How to Elope in Bend, Oregon


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The Ultimate Guide to Planning an Awesome Adventure Elopement in Central Oregon- Part 1

A beautiful desert sunset for this adventure elopement near Bend, OR.

Are you thinking about an adventure elopement? 

Whether you’re sure about your choice to elope, or just dipping your toes into the pool of possibility, you’re in the right place. 

You probably have a bunch of questions about what it even means to embark upon planning an adventure elopement. Outdoor micro weddings and adventure elopements have grown in popularity over the past few years, and for good reason. Time spent in nature, with your closest friends and family, is deeply meaningful.

Bend, Oregon is synonymous with “adventure.” You’d be hard pressed to find a person in Bend who doesn’t spend their free time outdoors. Whether mountain biking, skiing or snowboarding, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, paddleboarding or whatever, people in Bend are down to adventure, and the city is built around this lifestyle.

Bend, Oregon is the perfect place for your adventure elopement. And though this article is titled “The Ultimate Guide to Eloping in Bend, Oregon,” it is really a love letter to Central Oregon as a whole… 

It has so much to offer! Mountains, rivers, desert, pine forests, volcanoes, alpine lakes, amazing rock formations… Central Oregon has a wide range of diverse landscapes to explore. And Bend is a great jumping off point for a Central Oregon adventure (or venturing out into Eastern Oregon.)

From the majestic peaks of the Cascade Mountains to the colorful Painted Hills and the deep blue waters of Crater Lake, Central Oregon has it all. In this Ultimate Guide to eloping in Central Oregon, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start planning your perfect elopement.

Golden grass of central Oregon, accenting this beautiful desert elopement.

Climate and Weather of Central Oregon

People think of Bend as a mountain town. And they’re not entirely wrong. It’s a dreamy place for an adventure elopement because of its amazing access to so many wonderful mountain ranges. The Central Oregon Cascades are so unique and diverse, and I feel so grateful to have them as my playground, as well as my office.

But, come right down to it, Bend is in a desert. Specifically the High Desert. 

Who remembers learning about different geographic regions in their 4th grade class? No one? That’s OK. I vividly remember learning about the typical climate patterns of deserts. (And I also remember painstakingly drawing out every scale on my rattlesnake illustration for my report…)

Deserts are famously very hot. But they are also very cold. Temperatures swing wildly throughout the year, but you can be pretty certain the summers will be hot and dry, with occasional thunderstorms (usually in the early summer). And winters will be quite cold, with temperatures often dipping below freezing.

That being said… things can be a bit unpredictable. Last year (2022) the mountain got about 10 new inches of snow in June, and that storm made its way down the mountain into town. Very bizarre to see a white-dusted city right before the Summer Solstice…

And, on the flip side, winters can go through spells of extremely mild weather. Weeks of temperatures reaching into the high 40s and even 50s. Only to plummet back down into the low 20s at night…

I personally don’t think there’s a “best time to elope” in Bend, but the most objectively nice weather is usually during the summer months, from June to September. The weather is warm and sunny, and the skies are generally clear, although it is more likely to encounter smoke during the later summer. Shoulder seasons are also very very beautiful, if slightly fickle.  

Why so dry? 

When most folks think about Oregon, they picture a lush green landscape, full of waterfalls and rain. But the reality is that much of the state is quite dry and the climate is a bit more extreme.

The Oregon that most people know is created by a climate stabilized by ocean currents. But most of the rain gets stuck at the Cascades. If you reach back to your middle school earth science memories, you may recall learning about the rainshadow effect. 

When precipitation gets caught up on mountains, not much makes it over the peaks to the other side. This leaves the eastern slopes (and all the landscapes to the east) much drier than the western slopes.

Without the stabilizing effect of moisture, conditions can vary more. Winters can be very cold and summers can be very hot. We find glory in the shoulder seasons here. 

You probably didn’t come to this blog post expecting a science lesson, but I can’t help it… I am a classically trained naturalist, and I connect nature and her processes to everything I do!

Sand dunes in Central Oregon make for a great adventure on your elopement day.

What does that mean for your adventure elopement?

With this unpredictability, it could be a bit daunting to try to plan an outdoor elopement. But the solution is really quite simple.

First, have a back up plan, or two, or even three.

Second, hire a photographer who knows the area and can help you figure it all out.

There are lots of variables to contend with:  times of the year when the weather patterns stabilize, places that thaw a bit sooner, trails that are more easily navigated with snow than others, etc. Having an experienced person with local knowledge is PRICELESS when planning your adventure elopement.

If you are considering eloping in Central Oregon, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have! I live to help people plan adventures!

In case you want to come for a visit first, keep reading for a 101 on safely exploring the region. And, again, reach out for recommendations.

Stunning views along the John Day River for a simple outdoor elopement.

Safety First!

Central Oregon is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with a variety of activities available year-round. But with great adventure comes responsibility, and it’s important to recreate safely to avoid any potential hazards. 

This is always something I think about when headed outdoors with other people. My background is in outdoor education and guiding, so I have plenty of experience keeping people safe and happy outside. Plus, I am a certified Wilderness First Responder, so I’ve got wilderness medical training to help anyone if any… uhh, unplanned events occur.

BUT! Fear not! The ABSOLUTE BEST medical remedy is planning ahead and avoiding common ailments. Here are some tips to keep in mind for Central Oregon before you hit the trails.


Bend sits at roughly 3,600 feet above sea level. While this is not the highest city in America or anything, if you’re coming from other areas in the west, it might be a little shock to your system. Most folks in the Pacific Northwest and California live near the coast, where the elevation is much lower.

At higher altitudes, oxygen levels are lower, so exercise may feel a little tougher. If your body is not able to push as hard as you’re used to, THAT’S OK. It’s used to more oxygen, so it needs a little bit more recovery and rest. To avoid overexertion or altitude sickness, take breaks often, and stay extra hydrated.

At 3,600 ft, these things are less of a factor, but many trailheads in Central Oregon take you up into the mountains at higher elevations. Including one of Oregon’s highest peaks, South Sister, at 10,358 ft. That trail will kick your butt, but it is SO WORTH IT. 

Sun exposure: 

With over 300 days of sunshine a year, Central Oregon is a sunny place. But that also means there’s a higher risk of sunburn and skin damage. Make sure to wear a hat, and protective clothing, and plan your outdoor activities for earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Similarly, the UV levels are higher at altitude. So slather on some SPF. And REAPPLY


Cold exposure: 

Central Oregon can also get quite cold, especially at higher elevations. Make sure to bring appropriate layers and gear, such as jackets, hats, and gloves, even in the summer months. Hypothermia can set in quickly, so it’s better to be prepared than caught off guard.

A snowy elopement in Central Oregon.

Planning ahead: 

Always research the trail or activity you plan to do beforehand. Check the weather forecast, trail conditions, and any potential hazards or closures. Bring a map, compass, and extra food and water in case of emergencies. And always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.

By following these tips, we can safely enjoy all that Central Oregon has to offer. And if any of this is new (or maybe a little scary) to you, FEAR NOT! I am an outdoor expert and can help you with ANY of the planning, or hold your hand (figuratively) in the aisles of REI. 

Planning Your Central Oregon Elopement

When planning your Central Oregon elopement, it’s important to keep in mind that many of the most popular locations require permits or reservations. For example, a permit is required to enter the Three Sisters Wilderness at specific trailheads during summer. Additionally, some locations may be closed or inaccessible during the winter months. 

To ensure that your elopement goes smoothly, it’s a good idea to work with a local elopement photographer who is familiar with the area and can help you navigate any logistical challenges. For example, I offer planning and logistical support, including permit assistance, location recommendations, and anything else you might need.

A walk through an alpine meadow after an intimate ceremony.

The Legal Stuff – A short guide to marriage laws in Oregon

Getting married in Oregon is a pretty straightforward process, and it’s no surprise that the state has become a popular wedding destination. It’s important to understand the legal requirements of getting married in Oregon, because… that’s the whole point, right??

To obtain a marriage license in Oregon, both you and your partner must appear in person at a County Clerk’s office and provide valid identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate. The fee for a marriage license in Oregon varies by county but is typically around $60. 

Once you have obtained your license, there is a three-day waiting period before the license becomes valid. This is important to know if you’re eloping last-minute! Work those 3 days into your elopement plan.

When it comes to the ceremony, Oregon law requires that a licensed officiant solemnize the marriage. This can be a religious or secular officiant, and they must be registered with the state of Oregon. The officiant will also need to sign the marriage license, along with two witnesses who are at least 18 years old. 

It’s important to note that self-solemnization is not legal in Oregon, so you will need an officiant to legally marry you. (Fun fact: I’m ordained!)

Private vow exchange along the Deschutes River, before a ceremony at Sparks Lake with close family & friends.

If you’re looking for a unique and memorable wedding experience, Oregon is one of the few states that allow you to get married anywhere in the state, as long as you have a licensed officiant and witnesses present. This means you can exchange vows in a beautiful state park, on a mountaintop, or even in the middle of the desert.

Finally, if you’re a dog lover, you may be wondering if your furry friend can be a part of your wedding ceremony. While they can certainly be present, unfortunately dogs cannot serve as witnesses or officiants in Oregon. But don’t worry, your furry friend can still play an important role in your wedding day and make it even more special. Bend is an extremely dog-friendly town.

A doggo watches her person get ready for his impending nuptials.

Here is the link to the Oregon State Bar webpage with all the relevant laws and regulations.


What Should We Do on Our Elopement Day in Bend?

Bend is a charming city, known for its vibrant culture and a plethora of outdoor recreational activities. Here are a few ideas for activities to add to your elopement experience in Bend:

  1. Hiking or Backpacking – 

This is an obvious option… but it’s a great one. Bend is surrounded by several mountains and wilderness areas, making it the perfect place for hiking enthusiasts. 

You can explore the Cascade Mountains, the Deschutes National Forest, and the Three Sisters Wilderness, which are all within a short drive from Bend. The region has numerous hiking trails, ranging from easy to challenging, so you can choose the one that suits your skill level.

Even in town, there are amazing options. Sawyer Park, The Upper Deschutes Trail System, Shevlin Park, the River Trail through town… lots of spots to stretch your legs.

  1. Mountain biking – 

Bend is a mountain biking mecca, with over 300 miles of world-class trails. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, there is a trail for you to explore. The Phil’s Trailhead is one of the most popular trails, offering scenic views of the Cascade Mountains.

If you don’t have a bike, or can’t travel with one, there are many great equipment rental shops in Bend.

  1. Rafting, Tubing or Paddling – 

The Deschutes River flows through Bend, providing ample opportunities for rafting and kayaking. You can opt for a gentle float down the river or go further afield for a thrilling whitewater experience, depending on your preference.

It is also (obviously) possible to paddle on many of the lakes along the Cascade Lakes Highway.

  1. Brewery tours – 

Bend is also known for its craft beer scene, with many breweries scattered throughout the city. You can take a brewery tour and sample some of the region’s best brews.

Some of my favorite spots are: Deschutes Brewery, 10Barrel, Monkless, Sunriver, Bend Brewing Company, and Silvermoon. There are also taphouses all over the place… you can’t throw a rock in Bend without hitting a place to grab a beer.

  1. Rock Hounding – 

Speaking of Rocks… Nature nerds, rejoice! Central and eastern Oregon are amazing spots for finding cool rocks. Obsidian, Jasper, Thunder Eggs… I don’t know that much about rocks, but I know that geologists freak out about Central Oregon… 

If you’re interested in this at all, check out the IG of my former client (and current friend), @lapidary_idb.

  1. Birding – 

More nature nerdiness… there are some amazing birds in Central and Eastern Oregon. Even if you are a total novice, you can enjoy frequent sightings of eagles, hawks and ospreys along the river. In fact, all over town, you can see places where folks have welcomed the ospreys by building nesting poles.

  1. Rent a Boat on Lake Billy Chinook – 

Lake Billy Chinook is a popular destination for watersports, like water skiing and wakeboarding. Or you can grab a party barge and just chill out on the water. You could probably even hire a boat captain to drive if you want to celebrate with some boozy drinks. 

  1. Pet the Alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch – 

This adorable farm on the way to Smith Rock is a great pit stop for any journey. It is free to go and visit the fluffy creatures, but you can pay $5 for a bag of feed if you want to bribe them for friendship. In Spring, you’ll be treated to the sight of baby alpacas!

  1. The High Desert Museum – 

Just all around, a great museum. If you’re into natural and cultural history, this could be a fun stop. Even if you don’t visit on your elopement day, you should visit at some point on your trip. They have amazing exhibits, and charming animal ambassadors including: a grey fox, a porcupine, river otters, and a bunch of raptors (including burrowing owls!).

  1. Snow Sports – 

One of the main attractions to the Central Oregon region is the amazing access to snow. So eloping in Bend is often not restricted to the summer months! Mount Bachelor is a staple in the downhill skiing and snowboarding community, and Hoodoo Resort is very popular as well. 

Around these resorts are many snow parks where people snowshoe and cross-country ski. There are lots of trails for beginners and advanced winter athletes. 

  1. Bungee Jumping & Zipling – 

Did you know that the tallest commercial bungee jump in North America is in Central Oregon? The Peter Skene Ogden Bridge sits 300 feet above the Crooked River. For eloping couples seeking increased adrenaline levels, this’ll really put the adventure in adventure elopement. Nothing like a 250 foot leap of faith to celebrate leaping into your next life adventure.

And if free falling isn’t for you, Mount Bachelor Ski Resort offers high alpine ziplining opportunities… for a more controlled descent.

A paddle in Sparks Lake to celebrate their marriage.

Ready to start planning?

Bend offers a wide range of stunning locations for couples planning to elope. Whether you’re looking for a serene mountain lake, a rugged alpine wilderness, a rushing river, or a colorful desert landscape, Central Oregon has it all. 

With careful planning and the help of a local elopement photographer, you can create an unforgettable and magical elopement experience in this beautiful region.

Ready to start planning your Bend, OR Elopement? Get in touch here to inquire! (Or ask whatever questions you have!)

How to Elope in Bend, Oregon

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