Here’s my guide on how to best prepare for your Raven’s Roost Overlook Elopement.
The best part about planning an elopement is that you start with a clean slate! There are no rules or rigid structures you have to follow as you do with big, traditional weddings. Elopements and small, intimate weddings allow you the freedom to custom-create a unique wedding day.
For some, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. That’s why I’m here to help you find your perfect Virginia mountain elopement location!
Nicole and Michael’s Virginia Mountain elopement was stunning. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day in the mountains and we were rewarded with a breathtaking sunset.
Decide on a Virginia elopement location that speaks to you.
The first step in planning your elopement is deciding on a location. This can be the most fun part, but it can also be overwhelming to think about all of the options available to you! The best advice we can give is to choose a location that speaks to you, whether that’s one of our favorite places or somewhere completely new and unknown.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a location: Is it special? Will it fit within your budget for a venue or location permit? Is it easily accessible if you’re inviting guests? Is there enough space for everyone who will attend both the ceremony and reception? Would you rather have a separate adventure with just your photographer for part of the day, maybe for a private ceremony, and then meet up with your guests at a different location? And finally, how busy will this area be during peak season–and what impact will this have on your experience?
As always, with any outdoor location, make sure to follow the Leave No Trace rules to keep our parks clean and beautiful!
Raven’s Roost Overlook Elopement in the Virginia Mountains
Virginia is home to both Shenandoah National Park and a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in southern Virginia. Raven’s Roost is technically part of the Blue Ridge Mountains just south of Shenandoah, but this only means more stunning sweeping mountain views.
Nicole and Michael’s elopement on a fall October evening was filled with laughter, snuggles, and a breathtaking sunset. Raven’s Roost doesn’t require any hiking so all you have to do is park and walk down to the rocks.
Pick an elopement date and time that is not too busy.
To plan your elopement, it’s important to pick a date that will not be too busy or crowded. This means choosing a weekday if you can or at least avoiding peak seasons and major holidays as there can be a lot more people out hiking and sightseeing, so you can find yourself competing for parking spaces and hiking trails. There will probably always be some people, though, so be prepared to have people congratulate you!
Sunrise will always be the BEST time in Shenandoah National Park as well as a lot of the other Virginia Mountain locations since fewer people are out hiking that early. However, Raven’s Roost is West-facing, meaning that the sunset will be behind you and will create dreamy, golden-hour photos at sunset.
You should also consider the weather conditions on your chosen day. Rain and snow are the biggest concerns for Virginia mountain elopements, so prepare for those possibilities with your location, date, and the wedding attire and gear you want to bring.
All four seasons can be great times of year for a Virginia elopement; it just depends on your preference. The summer and fall seasons are more tourist-heavy while winter and spring can be a bit colder, of course, but there will probably be a lot fewer people. Be sure to keep an eye on the Blue Ridge Parkway official website for road and park closures.
However, I always encourage my couples to 1) Have an adventure mindset when it comes to whatever happens on your elopement day, to still try to have fun, and have an attitude that you WILL have an amazing time no matter what. Embrace the weather and embrace adventure. And 2) Always have backup plans. In the event of severe weather or road closures due to snow and ice, we will come up with backup plans during our planning together so that we can easily pivot.
How to Legally Get Married in Virginia
In order to legally elope in Virginia, you first have to get a marriage license from one of the Clerk of the Circuit Court offices. There are many across the state, so just find the one closest to where you live or where you plan to get married.
There are no residency requirements to elope here, so you don’t need to reside in Virginia to get married within the state.
You’ll need to bring along a current and valid form of ID, which can include your passport, driver’s license, or state ID card to prove your age, and you’ll also be asked for both of your parents’ full names, as per their birth certificates. An application fee of $30.00 is also required.
Both of you will need to visit the Circuit Court offices together, but you can fill out the Virginia marriage license application form in advance to save time (search online for your closest Circuit Court office to find their marriage forms online). Then, that’s pretty much it! Once your application is approved, there’s no waiting period and the license is valid for 60 days. You’re now officially able to elope in Virginia anywhere you like — how amazing is that?
Hire an officiant who fits your style and personality.
While witnesses are not required in a Virginia wedding, you can’t self-officiate your marriage the way you can in Washington DC. This means that you do need someone to act as an officiant and the state doesn’t perform Justice of the Peace/courthouse weddings. You can either go straight to the courthouse to get the legal paperwork done and then have your elopement adventure separately or you can obtain your marriage license and hire an officiant to perform your wedding ceremony and then sign the license.
Can anyone officiate a wedding in Virginia? Not really — your officiant needs to be registered with the state to perform marriages. Ordained ministers and marriage commissioners can also officiate. It’s possible for a friend or relative to apply for a one-time civil officiant license to marry you, but the catch is they must be a Virginia resident who lives in the county where you’re eloping.
I know this is a little confusing! But as a local elopement photographer in Virginia, I’ve had the honor of working with many amazing and inspiring officiants and am very glad to recommend someone to you — especially if you’re visiting from out of town!
Raven’s Roost Overlook Elopement Permit
Raven’s Roost is within the Blue Ridge Parkway which is run by the National Park Service. While Shenandoah National Park doesn’t require permits for weddings with less than 15 people, the Blue Ridge Parkway does require permits for both wedding ceremonies and portraits.
There is a non-refundable application fee of $60.00 due at the time of application and a non-refundable administrative fee of $40.00 due when the permit is issued. Weddings within the Parkway are also limited to 25 total people.
Choose the perfect outfit for your elopement.
Choosing the perfect outfit for your elopement is one of the most important decisions you will make. The dress is what everyone will remember, so it’s crucial that you choose something comfortable and stylish. You want to look back on this day fondly in years to come, but also don’t want to be sweating through your dress while hiking up a mountain!
The best way to ensure that this happens is by choosing something light enough that it won’t weigh down your bag or get too hot during your hike. When trying on wedding dresses, make sure to move around a lot in them, sit down, or even run around the room to ensure you aren’t restricted.
Where to Stay During Your Raven’s Roost Overlook Elopement
There are many wonderful locations nearby for both lodging and hosting a micro wedding reception should you want to invite guests.
When it comes to storytelling, I love to help my couples structure their elopement day so there’s a beginning, middle, and end. This means that we start at the beginning with getting ready photos and details to set the scene. Getting ready can happen at your lodging of choice, especially if you’ve hired a hair and makeup artist. You can choose to either get ready separately, which is more traditional or you can both get ready together, helping each other put your wedding attire on.
This is also the time when you can have a first look if you want. If you’ve chosen to get ready separately, and want a first look before heading to your ceremony location, like Raven’s Roost, think about lodging that will be a good backdrop for photos. Hotels are great but it can take a bit more work to get natural lighting in the rooms themselves and to find a visually pleasing location on the property for a first look.
This is why I encourage my couples to look into unique local and boutique hotels (not chains), local inns, and even Airbnb/Vrbo rentals that can double as your reception and celebrations later.
I’m so excited to offer Raven’s Roost Elopement and small wedding packages! Want to plan your own romantic Virginia mountain elopement? Contact me today to get started!