Written by our rad team member, Amanda Winther
Washington Mountain Wedding in the North Cascades
One of my favorite things about helping my couples plan their dream mountain wedding is that no two are the same! Unfortunately, Covid made Shelly and Matt’s initial dream of a 700-person wedding in the south impossible in 2020. But they still wanted to celebrate their love! And I was here to help them do exactly that! We planned the perfect intimate small family wedding centered around family, food and adventure. (Seriously, my three favorite things)! Keep scrolling to see their gorgeous photos, and to read some of my tips for planning your own mountain wedding.
Meet Shelly & Matt- the couple of this Washington mountain wedding
Meet the incredible couple of this Washington mountain wedding – Shelly and Matt! Shelly and Matt are from the midwest and originally had an over 700-person wedding planned for their big day (which really just speaks volumes to the kinds of people they are, that so many people love them and want to be part of their day!). With covid, their original plan for a 700-person wedding was just not possible. But Matt and Shelly still wanted to get married and celebrate their love so they decided to shift their plans to a smaller family wedding, including immediate family only, and following recommended covid guidelines. That’s how Shelly and Matt found me, and we started planning their mountain wedding day!
Covid wedding side note: if you’re a couple who has found themselves in this situation of having to change your wedding day because of the pandemic, first off I am so so sorry. Remember, that this does not mean you can’t celebrate your love. And check out my full list of covid wedding and elopement resources where I help you through all the steps of canceling or postponing your wedding, planning a virtual bachelorette or bachelor party, and even how to elope during coronavirus. If there’s any silver linings of this year, it’s that love is still love, and we’re still able to celebrate love, even if it looks a bit different than it may have otherwise.
Back to Matt and Shelly’s incredible mountain wedding day….
Honestly, this was such a fun small family wedding to plan for a few reasons. First, Matt is a photographer and loves all things photography, so it was really fun to talk about framing, and backgrounds, and light, and just generally nerd out about photography things together! Also, one of my favorite things in the world is to take people who are newer to the mountains to the mountains. Matt had never done a hike like this before, so it was extra special to see him experience a hike like this on his wedding day!
Shelly and Matt’s day started at a gorgeous cabin. They got ready with their family and had their first look at the cabin. Then, we had an intimate ceremony right near the cabin. At first, they weren’t sure how the cabin was going to look as a mountain wedding venue, but we found some ways to frame the cabin and forest and create such a stunning spot for their ceremony. (How gorgeous are they!?)
Shelly and Matt knew they wanted to share a meal with family on their day, because food is not only a big part of their lives and cultures, but also who doesn’t love sharing a meal! So after the ceremony, Matt and Shelly got their matching aprons on (ummm how cute is that?!) and made a meal for everyone to come together and enjoy. All of their family helped out and set the table. Then they had a big meal together as a family.
Then, their families sent us off and we headed off to one of my favorite Forest Service roads to my all time favorite hike in Washington! (Psst… want to know how to plan your own North Cascades mountain wedding? Head here for my full guide to North Cascade National Park elopements). Commonly there’s a handful of other people at this spot. But because their mountain wedding was in September, right after everyone went back to school, we actually had the entire trail and the entire fire lookout all to ourselves. (Yes. It was amazing!) And, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! We spent the evening there taking photos and ended up hiking down after dark with our headlamps. It was so clear that we could even see the Milky Way and Big Dipper and SO many stars. The mountains really showed off! It was a true joy to be part of Matt and Shelly’s best day ever, centered around being with family, sharing an amazing meal, and of course, adventure!
How to choose a mountain wedding venue
Find the right location and time of day for your wedding ceremony
Learn about the towns (and amenities) near your dream mountain
Choose the best time of year for your mountain wedding
Learn about planning a Leave No Trace mountain wedding
Find a trail that is the right level of accessibility for your whole group
If you are dreaming of a mountain wedding ceremony, I recommend either having the ceremony on the mountain at sunset, or having it earlier in the day at a less exposed location. This is because there are a couple issues with planning a mountain wedding ceremony in the middle of the day when it is really sunny. First, it might be uncomfortable. Imagine it: you and your love are standing on a mountaintop, surrounded by towering snow-capped mountains, holding hands… and desperately trying not to squint into each other’s eyes! And not only can bright sun make the ceremony uncomfortable for you, but it also does not look best in photos. During the middle of the day, the light is too harsh and contrasty to get the stunning mountain wedding photos you definitely are going to want! So, that’s why I do not recommend having your midday ceremony on the mountaintop but rather in the forest, because those pine trees create the most beautiful, filtered light. (Did someone say pine trees?!)
A lot of my couples choose to have their ceremonies in the middle of the day in the forest near the mountains, or at the airbnb (like Shelly and Matt did!). Then we head to the mountains at sunset for those stunning golden hour mountaintop photos. Bonus: you get two incredible landscape backgrounds in your wedding photos!
Are you looking for more tips to plan an airbnb wedding? I’ve got you covered! Check out this post for more ideas to plan your airbnb elopement!
Next, you’ll want to learn more about the towns near your dream mountain destination. In Washington, the mountains are at least a 30 minute drive (and they can be much more!) from the closest town where you will be staying. Think about the following questions: what level of amenities do you want for your wedding? Do you want easy access to grocery stores, restaurants and shops? Will people in your wedding party need to fly in and if so is there an airport nearby? Are there bigger towns nearby for those in your wedding people who aren’t as comfortable staying in a small mountain town? Some Washington mountain locations are very remote. The nearest town will only have one tiny market that serves as a bakery, grocery store, and gas station. And others have dozens of restaurants and shops. So make sure you choose the best mountain location for you and your family or mountain wedding party.
I highly recommend planning your mountain wedding in either the summer or fall. This is mainly because in the spring and winter there will still be snow in the mountains! So a lot of the roads up to the mountains will be closed. That said, there are some incredible winter mountain wedding destinations. In Washington, from July until mid-October is really the sweet spot for mountain weddings.
If you’ve got your eye on a mountain wedding, chances are very high that you will be getting married on public lands. One of my favorite tools to help me make sure I show respect for the outdoors while planning any adventure wedding or elopement is Leave No Trace and their Seven Principles. These principles are actually more of a decision making framework not hard and fast rules, and there’s a lot of nuance! But my team and I broke down everything you need to know (and more) in our How to Plan a Leave No Trace Elopement Guide. Go forth and nerd out! (Which basically means go learn about durable surfaces, one of my favorite LNT things!)
Finally, pick a trail that is a good match for you and your wedding party. There are all different difficulties and lengths of trails you could choose for your mountain wedding ceremony. From basically drive-up locations, to short and steep hikes, to full-day adventures. If you’re a newer hiker or with a wedding party that can’t do a long hike, this does not mean you can’t have a mountaintop wedding! But you will want to find a trail that is shorter, with less elevation gain. There are even some ADA accessible mountain wedding locations in Washington, which I’ve written about here.
Want more ideas for planning a mountain wedding or elopement, including some of my favorite activities to incorporate in your day? Just mosey on over to my how to elope checklist!
Seven must have items for your mountain wedding
Planning a mountain wedding is a little bit different than a traditional wedding. Here are my recommendations for seven must-haves to bring on your mountain wedding day:
A mountain wedding dress
Mountain wedding shoes
Sturdy, comfortable backpack
Water (in a reusable bottle)
First, you’ll want to choose a wedding dress that will complement the incredible unobstructed mountains all around you. My top recommendation here is to find a dress with movement. With that said, there are so many styles to choose from for your mountain wedding dress! Check out my guide to choosing an elopement dress for more ideas. One other thing to consider is accessories that add personality into your outfit. Shelly actually made a veil cape for herself (how cool is that?!), which not only looked amazing but added so much of her personality and unique style to the photos and the day.
Next, when thinking about what shoes to bring for your mountain wedding, I always have my couples headed to the mountains bring comfortable, sturdy hiking boots for the hike. If they want to wear heels or dress shoes they bring them in their backpack to change into once we get to the top.
Speaking of backpacks, I recommend finding a comfortable backpacking backpack with straps around both your hips and chest. Osprey packs are my favorite — they’re very comfortable and well-made. Make sure your backpack fits all of the things you’ll need for your mountain wedding day!
The weather in the mountains can change quickly, especially in Washington which has lots of microclimates. Keep in mind that it’s usually about 5 degrees colder for every 1,000 feet in elevation you climb. So if you’re staying a few thousand feet below where you’ll be taking your mountain wedding photos, it could be 10 or 15 degrees cooler up there. In addition, it can get cold pretty fast after the sun goes down. That’s why I always tell my couples to bring layers to keep them warm and protect them from wind or rain.
For the best light, you’ll want to plan at least part of your mountain wedding at sunrise or sunset. That means that you will be hiking up or down in the dark. So, a headlamp is a must-have!
And last, but definitely not least: you will want to bring water and snacks! What are your favorite snacks that you would be happy to enjoy during your time on the mountain? Bring those! And if you book with me, I always bring extra snacks for all of my couples. Cool fact: Between the Pine actually started as a food blog. You can still find some of my favorite snack recipes like pumpkin bread and peanut butter granola. So, yes I’m definitely a huge fan of bringing special snacks to make your best day even better! (Because who doesn’t love snacks!?).
How to choose the perfect mountain wedding package
Oh hey…I know of a pretty cool Washington mountain wedding photographer who would love to document your mountain top wedding day…just saying (lol). But, truly, hiring the right adventure wedding photographer is a really important step in your mountain wedding planning process! Of course, you’ll want photos of your day to treasure for years to come. But, you also want to book a photographer with experience in adventure and mountain elopements. From day-of timelines, Pacific Northwest weather patterns (aka microclimates!!) and uniquely scouted locations (and backup locations, and backup to the backup locations), it’s so important to work with a photographer who is well-versed in adventure wedding photography. I work really hard to care for my clients to make the planning process simple and their mountain wedding day unforgettable.
I recommend the full day package the most often to my couples, but especially for mountain weddings. That way you can start your day in the forest (or by the cabin), including something like a first look, a small, intimate ceremony, and even a fun adventure together, and finish with your mountaintop wedding photos. And sunset really is the absolute BEST time in the mountains.
Meet your Washington mountain wedding photographer
I feel most at home outdoors, so it is no surprise that is where I gravitate towards as a mountain wedding photographer. In college, I was known as the “granola girl” because my outfits were always fit to go to class or hiking (not that I ever skipped class to go to the mountains, lol). From my days of exploring the hills of the Ozark Mountains, I am now hiking mountain trails across the Pacific Northwest, exploring the bases of waterfalls in Kauai and experiencing as many mountain top sunset views in Washington as possible. I am passionate about this job of mine and adventuring to the most beautiful locations to document mountain weddings. I’m a Washington-based adventure wedding photographer who knows the state of Washington, the national parks, forests, state parks, and other mountain wedding locations well. Basically, I’m dying for a reason to head back to the mountains, and I’d love for your adventure to be the reason! Click here to learn more about me, your mountain wedding photographer!
Are you ready to start planning your mountain 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.