As someone who not only documents elopements for a living but who also eloped too, I’ve been in your shoes firsthand. I know how scary and uncertain and new the idea of eloping can be. It’s unconventional and non-traditional, and that in and of itself can be a little nerve-wracking. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be. I promise you, elopements are not as confusing as they might seem at first. In fact, they are quite possibly some of the most fun and fulfilling types of weddings possible. But there are certainly some things to keep in mind when planning yours, which is why I’m sharing my best elopement advice.
If there’s one piece of crucial elopement advice I could give you, it’d be this: remember that this day is about you and your partner; no one else. You get to choose what activities you want to incorporate into your day, who you want to invite (if anyone at all), whether you want to elope near home or somewhere far away. The choice of how you elope is in your hands.
My elopement advice in this article will focus on best practices to make sure you have the best elopement day possible. But when it comes to the general vision for your day, remember the choice is yours and no one else’s. There will undoubtedly be people in your life providing their unsolicited opinions about your day, but they aren’t the ones getting married.
While traditional weddings typically happen on weekends, I actually advise almost all of my couples to elope on weekdays instead. Typically, adventure elopements take place on public lands, whether that’s a national park or BLM land or anywhere else where there are likely to be other hikers and adventurers present. So ultimately, the easiest way to avoid crowds on your elopement day is to elope on a weekday instead.
When it comes to choosing a date for your elopement, the best elopement advice I could give you is to avoid weekends (particularly Saturdays) and holidays. Not only will you have to deal with lots of traffic to popular mountain destinations or beaches, but there’s a much higher likelihood of having an audience of strangers passing by as you say your vows. I’m willing to bet that one of the biggest motivators behind eloping was the privacy that comes with it, and it’s kind of hard to have that privacy with tons of onlookers present.
Not only do sunrise and sunset have the best light out of any time of day, but they are also much less crowded. Similar to my elopement advice above about avoiding weekends and holidays, eloping at sunrise or sunset helps you have more privacy.
One thing to note: if you’re eloping in a high alpine area during the summer months, I definitely recommend choosing sunrise, as afternoon storms are common. Weather-wise, sunrise is a much safer bet during summer.
There are several things I don’t love about the middle of the day. For starters, the light is at its harshest. And if you’ve chosen to elope during a warmer month, the heat can be pretty intense. But beyond that, the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM are some of the busiest times to be in the great outdoors. So if you can avoid this range, do it. Otherwise, I’d advise choosing a more secluded area.
This might just be one of the most important pieces of elopement advice in this article. Even though you’re eloping and not having a big traditional wedding, there’s a good chance you’ll still need a wedding permit or a site reservation for your elopement location. Always make sure you do your research on whether or not a permit is needed for your elopement location (and if you’re not sure, your elopement photographer should be able to guide you in the right direction).
Trust me, don’t plan on just showing up on your elopement day without the required permits. That is, unless you’re interested in accumulating some pretty intense fines. You can expect some national parks to charge you fees of thousands of dollars, when the original wedding permit could have cost you a couple hundred if not less. My elopement advice? Just save yourself the headache and snag that permit ASAP. Showing up on public lands without a permit is not a risk worth taking on a day as important as your elopement day.
Elopement timelines certainly don’t need to look exactly the same as big wedding timelines. For starters, they are very different events, in almost every respect. That said, having a timeline for your elopement day will provide you the peace of mind to know how your day will be laid out and what happens when. And it’ll keep you from feeling rushed while ensuring you get the photo coverage you want, too.
My elopement advice when it comes to day-of logistics? Don’t go into your elopement day without a plan or generalized timeline in hand. Not only do you likely have other vendors, aside from your photographer, who have to know when they need to show up to serve you, but you’ll definitely want to know what time you’ll need to arrive at the trailhead to make sure you get up in time to enjoy sunrise. Or you’ll want to make sure you have your hair and makeup completed in time for your ceremony. Without a plan for the day, it’s easy to lose track of time, and not in a good way.
It’s a myth that elopements are meant to be secret events. Let’s just bust that right off the bat. While at some point in the past, that’s how they might have been defined, things have changed significantly. With that said, if you’re not close with you family or feel like the negative backlash you’d receive could lead to you feeling pressured into a wedding that doesn’t feel like “you”, not sharing your plans with friends and family could be a good option.
However, if you and your family tend to be open with each other, you communicate frequently, and they are an integral part of your everyday life, sharing your decision is the best elopement advice I could give you. And if you’re worried about hurting feelings, I get it. I’ve written an article all about this topic, with guidance and advice on how to approach your elopement choice with your family.
When it comes to your elopement guest list, there are no rules on who you have to invite. You could choose to have no one attend, and make the day and intimate adventure with just you and your partner. Or you could bring along your siblings or perhaps just your parents. You could also opt to only have a few friends present and no family. The combinations are endless. When it comes to the topic of who to invite, the best elopement advice I could give you is to remember that no one is entitled to attend your elopement day. Only you and your partner can make that choice.
Sit down and take some time to figure out the types of locations that really speak to you and your partner, and find a location that matches that. Do you two go hiking in the mountains frequently? A place like Colorado could be perfect for your elopement. Do you find yourself craving rugged beaches and salty waves? California has some of the best oceanside spots in the country. While you’re usually not renting out a traditional venue when you choose to elope, the thought you give to your location is just as important.
Personally, I believe having documentation of your elopement day is one of the most important things you’ll be factoring into your budget. It’s a way to look back on your day for the years and decades to come. But hey, if it’s not important to you, that’s okay too! But I’d highly recommend figuring out what elopement photos mean to you and your partner and whether you want to have any.
My elopement advice? I know for me personally, I’m always looking back on my elopement photos. They sit in my office. They’re the background on my phone. They’re something my husband and I look back at on our anniversary every year, and they remind us of how much fun we had on our elopement day. So take a moment and figure out what elopement photos could mean to you, and whether you want to have them. My elopement advice would be to have your day documented well.
I truly, deeply care about your elopement day. Why? Because I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve experienced what you’re experiencing. And I’ve navigated the sometimes choppy and uncertain waters of elopement for both myself and the couples I work with. I’m here for my couples as a resource and elopement advice source during the entire elopement journey, and I’d love to be there for you too.
Check out some of our favorite elopement and adventure wedding planning resources:
Empowering You To Have Your Adventure Elopement, Your Way
Colorado Elopement Photographers + Adventure Wedding Photographers