Grand Teton Wedding | M+J’s Backpacking Elopement

Apr 2, 2024

Bride and groom at their Grand Teton wedding

It was a warm summer day when I got a call from M. She wanted to know the logistics of planning a Grand Teton elopement in less than two months. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement, and I immediately dove into their learning about their hopes for this spontaneous Grand Teton wedding.

J+M weren’t initially going to have more than a little courthouse elopement, just wanting to tie the knot before they went overseas on some travels. But when asked what her DREAM wedding day looked like, M said that she loved the idea of running away to the mountains and having a private Grand Teton wedding, exchanging vows under the peaks just the two of them.

This led us to start brainstorming locations that would be meaningful to the two of them. (Check out this blog if you’re looking for ideas on where you can elope in the Grand Tetons) After lots of consideration, we landed on a lake that M used to hike to when she lived in Jackson. During college, she and a group of friends would hike in the dark of the early mornings to get to the famed Jumping Rock. This is a place popular for cliff jumping into the cold lake below in the Grand Tetons. Because of the sentimental value it held, and compared to other popular sites that quickly become crowded by sunrise photographers, we knew this would be the perfect spot.

Getting Ready + the Hike

We set our alarms to start hiking at 3AM. In the darkness, M+J carefully wrapped the wedding dress and suit top into the bottom of their backpacking backpacks, along with their vow books. Knowing we were going to be several miles out from anyone else, we also brought a hikers breakfast for after the ceremony. Finally, with bear spray on our hips and headlamps to guide the way, we started our hike into the backcountry. Near 4AM, we reached the first peak above the lake. The water was still and the whole world was quiet as we looked over to where they were soon to be married, a few miles below.

Grand Teton National Park First Look

Just before 6:30 in the morning, we made it to the lake. M+J split up to different parts of the forest so they could both get ready in privacy for their first look. M wore her hiking boots underneath her wedding dress, an apt combination for a backpacking elopement in the Grand Tetons.

couple getting ready for wedding in the grand tetons

The Wedding Ceremony in the Grand Tetons

With only the sound of the songbirds in the trees, the two climbed up the jumping rock to their ceremony point. I started off the ceremony with a few words about their love, and then left them to the privacy of intimate vows. There was no audience – it was just them and the mountains as their witness.

After sincere words were shared, I climbed up the rock once more for them to exchange rings and to pronounce their marriage. As a note here, I got ordained specifically for my couples who want a private and intimate elopement without extra guests or costs, and this is something I can do for you too. With unveiled excitement and love, they tightly embraced and kissed. They were officially married by 7:15AM.

Post Ceremony

After the official wedding ceremony, we soaked in the colors of the sunrise and the feelings of being alone in the Grand Tetons. It isn’t often you’re part of a wedding day where the ceremony has happened before most of the world is awake! By this time, we had been up for several hours hiking and were hungry for breakfast, so we broke out the backpacking breakfast of kings (my personal favorite hiking breakfast is cinnamon oatmeal).

This is where M+J surprised me, with a personal touch I thought was so sweet! Because this was an intimate Grand Teton wedding and not some large wedding gathering at a venue, they wanted to have their own twist on a “grand exit” or wedding sendoff. For the past couple of weeks, they had been collecting energy drink cans. Instead of tying these to a car bumper, they tied them to the backs of their backpacking backpacks for the hike out (no need for a bear bell at this point haha!). It was so unique, something I’d never seen before. If you are eloping, I highly recommend brainstorming ways you can personalize this day to yourselves! Add something that will make this unique to your quirks and loves and story.

We were momentarily halted by a baby moose on the trail (a specific elopement memory now many of my couples have experienced getting married in the Tetons), but by 9AM, we were hiking above the lake again We ended up passing by a small group of hikers that signed the witness papers. People always get a kick out of that, when they see a legitimate elopement and get that unique opportunity!

The last tradition that J+M wanted to spin off their own direction was the cake cutting. Did you know that the tradition of cutting a wedding cake is representative of a couple working together for the first time in marriage? As opposed to having an official wedding cake, we drove to Targhee (on the Idaho side of the Grand Tetons), and they fed each other cupcakes. It was a sweet way to end their wedding day.

Grand Teton National Park Wedding Photographer

If you want help planning your own Grand Teton wedding, message me today and I’d adore to help you make your dreams a reality!! I have helped dozens of couples plan their elopements in the Grand Tetons and it is something that I will always treasure. I want nothing more than to help couples curate their own unique days into something they’ll love and believe everyone should have that opportunity. So let’s do the damn thing and get you married in the mountains.

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