When it comes to eloping on the East Coast, a popular destination is tucked in a corner of the mountains of Maryland. The western part of the state is home to Deep Creek Lake, a scenic piece of the Appalachian Mountains. Year round we have outdoor activities and beautiful backdrops for elopements and weddings of all sizes. I grew up here, and I’m available to help you plan an incredible day that feels genuine to your love story.
Table of Contents
This Deep Creek Lake Elopement Guide covers:
1. Elopement Locations
2. Weather and Time of Year
3. Day-Of Timeline
4. Planning Tips
6. Things to Do
The planning process can be completely overwhelming, so I’m breaking it down to lower that stress. This guide is meant to help you choose what feels like you so you can leave out the parts that don’t. As a Deep Creek Elopement photographer, I provide all of my couples with:
- Planning assistance through emails and consultation calls
- Options for ceremony and reception
- Connection with other vendors such as officiant, florals, food, dj, and more
- Assistance with obtaining permits as necessary
- Planning checklist to help prepare for your big day
- Tips and recommendations for the area
Deep Creek Elopement Locations
When choosing your location, start with your vision. When you close your eyes, what do you see? Forest, Water, Mountains…? You’ve come to the right place. There are both state park and privately owned options at Deep Creek Lake. The second part of making the location decision is your guest list. Is it just the two of you, a handful of your nearest and dearest (up to 15), or a more of a micro-wedding (up to 45)? These aren’t hard and fast numbers but good guideline for what you might expect when celebrating with specific numbers of people.
With just the two of you, you’ll be more able to go an adventure – hiking, multiple locations, and more photos of just the two of you. A small wedding with up to 15 might include family portraits and a first dance. A micro-wedding can include getting ready, toasts, cake, a small dance floor, or a bonfire. Your location will need to accommodate for all of those pieces.
Swallow Falls State Park
Swallow Falls is a very popular location for elopements and small weddings due to the easy to hike trails, waterfalls, and year round lush green forest. There are several options here for the ceremony site, including three different waterfalls.
Many choose the base of Muddy Creek Falls – the largest waterfall. It’s an easy hike when it’s not icy, but there are stairs that aren’t fun when they’re a sheet of ice. Tolliver is the smallest of the falls with a pool of water at the base and a small sandy beach. Swallow Falls is the middle sized falls with a large rock overlooking the falls.
The park allows weddings and special events on the trail and surrounding areas. There are a couple pavilions available to rent for your celebration. You are allowed decorations and food to complete your reception. Permits are not required, but guests are asked to contact the park to ensure availability. Please e-mail the Lead Park Ranger (Eric.Savage@maryland.gov ) with your event date, time, and approximate amount of guests. Day use fee must be paid per person or per car on the day of the event. Dogs are allowed on the trail only during the off season. Between memorial and labor day, dogs are not permitted in the park.
Want a view from atop the mountain? Wisp is the place for you! With mountains in the distance and the lake below, you can see the whole area. It’s a short walk from a gravel lot to get to the ceremony site.
Wisp offers rentals for chairs and assistance in organizing the day. They host elopements through large weddings. Email email@example.com to inquire about pricing and availability.
Deep Creek State Park
If you’d like to get married alongside the lake, Deep Creek State Park offers lakeside ceremony sites along with amenities such as parking, bathrooms, hiking trails, and picnic shelters. They host both weddings and elopements.
The park closes at sunset and it remains open to others so your event will not be completely private. Vacationers will often cheer you on from their boat, which can be fun. Rain or shine, it’s a beautiful place for wedding vows!
Deep Creek is full of gorgeous lakeside homes available to rent for vacationers. Many of them will allow small weddings, which gives you your own private venue for getting ready, vows, and reception. Having everything in one place makes it quite easy and with a plethora of homes to choose from, you’ll find something to fit your style. Photog tip: Find one with lots of natural light in case we need to move things indoors.
If you’re having family or friends join you, you can set up extra tables or a tent if needed for your celebration. There is a noise ordinance, so festivities will need to be wrapped up by 11 p.m., earlier for some specific rentals. You can browse rentals at Deep Creek Vacations, Railey Realty or AirBNB.
Savage River Lodge
Just a little ride away from Deep Creek nestled in a small valley is Savage River Lodge. It backs acres of state forest land and features cabins and yurts for your accommodations. With a fine dining experience and set up for up to 60 people, you can plan a woodsy elopement or small wedding with your nearest and dearest. It’s a peaceful way to begin your life together.
Elopement packages begin at $2000 and include officiant, bouquet, and two nights lodging with available add ons. If this feels like it fits your dream, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Big Run State Park
Big Run is situated at the mouth of the Savage River reservoir and features spectacular views of the forest as well as views of ridges along the river. Camping, hiking, and fishing are all easily accessible at Big Run. You can rent a shelter and throw a little picnic like these two did. Contact the park at (301) 895-5453 for more information.
New Germany State Park
Located within hundreds of acres of state forest is New Germany State Forest. Picturesque views across the reservoir at the boat ramp make for beautiful photographs. There are multiple shelters available for rental as well as cabins and a lake house for getting ready and lodging.
There are trails and warm weather activities available seasonally. You can contact New Germany State Park at email@example.com.
Weather and Time of Year
Another part of your vision likely includes preferred weather! We have four seasons that are very different with a wide range of temperatures. Also keep in mind that the weather can be a bit unpredictable so I will keep a close eye on the weather leading up to your day in case we need a back up plan. I work in most any weather situation as long as there are no safety concerns.
Deep Creek Lake has become an increasingly popular destination on the east coast, especially in the summer. With the warm (not usually hot) summer days and the cool evenings, you can play in the sun all day and socialize by a bonfire at night. Summer sports include boating, jet skiing, hiking, fishing, and swimming. There are also restaurants, arcades, and a few niche activities like a ropes course and white water rafting course. Most choose to visit Deep Creek in the summer which makes it very crowded especially on the weekends.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds but want warm weather, choose to elope on a weekday. Weekends are usually less busy in Spring and Winter leaving the trails open for small weddings and elopements without much distraction. Winter brings about winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing and is a slower paced vacation compared to summer. The weather is unpredictable in Spring and Fall and can bring warmer days in the 60s or 70s or it can also bring snow, so you’ll want to be prepared.
Time of year will also impact your day of schedule as summer days are much longer than winter days. Pay attention to sunset timing when planning your portraits… more on that below.
Day of Timeline
While figuring out how much time you need, consider how much of the story you want to tell. This is an experience you’ll want to remember including that feelings while getting ready – whether together or separate it’s an important part of this day! While you can capture the vows and portraits in one hour, we can tell much more of your love story with more coverage. I offer quickie packages with as little as only one hour of coverage but recommend at least two or more if you’re planning some festivities.
Here are some sample timelines:
Elopement (No Guests)
4:00-4:45 Details + Getting Ready (Can also do a first look)
4:45-5:00 Travel to Ceremony Location
Elopement (With Guests)
3:00-3:45 Details + Getting Ready (Can also do a first look)
3:45-4:00 Travel to Ceremony Location
4:15-4:30 Family + Group Portraits
4:30-5:30 Toasts + Food
5:30-6:00 Couple Portraits
+ add time for multiple portrait locations
2:00-3:00 Details + Getting Ready (Can also do a first look)
3:00-3:15 Travel to Ceremony Location
4:00-4:15 Family + Group Portraits
4:30-5:30 Toasts + Food
5:30-6:00 Couple Portraits
+ add time for multiple portrait locations and reception festivities such as dancing, cake, bonfire,
Photographers love golden hour for photos – it’s the first hour of sunlight or the last hour of sunlight during the day. The light is the most flattering and less harsh, both for guests and photos. If you want golden, dreamy photos – aim for portraits to fall during those windows. Not many people choose sunrise, BUT it is quite magical, especially if you’re planning just the two of you and don’t have to wake your family super early.
Your location will also impact exactly what time you see sunrise/sunset. Swallow Falls, for example, is down between hills and within the trees so you don’t catch the last of the golden glow and will want to start earlier so there’s plenty of light. From Wisp mountaintop you will catch that gorgeous, yummy light.
- Use local vendors who know the area and the best locations. If you’re looking for intimate wilderness, we know the best places to go. There is so much beauty to be found at Deep Creek with all the charm of a small town vibe.
- Save maps and important information offline, including songs if you’re playing any. Service can be spotty throughout the area so be prepared. Also, charge your phone, speaker, etc so that it’s ready to go.
- Wear comfortable shoes that you can walk/hike in. Getting to some of the best views includes walking along rocks and sometimes slippery services. Pretty heels aren’t appropriate for most of where we’ll be shooting but you can bring a pair for a few getting ready and first look photos if you’d like.
- Prepare to pack in and pack out any decorations or items you might need. We leave no trace including flower petals. Please check with each venue individually about what is or isn’t allowed. Generally, the parks allow fewer disturbances from decor than the rental homes.
- Listen to your gut and know your comfort levels. If you aren’t a hiker, don’t push yourself on this day. There are plenty of easy to access locations. Know your comfort level and feel free to express that before and during your big day. I won’t push you outside your limits. But if you’re all in for jumping in the water or climbing some rocks, let’s go!
- Learn to recognize poison ivy, especially if you’re allergic to it. There is poison ivy all over the forests here, so know what to look for and avoid it. If you think you’ve come into contact with it, wash your skin with soap and cold water immediately. Also wash your clothing and shoes to remove the oils. You can get a special soap for this and may want to have it on hand.
Besides Photography (wink, wink) you’ll need a few other vendors depending on your vision. As far as budget goes, it varies wildly for elopements and depends on what’s important to you. Vendors you’ll want to secure:
- Food (caterer, private chef, restaurant)
- Hair + Make Up
Email me for a list of my recommendations and vendors that I work with frequently.
You’ll also need to secure your marriage license prior to your wedding day. The license is valid for 60 days and must be obtained at the Garrett County Courthouse on a weekday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The cost is $40 paid by cash or check.
Things to Do
Deep Creek Lake is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of real life. It’s located just a few hours from major cities and airports and is full of serene forest and stunning views. Besides hiking here are other activities to do near Deep Creek:
- Rent a boat from Lake Life or Silver Tree Marine and cruise the lake
- Ride the mountain coaster at Wisp
- Enjoy a homemade scoop in a waffle cone at Lakeside Creamery
- Play mini golf and challenge each other to arcade games at Funland
- Grab a local brew and pizza at Mountain State Brewing Co
- Ride jet skis across DCL at the Aquatic Center
- Zip line or hop through an obstacle course at Monkey Business Adventure Park
- Sample award winning cheese at Firefly Farms
- Camp at Deep Creek State Park
- See a movie at Garrett 8 Cinemas
- Go snow tubing or race down Wisp Mountain on skis or a snowboard
- Grab a drink at the Honi Honi
- Try snowshoeing with All Earth Eco Tours
- Visit the Lavender Farm starting in May
- Paddle through the whitewater course at ASCI
After all the excitement you’ll want to relax and unwind with the love of your life. A few options include:
- Blue Moon Rising on Deep Creek Lake
- Suites at Silver Tree
- Lodges at Sunset Village
- or check airbnb