There’s no rule book for getting married that says you or your dress need to look a certain way. Did you know that the white dress tradition only exists because of a trend set by Queen Victoria in 1840??
What you wear on your elopement day is completely up to you and how you want to express yourself. The number one rule I tell all couples is that your attire should be comfortable and a reflection of you! Don’t pressure yourself to purchase something based solely on trends or only to look good in pictures. If you feel good, then you’ll look good. Promise!
Take it from someone who eloped! I’ve been through the shopping process and it can be tricky. Bridal shops are out to sell you something fit for a traditional wedding. But armed with the info below and my favorite hacks, you’ll know what to be looking for!
And because it’s fun to share, I wore a black lace gown for my elopement! And when I tell you how AMAZING I looked against my sand dune backdrop…well, see for yourself!
While this is your decision, it bears a lot of weight. This is not only the dress you’ll be wearing in all your photos but it’s the dress you’ll have to transport, the dress you’ll probably have to change into in some strange location, and the dress that will stand out against your chosen backdrop.
So how do you pick the perfect dress??
There’s a difference between shopping for a wedding dress and shopping for an elopement dress. In a traditional wedding, the only real movement you have to take into consideration is walking down the aisle and dancing. In an elopement, you’re very likely hiking to your elopement destination with very little insight as to what the weather will be that day.
Consider these factors when choosing an outfit:
Don’t forget that you don’t have to compromise on style to find the perfect dress! Find the dress that is the most YOU.
These are all common lightweight fabrics with Chiffon and Tulle are probably the most common I work with! These fabrics tend to have several layers which is perfect for tossing in the wind or draping in a dramatic way. Not to mention, these fabrics are light so they are easy to hike in and help keep you cool. If you are traveling or packing in your dress, both Chiffon and Tulle are a great option because they don’t show wrinkles as dramatically as some of the other fabrics I’ll mention.
True Georgette fabrics are made from 100% silk. While still very light in the weave, silk can be a bit of a problem with hiking elopements because it does show off perspiration stains pretty easily. In addition, if environmental choices are important to your wedding day, silk materials have the worst impact on the environment. Superseding even polyester/rayon!
These fabrics tend to be a bit heavier and don’t lift in the wind as dramatically as lightweight fabric counterparts. Typically, you’ll see these dresses designed in with an elegant, timeless design. If you love a classic look or fabrics that show off your figure, then you’ll love these fabrics!
One thing to note, these fabrics are going to be warmer. Polyester in particular is not going to breathe as well because it’s not a natural fiber. For warm weather or lots of hiking, consider hiking your dress in or choosing a lightweight fabric.
I like to group lace as its own fabric type! It tends to be intricate, delicate, and stunning in many landscapes. You won’t find too many lace dresses that flow in the wind so it’s perfect for brides looking for a form fitting dress who don’t want to go the more traditional satin route. Lace also does extremely well when wet as it doesn’t become as see through/obvious it is wet!
There is an art to dressing for the landscape, and there are a few ways you can make sure that your dress looks amazing, no matter where you are in the world.
Wearing a dress that moves with you and the weather is crucial to looking natural against your backdrop. You’re at the will of Mother Nature here – picture standing atop a mountain in a dress that catches the wind. The flowier the dress, the more epic your photos become because your dress effectively becomes a prop that enhances splendor and grandiosity. For this reason, A-line dresses are perfect for elopements! You have plenty of room to spread your legs if there’s a long hike involved, and deep slits can add that super sexy element. A-line dresses also have the benefit of not requiring a ton of fabric to achieve that movement in photos which translates to an easier dress to travel with and carry.
Jillian and Emily both choose A-line-styled elopement dresses for their Pacific Northwest beach elopement. Emily’s dress was a bit more full-bodied with several layers of tulle which gives it that great ability to float in the wind. Jillian’s dress was made of a bit heavier fabric that shows lots of movement but doesn’t “float” in the wind as much.
Contrast is so important and presents itself in more ways than one. First, there’s the contrast of wearing beautiful clothes against awe-inspiring nature where you might typically find someone in rudimentary hiking clothes.
Second, there’s the contrast of color. White or ivory against a forest. Black against red rocks or desert. Don’t be afraid of color! Just be mindful of your environment. For example, you wouldn’t want to wear a green dress in a forest or mountain greenery, but green would contrast a light sandy beach or snowy landscape beautifully.
See it in action below! Zach and Eden eloped in the Salt Flats, which are white on white on white. Therefore she chose to stand out in a baby blue ball gown that was just breathtaking. Alexis and Anthony’s bridal session was in upstate NY where there is tons of greenery in the spring. Her custom-made Saldana dress just popped against that greenery so well!
This style is the most popular with elopements because of the ease of hiking, looks beautiful in any landscape, and can be tossed around in the wind for dramatic shots. When shopping, you’ll want to look for terms such as A-line, Empire, and Princess! You can show off your personality through lace appliques, dramatic low backs, billowing sleeves, and so much more!
Being an elopement bride means you can truly throw away any preconceived notion about what a wedding dress should look like. More and more brides are choosing short dresses! They are super chic, easy to hike in, and great if you are planning an elopement in a hotter climate! Check out Odylyne the Ceremony for super cute and chic short dresses!
Mermaid, trumpet, slip, and similar form-fitting styles can be beautiful for your elopement! They typically are fitted in the bodice (your chest) and waist then start to flare just past your butt. Some are tight as far as your knees and below. One thing to really think about with these styles is your mobility. How easy is it to walk, stand, crouch? I literally want you doing all the above and more when trying on these styles and any other styles because you’ll be doing all of this on your elopement day! If you head in this direction, consider choosing a dress with a slit as it will make hiking much easier.
Think fairy tale gowns with billowing skirts and a tight bodice! These dresses are large, in charge, and look seriously stunning in the wild. Typically much heavier and more cumbersome than other dress styles, it is still doable on shorter elopement hikes and activities. My elopement dress would have been considered a ball gown but I ended up cutting some of the shaping tulle out from under it to give it a bit more A-line appearance and ability to be tossed around.
These are a great way to really customize your dress and make it super easy to change in and out of! You can hike in the top then add the skirt once you’ve reached our elopement spot. Black Wedding Dress is a popular Etsy dressmaker with lots of 2 piece designs.
Don’t want to wear a dress? No problem! No one says you have to wear a dress for your elopement day. It’s YOUR elopement – wear whatever the hell you want. Here are some alternatives that still have a “bridal” feel.
Every year, more and more bridal jumpsuits pop up online. They are so chic and often err towards feminine, masculine, and androgynous styles. It’s truly one of the most versatile options. Plus, a jumpsuit might be a little easier to hike in!
Bridal suits challenge the norm in the most stylish way. There are so many cuts, styles, and colors to choose from. You get layers to shed during hikes, and POCKETS! Bridal suits look incredible when styled with accessories like hats, capes, and lingerie.
Well, it depends. It’s definitely worth wearing your dress for a shorter walk or hike. That way, there’s less to carry with us and we can stop along the way to take photos wherever we want.
The longer the hike, the more inclined you might be to carry your dress and change once we reach our destination. If you choose to do that, you can buy a foldable garment bag that can be strapped to your backpack. That way your dress stays clean right up until your ceremony!
This is totally up to you – plenty of brides choose to hike in their dresses. It makes for great photos and an amazing story! If you’re having a hard time deciding, feel free to reach out to me and I can help you weigh all your options.
Hiking in your dress takes a little extra care but is easy to do. If you have a flowy A-Line dress, you can carry the fabric on one side to keep it from touching the ground…and to keep you from tripping! For dresses with a super long train, you can ball it all up and tuck it into your back, above the zipper.
When in doubt, let that baby slide in the dirt, leaves, rivers, and whatever else we come across! Ombre dresses are always so beautiful!
Preventing wrinkles is the hardest part because there is no way to perfectly carry the dress all the way to your chosen ceremony location. Purchasing a garment bag then folding in half and attaching to a backpack tends to lead to the least amount of wrinkles.
Pro Tip: If you are flying with your elopement dress, always take it on as a carry on and tell the stewardess as you are boarding that it’s your wedding dress. They are typically very accommodating and will either put it in the front closest or lay it across bags in first class. Hey! You might even get a free bump to first or complimentary beverage! It also doesn’t hurt to pick up a travel sized steamer that you can give your dress the once over the morning of your elopement.
OKAY now that we’ve covered the basics of picking a dress, it’s time for the fun part. Here’s where to look for that flowy, one-of-a-kind elopement dress.
BHLDN is Anthropologie’s line of wedding attire. They have an entire section devoted to destination wedding dresses that are perfect for elopements. They offer a huge selection of sizing and can fit a range of budgets. While most of their sales is done online they do have several stores in large cities, including Seattle, Denver, Portland, Houston, Austin, and more! No local stores, meet with them online for a virtual dress showing!!
Willowby by Watters Cameron Gown
BHLDN Willowby By Watters Whitney Gown
Rue de Seine makes unique dresses for the bohemian bride. Albeit on the pricier side, these dresses are just MADE for elopements! If you fancy a bit of sexiness and lots of flowing material, then a Rue de Seine dress is for YOU! I absolutely adore there accessories – alllllll the big sleeves!
In addition, they regularly release new collections and retire the old styles. So you’re more likely to have a dress that very few people will ever where on their wedding day. How unique is that!
Daci Gowns leave me with my jaw on the floor. Do yourself a favor and scroll through her collections. Daci specializes in custom dresses for adventerous elopements, so if you have something specific in mind and can’t find it anywhere else, contact Daci! Here dresses are designed to not only flatter you as the wearer but also accent the wild scenery around you! I’ve never found another dress that flows in the wind quite like a Daci gown!
Mara Wedding Dress for the Bohemian Bride with Sleeves
This bespoke wedding designer is based out of Los Angeles, CA and specializes in creating unique, dreamy dresses. Perfect for brides who are looking for a bit of edge and flare! With regular collection releases, there is bound to be the perfect elopement dress for you.
Wedding dresses typically range from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $5000 for the top designers I listed above. Of course, you can find even more expensive dresses but most people fit well into the $1000-$4000 range. I do recommend shopping at an actual bridal boutique for a few reasons.
One, you may have an idea going in what style dress you want but you’ll be amazed by what you love once you begin trying dresses on.
Two, wedding dresses are designed with alternations in mind. Meaning, there is extra fabric within the dress that allows for taking in and out. Something you will not find with budget, online dresses.
Three, it’s an amazing experience to be able to go and try dresses on! Especially if you have friends and family that want to be involved in your wedding day but you are planning a ‘just us’ experience!
I will say one thing on shopping budget for your elopement dress through Amazon, Lulu’s, ASOS, etc. They are fast fashion, made of poor quality materials and workmanship. Not to mention, they are typically ripping off styles from designers, like the ones I’ve mentioned above. I have seen amazing elopement dresses come from these companies, check out Alana’s dress below from Lulu’s that she wore in Death Valley National Park! Overall, purchase your dress early on and take it to a tailor to have it customized to you. You may be surprised that the $200 dress you purchased may cost you upwards of $1000 for tailoring!! Where as, purchasing a customized gown from a designer rarely needs specialized tailoring.
If you are on a budget, consider purchasing a previously loved dress through Brides for a Cause! You’ll be able to snag gorgeous designer gowns at a fraction of the cost! They have a few flagship stores – Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and Sacramento but you can also shop online too. Your proceeds go towards charity and after your wedding, consider donating your wedding dress to them!
Ready to start planning your unforgettable adventerous elopement!? Nomadic Weddings proudly offers complimentary planning assistance from start to end, customized packages and timelines to fit any needs, and an experience that will make this adventure your best one yet! This thing won’t plan itself! Reach out today to get started.
hey, i'm molly!
This ain’t an all-day photoshoot, I’m not here to get you to grin at a camera all day long, that would suck. I’m here to capture all the natural and organic moments of a beautiful day filled with things you two love to do the most together. Whether that’s hiking, backpacking, camping, rock climbing, sailing, biking, exploring cities, or sipping on microbrews; whatever your heart desires.
Look around and stay a while!
Wow, so much great information. I love your personal experiences too, it’s nice to know you have first hand experience with this kind of thing. Good point about the ability to create movement with the dress too!
So many great suggestions for dresses here! These brides are lucky to find this and the details are incredible. What great info!
This is such a comprehensive collection of ideas on how to get that perfect dress. Awesome idea to showcase some brands that offer different looks, thanks for sharing!
Heck yes, everyone wants to be able to feel and look their best on such an important day! Thanks for the tips!
Elopements are unique because not only do you want to find a dress you LOVE, but you also want to find something that is functional for an outdoor adventure, so this article is a really incredible resource – so helpful for brides on the hunt for the perfect elopement dress!
So many great options and I love all the photos! What a great guide for picking elopement formalwear!
this is so informative and so helpful! there are so many options !!
Love Bhldn! Great information for couples eloping!