It’s your wedding day, and you’re holding hands with your partner, looking deep into each others’ loving gaze. You’re about to share your vows, but first, you smile at your partner and take a deep breath to revel in the moment. Steeped in emotion and warmth as you stand on the threshold of life’s greatest adventure, the officiant nods, encouraging you to take your time, and you take a look around.


Can you picture it? Do you know where you are? Have you chosen where you want to be when you marry your best friend?

With all the options you might be asking yourself, “Where should I elope?” Elopements give you the freedom to choose how you spend the first day of your life as a married couple, including where you celebrate and continue your love story. Breakaway from the idea that elopements are always in the wild or a courtroom, and dare yourself to imagine all the beautiful possibilities. You have the ability to set up in any space you like, change locations in the middle of the day, or simply wander until you find the spot where the sun hits the leaves juuust right. You won’t have to worry about what anyone else wants or needs – it’s all about you and where you want to take the next step in your relationship.

From the mountains to the coast, North Carolina is abundant with breathtaking landscapes. If you’re looking for dramatic views to set the backdrop on your perfect day, you could throw a dart at the map or choose your favorite terrain. Western NC has dozens of mountain towns to explore, the Coast & Outer Banks are renowned for their beauty, and the state as a whole boasts 41 state and 10 national parks!

Rose Trail Images - Downtown Raleigh | Where Should I Elope? Do I Need a Venue, or...?

Rose Trail Images – Downtown Raleigh

Every part of an elopement is chosen intentionally, so since the options are beautifully limitless, here are 10 quick questions to consider before picking your elopement location:

  • Do you want to feel comfortable and familiar, or do you want to experience something new?
  • Is there a location that’s special to your relationship, or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go?
  • Do you want a classic wedding vibe, or do you want to keep things casual?
  • Do you want an outdoor option with a rain plan, or are you cool with mother nature doing its thing?
  • Do you want your location to be easily accessible, or are you up for a trek?
  • Will you say your vows and then head elsewhere, or will you pick a spot and enjoy the day there?
  • Do you want to be in a private space, or are you comfortable with potential onlookers?
  • Do you want to stay close to home, or are you willing to travel?
  • Do you want photos to document the day, or photos to take your breath away?
  • Do you want to keep costs minimal, or do you want to splurge on your dream elopement?
Summer Adams Photography - Oak Island - feat. Blue Satin Bee | Where Should I Elope? Do I Need a Venue, or...?

Outdoor adventure location

Perhaps your dream is to say your vows at the top of a mountain peak or the base of a waterfall, to enjoy a picnic in a rolling field or set up a table beside a river, to take a romantic walk on the beach or a ferry ride to the Banks.

True to its name, saying your vows in a fully outdoor space is an adventure, giving you the space to be fully surrounded by nature, with no distractions from your love. This might be perfect for you if you love to explore new places, you think getting caught in the rain is romantic, and you want to celebrate your love through all life throws at you.

When you’re considering a fully outdoor location, there are a few important things to remember. You’ll need to carry everything in and out, you likely won’t have facilities or electricity, and you can’t predict the weather in NC. Being in a public place, you might run across folks you don’t know, and while some may wish you well and move along, you won’t be able to guarantee a specific spot or privacy.

Brian Anthony Photography | Where Should I Elope? Do I Need a Venue, or...?

No place like home

There is a special magic that happens when you get married at your own home. It’s the calm of being surrounded by familiar things, in an intimate and comfortable space, and bringing such a full expression of your love into the home.

Couples might choose to say their vows at home – or on family property – for a variety of reasons, but they boil down to the convenience of removing most major stressors. You or a relative may have a difficult time leaving home, you might want to include your pets or children, or maybe you just want to get married right away!

Imagine using your wedding budget as a downpayment on your first home, and then saying your vows in your new backyard. Picture having a potluck with all your favorite people around your kitchen table. Think about decorating your home with beautiful keepsakes as a beautiful and lasting reminder of the promises you make to each other.

Durham Museum of Life & Science - Brian Mullins Photography | Where Should I Elope? Do I Need a Venue, or...?

Rent a non-traditional space

Saying “I do” in one of your favorite places is a super cool way to include your love story in your elopement. If the spot you have in mind doesn’t typically rent out, it never hurts to ask – and many business owners would be tickled that you want to use their space!

Nontraditional venues in the hospitality industry provide an easy opportunity to host an elopement with food and drink. Consider chilling at your favorite bar or restaurant, lounging at your weekend coffee shop or brewery, or having guests pick their favorite at a food hall!

If you want your elopement to center around an activity you enjoy, rent the space for a private event. Dance like no one’s watching at the dance club you love to frequent; rent a music venue for a show by your fav local band; play unlimited rounds of bowling or golf.

Maybe you’re the sentimental type, and you want to say your vows where you first met, had your first date, or shared a special memory. Art galleries, book shops, and boutiques can be beautiful settings for your day – and you don’t have to choose just one!

Alicia Hite Photography - Bill Scott Pavilion | Where Should I Elope? Do I Need a Venue, or...?

Park, preserve, and pavilion rentals

With such a wide variety of parks across the state, there are plenty of beautiful places to say your vows in nature, without the worry of an outdoor adventure. Many parks, natural preserves, and pavilions allow folks to rent the space, allowing access to facilities, restrooms, and electricity.

Renting a natural space means you’ll be able to park near your ceremony site, giving you the opportunity to set up decor and bring larger items with you. You’ll also reduce your chance of party crashers, and having a structure with a roof is a great option if the weather doesn’t cooperate on your special day.

This might be the right direction for you if you love nature and having a good backup plan, want to decorate your ceremony, or if you want to have a catered meal delivered.

MKM Photography - The Durham Hotel - feat. FauxReal Flowers | Where Should I Elope? Do I Need a Venue, or...?

Rent a wedding venue

Traditional wedding venues of any size can make for wonderful elopement sites. If there’s a venue that’s always caught your eye but was out of budget, off-season and weekday dates can be cheaper. A short rental time can also be a great way to get the most bang for your buck since you might only want to do your ceremony there.

Having a small guest list at a venue gives you an opportunity to get creative with how you use the space – and for how long. If you’re choosing an elopement because of gathering concerns, a large space allows you to easily spread out and keep pods separate. You can also use a single room for multiple purposes and use the venue in surprising and unexpected ways.

One of the perks of eloping at a wedding venue is how well they’re already prepared for you! Many venues have indoor and outdoor options, which is perfect for our inconsistent weather, and those that offer elopement packages may have an awesome list of vendors ready to make things super easy. You might have the option to bring in other vendors, or you could have the option to simply show up and enjoy the space as you say your vows and celebrate your love.

Ariel Kaitliln Photography | Where Should I Elope? Do I Need a Venue, or...?

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