How to Elope on the Oregon Coast

Elopement, Oregon, Resource

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12/29/2023

A comprehensive guide to start planning your Oregon Coast Elopement.

You know you want to elope in Oregon, and the beach is your happy place. It is only fitting that it is incorporated into your elopement day. And, as seascapes go, there is little that surpasses the grandeur and raw beauty of the Oregon Coast.

The ocean views are breathtaking, and scenic venue choices are almost endless. To assist you in locating the perfect spot, I’ve created an insider’s guide on crafting a romantic and memorable Oregon Coast engagement or elopement.  

The Oregon Coast is beyond special. Craggy cliffs, the symphony of the Pacific, miles of pristine beaches,  hidden coves, waterfalls and fresh sea breezes…. The Oregon Coast isn’t just a venue; it’s the canvas for your dynamic love tale.

Oregon’s coastline has its own personality. It’s a masterpiece of nature’s finest elements – towering sea stacks, secret caves, and spectacular vistas, each offering a unique setting for your love narrative.

In this guide, we’re not just navigating the geological wonders that shape this coastal gem. We’re exploring some unique, untraditional activities for your elopement day…all part of planning an unforgettable Oregon Coast elopement.

So open your mind and get comfortable. Let’s delve into this adventure together.  The Oregon Coast, and your love story, beckons!

Why Should You Choose the Oregon Coast for Your Elopement?

Quite honestly, choosing the Oregon Coast for your elopement isn’t just a choice; it’s a statement. Why? Because this isn’t your stereotypical beach scene.  It’s like Mother Nature took a masterclass in coastal aesthetics and thought, “Why not make it epic?”

Imagine towering cliffs that make you feel like you’re on the edge of the world, dramatic sea stacks dancing with amongst lively waves, and misty forests that seem like something from a fairy tale. And the sunsets? They’re not just sunsets; they’re Mother Nature’s mic drop, turning the sky into a canvas of vivid color that even Picasso would envy.

The Oregon Coast is the eloquent James Bond of elopement locations – versatile, suave, unflustered, cool and disarmingly handsome. Does a clifftop ceremony appeal to you?  Bare feet in the sand?  Ethereal forest foliage? It’s not a one-size-fits-all locale; it’s a buffet of romantic possibilities. 

So, why here? Because your love story deserves an epic backdrop. When you say “I do” on this coast, it’s not simply just a ceremony; it’s a blockbuster movie, and you’re the stars.

Planning your Oregon Coast Elopement

At a Glance

Steps:

  1. Pick a season/month
  2. Pick a general location – Do you have a general idea of the region where you want to elope? Do you have absolutely no idea? That’s OK! Check out this article to discover some fabulous places to elope.
  3. Choose someplace specific for the actual vow exchange
  4. Hire your vendors – pro tip: booking an elopement photographer who is familiar with the area can ease stress for steps 1-3. 
  5. Plan your activities
  6. Create a timeline (your elopement photographer can also assist with this!)
  7. ELOPE! Best day ever…

The choice to elope eliminates much of the stress associated with planning a traditional wedding, but it can still be somewhat overwhelming. Especially if you elect to elope to a somewhat unfamiliar place.

As you begin this process, you should give serious consideration to hiring a photographer who includes planning assistance as part of their elopement services. Finding someone who is intimately familiar with your dream destination is a wise move as well… 😉

Let’s dive into all the basics of planning your Oregon Coast Elopement. 

Choosing the Perfect Location for your Oregon Coast Elopement

Choosing the perfect spot for your Oregon Coast elopement is like picking the right flavor of ice cream – it’s got to match your taste, but it should also be a delightful experience. The Oregon Coast, like ice cream, offers many ‘flavors’ to choose from!

So, let’s chat about finding the sweet spot for your vows. You’ll need to consider everything from your energy levels to opportunities for wildlife viewing. This is your adventure, and the location is the cornerstone on which to build it. Here are some things you’ll need to take into account when exploring possible elopement locations on the Oregon Coast:

Level of Adventure

  • Think about your energy levels. Do you envision a serene beach stroll or a more demanding trek through coastal landscapes? Oregon’s got the spectrum, from easy-peasy to conquer-the-peak.

The Social Scene

  • Consider your desired level of solitude. Do you want to share your vows with no one but the seagulls, or does the camaraderie of a small town pub hold some appeal? Coastal venues vary from deserted to lively.
  • There are spots along the coast that boast iconic backdrops, but these tend to be more populated (crowded). Places like Cannon Beach and Secret Beach (ironically) attract many vacationers, with good reason. They’re truly lovely.  Consider stopping to enjoy these beautiful spots, but perhaps select a more intimate locale for the main event.

Weather Check

  • Coastal weather has a personality all its own, and it is not always a predictable one. Are you cool with a windswept look and a sprinkle of mist, or are you chasing that Instagram-worthy perfect golden hour? Embrace the weather app; it’s your ally. 
  • For the most part, the climate along the Oregon Coast can be described loosely as uniform, but there are some considerations. The farther north you travel, the cooler and moodier it becomes. Astoria is one of the rainiest places in North America, while Brookings often enjoys long afternoons of sunshine, depending on the time of year.

Activities

  • What do you actually want to DO on your elopement day? This really is the defining factor. See a list of suggestions below.
  • For ATV enthusiasts, the Oregon Dunes are a must. Oswald West State Park is ideal for hiking through impressive old growth spruce trees. Tidepooling can be a magical pastime, but isn’t found everywhere,  so  consider this  if you want to see some chitons or nudibranchs. Similarly, whale watching tours don’t depart from every coastal town, so if that’s on your agenda,  Depoe Bay is a worthy destination.

Post-Elopement Plans

  • Envision life after “I do.” Do you see yourselves strolling hand-in-hand along the beach sipping champagne? Enjoying a draft and live music at local watering hole? Or chasing an awe-inspiring sunset? The location sets the stage for the afterparty!
  • Afterparties come in many genres.  Perhaps you’d like to chill by a bonfire? Or dine at a fancy seafood restaurant.  Maybe the hot tub at your Airbnb feels right. So much to consider!

Here is a list of possibilities to get you started on your plans. If you need some suggestions for specific locations, check out my article on the best spots to elope on the Oregon coast

The Best Time of Year to Elope on the Oregon Coast

Choosing the perfect time for your Oregon Coast elopement is a bit like crafting an ideal playlist – important because it sets the tone for the entire experience. 

I personally don’t think there is a bad time to visit the Oregon Coast… but when it’s your own wedding day, you may feel differently. With that in mind, I’ll address the pros and cons of each season to aid you in selecting an elopement timeframe.

Spring:

Spring on the coast is a gentle awakening. The weather begins to flirt with warmer temperatures, and the landscape bursts into color with wildflowers.

Pros: Flowers are in abundance, and they symbolize new beginnings. The large yellow blooms of the Skunk cabbage make their spectacular entrance early in the season. Whale migrations are also beginning. There is something mesmerizing and magical about whales, and you might like to mirror this sentiment in your choice of wedding date. The weather is generally moderate, and you can get a jump on the crowds that will materialize in the summer.

Cons: Weather is still a gamble. Spring showers could make a cameo, so packing a rain jacket is prudent. You should always pack rain gear when headed to the Oregon Coast, but especially in the Spring. With rain and warmer temps comes mud, so pay attention to your footwear. And it can also be pretty windy. While wind can add a dramatic type of beauty, it can also make some folks grumpy… 

Summer:

Summer is the Oregon Coast’s head-lining performance. It’s a season of extended daylight, warm beach days, and an ocean inviting you to remove your shoes and frolic in the waves. 

Pros: You’re practically guaranteed good weather for most of the day, and the beaches are in their prime. It’s the quintessential coastal experience. More daylight also means more time for activities, like hiking and paddleboarding. 

Cons: With great weather comes great humanity. The coast can get crowded, especially at popular spots like Cannon Beach. Booking accommodations well in advance is vital. If you desire sunset pictures, you could be waiting until quite late in the day. Around the solstice, daylight lingers well past 9pm… which isn’t necessarily bad, unless you’re the early-to-bed type.

Fall:

Fall is the gentle exhale after the summer frenzy. The crowds dissipate, and the coastline is colored with warm, often vibrant hues. It’s Oregon’s best kept secret.

Pros: It’s quieter, offering a more intimate experience. FAR less people are traveling to the coast in the autumn. The weather is still temperate, and you get the added bonus of a stunning fall color pallet in many areas. 

Cons: Coastal weather can be somewhat less than predictable in the fall. Temperatures can vary… .so layer up. An uninvited guest…a rain shower!… might join the celebration. 

Winter:

Winter brings a dramatic twist to the coast. The moodiness of stormy seas offers a chance to celebrate your love in a more unconventional setting. It also invites cozy vibes for pre or post event. 

Pros: Winter on the coast never gets too cold. Temperatures rarely dip beneath the 50s during the day. If you have a flair for the dramatic, there can be spectacular storms to behold. Witnessing the power of a winter storm can be a breathtaking, otherworldly experience. Snuggling up in a cozy beachfront cottage adds an extra layer of romance. Accommodations have much more availability in the winter months, and the rates are often reduced in the off season.

Cons: It’s still the coldest season, and being out in a storm isn’t everyone’s idea of a romantic getaway. But if you’re open to embracing the power of nature (even a little bit), then you might enjoy a winter Oregon Coast Elopement. Be prepared for inclement weather, of course, and be aware that some areas have reduced services due to the lower levels of tourism. There may also be accessibility issues in some areas, so research your chosen spot to determine whether it is open for business. 

IMPORTANT: In the winter time, there are some days that you MUST give the beach a very wide berth. A phenomenon called King Tides, combined with potentially severe weather make the beach an incredibly unsafe place to be. The King Tides occur when the sun and moon are aligned and pulling the ocean waters together. A simple on-line search can tell you when King Tides are predicted. 

Overall, when eloping on the Oregon Coast, you should keep an open mind,  weather-wise.  Embrace the Coastal Climate as part of the adventure!

Oregon’s varied and unique climate adds a touch of magic to any elopement. The mix of misty mornings, dramatic skies, and gentle sea breezes creates a romantic atmosphere that’s hard to replicate elsewhere. 

Permits and Regulations for Oregon Coast Elopements

If your guest list is under 50, no special use permit is needed, making the Oregon Coast particularly conducive to small, love-filled gatherings. Memorable, with minimal bureaucracy! If you’re planning something on a grander scale however, the devil’s in the details. 

Permits or passes are probably required for events with lengthier guest lists. There are also regulations for other things you may wish to include in your elopement on the Oregon Coast. Be aware that there are likely guidelines in place that govern campfires, fishing & boating, camping, noise levels, alcohol consumption etc. These can  vary from place to place and season to season. A quick Google search is usually enough to get the info you need.

Exploring the Coastal Towns

The Oregon Coast is dotted with charming towns, each with their own distinct character and attractions. Here’s some information on some of the more personable towns/areas along the Oregon coast that you may wish to  incorporate into your elopement day.

From North to South:

Astoria: Where History and Waves Collide

Astoria, sitting at the river’s edge, invites you to step into the past with its Victorian charm. Dive into nautical history at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, and explore Fort Stevens State Park or Lewis and Clark National Historic Park nearby. Enjoy a chowder bowl overlooking the Columbia River, and don’t forget to hunt for treasures in the eclectic downtown shops.

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach, home to the iconic Haystack Rock, is an artist’s enclave and an art lover’s haven. Stroll the sandy shores, explore tidepools, and then wander through the town’s many art galleries. Ecola State Park offers breathtaking coastal views, making it a distinct possibility for a vow exchange.  Grab a coffee, watch the waves, and let the creative spirit and natural beauty of Cannon Beach captivate you.

Manzanita

Manzanita, nestled between mountains and sea, is the very picture of serenity. The town’s relaxed vibe pairs perfectly with its pristine beaches. Nearby Oswald West State Park, beckons with forested trails and secluded coves. Nehalem State Park is an excellent option for camping, with wide beaches and clear views to the North and South.

Tillamook

Tillamook, famous for its creamy cheese, also boasts coastal treasures. Visit the Tillamook Air Museum or explore the trails of Cape Lookout State Park for sweeping ocean views. Take the Three Capes Scenic Drive for stunning coastal panoramas. Whether you’re indulging in dairy delights or embracing the outdoors, Tillamook offers a slice of coastal paradise.

Pacific City

Pacific City is the home of the iconic Haystack Rock at Cape Kiwanda, and an activity that’s a bit out of the ordinary… ride the waves on dory boats! This would add a bit of ‘quirky’  to your elopement adventure (and your elopement photos!)  Dig your toes into the sandy shoreline or climb the towering dunes for more panoramic sea views. With the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge nearby, Pacific City seamlessly blends adventure and relaxation. 

Lincoln City

Lincoln City, known for its vibrant kites and seven miles of sandy beaches, offers both playful and serene coastal experiences. Explore tidepools, fly a kite at the D River (the world’s shortest river!) Wayside, and visit the Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy. Just up that coast are several hikes with epic views…Cascade Head, The Knoll and God’s Thumb. All are perfect destinations for a memorable hiking elopement on the Oregon Coast. 

Depoe Bay

Depoe Bay may be the world’s smallest harbor, but it’s big on marine life. Known as the “Whale Watching Capital,” it’s the perfect location for viewing the majestic creatures. Stroll the seawall, visit the Whale Watching Center, and explore Depoe Bay State Park. The town’s cozy atmosphere and marine wonders make it a must-visit on the Oregon Coast.

Newport 

Newport’s historic bayfront, bustling with shops and seafood eateries, invites you to taste the maritime charm. Visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium, view the sites in Yaquina Bay State Park, and explore the iconic Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Paddling is a popular activity in the calmer sections of the bay, and South Beach State Park has a variety of camping options, including yurts! Eloping to a yurt….now there’s an idea! This 

For the birds nerds— Yaquina Head has historically been a reliable  place to spot peregrine falcons. Many years have seen a nesting pair in the cliffs just above the visitor center. And in the winter time, you may be lucky enough to spot Snow Buntings in the dunes along the jetty!

Yachats

Yachats, embraced by rocky shores, is a haven for art lovers and nature enthusiasts alike. Hike along the 804 Trail, and visit the Yachats Commons. The miles and miles of beach north of Yachats, including Tillicum and Wakonda are ideal for long, leisurely  beach walks. To the South, there are many pretty rocky coves to explore— Cape Perpetua, Thor’s Well, and Neptune’s Beach to name a few. This small town embraces an artistic spirit, and is a delightful blend of rugged coastal beauty and creative inspiration.

Florence & Reedsport: Dunes, Parks, and Coastal Playgrounds

Florence and Reedsport, nestled in dune country, is popular with adventure seekers. The colossal dunes of Honeyman State Park are a playground for ATV enthusiasts. Don’t miss the Umpqua Lighthouse, and lovely Cleawox Lake. Tugman State Park is a perfect blend of recreation and tranquil coastal charm.

Coos Bay: Bridges, Seafood, and Shoreline Surprises

Coos Bay, home to the iconic McCullough Bridge, is a treasure trove of seafood eateries and sensory surprises. Wander along the boardwalk at the Charleston Marina or explore Shore Acres State Park’s exquisite gardens. Coos Bay seamlessly combines maritime history, delicious cuisine, and unexpected scents and sounds of coastal beauty.

Bandon: Cranberries, Cliffs, and Coastal Delights

Bandon, famous for its cranberry bogs, captivates with coastal charm. Stroll the historic Old Town, marvel at the otherworldly Face Rock, and explore Bullards Beach State Park. The Coquille River Lighthouse stands as a sentinel to Bandon’s rich maritime history. With its cliffs and cranberries, Bandon is a delightful blend of coastal allure and agricultural wonders.

Port Orford

Port Orford, a small town with an artistic heart, invites exploration of its unique harbor. Visit the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, the westernmost point in Oregon, and marvel at the iconic sea stacks at Port Orford Heads State Park. With its creative spirit and scenic coastal landmarks, Port Orford promises a charming escape.

Gold Beach

Gold Beach, nestled at the confluence of the Rogue River and the Pacific, is a haven for river enthusiasts. Embark on a jet boat excursion up the Rogue, where wilderness meets adventure. The pristine beaches offer tranquility, and Otter Point State Recreation Site provides stunning coastal access. Some of the Oregon Coast’s  most magnificent rock formations can be found at Pistol River, which is just a bit south. Blending river magic and coastal charm, Gold Beach invites you to savor both.

Brookings

Brookings, is awash with vibrant blooms in the warmer months, and is a coastal gem. Azalea Park, is renowned for its stunning floral displays, and is an irresistible place to stroll. Harris Beach State Park beckons with its sandy stretches of beachfront  and iconic sea stacks. This area is most famous for the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor— probably the most Instagrammed place on the Oregon Coast. Natural Bridges and Secret Beach are stunning, but can get quite crowded, so it’s worth looking into other stops in the high season. The Chetco River is one of my favorite rivers in Oregon. Alfred Loeb State Park is an amazing place to stay if you are seeking a secluded camping spot. 

Honorable Mention: Crescent City, CA

Though it’s South of the OR/CA border, I’m including Crescent City in this list of spots to consider for your Oregon coast elopement. It’s not as tidy a town as Brookings, but accommodations there are extremely affordable. Plus, if you want to include the iconic redwoods in your elopement, Crescent City is close to some of the best redwood forests in the world. Explore Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (my favorite) and Redwoods National Park. From Crescent City, it’s easy to have an elopement day full of magnificent redwood forests and picturesque Oregon coast!

For more specific locations, check out this article.

Activity Ideas for your Oregon Coast Elopement:

Welcome to the “Let’s Make it Memorable” section of your Oregon Coast elopement guide. We’re shifting gears from vows to serious fun because it’s your freaking wedding day! It should be fun and profound and insightful and whimsical… all the things that you are!

Whether you’re up for hiking, beer tasting, or chilling fireside, here are some strategies to make your elopement an adventure-packed celebration. Let’s dive into the good stuff – your Oregon Coast escapade awaits!

  • Hiking: Lace-up and hit the trails – Cape Lookout or Cascade Head, take your pick. It’s not just a walk; it’s a scenic journey with the ocean as your hiking buddy.
  • Mushroom Foraging: Far from the ordinary! Get a fungi guide and try a mushroom scavenger hunt. We promise, it’s way cooler than your last scavenger hunt, and adds an interesting dimension to your wedding tales and photographs. 
  • Brewery Tours: Craft beer is synonymous with Oregon. Coastline and pub hopping…a winning combination. Something for all of your senses! 
  • Fishing: Cast a line from the shore or “go deep”  with a chartered ocean  fishing excursion. Fish tales are even better when they’re true!
  • Whale Watching: Grab your binoculars and witness the majestic gray whales on their yearly migration. Take a tour, or stake out an optimum viewing spot in the dunes. Either way, it’s a whale of a time.
  • Tide Pooling: When the tide goes out, the fun begins. Explore the wonder of the tide pools at Cannon Beach and Yaquina Head – it’s a veritable marine safari. 
  • Kite Flying: Feel the wind in your hair AND your kite. Watch the color>in the sky dance above the sand and sea. Kite flying: because adulthood needs more whimsy.
  • ATV Sand Dune Adventures: Buckle up for a thrill ride on an ATV, tours/rentals located near Florence. The dunes aren’t just for rolling – they’re for conquering.
  • Paddle Boarding and Surfing: Surf the wild waves or try its more serene sister, the paddleboard. Lincoln City and Newport – where the ocean will approve of your moves.
  • Scuba Diving: Dive into the underwater wonderland of the Oregon Coast. Vibrant kelp forests and an array of marine life await — your private, endless aquarium.
  • Art Galleries and Museums: Immerse yourselves in coastal culture. Art galleries and museums – where creativity thrives in the inspiration that is the Oregon Coast.
  • Lighthouse Tours: There is no shortage of iconic lighthouses to light up your elopement adventure. Yaquina Head, Heceta Head, Cape Meares – each one a coastal gem with sweeping views that will take your breath away.
  • Beach Bonfire: Kick off your shoes, and build some s’mores! Let your vows be sweeter than the marshmallows!  You, your love, and a cozy beach bonfire… a recipe for a lovely life together. 

For more ideas, read this article!

Dressing for your Oregon Coast Elopement

Picking the right threads for your Oregon Coast elopement is like finding the perfect wave – it’s all about style and ride-ability. Strive for coast-friendly apparel that lets you move and groove freely. 

Floaty fabrics like chiffon or lace bring a romantic, ethereal aura without cramping your style. Leave the weighty and complicated styles behind – it’s all about breezy comfort. For more masculine looks — suits and whatnot— a natural, durable fabric (like wool), might be a good fit for the cooler times of the year. 

If chilly is inevitable, layer up.  Maybe toss on a snug shawl, a chunky wool sweater, or a faux fur stole for warmth (with flair). Those wearing dresses might consider wearing a base layer of wool or synthetic leggings underneath the all of the flowy!

AND I reiterate…the most important clothing items to remember are RAIN LAYERS. The Oregon Coast is wet. More often than not, there will be moisture in the forecast. Could be moody coastal fog, sunlit sprinkles, or an bonafide downpour…same advice applies…pack waterproof, pack layers!

An essential mindset to have for any outdoor elopement is this: you’ll probably get dirty. It’s futile to walk through the forests and beaches of the Oregon coast and think you won’t bring at least a little bit of it home with you… sticks, twigs and mud inevitably end up in the lace of your gown, and sand has a way of finding its way into your shoes!

Oregon Coast Elopement Photographer

When you are ready to hire an Oregon elopement photographer, I’d be honored to be considered. 

I love all things ‘Oregon Elopement’ and  would be so excited to help you plan your magical day in this beautiful state, whether it’s at Smith Rock or some other awe inspiring elopement location (there are so many in Oregon).

Check out my pricing page for more information.

How to Elope on the Oregon Coast

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