Intimate Lakeside Baxter State Park Elopement
Hiking 6 miles into the woods isn’t what most couples envision for their wedding day, but for Molly and Brian, nothing could have been better. They decided the perfect place get married was at an alpine lake with Mount Katahdin watching over them in Baxter State Park.
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About This Elopement at Baxter State Park
“Molly and Brian started their wedding day at 2:00 pm in a trailhead parking lot, signed in to the hiker’s log book, and began their journey. With their wedding clothes strapped to the outside of their hiking packs rolled up in yoga mats and Molly’s curled hair clipped out of her face with claw clips, they were a striking site for other hikers on the trail. Throughout the hike, we were greeted with stunning views of Mount Katahdin and quiet moments walking through the Maine woods.
After 2 hours of hiking, we reached our first stop, a lean-to they rented for their “bridal suite”. Using hand-held mirrors and their backpacks as a base, both of them got ready for their ceremony smiling and giggling about how this was exactly what they wanted.
Next to an alpine lake, the setting sun, and Mount Katahdin looming over them, Molly and Brian exchanged rings with no one to witness but them and some too-friendly squirrels. Molly wore a veil that had been worn by 22 other brides in her family and Brian gave her a ring that included a diamond his great-grandmother sewed into her dress when she fled during World War II. After their ceremony, they decided to celebrate their marriage by toasting and drinking water straight from the pond. After exploring the area, they found a hiker to sign as their witness before heading back down the mountain.” [Bridget, the photographer]
Planning Your Elopement at Baxter State Park
“Permitting within Baxter State Park can be complicated so in order to get up-to-date info, calling the park service and speaking with a representative is the best option. Baxter State Park is first and foremost a wildlife preservation area made for the sole purpose of protecting Maine’s rugged landscape and wildlife. The park takes serious precautions to make sure that the land is not over-used including limiting the number of cars allowed into the park each day. In order to guarantee park entrance, you must reserve a parking spot.
Maine residents can reserve a parking spot for the entire summer after April 1st and non-Maine residents can reserve a parking spot 2 weeks before your date. The parking reservations are only valid until 7:00 am the day of your reservation, after that any unused parking spots are filled on a first-come basis. To summarize, in order to get into the park you must have a parking reservation and must use it before 7:00 am the day your reservation is for, otherwise, your reservation is forfeited and your parking spot will be given to another person.
The alternative to this is getting a campsite within the park. If you have a campsite reserved in the park, you are guaranteed entrance all day and a parking spot for whichever parking lot your campsite is closest to. The downside to this is that campsites are very hard to get a hold of and can sell out very fast, especially the ones closest to Mount Katahdin and the trails accessing it.” [Bridget, the photographer]
Top Tips for Eloping at Baxter State Park
“Couples who are interested in eloping at Baxter State Park should hire vendors that know the park well and have experience working with complicated restrictions and planning difficulties. My biggest tip for eloping in Baxter State Park is to book a campsite reservation for the day before your elopement date and the day of. If you have a reservation for the day before, you can enter the park at your leisure, get set up, and relax the day before your wedding day, knowing you’re in the right spot and nothing can go wrong. This also opens up the possibility to have a sunrise elopement!
Baxter State Park doesn’t open its gates until 6:00 am, but if you’re already in the park, you can get up when you want and experience the park before the majority of visitors are there. This is also when locations will be the quietest, giving you the best chance at privacy. If sunrise isn’t your thing, reserving a campsite on the day of your elopement gives you the option of a sunset ceremony.
If you do not have a campsite, you will be forced to enter the park at 6:00 am, with every other person entering the park. This means, by the time you get to your destination, there will be large groups of other people getting there at the exact same time…” [Bridget, the photographer]
Deciding to Elope
“When my (now) husband and I first began talking in the early days of our relationship, he asked me about if I were to ever be married, what kind of wedding would I want? I told him that I would want a secret wedding with just myself and my lover, somewhere secluded in nature near the mountains. It’s funny now to realize that’s exactly what we did!
It was romantic and special for it to be just us, we felt so present and peaceful throughout the entire day with not having to worry about spending time with anyone but each other. I often hear my friends say they felt that their wedding day flew by and they barely remember it, but I can remember my wedding day like a movie I’ve watched over and over. It felt surreal to be living inside of the most beautiful memory I knew I’d look back on for the rest of my life.
There were also more practical reasons that we chose to elope, too. For one, both my husband and I knew that it would be an emotional day and we both felt more comfortable with the idea of it being a private ceremony. Additionally, it was definitely more affordable than a traditional wedding, which I will share more details about below.” [The couple]
Deciding Where to Elope & Planning
“We knew we wanted to be in Maine and near the mountains. I originally had a BIG idea of doing a summit sunrise wedding, however Bridget was so incredibly great at helping me apply my idea in a more realistic/reasonable way that worked better for all of us. So, I was open to suggestions from Bridget for a location.
The planning process first involved a general outline. We had our ceremony day trip to plan for, and then we hosted a wedding reception a week later with our family and friends to celebrate.
For the elopement, luckily Bridget was incredibly helpful with planning! She sent me a very comprehensive packet outlining what she and her partner would do and help us with, she also created the timeline we worked off of. She and her partner Ryan scout the locations first to gage how much time it will take to hike, time for the ceremony, and then time to pack up and head out. She really was so helpful and made it much easier to plan!
The week of, unfortunately there was terrible weather on our original wedding date, August 2nd, 2022. There was thunder, lightning, and terrential downpour- there was no way we could safely hike in for the ceremony. Thankfully, Bridget and Ryan were able to move our wedding day to the 3rd which had a better forecast.
In short, the planning process was both very methodical and thoughtful, and also very spur of the moment and leaning into some favors from the universe. I just kept saying, “it’s all going to work out”… Mother Nature ultimately has the final call, and if you’re doing an outdoor ceremony, especially if you’re hiking in at some distance, you have to be flexible and accept that there’s a lot outside of your control.” [The couple]
Elopement Cost From This Wedding Day
“Including the cost of Bridget’s photography and elopment planning services, the Baxter lean-to reservation, and the AirBnB we booked it was probably right around $3000 in total. Keep in mind this is not including the cost of my wedding dress, beauty services, or other odds and ends.
We also chose to host a wedding reception at our home a week later to celebrate with our family and friends, which was definitely more pricey. It was well worth it however, because the reality is everyone who loves you will want to celerbate! If you choose to elope, I would definitely suggest thinking about finding a way to invite some family and friends into the process wherever it feels right for you. For us, that was when we got home from our adventure and we were ready to share our experience.” [The couple]
Memorable Moments During This Elopement
From the photographer:
“One of my favorite moments from the day was while we were hiking and Molly said ‘it feels so weird to be inside a moment that I know is going to be one of my favorite memories’.
We were approached by a few campers asking why on earth we had hiked so far with so much camera equipment, which led to us telling them about Molly & Brians’s wedding. Word got out VERY quickly and by the time Molly & Brian were ready, pretty much everyone knew what was happening. People had asked us a few times if they could come down to watch the ceremony, and we *technically* couldn’t tell them no since they had just as much of a right to the area as we did, but we kindly explained that Molly & Brian were really looking for privacy.
Knowing they wanted privacy, a crowd gathered outside of the ranger station, to see them on their way to the pond but stayed away for over an hour and a half to make sure they were able to have the experience they wanted. There were so many favorite parts to the day, but the kindness and understanding of everyone at the campground to give Molly & Brian the privacy they wanted, was so special and I will forever be grateful to all of them.”
“I feel like the whole day was the best day of my life so far! If I had to distill it down to a moment and a feeling, it would probably be when my husband first saw me and it was time to get married. At that point, everything had come together as it needed to and we were living inside of the dream we had for so long together. It felt like pure magic looking into each other’s eyes and realizing that this here was the next step of our journey together. It was so exciting and joyful.”
Photography | Bridget Stephenson Photography
Wedding Dress: Sherri Hill
Bridal dress alterations: Maria Antonieta
Wedding Bands, Engagement Ring & Flower Crown: Stasia @thecavelady on Instagram
Photos From This Elopement