As an Elopement Photographer and Coordinator I’ve helped plan and document many elopements. Through working with many couples all around the world I’ve gained a variety of knowledge and advice to give when it comes to planning an elopement. I want to help you get started planning the adventure of your life! So, I’ve put together my top 10 Tips for Planning an Elopement for you to dive into. They go in depth into every subject, will help you to be prepared to start planning, and put you in the right mindset as you go into your elopement!
How to Plan an Elopement
1. Make it a Whole Day Elopement
This is the day you two are getting married. This is the day that you’ll look back on and remember for the rest of your lives. You deserve to have the ultimate elopement experience that you want! Your elopement day is the story about how you two decided to commit to your lives together and it’s a story that deserves to be told.
When I work with couples, I work very closely with them to help craft and create a day that reflects who they are as a couple – that allows them to turn their dream elopement into reality. Eloping is SO much more than just getting those epic images. It’s truly about the entire experience that you two have on one of the most important days of your lives. I think you deserve to have that experience documented and your story told from start to finish.
Don’t make this the biggest mistake of planning your elopement. These are memories that you’ll be able to cherish forever, because at the end of the day all you’ll have left are your memories and your photographs, and let’s be honest, most of us can hardly remember what we had for dinner last night. 🙂
How do you plan for an all day elopement?
First of all, it’s extremely important to realize that your elopement day is NOT a 6, 9 or 12 hour photoshoot. As an Elopement Photographer my goal is to simply document your day and capture your real moments and emotions that you have throughout your epic adventure!
You will be surprised how fast your day will go. When you’re having a blast and not paying attention to the clock to get out of whatever you’re doing and you’re genuinely enjoying yourself time flies! This is why having a day that allows you time to slow down and not rush from one thing to another is crucial. You need to give yourself time to enjoy every minute of your day!
From a timeline standpoint, you also need to allow time for transitions. It takes time to hop in and out of cars. It takes time to get to walk to your location from where you parked or hiked. It’s super important to allow time for flexibility as well! What if we’re driving to your ceremony location and we drive past a spot that you love and want to go explore? Having enough time for documenting spur of the moment events like this can make your day so much more enjoyable!
Here is an example of a real 9 hour timeline that I used for one of my couple’s adventure elopement!
9 Hour Timeline Example
10:00am: getting ready & detail shots
11:15pm: send groom to first look location outside Airbnb
11:30pm: first look, a few portraits in the garden
12:00pm: (check out of Airbnb) Hop in car and head to Waterfall Trailhead for the hike
12:30pm: arrive at Waterfall Trailhead and start 2.2 mile hike
2:45pm: arrive at the Waterfall!
3:00pm: start ceremony, vows and celebrate with a champagne bottle pop
3:20pm: pictures around the waterfall and surrounding area
4:20pm: start 2.2 mile hike back
5:30pm: arrive back at car, head to Treehouse Airbnb
6:10pm: arrive at Treehouse Airbnb, take some pictures around the beautiful Treehouse and some matching PJ’s pictures with hot coca inside
7:00pm: wrap up photo coverage
Every timeline is customized to each couple to include everything they want to do for their elopement day! With this example above you’ll get an idea of how much you can include in 9 hours. Then, any less time than this things would be cut out from the experience and if time was added you could add more to your day by spending more time in a particular location or by adding another activity!
Remember, there are no rules to eloping! If you can dream it up, you can do it.
2. Choose an Epic Location
Choosing a location for your elopement is probably one of the most exciting parts about planning an elopement! At the same time you might be thinking, “How in the world do I choose a location?!” I get it! There’s an insane amount of epic locations for you to have your elopement. However, here are some practical tips to help you get started when choosing a general location for your elopement!
How to Choose Your Elopement Location
First, decide whether you want to elope in your state, if you’re open to anywhere domestic that fits what you’re looking for, or if you want to have a destination elopement in another country? This will help you to narrow it down to a general location making your list smaller and you probably won’t feel so overwhelmed!
Second, think about the type of scenery you’re hoping to have for your elopement. Do you both love the desert and want to elope surrounded by epic sand dunes? Are you completely obsessed with waterfalls? Does hiking in the mountains fill your soul? Do you love to be immersed in nature in a forest? Take some time to think about the type of scenery you want to have and this will really start to narrow down your possible locations.
Third, go to your elopement photographer for help! I suppose this isn’t what every elopement photographer does, but it is part of what I do for my couples. I chat with my couples. I get to know my couples. I help you dive deeper into what you actually want for your elopement day. Then, based off of everything we chat about I pick out locations that are a perfect fit for you based off of everything you told me and I send you a list of epic spots for you to check out!
Lastly, choose a place that will be meaningful to you both in some way, shape, or form! It can be particular hike, national park, state, or country that you both love and have fond memories at. You could also choose a location that you’ve both never been to, but would absolutely love to visit and spend time in! Choosing a location that you’ve both never been to adds its own sense of adventure! How awesome would be to start out your lives together in an epic place you’ve both never been to?! That would be so meaningful to you both to create those new memories together!
No matter where you decide to elope, remember that this is your wedding day and they’re the moments you’ll keep coming back to. So why not get married in the location of your dreams? Why not get married in that gorgeous national park? Why not get married with the most incredible backdrop?! There’s no reason not to! Just go for it!
Check out these posts for some location inspiration:
A Complete Guide for Eloping in Washington State
Glacier National Park Elopement Guide
10 Amazing Iceland Elopement Locations
3. Choose Your Elopement Date Wisely When Planning an Elopement
When it comes to choosing your date, don’t forget to think about the type of weather that you’re hoping to have during your elopement. For example, say your dating anniversary is in December and you two are thinking you’d love to keep the date, but neither of you are big fans of the cold and aren’t into the snow. If that’s the case, then choosing a date in a different season like summer or fall might be a great idea for you!
Or, think about the general location you’d like to elope in–general location being a certain state, a particular region like the PNW, or a certain country like Greece–then look into the seasons and the type of weather they get during that month and base your decision around that.
Be Flexible With Your Elopement Date
As a destination elopement photographer, it’s great when couples have a certain time of year they’d like to elope in versus a particular date allowing more flexibility between themselves and the photographer during those few months they mention they’d like to get married in! If there’s a photographer you’d love to work with, being flexible with them will give you a much higher chance of being put on their calendar!
Plus, elopement photographers typically have more insight into what the weather will look like during the time of year and location you’re checking out!
4. Get Comfortable Attire for Your Elopement
As you start to plan your elopement and put together your wedding attire for your elopement, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be comfortable! You’ll be thankful to have a dress that’s easy to move around in. Not to mention, when you elope in the outdoors you might encounter some wind. Wearing a dress that has a lot of movement to it will make for some pretty epic images throughout your adventure elopement!
For the grooms out there this might mean wearing a more casual look or a suit instead of a tuxedo! When you go to pick your suit or outfit, try to get materials that are a lighter weight and have stretch. This will keep you comfortable throughout your elopement, too!
Don’t Forget About Layers!
It’s also extremely important to be prepared for anything when you elope outdoors – especially in the mountains: in the middle of summer you might encounter a random thunderstorm! This is why taking along extra layers during your adventure elopement is necessary! If you’d like to have a winter elopement be sure to wear base layers under your clothes. For brides, you might wear nude fleece leggings, wool socks and a cute warm jacket you enjoy having pictures taken in. For the grooms, wear some fleece leggings, wool socks and a wool shirt under your outfit. You’ll thank me later!
Lastly, wearing appropriate shoes might be the most important factor as you put together your outfits. Even if you aren’t hiking during your adventure elopement, you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking and adventuring around. That’s just how adventure elopements go! If you are hiking, definitely wear a good quality pair of hiking boots, and, if you’re going the more exploring route, definitely wear some type of boots or shoes that will keep your feet comfortable all day long. Getting blisters or having sore feet is not a fun thing to deal with on your elopement day!
5. Hire an Elopement Photographer You Love
This goes off of number 1 a little bit and making sure you hire a photographer who’s style you love – but it’s most important to hire someone you’ll get along with since elopements are typically just the two of you and your elopement photographer. Your photographer can either make your elopement experience ten times better, or they could bring the mood of the day down if your personalities aren’t clicking.
This why I have a video call with all my couples who inquire with me; it’s super important to me that we get along well for your sake – you deserve to have an incredible experience on your elopement day! So, if you inquire with a photographer and they ask to set up a call, be sure to jump on that opportunity that you can get to know each other, and make sure that you’ll be a great fit for each other.
This is your wedding day, and having someone there who can guide you along throughout the day will help you feel relaxed and allow you to enjoy your adventure elopement to the fullest extent. There’s a big difference between someone naturally documenting the most important day of your life from start to finish, and someone having you pose unnaturally for hours. You deserve to have arguably one of the most important days of your life documented from start to finish by someone who’ll be able to tell the story of your day rather than someone who will pose you for hours.
You freaking deserve that!
6. Do you want to invite anybody along?
Would you like to have a ‘just us’ elopement or would you like to have your nearest and dearest friends or family with you? There’s still a misconception that elopements HAVE to be just the two of you, but that’s just not true. If you’re the couple who wants to have the closest 5, 10 or even 15 people there with you then go for it! You can absolutely do that. After all, elopements are about getting married exactly how you want to!
On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you’re the couple who wants to elope with just the two of you, then do it and don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. This is your wedding day and no one else’s opinion should make you change your mind. I totally understand that there can be push back from family to follow tradition, but if you truly feel like a two person adventure elopement is right for you then stand your ground, be brave, and do it.
The most important thing is that your wedding day remains about the two of you. This is what elopements are all about – getting married how you want, creating a day that’s only about the two of you, and celebrating in a way that reflects who you are! Stick to what feels right to you and you won’t regret it one bit!
How to Tell Friends and Family You’re Eloping
This subject can be a tough one for some couples. You might be thinking you have no idea how to go about letting your family know you want to elope without them flipping out or causing them to pressure you into having a traditional wedding. Stick to your gut and don’t let anybody make you change your mind if you truly want a ‘just us’ elopement.
When you sit down to tell them, take the time to explain everything to them. Let them know why you’re deciding to elope and let them in on whatever vision you currently have for your dream. Paint a picture for them by telling them where you’re thinking of eloping, what you two are going to be doing, and how you want to celebrate!
You can also keep your family involved during your elopement in some way, too! Maybe you can let them plan an engagement party for you two. Maybe you can take them dress shopping. You could even have a quick video call with them before, during, or after you say your vows!
Another big way to keep your friends and family involved is by having a party afterwards! You can have a backyard BBQ or simply just go out to dinner. There are so many different ways to include those you love and make them feel special when you want to have a ‘just us’ adventure elopement!
7. Feel Free to Add Personal Touches When Planning an Elopement
Don’t think that just because you’re eloping you can’t add personal touches to your special day! That’s the beauty of eloping! You can keep it simple or go all out if you want! I’ve seen so many unique touches that make the couples’ elopement day even more special. Here are some ways to add personal touches to your elopement day:
Planning an Elopement Ceremony
Customize your elopement ceremony to include whatever it is you want! If you’re having an officiant (more on that next!) you’ll be able to talk with them to personalize the ceremony to the two of you as much as you want. You can include traditional parts like exchanging rings or add something unique like a hand-fasting ceremony!
How to Plan an Elopement
If you two love wine, why not have a wine and cheese picnic during your elopement?! If you love skateboarding, take along skateboards and spend some time riding around. If there’s a song you two love to break it down to, share a dance session on the top of a mountain! I think you get the idea. You can LITERALLY do anything you want! The options are endless.
8. Do you want a legal or symbolical ceremony?
Are you wondering what a symbolical ceremony is and how it all would work? A symbolical ceremony is just that. It’s not a legally binding ceremony. Couples who choose to go this route will usually get all the legal paperwork done near where they live and then have their elopement ceremony be symbolical. The couples who choose to have a symbolical ceremony realize that to them the day they say their vows to each other and commit their lives to one another is the day they actually get married – not the day they sign paperwork.
Going this route is best when you have a destination elopement of some kind. If you’re eloping abroad, I will 100% of the time recommend this route, because dealing with all the logistics of getting legally married in another country is usually pretty difficult and can add a lot of stress.
Every State Has Different Marriage Laws
If you’re planning an elopement in a different state then the logistics are typically much easier, but nevertheless can prove to add some difficulty. Every state has it’s own marriage laws to be sure to look into those before you decide to move forward with a legal ceremony. In some states you have to apply in person, some have a waiting period before you’re able to use your marriage license, and still others have mail in options which will make getting your marriage license in another state much easier.
Even more than the just the logistical parts of getting legally married somewhere else is that in most states you’ll have to have an officiant. Certain states like Colorado allow you to self-solemnize which means you can get legally married without an officiant! How awesome is that?!
Think about the type of activities that are required to get to your adventure elopement ceremony location. For example, if you’re hiking to your location you’ll have to find an officiant that is okay with hiking to the ceremony spot. I think it’s also extremely important to get an officiant who is well-versed in elopements, because elopements tend to be more ‘go with the flow’ and it’s possible your ceremony might start earlier or later than planned!
With all of this in mind you’ll be able to make the best decision for you two on whether you should have a symbolical adventure elopement ceremony or not!
9. What’s Your Wildest Elopement Dream?
This is your wedding day. This is the day that you two will remember for the rest of your lives. You deserve to have your dream elopement and this is your chance. Leave all the logistics behind and just dream it all up! When planning an elopement you can keep is as simple or as detailed and adventurous as you want.
What would be the ultimate experience that the two of you could create from beginning to end? What would be the best day that the two of you could have? When you wake up in the morning what do you want the view to look like outside the window? What do you want the weather to be like? What would be your dream backdrop as you say your vows to one another? How do you want to celebrate that?
You could make it an epic adventure like going on a helicopter tour to a stunning remote location. You could keep it a simple relaxed day frolicking through a forest. You could say your vows at the top of a mountain peak in your dream location! Take some time to sit down and dream! However, these dreams aren’t just dreams. They can actually happen! I’m here to help you make them happen.
I think you deserve to have your wildest elopement dreams come true. This is your opportunity and I think you should take it!
10. Be Prepared For Anything When Planning an Elopement Outdoors
This is a major subject I go over with all of my adventure elopement couples! No matter when or where you decide to elope, you never know what can happen. You could elope in the middle of the summer in the mountains and you could encounter a crazy storm. You could plan to go for a drive through a mountain pass or plan to go on a particular hike and it could end up closing the day before.
There are many elements that are out of your control, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared for anything and to go in with an open mindset. This is why it’s important to make sure you have the appropriate gear, too!
One popular question I to get is ‘What happens if it rains or the weather isn’t ideal?’. I believe there’s no such thing as bad weather! Rain is awesome! Fog is awesome! Snow is awesome! All of those elements can make for some epic images, add adventure to your elopement and aren’t dangerous. The only time you should let weather change your plans is if it gets dangerous for you to be in. Otherwise, go in with the mindset to embrace whatever weather you get. When you go in with a mindset like that nothing will ruin your adventure elopement experience!
I hope you found these 10 Tips for Planning an Adventure Elopement helpful as you start to plan and make decisions for your elopement! If you’re searching for an Adventure Elopement Photographer I would be more than stoked to hear from you! You can contact me >HERE< and I look forward to chatting with you!
Check out these related blog posts!
How to Plan the Elopement Timeline of Your Dreams
How to Elope in Breckenridge, Colorado
North Cascades Adventure Elopement
5 Best Wedding Dress Styles for Eloping
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