I’m a wedding officiant living in Durham, North Carolina and over the past year COVID has increased demand for Elopements and Micro-Weddings. People often ask me if I have any recommendations for where they should hold the ceremony. I have officiated at least one elopement in each of these beautiful locations. I highly recommend hopping in your car and checking out any public park that’s conveniently located to you, there are so many good options, you might find a hidden gem! However, if you don’t want to do a lot of searching, I personally know from experience that all of these locations are lovely.
At the time of writing, these locations all have either a small or no fee for having your elopement there. You are required to follow the COVID guidelines of each county and should confirm with each individual location whether or not they are currently charging fees at the time of your elopement and confirm any rules you must follow.
Umstead Park, Raleigh
This has always been a popular location for Elopements or Micro Weddings, I’ve officiated weddings here even before the pandemic. There are quite a few trails you can get married along if you want a more woodsy feel to your ceremony, and there’s also a beautiful lake if you want to be by the water. There are shorter and longer trails, though most weddings require at least a small degree of hiking. There are also picnic shelters available in case of rain.
Duke Park, Durham
Duke Park is a great little park in Durham to elope at if you don’t want to do a lot of walking/hiking. There are pretty trees you can use as a backdrop, or a picnic shelter if it rains.
Anderson Point Park, Raleigh
This park is similar to Duke Park, but located in Raleigh. It’s a beautiful little park with not as much hiking required and also has shelter in case of rain. Just take a short walk and decide if you want to get married in a wide open field or next to beautiful old trees.
WRAL Azalea Gardens, Raleigh
The Azalea Gardens are particularly lovely in the spring and fall when the azalea’s are blooming, but the park is full of other North Carolina trees and flowers that brought back fond memories of childhood growing up on the Outer Banks for me. There is generally a pricier fee for renting the space for weddings, but recently they have waived their fee for small elopements because of covid. (Always confirm the current rules/prices for all of these locations as things are often changing due to covid.)
Lake Crabtree County Park, Morrisville
Another lovely park, similar to Umstead in some ways, with both forest and lake views as options, there are also longer trails than some of these other options, though locations accessible to the parking lot are also available.
Duke Forest, Durham
Duke Forest is another expansive area with many trails and ponds and all sorts of beautiful natural backgrounds for your ceremony. Dogs enjoy it too! Check out the area and decide if you want a long hike or a short one!
NC Museum of Art, Raleigh
For those in the Wake Forest Area, Falls Lake offers an expansive variety of woods, trails, and ponds as well, just make sure everyone is on the same page about which access point you’re meeting at!
Falls Lake Park, Wake Forest
I recently officiated a covid elopement on the grounds of the art museum and it was gorgeous. We stood in front of the metal tree, but there are so many lovely outdoor areas and art you could get married near. The museum is not allowing folks to get married inside at the time of writing, and as for every location make sure you check the details of allowable crowd size and any fees at the time of planning your elopement.
Bonus: Windy Hill Farm, Cedar Grove
If you want to splurge a little, Windy Hill Farm offers low cost elopement packages on their beautiful farm. Every time I drive out there I can feel my body relaxing as I take in the sights of the open fields on the road. Just a short drive from Durham, but enough to make you feel out in the country. There are all sorts of animals that might join your elopement too, from barn cats to goats! There are multiple indoor and outdoor locations you could stage the ceremony, with barns in the background, trees, animals, you name it!