Maddie Mae | Colorado Wedding & Elopement Photographer
Intimate Weddings & Adventure Elopements for those who Live & Love Fearlessly. Maddie Mae is a Colorado Elopement photographer who specializes in adventure weddings, hiking elopements, Rocky Mountain National Park Weddings.
You probably think you’ve seen a blog post like this before.
A fun title, stunning elopement pictures, and a few random opinions on why elopements are cool.
This is not that.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying there’s anything bad about that—we’ve been professional elopement photographers and guides for a while now and we have lots of our own opinions on why elopements are amazing.
But what’s different about this post is that it’s actually based on real data from over 200 couples surveyed—data that we couldn’t find anywhere…. so we collected it ourselves.
We asked over 200 couples, “Why did you elope”… and the top 10 reasons (in order of frequency) are below.
We’re so excited to share the actual, driving forces behind couples choosing to elope—the real reasons that people are bravely choosing to have a an intentional wedding day that’s perfectly in-line with who they are.
You don’t want to skip this one. The real reasons might surprise you.
1) A “Just Us” Experience
Overwhelmingly, the very number one reason that people reported choosing to elope was because they wanted to experience a totally intimate wedding experience just for the two of them.
Couples said they wanted to strip away the pressure, anxiety, and obligation that they personally felt about having a traditional wedding—and instead, they wanted a day that was more true to who they were and what they wanted—a “just us” experience.
Elopement is a beautiful option for people who don’t feel like the traditional wedding route is the right fit for them, and it grants them the freedom to decide how to commit their lives to each other. It creates a magical, intimate way for couples to make their wildest, most romantic dreams about their wedding day come true without asking them to sacrifice a single, intimate moment between the two of them.
By eloping, these couples said they were free to melt into each other, focus on each other, and celebrate their love in an uninhibited way that made the most sense for them.
“We wanted it to be intimate and unique. We didn't want to focus on some of the worries that can happen on a wedding day and wanted to focus on us.”—Steph & Jess
“I want the day to be about my partner and I and the love we’re committed to building. Not about pleasing family members and conforming to traditions that don’t mean anything to us.”—Survey Answer
“We wanted to have the most intimate and private ceremony—to have that moment of becoming husband and wife just to ourselves.”—Survey Answer
“We don't regret any of it…we wanted our wedding date to be 100% about us, and we knew if we had a traditional wedding that wouldn't happen.” - Katie & Dylan
The second most frequently reported reason that couples said they chose to elope was because of authenticity—both for the actual ceremony and for their true authentic selves.
Some couples felt that the authenticity—the real reason behind getting married—was swallowed whole by the wedding industry in expectations that didn’t simply make sense to them.
For so many couples, a big, traditional wedding isn’t an honest, true reflection of who they are or what they want, and that’s OK.
Just like it’s OK to want to have a big, traditional wedding, too.
The point is, everyone is different, and everyone deserves to be authentically themselves on their wedding day and to have a day that feels right to them.
For some people, that does look like a traditional wedding. For others, it’s something very different.
Either way is perfect—we’ve always believed that people deserve to know that on their wedding day, they should do exactly what they want.
Because, at the end of it all, your wedding day is about the two of you— about the love you have for each other and the life you’re going to build together.
Shouldn’t that day be the truest reflection of who you both are?
“We didn't want to dilute the meaning and celebration across a sea of people of that haven't weathered the ups and downs with us. And quite honestly, trying to plan a huge wedding is so anxiety-provoking! eek. We didn't want to lose the magic.” - Liz & Regan
“The idea of planning a traditional made me anxious. I couldn’t get behind the idea of putting so much focus into the "even’’…to me that just isn’t what marriage is about. After the “event” passes, it’s just the two of you—forever. I wanted to focus on that.”—Survey Answer
3) Intimate & Intentional
For a lot of couples, the main reason they chose to elope was because they wanted the opportunity to really focus on intimate, intentional moments during their wedding day, and they didn’t feel that a larger, more traditional wedding would afford them those moments.
Often times, with big weddings, it’s much harder to allow for intimate, intentional moments. And that’s no fault of the couple or the guests, it’s simply because of the nature of traditional weddings—there are more people, certain things you normally do, etc.
Many couples felt that, with bigger, traditional weddings, there’s less time or space for intimacy and intentionality—two things that they truly valued on the day they planned to commit their lives to each other.
Elopements can afford you the opportunity for intimacy and authenticity without the fear of becoming absorbed in the details, timelines, and sheer number of guests that are often associated with traditional weddings.
It’s simply a little easier to get lost in the planning, the details, the guests, and the scheduling with bigger, more traditional weddings—for some couples, that’s simply not what they want for their wedding day.
“We have always envisioned a small, intimate wedding. We never really felt the need or want to invite guests who were long lost relatives or distant friends. A wedding should be a celebration of two becoming one - we wanted our day to be focused on each other and celebrate with the ones closest to us.”—Courtney & Kyle
“For us, the idea of a wedding (big or small) was daunting and stressful. Putting on a production for our friends and family just seemed so out of character for us. Plus, we knew we wanted to write our own vows, and we felt that our vows wouldn’t be as special if they were shared in front of a crowd of people. I personally wanted to focus on just my husband and the love and the connection I have with him on our wedding day. It was choice made entirely out of love for each other, love of the outdoors, and the desire for intimacy and privacy on our wedding day.”—Survey Answer
“I think we got to the point where we felt so overwhelmed with the amount of people we would invite and the planning and money involved. We went from thinking we'd have a wedding with 150 guests, to maybe a small destination wedding with 40 guests, to just an intimate ceremony with immediate family.”—Kim & Mandy
“My fiancé and I are choose to elope because we see the ceremony as something so intimate that only needs to be shared between us. We want to be able to read our vows, to cry, to laugh, and to become one under God without making it feel like we have to entertain guests.”—Survey Answer
4) Less Family Drama
One of the realities of life is that sometimes, people have complicated families.
Not every person in the world has that dynamic, close-knit relationship with their family that automatically makes them feel entirely comfortable and fully free to be themselves. And you know what? That’s OK. Just like it’s OK to have a family you are super close to.
Some couples said they chose to elope because they didn’t want to deal with family complications on their wedding day.
Even couples who do get along well with their families sometimes choose to elope to avoid family drama because of the nature of traditional weddings.
sometimes no matter how wonderful the intentions, weddings don’t always bring out the best in people.
Because weddings are sometimes steeped in family tradition, obligation, and expectation. For some people, that can become stressful or overwhelming. That’s OK—there’s no right or wrong way to have a wedding.
The reality of it is this—this is your day.
This is your shot to create something uniquely beautiful with your partner that you’re going to look back on forever.
You should make sure that no matter how you choose to get married, you’re doing what you want to do and that you’re giving yourself the chance to be your most authentic self.
Your wedding day is about you and the love you have for your partner.
Be brave and make the decision that feels right for you.
“ I want to elope because family have made it difficult to actually want them there. We both would have a better, more relaxed, and enjoyable day without them. If we just go and elope, we can do that. Our wedding will actually be about us.”— Survey Answer
“We both have large families with complicated family dynamics and don't want the stress of involving them or feel obligated to try to please everyone. Both of Shelby's parents eloped or had private ceremonies when they got remarried (dad even did it twice), so the precedent to elope has been set.” - Shelby & Ross
“There’s too many obligations between divorced families. My parents don’t get along which causes more drama when trying to plan. The long list of people you “need” to invite because they’ll be upset if they weren’t there. This day is about devoting yourself to another being, so why can’t it be personal and without stress?”—Survey Answer
“If I could do it all again, I would have eloped to avoid the stress of all the logistics and family dynamics.”—Survey Answer
5) Valuing experiences over stuff
For the people who answered our survey, the idea of investing a significant amount of money into an adventure elopement versus one, big wedding day was a driving force behind why they chose to elope.
People who value experiences over tangible things tend to be drawn to elopements. Not because they don’t also want to invest money in their beautiful wedding day, but because they have a different set of desires.
That’s $33,931 spent on things like decorations, venues, food, drinks, and more.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. A lot people really love planning and investing in a more traditional wedding. But, for many—that sounds like a frivolous nightmare. Couples who elope have a different set of priorities and would prefer to use the money they want to invest in their wedding day on an adventure or an experience, and that’s OK, too.
The people who answered our survey and said that money was their reason for choosing an elopement weren’t saying that they didn’t want to invest money into their beautiful wedding day, just that they wanted to invest it differently.
“It's [a big wedding] very materialistic for a day that should be about pure, true love.”—Survey Answer
“We had been talking about getting married for a while but neither of us could to commit to planning a wedding. We realized we just wanted to be married. We didn't want a big wedding or the stress of planning one. We didn't need an expensive party to make our 10+ year relationship feel more legitimate. Eloping sounded way more fun and was more in line with our personalities.”— Laura & Patrick
“Truthfully, the expense and pageantry of a "traditional wedding" did..
Do you see a couple hopping a plane to Vegas to get hitched in a rhinestone-studded chapel? A bride-and-groom duo running off to marry in total secrecy because their family doesn’t approve? Is it two people popping into a courthouse to quickly sign a piece of paper?
If you’re thinking any of these things (or something similar), we promise, you’re not alone.
Elopements continue to be a misunderstood topic—they’re often shrouded in all of these preconceived notions and wild misconceptions that no one can really put their finger on exactly what an elopement really is.
People usually think that elopements are these last-minute, no-frills, secret-operations that are clouded in shame, judgment, or embarrassment.
We’re here to share one simple truth—
That’s not what eloping means anymore.
Those things, though they might have be true once, don’t necessarily define elopements anymore.
We’re continually hard-pressed to find a definition out there that wholly and truly embodies what an elopement actually is now.
So, we solved the problem. We wrote our own.
An elopement is an intentionally small, intimate, meaningful, and authentic wedding experience that is a true reflection of your relationship where the focus of the day is really about you two.
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing.
It doesn’t matter where you’re doing it.
It doesn’t matter who else is there.
An elopement is about stripping away every ounce of pressure, anxiety, or obligation that has ever tried to weigh you down. An elopement grants you the absolute freedom to commit your life to your partner however and wherever you choose.
As elopement photographers and guides who have helped hundreds of couples embark on their dream elopement adventures, we’re passionate about what we do—but we’re also passionate about helping people understand what elopements truly are.
Because we’ve experienced—and continue to experience—what real elopements are all about every single time we embark on one with a couple.
Elopements are about that look someone gets when they’re hiking through a forest, hand-in-hand with the love of their life.
They’re about staring into their partner’s eyes and saying the vows they’ve always wanted to say without fear of judgment or embarrassment.
They’re about the moment a newly-married couple looks up into the galaxy above them and knows that now, they get to face this life together—that their love is the only thing that matters.
The overwhelming majority of people feel like the day they get engaged they’re stuck with having a big wedding. And if a big wedding is something you want, that’s wonderful. You should do that.
We’re just here to let couples know that it doesn’t have to automatically be that way. We believe that your wedding day is your day and it’s your choice how it happens—If that means a big wedding, that’s wonderful. But if it means something else entirely, people should know that’s okay, too.
If all you truly want is an intentional day that’s full of meaning, intimacy, and a pure focus on the two of you, then you’re already seeking out an elopement—even if you couldn’t quite put that into words just yet.
Because when you really boil it down, a true elopement isn’t about the tangible details—it’s not about bridesmaids or mint tins or table garlands.
It's not about a performance, it’s not about a production.
Elopements are about bringing the focus of the day back to the two of you—choosing your love and how special your moment of saying your vows to each other is over everything else.
It’s a brave choice to intentionally choose to have a truly intimate wedding day experience.
Busting Elopement Myths—Defining Elopement
Everyone has some kind of idea of what they believe an elopement to be—sometimes, those ideas can be built up on foundations of what elopements used to mean.
We like to think that an elopement is the core of a pure wedding—an intimate ceremony celebrating the love two people have for each other. In our minds, it’s the truest form of what committing your lives to each other looks like.
Elopements are still very non-traditional, and we understand that there are still a lot of misunderstandings or misconceptions around elopements that have kept couples in the dark about what the true definition of an elopement is.
So, let’s explore and bust some of those elopement myths!
Myth 1: Elopements are For Lonely, Isolated People Without Family
There’s this dated, preconceived notion about eloping that if a couple is choosing not to have an enormous party surrounded by hundreds of friends, family members, or acquaintances—that they probably don’t have these types of communities or support in their lives.
That’s definitely not the case.
A lot of the couples we’ve worked with that have eloped have very strong friendships, solid relationships with their families, and communities that are backing them 100 percent—but they still choose to take a different route with their wedding day.
Because these couples decided that, even though they have lots of people around them that the moment they’re committing their lives to each other matters more than anything else.
The whole idea of an elopement is about this focus on getting married with intention.
Yes, you have friends, family, and loved ones you could invite to your wedding day—maybe you have hundreds and hundreds of people who would be there to support you without even a second thought, but that’s not necessarily what your love is about or how you’d prefer to spend your day.
Eloping means choosing to put the love you have for your partner (and how & where you want to say your vows) over things that might not matter as much to you—like a big party where you’re the center of attention.
Instead, you’re choosing to make your day about the two of you, not about a party that could be really stressful and come along with lots of obligation.
An elopement isn’t about excluding people or telling your loved ones you don’t care about them—it’s just choosing to focus on intention and the priorities that mean the most to you. That’s the entire point of eloping.
Couples who have everyone they know backing them or in their corner can still choose to elope because when they look back on their wedding day for the rest of their lives, they want to remember a day that was purely for the two of them—a day without a single regret or a single compromise.
Don’t get us wrong—it’s entirely possible to have an intentional elopement while having guests there.
We’ve been a part of so many beautiful, meaningful elopements that have included more people than just the couple getting married.
The difference lies in the focus—if everyone who’s there at your elopement can get on board with the fact that it’s your day and it’s entirely about the two of you, the intentionality is still there.
Myth 2: People Elope Because They Don’t Want To Invest Money In Their Wedding Day
Traditionally, people tend to think of elopements as always being extremely low-budget options—truthfully, that’s more of a positive side-effect of eloping than the driving force behind it.
Sure, you probably will end up saving a little bit of money, but that’s not the core reason behind it. You can do an enormous wedding with hundreds of people on a low-budget, and you can also do an elopement with a really hefty budget, too.
The reality is, eloping instead of having a wedding day isn’t purely about saving money or not investing in your beautiful day. It’s just about choosing to invest in your day in a different way.
Many couples decide to elope because they want a day that’s entirely focused on them and what they want to do—for a lot of people, that might not mean hosting a big party. For some people, a day that brings them total joy might mean they’re surrounded by nature, doing something they love (like an epic hike or going stand up paddle boarding) with the person they love.
Couples who chose to elope aren’t doing it solely because they think it’s going to cost them less money—they’re doing it because they want to spend an intentional day with the person who means the most to you doing something that makes the most sense for you.
Elopements boil down a wedding to its bones to bring it back to what really matters—you and your partner. Budget has nothing to do with that.
Myth 3: Elopements are for Shameful or Unapproved Marriages
People sometimes think that elopements are these secret ceremonies that couples choose because they’re ashamed, embarrassed, or think their loved ones won’t approve of their decisions.
In this past, this might have been true. But, that’s not necessarily what elopements are anymore.
We’ve had couples who choose surprise elopements, but most times the surprise lies in how they chose to get married—not that they chose to get married at all.
Having an elopement does not mean that you’re doomed to deal with disapproval or shame—it just means that you’re choosing to set aside some of the pressure, anxiety, and expectations that can sometimes go hand-in-hand with the traditional wedding route.
When you choose to elope, you’re choosing not to compromise. You’re choosing meaningful moments packed with intention. We don’t think there’s anything shameful about that.
Myth 4: Elopements can only include the two of you
Elopements used to be thought of as these secret, clandestine affair that no one else is allowed to attend because that would break the elopement rules.
Bring your mom. Bring your officiant. Bring your kids. Bring your best friend. Bring your dog (please… PLEASE bring your dog!).
Your elopement day is entirely up to you.
There is no defined number of guests (or lack of guests) that will define your wedding as an elopement. It’s all about the intention of the couple and how your guests respect that.
We have photographed so many beautiful elopements that have included the couple’s closest family and friends. We’ve photographed couples who chose to only have their parents present, their siblings, their best friends, or even small groups of up to 15 people.
Eloping With Family—Including Your Loved Ones in Your Intimate Wedding
When you consider the idea of an adventure elopement, you can practically hear angels singing.
It’s perfect for you. Almost like the idea itself was invented specifically to check off every box in your head that defines the ideal way to pledge yourself to your person.
An incredible adventure for you to kick off the actual biggest adventure of your life? Check.
The opportunity for a stunning backdrop for the romantic moment when you and your soon-to-be spouse commit your lives to each other? Check.
An experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life that was truly all about what the two of you wanted? Check.
It practically encompasses your list for the perfect day for you and your soon-to-be partner for life.
There’s just one problem.
No matter how perfect the elopement destination, no matter how much you crave the idea of an adventure just for the two of you, no matter how ready you are to climb a mountain, trek across a glacier, kayak in an alpine lake, run through a wildflower meadow (whatever you choose), you simply cannot imagine getting married without your family there with you.
We’ve got good news for you.
You can still have a wild adventure elopement and include your family, too.
That’s right, we said it, and we meant it.
An elopement can absolutely include your family, your friends, or the people who are closest to you and still be considered an epic elopement.
In fact, over the past few years that we’ve been capturing couples’ special moments on their unique elopement days, about half of the them have included other people besides just the couple getting married.
Some of the most beautiful elopements I have ever been a part of had anywhere from 10-15 people there.
Often, when people consider the word elopement, their minds immediately snap to the image of a couple running away together to get married and not involving their families at all.
To us, that’s not the case at all. We think eloping takes on a totally different definition.
In our terms, an elopement is an intimate, unique wedding day where the focus is entirely on the couple.
What really matters with an elopement is that the decisions and choices are yours and yours alone.
There’s no pressure to meet any expectations, opinions, or obligations. It’s the two of you, taking the step together toward the ultimate adventure exactly the way you want to.
That means that as long as you two are embarking on your elopement adventure your way, your family can absolutely be a part of your day in any unique way you choose.
If you find yourself thinking something along the lines of, “okay, I love that idea, but how is that even possible? What would that kind of day even look like?” we have even more good news.
We’ve taken our years of adventure elopement photography experience and compiled some of the unique, meaningful ways that couples have incorporated their family into their special day.
If you’re planning on eloping with family, we hope these tips and ideas inspire you to come up with an intimate and sentimental way to integrate them into your ideal day.
Eloping with Family: How You Can Include Your Family in Your Private Elopement
There are thousands of ways to meaningfully include your family in your elopement day.
Whether you choose to have them literally stand next to you during your ceremony or support you from afar, there are plenty of ways to go about eloping with family.
Truthfully, there’s really no right or wrong way to include your family in your elopement wedding as long as you’re following your heart.
Don’t compromise. Don’t fall victim to expectations.
Don’t let anyone else tell you how to have your day (that’s what big weddings are for).
Have One, Intimate Ceremony
For couples who want their families or close friends right there when they’re getting married, it’s always a beautiful idea to have a single, meaningful ceremony.
There’s something so beautiful and emotional about having the people closest to you standing there as you and your partner decide to leap into an entirely new and exciting life together.
Several of the elopement weddings we’ve been lucky enough to capture have included a small group of people closest to the couple, and from our experience, there’s rarely a dry eye on the mountain (or at the trail head, or by the lake—wherever that couple chooses to elope).
Including your family in the entire day—the getting ready, the ceremony, the reception after eloping— is always an option, and I’ve certainly seen couples do this.
The only caveat is this—you might have to consider making compromises about location and how you want your elopement to go down.
Planning a single ceremony to include your family in your elopement is always beautiful and can be as meaningful as you’ve always wanted, but based on the age and ability of your guests, you might have to reconsider some of your plans.
We want to be really clear— we don’t mean that you should ever give up your vision of your ideal elopement. But if you really want your family members there with you while you say your vows, you might have to consider trading out that 10-mile hike to the top of a mountain for a ceremony at the trail head.
For couples that don’t want to compromise the exact adventure plans they have but still want to include their family in their ceremony, know that there are plenty of ways to do so.
Split Up the Day
This is one of the best ways to get everything you could possibly want out of your elopement if you’re planning to include family.
Consider splitting up your elopement day to avoid making compromises while incorporating your family in your elopement plans.
One of the most common ways we’ve seen couples integrate this plan is by having a special, intimate ceremony—just the two of them—during a sunrise or a sunset hike. We’ve had couples who hike all alone so that they can have a stunning location where they can say their vows and have an elopement ceremony all for themselves. Then, they’ll hike back down, meet up with their families, and have another ceremony, take photos all together, have a unique reception, or some combination of all those things.
We always like to remind mind couples who plan on eloping with family that if they’re splitting up their day or wanting separate ceremonies, this process can happen in any way they want.
If a couple wants to have a private ceremony, then come back and do the exact same thing over again, that’s entirely meaningful. We’ve seen couples have their own private ceremonies with tearful, beautiful vows, then do the exact same thing in front of their families and it’s just as tearful and beautiful as the first time.
We’ve also seen couples keep private vows that they say during their elopement ceremony that’s just the two of them and then take a different route for the vows they say in front of their families.
By splitting up the day, you’re giving yourselves the chance to have those quiet, intimate moments where’s it’s truly just about the two of you. Standing there in an unbelievable place doing this remarkable thing, you’re embarking on an incredible experience together.
Then, you’re able to meet up with the people who mean the most to you and celebrate this remarkable thing together in any way you want.
No compromises. No obligations. No missing out on having your loved ones involved.
All the adventure without any of the sacrifice.
Spread it Over Two Days
We love the idea of splitting up the day to include your family while still having private moments for just the two of you, but we have to admit—it makes for a very long day.
If that works for you, that’s perfect.
But, if you’d rather slow the day down, take your time, and really savor every single moment (while still including your family for some parts of your elopement), there’s always the option to spread your elopement over two days.
This, like everything about your elopement, can happen any way you want it to.
Maybe you include your family on the first day, have a small ceremony in a gorgeous location, say your vows, and have the reception of your dreams. Then, you wake up the next day, just you and your love, and go to an entirely new, entirely beautiful location all by yourselves to say your own private vows.
Perhaps you structure it where you and your partner take the first day to have a private elopement ceremony all your own—maybe you hike somewhere special, maybe you jump into a helicopter, maybe you take a 4x4 road to a secluded location for a ceremony. Then, the next day, you include your family.
Maybe you do another ceremony entirely. Maybe you re-read the exact vows you read to each other the day before. Maybe you include an officiant.
No matter how you choose to do it, spreading your elopement over two days can really help you soak in every single moment of your remarkable just us day.
Include Them in Other Intimate Moments
You don’t necessarily need to have your family at your actual elopement ceremony to include them in your day. They can be a part of your ceremony, or, they don’t have to be included in this special part of your day at all—it’s entirely up to you.
We’ve had couples who invite their family into their elopement preparations on the day of their ceremony—the getting ready, the putting the dress on, the first look, etc.—before sending them off to have a beautiful, and entirely private, elopement ceremony exactly when and where they want to.
Remember, this is your day, so if you want to include your family in your elopement, but also want to have an intimate and private ceremony with just your partner, including them in other parts of the day (like the first look, getting ready, the reception after, and more) can be a really beautiful and meaningful alternative.
Facetime or Skype
Your family and friends don’t have to be physically there to be a part of your big day.
If you want to include your loved ones in your elopement, but for some reason (preference or feasibility) they’re not physically with your on your day, Skype or FaceTime can be a beautiful way to include them.
We’ve seen countless couples elope entirely on their own but choose to have those intimate, meaningful moments with those who matter to them over live video.
Whether it’s putting on the wedding dress or waving goodbye before you and your partner head out to pledge your lives to each other, using live video to incorporate your family is a great way to ensure you’re not compromising on any part of your elopement day.
How to Include Your Family When Eloping Just the Two of You
For a lot of couples, the idea of a secluded, intimate, just us elopement sounds like the perfect way to jump into their biggest adventure ever—getting married.
It’s a beautiful sentiment—one that a lot of couples choose for their elopement day. In fact, having a just us elopement day is the biggest reason that couples choose to elope to begin with. Despite that choice being exactly what speaks to them, it’s also a point of contention for some couples.
Why? Because no matter how much they want to throw tradition to the wind, have a destination elopement, and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, they’re stuck in the mindset that getting married without including their family spells trouble.
The good news? It doesn’t.
We believe—and tell couples this, too—that your elopement day is all about what you want—if you want to say your vows, commit to each other, and have a private ceremony for just yourselves, you should do that! And you know what? That doesn’t mean that you can’t include your family in your elopement.
We always encourage couples to choose the route that is true to who they are—so, if you have a creative idea for including your family in your elopement while still choosing to elope just the two of you, we say go for it! But, if it’s inspo you want, we’ve got plenty of that here for you, too:
Have an Engagement Party
Sure, you’re not going to do the routine wedding thing, but who says you can’t throw (or let your family throw you) an epic engagement party? If your family’s involvement in your decision to get married is important to you, but it’s also important that you and your partner choose to elope on your own, allowing them to host a stellar engagement party is a great way to include them. If they want to plan it, that’s awesome—work on it together and create an awesome party. Or, you could throw a surprise engagement party for your family where you celebrate, enjoy each other’s company, and explain in person why you’re choosing to elope just the two of you. This is an exceptional opportunity to show them pictures of where you plan to elope, describe the experience you’re chasing, and truly help them understand the intentionality behind eloping on your own.
Take Part in Pre-Wedding Events
Just because you’re not having a traditional wedding doesn’t mean you can’t have some of the traditional, pre-wedding events that take place. Choosing to elope means that you’re creating exactly the experience you want to—there are no rules, regulations, or obligations. The pressure is off and you can do exactly what you want. So, if that means you want to elope with just your partner but you also want your best friend to throw you a bomb-ass bachelorette party, then lean into it! Want to have a wedding shower with your family? Go for it. Want to throw a fun “rehearsal dinner”? Why the heck not? Remember, it’s your elopement and it’s your celebration—if you want to elope just the two of you but also have all the pre-wedding events you can think of to include your family, you should!
Shop for Wedding Attire Together
This is a huge rite of passage for a lot of family members and it’s something you can absolutely do with yours. Think about all of the traditions that go into the leading-up-to-the-wedding events. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to include your family in a ton of these processes (if you want!). Let them help you pick your details, design your look, craft your elopement day style. This kind of inclusion helps make the whole thing feel real for your family, too. It’s not like you’re running off in shame to get married without telling anyone, you’re making the brave choice to put your love for your partner over a wedding day that doesn’t speak to you—you can look at your family members and say, hey, I’m proud of the choice I’m making, but I’d love to include you in this important aspect of my day. Then, your mom, sister, best friend (whoever) can still be involved with helping you create your elopement experience—even if they’re not there when they say their vows.
Invite Your Family to Write Letters
This is such a sweet, unique way to include your family in your special day without having them physically present. Invite your family and friends to send you letters to read on your wedding day. Ask them to write whatever they want to—encouragement, advice, or just loving words. Then, gather them up, bring them with you on your elopement day, and take a moment to sit down and read them together. Reflect on the support and love you’re receiving from your community and then enjoy your private, intimate ceremony together as partners. Because, as much as you really want to elope just the two of you, it’s understandable that there might be a tiny part of you that might wish—just for a second—you had your family there, too. These letters can be that amazing link—that supportive connection that tethers you back to your loved ones, no matter how far away you are. We’ve seen couples surprise each other with collections of letters, too—which, spoiler alert, is waterworks worthy. You can also send letters to your loved ones—or a postcard—on the day of your elopement, too!
Ask for a Video Toast
Another fun spin on the letter idea is to ask each of your loved ones to record a 30-second video toast that you can compile and watch on your elopement day! Remember, there are no rules—if you want to collect these from your friends and family beforehand and then wait to open them, do it! If you want to ask your family to send it on the day-of, do that, too! We’ve also seen couples surprise their partners with these adorable video toast mashups and it’s always a sweet and beautiful way to include your family while getting the day you’ve always dreamed of.
Skype or Facetime on Your Day
Say what you will about modern technology, it does have a benefit—we’re so, so connected to the world. There’s basically Wi-Fi and 3g everywhere, meaning, if you want to Facetime or Skype your family on the day of your elopement, you can—no matter where you are! We’ve had couples who chose to elope in remote locations who could still live video chat with their family on their day!
Send Your Family Pictures During Your Day
Sure, you’re going to have a ton of badass pictures from your elopement day if you’re choosing to hire an elopement photographer, but there’s something so fun and special about the immediacy about a selfie. Snap some fun pictures on your phone, take a boomerang, record a little video on your day and send it right away to your family! It’ll make them feel so cherished and involved being the first to see you on your big day.
Have a Reception After Your Elopement
If ever there was a sure-fire way to guarantee your family would feel involved in your just us elopement without being there when you say your vows, it would be this solution—have a reception after your elopement. Whether you choose to do this on your elopement day (some couples split the day so they can have their own private ceremony and then party with their family after) or you celebrate together when you return from your elopement adventure, this is a solid way to make your family feel super involved. This is one of the most common ways to make your loved ones fully understand your choice to elope—and, it’s a freakin’ great way to show off your elopement photos (another sure-fire way to really spell out your choice to take an epic elopement adventure together). We bet you anything that a family member will look at your photos and hear your stories and think, “damn—Ishould have eloped.” If a reception makes sense for you, do it any way you want to—throw your wedding attire back on, or don’t; have a fancy dinner or throw a brunch party. This allows you to include your family in your celebration without compromising your ideal elopement day.
Invite Your Friends & Family to Watch You Sign Your Marriage License
Or, let them sign it with you! If you know you want to elope but don’t want your family to feel left out, invite them over to sign your marriage license or have them watch you sign your marriage license. We’ve seen couples do this as part of their “going away to elope” party before their adventure—they invite their family over and sign the certificate altogether. Personally, I eloped in Peru with my partner, but I still assigned my sister the role of Maid of Honor and she was able to sign my marriage license as my witness in Colorado. This can often make your family feel incredibly involved in your elopement without you feeling like you have to sacrifice the day of your dreams. (As a side note, remember that you can always include your family on your elopement day if that’s what you want).
Add Family Heirlooms, Details, and Items to Your Day
You can include and any all family details in your elopement day that you want, even if your family isn’t there standing with you. Maybe it’s always been super important to your mother that you wear your grandmother’s pearls on your wedding day (like she did)—do that! Maybe you want to wear your father’s watch. Whatever the memento, heirloom, or detail is, you can bring it along and make it a special part of your day or your ceremony.
Open Gifts From Them on Your Special Day
If your family really wants to send you gifts for your elopement but they won’t be there on your elopement day with you, you can always bring your gifts along and open them on the day you elope. Want your family to see it? Send them a video, live chat with them, or call them on your day—and do it all from an amazing location that you decided..
With all that in mind, if you have children and want them to be a big part of your special day, we think that’s incredibly important. There’s no reason why you can’t have the ideal, adventure elopement you’ve always dreamed of while including your kiddos—sometimes it just requires some creative solutions.
While we always encourage couples to elope exactly how they want and have a day that’s entirely reflective of who they are, we also like to share inspo to get the creative juices flowing. Feeling stumped on how you can include your kids in your elopement? Check out these ideas!
How to Include Your Kids in Your Elopement—Ideas for Eloping With Kids
Your elopement is a special, meaningful day where you’re choosing your partner forever. You’re taking hands, pledging your lives to each other, and making a beautiful commitment.
If you have kids though, your elopement is something else, too. It’s more than just you and partner teaming up for life, it’s about your family, too!
Including your child in that process can be a really meaningful, special thing—something they would feel honored to be included in, no matter how you do it.
Every couple is different, and every child is different, too. We’re not saying that if you have kids you absolutely have to include them—for some couples, an elopement is about just the two of them honoring their vows privately. And you know what? That’s perfectly OK.
Just like it’s OK for you to want to include your kiddos, too.
No matter what you decide for your elopement, make sure you’re being true to who you are as a couple and, above all, you’re honoring what matters the most to you.
If you’re looking for some inspo to get your wheels turnin’, check out a few of these cute ideas for including your kids in your elopement ceremony. We’ve been a part of a lot of special days where couples have eloped with kids, and every time it’s been a unique, special experience.
Fun Family First Looks
Just like two partners have their first look in their wedding attire, you can have a first look with your kiddos! We’ve seen families do this and we think it’s super, super adorable and sweet. Before (or after, it’s up to you) you do your first look with your partner, have a mini first look with your little one so they can see you all fancied up in your wedding attire. They’ll love seeing you dressed to the 9s and will feel super important being one of the first people to see you all gussied up.
Get Ready Together
Whether you’re planning to bring your kiddo to your ceremony or not, getting ready together can be a great way to include your child. Having your little one help you brush your hair, zip up your dress, tie your tie, or button your jacket can make them feel really special. Plus, you’ll have some adorable photos to remember the day by.
“Flower” Girls and Ring Bearers
This is always a cute idea—especially if your child loves the idea of playing a particular role or having a special job on your day. Sure, it’s a little more traditional by nature, but don’t let that stop you. Remember, there are no rules—you don’t have to color inside the lines for this.
Here’s an extra tip about LNT principles— If you plan to have your little one be your flower child, make sure you’re abiding by the Leave No Trace Principles. That means not throwing flowers or confetti—try a creative approach to the flower child task and come up with your own LNT approved way to include this in your day!
Let Your Child Pronounce You Married
This is a fun one that most kiddos can take part in, even if they can’t totally speak yet. Let your child be the first one to pronounce you married! Whether it’s a babble or a full sentence, it’s a blast for them to be the first person to acknowledge you as a married couple. Plus, it’s adorable, trust us.
Have them Sign Your Marriage License
In certain states, you’re able to self-solemnize, which means that you’re able to marry yourselves without someone else acting as your witness or officiant. Typically, couples sign their marriage licenses as their own officiants (which, is a super great perk of self-solemnizing). But, if you want to give your kiddo a fun job, you could have them sign as either the witness or the officiant. Even if they can barely scribble, this is a fun way to include them in your ceremony. Not to mention, it’s a document you’ll keep, meaning it’s a memento that will last forever (like your elopement pictures). When they’re older, it’ll probably be touching and funny to show them their name on your marriage license!
Give Them a Fun, Unique Job in Your Ceremony
We always encourage couples to create the elopement ceremony that’s true to who they are—in other words, get as creative and as unique as you want. That totally applies to how you include your kids in your elopement ceremony, too. If you don’t want to go the traditional flower girl or ring bearer route, come up with something fun and unique to your family. Once, we photographed a couple who eloped with their three daughters. During the ceremony, every person held a different jar of candy, then poured each different kind of candy into a single bowl, symbolizing their new family bond. Adorable? Absolutely. Meaningful? You bet. Your ceremony can happen any way you want, which means your kids can take on any task you want them to!
Encourage Them to Write a Letter
We photographed an elopement once where the couple’s 10-year-old son read a letter he wrote as part of the elopement ceremony. There wasn’t a dry eye for miles, friends. If your child is old enough to write (or, you could even help them write what they want to say if they’re young), encourage them to take some time to write a letter about their thoughts and feelings about becoming a family.
Give Them Time to Talk
If you want your child to feel like they’re a part of your ceremony, you can always set aside special time for them to share their feelings and talk to you and your partner. Give them space to express how they feel about your elopement and what they’re thinking. We bet you anything it’ll be incredibly sweet and adorable.
Facetime or Video Chat
If you want to include your kids in your elopement without having them physically there when you say your vows (whether you want a just us day or they can’t make it to where you want to adventure, etc.), set up a time for a facetime or a skype date on your elopement day. They can see you all dressed up, happy, and ready to pledge your life to your partner without being physically present on your elopement day.
Extra Tips for Including Your Kids in Your Elopement
If you’re a parent or a guardian, then you know how absolutely incredible it is to have your kids by your side for life’s most important moments—so, it makes sense you’d want your children with you when you’re making a life changing, impactful decision to choose your partner forever.
But, if you’re a parent or a guardian, you also know that having your kids by your side doesn’t always guarantee that you’re in for a day that goes according to plan.
Every child is different and you know your little one best, so you’d be the first person to know whether or not your kiddo is going to be happy, excited, and capable to hike up ten miles to your elopement spot. You’re also the person who knows whether or not you’re little one is able (or willing) to make a trek.
As you know, kids can get hungry, tired, grumpy, and more at the drop of a hat, and if that’s not something you want to have to work around on your elopement day, that’s OK! And it also doesn’t mean your kiddo can’t be a part of your elopement.
We’ve laid out a few important tips and considerations for parents who want to elope with their kids here:
You know your child better than anyone, so you know what’s going to work for them and what won’t. If you and your partner
An entire year before Brecka and Nick would wake up well before the sun, take each other’s hands, and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, they stood in exactly the spot they’d stand on their wedding day.
Back then, before their elopement, you’d find Brecka and Nick camping at an insanely beautiful alpine lake in Ouray, Colorado.
At the time, they were dating, exploring the world together one hike at a time. On this particular day, they woke up, unzipped their tent, crawled outside, and saw something remarkable—a lone photographer, a bride, and a groom (in full wedding attire) taking wedding pictures as the sun rose over the lake. (Spoiler Alert: it was Maddie photographing an epic elopement in that dreamy spot).
They were hooked.
If we ever get married, they thought, that’s the way we’d want to do it.
Fast-forward a year and there they stood—in the same place at the same lake, just as in love as they were when they first camped in that spot—deciding to choose each other forever.
Seems like fate, doesn’t it?
Brecka and Nick are—without a doubt—an incredibly badass, adventurous couple.
Sure, you can probably assume that based on their epic elopement location (and the pictures you’ll see when you scroll down this post) but let me give you a little background.
Brecka and Nick met each other when they were individually hiking a trail in the Adirondacks, which, no doubt, ensured that hiking would become a huge part of their relationship.
When they moved together to Colorado from upstate New York, hiking became even more integral to their lives. So, it was only natural that they’d choose a hiking elopement for themselves, right?
As professional adventure elopement photographers, we’ve been a part of a lot of different types of hiking elopements—and they’ve all been unique, meaningful, and special—but this sunrise elopement was totally unreal.
This awesome couple decided to camp overnight at the trailhead with about 13 of their siblings, loved ones, and friends—AND their two sweet pups Cooper and Trek (bring your dog to your elopement, please. Check out this post now and thank us for the sweet pup pics later). A few of the family members wanted to hike up with the couple.
We kicked off the day at 2 a.m. (hey, they don’t call it a sunrise hike for nothing).
I (Amber) met up with Brecka and Nick at the trailhead, we took the tents down by headlamp light, and we started up the trail with their loved ones and their pooches.
We hiked for about three-and-a-half hours (in total darkness, which, is an incredible experience all on its own) and gained about 3,000 feet in elevation.
But, we also gained about 7 porcupine quills on Brecka and Nick’s pup, Trek—luckily, it all worked out just fine and their pooch was okay (you can prepare all you want for an adventure elopement, but there’s always room for a few interesting surprises).
When we arrived at the lake, it was still dark—Brecka and Nick got ready separately. A few of the girls who hiked up curled Brecka’s hair and helped her into her dress. Nick—just a few yards away—put on his suit and tie in the dark.
As the very first light began to creep over the mountains, Brecka tapped Nick on the shoulder for their first look.
There, in the middle of a beautiful, dark blue hour (and by the light of a headlamp) Brecka and Nick saw each other, for the first time, ready for their wedding. They laughed. They hugged. They teared up. They kissed. They took time to savor and cherish every second of their first look. Then, we continued our hike up to the lake, the spot they’d chosen to say their vows.
Even though their elopement adventure began the second they made the choice to create a wedding experience that would truly reflect who they were—this was a different beginning for their elopement.
This was the start of their wild adventure to choose each other, over and over, for the rest of their lives.
As the sun rose higher, Brecka and Nick hiked around the lake to find the perfect spot for their private ceremony.
They took their time, and when the moment felt right, they took hands near the lake, read their vows, exchanged their elk antler rings, and committed their lives to each other.
Sure, the scenery was beautiful—you’ll see that when you scroll through the pictures. But the most beautiful part was watching a couple who was so, so in love, having exactly the day they wanted in a spot that meant so much to them.
After their intimate ceremony, we hiked down to another beautiful alpine lake to see (what I believe to be) the bluest water in Colorado. To top it off, luck was on our side—there were a few remaining wildflowers in the alpine meadow.
We took photos, explored, goofed off, enjoyed summit beers, and then hiked back to down to meet up with the rest of Brecka and Nick’s family at the trailhead (those who wanted to celebrate their marriage but didn’t join us for the hike).
To say this day was incredible would be an understatement—it felt almost perfect. Like fate had a hand in it, in some way. Like there was something one year ago that called out to Brecka and Nick to wake up, poke their heads out, and see an elopement
Whether you believe in that kind of thing—fate, coincidence— or not, it’s hard to deny that something remarkable happened the day Brecka and Nick crawled out of their tent to see Maddie photographing another couple’s elopement.
We’re not saying that any couple’s future and the choices they make rely on fate—we’re not saying they rely on coincidence, either—we’re sure Brecka and Nick would have eloped exactly the way they wanted, whether or not they’d caught a glimpse of Maddie a year ago in Ouray.
Why You Should Elope in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho)
Picking the perfect elopement location isn’t always easy.
Undoubtedly, you want to find a spot that’s not only beautiful but also meaningful to both of you – that, combined with the desire to find an exciting location to start your greatest adventure of all can sometimes seem like an enormous undertaking (or a huge adventure in itself).
Like many couples choosing a just us day, you probably desire a location that’s so perfect and fitting for the both of you that it almost seems magical — that’s where the PNW comes into play.
When it comes to elopement adventure locations, there are few places better in the U.S. than the Pacific Northwest. The Pacific Northwest, often just shortened to The PNW is comprised of a gorgeous collection of stunning states like Oregon, Washington, and sections of Idaho.
Couples who choose to elope in the Pacific Northwest are choosing more than just a location to say their vows. They’re also choosing adventure, exploration, and a vibe unique to this region of the United States, as well as entirely unique to them.
As self-proclaimed lovers of the PNW, we can’t help but get excited when recommending the Pacific Northwest to couples as an elopement location.
Not only are you able to choose among a variety of beautiful terrain — from snow-capped mountain peaks to mossy, old-growth forests — you’re also afforded plenty of adventure opportunities in the PNW (think swimming in alpine lakes, hot spring soaking, white water rafting, whale watching, and more).
The Pacific Northwest, to us, is pretty much pure magic for couples who bravely choose to have a just us day—but don’t just take our word for it, we have honest-to-goodness proof.
Check out what we mean:
Glaciers in Abundance
In case you didn’t know, Washington is one of the most glaciated states in the entire US, clocking in with about 3,100 glaciers.
Sure, it doesn’t beat Alaska (with about 100,000 glaciers), but it has quite a bit more than Glacier National Park, which claims just 25 glaciers.
Imagine it: you and your love helicoptering to a glacier, taking each other’s hands, stepping onto that glacier and into a new life together as you say your vows in a magical, once-in-a-lifetime location.
If glacier exploring is part of your elopement dream, then the PNW might be the perfect choice for your day.
Moody, Dreamy Feels
Listen, they don’t call it the PNWonderland for no reason.
The Pacific Northwest has the perfect formula for moody feels mastered -- we’re talking misty rain, cool, foggy days, and natural, atmospheric tones that, quite seriously, need no filter.
Whether you want to say your vows on top of a snowy mountain, in the middle of a mossy forest, or standing on the rugged coast, you can bet that the PNW is going to deliver the moody, ethereal feels that you’ve always dreamed of.
The PNW is blessed with a wildly diverse landscape, but one of its most notable (and famous) features is its collection of mountain ranges.
Many of the distinct mountains are incredibly well-known —like Mount Rainier and Mt. Hood —but the PNW actually has four mountain ranges (the Cascade Range, the Coast Range, the Olympic Range, and parts of the Rocky Mountains) with hundreds of lesser-known areas, peaks, and trails tucked away
All of these mountain options mean infinite hikes and areas to explore, and it also means you’ll likely have front-row seats to that beautiful alpenglow you’ve always dreamed of.
Remember when we mentioned that the PNW is incredibly diverse? We weren’t kidding.
The PNW might be famous for its mountains (for good reason), but it’s so much more than that — you’ll find old growth forests, meadows overflowing with wildflowers, dozens of unique islands dotting the Puget Sound, hundreds of miles of rugged coastline, vibrant alpine lakes, and so much more.
All of this lives within the Pacific Northwest – it’s just waiting for you and your love to find it.
Whether you’re looking to discover evergreen forests or you crave the feeling of diving into massive, crystal clear lakes, there are infinite opportunities for exploration available in the PNW.
This is mostly courtesy of the sheer number of national parks and monuments in the area that you and your love are more than invited (and encouraged) to explore as a part of your elopement.
There are far too many to list out — we’re talking the Redwood National Park with towering, ancient forest scenery, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve with massive tidewater glaciers, The North Cascades with snow-capped mountains, Olympic National Park with its three (three!) distinct
ecosystems, and more.
If it’s exploration you want, it’s almost guaranteed the Pacific Northwest will have it, and as experienced PNW guides, we’re more than happy to help you discover what your exploration can look like.
All Kinds of Adventures
Taking the step to elope and begin a life with the one you love is the biggest adventure of all – so why not add in a few more adventures to your elopement while you’re at it?
Want to whitewater raft in a Washington River? You can do that.
Do you dream of whale watching in the Puget Sound? You can do that, too.
What about skydiving in Snohomish? Backpacking the Wonderland Loop? Hot spring soaking in Idaho?
Done, done, and done.
No matter how action-packed you want your adventure to be (can you say caving at the Lava River Cave?) or how relaxing you want it (nothing says unwinding like sea kayaking in the San Juan Islands), the PNW has something fitting for everyone —the important thing is finding the adventure that makes your elopement day even more special.
We hope our post helped paint a clearer picture of why the PNW can be a magical location for couples thinking about eloping!
Remember, the beautiful thing about the Pacific Northwest is that it’s packed with a variety of landscapes, tons of dreamy elements, and plenty of exploring opportunities!
We truly believe that the Pacific Northwest is the perfect fit for several couples seeking to have a just us elopement adventure.
In all fairness, though, the PNW possibilities are endless— choosing one spot (from the thousands of stunning locations) for your elopement can be a bit overwhelming.
We’d love to start helping you plan your dream PNW elopement —feel free to reach out to us to chat about locations, talk more about why we love the PNW for elopements, and set your Pacific Northwest elopement (your Washington elopement, Oregon elopement, or Idaho elopement) in motion!
Whether it’s because you want to free yourself of the obligations and pressures that sometimes go hand-in-hand with a big wedding, you don’t want to deal with family drama, or you’d honest-to-god just prefer to have an intimate, just us day when you say your vows and choose forever.
A lot of couples choose to elope because it gives them the chance to embark on a hugely amazing adventure together in a place that’s special to both of them—the great outdoors.
As adventure elopement photographers, it’s probably no surprise that the only thing we love more than, well, love, is the beautiful earth we’re lucky enough to explore.
So much of our passion—helping couples create their dream elopements—is built on loving, appreciating, and caring for the world we live in.
Which is we’re all about doing everything we can do to protect it—including doing everything we can to educate the couples we’re so fortunate to meet and work with.
Which brings us to the most exciting part of this post—our LNT Guide for Eloping Couples.
If you’re not familiar with LNT (or Leave No Trace) yet, that’s okay—that’s exactly why we wanted to write this post and become a resource for couples looking to elope. Because no matter how well we think we’re doing to protect the planet, we can always do better and we can ALWAYS learn more!
The Leave No Trace principles are a list of 7 outdoor ethics that everyone should live and abide by—they’re here to help us protect the outdoors, minimize our impact, and constantly better the way we live on this earth. They’re established, but they’re static—leaving room for us to always grow and learn better ways to care for our planet.
The cool thing about eloping in an LNT sense? Just by its nature, it’s already a lot less wasteful than a big, traditional wedding (way less disposable waste and stuff!)
But honestly, just cutting back on waste isn’t enough.
We can always do more. And as an eloping couple who’s hoping to adventure through a beautiful little spot on our planet, you (like all of us) owe it to the earth to treat it right!
That’s why we crafted this little guide to help you better understand what, why, and how you can follow along with the 7 Leave No Trace Principles during your elopement (and beyond!)
LNT Principle #1: Plan Ahead and Prepare
When it comes to having an LNT elopement, preparation is huge! Why? Because the better prepared you are, the least amount of impact you’re going to have on the space around you—and that’s the ultimate goal, after all.
Before your elopement day, we’ll help you put in the research needed to make sure we’re prepared—calling local rangers, checking online resources for trail data, seeking out knowledgeable and LNT vendors, and more.
Even the most spontaneous of elopements require LNT preparedness, and you know what, it’s not only going to benefit the planet, it’s totally going to benefit your experience.
When you take the time to prepare for your elopement, consider things like:
Are there any closures that could affect our elopement plans? (think restoration, construction, etc.)
Do I need a permit to elope here? (the answer is most likely yes but do your research—you always want to make sure you have a permit!)
Is there a high season or a busy time in this area?
Am I good to go on gear? (will not having a particular piece of gear force me to further my impact on the outdoors?)
Is there cell-phone reception here?
Do I have trail maps downloaded?
What about fire bans?
Am I totally equipped to pack everything out?
Taking the time to really prepare and ask yourself these important questions can guarantee that you’re totally ready for your elopement day—and totally ready to minimize your impact at the same time.
LNT Principle #2: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
One of the best parts about eloping is that it allows you to have any type of wedding experience you want! If you want to ditch the crowds and go somewhere totally remote, you can—even if it involves camping, backpacking, or hiking to your location.
If you plan on doing any of this for your elopement, that’s perfect. You’ll definitely want to make sure you’re sticking only the marked trails, traveling and camping on durable surfaces (think dirt, dry grass, or rock), and that you’re always being mindful about the impact you’re having on natural surfaces.
Here are a few extra considerations for this principle:
If you’re in a spot where you’re permitted to walk off trail, do so carefully and in a single file line—that way, you’re really minimizing your impact!
Resist the “take a shortcut” mentality—sure, maybe the trail ahead looks a little daunting and going off trail might save you some trouble, but resist and stay on the marked trail.
If a trail is closed for restoration, respect the closure! It might make you change your route a little bit, but hey, they don’t call it an adventure elopement for nothing. Your photographer can totally help you work with the barriers and get that epic shot you’re craving—all without disrupting the natural areas (we promise!).
Understand the surfaces you’re dealing with. If you’re adventuring in a high alpine area for your elopement, be extra delicate—try to rock hop and stay on durable surfaces as much as possible to minimize your impact on alpine tundra. The same goes for cryptobiotic soil—a living organism that’s commonly found in the high desert.
LNT Principle #3: Dispose of Waste Properly
When we say dispose of waste properly, we mean all waste. That’s right, lovebirds, we’re about to get a little less romantic here and talk about the icky stuff—trash and waste (poop included).
Stay away from things like confetti—even if it’s “biodegradable.” Make sure that you’re packing out every single thing you’re packing in—from food scraps to flower petals to that champagne cork you popped off to celebrate your I Do’s.
Want something that’s like confetti that’s way less harmful to help you celebrate? Think bubbles, sparklers, ribbon sticks, snowballs, or even a high-five tunnel if you have guests!
Need a bathroom break while you’re eloping? Hey, we’re all human—it’s only natural! Just make sure that you’re taking your bathroom break the right way! Proper disposal of our own waste is really important for keeping our water sources clean—in most cases, you’re probably in the clear to dig a cat hole (a hole in the ground you can do your business in!) and bury your waste, but you absolutely need to do your research beforehand. Sometimes, picking up your waste and bringing back to civilization with you for proper disposal is the only correct way to do it! No matter what, make sure you pack out your TP and do your due diligence on the doody!
The general rule: if you bring it with you, take it with you when you leave—don’t leave anything behind. Make sure you’re doing an intensive sweep of the area before you go so you can pick up anything that might have slipped away.
Extra karma points awarded to every couple who picks up trash that isn’t theirs!
LNT Principle #4: Leave What You Find
Think about the beautiful landscape you’re going to see in front of you on your elopement day. Close your eyes and try to imagine the grand, powerful view.
Now, zoom in a little. Think about every pebble. Think about the plants. The trees. The leaves. The sand.
Every single small piece you’re picturing right now is what makes up that huge, gorgeous landscape in the first place. Taking something away from that—no matter how small—changes it. It impacts it. It alters the environment and the balance.
If you love something, don’t nab it—tell your photographer. They can take a beautiful picture of it for you so you can hold onto that memory forever without snagging a vital part of nature.
LNT Principle #5: Minimize Campfire Impacts
There are few things better than ending an amazing elopement experience all cuddled up by a campfire. But, before you whip out the matches and start gathering kindling, you need to make sure there’s not a fire ban in place. Typically, this is issued by the county and can be found really easily with a quick google search.
If there is a ban in affect, that’s no problem—there are so many other great nighttime photo-ops, like a starry night photo or a night hiking by headlamp photo.
If you’ve done the research and know there’s no fire ban in effect and you totally want a campfire to cap off your day, do it! Just make sure that you’re only building your fire in a designated area or an established fire ring. Be super aware of the winds and the size of your fire—a sudden gust of wind could blow embers into flammable areas and start devastating fires.
When you’re ready to leave, don’t wrap up the night without FULLY putting the fire out and dispersing the cooled ashes!
LNT Principle #6: Respect Wildlife
Witnessing wildlife on your wedding day is such a beautiful, unique experience—as elopement photographers, we’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of diverse creatures when we tag along for elopements.
But disrespecting wildlife is a total no-go—and not just because it could be dangerous for you (though, it definitely could be). Respecting wildlife has a lot to do with keeping them safe—the last thing you want to do is approach them, feed them, or try to get close to them.
And this isn’t just for the big, bad animals—we’re talking about the tiny, cute ones, too! Sneaky marmots and adorable chipmunks are sweet-looking, sure, but they’re tricky and they want your snacks. Avoid this at all costs! Giving food to wildlife can be harmful to them, can eliminate their healthy fear of people, and can put you in danger, too.
Always make sure that you’re storing your food properly and make sure you know what that means for the specified area you’ll be in.
PS. If you’re planning on being in bear country, know the bear spray policy before you go! Some places require you to have it and some locations ban it!
LNT Principle #7: Be Considerate of Other Visitors
The day you’re choosing to elope is a uniquely intimate and meaningful day—odds are, you’re probably looking for a little privacy. Just by the nature of that desire, you’ll probably consider hiking or adventuring during a less busy time of the day and week, which in a way, is a built-in LNT principle.
Hiking during off-peak days or hours is a great start to following this principle, but natural, public spaces are open to everyone. It’s important to be respectful of other people and be mindful of the space you’re taking up. It’s hugely helpful to be familiar with hiking etiquette, too! Like:
Uphill hikers have the right-of-way—it makes sense, right? They’re doing the tougher part. Sure, some of the uphill hikers are probably so ready to take a break—but let them make that choice!
If the choice is between one person stepping off the trail versus an entire group, always go with the one person (a lot less impact).
Act like you’re driving—stay right and use the left lane for speeding up to pass.
Give your fellow hikers a heads up to let them know when you’re behind them, passing, or nearby!
With a group? Hike in single file!
Be friendly and enjoy the outdoors together!
BONUS PRINCIPLE: LNT & Social Media—Keep Your Location “Your Little Secret”
Think about how truly amazing it is that you and the love of your life can elope standing in a spot no one else has ever stoodto get married?
We get chills every time we think about it.
Unfortunately, because of the geo-tagging, Instagram age, a lot of those hidden gems are becoming overrun, overcrowded, and damaged beyond repair (a-la-Horseshoe Bend). Not only are we totally destroying the concept of a hidden gem that can be uniquely special for each couple, we’re also damaging the outdoors in the process.
The best way to combat this?
Be conscious of what you’re posting online. Instead geo-tagging your exact location, be vague—consider tagging a local bar, a state, or even just “planet earth.”
Keeping your elopement location(s) a secret can help protect natural treasures and make it all the more likely that you’ll have it all to yourself when you visit again (maybe for an anniversary?).
Whether you’re standing on the top of a mountain shouting your vows to the love of your life during your elopement ceremony or just going for a leisurely hike through your neighborhood, practicing LNT principles is absolutely vital.
Have questions about LNT stuff for your elopement plans? Good—ask us! We’re here to be your guides to help you have the elopement of your dreams, which means we’re also here to help you do it in the way that best protects the earth while we celebrate your love!
Hey there! We’re Maddie Mae, Amber, & Tori. We’re professional adventure elopement photographers (and guides and officiants, too!) who call Colorado and Washington home. We’d love to help you plan your adventurous elopement. No matter what you want your day to look like, we can help capture your unique, intentional experience in a creative, unforgettable way. We can’t wait to help you start planning your special just us day.
YOU DESERVE THE BEAUTIFUL ELOPEMENT EXPERIENCE YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED—DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU ANY DIFFERENTLY.
It might seem like a weird concept, but when you think about it, it’s not all that crazy.
Traditional weddings typically take up a whole day, right? You’ve got the getting ready, the first looks, the portraits, the ceremony, the after-party, and more. It’s an entire story.
Elopements are your love story being told—there’s no need to rush that.
It’s a day to savor and embrace. Elopements are exactly the adventure you’ve always dreamed of for your wedding day.
How Do Elopements Last All Day?
When we explain all-day elopements to couples, we like to ask them questions like this:
Think about the best day you two could have together—don’t spare details. Think about what you’d want to do from the moment you woke up to the moment you went to bed. What would you eat? Where would you be? What scenery is surrounding you? What adventure would you take together?
That answer that couples typically create is often the adventure they want for their elopement day—and they could easily fit in so many activities, adventures, and scenic views.
More often than not, the adventures couples really want to build for themselves can’t fit into a 3-hour photo session.
It’s your anniversary date that you’ll re-live every year—shouldn’t you have a day that you want to constantly remember because every single moment was perfect? And more than that, shouldn’t you have a way to relive every single moment?
That’s the thing—sometimes people think that elopement photography is all about a few portraits, saying vows, and scheduling out an hour or two of photos.
But that doesn’t have to be it. Think about a big, traditional wedding—those things last hours, and more often than not, a photographer is there to document the entire story of your wedding day (6, 8, 10, sometimes 12 hours!)
Elopements can last the entire day—sometimes two or three days, even—because you’re creating your wildly different wedding day that you truly want. Maybe that looks like hiking to the top of a mountain, maybe that looks like sliding down sand dunes all day, maybe that means rock climbing and popping champagne and having a family ceremony.
Here’s another thing—an all-day elopement doesn’t mean you’re going on an all-day photoshoot.
We’re there to melt into the background to document your love—not to pose you uncomfortably for hours on end.
At the end of the day, none of this is about us. This is entirely about you—we’re just there to guide you, support you, and provide you with the best damn photos of your epic adventure that we possibly can.
All Day Elopement Timelines—A Look at What Goes Down During an All-Day Elopement
Even with all that info we just threw at you, we still understand how it can be tough to mentally plot out how an all-day elopement would go down.
Check out a few of these real-couple examples. Each of these amazing couples had the day of their dreams—a day they designed. We were just there to help and make sure that they had something meaningful and intimate to look back on forever.
Brecka & Nick – All-Day Elopement in Colorado
This sweet couple camped at the trailhead the night before their elopement where they planned their sunrise hike. Here’s a little insight on how the day went down:
1:50 am—Amber (one of our kickass photographers) arrives at the trailhead and snags some photos of Brecka & Nick taking down their tent.
2:00 am—it’s time to hike! Brecka, Nick, some family members, some super cute pups, and Amber head up the trail to their perfect elopement spot, enjoying every second of the headlamp hike together.
5:30 am—They arrive at their perfect elopement spot. They wanted to get ready separately because…
5:55 am—it’s first look time! That’s right, you can have a first look at your elopement. Brecka and Nick planned theirs for some epic alpenglow!
6:00-8:00 am—Brecka and Nick started their private ceremony when it felt right for them. They did exactly what they wanted—said their vows in the exact place they wanted, took some intimate portraits, and enjoyed their elopement ceremony.
8:00 am—the hike down begins—dog photos included, of course.
11:45 am—the getting ready begins—hair, makeup, the whole nine.
1:00 pm—this awesome couple wanted a first look, so they got ready separately. Maddie takes some sweet Airbnb shots and Jordyn and Connor take some time to handwrite their vows
1:45 pm—Jordyn puts on her dress, they have an amazing first look at their cute Airbnb, they head to the Knik Lodge, and Maddie signs as the officiant on their marriage certificate during their legal ceremony (which, they also did at the lodge where they asked helicopter pilots to be their witnesses).
4:00 pm—Then, they do it—they climb into a helicopter and take off to see Alaska in a way they’d always dreamed of.
4:15 pm—we land on glaciers, we view icebergs, we fly to the tops of ridges to see glacial fields. We literally explore three amazing places, each as beautiful as the next. Jordyn and Connor say their vows, they explore together, and take all the time to marvel at the amazing place they chose for their elopement day.
8:30 pm—we fly back to the Knik Lodge where they’ve stayed open to feed Jordyn and Connor an insanely delicious meal. They eat, we head back to the Airbnb, and we build a campfire.
10:30 pm—in the Alaskan blue hour, Jordyn and Connor have their first dance by the fire—these two can seriously bust a move.
12:30 pm—Amber arrives at Ernie and Brian’s super cute Airbnb in Ouray—and they are totally ready for it. The details are all laid out, they’re excited to help each other get ready, and they’re anxious to head out for their adventure
·1:00 pm—they pile in the car, head up the mountain, take some detours for a few great photos, and drive to an insanely beautiful lake (while taking more picture stops, of course). Then, they head back down to town. Why?
2:30 pm—To pick up their ATVs for their off-road elopement adventure, of course. For the next two hours, Brian and Ernie drive up the mountains 4x4 roads, explore a basin they know and love, and find the perfect cliff-side spot to say their private, intimate vows. They set up their ceremony spot and take off on their side-by-side again, awaiting their guests.
·4:45 pm—When the guests arrive, Brian and Ernie drive up in their side-by-side to the perfect mountain ceremony near some epic falls. A beautiful, unique, and super-personalized ceremony begins (every family member had a part in their ceremony). They say vows, they pop champagne, they celebrate together, and of course, take family portraits.
5:45 pm—the whole group heads back down to town for more adorable photos, delicious snacks, and lots of celebration while the sun sets over beautiful Ouray, Colorado.
7:30 pm—so begins an epic dinner, and so begins Ernie & Brian’s married life!
Nicki & Chris—Two-Day Elopement in Iceland
This couple knew the value of their elopement—and they weren’t afraid to stretch it to two days. Nicki and Chris had an amazing Iceland elopement and we were so thrilled to help them create their perfect days.
7:30 am—the getting ready begins. Enter hair, enter makeup, enter photos. The couple gets ready separately at their sweet, rented cabin. Nicki dons an out-of-this-world blue skirt and shirt combo that knocks our socks off.
9:00 am—Nicki and Chris have their perfect first look right outside their cabin. It’s time to take off toward the beautiful canyon they’ve chosen for their ceremony.
12:00 pm—the hike begins after a long drive to the trailhead! Nickie and Chris brought along some guests—as well as an Icelandic officiant to legally marry them! Everyone hikes into the canyon, Nicki and Chris have an amazing ceremony, and we document every second of their beautiful love story
4:00 pm—the first day ends, we all hike out, and we look forward to the adventure tomorrow promises to bring!
·8:00 am—Day two is just for Nicki and Chris, leaving the family back at the cabin. They hike back to a hot spring they wanted to explore together and spend a few hours totally soaking in their love (and soaking in some sweet hot springs)
10:00 am—the two-day elopement adventure is over, but Nicki and Chris’ life of adventure has just begun.
That being said, as professional elopement photographers and adventurers, we totally get it.
There’s something so alluring about adventuring to a place that’s both breathtaking and jaw-dropping all at once, finding a place that’s all yours where you can take hands, say your vows, and commit your lives to each other.
We also understand that there are a lot of epic, beautiful locations out there in the world and choosing which one to explore with your soon-to-be-spouse on such an important day can be a little bit overwhelming.
A little guidance—especially guidance from pros who have done this sort of thing several times before—can be incredibly helpful when it comes down to picking a spot.
Elopements are truly built for adventurous and beautiful locations.
A rocky cliff overlooking an epic valley beneath you? Yes.
A secluded beach you have to kayak to get to? Sure.
An alpine lake at the very top of a mountain? You bet.
Like we said, there are no limits to where you can elope.
Which, brings us to the most important question:
If you could elope anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Do you want to find a dreamy location that you’ve never been to before that takes your breath away? Do you want to find a secret, secluded spot that will forever be uniquely yours? Do you want to revisit an old adventure area that’s meaningful to both of you?
It’s a lot to think about, but we’re here to guide you through this daunting—but really exciting—process.
We’ve laid out a few of our favorite factors to consider when picking out the best place to elope. We hope this helps to inspire you, narrow down your search, and ultimately, allows you to find the perfect elopement location for you and your partner.
Factors to Consider When Finding the Best Place to Elope
There are dozens of factors to consider when you’re trying to pick the perfect elopement location, but we find it’s best to take it slow at the beginning and really start thinking about a few, driving factors that might matter most to you.
Depending on your preferences, needs, and desires, once you start really letting the thoughts flow on these factors, you’ll probably start zeroing in on the perfect elopement location for yourselves in no time.
Scenery + Views
This is always one of the first things we ask couples—what type of views and scenery do you want to be surrounded by on your wedding day?
One of the biggest benefits of eloping is that you’re giving yourself the opportunity to have your wedding day absolutely anywhere, so that means that nothing is out of the question.
Do you two come alive when you’re at the top of a mountain?
Does your heart soar when you’re running hand-in-hand down a sandy beach?
Really take some time to sit down and imagine the places that make you feel genuinely happy and authentically yourselves. What does it look like? What do you see? What type of landscape and views immediately come to mind when you think about being inspired, humbled, or wholly at peace?
If it’s more than one landscape, one type of scenery, or more than one view, that’s entirely OK.
That’s the amazing thing about our beautiful planet—there are so many places on this earth that are abundantly overflowing with diverse landscapes all within a few miles of each other. For example, the Olympic Peninsula is famous for hosting three entirely different ecosystems all within its bounds. And it’s not the only place like that in the world.
There are other options, too.
Remember when we said that elopements have no rules? We meant it.
If you want to road trip through an entire country for a few days to see tons of diverse views and landscapes, you can do that. If you want to hop in a helicopter and fly over gorgeous fjords, glacier fields, and alpine meadows, that’s totally possible. If you want to take an epic, off-road adventure to carve through the mountains, that’s a great idea, too.
If that’s what you two are about, then make sure your elopement lasts for days so you can see every view, every landscape, and every sight that you want to experience.
There are no limits. Find the landscape and views that make you and your partner feel entirely happy—it’s your day, after all.
When you really start thinking about locations that might seem perfect for you, it’s time to start considering the accessibility of those spots. No matter how you decide you want to elope, it’s always important to consider a few important accessibility questions.
How will you get to your destination? Will you fly? Drive? Take a boat?
Does your elopement location spot require you to hike? Camp? Backpack? Take a 4x4 vehicle?
Do you have an idea of how far you’re willing to travel, what kind of adventure you want to take, and how you’re ultimately going to get to your destination? Will you be including guests and do you need to consider accessibility for them?
Answering a few of these questions together can really help you get the ball rolling on choosing a few elopement locations that could be perfect for you (and eliminating some that might not truly fit as your dream elopement spot after all).
As always, we encourage all couples to totally embrace their adventurous sides—especially since we’re trained explorers and guides who will be by your side for the adventure. You should be free to do exactly what you want to do for your meaningful, intimate day, but it’s always important to consider some of the key accessibility questions before ultimately deciding on your spot.
Often, answering the question about when you want to elope can be incredibly helpful in deciding where you want to elope.
And while there are so many stunning spots in the world that make for absolutely beautiful elopement locations, not all of those spots are entirely secluded anymore. Sure, the internet is a beautiful thing, but in a world full of geotags and google searches, it’s becoming a lot harder to find truly private spots.
Often, those stunning places that are fairly accessible and relatively well-known won’t be as secluded as some couples might like. If seclusion is a big deal for you (and for some couples it might not matter as much, that’s OK, too), know that there are ways to find these private, intimate spots,—we can certainly help do that.
Though it can be tough to find secluded locations, it’s definitely not impossible (and we have plenty of secret locations up our sleeves)—it just takes a bit of research, knowing when to go, and being willing to make your adventure a little bit more epic.
Tools For Finding the Perfect Elopement Location
We’d be more than happy to help you pick out the perfect elopement location, but it’s always fun to do a little elopement research on your own, too! Here are a few helpful tools to use when seeking out your ideal elopement spot!
Google Tools (Google Maps, Google Street View, Google Earth Pro)
Those are just a few of the tools out there that can help you find the best elopement spot for you! Remember, we’re happy to help you with your search.
A Few Extra Things to Consider
Before really deciding on your elopement location, remember to consider a few of these other factors! They probably won’t change your dream spot, but it’s always helpful to check in on these few things before solidifying your elopement location decision
Legalities—Make sure it’s both legal and ethical to have a wedding ceremony in your chosen spot. Additionally, check on the marriage laws in the state or country you’re choosing to elope in—there might be specific guidelines about your marriage license, waiting periods, and who can marry you (fun fact: we’re all licensed officiants, so if you need someone to sign your marriage license, we’ve got you covered).
Permits—Check on where you’ve decided to elope to make sure you’re not missing the memo on any special permits or licenses you might need. This could come in several different forms. For examples, lots of national parks require that you purchase a permit if you plan to get married within their bounds. There are also a lot of wilderness areas that require you to acquire a permit if you plan to backpack, back country ski, or camp in certain areas. Do a little research and make sure you’ve got all the permits needed to make your elopement dreams come true.
Leave No Trace Principles—This one is incredibly valuable and very important to us, too. We only have one earth, and while it’s important for us to enjoy it, it’s even more vital that we take care of it. Make sure that before you decide to elope in nature, you’re totally prepared and in-the-know to follow leave no trace principles.