How Do You Hike in a Wedding Dress?!

If you’ve decided to forgo the traditional wedding route and get married on the side of a mountain (or in a rainforest or on a black sand beach next to floating chunks of ice …) you’re probably wondering “Ok but how in the hell do I get my dress there?!”. As an adventure elopement photographer it’s one of the things I get asked about ALL THE TIME. If you’re wondering how to hike in your wedding dress, this is for you!

Read on for my 5 best tips for getting your dress to where it needs to be on the big day!

1. choose the right wedding or elopement dress

The easiest way to set yourself up for success is to start with a dress that is easy to hike in. While no dresses are made specifically for this purpose (still waiting for this April Fool’s joke from a few years back to actually come true …), some dresses are definitely better than others for this. Look for a dress that lets you move freely – including being able to step up big steps. I’ve found that dresses with flowy bottoms work really well for elopements (and they look AMAZING when the wind starts blowing!!) for this exact reason. Remember that you can always layer leggings and warm socks and boots for colder climates. If your elopement is going to be in a place (or at a time of year) that is going to be really cold, think about bringing a long a jacket or shawl that will look great in pictures. We can always take it off (the jacket, not the dress – unless you’re into that sort of thing …) for some photos and then put it back on so you can get warm again!

2. decide whether you want to hike in your dress or carry it in your pack

This largely depends on the dress itself, how easy it is to hike in, and how far we’re going. I’d say that half my couples who are hiking choose to do their entire hike in their dress while the other half will carry it part way (or have me carry it part way! ha!) and then change into it when we get to our final destination. Trust me when I say that I’ve carried a lot of beautiful dresses up a lot of mountains! Again, choosing a dress that can be rolled up and attached to a pack will make this a lot easier! Even for couples who choose not to wear their dresses for most of the hike itself I make sure to have them wear it for at least some hiking so we can get fun shots!

3. be aware of backpack straps on bare shoulders

This is something almost no one thinks about when choosing an elopement dress but it’s something to consider! If you’re hiking to your location and planning on carrying a backpack, you may want to think bout a dress that covers more of your back. Why? Backpack straps tend to leave red marks on your shoulders and these marks can be pretty visible in photos! Alternatively you can consider wearing a hip pack or just making sure that you have plenty of time between when you get to your location and when you do your ceremony so that any red marks can go away. It’s a perfect excuse to have a picnic or spend some time just enjoying the scenery when we get to that epic spot!

4. wear shoes you can actually hike in

This isn’t the time for fancy heals, y’all! Please please please make sure that whatever you wear on your feet is appropriate for hiking, scrambling, crossing streams, etc.! The last thing you want to do is be in pain (or worse, roll an ankle!) trying to hike in inappropriate footwear. I strongly recommend hiking boots (or Chacos or Sorel snow boots …). You typically can’t see your shoes under a dress anyway so it’s best to be comfortable! You can always throw that fancy footwear into your pack to put on for pictures!

5. accept that your dress is going to get dirty (and that it will all be worth it!)

I’m just going to say it: Ending your wedding or elopement day with a dirty dress is kind of badass. In a word that wants you to be so pristine and SO PERFECT on this day, being willing to get dirty feels a little bit like giving the middle finger to wedding culture and all the expectations that come with it. This day isn’t about looking perfect – it’s about having an experience that you’ll want to relive for years to come. Your dress is going to get dirty. Embrace it!