Updated for 2024 + 2025

Why Should You Elope in Arkansas?

It’s quick to plan.

It’s easy to plan.

It’s beautiful all throughout the state.

And it can even be free to elope at some locations!

I’ve been photographing and helping couples plan their Arkansas elopements since 2015. I love this state for elopements (outside of the fact it’s beautiful) because it can be so easy and affordable to plan the occasion here. So many Arkansas locations are easily accessible, so you don’t have to be a skilled hiker, and the process to obtain your marriage license is quick and easy. There’s locations you can have your ceremony at for less than $150, or even free! There’s something for everybody here. If you want something totally rural and away from the buzz of the city, you got it, or if you want urban vibes in a quirky city, we’ve got that, too.

Arkansas is known as “The Natural State” because there’s loads of beautiful outdoor spaces to explore like:

  • mountains
  • waterfalls
  • lakes
  • rivers
  • caves
  • forests
  • natural springs

And you can get married at any of them!

So, What Exactly is an Elopement?

You might get a different answer depending on who you ask, but to me, an elopement follows three simple criteria:

  • 15 or less guests are in attendance.
  • Crafted to tell the couple’s love story in a unique, personalized way.
  • Prioritizes the couple’s wants and experience, and not anybody else’s

With elopements, you’re ditching the norm of the wedding experience largely prioritizing the guest experience as well. Instead, you are prioritizing what the day is all about: you and your partner, and the love story that you’ve been writing together. You get to do whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want when you choose to elope!

With weddings, being a host and crafting a fun experience for friends and family in honor of your love is exactly what some couples want, but that’s okay if it’s not what YOU want! Maybe you want something that’s more limitless and allows you to spend more one-on-one time with your spouse. Maybe you want to be somewhere incredibly scenic and special to you, but there’s not a venue that will accommodate guest there. Maybe you want to focus your budget on an adventurous experience followed by a honeymoon more so than a big elaborate party. Eloping, or even planning an intimate wedding (aka a more relaxed traditional wedding day structure of 25 or so guests), is exactly what you’re looking for.

Planning an Arkansas Elopement

I’ll break down everything you need to know about eloping in Arkansas and give you a decade-worth of advise and tips. I’ll cover things like:

  • How to obtain your marriage license
  • Where to elope
  • When to elope
  • When to reach out to vendors
  • Obtaining special use permits to host your ceremony
  • Ideas for what to do on elopement day
  • What elopement day timelines look like

Choosing a Date Based on Weather & Foliage Patterns

Choosing a Date Based on Weather & Foliage Patterns

Considering weather patterns and foliage is one of the most important components of planning an elopement, especially if you will be outdoors for the majority, or all, of the day. If you have a specific date you want because it’s sentimental to you, you can read this just to have an idea of what the weather will be like at that time. If you need to pick a date and want to plan around weather and foliage patterns, you can find out what fits your needs best from this info.

The Short Answer

Fall colors timeframe: Last 3 weeks of October through the first week of November.

Bare trees and dead grass timeframe: Late November through [usually] mid March.

Hot weather timeframe: 90+ temps in May – September.

Cold weather timeframe: Temps below 50 in December – February.

If you want waterfalls: November is generally the wettest month of the year, and the summer months are the driest.

The Long Answer

*Please keep in mind that seasonal changes can shift by a few weeks year by year, and temperatures can sometimes be sporadic. This is general information based on the last few years of Arkansas weather patterns. Be sure to do your own research on your desired timeframe to collect as much information as possible, and ask your elopement vendors any questions about this topic in case they have any info specific to your timeframe.

Foliage Patterns: Around mid to late November through mid to late March, the trees will be bare. Usually by mid to late March the green is coming back in the trees, slowly but surely. The green usually isn’t fully back until about mid April. The greens will hang around in the trees until mid to late October, when fall colors will settle in. Fall colors usually don’t last more than a few weeks in Arkansas. Most of the leaves will have fallen off by mid November.

Floral Growth: If you want lots of florals in your scenery, I recommend reserving a botanical garden, like Garvan Gardens or Wildwood Park for the Arts. depending on the types of florals, Arkansas can see blooms in as early as late February through the summer.

Temperatures: Temps can get very hot and humid early May to late September, with it getting upwards of the 110s many of those days, and averaging in the mid or upper 90s most days in this timeframe. If you have a health condition that makes the heat and/or humidity difficult for you, be sure to limit your time outdoors if you plan an event in this timeframe, and keep in mind that this is a time of year that you’re most prone to sweating. Arkansas winter can be all over the place, temperature wise. Typically we have temps sitting in the 40s and 50s for most of the season, but we can see temps in the 30s or lower in the middle of the season, usually around January, and it can be in the 60s and 70s in the beginning/late parts of December and February. Other times of the year, the temperatures are generally comfortable in the mid 60s to low 80s.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Date & Location

Tourist Seasons

Spring: Late spring is the start of river floating season, so some river areas may not be accessible or ideal due to the excessive amount of people floating and kayaking. This can also be a bit busier time of year for weddings and elopements, and tourists visiting parks and trails, compared the summer and winter, so try planning a weekday elopement to cut down on the crowds and to have better odds of booking your priority vendors. Weekends are still definitely doable in this timeframe and you never know if your favorite vendor still has an opening!

Summer: Lakes and other bodies of water will be more congested with visitors during the hot months, but other types of locations aren’t usually too bad.

Fall: This is the most popular time of year for people to get out and explore due to the nice temps and fall colors. It’s also the most popular time for weddings and elopements. Parks and trails will be busier than usual, and accommodations and vendors can book out quickly because of this. Scheduling for a weekday can help to avoid the crowds and sparse vendor/accommodation availabilities, but Fridays-Sundays are still totally doable and you never know if your dream vendor still has an opening even if you’re booking somewhat last-minute!

Winter: If you plan to honeymoon in Arkansas and will be staying in a popular tourist city, like Eureka Springs, be aware that many of the shops, restaurants, and attractions close during the off-season.

Best Days to Elope On

Mondays – Thursdays for less crowds

Fridays – Sundays for weekend convenience

Since the best time to elope (weather & foliage wise) is often the same time of year that parks and other areas are most busy, eloping on a Monday – Thursday, while most people are in work or school, is recommended to help shave down the crowd. Fridays – Sundays are still totally possible, though! A skilled elopement photographer will be familiar with the traffic patterns of your location and can give you the best advice for planning your elopement, and they will also know how to work with angles, and have secret spots to take you to, so that you don’t have a big audience or people photobombing in the background of every single one of your photos.

When to Reach Out & Book Your Vendors

When to Reach Out: It doesn’t hurt to reach out to vendors as soon as you’re ready to start planning, or even if you just have questions and are only humoring the idea of getting married soon. Your priority elopement photographer may be able to help you solve some of the questions on your mind about eloping, and can even help you pick the perfect date and location, so you don’t need to know this info before reaching out! The majority of my couples don’t know where to elope before we hop on the phone, and by the end of our phone call they already have a place picked out, or are deciding between their top two we went over during their call!

When to Book: You can totally decide to elope and start booking your vendors with just a few weeks notice. Just be aware that the shorter the notice, the more likely vendors are to already be booked (this includes finding accommodations near your destination). October and November generally book out the fastest for wedding/elopement vendors and accommodations because the fall is a very popular time in Arkansas. If you want a fall date, I advise reaching out at least 6 months in advance or more for the best odds of booking your dream team and finding great accommodations. All of that said, even if you decide to plan an elopement with just a few weeks or less of notice, REACH OUT TO YOUR DREAM VENDORS!! You never know if they still have your date open.

Where to Elope

Arkansas is jam-packed with amazing locations to elope. There’s mountain overlooks, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and cities for an urban vibe, too. You can check out some of my favorites on my Best Places to Elope in Arkansas blog. I personally like to go over a questionnaire with my couples when they don’t know where to elope, that way I can narrow down their vibe and needs and suggest a good match. Many other seasoned elopement photographers will do something similar.

Obtaining Special Use Permits & Leave No Trace

Permits: Most locations are going to require a special use permit in order to legally host your ceremony on-site. You can contact the park services connected to your desired location for more info on the permit process and cost. If you’re unsure what park service manages the area, ask one of your elopement-specialized vendors if they can help connect you to the right contact. Most areas have a max headcount (including you, your guests, and your vendors) allowed. Most areas will not let you set up chairs, an altar, or floral arrangements, or toss florals/confetti/glitter/etc.. Failure to abide by the rules within your permit can result in a fine, so be sure to thoroughly go over your elopement plans with the park, read through the permit carefully, and ask any questions you have.

Leave No Trace: A part of your duty as a special use permit holder is to uphold Leave No Trace principles (LNT). You can familiarize yourself with LNT on the official website here. In short, please remember to leave as little impact on the land as possible so we can keep our parks open for future visitors and couples wanting to elope in the outdoors.

What an Elopement Day Timeline Looks Like

Because elopements are so limitless, your timeline could be as little as 1 hour, to as much as a multi-day event. This is really going to depend on what all you want coverage of, where you choose to elope, and what kind of activities you decide to do during your elopement (i.e. hike to a waterfall, take a boat out on the lake, get a new tattoo with your boo, etc.). You generally will want to plan for a time around sunset or sunrise for best lighting conditions, but this can vary depending on the location, or if you’re planning an indoor elopement.

The average Arkansas elopement couple books me for about 5-7 hours of coverage for one day. This is generally enough time for us to get photos of them getting ready, us going to a few locations in the area and/or doing adventure activities, doing their ceremony, and maybe going back to their cabin for cake at the end of the day.

Here’s a sample timeline of a real Arkansas adventure elopement scheduled around sunset:

  • Getting Ready & Details | 1:00
  • First Look | 3:00
  • Drive to trailhead | 3:15
  • Hike to waterfall | 3:30
  • Arrive at waterfall. Do the ceremony and take portraits | 4:15
  • Hike back to cars | 5:30
  • Drive to overlook for sunset | 6:30
  • Arrive at overlook for portraits and to watch the sunset | 6:45
  • Stick around for blue hour photos | 7:30
  • End coverage | 8:00

Activities to Do on Elopement Day

I always suggest trying to plan some kind of activity to do during your elopement to make it feel more like an experience than a photoshoot. Some ideas of what to do:

  • Hike to an overlook/waterfall/cave/etc.
  • Take a boat out on the lake
  • Go kayaking/canoeing
  • Go camping and make some smores at your campfire
  • Have a picnic
  • Enjoy some cake and champagne
  • Have your first dance as a married couple
  • Get matching wedding tattoos
  • Go rock climbing
  • Ride bikes together
  • Do an excursion available in the area (ghost tours, bar-hopping, etc.)
  • Go swimming or cliff jumping
  • Go mudding
  • Go horseback riding
  • Re-live your first date
  • Go bowling
  • Anything that’s special and unique to you guys!

How to Acquire Your Arkansas Marriage License

So you’ve figured out the date and the place, got your vendors and accommodations booked, acquired any applicable permits for your location, and have your whole day planned out. All that’s left is obtaining your marriage license and doing the dang thang on elopement day! Here’s the rundown on getting your license:

  • Licenses are issued at any county courthouse in Arkansas Monday-Friday from 8:00am-5:00pm (closed on major holidays).
  • You can leave the courthouse with your license the same day you apply.
  • You can obtain your license at any conveniently located courthouse in Arkansas and use it anywhere within the state, just return it to the same courthouse you got it from within 60 days.
  • The fee for your license is $60 (cash or card only).
  • Both you and your partner must be present to apply for the license, and must be 18 years or older.
  • You both must provide identification, such as drivers license or passport.
  • A blood test is not required.

*Requirements for obtaining your marriage license might slightly vary by courthouse. Call the courthouse you plan to use to ensure you are prepared with all documents and proper payment method.

Elopement Checklist

Here’s a step-by-step guide to plan your dream elopement from the very beginning of the planning process to the big day.

  1. Reach out to your favorite photographer (aka me) and let them help you curate your magical day.
  2. Book all of the other vendors you want, like hair and make-up, florals, video, etc.
  3. Book accommodations for your destination.
  4. Acquire a special use permit to host your ceremony at your desired location. (if applicable)
  5. Book an officiant. (Oh hey, I can do that for you, too. Now you don’t have to do this step!)
  6. Acquire your marriage license.
  7. Get married, have a blast, and have your officiant fill out your license.
  8. Return your completed marriage license to the courthouse you obtained it from.

Congrats, You just eloped!!!

Ready to start planning the most awesome experience of your life? Reach out and let’s chat about your elopement vision!

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