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How to Elope in Idaho | Best Locations & Important Information

The MOST IN-DEPTH guide to eloping in Idaho. Start here for planning your elopement in Sun Valley, McCall, Coeur d’Alene, and Boise


Idaho is quickly becoming a top destination for eloping outdoorsy couples. A few years back, you might have (rightfully) scoffed and thought to yourself, “What the heck is there in Idaho?”…likely with an unbidden vision of sprouting potato fields. But there’s a reason why it’s called the Hidden Gem state.

In reality, and thanks to an ongoing word-of-mouth campaign by those of us lucky enough to call it home–beloveds are realizing that this “Midwest of the West” is as beautifully rugged as the contiguous states come. Idaho claims rights to the largest designated wilderness area in the lower 48 states–4.7 million acres total!

That’s more than enough space with which to plan your epic elopement–so let’s get to it!

From dense wilderness and epic mountains to rolling hills and desert, Idaho is full of amazing locations to elope no matter your vibe.

Idaho has many different regions depending on what atmosphere you’re looking for. Each has its perks and advantages whether you want something really remote or the ability to be close to the city. Boise is the capital and offers all your creature comforts while still being close to nature. Sun Valley is the luxurious option with incredible lodges and boutiques. McCall is a darling ski and lake town with many location options nearby. Coeur d’Alene is the largest town in Northern Idaho and is home to the largest lake in the state. The Sawtooth Mountains are the most remote but have the most epic Idaho views.

see example Idaho weddings and engagement sessions

HOW TO ELOPE IN IDAHO

  1. Choose your ideal location that fits your dream day (detailed descriptions below).

  2. Hire trusted, experienced vendors that you connect with. For photo and video, send me an inquiry to book a consultation.

  3. Apply for a marriage license. In Idaho, you don’t need witnesses, just an officiant.

  4. Obtain required permits and/or permissions for any public locations

  5. We’ll give you all our advice and planning tips to make sure you have the best day ever

  6. Relax and let your vendors make your day super easy. Our goal is to have a blast while documenting these fleeting moments in the most unobtrusive way possible.

  7. GET MARRIED AND LOVE YOUR PERSON FOREVER. AMEN

STEP ONE: CHOOSE THE BEST IDAHO LOCATIONS AND BEST TIME OF YEAR TO ELOPE IDAHO

Where are the most beautiful places to elope in Idaho? And how outdoorsy do we have to be?

There are plenty of accessible places to elope throughout Idaho with different levels of intensity depending on your desires. Certainly, if you feel like climbing a mountain on your wedding day, that is available to you. But we also have recommendations if you’re wanting something more low-key and still surrounded by gorgeous wilderness. We’re happy to help in any way we can and after growing up in Idaho, consider ourselves the Idaho location experts. So let’s get started!

There are tons of spots that you can pull up and park your car to get married but the best locations do require extra work and planning. (If you’re like the clients I had at their Mt. Rainier wedding elopement, then you have to gear up and get ready for a trek. The whole family had to hike 2 miles on ice and I was pregnant, but we made it work and it was well-worth the effort.) (see that shoot here)

Beautiful places to elope in Idaho:

THE SAWTOOTHS

The Sawtooth Mountains are by far the most jaw dropping mountains in Idaho. There’s also lakes, rivers, and forests around the region for a variety of locales. This recommendation is off the beaten path but I promise you won’t be disappointed. The main town is Stanley and is 3.5 to 4 hours northeast of Boise. The roads are curvy but the drive is gorgeous. There aren’t a ton of services there besides a few small cafes so we recommend hiring caterers to a private Airbnb/VRBO if you’re hosting any sort of gathering.

The easiest locations in this region that require no hiking are Redfish Lake and Sawtooth Valley Pioneer Park. Sawtooth Valley Pioneer Park is in Stanley and you’ll be floored by the mountain view that is available right from town. It’s gorgeous in both winter and summer. Most of the vacation rentals in the area will be close to town as well, so you could plan your ceremony right at the Airbnb and portraits in other locations in the area.

Redfish Lake is also easy to access but I don’t recommend using this option in winter. Depending on the year, it’s hit and miss on whether it’s accessible. If you’re planning a winter elopement, we can always attempt to go to Redfish Lake but we should definitely have a backup plan. For winter elopements in The Sawtooths, I recommend staying in town which still has epic mountain views pictured below.

THE BEST TIME TO ELOPE IN THE SAWTOOTHS

The best time to elope in the Sawtooths in definitely late Spring, early Summer, early Fall. In those seasons, you won’t be battling heat or smoke. The highways to the area should also be clear. Winter and late summer you could have heat waves, smoke, or inaccessible areas due to snow. In early spring, there may still be snow on the ground which could look like a winter elopement in photos. If you’re fine with that, early Spring is a great option for a winter elopement vibe.

SUN VALLEY

Sun Valley is known across the world as one of the best places for alpine skiing. For its beauty and status as a celebrity locale, it rivals spots like Aspen, Colorado and Park City, Utah. This upscale resort town is a dreamy wedding location with outdoor charm and stunning views of Bald Mountain. You won’t be short of accessible rivers and lakes in the Sun Valley Region that cover neighboring cities like Ketchum and the Wood River Valley. 

You can’t go wrong here with an elopement during the summer or winter. And if you’re looking to do a winter wedding with a guest-list full of skiers, you and your family can hit the slopes before the rehearsal dinner in one of the coveted vacation destinations for the rich and famous. Sun Valley Lake is right off the main drag, Sun Valley Road, and easy to access all year.  

As a summer elopement option, there’s plenty of accessible spots along the Big Wood River and easy trails full of native wildflowers in full bloom, perfect for wedding portraits. One of the most popular wedding venues is the Trail Creek Pavilion. Barring any weather, a great backup that can be used year round is the Trail Creek Cabin. 

Since the surrounding areas are so close, family and friends can easily book places in Ketchum or Hailey. You can get the full gamut of price points here, from luxury lodges to quaint Airbnb’s. There are many options, but you can generally expect to pay more in this area especially during peak seasons. 

It’s no doubt worth the experience though if you’re coming from out of town and expect a level of aesthetic from hired vendors. 

Here are some amazing Airbnbs to consider for your Sun Valley elopement:

Ketchum Ski Chalet with Views

Serene Ski Retreat

Luxury Ketchum Home

Private Home with a Great Yard and Sun Valley Resort Amenities

THE BEST TIME TO ELOPE IN SUN VALLEY

The best time to elope in Sun Valley is any time depending on what you’re looking for. The highway will always be tended to and services in the area are abundant. It’s a ski resort town so road crews are out daily making sure the area is accessible. To avoid crowds, I would avoid summer and winter but that’s all you’ll need to worry about.

MCCALL

McCall is a lovely resort town about 2 hours from the Treasure Valley. It’s accessible all year from State Highway 55 which runs parallel to the Payette River (famous for world-class white water rafting). Payette Lake is right in the center of town and serves as a beautiful backdrop all year round. 

McCall offers plenty of rustic cabin experiences for a few guests and luxury Airbnb/Vrbo rentals for the whole family, depending on your needs. You’ll want to book early regardless of the season. Like many of the resort towns in Idaho, these areas tend to book up quickly in peak season times. Winter can also make the road conditions more unpredictable, so make sure to check forecasts. 

There’s no shortage of epic wedding portrait locations in and around the city. It’s adjacent to Ponderosa State Park, Tamarack Ski Resort, and Brundage Mountain. 

Here are some amazing Airbnbs to consider for your McCall elopement:

Cabin Home Close to Brundage and Downtown McCall

Euro Feel Cabin with Hot Tub

Cozy Cabin with Lake Access

Black Bear Lookout: Close to Town w/ Rustic Charm

McCall Lake View Retreat

Lovely Dog Friendly w/ Full Kitchen

THE BEST TIME TO ELOPE IN MCCALL

The best time to elope in McCall is Summer and Fall. Though anytime of year, you’ll be battling traffic on the highway if you’re planning on a weekend. Just plan ahead and alert your guests of this issue.

COEUR D’ALENE 

This Northern Idaho town is breathtaking any time of year. It’s one of the biggest cities in northern Idaho and features a downtown waterfront on Lake Coeur d’Alene. You can take your wedding portraits along the floating boardwalk or along the shoreline. There’s a magic to every season here as it transitions from a busy recreational spot in summer to a winter wonderland. 

Note that this area is hours from Boise so have your guests fly into Spokane if necessary.

You can book a luxury AirBnb or VRBO that can also function as a great spot for a rehearsal picnic and portraits location. For more quaint, small town times check out the town of Harrison which could serve as a weekend getaway type wedding.

Here are some great options for Airbnbs in the area:

Lakefront Cabin w/ Private Dock

Cozy Lakefront Retreat

Lake Cabin near Silverwood

Swanky Romantic Cabin on the Clark Fork River

Secluded Log Cabin with Lake Close-by

A-Frame in the Woods

Cozy Cabin on the Lake

THE BEST TIME TO ELOPE IN COEUR D’ALENE

Similar to Sun Valley, Coeur d’Alene is a ski resort region so any season will be beautiful and accessible. Services are abundant so if you’re planning to host 30+ people, there will be plenty of options to make everyone comfortable. You’ll also have many vendors to compare as you can research CDA and Spokane area wedding and elopement providers.

THE TETONS / TARGHEE

I bet you thought The Tetons were only a Wyoming thing huh? Well, Wyoming borders Idaho so we’ve got our own stunning views of the Tetons. The main hub for this Idaho location is Driggs, ID followed by Tetonia another town close by. These mountains views rival the Sawtooths but is a bit farther away from an airport. If you’re already located in Idaho that’s not a problem. But if you’re flying in, it’s going to be an extra road trip to get out there.

This location doesn’t disappoint though! With the Grand Targhee Resort close by you’ve got so many outdoor options to research. The resort is the only spot for a large guest count but there are plenty of Airbnbs in the area to book for your elopement. Check these out:

Cabin in Downtown Driggs

Cabin with Teton Views

Charming Cabin Studio

Saloon Airbnb (so cool!)

Scandinavian Style Cabin with Outdoor Sauna

Rustic Cabin with Teton Views

Hideaway Cabin in Targhee

OTHER GREAT SPOTS TO ELOPE IN IDAHO

Other great options include

  • City of Rocks

  • Hells Gate

  • Castle Rocks

  • Lake Cascade

  • Ponderosa State Park

  • Priest Lake

  • Grand Targhee

  • The Owyhees

  • Craters of the Moon

  • Bruneau Sand Dunes

STEP TWO: HIRE TRUSTED, EXPERIENCED VENDORS THAT YOU CONNECT WITH

Once you’ve got a location in mind, it’s time to find those trusted planners to help you lock down your special day. You want to look for people that you connect with and who know how to utilize the beauty that Idaho has to offer. The right wedding planner who understands the non-traditional path will really help you customize your elopement and manifest what you have envisioned. When it comes to industry specialists in Idaho, these are some planners I highly recommend. 

Sprout Design is a unique wedding design and planning service. They’re a small boutique with an emphasis on tailoring their specialties to your unique needs. They have a lot of experience working in locations like McCall, Boise, And Sun Valley. Check out some of their work here

Emily Aitkens is well known in the industry for her expertise on elopements, micro-weddings, custom wedding design, and full service wedding arrangements. Check out her website for more specifics on Elopement and Intimate Wedding packages

Soirée Weddings is also an amazing vendor. But book early since they only do a limited number of events per year. 

When it comes to the fine touches of your unique wedding elopements, check out these recommendations:

Florists

Rust + Thistle

Wildflower Floral

Blush Floral Boutique

Two Hands Floral

Stationary

Robinson Creative 

Crimson Calligraphy 

Rentals

Rustique Rentals

Forget Me Not Accents

Luxe Fine Rentals 

Caterers

Off the Grid Pizza 

Skinny Pig Cafe 

Savory N Sweet 

Hair & Makeup

Shawna Hines

TSG Artistry

Photography & Videography

Why Lionlady Photography for all your elopement photography needs? 

My first priority is to get to know you. Since I’ll be there to capture those vulnerable moments, I want you to feel comfortable. There’s no doubt that there are plenty of talented photographers in Idaho, but not all of them can give you a sense that they understand you and what you’re about. This is my passion. You can check out some of my recent work, and if you’re looking for wedding video and photo packages, message me, and we can set up a consultation here.

If you

For more about Lynnsey, click here

Contact Lionlady Photography to set up an all-inclusive Idaho elopement package which includes photo, video, florals, and planning.

STEP THREE: APPLY FOR A MARRIAGE LICENSE 

The nice thing about marrying in Idaho is that you don’t need a witness, just an officiant. It saves you a step and you don’t have to be an Idaho resident to apply (although this license is only valid for ceremonies performed in Idaho). 

Fill out your form online prior to your appointment. Then you and your fiance will both need to appear together at a Court Recorder’s office with a valid proof of identity, a social security number (or identification number from your country of origin) and a small cash fee of about $30. 

There’s no need to make an appointment for your license and there’s no waiting period before using it. You can get your license and have your ceremony the same day.

Note: Your last name is not automatically changed once you receive your marriage license. You’ll need to take a certified copy of your marriage license to the DMV and Social Security Office. Once you have your marriage license, the state will provide you a guide on how to change your name.

For more information on Idaho marriage licenses click here.

STEP FOUR: OBTAIN REQUIRED PERMITS AND/OR PERMISSIONS FOR ANY PUBLIC LOCATION

Make it easy on yourself by preparing early for each type of permit needed and the application required. These should all be pretty straight forward but some permits vary based on the size of your event and city requirements. The permits you should look at obtaining are location, catering, and alcohol permits.

If you’re planning a ceremony in a local, state, or national park you’ll need to obtain a permit or written permission to hold a ceremony there. Most often though, they already have guidelines in place for holding ceremonies online. Usual rules are leave no trace (more on that below), no amplification, no chairs or tents, no roping off areas, and no throwing of confetti or rose petals, among other rules. Please do your research ahead of time to avoid your ceremony being shut down. Always plan to have your reception elsewhere.

For your reception, alcohol permits are issued by the town or city you’re marrying in. Most often if you’re hiring a catering or bar company, they’re going to handle those details for you. Sometimes the venue will have specific instructions and restrictions, so be sure to check with them. I’ve found that in many cases you can bring your own alcohol but your bartender needs to be licensed. If you’re not hiring a bar or catering company, my advice is to Google the town you’re marrying in and follow their instructions for obtaining a permit.

Most Common Idaho Parks Permit Website: https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/activities/group-events/

STEP 5: WE’LL GIVE YOU ALL OUR ADVICE AND PLANNING TIPS  

All you have left to do is relax and let your vendors make your day super easy. Any other questions you have or any anxiety you have about planning your elopement, leave that to us. We’ll take care of you and give you advice throughout the process. Planning a wedding is an ongoing experience and you’ll have a team to support you along the way. 

STEP 6: GET MARRIED AND LOVE YOUR PERSON FOREVER

We’ll let this one speak for itself. Eloping is such a special experience centered around the love you have for each other. Let’s remove all the stress and pressure of having a wedding which let’s be honest, sometimes revolves around the needs of others. Let us create an experience for you without all the hub-bub of a big event.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ELOPING IN IDAHO

WHAT IS LEAVE NO TRACE?

I love being a part of this unique experience for couples, and the elopements destinations never fail to amaze me. Part of what keeps this experience so special is the stewardship that’s shown toward these locations. As you celebrate this important event with your loved ones, it’s important to keep in mind the impact we have on any outdoor space, whether that’s a wilderness trail, a park, or even a backyard, the principles of “leave no trace” are the same. 

At any location, it’s best to review any signs and guides. This usually applies to staying on marked trails, packing out any trash, respecting wildlife, considering other visitors, and following the current campfire guidelines. As of this year, campfires are not allowed in most places in idaho. 

CAN WE BRING OUR PETS?

Can your pets come along for the celebration? Most of the time, yes. It’s best to check with the venue, Airbnbs, and trail guides for pet policies. Making your fur babies a part of the elopement is a big draw for a lot of couples. My suggestion, if you decide to bring a pet along, designate someone to keep an eye on him or her for you. We want this event to be as seamless as possible for you without any added stress. When the moment comes, we’ll be sure to include your pet in the celebration too. 

HOW MANY GUESTS CAN WE HAVE?

Most couples looking for their elopement experience tend to keep their guest-list to direct family and close friends. That’s not to say there’s a limit on guests, but keep in mind, some venues may not be accessible to everyone and may not accommodate large groups. I would keep your guest count to a max of 15 for an intimate vibe.

If you need to accommodate a bigger guest-list, check out some of these locations here. 

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO ELOPE IN IDAHO?

An elopement anywhere should cost anywhere from $5,000 – $20,000 depending on how many vendors you hire. Although, you can obtain a marriage license for $30 in Idaho. Also, it will be less expensive you marry on a weekday as many vendors have minimums for weekend weddings.

WHERE ARE THE BEST LOCATIONS TO ELOPE IN IDAHO?

My favorite spots to elope in Idaho are Redfish Lake in The Sawtooths, Payette Lake in McCall, and many other state parks like City of Rocks, Hells Gate, Castle Rocks, Lake Cascade, Ponderosa State Park, Priest Lake, Grand Targhee, the Owyhees, and Craters of the Moon.

WHAT IS EASIEST PLACE TO ELOPE IN IDAHO?

Boise and Sun Valley are going to be your main hubs. You can access most spots easily from these locations. Hire vendors out of these hubs and expect to pay travel fees. Most mountain destinations will not have dedicated vendors but the vendors in the larger towns in Idaho will be used to traveling to your desired locations. Expect to pay travel fees for catering, photographer, and planner. Likely your planner or photographer can pick up the florals for you if you need. To save money on travel fees, you can designate a friend or family member to help haul items to your location.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHERE TO ELOPE IN IDAHO?

Overall, your elopement should be fun and centered around your union. With that said, think about how you want to spend your time on the day. If it’s hiking, think about your guests and whether they’ll be okay with that. If you just want to drive up and chill in a beautiful spot, consider a campsite. Dive deep on this with your partner and decide what’s most important to you and go from there. There are perfect locations for every couple and budget in Idaho.

WILL OUR VENDORS HIKE WITH US?

Most vendors experienced with elopements or with elopements in their portfolio are used to going where you go. Just ask upfront and most will be totally up for it. In fact, many vendors in the elopement world got into because they love the outdoors and showing the beauty of Idaho to couples wanting to elope here. Working with these vendors will not only make your lives easier but may unlock some of the best hidden gems in the area. When in doubt, hire the vendors I recommended above.

HOW MANY HOURS SHOULD WE BOOK FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?

Most couples book a photographer and/videographer for at least 6 hours but the sweet spot is 8 – 10 hours. Work closely with your photographer to design a timeline that works for everyone. Even though eloping is a more relaxed alternative to getting married, you still need a timeline to stick to, to help your vendors and you stay on track.

GOOD LUCK ON YOUR ELOPEMENT JOURNEY!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read our experience documenting elopements in Idaho and across the country. Lionlady Photography is one of the most experienced elopement photographers and videographers in the Pacific Northwest and would love to help you document your day. If you have any questions, please fill out our contact form to get the party started. We hope to be a part of your celebrations!

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