DOLLY SODS ELOPEMENT GUIDE: West Virginia Elopement Photographer

November 16, 2021

Updated for 2022

There are so many things to think about when having an elopement in Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia. If you have already thought about possibly choosing Dolly Sods as an elopement location, this guide will help you figure some things out (hopefully). We love the area and all that it has to offer, especially for privacy and beauty.

FIRST OFF, WHAT EXACTLY IS AN ELOPEMENT?

It’s just a way to say you love each other, but it still means as much as any other wedding. Elopements can be just the two of you or you can choose to still have some of your closest friends/family celebrate with you. You can make the day (or days) of it all and make it an epic memory that you will never forget. You focus on you and your love for each other more and it’s a bit less about an “event”.

Our style is 90% documentary/candids so we won’t pose you non-stop. We want to capture your day how it really is and how it unfolds.

WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE DOLLY SODS…

If you know Dolly Sods, you already know why. If you don’t know why yet…It’s just so beautiful. It’s peaceful and such a memorable place. It reminds us of Colorado in some spots. Shannon has been visiting it since she was really young. We have met so many people all over the US who love it there and always come back to it.

It’s got so many gorgeous trails and epic overlooks. We also live super close to it (about 30-40 min away depending on the entrance) so we know all the roads and many of the areas/overlooks that can be perfect. Because of how remote it is in Dolly Sods (forget about cell service — haha!), we can suggest where to stay and other things to do while in the area to help make your elopement memorable and easy.

There’s also a way to include some other locations if you choose Dolly Sods for the ceremony location for your elopement. We have a lot of couples who want to also have waterfalls for some photos and we know some pretty amazing spots nearby.

WHEN YOU SHOULD ELOPE:

What time of year is a big decision. The gates close January 1st (most years) and they don’t open the gates until April (which is smart because it can still get super icy and snowy there) but you can still walk in. Summer and fall is always super packed with people, but the colors are gorgeous! Since the gates are closed in winter (and hunting is going on then) so we suggest going before they close. Parking can be incredibly difficult from Thursday-Sunday too during the summers and falls, so we suggest having your day happen Monday-Wednesday. Some weekends are ok though and we can help you navigate it all.

Many of the trails have much less traffic during the week, so we always suggest doing a wedding between Sunday evening-Thursday morning if you choose a highly-trafficked area, if possible. If it’s not possible to do during the week, we can help figure out all the logistics to make it the best day for you two. There are so many access points though and we can help make it so much easier for you to plan and find the perfect spot and any day of the week.

We can also help you choose the timeline for the ceremony and all the festivities. There are certain locations that are better at sunrise and some that are way better at sunset for lighting and crowd reasons.

FUN WAYS TO MAKE YOUR DAY MEANINGFUL:

  • Write your own vows and share them with each other.
  • Get ready together.
  • Have a first look if you don’t get ready together.
  • Do something new. Hike somewhere new. Check out a new town.
  • Have a chef come to your place and cook you an insanely epic dinner.
  • Have a campfire at the end of the night.
  • Pop some champagne!

VENDORS YOU MIGHT NEED/WANT:

We can help you decide which vendors you might need and suggest some others also. We know you might not want many or you could want more. We are here to help suggest some local/nearby vendors and also help out in any other ways that we can.

  • Photographer (oh hey) ;)
  • Florist/Flowers
  • Officiant (we always say to choose someone close to you two or we have a couple good ones we can suggest)
  • Hair + MUA
  • Videographer
  • Music: (portable bluetooth speakers for the win!)
  • Food: Catering/Chef/Dinner
  • Accommodations

LICENSE/PERMITTING:

Dolly Sods is located in Grant and Tucker Counties, so you must get a license there. There is no waiting period in WV and they are valid for 60 days.

Here are links to both: GRANT LICENSE + TUCKER LICENSE

You do not need a permit to get married in Dolly Sods, though we do suggest keeping your guest list at a minimum and carpooling. It’s super tough to get parking there sometimes.

WHAT TO BUDGET FOR YOUR DAY:

It all depends on what you want to focus on and what vendors you truly need and want for your day. But we will be honest, it could cost about 50%+ of what it normally costs for a bigger wedding. We always tell our couples to talk about the true things that matter to them. We have a lot of foodie couples and they definitely want a great caterer/chef.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Do you have to travel to your elopement?
  • Will you have a honeymoon in the same location or go to another place?
  • How much do you want to spend on your attire? There are some places to grab some less expensive options.
  • Do you want live music? (some of our couples like to have local musicians which is super fun)
  • Do you want lots of flowers and decor?
  • Where will you stay? Do you want to rent a really nice place or not. Some places to stay will also cost a decent amount, depending on how many people you will be having with you.
  • What other vendors do you need? Hair/Makeup, Videography, etc.
  • Do you want to do any fun activities? (4x4s, SUPing, helicopter rides, etc.)

WHAT TO BRING (depending on the time of year):

  • Dress + Suit/Tux/etc
  • Layers of clothes if you are hiking and especially in places that have a chance of snow/colder weather (Colorado, I am talking about you — snowing in the Summer — haha). 
  • Extra socks
  • Hiking shoes/boots
  • Dressier shoes (if you want to change into them), but we love boots!
  • Backpacks
  • Illumination: Headlamps
  • Bug spray/Bug Netting
  • Rain gear (It can be super rainy and muddy)
  • Jackets
  • Base layers (thermals, cuddlduds, fleece leggings, etc)
  • Handwarmers 
  • Gloves
  • Snacks
  • Hydration/Camelbaks
  • Champagne and glasses, if you want to celebrate after! :) 

OTHER ACTIVITIES IN THE DOLLY SODS AREA:

Here are some other activities available in the area. There are so many options to make it a memorable experience. Eloping is so amazing because you get to make it WHATEVER you want it to be.

PLACES TO STAY:

We know there are lots to think about, but here is just a starting point for you and some things to think about.

DOLLY SODS WILDERNESS

SHARE THIS STORY

We're Shannon+Jake

We are elopement, intimate weddings + adventure session photographers. We are based in the east coast, but available to travel wherever you want to adventure. We are here to help create an amazing day for you.

CONTACT US TO LEARN MORE