using unique lace and tulle (like her famous Starstruck gown). Custom designs available!

Barzelai – Inexpensive boho elopement dresses

Leanne Marshall – A soft, flowy style of gowns

Rue de Seine – Modern boho elopement dresses

Anomalie – Create your custom elopement dress online

Check Modcloth, Lulus, Baltic Born, and Fillyboo for elopement dresses at non-bridal stores.

To see specific elopement gown styles and get inspired, browse my elopement wedding dress Pinterest board!

Bride and groom drink champagne on mountain while bride's veil is caught by the wind and stands straight up

To Veil or Not to Veil?

Should you wear a veil for your elopement? Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference! Some brides love the look and feel that a veil gives them a complete bridal look. I personally didn’t wear one for my intimate mountain wedding (back when everyone did), because it just didn’t feel very “me”. But you do you! 

If you are thinking of wearing a bridal veil for your elopement, definitely try some on to see how you feel wearing one and how you like the different styles and lengths. Should you wear a long veil or short for your elopement? Cathedral veils (the super long ones that touch the ground) have an element of drama and can be stunning blowing in the breeze. But, they also often get snagged on sticks and rocks, so be mindful as you’re walking! A mid-length veil will generally stay cleaner, but it is also very likely to blow in your face if it’s a windy day. Neither length is a bad option, just know there are a few things to watch out for.  😉  Two-layer veils can be a lot to manage (especially if there’s wind), so unless you really love the look of two pieces, stick with just one. 

When it comes to veil fabrics, have fun! You can go super classic and get a lace-lined veil, or keep it simple with a plain tulle or organza. There are also so many beautiful ways to decorate a veil, from floral appliques to pearls to fun colors! Whatever you choose, I recommend purchasing a veil that’s soft and not too stiff. It will generally lie more beautifully when you’re trying to arrange it (aka won’t be such a hassle).

Best Elopement Bridal Veils

If you’re all for a veil to complete your adventurous bridal look, check out the unique veils and hair pieces to match at Alexandra Grecco or the romantic style veils of various lengths at Twigs & Honey. Etsy is always a great place to find handmade bridal veils or to search for unusual colored veils. Dareth Colburn offers a variety of classic and simple bridal veil options while Blossom and Bluebird creates sweet vintage-inspired veils.

Close up up a bride's LL Bean boots under her wedding dress

Hiking Boots to go with your Wedding Dress

I personally think hiking boots and a wedding dress or suit look so awesome together, but they’re also the key to a comfy elopement day! The best hiking boots to wear on your elopement are the ones you already have, love, and have broken in! But if you need a new pair, what should you be looking for?

A perfectly fitted pair of boots is essential when you’re out on a trail or wandering outside. They keep your feet protected from rocks and pokey things, give you the support your feet and ankles need, and keep you dry. The tread also gives you the traction you need to explore whatever terrain you want. Basically, they’re invaluable for your outdoor elopement, so make sure you have a great pair!

If you’re buying new, try on a variety of brands and styles before committing. Stores like REI with great return policies give you peace of mind about returning the boots if they aren’t quite right for you. When you’re testing out a pair of boots for your elopement, wear hiking socks or whatever you would normally wear on the trail to get an accurate idea of boot fit. And once you have a pair, break them in! There’s nothing worse than a blister or sore foot on your elopement day. Wear them around the house and venture outside to get a true feel for how the boots fit. 

Everyone has a different style when it comes to the exact boots, but here are a few things to note. Higher tops give you more ankle support, which you’ll definitely need if your elopement is in a rocky or steep area. Lower tops feel more like an athletic shoe, and are often lighter weight. I always recommend getting a waterproof boot because you never know when you’ll need to cross a creek or a rainstorm will pop up. Boots with Gortex give you great protection paired with breathability. 

I have this pair from Kodiak which I think are really cute and have always been really comfortable for me. Kodiak also has some lower ankle boots and some that are more of something you could wear every day as well as on a light trail. I’ve also heard really good things about Danner, which have a similar “classic hiking boot” look.  Blundstone is definitely more casual (not quite a hiking boot), but I’ve heard that they can still work well for short hikes and are great for brides. The same for Sorel (this pair would be really cute with a wedding dress).

There are plenty of other great hiking boot brands (Keen, Merrell, Lowa, etc.), but like I said, finding what fits you is really the key!

I’ll also mention hiking sandals like the ones from Chaco and Teva. They have great tread, but they won’t protect your feet from rocks or cacti or give you any ankle support. But, if you’re in a super hot area or just doing a short hike down to the beach, they can be a great boot alternative for your elopement!

Eloping couple runs down rocky beach while bride holds her dress

Last Minute Elopement Wedding Dresses

With the recent explosion of elopements (in part due to the coronavirus causing couples to cancel big weddings), there’s been a huge demand for ready to wear wedding dresses. And thankfully, there are options! If you’re searching for in-stock wedding dresses that are ready to ship, you don’t have to settle for something less than you’ve dreamed of. For something lightning fast, go to your local bridal shops and see if they have any off the rack options. Some cities also have boutiques (like Santa Fe’s The Dressing Room West) that solely sell dresses you can take home that day. But if that fails, look online for second hand wedding gowns on websites like Once Wed and Borrowing Magnolia or shop the “last minute bride” section of online bridal stores. A few designers who have great ready-to-ship options are Grace Loves Lace, Dreamers and Lovers, Oleg Cassini, and BHLDN. Just remember to allow at least a few weeks for alterations, or choose a dress that’s 100% ready for you to wear.

Bride in lace bell sleeve wedding dress stands in sunny forest with her bouquet

How to Fly with A Wedding Dress

If you’re having a destination wedding or elopement, you’re probably wondering how to fly with your wedding dress. Most airlines will allow you to hang it (in the garment bag) at the front of the plane in the small closet used by the pilot and crew. If you board the plane and that’s not an option, you can usually lay it on top of the luggage in the overhead bins – just find a section that’s not stuffed or ask a steward/ess for help. If your dress isn’t too large, you may also be able to fit it in your carryon luggage. Roll the dress rather than folding it so that you avoid as many wrinkles as possible. Don’t ever pack your elopement dress in checked bags, just in case they get lost!

Are you dreaming of an amazing elopement (complete with the perfect dress) and need a little assistance? I’d love to help you plan a tailored-to-you day and photograph those sweet moments. Contact me, and let’s get started!

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  1. Vivian Black says:

    You made a great point about making sure that you plan on adventure dresses that are easy to change into. My husband and I are looking for a wedding gown shop that can help our daughter find her dream dress. We will keep these tips in mind as we search for a professional that can help us best.

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Julie Haider is an adventure elopement photographer + planner based in New Mexico and photographing destination elopements worldwide.

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