Doesn’t it feel like you’re always seeing the same wedding over and over again? Every weekend on Instagram another friend of a friend is having a big traditional barn wedding full of pastels. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about having a traditional wedding. But I always come across couples who are looking for that spice factor that’ll really set their wedding apart. After all, who doesn’t want to have a wedding your friends will remember for the rest of time?
In this post, I’ll cover some of the unique and nontraditional venues out there that are perfect for your small and unforgettable wedding. There are endless options and I can help you find a place that will suit all your wants and needs.
If you’re looking for grandiosity, a National Park wedding is for you! Many national parks offer scenic overlooks, natural amphitheaters, and stunning backdrops that make for one-of-a-kind wedding photos. However, it could be difficult to find a venue at some of the highly popular National Parks such as Yosemite and Zion. Here are a few lesser known National Park venues that will still leave you in awe:
Located in southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park is vast and romantic. Picture neverending sand dunes with views of far-off snowy mountains. It’s like being on another planet! Hold your ceremony and photos at the edge of the dune field, just enough inside so that the dunes are the only thing surrounding you.
Feeling really adventurous and wanting sand dunes?! Consider an elopement in Morocco in the Sahara Desert!
North Cascades National Park sits just below the Canadian border in northern Washington state. It’s called the “American Alps” for a reason – the views and mountainous terrain are astounding. (I would know, I live here!) I spend tons of time scouting the best elopement locations, but Artist Point is one of my all-time favorites.
Located in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest just past the base of Mount Baker Ski Area, Artist Point provides stunning alpine views. You can have your ceremony overlooking an 11,000’ volcano, then gather your crew and head back to your 4,000 sq. ft cabin rental to celebrate. No special permit required.
Botanical gardens exist in many forms in almost every city and are some of the best hidden-gem wedding venues. And they’re completely different in every region.
The Desert Botanical Garden is definitely not your typical garden. 140 acres of lush cacti and succulents are surrounded by incredible mountain views. You have a few venue options here:
One word to describe the National Tropical Botanical Garden? Paradise. Here you’ll find the world’s largest collection of native Hawaiian plants and flowers that’ll come together for a lush, green backdrop for your wedding. The NTBG offers a few venue options:
New Orleans has much to offer when it comes to garden weddings and is known for its historic mansions and gardens. But if you’re looking for something truly unique, consider these:
So you want something truly exotic and other-worldly, huh? Then how about a cave! A cavernous wedding can be mysterious and gloomy with a big splash of romance and is perfect if you’ve been dreaming of a destination wedding. Here are a few international venues that are surely unforgettable.
Rayavadee Krabi is a hidden beach resort in Southern Thailand. Here, you can host a destination wedding and say your vows underneath an expansive grotto facing the ocean.
Located on one of the southern-most tips of Iceland, Hjörleifshöfði hellir (don’t worry, I can’t say it either) is a remote cave that requires an off road vehicle to access. You can park right at the entrance to the cave making it easy to bring people, decor, and food. And as if it couldn’t be any more magical, the cave exits directly onto a beach facing the North Atlantic Sea. In addition, there are unique cliffs and beaches nearby with beautiful rock formations.
Having your wedding on the water opens up thousands of possibilities for incredible city and natural backdrops. Plus, most charters offer all-inclusive packages, so all you need to do is pick the right company. Here are a few options in some of my favorite spots around the world.
There’s no city quite as picturesque as San Francisco, California. Just imagine: you can have the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands in the backdrop of all your photos, plus an incredible sunset. SF is only foggy in the morning and you’re close to guaranteed a blue sky. Empress Events offers luxury, private charters that can accommodate your most outlandish requests at a very reasonable price.
Alaska Private Touring offers fully-staffed one-week experiences where you can choose exactly what you want to do. Get up close and personal to glaciers near Haines, Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, and Skagway. Have your ceremony on the top deck of a yacht with any coastal backdrop you want. This is definitely a pricier option, but if you want to go all-out for your destination wedding, this one’s for you.
All the fun of camping, with any amenity you could imagine! Glamping is the ultimate opportunity to have all your friends and family gathered in one place for multiple nights. Here are some incredible spots that combine nature and luxury to make one hell of a party.
With locations across the United States, you’ll be able to find a location that suites any landscape backdrop you could dream of! You’ll have a gorgeous airstream to get ready in before choosing to elope at a nearby national park/forest or consider having your special ceremony right at your airstream! Nothing is more epic than an Airstream!
Joshua Tree, California
Russian River, California
Catskills, New York
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
If you’ve ever dreamt of getting married on Mars, Joshua Tree is for you. Le Haute Desert Aerie is a guesthouse and glamping venue located just outside the northwest entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. You can rent 2 vintage Airstreams, 2 Safari tents with an open-sky shower, and 2 guest bedrooms in the Main House for your guests. Say your vows atop 1.4-billion-year-old metamorphic rocks while you watch desert critters scurry by.
Okay I know, I’m partial to California when it comes to glamping weddings. But hear. me. out. Slide Ranch is less than 20 miles north of San Francisco with not another soul to be seen. Their group camp sits atop an oceanside cliff with enough spots for 40 guests. Trust me when I say that the Northern California coastline is like no other. Plus, we can take photos deep in the world-famous redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument just 10 minutes away.
Ghost towns make for an eerie and mysterious backdrop. Think old-timey, abandoned, rustic, desert ruins. It can be the perfect place to have a small, intimate ceremony and take one-of-a-kind photos.
Bodie State Historical Park is a quintessential ghost town located just east of Yosemite National Park near the California-Nevada border. It’s a former gold-mining community with abandoned homes, storefronts, vehicles, and a church. Truthfully it looks like something out of a cult movie, and can provide an eerie yet picturesque contrast to your white wedding dress. Hold your ceremony in front of the chapel, and then have your reception at Mammoth Mountain, just one hour south of Bodie.
While Rhyolite Ghost Town was only around for a short time (1904 – 1916 to be exact), it left behind a gold rush-era legacy with a spooky desert backdrop. It’s located just outside the north east entrance to Death Valley National Park and is less than 2 hours from Las Vegas. How about an eerie ghost town ceremony and a Las Vegas party??
Ranch weddings are a full-on experience. You can have all your guests stay multiple nights for horseback riding, spa treatments, hiking, and more!
This all inclusive resort tucked in the San Juan mountains of Colorado is the perfect backdrop for saying I Do. Whether it’ll be just the two of you or a small intimate wedding (they can accommodate up to 60 guests), Dunton offers a unique blend of history and luxury. Plus, you’ll never be wanting for more views! This place boasts 360 degree mountain views and you can take a horse back ride up for additional views.
My recommendation is to book the Well House cabin, where you’ll have your own hot spring in your cabin. Just think about how amazing that would be for a mini steamy session or getting ready photos.
Located 1 hour from Bozeman, MT or just outside Big Sky Ski resort, Lone Mountain ranch is a gorgeous collection of cozy cabins, endless cross country ski trails, and plenty of hiking & horseback riding for any avid adventurer.
They offer elopement packages throughout the year to really make your planning easy! All you’ll need to do is hire a photographer (👋 hey!) and book your flights to Bozeman, Montana. They pick you up from the airport, set you up with an officiant and ceremony location on the property, horseback rides (or night sleigh ride in winter), include accommodations and all meals. It really doesn’t get easier than that!
Say “I do” in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at C Lazy U Ranch in Granby Colorado. C Lazy U Ranch offers 8,500 acres of expansive sceny with multiple ceremony and reception sites, a secluded couples’ cabin, and tons of ranch activities for up to 90 guests. Plus, it sits less than 30 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, where we can drive to take scenic alpine photos at 13,000’ elevation.
If you’ve dreamt of getting married in the Scottish Highlands, Alladale Wilderness Reserve is for you. With 2 cottages onsite, Alladale can accommodate up to 26 guests. There’s plenty to do – hiking, mountain biking, fishing, whisky tasting, clay pigeon shooting, and Scottish entertainment. But the most important part of your experience at Alladale? Spending time with their herd of highland cows!
Ready to take the road less traveled? Inquire today and I’ll help you find your perfect venue for your perfect day or lack of venue if you’re ready for an adventurous elopement!
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.