The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Epic Tennessee Elopement

March 12, 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Planning your Epic Tennessee Elopement

From outdoor adventure to intimate celebrations in nature, here are the tips and tricks for creating a Tennessee elopement that celebrates your unique love story.

Whether Tennessee is home sweet home, or simply a place that has sparked your interest, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to elope in the world. From sparkling waterfalls to splashes of wildflowers or fall colors, Tennessee provides a deep sense of adventure and belonging for any eloping couple. It is my goal that you create the Tennessee elopement of your dreams!

Together, we will go over why a Tennessee elopement may just be right for you. Then, we can figure out locations and seasons that fit you and your partner’s personalities. Finally, we can figure out who will be included in your celebration and the activities that will make this an elopement to remember. 

My number one piece of advice before we embark on this journey together? This is your day. Make sure your Tennessee elopement shines with all of the details that make your love so unique.

Why have a Tennessee Elopement?

This is the question that will get me talking at a party. I love talking about people in love. And I love celebrating them in the place I call home: Tennessee. 

Outdoor Adventure

Tennessee is home to a wonderland of outdoor adventure. There are mountains with breathtaking views, epic waterfalls, winding rivers, green forests, and adventure around every corner. We are gifted with amazing foliage in the fall, pops of color in the spring, and lush beauty in the summers and generally mild winters.

Long story short, if you are looking for an outdoor playground to host your celebration, then a Tennessee elopement may be just your style.

Accessibility and Hospitality

For many, eloping in Tennessee is a great balance between being easily accessible (a quick flight for our East Coast neighbors!)  and feeling as if you have travelled to a new and stunning venue to celebrate your love.  Home to several international airports, Tennessee allows for easy travel and brings you (and perhaps a few of your guests!) on an exciting new journey to celebrate your love.

And, it must be said, the Southern Hospitality stereotypes are true! Tennessee was recently ranked one of the friendliest states in the country, and this doesn’t surprise me one bit. To experience an adventure in a “home away from home,” then a Tennessee elopement is right up your alley. (Not to mention the food and culture is hard to beat!)

Evaluating your Desires as a Couple

One thing I want to try to encourage all couples to do is to create a vision for their Tennessee elopement. This day should be based on what works best for you, and the traditions that are important to you as a couple. 

Take the time to sit with your partner and lay out your goals and desires for the celebration. Will guests be invited? What season do you envision for your special day? What kind of activities or adventures would be symbolic of your love?

The beautiful thing about elopements is there are no boxes to check or rules to follow. Finding the most honest expression of your love is the only thing you will need to accomplish on that day. So open a shared document or pull out a notebook and start writing down what type of Tennessee elopement represents you!

Where should we Elope in Tennessee?

From the canyons Smoky Mountain National Park, to pristine waterfalls, to sunsets that will take your breath away, there are a range of places to elope in Tennessee especially for the adventurers and the explorers

So what is the best fit for you? In the end, this will depend on what matches your “dream celebration” perfectly.  But let’s get you inspired with a few of my favorite locations for a memorable Tennessee elopement:

Chattanooga

Chattanooga is well known as an epic outdoor city with an abundance of rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, and backpacking. It’s the perfect area for adventurers and fun-loving couples to explore. Chattanooga is known as the scenic city and was voted “Best Town Ever” by Outdoor Magazine…twice! Features like the Tennessee River Gorge and the Cumberland Plateau offer a lot of beautiful places to elope. 

There’s a healthy mix of urban and outdoor life in Chattanooga. For the adventurous and busy couple who wants to ensure their Tennessee elopement is jam-packed with activity…Chattanooga may be your thing.

Lula Lake and Land Trust

Lula Lake is a Land Trust on Lookout Mountain just outside Chattanooga and perhaps my favorite elopement location in all of Tennessee. Couples can reserve the land trust for their elopement day and spend the day exploring the 1200 acre property including two waterfalls, a creek and mountain overlook. without the worry of crowds. 

While there are many scenic locations in and around Chattanooga, Lula Lake holds a special place in my heart. The Land Trust only allows a very few photographers to use their property for photo shoots. Luckily for you, I am one of them! As someone who fully supports conservation, I love the work that Lula Lake is doing to help protect and maintain our precious outdoor spaces. This unique location offers some of the best scenery in the area. Plus, minimal crowds create an intimate Tennessee Elopement setting. 

Smoky Mountain National Park

For an authentic and rustic elopement experience… Smoky Mountain National Park may just be the spot for your Tennessee Elopement.  The park contains diverse and dramatic scenery, 800 miles of hiking trails, rivers, waterfalls, epic scenery, and crisp mountain air.

If you are a couple who has a specific type of scenery in mind for those epic elopement shots… this may be your place. The park is home to some of the most gorgeous outdoor scenery in all of the Southeast. Furthermore, there are plenty of cute cabins and Airbnb’s for you and your guests to celebrate the “I do’s.”

Fall Creek Falls

Fall Creek Falls is an adventurer’s paradise. From breathtaking waterfalls, to crystal clear streams, to star freckled nights, this is the perfect location for a nature centric Tennessee elopement.

Along with excellent views, the park is easily accessible. Looking for a more quiet and intimate elopement setting? There are hidden locations tucked further into the park for the couples that want to explore off the beaten path. When the festivities have come to a close, there is lodging on site (or nearby on the Cumberland Plateau.)

When should we have our Tennessee Elopement?

Tennessee has four distinct seasons, each with their own draw and appeal. When planning for your Tennessee elopement, talk with your partner and understand:

  1. What do you want to be wearing? (Trust me, this question does wonders to determine the season to elope!)
  2. What activities “feel like you”?
  3. Answering these two questions can you get you pretty darn close to determining a season that is perfect for your Tennessee elopement.

Winter

Winter can be a beautiful time to elope in Tennessee… especially if you are a hiker! Despite the colder temperatures (ranging from 30’s to 50’s) the epic winter sunsets and phenomenal lighting make the cold temperature worth it. Furthermore, waterfalls and creeks are full of water in the winter and photograph beautifully during this time of year.

Spring

Spring in Tennessee is home to milder temperatures and a flood of beautiful wildflowers. April and May can be an especially beautiful time of year in the South. The lush greenery, the warming sunlight, and the new life that pulses after nature’s chill make this a stunning time to tie the knot. In a photographer’s opinion, this is one of the best seasons to elope!

Summer

Summer tends to be hot and humid here in Tennessee. So while it may be too warm to hike, it gives couples an opportunity to take advantage of Tennessee’s greatest resource… water! Waterfalls and other water activities are great for summer elopements. (And do I even need to say it? Unbelievable photos.)

Fall

Fall is probably the best all around season for a Tennessee elopement. Mid-September through November means milder temperatures, lower humidity, and little to no rain. Tennessee has the most amazing fall foliage usually starting in late October and lasting for a few weeks. The trees turn red, orange, and yellow – making for dramatic backdrops, memorable photos, and a bright and colorful celebration.

Day of the Week

The date a couple picks can have a huge impact on the experience. Weekends get crowded in the more popular scenic spots, so whenever possible, I recommend a couple have their Tennessee elopement on a weekend. Avoiding holidays is best, as with any place where people plan to hold an epic ceremony! And finally, for all of the early birds, sunrise is generally a wonderful time to seek out some of the best and more crowded locations. (Not to mention that the light for photos will be fantastic!) 

How do we create an epic Tennessee Elopement?

If you have a season and a location in mind, let’s get into the fun stuff… the nitty gritty details! Remember, the decisions you make about your Tennessee elopement should be a reflection of your love as a couple. There is no right or wrong answer here… just the chance to dream big! 

Tennessee’s elopement laws

Wherever you decide to elope, ensure you are familiar with the marriage laws of that state. Logistics such as who is able to attend the ceremony, and whether or not a witness is present are important aspects of planning your elopement.

Tennessee law does not require a witness, but there is room for one on the license if you would like to fill that in. (My elopement packages allow for intimate elopements/weddings with up to twenty guests. This means you will have plenty of witnesses to choose from!)

It is also good to note that Tennessee law requires an officially ordained officiant. They used to allow officiants that were ordained online to officiate a marriage, but the law was recently changed. In Tennessee, the officiant has to be legally ordained through the church (not online through the Universal Life Church.)

I have some couples that take care of the legal logistics ahead of time. For example, they will officially get married by the court before the elopement day. Then, on the day of their celebration,  they will exchange written vows and have a “ceremony” without the need for an officiant. Whether you choose to officially tie the knot on Tennessee soil on the day of your Tennessee elopement is up to you! But understanding the ins and outs of the law will be of benefit for creating the most relaxing and enjoyable celebration possible.

bride and groom embrace at oakleaf cottage elopement

Activities

My absolute favorite part of any Tennessee elopement… deciding what activities will you be doing! Saying “I do” on the precipice of a  mountain overlook or splashing in crystal clear waterfalls are common elopement activities. However, the beauty of any elopement is you can make it whatever you want it to be!

Need a few ideas? What if your Tennessee elopement involved:

  1. Exploring a hiking trail deep into the woods or a sunrise hike to an epic view
  2. A romantic picnic where you exchange handwritten vows
  3. Paddling a canoe to an island in the lake
  4. Champagne toasts in the forest
  5. Cocktail hour downtown overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge
  6.  Building a campfire at Lula Lake
  7. Having your first dance under a blanket of stars
  8. Doing something on your bucket list like skydiving
  9. An outdoor activity that you love to do together; like rock climbing or horseback riding.

I have even worked  with some couples that want to do overnight backpacking on their favorite trail or camp out overnight. The sky’s the limit and nothing is off limits when it comes to your Tennessee elopement. (So pro tip: dream big!)

Vendors

Just because you are eloping does not mean you won’t need vendors! The vendors needed vary widely from couple to couple and their vision for their Tennessee elopement. One of the most booked vendors is an officiant. If not legally married before the ceremony, an officiant will be required in order to legally tie the knot.

Another common vendor is hair and makeup stylist. Your elopement day is definitely a time to sit back and let someone else do the work for you. Stylists know how to do makeup that looks incredible in photos and that will stay on all day. 

Having flowers on your elopement day can make it extra special and I strongly recommend having a florist for your celebration. Adding a bouquet, boutonniere, flower crown, hairpiece, or ceremony arrangement are great ways to personalize your day. 

And last, but certainly not least… a photographer! Someone who knows elopements, and knows their way around Tennessee is going to be your best bet. This type of photographer will leave you with stunning photos that will be passed down for generations to come. And that, my beautiful couple, is priceless.

Tying it All Together

From lush forest to cascading waterfalls to the vivid culture of the Tennessee night, there truly is no way to express your love like a Tennessee elopement. If you are curious about what creating a celebration in Tennessee would look like for you and your partner, please reach out. There is nothing I enjoy more than creating a day that is as inspiring as your love story.

bride and groom smiling and hugging during elopement in Chattanooga

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