How to Plan an Elopement Adventure
You want to plan an elopement? What’s the elopement definition? What is the elope meaning? What comes to your mind when you think of an elopement? Probably two people sneaking away in secret to get married without anyone else knowing about it. That may have been true many years ago, but no more.
An elopement is another word for exactly the kind of custom wedding you want without all the production, checklists, and timelines.
The clients that hire me for adventure elopements want weddings that go beyond the traditional and are 100% personalized to what is important to them. They want an intimate wedding that is free of checklists and productions that society puts on a wedding day. Further, couples can invite the people who matter most to experience it together. That being said, there is nothing wrong with a traditional wedding, but for those who want to something personal, private, in the woods or on some adventure together, this is what an elopement allows.
Want to have just the two of you there? It’s your day; you get to decide.
Want to have immediate family there? You bet! There are no rules, invite whomever you want.
Don’t want to wear a white dress? You don’t have to.
Want to have your dog be your best man? Bring on the four-legged friends!
My clients opt for an adventure elopement because it’s what makes them feel alive; the adventure is an experience and part of their story.
Starting your life together with intention and choosing an adventure elopement can be freeing for so many reasons:
- You don’t have to “prove” anything to anyone, or make concessions to make others happy on your wedding day
- The focus is on the two of you, the vows and the commitment you are making
- You start your life together in a place that brings you both life
- You are going into the unknown together, hand in hand
- The photos that result are your first shared adventure…how cool is that?!
Does an Adventure Elopement Save Money?
The answer to this is: Yes and no. With the average wedding in the US costing $38,700, it’s safe to say that most of the times it does save money. However, many couples will incorporate a honeymoon trip alongside their adventure elopement. Additionally, many of my couples opt to have a reception back home with friends and family at a later date, so costs vary.
Most couples who are planning an adventure elopement are doing it not as just a way to save money, but because a traditional big white wedding is just not for them.
Wedding couples don’t want the stress, the planning, or dealing with the tricky family dynamics. They want a day that is focused on them and their commitment to each other. They see this day as a way of investing in each other in a place that is meaningful to them, whether it’s at the base of Mt Everest or under a starry Kauai sky. And it allows freedom to be creative with the photography more than the 15 minutes or 30 minutes photographers are given on a traditional wedding day.
My Role as an Adventure Elopement Photographer
The experience and adventure of my clients is my top priority. I can’t stress this enough; this is a team effort. Documenting an adventure elopement means that I need to get to know what is important to you. If you dislike being the center of attention, or if you feel like you aren’t photogenic (a common concern) that’s not a problem. We work together to form a vision, discuss locations, and talk through adventure plans, start to finish. My goal is to create the most EPIC and romantic photos to hang on your wall that does not exist on any Pinterest board.
I will guide you through the entire process, so you feel relaxed and confident. This will not be like one long staged photoshoot! The timeline and itinerary will be custom designed to your comfort level. We’ll enjoy the process of the adventure together, taking photos along the way but also allowing for the two of you to simply enjoy the experience, and each other.
On a more personal note, I’m deeply humbled to be able to be there when people commit to marrying each other. As a Christian, a husband, a father, and as an artist, it fills me with wonder when I capture photos that I know will be meaningful for generations. It never gets boring. I’m proud to say that the couples I’ve shared this adventure with are people whom I connect with very well.
The 10 Things You Need to Plan Your Adventure Elopement
1. Choose your Own Adventure!
One of the greatest things about adventure elopements is that they can be totally customized to what you love to do. There are no venue rules to follow; your time frame is your own!
Some things you should consider
- Accessibility of the area. What will we need to get to the spot? Will we be hiking, taking my 4WD Tacoma off road, a helicopter, a canoe?
- How secluded do you want? There are places off the beaten path, but harder to access. With Mt. Everest, we had a 10-day hike to basecamp.
- Is there a particular season? If you both are sun-lovers, then hike to a remote location on a snowy mountain, unless that’s too miserable.
- If you are having guests, is the area going to be accessible for them as well, uneven paths, will there be elderly? Do you want kids along?
- Do you want a place that offers multiple locations for photos, or do you have one specific place in mind?
- Have you visited the location before? Sometimes that’s the real adventure, getting to discover a National Park together for the first time.
2. Permits, Marriage Licenses, and Requirements
I’ve found that most people who are looking to do an adventure elopement consider themselves stewards of the earth, but it needs to be said that first, we do no harm. Respect for the environment and leaving nothing behind but footprints is paramount. Best practices for each area are always observed not only for safety, but because we honor our planet.
Before you get your heart set on a place, make sure to do your homework on what kinds of restrictions or permits that may be needed, and what is allowed or not allowed. As a photographer, I usually am well aware.
Some places like Nepal require that you are staying in the country for several weeks before you are able to obtain a marriage license. If there are restrictions such as waiting periods or who can legally marry you that could hamper your plans, many of my couples have opted to get their marriage license locally and get formally married at home. They then planned the elopement adventure as a more ceremonial affair, exchanging vows, rings, etc.
If you want someone to officiate for your ceremony, make sure you choose someone who has an adventurous spirit! Many officiants would love to add “married people in a helicopter” to their resume, but you may have to do a little research to find one. I know some adventure officiant’s in Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, but I have worked with others, like in New Zealand. Other options would be for you to have a trusted friend obtain ordination and accompany you. I have also had couples who just simply read their vows to each other without an officiant.
4. The Right Gear
In this case, I’m talking about the mountain gear you wear, not my photographic gear. That’s part I have covered, and you don’t have to worry that. But what we do want to discuss is what you’re wearing to get you there safely. This is something I am happy to give you advice on. I really believe that getting the best gear you can afford is going to make your adventure elopement a better experience all around. There’s nothing worse than hiking with blisters or being soaked through and chilled to the bone before you say the I Do’s. Having the right hiking boots or shoes, outerwear, and eye protection can make a huge difference.
5. Gear for the Bride
Let’s just get this out of the way right now; your dress will get dirty. I’m not talking about getting totally trashed (that’s never the point), but we aren’t going to be in a church and a ballroom. So, when you choose your dress give some thought to material. Is it lightweight? Do you feel like you can move easily in it? Would it withstand being packed up in a backpack without getting too wrinkled or disheveled? Can you forgo a train or a bustle to lighten the load? Sometimes a few modifications like different veils can add drama to a look without adding to the weight. If you’re wanting that cliff photo overlooking the mountains, you might want a longer dress to allow the wind to move it for a little drama. You can carry it around your arms through the trail or you can pack it.
Give some thought to how the dress will wear in the area we are in. You can even ask the dressmakers what kind of material holds up best in certain climates or areas. I had a two-day adventure with a couple in Yosemite and on the third day her dress still looked amazing because she chose the right cut and styling! Another adventure bride of mine on an adventure for 3-4 days bought three wedding dresses. She bought them from a used wedding dress website, so that’s an option.
Shoes or hiking boots are another thing you want to give careful consideration to. I prefer hi-top boots with ankle support to protect your ankles during hiking. Some dresses hide the shoes altogether, but I love it when my couples show off their mountain boots. You can wear whatever is rugged and comfortable. Otherwise, you can opt to bring shoes to change into once we get to the destination.
6. Gear for the Groom
Be dapper; be smart. With so many options out there for suits, choose one that makes you look and feel great. Colors that mimic nature are always a good choice. Choose shoes to match the terrain and the look you want; don’t skimp on quality here, you can use the shoes for years to come. Have the suit custom-tailored; it will make a world of difference. Small accessories like pocket squares, scarves or a sharp-looking overcoat can provide variety.
Don’t be afraid to be different. If you want my input, I see many blue suits in the woods, and if that’s your thing, do it. The color is too strong to me in the wilderness. Black suits timeless and always look good, but if you want to spice up your look and stand out, just ask me when you book. I can give you plenty of ideas. Outfits and styles are often overlooked when couples are new to shopping. There’s another world of style to be shown off in the wilderness.
Flowers are pretty, but flowers are fragile. Tropical Orchids don’t stand a chance at 10,000 feet! Speak to a reputable florist and tell them what your plans and the look you are going for. Some florists may even suggest high-end silk replications instead of live floral, and these can be quite stunning (and are not anything like the silk flowers you see in craft stores). Bouquets and boutonnieres can also be fashioned out of more natural, heartier materials like pinecones, willow, or eucalyptus.
Blowing hair can look dramatic. I love it in photos because I think it adds movement and the feels, but some brides really don’t like it. You know yourself best! If you’re concerned with having your hair being windblown, then you may want to experiment with hairstyles that are more fixed into place. Be sure to do trials with your stylist and test the style out in your own backyard. Bring extra hair ties, bobby pins or other hair adornments should we need to make adjustments on the fly. We can also do these photos as the last part of the session, it’s kind of fun to get a little wild and free at the end to celebrate!
I encourage makeup in photos even if you don’t usually wear a lot. It helps even out the skin tone and produces a more flattering look. You can hire a makeup artist to do your makeup on the day, or if we are going to a more remote location where we have to camp out a few days it’s a good idea to learn how to do it yourself. You can get guidance from estheticians in places like Sephora, Ulta or MAC. Be sure to tell them about the conditions we will be in. High altitudes can chap skin, and sunburn is always a concern, so a lightweight SPF should always be worn.
10. The Right Photographer
Do you really want to be spending one of the most exciting adventures of your life with someone you don’t really click with? I know that’s cheesy. But what a bummer that would be. No matter how great the photos would turn out, it would taint part of the experience. When you are looking to book an adventure elopement photographer, it should be someone who is well qualified, that you would actually want to hang out with in real life. Being able to feel comfortable with your photographer is a big part of looking natural in photos. I’m there to guide you, lead you, and encourage you to take in the beauty and awesomeness around us. An adventure elopement is a sensory experience and one I am so glad to share with my clients.
Plus I have wealth of outdoor knowledge, my WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certificate, climbed some of the highest mountains in the world, led teams up mountains, survived the great Nepal Mt. Everest earthquake in 2015 while on my first attempt at a wedding on Mt. Everest base camp. I have survival and safety skills to make sure every one of my couples has a top notch experience with amazing photos.
When you are searching for adventure elopement photographers, find out more about them as a person as well as looking at their work. Look at reviews that others have left. Was the experience of working with them as impressive as the photos?
If an adventure elopement sounds right for you, I’d like to chat with you more. I’d love to hear about what your dreams and visions are for your wedding day. Don’t worry if you don’t have the location picked out yet (I can give you some suggestions and directions) all I need to know is the date and where you are considering.
From there, we’ll see if we are a good fit for each other. I’d love to share in your adventure!
MORE ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHY FROM CHARLETON CHURCHILL