Elopements. Ohh that is such a buzz-word in the wedding & photography industry these days.
People love to say they’re elopement photographers or intimate wedding photographers, but really when you ask around to anyone not in these industries, they have no idea what the HECK we mean by that.
So I’m here to break it down for you... a quick elopement 101 crash course.
When I was first introduced to the world of elopements, my mind instantly thought of those secretive Las Vegas weddings… you know the ones where you get married by Elvis after a couple of drinks in a casino chapel. If that’s what you instantly thought of too, THANK YOU, YOU FEEL ME. I think everyone thinks of that first because that WAS the standard of elopements up until a few years ago, but now the meaning has drastically changed.
Now because Merriam Webster has not yet caught up with the times… I don’t have a word-for-word definition for you of what an elopement is… so let me explain it in my own words.
An elopement is a unique wedding experience, of usually 15 people or less, at a destination chosen by the couple. It is a customized wedding day that is authentic to the couple, celebrating their marriage in a way they want.
Elopements are about having an experience, rather than just going through the motions of a wedding day. It’s about creating a day that is authentic to them, doing what they want to celebrate their marriage with their significant other. It’s about creating a day where the couple is 100% comfortable to be themselves and get married the way they want to get married. It’s about enjoying the true meaning of getting married without all the ‘fluff’ of a traditional wedding.
An elopement is a small & intimate wedding day that is authentic to each individual couple. Elopements are a wedding experience, designed by a couple to get married the way they want. It is a day focused solely on the couple and the love they have for each other.
Usually elopements have 15 people or less, and depending on who you ask, some say an elopement is when it is only the couple themselves (no family). I personally believe an elopement can include a handful of people, if the couple wants them there. It is about creating an intimate day focused on the couple, if they want certain friends or family there on their day, I think they should be included.
ELOPEMENT 101: LOCATIONS
So for the majority of these categories I will probably start off with the same thing… basically, your elopement decisions can be WHATEVER YOU WANT.
Seriously. A great part about elopements is you don’t need a huge wedding venue to get married. Whether it is just the two of you or you and some family members, elopements have the flexibility of being anywhere in the world.
A lot of couples are choosing to elope in national and state parks. This style of weddings attracts free-spirited people, looking to have an adventurous wedding day. Don’t feel limited to just national parks, you can have your elopement on the beach, in the city, at an Airbnb, in a vineyard, and my favorite: an international destination.
Think about it, there are ENDLESS options to where your elopement can be located. I would think about your bucket list destinations, and start from there. Here are some other questions to think about when finding an elopement location:
What is your favorite season?
What do you like to do while traveling?
What are your top 5 bucket list destinations?
What type of scenery do you like to be surrounded by?
(Mountains, waterfalls, beaches, sand dunes, ocean cliffs, valleys of flowers etc.)
YOUR WEDDING DAY SHOULD BE AS ADVENTUROUS & UNIQUE AS YOU TWO.
YOU ONLY get married once.
Society creates a standard of what a wedding day should look like, but no two relationships are the same, so why would we all get married the same way?
Life is made up of moments, and you should be 100% present in the moment on your wedding day, experiencing the excitements and beauty of this world.
You deserve a day free of judgements, anxieties and stress. Where you and your partner can completely be yourselves.
Okay. I may be biased, but couples always say, ‘you were SOO right’ when I tell them this:
An elopement photographer is the BEST investment you can make for your elopement experience.
Elopement photographers are a different kind of photographer. We don’t just show up the day of your elopement, photograph it, and leave. From the day you book us, we are 100% invested in your day.
There are two main reasons why having an elopement photographer is so important:
REASON NUMBER 1:
Elopement photographers do so much more than just take pictures. Since planning an elopement is a completely different experience than a wedding, we are the experts and are with YOU throughout the whole process.
We help in every aspect of planning: finding a location, planning the ceremony, finding vendors in the area (make-up artists, florists, ordained officiants… you name it), helping with what to pack, logistics where to stay, backup locations, what to do before and after, creating a personalized timeline and basically ANYTHING that goes into planning your perfect elopement experience. Elopement photographers care about making sure your wedding day is EVERYTHING you could ever want.
I care so deeply about my couples. Helping them have the best elopement experience is my highest priority. I am in their corner 100% of the time. I am always texting them late at night or giving advice on things such as- how to tell their family they’re eloping or talk them through which dress will look best with their hiking boots. By the actual day of their elopement, we are the closest of friends, which makes bringing me with them on the most important day of their life, that much more special.
REASON NUMBER 2:
Your elopement day is just as important as any traditional wedding. Wedding photographers capture 6, 8, 10 or 12 hour days. Your day deserves just as much coverage and just as many captured memories. You want this day to be documented forever. This is the day you decided to commit yourselves to each other, in a way that is 100% authentic to you two. THAT should be captured, your love story should be photographed and passed down for generations to come.
Since not all your friends and family will be there, it is also a great way to share the adventures of your day with all those who care about you. After elopements, couples always tell me ‘our day would not have been complete without you’. I’m not going to be there all day shoving a camera in your face and making you pose every 30 seconds. It’s more about capturing the story of the day.
In those special moments, I will be a fly on the wall, and you will look back at your pictures and feel those moments all over again. Having an elopement photographer will help keep you in the present moment, knowing you only need to focus on each other, so you can look back and remember how warm the sun felt on your face, or how your partner started to tear up during your vows. Those are the moments you’ll want to re-live forever.
ELOPEMENTS 101: THE CEREMONY
Just like a traditional wedding, elopement ceremonies vary dependent on each couple. From religious ceremonies to tree-planting ceremonies, couples have any type of ceremony that feels authentic to them.
Exchanging rings, saying vows, and a first kiss are all classic wedding traditions that can carry over into an elopement-style wedding. Couples can find an ordained officiant to marry them or couples can simply just read their vows to each other at the top of a mountain. Personally, I am ordained and can legally marry them and sign their marriage license, if they are looking for a more personal & intimate ceremony.
Here are some ideas for an elopement ceremony:
Planting a tree together
Locking love letters in a box to exchange on their anniversary
Painting a picture together
Exchanging vows & rings
Including pets in your ceremony
Typically, your elopement photographer helps you create a timeline that fits your dream day. Elopement timelines are centered around what the main activities you want to do during your elopement.
Here is a sample timeline for someone looking for a sunset elopement in the mountains.
12pm: Getting ready separately at Airbnb
12:45pm: Head to first look location
1:00pm: First look, couples session, and time together
2:00pm: Start heading to hike location, stopping at different spots to explore
3:30pm: Hike to sunset spot
6:30pm: Explore the area, enjoy the view
7:00pm: Sunset ceremony
7:30pm: First dance & champagne first drink
8:00pm: Hike back down
This is a very general timeline that varies per couple. Your timeline will depend so many different things, some examples include: if you prefer sunrise or sunset, if you want a first look, how long your ceremony will last, and how you want to celebrate afterwards. When it comes to adventurous elopements, it’s important to leave extra time to explore and enjoy the present moment, you don’t want to feel rushed during this experience.
ELOPEMENTS 101: THINGS TO DO
Throughout this article, I have been using the word ‘experience’ quite a lot.
One special part about elopements is couples are choosing to have adventurous and unique experiences on their wedding day. They are choosing to enjoy moments and try new things instead of having a traditional wedding.
Millennials tend to value experiences over materialistic items, and this carries over into their wedding day. Couples are forgoing flower arrangements and cute table settings, to hike mountains and explore European cities on their wedding day.
So besides the ceremony, what are couples doing on during their elopement day? A typical elopement lasts from six hours to twelve hours. That probably was shocking to read… as the classic Vegas elopements used to last an hour or so.
Activities vary depending on where the couple is eloping and what type of adventures they want to have. No idea is too crazy to implement on your elopement day.
Here are a few ideas of things you can do for your elopement:
Explore European City
Off-Roading Road Trip
Sunset on the Beach
WHY DO I BELIEVE IN ELOPEMENTS?
Why do I believe so whole heartily in elopements? Here’s a quick story that may help you understand:
My grandmother and grandfather followed the ‘rules’ of society: they got married, had children, worked all their lives, and saved all their money to travel around the world.
They did everything right.
When they finally got to the stage in their life when they’re supposed to retire, my grandfather got very sick.
Six months later he passed away, never spending their ‘rainy day fund’ never seeing the world.
There is not guarantee in life, I’ve seen it first hand with the people I’ve lost
What you are guaranteed is right now. Live it to the fullest, travel the world, step out of your comfort zone, make every day a new adventure.
ELOPEMENTS 101: GUESTS
Elopements are much more intimate than a traditional wedding. Deciding whether or not to have guests is completely dependent on how private you want your day to be.
Some couples want to elope with just them two. They feel like traditional weddings are about putting on a ‘show’ for others. They’re looking for a day focused on each other, with no other distractions.
Other couples want the elopement experience, but want a handful of people, who they are close with, standing by their side on their day.
But you also don’t have to choose one or the other. Plenty of couples want the ‘best of both worlds’ and are choosing to do both. Elopement photographers offer two day elopement experiences, where on the first day the couple goes off just them two to have a private ceremony or just to say their vows, and then on the second day has a small wedding ceremony and reception with friends and family.
There are so many options if you are torn about guests. Along with the options I listed above, couples also elope and come back and have a big wedding reception with all their friends and family to celebrate their wedding. The options are endless, it’s about what is important to you and what will make you happiest for your wedding.
My elopement packages are designed for adventurous couples looking for a different wedding experience. Not sure where you want your elopement to be? That’s NO PROBLEM, just contact me and we can brainstorm ideas together!
HEY. I’M AMANDA.
I’m an adventurous travel elopement photographer who believes in experiencing all that life has to offer. I do not see the value in objects, but rather in experiencing moments and developing relationships with others.
I truly believe your wedding day should ONLY be filled with things that will make you blissfully happy.
i believe YOUR WEDDING DAY SHOULD BE AS adventurous, as breathtaking, and unique as you want it to be.
When should I start planning my elopement?
There is no correct answer as to when you need to start planning your elopement. The earlier you start planning, the more options you may have with flight prices and Airbnb availability. But in all honesty, planning your elopement is much more flexible than a big wedding. The only thing is to make sure to lock down your date with me as soon as possible!
how do you ‘create our perfect day’?
One of my FAVORITE parts about working with couples, is helping create their ‘dream elopement day’. Once we pick a date for your elopement, I send along a couples questionnaire, that gets to know more about you two. These questions range from how you like to vacation, to asking about your favorite alcoholic drink. Once I get these answers back, I create a custom ‘choose your own adventure’ guide that has different destinations and adventure recommendations for your elopement day.
What happens if you are sick or unable to attend?
Totally fair question, first I would like to start off, that I would have to be almost DEAD not to show up for your big day. In the event of an illness or extreme emergency I will do everything in my power to replace myself with someone of equal quality or better. I have a network of thousands of adventure elopement photographers who are more than qualified to take my place. Note: this is in the event of an extreme emergency, I have never missed an elopement or couples session before.
How involved are you in the elopement planning process?
OHHH GIRL. I am 100% here for you in planning this elopement. My job is SO much more than just being your photographer. From park permits, to scouting locations, and giving advice on the perfect dress to go with your hiking boots; I am completely invested in making sure your day is perfect. Once we lock down a date, you have unlimited help on my end with your elopement.
How does paying for your travel work?
My travel fees are included in my packages, so I travel at no extra cost! My packages are all-inclusive including unlimited planning logistic calls, travel fees, and all the elopement photography and images!
what are the legal logistics in eloping?
In the United States, each state has their own requirements to legally get married in the state. Once you pick a location, I am here to help research the requirements for your destination to make sure we follow the marriage laws for your ceremony. When it comes to international elopements, countries can have more difficult legal requirements and I usually recommend for my couples to sign their legal paperwork at home before or after their elopement. Taking care of the paperwork beforehand can put your mind at ease, so you can celebrate your day without any stress.