If you're looking to escape the city and elope in the outdoors, then you have come to the right place. There are so many incredible places to elope in Upstate New York, but there is just something special about the Fingerlakes. Waterfalls, fields, parks, gardens, ponds and more. Whether you are looking to explore somewhere new, or adventure around a place that has become special to you, this is your Ultimate Guide on how to elope in the Fingerlakes.
Where is the Fingerlakes Region?
The Finger Lakes region is located in the state of New York, USA. The Fingerlakes Region is located in the western part of Upstate New York. It's just about 5 hours from New York City, and is an easy drive for you and your guests.
Situated in the central part of the state, it stretches from the southern shores of Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania border. This picturesque region derives its name from the eleven long, narrow lakes that resemble the fingers of a hand when seen from above. The major lakes that define the area are Canandaigua Lake, Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake, Cayuga Lake, and Skaneateles Lake. The Finger Lakes region is known for its stunning natural beauty, with rolling hills, vineyards, and charming small towns dotting the landscape. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, wine lovers, and those seeking a peaceful retreat amidst nature's splendor.
The closest airport is the Rochester Airport, which is about 45 minutes, or Buffalo airport, which is just about 2 hours. Of course, you can fly into the New York City airports with more options as well!
How to elope in the Fingerlakes
Eloping in general is a lot more simple than creating a large traditional wedding. You get to make it as simple, or extravagant as you'd like. All it takes is a location, wedding attire, a marriage license, and a place to stay. Everything else is just an added bonus!
So let's talk about how that looks with the Fingerlakes.
With elopements, our team takes care of a TON. Things like finding you an outdoor location, a list of places to stay, and vendor recommendations that you may need. So in reality, you get to just focus on all of the fun tasks like finding your attire, getting your marriage license, and just enjoying the process!
Here are the exact steps you'll need to make:
- Dream up your perfect day: This is the most fun part of the process, in my opinion! With elopements, you can go far away from the "norm". You can dream up what you're surrounded by, who is there with you, what you're eating, and more. Dream big here! And if you are struggling, that's where a great photography consult can be helpful. We personally use our consult calls as more of a brainstorm session with our potential couples. By the end of the call, they feel a bit more clarity with next steps.
- Find your photographer: Yes, seriously. Photographers with elopements and intimate weddings can be such a helpful resource because they have helped tons of others couples. Most photographers help with finding locations, providing vendor recommendations, and more. This is a great first step if you aren't sure where to start.
- Decide on location: Now you have to find the location where you'll get married. This could be at a venue, or a public land. There are pros and cons to both, but this will definitely depend on if you are planning to have guests or not.
- Book accommodation: Figuring out where to stay is a top priority. Once it's booked, it will be a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. Try and find a space that fits your priorities (i.e. can fit x amount of people, has a view, etc.). Again, your vendors may be able to help you with this!
- Find additional vendors: It's time to book additional vendors. Vendors such as florist, hair and makeup, private chef, videographer and more can really add a lot of value to your day.
- Create the timeline of the day: Don't worry about doing this yourself. Your photographer or planner should be able to take care of this for you. But you'll want to be really clear on your priorities for the day. How do you want to feel? What do you want to incorporate? Do you want a morning or evening centric experience? All of these questions will be important to know beforehand.
- Have the best day ever: That's it! Then it's time to enjoy and have the best day ever. That is how simple creating an elopement in the Fingerlakes can be.
How to get your marriage license in the Fingerlakes
To obtain a marriage license in the State of New York, the first thing that you may need to do is make an appointment with the town clerk. You'll want to make sure you do this ahead of time, so that there are appointments open. You can get your marriage license anywhere in the state.
Is there a waiting period? Yes, in the state of New York, there is a waiting period. You cannot get married within 24 hours of getting your marriage license. This is super important, because if you are traveling from out of state, you are going to need to arrive at least a few days early. Make sure you aren't there on a weekend or holiday.
How long is the marriage license valid? In the state of New York, you have 60 days to get married by the time you get your marriage license.
Who can marry you as your officiant in New York?
Taken from the New York website: To be valid, a marriage ceremony must be performed by any of the individuals specified in Section 11 of the New York State Domestic Relations Law. These include:
- the current or a former governor;
- the mayor of a city or village;
- the former mayor, the city clerk or one of the deputy city clerks of a city of more than one million inhabitants;
- a marriage officer appointed by the town or village board or the city common council;
- a member of the New York state legislature;
- a justice or judge of the following courts: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Southern, Eastern or Western Districts of New York, the New York State Court of Appeals, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, the New York State Supreme Court, the Court of Claims, the Family Court, a Surrogates Court, the Civil and Criminal Courts of New York City (including Housing judges of the Civil Court) and other courts of record;
- a village, town or county justice;
- a member of the clergy or minister who has been officially ordained and granted authority to perform marriage ceremonies from a governing church body in accordance with the rules and regulations of the church body;
- a member of the clergy or minister who is not authorized by a governing church body but who has been chosen by a spiritual group to preside over their spiritual affairs;
- other officiants as specified by Section 11 of the Domestic Relations Law.
If you want a friend or family member to marry you, they will need to be ordained online (we are ordained through the Universal Life Church). You'll need for them to register with the state, and you can do so by calling a town clerk for information.
Do we need witnesses? Yes, in the state of New York, you will need at least one witness. There is no age limit to the witness, so if you have kids, this could be a sweet way of doing so!
When to elope in the Fingerlakes
The upper Northeast has all four seasons, so it is fully dependent on what is most important to you. The scenery will also dictate when it would be best to have your elopement in the Fingerlakes.
Winter: Winter can absolutely be beautiful, with the fresh snow covered trees and ground. However, it can also be quite cold! If you love the winter, just be fully prepared with appropriate attire and layers. Also, think of other fun winter activities you can incorporate! Take a look at my full winter elopement blog here.
Spring: The Spring can be pretty muddy and gross in the Northeast. The temperature can go either way - really hot or cold. With that said, if you are hoping for a waterfall elopement, then Spring could actually be an amazing time for you! The waterfalls are flowing, the ice is melted, and the trees are blooming. It can be so beautiful at the right time in Spring! Oh, and it is the least busy time of year here too!
Summer: The summer is the busiest time of year here in the Fingerlakes with all of the tourists. It can also be extremely hot. If you plan for a summer elopement, then I would highly recommend planning for June or end of August! Plus, a week day will make it even better for seclusion.
Fall: The Fall is my absolute favorite season here in the Northeast. The crisp temperature, beautiful colors, and the variety activities that you can do are like no other. It is definitely a popular time of year, which is understandable because of how incredible the leaves changing are. This is also the better time of year for waterfalls as well!
Where to elope in the Fingerlakes Region
Now that you know how to plan your elopement in the Fingerlakes Region, the big question is - where should we elope? There are plenty of public land and properties that you are able to elope in, or you can rent a venue to host at. Both are great options, and have pros and cons.
When it comes to eloping in more public lands, it can be less expensive and more flexible. However, you do run the risk of having other tourists there, and logistically you may need to travel to other places for a dinner, etc. If you are hoping to elope in the outdoors, then below are some of our favorite locations.
This is one of the most beautiful places to elope in the Fingerlakes Region, in our opinion. This State Park is filled with nature. The highlight of course is Taughannock Falls, which is an incredible waterfall with multiple viewpoints. There are also rivers, woods locations, and picnic areas. Truly, you cannot go wrong eloping here, and we got you while you're at it!
This waterfall is just 0.2 miles round trip to get to - can you believe it?! It's near Ithaca New York, so you know there is plenty of other things to do around the area as well. This is a perfect place for a simple elopement ceremony and exploring.
This state park is home of the Gorge Trail, which has 19 waterfalls, pavilions and camping. It is a beautiful place to explore and have an intimate day. You may need a permit if you have guests, but if it's just the two of you, you'll have more flexibility and adventures.
The Best Intimate Wedding Venues in the Fingerlakes
When it comes to planning your day, sometimes it can be less stressful to just book a venue to host at. This way, everything can be at one place, and the logistics can be to a minimal. This is what we love about intimate wedding and elopement venues. They offer a lot of options for our couples to have their ceremony, places to stay, and after party at. Here are some of our top venues we recommend if you want to get married in the Fingerlakes.
This place is an absolute dream, and a venue that you would love being at for your wedding day. They focus on creating a peaceful outdoor experience with nature and their unique glamping tents. They allow weddings up to 125 guests, and the cool thing is is that your guests can stay on the property. No need to leave if you don't want to!
A unique factory styled building perfect for hosting your event, both from an intimate setting, or even your big party down the road! The fun part of elopements is that you don't have to choose one or the other, you can absolutely have both. The Cracker Factory is a great spot to enjoy both of your celebrations.
If you love the water and the idea of having a nautical beach feel wedding, the Boathouse Club may be for you. It's a lakeside venue that hosts up to 75 guests, so you can easily have the intimate day you've been hoping for.
Lincoln Hill Farm is a beautiful farm venue that hosts events. They have a variety of building on the property, allowing for multiple options for your wedding. They also have some accommodations and places to stay right on the property to keep things simple.
Eloping in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York provides the perfect opportunity to create an intimate and personalized wedding experience. By selecting the perfect location, embracing the region's natural beauty, and personalizing the ceremony, you can craft a day that truly reflects your personalities and celebrates your love story. Remember that the most important aspect of your elopement is creating moments that are meaningful to both of you. So, let your imaginations run wild, embrace the uniqueness of the Finger Lakes region, and create memories that will be cherished.
A New Hampshire + Vermont based adventure elopement and intimate wedding photographer team for the adventurous souls. We specialize in New England and destinations worldwide, empowering you to create the most beautiful, adventurous day and give you the memories you'll be able to look back on for all the years to come.
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