by Laura Kilpatrick, Boston Mountain Photo
Why Consider An Elopement in Arkansas?
Elopements or Intimate weddings are smaller weddings, typically with just the couple and their officiant or a few guests thrown in! Many couples love the simplicity, efficiency and budget-friendly options an elopement or intimate wedding brings.
When planning an elopement over a traditional wedding, couples have more flexibility as to when they get married, where they get married and they can prioritize the vendors that matter most to them- such as their hair and makeup artist, dream dress from a boutique they’ve been eyeing for years, their photographer or even a big honeymoon trip after the wedding. An elopement can be as elaborate or as intimate as the couple wants, and it offers a lot of room for personalizing the wedding to tell their unique love story.
Since there are traditionally less guests, elopements can be planned more quickly and easily than larger weddings, and they tend to be less expensive. Still craving a big party? Couples can also opt for a big reception later where they can celebrate with a larger network of friends and family without sacrificing the privacy they desire from an elopement or intimate wedding.
Elopements can happen anywhere! Some couples opt for a courthouse elopement or they may decide to elope in their home or at an Airbnb or special spot that means something to them. An emerging trend has surfaced during the COVID pandemic of adventure elopements, where couples elope in beautiful and scenic locations around Arkansas. Arkansas State Parks offer so many beautiful backdrops for elopements and intimate weddings, and you can truly make the elopement your own. Read on to discover some popular destinations for adventure elopements in Arkansas as well as some tips as you plan your elopement!
Planning Your State Park Elopement
When researching locations for your elopement, a great place to start is the Arkansas State Parks system! Some beautiful parks for elopements include Petit Jean State Park, Mount Magazine State Park, Mount Nebo State Park, Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Degray Lake Resort State Park, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, and many others.
There are also stunning recreation areas and national forests that can be scenic and secluded elopement spots, such as the Buffalo National River, the Ouachita National Forest and White Rock Mountain Recreation Area, among others. Working with a planner or photographer who is familiar with different areas around Arkansas can help couples explore all of their options when it comes to finding that unforgettable spot.
Permits + Restrictions
Couples will want to notify the state park where they are wanting to elope so that they can be aware of any restrictions or permit fees associated with eloping at that particular location. Some parks have many areas designated for elopements (such as Mount Magazine), while others have specific guidelines for eloping, such as the number of guests allowed, the types of decorations allowed, and the locations allowed for the ceremony (the Buffalo River has specific guidelines and restrictions such as these). These restrictions are in place to protect the parks and recreation areas from damage. When eloping in a state park or recreation area, couples want to practice "leave no trace" principles so that they can leave the area as they found it for others to access and enjoy. Click here for more information on the Seven LNT principles.
The best way to learn more? Contact the specific park and ask about their wedding and elopement options-- they can also help steer you in the right direction when it comes to locations, activities and places to stay as you plan your visit.
While most adventure elopements happen outside, couples can rent cabins or even host their elopement or intimate wedding in a traditional venue or vacation rental so that they have indoor options if there is rain or snow in the forecast. When eloping or getting married at a vacation rental, always inform the hosts of the number of guests you plan to have as well as your plans so that you can feel comfortable and have a stress-free elopement! Bringing a clear umbrella to your outdoor elopement in case of rain can also help you feel prepared.
Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you should skimp on your wedding vendors! You can still hire a wedding planner or coordinator who can help create a seamless experience for you at a stunning elopement location and having a photographer and video team to capture your day for your friends and family to enjoy is essential! You’ll definitely want to communicate with your day-of vendors such as hair, makeup and florals to make sure they either meet you near the elopement spot or arrange another way to get you ready for your day that works for both of you!
Tips for Couples from An Elopement Photographer
Here are some tips to make your elopement planning experience a rewarding one!
Explore elopements and intimate weddings-- does this feel more like your style of wedding? Maybe you and your partner don’t want to be the center of attention, or you just don’t see yourselves being a part of a traditional wedding. If that’s the case, an elopement or intimate wedding may be the right choice for you!
Think ahead! Talk with your partner about your dream locations-- what comes to mind when you think about eloping? Is it a mountaintop scene at sunset, or a scenic lakeside retreat? Does the elopement location speak to you? You can explore elopement spots by looking them up online, visiting the Arkansas State Park website or viewing popular elopement location lists like what’s in my blog here:
Consider whether you want to elope just with your partner or if you want to include guests. Explore your options and how to communicate your plans with your family and friends so that you have a stress-free experience.
Research your vendors! When looking for elopement vendors, you want to find vendors whose work you admire and who seem eager to meet you on a mountaintop or create a beautiful windswept hair and makeup look for you! There are lots of vendors who absolutely love elopements and intimate weddings, and typically you’ll be able to see some of their elopement-oriented work on their website or social media accounts.
Contact your state park, resort or recreation area about your elopement plans and be willing to be flexible and have a couple ideas for elopement locations in case there are seasonal restrictions that might affect your elopement.
Get ready for the big day! Eloping is a really rewarding and unique experience that you’ll look back on for years to come!
An Abridged List of my Favorite Elopement Locations in Arkansas:
Here are just a few of my very favorite elopement spots! You can view a full list here on my blog:
Petit Jean State Park -- this one is a fan favorite for a reason! There are several scenic overlooks, beautiful forests, gorgeous accommodations including cabins, a lodge, campgrounds and yurts, tons of hiking trails, caves and more! Contact the ranger office for more information on elopements.
Mount Nebo State Park -- located in Dardanelle, Mount Nebo sits between Petit Jean State Park and Mount Magazine- two other gorgeous elopement destinations. Mount Nebo is beautiful on its own though, with stunning sunrise and sunset views, as well as mountain bike trails, cabins and easy access to town! Contact the ranger office for more information on elopements.
Steel Creek, Buffalo National River -- If you’re dreaming of painted bluffs and beautiful elopement spots right on the river, Steel Creek is the perfect place! You can get married on the gravel bar directly on the river or in the lush field with the bluffs in the background. Steel Creek is one of the designated wedding locations on the Buffalo and you will need an advance permit to get married there. It’s an absolutely stunning spot!
White Rock Mountain Recreation Area-- if you’re after stunning sunset views and a rustic, middle-of-nowhere feel, White Rock is perfect for you! Located in Mountainburg near Northwest Arkansas, White Rock sports beautiful, sunlit bluffs, lush green forests, primitive camping and Shores Lake, which is just down the road. This is one of my favorite spots for couples who want to spend a weekend in Northwest Arkansas after their elopement. The views just can’t be beat! You’ll want to contact park management for more information on elopements.
Want photos like these for your wedding? Contact Boston Mountain Photo here.
Check out our list of vendors to help create your perfect elopement!