Camping Wedding in Washington State

Written by our rad team member, Amanda Winther


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Camping Wedding in Washington State

There’s something truly special about a camping wedding. Maybe it’s the thrill of being even closer to nature and really experiencing all the smells, sounds and sights or spending almost every moment of your best day ever outside. Maybe it’s that you can end the night chatting, listening to music, and laughing around the campfire with your people as the night turns darker and the sky fills with stars. I think it’s really all of the above (and more!). And today I’m sharing everything you’ll need to know to plan your own camping wedding, from a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you choose your campsite, some ideas for how you can style your campground wedding venue to add that extra special pop, and what to pack for your adventure wedding.


Meet the couple featured in this stunning camping wedding: Megan & Joel

I am so excited to introduce Megan and Joel, the couple who dreamed up this camping wedding. Megan and Joel had planned to get married in Colorado, but due to Covid, they had to cancel that wedding and start from scratch. Megan actually found me through our coronavirus wedding resources. She saw that I was offering brainstorms or chats to couples who have had to cancel their weddings because of coronavirus, and reached out. When we chatted, we totally hit it off, and a few weeks later, Megan and Joel officially shifted plans and we started planning their elopement in Washington. (Side note: If you’re a couple who is also having to postpone or cancel your wedding because of coronavirus, first off, I am truly so sorry. Remember, coronavirus cannot cancel your love! If you still have questions or need guidance for your new elopement plans, I’m here to help!)

Megan and Joel chose June for their elopement month. While, in many parts of the country, it can be sunny and perfect by June, in Washington, June is known as Juneuary (like January). This basically just means that June can be super rainy and unpredictable weather-wise! Combine Juneuary with the Coronavirus, and we knew we needed to be flexible and open-minded, and that we might need to change locations last minute. Because of Coronavirus, when we started planning, some national forests and national parks were still closed. The good news is that we were prepared to make this elopement a special day for all, so we had a lot of back up options in mind for whatever came our way. Luckily, the national forest we were looking at did open up! I would have called it a Juneuary miracle, but then three days before their date, we looked at the forecast of where they were going to elope and all we saw was rain, rain, rain. So, together we decided to switch their location to be more in the Central Cascades, where it was going to be sunny… and wow are we glad we switched! Their day turned out SO lovely, and we got a glimpse of their original site from a ridge, and it would have been raining. So we sort of did get our Juneuary miracle!

Their vision for the day was to center everything around a campsite and bonfire, so we did just that. We ended up choosing a dispersed campsite that I knew of off a Forest Service road. It was a gorgeous large site with plenty of space for their group. When we got there, Joel’s brother, who’s a climber (umm ok, how cool are my couples and their families?!), helped climb up and hang string lights in the trees around the firepit. They had BBQ catered in (yes please!), got ready at the campground and did their first look in the forest surrounded by pines. I may be a bit biased, but this is definitely one of my favorite places for a first look. There’s honestly nothing like bearing witness to a couple sharing their first moments of their best day ever surrounded by pine trees.

Then, the whole group headed up to a trail where they did the ceremony near a fire lookout. Although the rain held out (bless!), it was still pretty windy, but luckily, we were able to find shelter behind a giant rock near the fire lookout. After they shared their vows and had their ceremony (I’m not crying– okay, yes I definitely am!), we found a field covered in wildflowers and got some gorgeous photos of them as husband and wife. Their elopement day ended at the campground surrounded by friends and family, with a bonfire, music, cake (because, of course!), a first dance, toasts, and continued late into the evening as we chatted and laughed and celebrated the new couple. It was an amazing day with a couple I am so glad to now call friends. And, yes, it truly was a Juneuary miracle!


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Three things to keep in mind when planning a camping wedding

Thinking of planning your own camping wedding? Camping weddings are the perfect way to elope if you want to be surrounded by nature the whole time. And the good news is, with just a little bit of planning, finding the perfect campground for your wedding doesn’t have to be difficult (and is actually really fun!). Here are three questions to ask yourself as you’re planning your camping wedding:

  1. Does the campground have group campsites?

  2. Does the campground take reservations?

  3. Is a dispersed campsite an option?

First off, find out if the campground you’re looking at has group campsites. Group campsites are a really good option if you want an intimate wedding or elopement with guests, like Megan and Joel had. Many state parks in Washington, and some national parks, have sites specifically for larger groups that accommodate anywhere from 10-100 people, depending on the site. These sites commonly have more space, amenities like large picnic tables that would make a perfect tablescape, and you can usually reserve them. Bonus: since they are often a bit set away from other camping areas, group campsites are a great choice for a campground wedding venue if you’re wanting more privacy and intimacy.

Second, figure out if the campground takes reservations. Some campgrounds take reservations, some are “first come first serve,” (also known as “walk in”), which means they don’t allow reservations, and some campgrounds (Kalaloch campground at Ruby Beach, for example) takes reservations for part of the year and is walk-in only in the off-season. If you’re not doing a mid-week ceremony, I recommend going with a campground that takes reservations to make sure you will have a spot for your big day. Weekends can fill up really fast, especially during peak season, and you don’t want to be scrambling around for a place to stay on your day.

Finally, would you consider a dispersed campsite for your campground wedding venue? If you aren’t familiar with the term “dispersed camping,” it basically just means camping in National Forest or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land outside of developed campgrounds. There are tons of pros to dispersed camping: these campsites can be more unique and way more spread out, so you usually don’t have to worry about noise levels or regulated quiet hours like you might at established campgrounds. Extra bonus: dispersed camping is free! However, because you’re camping on undeveloped campsites, there are generally no services at these sites. That means no picnic tables, trash removal, toilets, or running water. (This does depend on the site, and some more popular dispersed areas may have toilets).

This also means there are some extra skills you’ll want to have if you’re dispersed camping. So if you’re thinking about going with a dispersed campsite for your camping wedding like Megan and Joel ended up doing, a great place to start is to learn about Leave No Trace (I even wrote a full guide to planning a Leave No Trace elopement). Hopping in our 4Runner and checking out dispersed campsites around Washington and the Pacific Northwest, is one of my and my partner Drew’s favorite things to do (when I’m not shooting my amazing couples, that is!). There are so many incredible dispersed campgrounds around Washington and.. psst ..I may just know of a gal who loves sharing this with her couples! Have I piqued your interest? I’d be stoked to help you find the perfect camping wedding venue.



camping wedding in Washington resources | between the pine elopement photographer


 


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How to style your campground wedding venue

Not sure exactly how to decorate a campground to make it your perfect wedding venue? Honestly, most campsites already are so beautiful, that they really don’t need much. But the good news is that a campground is one of the cheapest wedding venues you’ll find, so if you want to add some special touches, you can use some of that saved budget to buy decor and style your campground wedding venue! That said, you don’t have to break the bank. My couples have found bargain-priced decorations for their camping and adventure weddings at thrift stores, on etsy, or even on loan from friends and family. How much flair you add to your camping wedding venue is really up to you! You can keep it simple and sweet, or go all out on a vibe like campy, vintage, rustic, boho, or classic. Truly, the only limit here is your imagination (oh– and make sure to double check fire regulations! Head over to my guide on How to plan a Leave No Trace elopement to learn more about fire safety). Here are some ideas for how to decorate for a camping wedding:

  • Lighting, like string lights or twinkle lights (like Megan & Joel!)

  • Pennant flags strung across the campground

  • Tapestries, or handmade signs

  • Tablescapes for the picnic table

  • Cozy seating area

  • A wedding arch or backdrop

  • S’mores or a luscious cheese or snack board

Bringing lighting to decorate your campground wedding venue can really take it to the next level, and there are quite a few options you can go with. You can opt for fully-solar options (Luci Lights are some of my favorites), battery powered LED string or twinkle lights, or you can bring a small generator, which is what Megan and Joel did. There are even vintage-style lanterns and flameless tiki torches and candles!

Another thing you can do to decorate your camping wedding site is to hang up something like pennant flags, tapestries, or even custom or handmade signs. Joel’s brother is a climber, so he was able to climb up the trees and put the lights up. But if you don’t have a climber in your wedding party and are bringing something to hang, make sure you have a way to get up there to hang it like a step stool or small ladder (pro tip: bring a piece of plywood to put it on so the legs don’t sink! Junior Ranger Mollie here to spread that safety first ethic!).

Many developed campsites have huge picnic tables so one thing to think about is how can you make it look really cute and add your own personality? Maybe you opt for a tablecloth, flowers, books or other meaningful decor or trinkets. You could also create some cozy seating areas with rugs or carpets, and ottomans, poufs, and throw pillows. Another idea is to bring a wedding arch or backdrop. Or you could bring and make a fun, dreamy s’mores or cheese and charcuterie board (which just so happen to be a few of my favorite things!).



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What to pack for a camping wedding

Not sure what to pack for your camping wedding? I’ve got you covered! If you’re planning to elope at a campground instead of an airbnb or lodge, you’ll want to bring a few extra things:

  • Cooler

  • Extra seating

  • Extra tables (especially if you’re going with a dispersed campsite)

  • Firewood (buy locally if possible!) 

  • Trash bags 

  • Extra blankets to keep warm

  • Portable speaker

  • Lanterns

  • Hammocks

  • Tent

  • Camp stove 

  • Bug spray & sunscreen

Some campgrounds do have large picnic tables, and even if your site does have a picnic table, it’s always nice to have extra tables and seating for you and your wedding guests. Also, a quick note: when possible, buy your firewood locally. This is because if you bring firewood from far away, it can also carry tiny plants and animals with it, and sometimes these plants and animals have no natural predators and become invasive species. Invasive species have contributed to the decline of 42% of the country’s threatened and endangered species. (Check out my Guide to planning a Leave No Trace Elopement for more tips). 



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Are you ready to start planning your camping wedding? Let’s do it! Reach out and let’s start planning your greatest adventure yet.

  


Ready to explore more elopements, weddings and adventures? Wander away below!

Between the Pine is an adventure elopement and wedding photography brand created by Mollie Adams. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mollie travels with her camera in hand to document “I dos” in epic landscapes including Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii.

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