Pro tip: The photos on these adventure elopements really turn out stellar and tend to be one of the more important aspects because they’re the only ones telling the story. Be sure to give your photographer plenty of time to document it for you. You’ll appreciate the hell out of what they’re able to give you with enough time and they’ll love you for it. Also, bring beer/whiskey. Just trust me on that.
Examples: Road tripping through Iceland, Camping in Banff, A Week hiking and exploring Glacier National Park, A forested cabin in the Cascades of Washington State
Step One: Keep it small
The biggest complication with any wedding is the amount of guests. The more guests, the more planning, the more expenses. Keep it simple. I’d highly recommend just eloping with your future spouse and having a party when you return. After photographing as many weddings as I have the number one regret couples have is really big weddings. The wish they had spent that money on an adventure elopement or used it for practical reasons like a down payment on a home.
Step Two: Choose the location
This is a pretty obvious step but there’s more to it than just choosing a spot. I highly recommend the shoulder seasons which would be spring/summer or summer/fall. Airline prices tend to be cheaper and often you’ll have less crowds to deal with if you’re choosing a national park or a scenic area that has a lot of tourist. Ideally I would pick a spot away from tourist that’s a little off the beaten path. So for instance if you chose to do a elopement in Banff National Park, you’d probably want to pick a back country or off peak area rather than say Moraine Lake which is always full of people. The shoulder seasons often tend to have more dramatic scenery to work with as well. In the spring it might be remaining snow at higher elevations, and in the fall you will have the beginning of the leaves turning.
Step Three: Choose the time
You want the best light possible for your photos. Typically that’s near dawn and dusk. Contrary to what you’d think bright, sunny days are terrible for taking photos. You want soft, even lighting that’s going to compliment you rather then give harsh shadows on your face. For that reason I always recommend early morning or late afternoon ceremonies. Many times when I photograph elopements we usually shoot the ceremony one day and do a “day after session” where we can really explore and take the day to get some beautiful shots. It’s not always possible or needed, but that’s something to consider.
Step Four: Choose your vendors
This is where you’ll want to hire your photographer, hair and makeup, wedding officiant and any of the other vendors like cake or even transportation. Typically you’ll want to book your photographer at least 6 months out from your wedding. And I can guarantee you’ll have a much easier time booking vendors if you do a Monday-Thursday ceremony since that’s off peak for most of us. Most photographers almost exclusively offer elopement packages Monday – Thursday. Who you hire is really up to you. Many choose to only go with a wedding officiant (or even a best friend) and a photographer. I can tell you by experience the smaller and simpler the better.
Step Five: Get permits and book tickets
Many parks and public places require a use permit to get married. Chances are no one is going to give you a hard time if you don’t acquire one of these (although they’re typically fairly cheap $50-$100). Just check with the local officials to find out. Once you know the area, start scouting out tickets if you have to fly. If you are smart about it you can usually find really good deals by being flexible with your travel plans.
Step Six: Have a Blast
That’s really all there is to it. The beauty of having a super simple wedding is there isn’t nearly as much planning or cost involved as there is with a regular wedding. I always tell my couple’s that a wedding is a celebration and should be about them and having fun. Far too often I see couples have weddings they don’t really want because the parents want it (and are usually helping pay for it as well). The beauty of doing an adventure elopement is you call the shots and it’s so much less stressful.