YOUR ELOPEMENT DAY GUIDE
timeline advice, tips for better photos, and what to expect from me
Your elopement day
First off I just want to say congrats to the two of you for being brave enough to say no to tradition and do something that is authentically you. I believe elopements are just as important as big weddings and when it comes to photographing elopements I believe it's even more important than photographing big weddings. Most of the time I am literally the only person there taking photos and witnessing the two of you exchange vows so, it’s safe to say I take this job extremely seriously. Choosing to elope doesn't mean that your day shouldn't be any less exciting than if you were having a big wedding. Eloping has truly evolved over the years. What used to be a short ceremony with a few portraits afterwards is now something I believe deserves SO much more. So when it comes to planning this elopement I want you to dream big. The day doesn't have to only be about the ceremony the options are limitless when it comes to planning your dream elopement day. You could plan a picnic at the top of a mountain, hike overnight and exchange vows at sunrise, go on a off roading jeep tour, soak in some hot springs together, or rent a helicopter (YES I’ve seen this done!) Since you have already chosen to break the norm why not make a whole epic day of it. I also want to point out you have probably chosen to elope so you could have some time to yourselves and I want you to know I totally respect that. So if that means a private picnic or a solo hike I won't be offended.
This guide is meant to be helpful but not limiting. Every elopement is different and that's why I love them! I have seen many couples spend the whole day doing things they love, trying new things for the first time, or taking it easy and soaking in the whole experience. I am here throughout the whole process to answer any questions whether they relate to photos or not however, this guide is written with photography in mind because I want you to love your own photos as much as the ones you've seen on my website. The number one priority is creating a day that feels true to you!
When you start to plan your elopement you should consider every aspect and detail of that day. Starting with how you do want that vibe of that morning to feel? Where do you want to wake up? Do you want to help each other get ready or do you want to get ready separately to build up the suspense? I urge you to find a space that is comfortable, feels, like home, and is a relaxing space to spend the night in once the day is over. This could be anything if your not camping or you don’t have your own mobile space (like a van) Airbnb has a ton of great options from cozy A-frame cabins, camp style yurts, tree houses, or glamping tents. The options really are limitless (again if you need help finding a cool place to stay let me know!!)
Setting the mood for the day will make for some really sweet photos together. Imagine having photos of you making breakfast together that morning, sipping coffee by the fire, or doing your makeup while your partner is putting his outfit on. These moments can be easy to forget but they will capture you in an authentic way that is most similar to your real married life. Also, all this is a great way to start your time with me in a relaxing environment so we can all get comfortable before moving to your first look.
This is the moment when you finally see each other all dressed up, when the realization you are getting married actually sinks in. All first looks are different depending on the couple so, I’ve given you some overall details and listed a few different options for logistics depending on what you feel is best.
If you want me to step away for this moment so you can share it between the two of you I completely understand. But, with that being said capturing first looks is one of my favorite parts of the day as they are FULL of emotion and authentic moments which is why I love them so much. If you do choose to let me capture your first look I give the two of you plenty of space while still capturing those authentic emotions.
There are a few different ways to go about first looks and they can vary depending on preference and location. Like this one pictured above the groom could not see the bride until she came around one of the huge rocks so it gave them both a bit of anticipation. Also the groom can stand facing away from the bride and the bride can walk up and either tap him on the shoulder or cover his eyes, when the groom is ready he can turn around. I give you time just to enjoy each other, say a few words, hug, kiss, etc. If you want to add a special element to your first look consider writing a note to each other and reading it while standing back to back before seeing each other or you can exchange a meaningful gift during this time.
If you want to have your first look in a special location that we'll drive or hike to, I suggest getting all the way "ready" (hair, make up, etc) and then change into your wedding clothes on location. I’ve had brides change in the back of the car, in national park restrooms, or even in the woods after a hike! There are strategies for packing dresses and suits up mountains, so feel free to go this route if you want your first look in an epic spot! If you want to hike the whole way in wedding dress that is totally ok and I encourage it if you think you're up to it! Different dresses are better for hiking in so make sure it's something you would be comfortable wearing the entire time (i.e. nothing strapless, no corsets, nothing that restricts movement and breathing)
If you choose to get ready in the same place but in separate rooms, I will direct you to a nearby location for example if you rented a cabin in the woods I will walk the groom outside have him wait while I walk the bride outside. If you want to do this at a totally different location but also want to be 100% ready I will drive both of you to location but here's the fun part, you both will be blindfolded! I have the bride and groom wear blindfolds and totally direct them to the location. Upon arrival I’ll have the bride wait in the car while I get the groom into the right spot (talk about trusting your photographer lol) If the idea of being blindfolded is too much we can always take separate vehicles.
If you choose to help each other get ready, but still want a first look moment, you can save a finishing touch like putting on the veil, buttoning up the dress, or even just holding a bouquet to add the full affect. Sometimes our couples have planned their outfits together, and he's seen her in her dress a few times already, but there is still nothing like the moment you finally face each other, all done up, on your actual wedding day.
Now for the most important part of the day, your ceremony! Most of the time couples like to keep the ceremony short and get on with the photos and yes I do love that you want to prioritize photos but, I also want the two of you to thoroughly enjoy the moment. I want you to remember every little aspect of your ceremony. Are you writing your own vows to read to each other? Or did you research alternative vows that mean something to both of you? Do you want a first dance? I bring a little speaker with me to every session just incase the couple has a special song they want to have a first dance to once the the ceremony is over of course this is all depending on location. You can enjoy your first moments as husband and wife dancing in each others arms without a worry in the world. If you DO have guest I suggest asking them to bring lavender or flower petals to throw once you're announced husband and wife, it makes for amazing photos and moment feel even more special.
bride + groom portraits
This is what I am here for!!! For elopements I like to spend 3-4 hours just taking portraits but its broken up starting with the first look, and the ceremony happening somewhere in the middle. I promise there will not be a camera in your face the whole time! I like to walk around with my couples, stop and chat, take breaks, etc. I want to make sure you guys are enjoying getting your photos taken its about the overall experience not just “getting the shot” I understand you are real people not models.
My style is very journalistic and unplanned with a bit of posing and direction thrown into the mix. I love to capture the whole story of your day that is easy to follow and I create moments by asking you to interact with each other in a natural way. I will give you prompts, directions, and words that will make you FEEL a certain way. My goal is to let your personalities shine while taking photos and when you see them later on think “wow I didn't know we could look so rad/cute/playful on camera. I will never ask you to pose like you are taking cheesy prom photos, just real authentic movement and moments. If you haven't done an engagement session with me I suggest you read my adventure session guide, it will give you more of an idea about my shooting style! You can find it here.
Most couples feel nervous before photos, I totally get it even I am the same way. I want to assure you I do my best to make you feel comfortable in every situation when it comes to taking photos. I like to talk a lot during photos and most of the time I have my couples laughing and answering questions, this really takes the pressure off when we are just having conversations while taking photos. Your nerves should subside once you realize how much of a weirdo I really am. The more you guys have fun with each other while taking photos the better the end result! I always tell my couples to just focus on each other and don't worry about what else is going on.
This tends to be the most flexible aspect of your day - sometimes my couples choose to do everything in one location, but depending on how many hours we have together, you're welcome to do portraits somewhere other than your ceremony location, or even a few different spots. This obviously varies a ton based on where you get married, but I am always happy to suggest spots if you want variety in your photos. I would suggest driving no more than one hour per four hours booked just to make sure we get enough time for photos. For hiking, I have found that one miles of hiking and taking photos takes about one hours. So a four mile hike would be four hours of coverage.
permits + safety + weather
Permitting: Permits are 100% necessary but especially important if you are choosing to elope in a National Park. Every National Park and many state parks require a wedding permit for any ceremonies performed in the park. This is often very easy to get, and very inexpensive, but 100% necessary. While I will help point you in the right direction for this process, it's ultimately up to you to make sure it is all covered. You also need to make sure you have a copy of the permit with you at all times on your day!
Safety: Looking at my photos is it clear to see that my couples choose to elope in some wild places. My couples tend to love big mountains, cliff sides, and stunning scenery. I love that couples want to have an adventurous wedding experiences but these experiences also come with some risk. Your safety is my top priority, but as you read in our contract, every decision you make is ultimately up to you. I will NEVER force your to go on a ledge, continue on a hike, or do anything that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. You always have the freedom to say no. I want you to enjoy your wedding day and not think that you HAVE to do something in order to get “epic photos” No photo is worth getting hurt. Please be very clear with your partner and with us what your comfort levels are. Also I am not a guide in any way, of course I will join you on your amazing outdoor adventure, but ultimately I am not responsible for your own enjoyment and/or experience at the end of the day. If you chose to stand on the ledge but you were terrified the whole time I believe that photo wasn't really worth it.
Bad weather: Bad weather doesn't mean bad photos. Have you ever heard the saying "there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear"? I totally agree with that! If my couples are willing to embrace it then so am I. Obviously if there is torrential downpour I am not going to make you stand in the rain and take photos. But embracing the bad weather can make for some epic photos whether is raining, extremely windy, the storm clouds rolling in, or the start of a snow storm, etc.
your wedding officiant
If you choose someone to officiate your elopement I can not stress enough that finding someone who will see your vision and work with it is so important. Your ceremony is an extremely important part of the day and your officiate has a lot of influence on how it goes. I do everything I can to help plan your day so it goes perfectly but nothing will put a hitch in your plans like an officiant who refuses to hike, insist on a specific time for the ceremony, wont work in bad weather, or has other demands that won't align with your vision. When looking for an officiant it is extremely important that you find someone who knows your having an adventurous elopement.
The best officiants are the ones who are stoked on adventure, believe in your vision, and want to create a ceremony filled with your personalities. It is very important that they are comfortable in the outdoors, can deal with bad Also they should understand the legalities of your unique location, what needs to be done when you're around, and what all they need to do to make things official.
This may not apply to you depending where you are in the planning process but, if your still in the early stages and haven't found a dress you might find this helpful!
Wedding dress: Keep in mind that when your working with me and choosing to elope in the outdoors your dress is going to get dirty you might have dirt, sticks, or maybe even mud on the bottom. I have photographed all different kinds of dresses and at the end of the day you do you. Find something you are most comfortable in and feel beautiful wearing. Your not getting married in a fancy venue so make sure that when you try your dress on your comfortable sitting down, fixing you shoes, walking up stairs, being picked up in etc. because on the day of your wedding you could be walking on fallen trees, doing a bit of hiking, or even scrambling up some rocks. Most importantly you should be able to move and breathe freely in your dress there is nothing worse than being uncomfortable on your wedding day. I would suggest staying away from tight corsets, mermaid fit, or strapless dresses. But like I said if it feels right and you love it then go for it.
Footwear: Adventure weddings and high heels are not a good combo. There are plenty of options for cute boots including hiking boots that have good traction and photograph well with your wedding dress (like the photo above). When you are looking for shoes keep an eye out for something that has a good bottom (nothing slippery!!) and ideally close-toed. This also applies to men as well! Men's dress shoes are the worst for having a smooth slippery bottom so make sure you both are going to be comfortable with the possibility of hiking down granite or traversing a fallen log. Also socks are equally as important as shoes, wool socks are best for hiking.
Accessories: This mostly applies for couples choosing to get married in cold weather but can be relevant for any wedding day!! For cold weather days I recommend brides wearing white or nude base layer leggings and bring a couple of base layers just in case! Also scarves, hats, gloves, a stylish but warm jacket, and hand warmers. If you have a favorite wool blanket bring it! The great thing about elopements are the casual nature of it so I totally encourage you wearing a beautiful colorful kimono or stylish leather jacket with your dress! But, I am also a fan of traditional bridal accessories like veils or a bridal cape.
Grooms: Hey guys, your look matters too! I still recommend a suit or tux for your wedding day even if it is out outdoors. If your traveling and don't want to pack a tux there is a lot of options to rent one like Generation Tux. Your suit or tux doesn't have to be plain black either I’m a huge fan of different colors like burnt orange, forest green, burgundy, or navy blue. I also encourage you to let your personality shine. Are you more of a bowtie or traditional tie kind of man? Does the idea of a bolo tie feel more accurate? Do you want to add onto the look with a flat brim hat? Again do what feels right and do what is true to you!