THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO YOUR GATLINBURG ELOPEMENT WITH TIPS, VENUES AND LOCATION IDEAS
Elopement is becoming a popular option for many couples throughout the world and the United States is no exception. Outside Las Vegas, Gatlinburg is the most popular destination when it comes to elopements. Unlike Vegas, however, Gatlinburg offers unparalleled authenticity coupled with astounding natural beauty with the Smoky Mountains being the backdrop.
The Smoky Mountains are America’s oldest mountain range and the most visited National Park in the country. The majestic landscape provides a sense of calm and is the ideal elopement or wedding destination. Beauty and romance can be found virtually around every corner. If you are thinking about eloping in the United States, The Smoky Mountains are the perfect destination.
First, let’s be sure we’re talking about the same thing:
1) What is an elopement?
The term ‘elopement’ has significantly different meaning than it held several decades ago. Nowadays, elopement is where a couple opts to skip many of the elaborate wedding plans associated with traditional nuptials and instead preferring to slip away for a more intimate and private ceremony.
You may decide to tag along some of your family members and friends for your elopement or you may decide to keep the moment private, between you and your partner. It is up to you to decide how simple or elaborate your elopement ends up being.
And what is an adventure elopement?
An adventure elopement is where the couple foregoes a traditional wedding and instead holds the ceremony in nature, surrounded by beautiful scenery. Adventure elopements usually involve some kind of hiking to get to the desired spot and are typically intimate ceremonies with only a handful of people in attendance.
Gatlinburg is the ideal location for an adventure elopement because it is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It also offers many fun things for the couple to do including hiking, dining, attractions, and adventure.
2) How to Get Legally Married in Gatlinburg
You will first require a Tennessee marriage license if you would like to get legally married in Gatlinburg, TN. Here are the requirements for obtaining this marriage license and thus be legally married in Gatlinburg:
- Both parties must be at least 18 years old
- The parties getting married are required to present either a certified birth certificate or valid state driver’s license
- The parties getting married must also present a social security card
- If one of the parties getting married is currently not a US citizen, they will be required to provide a valid passport
- If either party has been widowed or divorced, they will need to know either the date of death or the date the divorce was finalized
- There’s no waiting period
- The license has to be used within 30 days of issuance.
Gatlinburg, TN is marriage friendly and obtaining the license usually takes just 10 minutes or less. However, the license has to be returned to the county clerk within 3 days of the ceremony. You can apply for the marriage license and pick it up from any one of these 3 locations:
- Gatlinburg Shilling Center
- Sevier County Courthouse
- Pigeon Forge City Hall
Who Can Solemnize a Marriage?
A marriage in Gatlinburg, and by extension Tennessee cannot be self-solemnized. It is only a religious leader, rabbi, preacher, current or former legislators, mayors, or judges, the county clerk, or the governor that can solemnize a marriage.
3) Why You Should Consider a Gatlinburg Elopement
Gatlinburg is the place the usually comes in mind when couples are dreaming about and planning their elopement or wedding in the Smoky Mountains. Gatlinburg is widely regarded as the gateway to the Smoky Mountains. With the growth in popularity of elopements, Gatlinburg has earned itself the unofficial title: “Elopement capital of the United States.”
Gatlinburg offers many stunning natural backgrounds for your elopement getaway wedding thanks to its close proximity to the Smoky Mountains. Only a handful of places in the entire United States are as stunning as Gatlinburg.
History and Culture
Every curve and bend of the road in the Smoky Mountains brings a special kind of vintage setting that can only be carved into the mountains over centuries. If you elope to Gatlinburg, you can be use to have a unique and a one-of-a-kind experience of culture in the Smoky Mountains.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Ultimately, the number 1 reason why people elope to Gatlinburg is its close proximity to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. People that elope to Gatlinburg also have many things to do and enjoy such as hiking, going for picnics, and much more.
4) The Best Places for a Gatlinburg Elopement
If you want to have the best elopement ever, here are some of the places located in and around Gatlinburg that you should consider:
Cataract Falls is one of the easiest places to hike in the Smoky Mountains area. It is just a 10-minute walk from the visitor’s center that’s about a 3-minute drive from downtown Gatlinburg and anybody, regardless of age should be able to reach this spot. It has a rich forest setting and rushing waters that create the ideal romantic environment for your special occasion. It is a great sport for your elopement.
Cataract Falls, however, is a highly public area and you can expect there to be on-lookers. It is definitely not for the shy of heart. You will also require a permit to hold your ceremony there.
Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations for people visiting the Smoky Mountains. It provides backdrops for forests, wildlife, water and streams, fields with mountain views, and even historic structures. If you chose to elope in Cades Cove, you can hold the ceremony there, take photos, and then go back to Gatlinburg for the reception.
Cades Cove might be a popular destination for elopements, but you need to apply for a Special Use Permit if you want to get married there. The permit is issued by the National Parks Service.
You won’t find this spot on any trail maps, but it is still an incredibly popular area for wedding photos and ceremonies. It is situated right off the road on the way to Cades Cove and about an 11-minute drive past the visitor’s center. It has about 10 parking spots and incredibly lovely spots for couples to solemnize their marriage right next to the creek.
You won’t be required to pay any travel fees for this spot, but a Special Use Permit is still required. Maloney Point is ideal for ceremonies with a maximum of 10 guests, which explains why it is such a good option for elopements.
Serenity Falls is a privately-owned natural waterfall that’s located 40 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg. It is a charming property with an even more charming history. Once you leave the main road and traverse the narrow country road, you will have a hard time believing that it used to be a thriving village. The clear, cascading waterfall is a lovely venue for wedding ceremonies that have not more than 20 guests.
Serenity Falls is one of the best places in Gatlinburg for an elopement, but you need to be aware of the fact that since it is a natural waterfall, the volume of water flowing through it may vary significantly. You should also remember that since it is privately-owned, you will have to pay a considerably higher fee for your wedding, i.e. $300.
Laurel Falls is yet another hidden gem when it comes to elopements in Gatlinburg. You will understand why it is a must-see attraction after taking the a 2.6-mile walk on a paved trail to reach Laurel Falls. The 80-foot cascade is one of the Smoky Mountain’s most photographed spots and for good reason. It is located just outside Gatlinburg and provides perfect photography lighting.
Laurel Falls is one of the most accessible trails, which makes it a popular option for many people visiting the Smoky Mountains area. Unfortunately, this inevitably means that you can expect to find more people than you would want present at your elopement.
The Foothills Parkway is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has some of the most stunning scenic drives and locations that overlook the Great Smoky Mountains. It has multiple locations with an abundance of beautiful backdrops for wedding photos, which include the waterfall, mountains, roads, forest, and sunset.
Foothills Parkway is a great elopement destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which means that you must have a Special Use Permit to hold your ceremony there.
5) The Best Time for a Gatlinburg Elopement
Gatlinburg, TN has 4 distinct seasons, which means that each time of year will offer a different elopement experience. To help you decide which time of year is ideal for your elopement, here is a brief overview of the different seasons:
Mild temperatures and lovely blooming flowers everywhere characterize this season. Crowds are generally not too heavy in spring unless you set a date during spring break. It usually doesn’t get too humid or hot, which makes it the ideal season for longer hikes. Still, the weather can be a bit unpredictable.
Sun, fireflies, and lightning storms are typical of summer in Gatlinburg. Crowds may get incredibly heavy during this season. Humidity is obviously high in summer and this may lead to quick burn out when hiking. Fortunately, summer offers many fun activities for you and your partner to do on your elopement such as rafting down the rivers.
Lovely hues on trees since the leaves are starting to change and fairly mild temperatures characterize fall in Gatlinburg. The changing of the hues, however, tends to attract many visitors to the area, which makes it one of the busiest tourist seasons of the year. Fortunately, the weather is not all that unpredictable, which means that you can still elope in fall.
Winter is the least favorite season to elope in Gatlinburg simply due to the fact that everything is somewhat dead. The trees are usually bare during this season and it can get incredibly cold. Still, a winter elopement can be a good idea due to the lack of crowds. If you want a truly intimate experience, winter in Gatlinburg can be a great season for your elopement.
Besides the high humidity in the warmer weather, the climate in Gatlinburg is fairly mild, which makes it an ideal location year-round. Still, Fall is usually the best time of the year for a Gatlinburg elopement. The temperatures aren’t too hot, the weather is mostly pleasant and there’s a lovely transitioning of hues all around.
6) What is the cost of an elopement in Gatlinburg?
Travel to and from Gatlinburg: $500
5 nights in a high-end accomodation // $2 500
Elopement photographer // $12 000
Entrance fee or special permit // $300
Private chef or full board // $1 000
Officiant // $1 000
Florist // $500
Rentals // $500
Wedding dress and accessories // $4 000
Suit and accessories // $1 000
Total for a high-end elopement in Gatlinburg: $23 300
Travel to and from Gatlinburg: $500
5 nights in an airbnb // $700
Elopement photographer // $8 000
Entrance fee or special permit // $300
Food // $250
Officiant // $500
Florist // $200
Wedding dress and accessories // $2 500
Suit and accessories // $500
Total for a budget elopement in Gatlinburg: $13 450
7) What to Wear for a Gatlinburg Elopement?
The first consideration is obviously the wedding dress i.e. the size, mobility, and ability to pack it for your elopement. If you are traveling out of space, you may have just limited space in your car. Dresses such as ball gowns are definitely not feasible.
The fabric is another important consideration when choosing a dress. Different fabrics hang differently, give off different vibes, photograph better, and are more durable than others. Chiffon, organza, tulle, polyester, satin, silk, and lace are all good options.
The style of dress is the final consideration. Some styles are definitely better suited for elopements than others. If you plan to hike or move around, you should avoid princess dresses. If you plan to change into your dress for the ceremony, then you can choose any style.
Proper footwear is a necessity when going on an adventure elopement where there will be some hiking involved. Ensure that the hiking shoes or boots that both the bride and groom wear have sufficient ankle support. Open-toed footwear should be completely avoided. Sneakers are definitely not allowed and neither are sandals or flip-flops.
The choice of suit will mostly depend on the weather. For instance, you may not want to wear a 3-piece suit for an elopement in the middle of July. Still, you can wear a formal black tuxedo for the wedding with coordinating accessories such as black bow ties, white tuxedo shirts, cummerbunds, as well as boutonnieres that match the bride’s bouquet.
Natural locations for your elopement mean that Mother Nature is in charge. That’s why you should be prepared should the weather be less than hospitable. Pack foot warmers, hand warmers, body warmers, or even a warm shawl. Wear leggings or thermal underwear. Get a cute jacket or wear a wedding dress with long sleeves.
8) Gatlinburg Elopement Checklist
Think about where you’d like to go
Gatlinburg is considered the wedding and elopement capital of the South. It is a popular option for either due to its amazing beauty and the fact that it is the gateway to the Smoky Mountains. It has some of the most accessible elopement locations in the United States and it is up to you to decide where you would like to go.
Pick a date
Gatlinburg and the entire Smoky Mountains area is beautiful throughout the year. From the spring wildflowers to the fall foliage, the landscapes are always breathtaking and a perfect backdrop for your elopement. So, pick a date based on your preferences.
Find more informations about travel visas and wedding documentation
If you are a resident of the United States, travel Visas shouldn’t be an issue. However, you will require some wedding documentation such as a marriage license and a Special Use Permit if you plan to hold your wedding ceremony in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Book your accomodation
Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains area is such a popular destination for weddings and elopements since it is highly affordable. So, book your accommodation close to where you plan to hold the ceremony.
Book your photographer
A photographer will play a key role in your elopement. He/she will capture every awesome moment of your elopement. It is always advisable to hire a photographer that’s accustomed to the Smoky Mountains. He/she must also have a permit to offer photography services within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park if that’s where you plan to exchange your vows.
Find a place to exchange your vows
You should ideally choose a venue that speaks to your heart. Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains offer so many options from Chic to Country and many actually have amazing mountain backdrops. The area has so much amazing beauty that you will feel compelled to bring elements of that beauty into your special day. Any of the 10 places discussed here is an excellent option.
Book your other vendors
Once you set the elopement date and reserved your accommodation, you should also start reaching out to other vendors to secure the date. Elopements are just as special as traditional weddings and you should find the right balance of planning all the details from things such as the table décor, florals, ceremony archways, pastor/officiant, or anything else you might dream of. Please note that these vendors too must first obtain approval before offering their services in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Plan your travel
Do you plan to drive to Gatlinburg? Take a flight? It is up to you to determine which mode of transport is ideal for your elopement. However, you must decide which option you would like to go with before the date of the elopement. If you prefer, you can always use an agency to handle most of your travel booking, itinerary, etc.
Live your dream elopement
It’s the big day, enjoy it fully!
9) Galleries of elopements
- Marine & Etienne – An overnight post-wedding session near Lyon
- Kristina & Tyler – A chateau Challain elopement followed by a 10-days honeymoon in France and Italy
- Imogen & Paul – An overnight mountain elopement near Switzerland
- Elodie & Dean – A post-wedding session in Scotland
- Laura & Ben – A forest elopement in the Highlands
- Misha & Chris – A 5-days elopement in the Japanese forests
How to plan your peaceful elopement in Gatlinburg with me
Schedule a non-sales call
Everyone truly hates sales calls (me included) so I refuse to do them. We simply chat about what your dream day and travel plans look like to see if we’re a match!
Book your date
We find the perfect date together and you’re officially booked!
I’ll plan your dream elopement
From itinerary planning to vendor suggestions all the way to helping you with permits, I plan everything.
Live your adventure
You live a peaceful, meaningful wedding day on an itinerary that’s custom created just for you.
Relive this day forever
I deliver your pictures and your choice of album from my collection, to remember this adventure, and share it for years to come.
Let’s plan your peaceful elopement
Where you can be you. Feel. Breathe in each other’s love.
Experience a place close to your hearts, or a bucket list dream.
Need more inspiration for your elopement?
Check out this brand new article about the best places to elope IN THE WORLD