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The Ultimate Small Wedding and Adventure Elopement Planning Guide

Welcome to your ultimate planning guide, and welcome to the elopement family!  Since you have officially booked, it’s time to celebrate and roll up our sleeves to co-create your most amazing elopement experience!  This guide will walk you thorough every detail and consideration, and I’m adding to it constantly.  It will be your planning bff (besides me, of course)!

A big, massive, obnoxious, emotionally moving WELCOME!! <3

Here’s why you’re making the right choice!  You have now officially taken a massive proactive step towards creating a wedding day that fits you both & provides you with the meaning a wedding day should have–not to mention the mental peace that will flood you throughout the process.  That day (your wedding day) will be one you share stories of the rest of your lives, both verbally and with these beautifully epic photos we are going to get!  

Eloping couples (that’s you now!) are concerned with their values and weave it into the everyday.  Why wouldn’t you weave them into your wedding day too?  So together we’ll create a wedding day that makes you feel cozy, even if the location itself is mega wild! 😀  Because that’s where you belong.

The journey to your elopement day may feel daunting, but know that we are here to guide you both.  When you think of a question, email us.  When you get stressed, shoot me a text.  When you are overwhelmed with all the beautiful options of what your day could be, send us a carrier pigeon!  😉  And we will work through this together.  Our personal goal is to be certain you never feel alone in this process.  You’ll notice each section has the opportunity to book a consultation call in case you need to chat through any questions in that section.  Please make use of these calls so you are most satisfied with your decisions!

And one reminder… this guide is not a “one and done” kinda guide.  Keep this guide handy, and refer back to it frequently.  We are constantly (and we mean CONSTANTLY lol) adding to your extended guide with every new piece of helpful information.  You’ll want to refer back to your guide throughout the process to be sure you are utilizing all the tools you have to properly plan and live out your elopement full of adventure and meaning (with zero stress in tow).  You’re going to love this guide! 

The truth is it’s going to be crazy fun!  Crazy intentional!  & Crazy purposeful!  We’ll dive deep into who you guys are, what you prioritize, and what you love to create a day of wonder, security, & awe.  The journey will involve research, phone calls, excited shrills, lotso hugs from your boo, and lotso cheerleading from us!  So we are *stoked* to get started!  Let’s go together!

 

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide, so stick around and keep it close!

 

faq’s

how the checklist process flows

discovering your why

choosing which (if any) guests to bring and who

nailing down the perfect elopement location

creating your most meaningful and intentional elopement timeline

when/how to best book travel

handling legalities of your elopement location and state

how and when to tell your family

what to look for in vendors and which to hire for your day

the best wedding attire for adventure elopements

how to create your ceremony to be full of meaning and creativity

planning for your elopement celebration

your last minute checklist so you show up to your elopement prepared

so let’s hop to it!

Des here! Let’s start with these faq’s!

You’re going to have a lot of questions throughout this process, and I’m going to either answer or help you answer every last one.  However, there are some typical questions folks have at the beginning of this experience, and I’d love to debunk some of those for ya! 😀

 

What is an elopement? What will my day look like?

In short, an elopement is a meaningful, authentic, and creative wedding experience designed by couples seeking to exist purely as themselves on their wedding day without stress and with intimacy & adventure.  We’ll work together to be sure your wedding day has you as the master and includes all of those elements.

 

How long will planning my elopement take?

A simpler elopement with few details can take as little as 1 week to nail down.  More extensive elopements can take up to a year depending on travel needs.  However, most adventurous elopements can be planned in 3-6 months.  It really depends upon how decisive you are as a couple and how quickly you are ready to be married!  Moral of the story: we can make it happen by your date!

 

Can my elopement plans change?

Absolutely!  If you contacted me about a “just us” elopement, but you’ve now decided you want a small amount of guests to attend, we can absolutely create a wedding day with those changes in mind–and vise versa.  Your vision for your elopement day may change as we co-create this day, and that is more than okay!  It’s important you are actively listening to yourselves and each other to determine what is truly important for your wedding day.  What we want to avoid, however, is a change in plans from outside pressures.  For example, if you’ve chosen a location and loved it initially–don’t change your minds because you saw an epic pic at a different location.  Your knee jerk reaction on a lot of decisions is the way to go as it is usually what is most authentically appealing to you.

 

Can I add additional time to my original package?

Absolutely!!  Often couples find when creating their day that maybe they did not purchase enough time to live out the extent of what they’re creating in a nonstressful way!  We love helping couples craft elopement days that either fit in their package hours or helping them choose the appropriate amount of hours to add onto their day!  You’ll be able to see if you need to lengthen your package, and we’ll help accommodate that!

 

How much of the planning do we do, and how much of the planning do you do?

I’m a guide, a wealth of planning insight and experience.  When I say you get “unlimited planning consultations,” I truly mean it.  How that typically looks is I streamline the planning process by giving you a plethora of things to consider when planning all aspects of your day.  I’m very proactive (hence this guide lol) in getting in front of the planning so neither of us never feel behind.  At different intervals, I will send over questionnaires, planning blogs, customized suggestions, etc., and you will make the final call on the decisions.  I do not make decisions for you, but I gladly give you options and wisdom from what has worked before.  Think of me as your elopement google. 🙂  But google doesn’t make us choose certain options, so I request you make final decisions and do all official booking of other vendors, flights, lodging, etc.  I gas up the elopement car, get the oil changed, the inside cleaned, and hand you the keys so you can put that baby in drive.

 

What is your communication style?

I’m your elopement photographer and planning guide, but you’ve also just hired a new best friend!!  That means our first mode of communication will be email, but my tone is always super friendly and exciting!!  I love when clients text me, but you are most likely to get a thorough response via email.  Quick questions can be answered by text during business hours, but longer questions should be asked via email so all of our communication is in one place.  I also want to be up front–I LOVE chatting with my clients… and not just about their wedding day.  You can expect funny memes, dm’s, emails, random phone calls (if I see something that screams you & want to tell you about it)!  I understand you will not always be available, but I’d love to keep communication as open and personable as possible.

 

Is there any time you are not available?

Why, I’m glad you asked!!  Dan & I have 2 sweet pups and our adorable babe (I’m positive you’ve already seen pics of him lol).  So our work hours are 8 AM-4 PM Monday through Thursday.  I also am off at noon on Fridays and remain off work until Monday morning at 8:00 AM EST.  I also do a lot of traveling during the summer months for elopements so my wifi and cell coverage is often limited.  I do, however, send reminders that I will be out of the office for x amount of time beforehand as a courtesy.  I do appreciate your patience in advance for allowing me to be fully present with other eloping couples during their stellar wedding experience, and I promise to be in touch with you as soon as possible! <3

Now let’s hop to the process!

 

The process of planning your elopement alongside myself as your guide could be daunting… *but* my process is tested and proven to give adequate time for planning and creativity so that your elopement day is full of authenticity and meaning while leaving us all overly prepared for the events of your day.  The process is not always linear, but rather it happens in stages depending upon decisiveness, location requirements, and travel logistics, etc.

My process includes cornerstone elements that you will experience while planning.  Here is exactly what you can expect from me and when to expect it now that you have booked:

 

>>Get to know you questionnaire-ASAP

This helps me learn more about you both, your relationship, your values, activities you enjoy, and some fun facts so I can best help your elopement experience exceed every expectation.

>>Location Questionnaire-ASAP

This helps me learn more about the type of scenery/weather/accessibility you need for your elopement ceremony to be homey *and* adventurous all at the same time.

>>Personalized location list-As soon as both prior questionnaires are completed and I’ve done extensive research

I will put together a personalized location list with photos for you detailing general & specific elopement locations with additional information to consider alongside each location.

>>Elopement Location Leave No Trace Guide-As soon as you receive your personalized location list so you can make your best informed decision

Leave No Trace Principles will be implemented from the beginning of your elopement journey.  This guide will introduce Leave No Trace ethics and how we will work together to keep your elopement experience LNT friendly and sustainable.

>>Location consult phone call-As soon as you receive and look over your personalized location list

Here we will discuss each location and your likes/dislikes until we determine which potential location you are in love with.

>>Timeline Draft(s)-ASAP

After choosing your location, I will draft 2 potential timelines for your elopement day(s).  After you have reviewed which is closer to what you love, we will continue to revise your timeline until it is overflowing what all the things you love and gives us adequate time on your wedding day to really take a slower paced approach to your elopement day.

>>3 month check in with personalized gear and packing list-3 months from your date

3 months from your date, I will send over a packing list catered to your elopement location.  This includes a wedding day list as well as general suggestions for your trip.

>>YOUR WEDDING DAY!!!

We’ll spend the day living out the day you have intentionally created to bring you all the warm fuzzies while you commit yourselves to one another for a lifetime. <3  I’ll be with you every step of the way while providing you with the space you need for comfort and intimacy.

>>3-5 Previews of your images from your elopement day-within 1 week after your elopement day

>>Deliver your gallery–Within the contracted amount of weeks agreed upon (found within your contract)

 

 

Now that we have the process down, let’s hop to your in-depth steps!

 

In this section we’ll cover steps 1-10 on how to show up to your elopement prepared for a day full of meaning and adventure!  You’ve already booked your photographer so this is a crucial step you’ve already figured out!!  We’ll cover topics in this section like locations, guests or no guests, permitting, packing lists, travel logistics, and so much more!!  Please refer to this portion of your Extended Elopement Guide for a quick reference and insight to so many decisions you’ll be thinking through as you plan your adventure elopement!!  So let’s get started!

Here’s an overview of the steps:

  1. Determine your why and build your day around it.
  2. Nail down your general elopement location(s).
  3. Find your elopement photographer (and yay!! you’ve already done that!)
  4. Nail down your location and date.
  5. Handle all of the legalities of your elopement location.
  6. Do (or don’t) tell your family about your elopement.
  7. Finalize meaningful details.
  8. Determine elopement timeline and ceremony draft(s).
  9. Show up to your adventure elopement prepared!
  10. Live out your adventurous elopement day(s) full of creativity and meaning!

Step 1: Determine your why and build your day around it.

You’ve decided to make the brave decision and elope for some reason, and it’s likely a major reason.  Whether it’s because you value privacy, the outdoors, or drama-free wedding days, your reason to elope is truly the thread that will pull together all aspects of your wedding day.

Let’s take a sec & think through an example so you can see exactly what I’m blabbing about.  Let’s say we have 2 couples: one is eloping because they feel most at home in the outdoors and the other is eloping because they have a lot of family drama they’d rather not invite into their wedding day.  Each couple will make decisions based on this foundational why.  Couple 1 might have an elopement day that is filled to the brim with adventures like paddle-boarding, dog sledding, or sky diving with their guests while couple 2 might decide to not have any guests and keep their day chill & stress free by hiking, having a picnic, and finishing the day by getting a spa treatment.  It depends on your foundational “why” as to how we will craft your day.  So before we take another step, it is vital you answer the question honestly and with detail, “Why am I eloping?”

This is a crucial exercise for you as well as me!  When you’ve dug deep, determined why you’re really eloping, and solidified it with your partner, then we’ll have a stellar place to start planning your day.

At this point, you’ll need to also make the decision of if you’re bringing guests based upon your why.  This is often the most difficult decision for eloping couples so feel free to take some time and really consider the implications of either option.  Bringing guests alongs means part of your day will cater to them, their budgets, their capabilities, and their preferences.  Not to mention, having your guests travel across the US or the state to your elopement.  It can add a lot to consider to your elopement experience.  A word of encouragement:  if you do want to bring your family, it can be a joyous experience!  The extra planning doesn’t have to be stressful, and we’d love to help navigate the waters of bringing guests along if that’s what makes your day perfect!!  If you don’t want to bring guests along, that will change how your day will look too!  You’ll have all of the time of your elopement day dedicated to you and what you love!  Every moment will be free and you will be the ones to fill the moments with exactly what you love.  Having a “just-us” elopement experience can add a lot of variety to your day as you navigate from adventure to adventure and exchange your vows privately.  It truly depends upon your why as to if you bring guests, and we’ll support you either way. 🙂

Here are the practical steps:

 

Determine why you’re eloping.

Send me an email with the subject “why we’re eloping” giving me all the details.  This helps me understand more about you and offer a more personalized experience as we plan.

Based on your why, are you bringing guests along?

Step 2: Nail down your general elopement location(s).

You’ve likely been brainstorming your butts off on the perfect state to elope in, which park to elope in, or which scenic viewpoint is perfect for your vows!!  And we love it!!  So at this step we’ll help you down your general elopement location!!  This is one of the most exciting parts of the experience other than the actual wedding day where you get married to your boo!!

Each step comes with a few pivotal questions, and securing your elopement location is no different.  The first question you must answer is, “Are we the type of couple who feels most comfy at a familiar location you love or do we feel most comfy adventuring somewhere new and getting the adrenaline pumping?”  Once you’ve determined this answer, we can move forward choosing your elopement location!!

Pro-tip:  here is where we will send over location questionnaire I mentioned earlier in order to best know what type of day you’re dreaming up so I can send over the most PERFECT list of potential locations for your day!!  If you already know which area, then your list will have specific locations.  If you’re unsure, we’ll keep the list more general and determine the specific location later.

This is really where you’re getting a tonnn of valuable information you can’t find on Google or a facebook group of brides.  We’ll put together a list of potential locations in different areas with all kinds of inside information we’ve documented over years of traveling and alongside tons of resources we have procured as elopement photographers.

Here are some things to consider after you’ve received your elopement location guide to help you make your decision:

  1. Is travel here logistically possible for us?
  2. Does this location get us stoked?
  3. Is this accessible to your guests (if you’re bringing any)?
  4. Does this location require a special use permit or photography permit we need to be aware of?
  5. What are some pros and cons of this location compared to others and are any of these deal breakers?
  6. Is this location truly what we’ve been looking for in a place to exchange vows?
  7. Does this location have the privacy at the time of year/time of day we’re considering?
  8. Are there any eye sores we will want to avoid?
  9. Does this location “match” the vibe of what we hope to wear and do?
  10. Will the commute to and from be off putting on our wedding day?

 

Here are the practical steps:

 

Book a location consult call if you need help after receiving your location guide.

Determine your elopement location.

Notify me of your final elopement location decision, and we’ll start on permitting and discovering additional Leave No Trace implications.

Step 4: Nail down your date and specific location.

You might be asking, but where’s step 3?!  Step 3 was taken care of when you hired me, your elopement photographer! 😉 Since you’ve already found your photographer and guide, we’ll hop to nailing down your specific date and location.

This is why your location questionnaire I’ve sent over is crucial.  I’ll take your answers and location inspiration to find you an abundance of potential locations.  You’ll receive your personalized elopement location guide with photos, tips, and need-to-knows on each location for you to survey.  Obviously, all of these locations will be killer options, but only you can choose the perfect one for both of you.  You will have already decided on your date (as per our contract), but you may find you need wiggle room to move it forwards or backwards a day or two.  Here we will solidify the original date and make changes if we need.

Here are some lesser-known questions to consider about your elopement date and location that no one may have brought to your attention before.

 

Is this time/location optimal for making our wedding day creative? (i.e. outdoor activities, etc. that you love being nearby)

Your day could simply be getting ready, having a first look, exchanging vows, taking photos, and retreating back to your stay.  But that wouldn’t bring creativity to your day like taking a few hours to enjoy yourselves in the way that is most natural to you.  You’ll want to choose a location and time of year that gives you access to activities you enjoy and can insert into your wedding day to make it your own.

Which of these times/locations get us jazzed on eloping?

As much as eloping is unique, a lot of eloping couples are eloping because they saw so-and-so elope at x, y, & z.  However, just because a view is gorgeous doesn’t mean it gets you excited.  You may be a lush mountain kinda couple, but you saw someone eloped in Sedona so you’re thinking about Sedona.  Don’t let pressure from instagram, your friends, or pinterest influence your decision on what landscapes get you jazzed.

What ease of access do we need for us & any potential guests?

You know your physical capabilities as well as the capabilities of your guests (if you’re bringing any).  Consider how long of a walk/hike you all can tolerate and are excited about.  Some couples are able to hike pretty strenuously but their grandparents cannot.  The simple work around is to choose your ceremony location somewhere easily accessible like a scenic viewpoint and then choose a more adventurous, physically involved location for your portraits and adventure afterward.  Consider ease of access carefully, and we can schedule your day around for these needs.

How much privacy do want/need for our day?  Would we like privacy during the entire day or just during certain portions of the day?

A lot of couples have the misconceptions that eloping automatically guarantees them privacy and exclusivity at their location.  However, the great outdoors are open to all.  You never know who will stroll up to your elopement location (be it a human or a friendly bear).  You’ll want to intentionally choose your location and time of year based on your comfort level with crowds.  We’ll be sure to include popular and less popular location options so you have a great variety to choose from based on your privacy needs.

Can we handle the extremity of these times/locations?

Some of the most beautiful options are on lengthy trails involving scrambling, snow crossings, or a huge plethora of other trail obstacles.  You’ll need to be realistic about what physical activity you can handle especially considering what you’ll be wearing and bringing along with you on your wedding day.  You’ll have stellar wedding clothes adding weight, snacks and water, and other outdoor gear.  Our average couple books one hour per mile on a trail so we can hike at a leisurely pace, take needed water breaks, and have time to get photos during the entirety of the trail.  Consider closely that choosing a lengthier/more strenuous trail may not fit into your original amount of time, and you’ll need to potentially upgrade depending on your original package.

What are the Leave No Trace opportunities for this location and our activities?

Every location option will have elements that need to be considered against the Leave No Trace ethics.  We will have to determine which locations allow the type of activity and photos you want to accomplish.  Does this seem a little daunting?  Don’t worry, we have a whole guide on how to Leave No Trace, and we’ll be stoked to share it!

Additional Note: This is where you will want to book your travel and lodging for your elopement.

We do not recommend booking your travel and lodging before your specific location is solidified, especially if your general area is very large.  You will want to know a smaller area to book your lodging and plan your week around so most of your time is not spent driving.

We also recommend using Google Flights to follow when flight fare rise and fall.  Sky scanner is another option you may use to find inexpensive flights at varying locations.  Airbnb is also a great place to start searching for lodging as you can usually find a more private location.

Here are the practical steps:

 

Choose your specific elopement location.

Begin implementing Leave No Trace opportunities.

Discover adventurous activities you want to include in your day.

Choose sunrise or sunset for the emphasis of your day.

Book travel and lodging.

 

Step 5: Handle all of the legalities of the state in which you are eloping.

You have to have your date and location nailed down before you can begin to process how to elope there legally.  There is usually an easy(ish) process to elope at any location.  However, some couples opt to elope legally in their state of residence so as to avoid any obstacles during their elopement experience. 

If you choose to get married legally in your home state before or after your elopement, here’s how that goes:

You may decide the process to elope legally in your location is too difficult or requires something of you that you’re not comfortable adding to the equation.  The option of marrying legally in your state of residence where you’ll have less obstacles is always a great option.  There are a few pros to this: paperwork is easier, you can focus on your commitment during your wedding day instead of legalities, and you have the option to celebrate your commitment on several occasions.  Some couples feel this option takes away from their actual elopement experience, but others believe they are only truly married from their commitment ceremony (vow exchange), not when they signed papers at the courthouse.  However, if you opt to elope and legally marry in your elopement location, here are some common places to research.

Marriage Laws by State

Marriage License Requirements by State

If you choose to get legally married at your elopement location, here’s how that goes:

Research marriage license laws in the state of your elopement location.  These will be simple to find.  Pay special attention to required documentation needed (whether it can be provided online or in person), who can officiate your ceremony, and blood test prerequisites to obtain your  marriage license.  Some states also require a waiting period before your license can be signed and be valid.  For example, in Alaska you need to obtain your license in person, wait 3 days, and then you can use the license as valid.  This will differ from location to location, but it is something to consider.  On the topic of ceremony officiants: this also differs wildly from state to state and is often pretty vague online.  You can research this of course, but we are always willing to help call around, research, and double check to be sure your ceremony officiant is recognized in the state.  Some states do not permit online ordination for recognized officiants, and this can be sticky.  We’ll help you work around that and be sure your officiant is legally capable of performing your ceremony.

Here are the practical steps:

 

Research and determine marriage laws for your elopement location.

Begin any necessary paperwork.

Determine the officiating requirements.

Book your officiant if necessary.

Step 6: Do (or don’t) tell your family about your elopement!

At this point you will likely have decided who/when and if you’ll be notifying other of your decision to elope.  The old definition of eloping usually implies a secret ceremony, and you’d inform friends and family of your marriage after you’ve already committed to one another.  Today’s definition of eloping gives more power into the couple’s hands.  You get to determine when you announce, if you announce, and to whom you announce.

A great word of advice is to announce to those whom you know will handle the news well first.  This creates excitement and a support system to rely on in case anyone takes the news badly.  Start by telling those you are closest with that will respond positively.

Let’s talk about some pointers on how to tell others you’re eloping.  You already have a hunch as to who will take this news well and who will need some extra affirmation to avoid upset feelings. 

 

Here are the keys to delivering news to those who may be disapproving at first:

      1. Have an in-person conversation if at all possible.
      2. Avoid distractions during the conversation like tv, cell phones, or a drive.
      3. Sit across from them or be certain your face can be clearly seen.
      4. Affirm your relationship first before announcing your elopement.
      5. Speak slowly, calmly, and with humility.
      6. Allow space for them to express their response adequately before speaking over them.
      7. Give time for family members and friends to process.
      8. Detail logical and emotional reasons why you’re eloping.
      9. Take initiative to include important relationships in your day even if they can’t be there (more to come on this later).
      10. Consider ways to celebrate your elopement with those meaningful relationships.

Here are the practical steps:

Decide who (if any) you will tell.

Make a plan for how to tell them face-to-face.

Write out a well-thought out script to follow loosely.

Step 7: Finalize meaningful details!

Let’s talk vendors!

Included in every elopement package comes a personalized vendor referral list.  That means you don’t need to stress about researching vendors, because I’m putting together a list of vetted vendors in your area so all you do is simply reach out to book them depending on who you love most!!  First, let’s discover exactly what is a vendor?  A vendor is any person whose service or product is used to create your wedding day.  They may range from your photographer to your Uber driver and anything in between.  Any specific purchase for your wedding day qualifies as a vendor, and we’ll be happy to help you find your perfect vendors.

How many vendors do I need? Do you need a floral designer? A Baker? A Calligrapher? A personal chef?  These are only the beginning of your options.  We dive deep to help our couples find their other vendors that are insanely talented but also highly personable.  Some elopements have as little as 2 vendors and some become quite elaborate having up to 40 vendors depending on how detail-oriented and involved the eloping couples’ day is.

Here are some common vendors you will want to think through:

Wedding attire: YES, YES, YES! It’s time to pick out your attire!! Be sure you go with what makes you feel comfy AND glam for your elopement day, whatever your version of glam is. Pay special attention to practicality here. If you’re hiking somewhere cold, you may need extra layers under your attire. Your boo may need some layers under his garb as well. You’ll need flexibility in whatever you decide to wear so it’s not too restrictive to enjoy your elopement day. And don’t even get me started on all gorgeous online wedding dress shops that will give you free shipping and free returns so you can try on dresses at home and don’t have to bother with going into a dress shop if that’s not your scene. What about shoes? Most of our couples put on a stellar gown and snazzy suit and lace up their hiking boots on bottom so they can move freely as safely during their wedding day. As far as groom’s attire, you can dress as formal or as casual as your would prefer for the vibe of your day.  Men’s wear also has a ton of online options that are killer affordable and mega stylish.  The most important factors in choosing your wedding attire for an adventure elopement is style and practicality for the type of day you’re creating.  Don’t forget, we’re always here to give second thoughts on your attire.  We know pretty well what works for different locations and would be stoked to be hands on in helping you make final decisions.

A fun note on wedding garb & sustainability.  You have every right to head to the nearest dress shop and purchase your dress, but let’s consider some ways to make your elopement attire sustainable.  Did you know wedding dresses and suits are the most “resuable” part of a wedding day?  That means when your dress is done you can resell it in order to keep it out of that nasty landfill in a few years!!  Reselling your dress (or renting to other brides) is a great earth-friendly option.  There are also a few more options to make your wedding attire sustainable and friendly to this earth we love so well:

  1. Renting your wedding attire:  This is a newer (and we think STELLAR) option for your wedding day.  There are several online options to choose from as well as various bridal groups to rent from.  You can also find tux rentals very easily, and this is so kind to our earth.
  2. Thrifting your wedding attire:  You might want to keep your dress/suit for a while, and this is a great opportunity for you to thrift!  You can find amazingly preserved and up to trend dresses and suits on the down low on places like Poshmark.  These will be great spots to search.  These online thrift stores have a great inventory of some of the most popular elopement dress designs ranging from BHLDN, Lulu’s, and others!  Spots like Express and ASOS have cool suits that will look amazing on your elopement day!

Adventure vendors: Do you want to hike? Paddle-board? Sand sled? This is the time to research and book (if applicable) any day of activities you want to do for your adventure elopement. Depending on what activities you choose, you may need to hire additional vendors to make it happen.  Adventure rentals for popular destinations can book months in advance so you’ll need to check quickly on any adventure gear, tours, or special transportation you’d need like a helicopter, snowmobile, or 4WD jeep!

Ceremony vendors:  If you are eloping in a compliant state, Dan or myself can officiate so that knocks off one vendor from your list.  Some other vendors you may consider for your ceremony would be: jewelers, vow books, calligraphy, religious/spiritual symbols and their providers, etc.  Once we craft your ceremony draft, you’ll be able to see what vendors you may need. 

“Special” vendors:  For this category I’m referring to adding meaningful and intentional details into your day and finding the perfect vendor for that.  Perhaps you want to include something like a facetime with your family or include a family heirloom in your day as a symbol.  Dig deep here to see what can enhance your elopement experience past finding florals, cake, photography and go further into what truly matters to you as a couple.  For example, if you have this precious memory of your first dance at a cheesy Italian restaurant, let’s find a violinist to play you music to have your first dance to on top of a mountain.  The possibilities are endless, but we need to think creatively to ensure your day (and your vendors) reflect you entirely.

Here are the practical steps:

 

Choose your wedding attire.

Book on-location vendors based on your personalized vendor recommendation guide.

Order any items/pieces you will need to carry with you.

Book adventure elopement vendors like kayaks, heli tour, etc.

Step 8: Determine elopement timeline and ceremony draft.

Now that you’ve figured out what you want to do, when you want to do it, where you want to do it, and how you want to do it, it’s time to create that final draft of your timeline.  Remember that getting to know you and location questionnaire?  Here we’ll put together a timeline draft based off your responses and the type of day you’re creating in order to prioritize the things you love and care about.  We will send over a timeline draft for your approval so no need to create one and stress over it.  We will then amend the timeline depending on your personal preferences and insights.

At the same time, we will be working with you to create your ceremony draft.  The way we do ceremonies might be different than you’d anticipate, so let’s chat about that real quick.  Dan and I want your elopement day to be a safe space for you to be vulnerable and honest.  Thus, we give proper space during your ceremony.  If we are officiating we begin the ceremony to get you in the correct headspace to commit to one another, but then we back away and hand you the reins (as it should be).

Here are some tips/inspirations for making your ceremony meaning and reflective of you both! You wouldn’t be eloping if it weren’t for the fact that you want to get married, I.e. say some crazy meaningful vows to each other!  And we love that!  You deserve for your ceremony-like the rest of your elopement experience-to reflect who you are and what you value. There are typically 3 categories that go into an elopement ceremony: words, symbols, and celebrations.  How you incorporate the use of the three will depend upon what’s important to you.  Some couples choose not to incorporate symbols or celebrations, and we think that’s okay too! Elopement vows are simply promises you’re making your partner that will last a lifetime.  So we recommend couples write their own vows, and we always give them the freedom and space to exchange those vows out of our ear shot.

Here are some ways couples have made their day reflect them:

  1. Get tattooed rings
  2. Exchange vows at a meaningful type of landscape 
  3. Celebrate by popping bubbly
  4. Planting a tree
  5. Watching recorded videos of family and friends saying congrats

These are personal ideas from other couples, but together we’ll work to create your own unique touch to your elopement ceremony!!  Your questionnaire will help you dig deep into the values of your relationship to see what symbols, activities, and vows might be helpful for your ceremony to make it more meaningful.

Vows: How does an elopement ceremony work with vows?  Oh sweet vows!  Elopement vows are guaranteed to make this photographer cry, and that’s simply because eloping couples (when I can actually hear the vows) drench their words in meaning, funny anecdotes, and lifelong promises.  I’m always overcome with their love for one another, and I think there is a tried and true formula for vows that cover the depth of your relationship while stating intentions about your marriage to come that still gives you room to create an elopement ceremony that is truly reflective of you both.

A typical vow formula is as follows:

  1. A gratitude that the wedding day has finally come
  2. A summary of your experiences throughout the beginning and varying seasons of your relationship (no doubt with some inside jokes, embarrassing moments, or hard times)
  3. An intent statement procured with your lifelong commitment to your partner

Symbols: Now onto the symbols!  In a traditional wedding ceremony, couples often use rings, a 3 strand cord, planting a unity tree, etc. to symbolize their union.  Since you’re eloping, you get to craft our own symbols to be reflective of your relationship!  There are some questions to ask when considering which symbols might be most appropriate for your adventurous elopement ceremony:

  1. Is it important that this symbol of our marriage is long-lasting?
  2. Do we want to have this symbol permanently on our person or elsewhere?
  3. What symbols are already meaningful in our relationship that we can incorporate into our elopement ceremony?

Final notes on symbols: Rings are a simple and tried & true symbol that most eloping couples use, but I also encourage couples to think out of the box and have a few symbols of their wedding day that can be kept to remember the day and their commitment.  If you’re eloping on a mountain top, a great symbol might be a patch from the gift store with your wedding date embroidered on it.  Another great option may be getting a tattoo of the latitude and longitude of exactly where you said your vows if you’re into tats (which I am & would be totally hype to photograph you both getting tattoos)!  Maybe you guys are into watercolor!  You could bring some simple watercolor supplies up the jagged mountain peak or to the rocky black coast for your elopement ceremony and symbolize your ceremony by creating some art to be displayed in your home.  However you both are already connected symbolically is worth exploring for your elopement ceremony symbol(s).  Oooo and one more note:  even though rings are typical, no elopement ceremony is typical so feel free to opt out of using rings as symbols if they’re not really your style.  We’re all about helping couples answer the question, “how does an elopement ceremony work?” all for themselves.

We’ve covered your words, your symbols, and now we’re off to discover how does an elopement ceremony work considering your ceremony celebration!  I love all parts of an elopement day, but this one is certainly what brings our couples the most joy!  They know they’ve sealed the deal with their vows & symbols, but now it is the time to celebrate their commitment by doing something that is truly them!  If you’re choosing an elopement, you’re already a balls-to-the-wall kind of person!  So you likely have interesting mutual hobbies that would be a joy to engage in to celebrate your elopement ceremony!  In fact, most eloping couples spend the majority of their elopement day celebrating by having dinner with their immediate families, hiking their favorite trail, stand up paddle boarding, going on a dog run (if they’re eloping in Alaska of course lol), chugging beer, or cross country skiing!  The good news is if you’re not into any of the above celebrations, you get to (you guessed it) create the celebration list you would most enjoy for your day!  So how does an elopement ceremony work?  It works like your favorite vacation might work!

Here are some brainstorming questions to help you discover how to best celebrate your ceremony:

Do we have guests to consider when planning our ceremony celebration?

What outdoor activities do we already do together?

Is there anything new and adventurous that we want to try?

Do we want our elopement ceremony celebration to be relaxed, exhilarating, or a bit of both?

 

Here are the practical steps:

 

Return ceremony questionnaire to me.

Receive and review ceremony draft.

Prepare all elements you will need for your ceremony.

Plan adventurous or meaningful activities.

Prepare any meaningful surprises.

Write vows. 🙂

Step 9: Show up to your elopement prepared!

Oh, man. This is where it gets good. You’re in the last week before your adventure elopement!!! Your heart is racing just thinking about it. I mean, even my palms are sweaty!  It’s an amazing week to be alive! But showing up to your adventure elopement emotionally and physically prepared is essential to having a meaningful, authentic, and creative elopement experience. So what do you even do the week of your elopement? Isn’t it all done?  Not just yet. There are few final things you must do before you lace up those hiking boots and gear up for the epic love adventure of a lifetime. We’ll break these into two sections—before you leave and the two days before your elopement!

Before you leave home:

Packing the essentials!!! Ya know, all that it takes to adventure and elope! You’ll need your wedding attire, your gear, paperwork, rings, vows, meaningful surprises, and whatever else you want to bring to your adventure elopement to make it more special!  Remember how we mentioned you’d get a personalized packing list?  Here is where that packing list comes into play.  You will have received your personalized list so that you’re equipped with all it takes to get married and adventure on your wedding day.

Better go and check that weather!!! You may have decided to elope on Tuesday, but a nasty storm is headed into the national park. It seems maybe Thursday will be better so you can be most comfy during your elopement. Chat with all your vendors and see what their thoughts are on the weather. Are they still good to go? Is it possible to move the date if need be? And speaking of vendors—

Be sure you have paid all final payments to your vendors and have reconnected with them on their game plan for the day. Confirm any travel, pick up, etc. they need to be doing for your elopement so you do not have to guess where they are at in the process of preparing. Also here determine what type of thank you gift you would like to give your vendors. Speaking from experience, thoughtful gifts themed around a mutual interest with my couples is amazing, especially if the gift is eco-friendly, recyclable, repurposed, you name it. Give your vendors gifts that coincide with their personal values.

Double check all legalities such as your marriage license and permits are taken care of. Often your marriage license must be picked up upon arrival in the location’s county in which you are eloping, so be sure you have allotted enough time in your travels to swing by and pick it up. As far as special use permits, some parks require the permit be returned to the park within X amount of days before the ceremony, so provide enough time for any special use permit errands you must run as well.

Arrange what’s happening at your household while you’re adventuring. A ton of our eloping couples have deeply cherished pets and are leaving them with someone while they are gone. Maybe they deserve an adventure too!! Maybe this time splurge to have them stay at a pet resort so they are pampered while their parents are gone. They will be so glad to see their newly wed parents when they arrive home and will be relaxed enough to really listen to you baby talk and tell them the story over and over again!

Two days out checklist:

Be sure you are acclimating your body to your new environment. Even if you are wildly in shape, things like humidity, elevation, wind, etc. can be a shocker to your body if the location of your elopement is different from where you live. Give your body two days to live in this new environment so it is best suited for your adventure and adequately prepared. We suggest going on a few smaller hikes and increasing elevation each day while drinking tons (AND WE MEAN TONS) of water to keep your body hydrated while it learns the environment.

Go through your ceremony supplies, paperwork, and adventure gear to double-check to see if you forgot anything. If you have, now is the time to find its replacement locally before you end up on a mountain top without it. We all forget when we’re excited about something!!! And that’s okay. We have time to find a replacement!!

Rest well, y’all. Even though you are likely in a new place doing some pre-adventure elopement adventuring, be sure you are getting adequate sleep each night. Try to sleep earlier, and keep in mind time zones may affect your ability to sleep. Try to adjust your sleeping patterns to your current time zone so you are well rested for the blast you’re going to have during your elopement!

For the last time—finalize your adventure elopement timeline!!! I’m screaming this from excitement!!! For the last time, you get to review your timeline with your vendors for your ADVENTURE ELOPEMENT DAY!!!!! SO many heart eyes for this one!! Your voice will be shaky, you might tear up, but call or email your vendors to finalize your timeline and be sure things are scheduled accordingly. IT’S ALMOST TIME TO FRIGGIN ELOPE!

Here are the practical steps:

 

Pack your essentials and double check by your personalized packing list.

Confirm weather at your location.

Confirm with all vendors, and be sure you are paid up.

Take care of any necessary house responsibilities that will pop up while you are away.

Step 10: Live out your adventurous elopement day full of meaning and creativity!

Your how to elope journey is almost done, and the day has come!! You’ve been planning this during snuggle sessions on the couch and meaningful conversations with vendors. All the preparations are made! You’re gearing up and meeting your vendors. But here’s a few final tips on how to rock the day of your elopement!

Some pointers for your day:

Start the day with some alone time. I know, I know! This day is about being together. But right when you wake up, whether your boo is laying beside you or not, spend some time in deep thought about what this day means. Maybe make a note on your phone of exactly how you’re feeling. Make some promises to yourself about the type of day you’re going to have and, more importantly, the type of marriage you’re going to have. Soak up the joy and excitement!

Be flexible. Even though you’ve planned and prepared with some help from vendors, things might look differently than planned for all sorts of reasons. Keep up the positivity and roll with the punches. This is elopement day you were destined to have!!! Even if a monsoon, blizzard, or whatever else happens—we can make the best of it! And it’ll be a heck of a memory that you’ll have forever!

Be completely present. Remove distractions entirely.  We  recommend our couples leave their phones in our pack so they are less tempted to take away from the moment by scrolling on the ‘gram. If you need them for a selfie, we will have them so you can totally use them!! Just try to only use your phones with intention to better your elopement day.

Woah, that was a lot.

We know planning your elopement can seem a little foggy at the beginning, but we will be there at every part of your journey.  As stated above, we are open for phone calls, emails, and texts for quicker questions, and we will be stoked to help you in this stress-free planning environment.  Rest assured you have our endless support, and we can’t wait to get started!!

The Best Places to Elope with Family | Your Ultimate How To Guide

Welcome to your elopement dreams full of mental peace and adventure in America’s most beautiful state (I mean as Montana elopement photographers, we’re biased, but hey!). Eloping in Montana offers so much to couples just like you–gorgeous landscapes, minimal crowds, affordability, and to be frank–the wild. As elopement photographers we’ve compiled our best elopement tips for eloping in Montana we share with our couples, and we’d love to share with you! We’ll cover where to elope in Montana, when to elope in Montana, and the how of eloping in Montana!

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