Here's everything you need to know so you can plan your Sun Valley Idaho Elopement & Micro-wedding! As a local Sun Valley Idaho elopement photographer, I've been visiting the Sawtooths for over 25 years. I have been photographing and planning Sun Valley Idaho elopements for over 10 years. It's one of my favorite places in the entire world so I hope you love this guide and find it useful!
In this guide, I will go cover:
- What makes the Sawtooths such a special place to get married and why you should get married there!
- How to get to Sun Valley and Stanley Idaho and travel recommendations.
- Where to begin with planning your Sun Valley Idaho elopement and wedding.
- Weather insights and what time of year to plan your elopement and micro-wedding.
- A complete list of the best Airbnb's, cabins, and hotels in Sun Valley and Idaho to stay!
- Incredible locations in both Sun Valley and Stanley Idaho for your elopement and wedding day.
- Experienced wedding vendors in Sun Valley and Stanley Idaho.
- How to budget for your Sun Valley Idaho Elopement & Micro-Wedding.
- Recreation and things to do while on your trip!
- Additional local tips!
- Services I provide as a Sun Valley Idaho Elopement Photographer
Why You Should Elope in the Sawtooths
The Sawtooths are an epic mountain range part of the Rocky Mountains located in Central Idaho. They're known for their jagged peaks, stunning alpine lakes, vast meadows with wildlife & sage, and limitless recreation opportunities. Idaho is also mighty proud of the Sawtooths because unlike our neighbors Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana, we don't get nearly as many tourists as our surrounding Rocky Mountain states. What also makes the Sawtooths elite are the miles and miles of National Forest Service backroads which are open for dispersed camping and adventure. If you're looking for a truly epic experience and stunning beauty with the privacy only the Sawtooths can provide, this is your place.
How to Get There
Stanley is located 2.5 hours from Boise, Idaho. The easiest way to get there is by flying into Boise airport, renting a car, and making the scenic drive down highway 21. Although you don't need a 4WD vehicle to drive to Stanley, I highly advise renting a small SUV with AWD or 4WD. Some of the best scenic spots are located on dirt roads. However, the highway is paved and many of the main lakes and trailheads are also paved.
To get to Sun Valley, you may choose to fly into Sun Valley airport. The Friedman Memorial Airport located in Hailey, Idaho is 15 minutes from Sun Valley. There are year round direct flights from Seattle, Salt Lake, Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Flying into Sun Valley is more expensive, but will save you a three hour drive from Boise if you want to get straight to the mountains.
How to Start Planning Your Elopement or Micro-Wedding in Sun Valley, Idaho
As an adventure elopement photographer who has shot over 50 weddings in the Sawtooth area, there are a few questions I like to ask couples before they get started planning. These questions will guide the rest of your decisions, from where you'll decide to book lodging to where your ceremony will take place and more!
- How many guests are you bringing with you?
- What time of year do you want to plan your wedding?
- How long are you willing to hike or drive to your ceremony location?
How many guests are attending your elopement or micro wedding?
It's important right away to distinguish if you are eloping or having a micro wedding. Vendors will want to know up front whether you are eloping or hosting a micro wedding so they can send you the most accurate quote for their services! The definition of an elopement has evolved since our parents and grandparents eloped.
Most vendors agree that a true elopement doesn't have any guests in attendance at all. However, if you're inviting just your few immediate family members and have fewer than 10 guests, some vendors might also consider that an elopement. Another way to distinguish between an elopement and a micro-wedding is asking yourself whether you plan on hosting your guests for a dinner reception or serving food after your ceremony. If you're hosting guests, they will likely want to eat or celebrate your marriage after watching you get married and that will fall into the micro-wedding category!
If you've decided to include 20-40 guests with a hosted dinner reception, then you fall into the micro wedding category! It's important to evaluate whether your guests are physically able to join you for a hike to your ceremony location or if they're willing to drive on backroad Forest Service roads right away. That will determine your ceremony location and the amount of adventure you need to plan on your wedding day!
What time of year are you going to get married?
The Sawtooths are notorious for having fairly unpredictable weather. Sun Valley and Stanley tend to have weather extremes from super hot dry summer days to extremely cold blizzarding winter days. Also, there have been many wedding days in the Sawtooths where I've experienced both sun and snow and rain in the same day!
Undoubtedly, November through April is going to be the coldest time of the year. Access to Alturas, Stanley, and Redfish Lakes outside of Stanley, Idaho are only accessible via snowshoe or snow mobile. The Mountain Village in Stanley is open year round as well as the grocery store and gas station. However, most local restaurants are closed for the season and guest service options are limited. I typically advise my clients in the winter who choose to get married in Stanley to get married at the Stanley Meditation Chapel or pick a cabin rental with views of the Sawtooths. The average temperature is 26 degrees in January.
Without a doubt, Sun Valley is an extremely popular town in the winter. The Sun Valley ski resort is famous for having the very first chairlift ever built in 1936. Sun Valley tourism peaks during the winter season. Eloping or hosting a wedding in Sun Valley during the winter months will provide you with more options for lodging, eating, and wedding vendors.
Certainly, June through September is the busiest time of year for tourists in Stanley, Idaho. Tourists flock to Stanley in the summer for recreational hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking. The best weather tends to peak in July before fire season hits. There is still a chance of rain or wind storms in the summer months, but it's the warmest time of year! The average temperature in Stanley in July is 79 degrees.
Unfortunately over the last several years, fire season tends to hit the Sawtooth National forest towards the end of August until October. There is no way of predicting exactly where forest fires will burn or how severe they will be. However, I advise clients to take fire season into account as it can be extremely dangerous to be outdoors when the air quality is toxic during fire season. For that reason, evacuations are a possibility in more remote locations in Stanley, Grand Jean, Lowman, and Galena. Additionally, visibility may also be impacted so seeing the mountains could be impossible!
You have your guest count and a date, now what?
Once you've decided on the time of year you want to get married and how many guests are coming along for the party, I always recommend picking your ceremony location and lodging. Lodging books up extremely fast in Stanley, Idaho due to the limited options. Sun Valley, Idaho will have more lodging options in the winter season. Your choice of lodging will also depend on whether you want to have a more glamorous experience with modern amenities or a rustic cabin in the remote Sawtooths! In general, you'll find more cabin rentals in Stanley and hotels/resorts in Sun Valley!
Hotels & Airbnb's in Stanley, Idaho for your elopement & micro-wedding
- Triangle C Cabins in Stanley, Idaho.
- Redfish Lake Lodge Cabins at Redfish Lake, Idaho.
- Beckwith Cabin in Lower Stanley, Idaho.
- Decker Peak Cabin with Panoramic Views in Stanley, Idaho
- Mountain Views Cabin in Stanley, Idaho
- Meadow Creek Tiny Houses & Spa in Stanley, Idaho
- Retro Remote Cabin with 360 Degree Views outside of Stanley, Idaho
- Log Home with Hot Tub & Scenic Views In Stanley, Idaho
- Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch All Inclusive Venue outside of Stanley, Idaho
- The Historic & Rustic Sawtooth Lodge in Grand Jean, Idaho
- Crooked Creek Ranch in Stanley, Idaho
- All-Inclusive and Private Diamond D Ranch in Stanley, Idaho
All of the Best Places to Stay in Sun Valley, Idaho for your elopement & micro-wedding
- The Limelight Hotel in Ketchum, Idaho
- The Sun Valley Lodge in Ketchum, Idaho
- The Sun Valley Cottages in Ketchum, Idaho
- Knob Hill Inn in Ketchum, Idaho
- River Front Cabin in Ketchum, Idaho
- Rustic Log Cabin in Ketchum, Idaho
- The Smiley Creek Modern Tiny Homes & Cottages in Smiley Creek, Idaho
Best Locations to Elope in Stanley, Idaho
- Stanley Lake, Idaho: This lake has the best mountain views in the Sawtooths accessible via car. No hike necessary! I highly recommend sunrise ceremonies at Stanley Lake to avoid the crowds. The alpen glow on the mountains is unreal at Stanley Lake! Note: setting up an arch or florals is not recommended unless you reserve a campground site on the lake in advance.
- Redfish Lake North Shore in Idaho: With a white sandy beach and a perfect clear shot of the Sawtooths, this beach is my favorite for elopements and micro-weddings alike. There is plenty of tree cover here! The lake water is crystal clear.
- Redfish Lake Lodge Boat Rental: If you're looking for a private experience and epic adventure without a hike, why not rent a boat from the Redfish Lake Marina? Boating to the far side of Redfish Lake under Thompson Peak is one of my favorite things to do. It feels remote and more wild. Take a dip! Cliff jump! Dock your boat on the sandy beach and get married under towering peaks.
- Goat Lake in the Sawtooths: For couples looking for an epic adventure and want a strenuous hike on their wedding day, you can't get anything better than Goat Lake. Goat Lake feels otherworldly. After abandoning the large crowds on the Iron Creek Trailhead going to Sawtooth lake, you'll scramble up a scree field. The trek isn't easy, but it's worth it. With unparalleled views of giant boulders plunging into an aqua alpine lake, it's one of a kind. Goat Lake takes about 6 hours to complete round trip. It's a 12 mile long trail with 1800 feet of elevation gain. Note: hiking experience is recommended for this hike. I would not recommend this hike to a novice or someone who isn't in great physical shape!
- Fishhook Creek Meadow: I first visited this trail when I was four years old. This is a great option if you are looking for an easy hike. It's 4 miles roundtrip and flat! The meadow at the end of the creek is absolutely stunning. In the fall, this trail is lined with orange and yellow aspens.
- Nip & Tuck Road in Lower Stanley, Idaho: For good reason, this is my most requested location. The secret has been out for a while about Nip & Tuck. You can access it from Highway 21 near Stanley Lake or Lower Stanley. Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere along this road so it is very popular with vans, RVs, and car campers. Finding a spot can be tricky and in the summer, you may have some campers making dinner next to you. However, the views of the Sawtooths are gorgeous along the ridge. A 4WD vehicle is required for the drive. For these reasons, I recommend finding a location at least 48 hours before your ceremony. Pitch a tent to secure your spot to make sure no one snags it!
- Petit Lake Petit Lake is a little lesser known than Redfish Lake and Stanley Lake. You won't find plumbing in their bathrooms, but you will find tranquility along the shores of Petit Lake. Petit Lake is a great option whether you're staying in Stanley or Sun Valley. It is 45 minutes from Sun Valley or 30 minutes from Stanley.
- Alturas Lake Next door to Petit Lake is Alturas Lake. These two alpine lake locations are easy to drive to and have far fewer tourists than Redfish or Stanley!
- Alice Lake I'll never forget the first time I was old enough to join my parents on the hike to Alice Lake. Alice Lake has the most dramatic view of the jagged Sawtooths of any alpine lake (in my opinion). If you are up for an adventure on a well established trail, Alice Lake can be done in one day. At 12 miles round trip with 1600 feet in elevation gain, it's not quite as intense as Goat Lake. It's every bit as beautiful, however, and it's kinder on your body!
- Sawtooth Lake No doubt, you've seen photos of Sawtooth Lake if you've heard about Stanley. Sawtooth Lake is a moderate hike. Although it is very popular, going early in the season or on a weekday is well worth the hike.
- Stanley Meditation Chapel: I recommend Stanley Meditation Chapel if you are planning a micro-wedding with guests who may have disabilities or mobility issues. It's the easiest option on this list, especially because you can rent the chapel for your use privately. Also, I always say you can never go wrong with the chapel!
P.s. Wilderness permits are required for all day hikes in the Sawtooths. But! They are free! You can fill them out at the trailhead.
Best Places to Elope In Sun Valley, Idaho
- Sun Valley Resort Gondola If you've always imagined getting married on top of a mountain, the Sun Valley Resort offers an incredible gondola ride to the top. You can rent The Roundhouse for ceremonies of all sizes!
- Trail Creek Cabin Unlike its fancier counterpart, the Trail Creek Cabin offers a more quaint, cozy wedding venue option. It's a great venue to host a micro-wedding and ceremony alike. If you want a no-fuss inclusive experience, Trail Creek Cabin offers catering and bar service in its packages. All things considered, the cabin has a perfect view of Mt. Baldy and you can host everything in one place!
- Galena Lodge Mountain bikers love Galena Lodge. In fact, it has some of the best trails in Idaho! Of all the venues and epic trails in Idaho, Galena Lodge is one of my absolute favorite spots in Idaho for an elopement or micro-wedding. Additionally, you can stay on site at one of their incredible yurts. Walking along the trail through the forest pines, you emerge in a pristine meadow with views of the Boulder Mountains. Leaving the glitz and glamour in Sun Valley behind, Galena feels rustic and remote.
- Sun Peak Picnic Area Next on the list is my favorite river spot in Sun Valley. In contrast to the other mountain locations, Sun Peak Picnic offers trails along the riverbed. This is my favorite spot to visit in the fall. Lining the river are incredible dense aspen trees. Subsequently, it's the perfect location to elope in the fall when the leaves change. Lastly, it's only five minutes from Ketchum!
- Proctor Hill In addition to the epic views on the Sun Valley Gondola, Proctor Hill is a short hike with unbelievable views of Mt. Baldy. So if you have a hankering to have an adventurous hiking experience and want views of the ski hills, Proctor Hill is a great spot for an elopement.
- Boulder Mountains The Boulders may not be as famous as the Sawtooths, but they're every bit as gorgeous. Also, the Boulder Mountains are closer to Sun Valley so if you're staying in Sun Valley, the Boulders are a great option for a mountain ceremony.
The Best Wedding Vendors in Sun Valley Idaho
Elopement & Micro-Wedding Planners
- Emily Aitken Events: Although you might be surprised that many couples choose to hire an elopement planner, having help setting up, managing the timeline day of, and coordinating your vendors will make your day so smooth!
- Sprout Design
- Gatherings by Holly
Incredible Wedding Photographers in Sun Valley Idaho and Stanley Idaho
- Maggie Grace Photography : I have been a wedding photographer in Idaho for over 10 years full-time! I've also been hiking and camping in the Sawtooths since I was three months old. The Sawtooths are home to me. I have been lucky enough to work with over 50 couples in the Sawtooth region! Planning adventure elopements for my couples and helping them plan their dream day is such an honor. Plus, I just love to have a blast with my clients.
- Christine Marie Photo Christine is a gem of a human located in Hailey, Idaho!
- Kylie Morgan Kylie is an Idaho local as well as an absolute queen. Her work in the Sawtooths is gorgeous!
- Corrie Butler Photography Another local Idaho gal, Corrie is passionate about working with her clients and providing an amazing experience.
- Rosie Nary Photography Rosie is the epitome of professionalism and fun. Also, her work speaks for itself!
- Heart & Seoul Photography Although she's new to the PNW, Larissa has experience planning adventure elopements in wild destination! She is an incredible asset to the Idaho family. We are so lucky to have her here!
- Dear Kodak Sav is an absolute angel. Based in Twin Falls, she's available in Hailey and Sun Valley!
The Best Wedding Florists in Sun Valley Idaho and Stanley Idaho
- Two Hands Floral Kaitlyn moved to the Sun Valley area from Australia. Her elevated portfolio speaks to her vast knowledge in the wedding industry. Her style is a little wild, romantic, and trendy.
- Bloom Theory Studio Bloom Theory Studio is local to Sun Valley! Bloom Theory's designs are traditional and timeless.
- Floret Studio Floret Studio is another local florist to Sun Valley. Also, she has experience in the Boise area and travels!
- Rust & Thistle Rust & Thistle is located in Boise, Idaho. However, they serve Sun Valley and Stanley. Rust & Thistle emphasizes an eco-friendly approach to their work.
- Petal Works Design Petal Works Design has over 25 years of experience in the floral industry. They are located in Boise, but they are available for travel everywhere.
- Historia Florals Historia Florals is located in Twin Falls. Their boho style is perfect for the Sawtooth Mountains!
Elopement Hair & Makeup Artists in Sun Valley Idaho and Stanley Idaho
- Chantelle Makeup
- Makeup by Morgan Dyer
- Blush by Jamie Rose
- BA Makeup Company
- Wildflower Bridal & Beauty
- Makeup by Aileena
- Idaho Stylists
Videographers to Hire for your Elopement & Wedding Serving Sun Valley Idaho and Stanley Idaho
Elopement & Micro-Wedding Officiants in Sun Valley & Stanley Idaho
Budgeting for your Sun Valley Idaho Elopement & Micro-Wedding
It goes without saying that the more guests you have, your costs will increase. Right away, I recommend talking about your priorities for the day. Elopements and micro-weddings budgets can vary widely depending on the experience you want to have so it's important to be on the same page. Some couples opt to put most of their budget into photography and want incredible photos to show their friends and family not in attendance. However, some couples choose to splurge on luxury accommodations or their dream cabin rental with incredible views of the mountains. Meanwhile, you may also prioritize wearing a bomb wedding day outfit that make you both feel like rockstars! Either way, elopement budgets can vary anywhere between $5,000-$30,000.
Again, it's worth mentioning that both Sun Valley and Stanley are hard to reach destinations. Specific to your wedding budget, choosing a remote location will have an impact on your overall budget. Due to the high cost of living and limited vendors available in a remote area, costs will naturally be higher. Vendors that live outside of Sun Valley and Stanley will likely need to travel and require accommodation. In short, expect that vendor's starting rates on their websites may not reflect all the fees associated with their services if travel needs to be factored into your package.
- Photography (40-60% of your total budget): Most experienced adventure photographers include additional services that may not be typical for traditional weddings. Keep in mind that adventure photographers may not be "cheaper" than your typical wedding photographer for that reason! Adventure photographers often include location scouting, vendor recommendations, wedding coordination support, and timeline building. Most adventure photographers are also local "tour guide" experts for the area they serve meaning they are experts in that region. Photographers in the Sun Valley and Stanley area typically charge between $2,000-$10,000.
- Accommodation and permits (10-15%): Hotel rooms in Sun Valley average $309. Hotels rooms in Stanley average $169. Cabin rentals are higher in both locations.
- Wedding Day outfits (15-25%): Wedding dresses typically have a range of $800-$2500 whereas suits can rage from $400-$1500.
- Officiant (5-10%): Officiants tend to range between $150-$500.
- Florist (5%): Typical elopement bouquets will cost anywhere from $200-$500 with a boutonniere. If you plan on adding a ceremony floral arch or floral center pieces, you can expect to spend $1000+.
- Hair/Makeup Artists: (5-10%)
- Food (3-5%)
How to Plan Your Elopement and Micro-Wedding Timeline
Many couples who are planning an elopement or micro-wedding think that they only want 1-2 hours of wedding coverage. I encourage all of my couples to think about their day with the same care and intention that they would with 100 guests. The amazing thing about having an intimate wedding is that you can design your day around all the things you love and make you unique!
An elopement day is not just about the ceremony. Furthermore, your entire day should feel special starting right when you wake up on your elopement morning and you deserve that! Some couples like to begin their day with a hike. And some couples want to start their morning slowly with coffee around the fire. Many couples choose to spend the entire day together so that they experience every special memory together. Not all couples want to plan a first look so they can maximize their time together. On the other hand, you may want to incorporate an activity you love sharing together such as a canoe or kayak ride on Redfish Lake! In particular, the Sawtooths are known for their water recreation with the gorgeous alpine lakes and rivers to experience. There are zero rules and you can spend your day anyway you want!
A 6 hour elopement day timeline:
2:30pm: getting ready in your hotel or cabin
3:30-4:00pm: first look
5:30pm: champagne toast and/or dessert
6:00pm: adventure portraits (*a good time for an elopement day kayak ride or hike!)
7:00pm: sunset & golden hour photos
7:30-8:30pm: dinner & first dance
An 8 hour elopement day timeline:
12:30pm: getting ready in your hotel or cabin
1:30pm: first look
2:00pm: ceremony details
3:15-3:45pm: family & group photos
4:00pm: adventure photos
6:30pm: dinner with guests and family
7:30pm: first dance & cake cutting
7:30pm: sunset and golden hour photos
8:00-8:30pm guest candids and nighttime coverage
Things To Do In the Sun Valley & Stanley Idaho area
- Visit the Ernest Hemingway Grave & Memorial!
- Go to the shooting range
- Bike and hike at Galena Lodge Trails
- Visit the hot springs!
- Go on a horseback ride through the Sun Valley Stables!
- Take a rafting trip!
- Hire a private guide to take you fly fishing
- Take an adventure to the historic ghost town of Custer Town Site!
- Day hike to Sawtooth Lake!
- Eat ribs at the famous Sawtooth Club!
- Wear comfortable shoes! If you're planning on hiking at all on your wedding day, I always recommend investing in a cute pair of wedding boots or hiking shoes. The Sawtooths have sage brush, lots of uneven ground, rocks, and challenging terrain. And walking any distance in heels over dirt, rocks, and uneven ground is just uncomfortable! Even so, some couples do bring a change of shoes for the ceremony and wear their "fancy" shoes for their party or portraits.
- Be very bear aware! Don't leave food or beverages unattended if you're having a wedding day picnic or dinner. Also, if you're hiking, bring bear spray and be aware of your surroundings. The Sawtooths have plenty of Black bears so it's crucial to respect their home.
- If you are getting married in the peak months of July or August, consider a weekday elopement or micro-wedding! Peak wedding season in Idaho occurs during these months so I recommend avoiding Saturday weddings if you can help it. You'll have more vendor availability on a week day, but you'll also encounter fewer hikers and tourists if you're eloping in a beautiful scenic area.
- Sun Valley and Stanley are in remote destinations. Cell phone service is very spotty and many of the destinations listed above do not have cell service! Ensuring your guests know where they're going is key.
- The weather can be super unpredictable any time of year in this region. The temperatures can drop to the 20's even in the summer in the morning. It's not unheard of to have snow in July! Wind and rain are a possibility any day of the year in Sun Valley or Stanley. Having a backup plan in case of bad weather or having flexibility is going to relieve any anxiety about weather!
- Prepare everything ahead of time! This means making sure you download any music from Spotify or streaming services on your phone if you have bluetooth speakers for your first dance and ceremony. Also, make sure your decorations are compact if you are hiking or bringing anything along to your ceremony site. Specifically, I adhere to all Leave No Trace rules and regulations and will follow those rules as an adventure photographer. For example, I never recommend confetti or balloons or any other potentially damaging decorations for the mountains.
Are you ready to plan your Sun Valley wedding or micro-wedding?
So, does all of this sound incredible to you? Let's start dreaming together! As a Sun Valley Idaho Elopement photographer, I feel lucky to serve my couples who choose to get married in such a special place. As I have said, the beauty of the Sawtooths is truly unmatched. I can't imagine a more perfect place to celebrate the start of your marriage than in Sun Valley. Indeed, couples rave about getting married in Sun Valley and Stanley because they can have a remote ceremony nestled in the gorgeous Sawtooths, yet still enjoy a luxurious dining or lodging experience. In fact, Idaho is one of the cheapest states in the whole country to get married, but it is just as gorgeous as the other Rocky Mountain states!
My elopement and micro-wedding packages include a vast amount of services and optional add-ons. Here are all the things I include in my elopement and micro-wedding packages:
- Timeline and wedding planning assistance! I'll meet with you as many times as you need so that your day is exactly what you dream it will be and more!
- A personalized experience! This means that I will find you a spot in the Sawtooths where no one has ever gotten married before if that's what you want. I'll provide my own personal favorite hikes & locations based on your vision for your ceremony so it's perfect just for you. Often, this means hours of location scouting ahead of time and I'm thrilled to do it.
- Trip itineraries and expert local advice so your elopement vacation is unforgettable. As a local Idaho resident, I'm an expert in the Sun Valley and Stanley region. I will provide trip suggestions that include everything from the best place to eat a cinnamon roll to the best backpacking and day hikes!
- Ceremony permit assistance and permissions. I'll do the research to make sure your ceremony is legal so all you need to do is show up!
- Google Pins & Maps of all my favorite spots for exploring. I have dozens of google pins I've saved over the years so if you're looking for off-grid camping spots, places to park your RV or van, or secret hikes to alpine lakes, I'm here for you.
- Individual wedding vendor recommendations. Because I've worked with all the best wedding vendors in the area, I will match you to the best wedding vendors suited for your style and personality. I'm always happy to reach out to them myself to start the connection for you!
- Optional officiant add-on so your stress of finding more vendors is eliminated.
- The best tips specific to Sun Valley and Stanley for a stress-free elopement day.
Love these Sawtooth weddings? Check out these Sun Valley Idaho Weddings & Elopements!
You deserve the elopement of your dreams so let's do it!
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