How To Hike in Your Wedding Dress | Elopement Tips & Tricks

This is always one of the FIRST questions that I get from brides after they have decided to elope… How on earth do you hike in a wedding dress? After going on over 50 elopement adventures with brides in dresses of all shapes and sizes, I’ve found a few helpful tips for hiking in a wedding dress.

“One of the best unplanned parts of the wedding was just being in nature doing what we enjoy in the elaborate, beautiful, unique dress. Not feeling so strict and allowing myself to have fun & get that thang red n dusty!”

Let’s start from the beginning: Finding your dream dress. Don’t let the fear of hiking in your wedding dress stop you from getting the dress that you have always dreamed of. Whether you want to feel like a nature queen in a full ball gown, or prefer to have a sleek form fitting dress, I promise that you can find a way to hike in it!

bride hiking into the sunset at her elopement in sedona, arizona

Consider the season and climate for when and where you are getting married

  • Warmer climates/Summer/Spring: Think about breathability! You might want to steer away from something with long sleeves and super tight material. You will most likely get hot and sweaty, so try to find a dress that will allow you to cool down properly. My favorite wedding dress fabrics to stick to for summer elopements are chiffon and organza which are both perfect for air flow and movement.
  • Cooler climates/Winter/Autumn: One of the most important things to consider for an elopement in a cooler climate or in winter or autumn is warmth! There is nothing worse than being miserably cold on your wedding day. Don’t be afraid of dresses with long sleeves or lots of material. If you choose to get a dress without long sleeves then you definitely should consider what layers you will need, which I will chat about later on!
bride and groom hiking in wedding clothes at their elopement in Moab Utah

Do you want to hike in your wedding dress or change at your destination?

Some brides want to wear their wedding dress for their whole wedding adventure, and some do not. What you decide is completely up to YOU. This can all be decided based on a few different factors including: the length and difficulty of your hike, the weather, terrain, how comfortable your dress is, and how dirty you want your dress to get. 

When I say “destination” I am referring to the more “iconic” parts of the hike for example: a viewpoint, a mountaintop, cliff edge, etc. These are spots where you may want to do a first look, read your vows, have a picnic, or stay for a good amount of time for photos.

Length & Difficulty of Hike

This is a huge determining factor for deciding whether or not you want to hike in your wedding dress or change at your destination. This is completely up to YOU. One bride may feel completely comfortable staying in their dress the entire hike while another may not. If you’ve chosen a hike that is longer than 2 miles one way or a major elevation climb, I’d suggest that you change at your destination. Keep on reading to see my tips for packing your dress for a hike! If your hike is shorter and less difficult then you can absolutely get away with wearing it on the hike. Good shoes and the right clothing layers will be your best friend to ensure that you are comfortable on the hike.

bride and groom hiking in wedding clothes at their elopement in the grand canyon

Weather

This is completely up to what is “ideal” weather to YOU. If you can see yourself getting uncomfortably cold or hot while hiking in your dress then I’d consider changing at your destination. You can always add layers when you are hiking if it is on the colder side. I’ll chat more about what layers to consider bringing on your elopement day later on!

Terrain

Is your hike on the flatter or more rocky side? If you have to climb or scramble at all on your hike then for your safety I’d suggest that you change at your destination. Safety is always the most important! If you’re going to be hiking alongside a cliff edge with high winds for an extended amount of time I would also consider changing at your destination. Wedding dress with lots of volume can act like a kite in high wind situations.

bride and groom standing on a cliff edge at their elopement in arizona

Comfort

Is your dress comfortable? Can you see yourself hiking in it for an extended amount of time? If not, then you can change at your destination. If you found a dress that is super comfortable then you can absolutely hike in it! 

Dress Dirtiness

Are you like me and oddly obsessed with super dirty wedding dresses? Then you should wear it for the whole hike! The more dirt the merrier, am I right? If you don’t agree with me that is absolutely okay too! I know wedding dresses are a huge investment so if you want to keep yours in cleaner condition then you should change at the destination. It will still get dirty because we will be in the wilderness so keep that in mind!

bride and groom hiking at a waterfall in olympic national park

How to change into your wedding dress at your destination

If you are leaning more towards changing into your dress at the destination then you are probably wondering HOW you are going to change into your dress. This completely depends on the scenery, privacy, and your comfort level. In locations without a lot of people most brides try to find a tree or bush to change behind. If you don’t feel comfortable changing in the exposed elements like that then we can bring blankets to hold as you change. Your partner or I can stand lookout so no one sees you. If you want to do a first look then I’d suggest trying to coordinate having your photographer or a friend help you get into your dress.

bride and groom hiking at their elopement in Rocky Mountain national park

Ways to make yourself more comfortable while hiking in your wedding dress

Layers, layers, layers!

If you’re hiking before the sun comes up or in a colder climate than layers will be your best friend. Some layers I suggest to my couples for the colder elopement experiences include gloves, scarves, thermal skin colored leggings, and jackets. If you just plan on wearing most of the layers while hiking then I wouldn’t worry about them being super “photo worthy”. What really matters is your comfort! If you need to wear a jacket for most of your elopement day then bring along your favorite colored jacket, a leather jacket, a warm cardigan, or whatever fits your vibe. It’s always better to bring too many layers than not enough.

Shoes

Shoes are by far the most important aspect to consider for hiking in your wedding dress. The type of shoes you wear will depend on the climate, terrain, and your personal preference. You can wear your trusty hiking shoes or even your favorite running shoes. My personal favorites are my Chacos which you can find me wearing year around. Consider the type of traction you need for your hike while deciding what shoes to wear. If you don’t want to wear hiking shoes for your whole elopement experience then you can absolutely bring a comfortable pair of heels. If you do want to wear heels then I suggest a chunky heel rather than a stiletto. While hiking though I do suggest that you wear proper athletic footwear to prevent an injury.

Bustle Up

Bustling (which is a fancy way to say pinning up) your wedding dress will make it much easier to hike in. While at your alterations appointment I would tell them that you do plan on hiking in it so a higher bustle would be preferred. You can also suggest to them to make the bustling as simple as possible so it isn’t a hassle to bustle and unbustle. Most dresses also have a loop of material underneath that you can either hold or pin to your hiking backpack. I will of course help with this because it is hard to explain.

If all else fails, bunch it up!

 In the wise words of one of my brides “ toss that thing over your shoulder like santa’s knapsack”. If your dress has a long train then you might want to just toss it over your shoulder. If your dress has lots of material then you might have to hike with it all bunched up like a really cute bridal diaper LOL. You will find the ways that you feel most comfortable hiking in your wedding dress as the day goes on.

How to pack your dress for hiking


If you’ve decided to change into your dress once you arrive at your destination then now we need to chat about how to pack your dress for the hike. This will all depend on the size of your dress. If your dress is more of a ballgown style with lots of fabric then it probably won’t be able to roll up to be able to fit into your backpack. If this is the case then I would suggest keeping it in the dress bag and hooking it onto your hiking back If your dress is on the more flexible and flowy side of the spectrum then I suggest that you roll it up and either stuff it in your hiking backpack or use the straps to attach it to the front of your backpack like you would with a sleeping bag.

How to stay fresh after hiking in your wedding dress

After hiking in your wedding dress you may feel like you need to freshen up before continuing on with photos and your wedding experience. I highly recommend that you bring a bag of these essentials to freshen up with:

  1. Deodorant
  2. Perfume
  3. Lipstick
  4. Makeup Powder
  5. Makeup Setting Spray
  6. Bobby Pins

I hope that I was able to help you with all of your questions relating to hiking in your wedding dress. As always, feel free to comment any questions that you have so I can help you out!

Happy Adventuring!!

xoxo,

Caitlyn

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