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How To Plan An Elopement | 5 Steps for Eloping in 2022 | Adventure Elopement Photographer

January 22, 2022

Couples choose to elope for a number of reasons. Back in the day, the term “eloping” used to mean the sudden act of going off and getting married in secret. It took on this somewhat negative connotation that was oftentimes frowned upon by family members and loved ones. But thankfully, over time, the tides have changed, and elopements are starting to become a more common alternative to traditional weddings because of the main idea that all elopements focus on.

The reason why elopements are becoming increasingly more popular is because they are an intentional, intimate wedding day experience that focuses on the couple, as any wedding day truly should. Elopements forego the huge production of a more common and traditional wedding day and opt for creating the authentic wedding day experience of their dreams. The number of guests invited is typically small, though some couples choose to spend their elopement day by themselves, with the exception of a possible officiant and witnesses.

Although all weddings days are the same in the sense that YOU can make it what you want it to be (though that seems to quickly forgotten when planning a more traditionally-laid out wedding day), an elopement experience can be truly crafted to be the best day for the two of you, from start to finish. Much like summiting a mountain, there are multiple ways to do it. There are no rules to eloping, other than it being a day that is centrally focused on the two of you as a couple, as well as your love and commitment to one another.

Because elopements are so unique, most folks don’t know where to begin in terms of planning. Fortunately, that’s where I come in! I know that sometimes, the more options you are provided with, the harder it is to make a decision. That’s definitely one issue I suffer with myself. Unlike wedding planning, there are very little valuable resources online to find out exactly what it takes to elope. And there are both good and bad points to this: It’s bad when it comes to trying to figure out just what it takes to plan an elopement, but the best part about eloping is that you get to make it just as you want it to be. In addition to that, traditional wedding planners aren’t equipped to service elopements and eloping couples, only unless you happen to decide to add any major decor, such as a celebratory sweetheart table, floral arch, etc. I’ve actually had couples book me for their elopement after switching from planning for a more traditional wedding, and they previously hired a wedding planner that they no longer needed because her services didn’t align with their plans. 

Thankfully, when you hire me, you have the reassurance that you’re not only hiring a photographer to follow you around for the day; You’re also hiring me for my expertise in planning the ultimate elopement experience that is specifically made with the two of you and your dreams in mind.

A map shows the many different places to elope in North Carolina

STEP I: DREAM BIG

The best plans always begin with a quality brainstorming session. When it comes to eloping, I wholeheartedly believe it’s all about the experience. Take some time with your partner to sit down and think out your perfect elopement day from start to finish. What does that look like? Maybe it’s an entire day out hiking in the mountains. Maybe it’s an overnight backpacking trip with an epic sunrise. Whatever it looks like, the main point to focus on throughout the entire process of planning your elopement is that it speaks to your two true selves. 

Start with the big picture, and we will fill in everything with accommodations, local vendors, and everything else you’ll need along the way. For the best experience, expect to spend approximately 50-80% of your budget on photography and the rest on travel, attire, etc etc. Keep in mind that planning out your dream elopement doesn’t have to include places you already know and love. Some of my favorite elopements have taken place at locations the couple has never been to before, or perhaps even thought about until they hired me. Maybe you have an area in mind, like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains, one of the many beautiful natural springs of Florida, or the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest. It is totally okay if your ideas are somewhat vague, we’ll get to refining them later. After all, that’s just one of the many ways in which I’m able to help you out!

The last factor to settle on during the brainstorming phase is a date for your elopement. Maybe there is a sentimental date in your lives that is meaningful to your relationship. Maybe not! Think again about your vision and the type of scenery you hope for. Is everything around you lush and green, or perhaps you’re more attracted to the idea of being surrounded by the changing of the leaves during autumn? Or a beautiful snowfall in late winter? Some spots are better in certain seasons, and even photograph better at sunrise or sunset. Finally, the average planning time for elopements is around 4 to 10 months, to best book good flights and lodging. All of this should hopefully guide you toward that perfect date for your upcoming amazing elopement experience.

A couple hikes up a riverbank for their elopement in North Carolina

STEP II: RESEARCH

Once you’ve decided on a date and general region for where you want to elope, it’s time to start researching some logistics for your experience. If you are traveling in from out of the area, you’ll need to start looking into travel and lodging. Will you also need to rent a car perhaps? If you do, keep in mind the type of terrain it may take to get to certain spots, so you’ll want to be conscious of things like that if it happens to apply to your experience. I am more than happy to help you with great places for lodging, or even adventure rentals, if you’ll happen to need any assistance with that.

Now is a good time to look into the laws and legalities of getting married in the location you’re traveling to, as they vary by state and country. For example, you’ll need an officiant and two witnesses in North Carolina. Thankfully, I can be one of those witnesses! And if my partner is joining me that day, they can be your second witness, or even someone on the trail can sign as your second witness as well. Another option that a lot of couples choose instead involves taking care of all the paperwork back at home either before or after their elopement. That decision (like all of them when planning an elopement!) is entirely up to you. I also know plenty of officiants through my time spent networking in this industry so if we need to arrange for one to join us, we can do that!

Finally, it’s very important to look into the permits and regulations regarding getting married in the location you’re choosing, because more than likely there are going to be some things you need to know about. National Parks, National Forests, and even the Blue Ridge Parkway all have their own guidelines for getting married within their gates. It’s wise to get started on this research early, as you will probably have to send in some sort of application along with a fee and wait for the office to approve it. It’s really no big deal, but you definitely want to make sure these details are taken care of early on so you don’t have to stress about them later.

One thing to note: You won’t find a lot of “elopement” verbiage in resources regarding permits and regulations, but any rules regarding weddings is more than likely what you are going to have to abide by. Of course, when in doubt, don’t be afraid to call to speak to a real person to ask questions!! It is always better to call and confirm rather than assume and have some problem arise later on down the road. Nobody wants that. And for a lot of places, I’ve actually already gone ahead and confirmed permit requirements and regulations with many places, so once we get you booked and start looking at certain locations, we’ll confirm what is needed for each location at that time.

STEP III: PLAN, BOOK, & GET HYPED

Now that you have a date picked out and have looked into a general area for where you want to elope, you’re ready to start locking in your travel, lodging, and other details for your elopement experience. I’m happy to help you with local vendor recommendations, such as florists and calligraphers, or any other needs you might have. I love the idea of handmade signs to attach to the back of your pack that say something cute along the lines of “just married” or “just eloped” or some other phrase more unique to you. Like the right photographer, a good vendor will understand your vision and have the knowledge and experience to execute it while you enjoy the day. And finding vendors that have experience in elopements adds extra peace of mind that your elopement experience will be all the more special.

During this step of the process, we’ll be in contact to confirm what all activities you have planned during your elopement experience, and I’ll get to drafting a timeline from there.

The week out from your elopement, be sure to check the weather and start packing. If needed, don’t forget to pick up your marriage license and any other legal documents.

Lastly, the night before your elopement day, just relax, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest. Because when you wake up, you’re waking up to the best day of your life!

A couple exchanges their vows at the top of Hawksbill Mountain in Linville Gorge, North Carolina

PHASE IV: GET HITCHED!

So you’ve planned, and booked some stuff, and patiently waited. Finally, it’s your elopement day!

Get stoked, be present, and enjoy every second with the one you love. The less you stress, the greater the experience is going to be. It’s going to be beyond your wildest dreams.

A groom walks toward his bride on top of a mountain in North Carolina at sunset on their elopement day.

POST-ELOPEMENT

After your elopement experience, go back home and celebrate with your family and friends! Have a BBQ, host a party at a local brewery, or have an intimate dinner reception.

If you’re looking for a special way of telling your friends the big news, pick out some of your favorite photos and get them printed on announcements to send to everyone!

Once your photos are finished, we’ll discuss options for any print or products you’d be interested in preserving your memories with. I’m a HUGE advocate for printing your photos and giving your memories the respect they deserve. That’s why I offer high quality albums, wall art, and much more from trusted, professional print labs that I work with to provide you with artwork that will last a lifetime (literally).

A couple has their first look on their elopement day

Loving all this elopement planning inspiration?

I understand there aren’t many resources out there on how to plan an elopement. That’s why I’m here to help you plan the best day possible.

Ready to start planning your own elopement?

The next step is contacting me today to get the conversation started!

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EXCLUSIVE ACCESS FOR EVERY BOOKED COUPLE

The Ultimate Intimate Wedding & Elopement Guide

Consider this your holy grail of elopement planning

Sporting over 90 pages of elopement inspiration, ideas, tips and tricks, this guide has everything you need to help you plan the best day ever.

I’m a firm believer that you deserve the best, most unforgettable elopement that focuses on your love and this amazing commitment that you two are about to make to one another.

I’m not only your photographer, but I’m also your guide to your wildly different photography experience that’s adventurous, intimate, and completely yours.

You deserve unique and beautiful memories to carry with you forever. And I’d love to help bring your dreams to reality.

COMMENTS
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This is so helpful for anyone planning an elopement! And you have gorgeous photos too!!

That place is such a beautiful spot on Earth! I would do it all over again and again!

Ok I’m ready to elope! This is so helpful

Alright I’m ready to elope now after reading this & seeing the photos 😍 I’m in love.

Love the images, especially the first one! This is such a helpful article for couples wanting to elope!

Your images have a wonderful softness to them; I love it! And the way you break everything down makes it easy and doesn’t overwhelm

Really diggin how you help break this down for couples, to make things as seamless as possible!

This is such a great list of things for eloping couples! And the photos are so great as well 🙂

You offer such great insights for eloping couples! Plus, your images are absolutely stunning. Great work!

This is such a helpful and informative post for eloping couples!! And these these pictures are absolutely beautiful. Amazing work!!

This guide is so helpful! If I was eloping personally I would use this as a guideline! Your photos are beautiful as well!

This is absolutely amazing. Such great ideas of what to do for an elopement! Also, these pictures are GORG! Love them!

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