Ohmygawshhhhh you guys decided to elope! That’s amazing! I loooooove empowering couples to get married in the way that is a true reflection of them and I am so happy that you guys are saying “no” to a big event or production and instead are focusing on the marriage that is starting! I am an absolute sap, but that makes me so happy! It is at this point that I usually suggest hiring me (lol or any photographer that ya vibe with!). Elopement photographers usually double as location guides as well and can give you tons of insight into different places and activities that you might never have thought of!
SO. Now that you’ve made this decision, what comes next? You need to pick your location!
How to Pick Your Location
I feel like a lot of people try to pick a date before picking a location, BUT I think that’s totally backwards! So many locations are only accessible in the summer and so many activities can only be done in the winter! So you really have to take into consideration what you would like to be doing on your elopement day when picking a location. Helicopter in to a rad location, take a gondola to the top of a mountain, go on an awesome hike, THE OPTIONS ARE ENDLESS. I always tell couples that this is your dream day and you can do WHATEVER you want, but the more things that you add, the more that might distract you from the goal of the day! Usually picking one activity: the hike, the helicopter or a canoe ride on a lake, and then planning the day around that will leave you with less stress and less things to plan! SO pick your activity and then look into what locations offer it! (Hiking is always a safe bet because that’s pretty much allowed everywhere!)
How to plan your timeline
I always suggest planning a slow, easy morning if you aren’t doing a sunrise activity! Everything is always more fun when you have enough sleep and you don’t have to get up too early! Sleeping in and lazing around with you love makes the day feel special and having a slow start to the day gives you time to get excited for the afternoon’s activities! I LOVE getting to capture you guys just hanging out and spending time together getting all snuggly before any of the getting ready begins so don’t feel like you need to wait until you’re putting on the dress for coverage to start! Hang out in bed, make some coffee, soak in a hot tub, play some music, whatever you guys like to do YOU CAN DO IT!
Sunrise or Sunset?
There’s something so magical about being the only people at the top of a mountain as the sun rises. And there’s something so romantic about watching the sun set with the person you just promised forever to. BUT watching the sun rise requires getting up early and hiking in the dark! And watching the sun set means that there might be some other hikers that you have to share your hike with. So you really have to decide what is the best for you and your day. If you guys love getting up early for your adventures, a sunrise elopement might be the best for you! But if you and your partner like to sleep in and would rather have the whole day to get ready, then a sunset is probably the choice for you!
Where Do We Stay?
So I alllllllways suggest getting an airbnb over a hotel. The light is so much better in actual houses than in hotels, and there’s something just so much more comfortable about getting ready in an actual house! There’s so many cute airbnbs that I have shot in as well, so I can direct you to some of my fave places near the location that you want to get married at! (An A-frame cabin is always a safe bet!) Lot’s of airbnb’s will also let you use their sports equipment like a canoe or skiis so it can be pretty budget friendly as well!
Should We Do A First Look?
A first look is where you guys see each other in your wedding clothes for the first time! If you want to do a first look, you guys get ready together, either at your airbnb or in the woods on our hike, and then you do a little reveal! You can both turn around at the same time, you can walk up behind him and tap him on the shoulder (or grab his butt!) or you can close your eyes and open them when you’re standing in front of each other! First looks are great and a fun way to add a little anticipation to the day! BUT if that seems a little over the top for you guys, you can always get ready together! You help him with his tie, he zips up your dress, and you guys get ready for your wedding (and life together!) TOGETHER. Its a great symbolism for the life that you guys are building together, and you get to get ready with your best friend, just like date night!
How Many People Should Be There?
Thatttttttttt is totally up to you! In your DREAM ELOPEMENT that you see in your head, are there people there? Are your parents and your best friend smiling and supporting you? Or is it just you and the person that you’re beginning a life with? Only about half of the elopements I shoot have any guests at all, and if they want to include family members, they have a little celebration back at home later! If the thought of including your family in your elopement causes you ANY stress or disappointment, DON’T INCLUDE THEM! It’s okay. Its okay not to have your parents there on your wedding there. If they actually love and care about you and want what’s best for them, then they will support your decision. Some couple’s are scared that excluding people will come off as selfish. Well, did you know its okay to be selfish? What do you think that self-care is? Its the good kind of selfish that occurs when you make the right decision for YOU. So if you want it to just be the two of you, DO IT.
Another thing that can determine guest count is the permit that you get for your elopement. Most national parks require a permit be required for an elopement to take place in the park, and many of them have guest limitations. Some allow up to 30, whereas some only allow ten tops. So that could be a great way of determining how many people you wanted to bring!
There’s many ways to include friends and family in your elopement day, but I wrote a whole blog post about that here, so feel free to head there and read that for more ideas!
How Does The Ceremony Go?
Totally up to you. USUALLY if its just me and the couple, I play your “walking down the aisle” song on my mini speaker and you walk to each other, read your vows to each other, cry a little, exchange rings or tokens, and then I pronounce you as husband and wife and you kiss! (Yes, I’m ordained, haha there actually IS power vested in me!) You can totally add more things, a reading from a poetry book or a bible verse, playing a special song, reading letters from special people, doing a unity symbol, or many more things, its totally up to you!
If your family and an officient is there, usually the ceremony is conducted pretty similarly to a normal wedding except we all huddle around you for support (and to hear! Haha usually a sound system isn’t around!). You can include multiple people in your ceremony or keep it simple, the choice is yours!
What do we do after the ceremony?
There’s so many options! You could have a picnic, you can have your first dance, you can go on a celebratory canoe around the lake, you can pop some champagne or pour some whiskey, make a campfire, you can set up a cute dinner and celebrate with some cake! The options are endless. Basically it depends on where you are and what you’re doing. If we just did a 12 mile hike, we likely didn’t haul up a wedding cake with us, and if we are on a mountain in Switzerland in December we probably don’t have the ability to canoe around a lake! If you have some guests with you, you might want to pick a nearby brewery to head to to have a celebratory drink or dinner! Or you can pick up some takeout and have a dinner together at your airbnb! Also don’t forget to sign your license!
But picking a few things to do after your ceremony will make your day feel a little more special and memorable. I always bring a bottle of champagne and a small speaker in case you guys want to have your first dance or pop some bubbly! You can always end the day by doing some sweet stargazing as well!
So there you have it! There’s a basic outline to planning your elopement! I always suggest planning your elopement WITH your photographer because it makes thing wayyyy easier and also taking lots of time with your partner to think about your perfect day. I hope this was helpful for y’all and if you think we might vibe and you want ME to capture your elopement, hit me up!