Oh my freaking gosh! You decided to elope? Was it all the cool things you read about on my page? Haha. No? That’s ok. I’m so freaking excited for you and absolutely thrilled to help walk you through the steps to truly empower yourselves and build a day that sets your soul on fire. (As it should!!!) So, how do you plan an elopement?
Choosing to elope is not only the first step but is often one of the hardest. Couples who linger on the idea of whether or not to elope are normally held back by this false notion that they will be missing out on the things that make getting married special, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Eloping can truly be the most authentic way to honor yourselves and your relationship. It can still be meaningful, oftentimes maybe even more meaningful AND intimate. Saying “I do” should be… well…intimate, magical, romantic, fun, exhilarating, awe-inspiring (to you!), and most importantly…it should be what YOU want it to be!
Well, I am just so damn excited for you, and its usually about this point where I start telling you its time to book me! (or I guess the photographer of your choice…still me? Yay!) Choosing a photographer is the second most important part of eloping, in my opinion. Why is that? Well, not only is this person responsible for the visual representation of your elopement and the memories you will share, but your also going to spend a lot of time with this person. like, A LOT. From questionnaires and phone calls, to the actual wedding day your photographer (That’s me. Wink) is gonna be all up in your business. It’s important to not only like the photographers work, but to also vibe with them as a person. (Click Here to book with me!)
Ok, ok, so you’ve made this massive choice to elope, and hopefully you’ve at least spoken to a photographer at this point, what truly comes next in how to plan an elopement? The location! (EEEEEK! My favorite part.)
Some people try to choose the date before the location, I’ve never really understood that. So many factors go into choosing a location, and not all of them are accessible all year round, and some may only have certain dates available. You may also want to consider activities you want to include in your day as there may be limitations on that.
Helicopter rides, hiking to a glacier lake, rafting down the river, the possibilities are absolutely endless. When I chat with couples about picking a location I will often have them close their eyes and picture their perfect day. From start to finish build that vision in your minds eye. When you wake up, where are you, what do you see? What do you do after you wake up? Is there something your soul enjoys? Then invasion the ceremony. Are there mountains or trees? Is there sounds? What do you hear? That’s how I choose locations. If you need more about locations I’m happy to help just send me a message!
I use All Trails to scout locations and find lots of helpful information there. Not only can you find a trail you like but you can see the distance, the elevation, and if you look through the reviews of the trail you can even see how long it took that person to hike it! Having real up to date information on trails can be a big helper. Check out All Trails HERE.
Now, if you’ve chosen me as your photographer I will do a lot to plan your elopement. With the help of a detailed questionnaire, I will learn more about you and your personality, and your dream day. All you’ll have to do is sign off on ideas. Now, if you have to plan your own timeline, I always suggest planning for a slower morning, unless you have a sunrise ceremony. Sleep in, have coffee and breakfast together and write your vows looking out at your amazing Airbnb view. Ya know, take it easy.
The best way to build your timeline, and how I do it, is typically based on your ceremony time. If you’re getting married in a National Park (and some other places too) you will be bound by a permit. That permit will have your ceremony time. Once you have that it helps to start building around it. Let’s say you have a 5 pm ceremony you can plan to have a picnic after, maybe you’ll do your photos earlier in the day, or do a hike, or canoe the lake. If your ceremony time is at 10 am your day is going to look much different. Get your ceremony time set and go from there. You can thank me later.
Now, listen…some people who choose to elope come with built-in adventure settings. You know the kind. (Don’t worry I love all kinds) The ones who want to hike and spend the night before their wedding day under the stars on top of some great big mountain. Those people may not even be reading this, but if you are… there are tons of locations to choose from that will have campgrounds nearby, or you could get wild and sleep off the trail somewhere. (ah! You didn’t read that here.) But for the tamer adventurers, I ALWAYS send a list of local Airbnb’s to help plan your elopement staycation. No one, well maybe some people, wants to stay in a hotel with hundreds of other people the night leading up to their intimate elopement. Picture a magical treehouse in the forest. Surrounded by cedar trees. Ah! Take me there now, please!
You can find all kinds of rentals on airbnb.com and come back to my blog soon for some more lodging tips.
Choosing if you should do a first look or not is a personal choice. For some, it adds that extra element of anticipation. You know, you try to imagine all your life what your future hubby’s face will look like when he sees you in that dress for the first time. Or maybe, it is a no. Some people who plan an elopement find it a little cheesy and opt to spend the time getting ready together.
Both options photograph beautifully, and no matter what you choose, there are ways to make it special. If you choose a first look maybe you both spin around right at the same time, or maybe you walk up behind him and tap his shoulder. If getting ready together is more your style, maybe he helps button (or lace up) your shoes, maybe you help tie his tie. There are plenty of ways to make your choice reflective of your relationship.
Oof. That one is on you buddy. Lets be clear. Who you choose, how many you choose. All of that is entirely up to you when you plan your own elopement. However there are some industry standards. Typically a true elopement is less than 15 people. Between 15-30 or even pushing the guest list up to 50 can be considered an “Intimate” wedding. Any more than that just falls under the traditional wedding list.
Although, despite those standards or norms, some locations will have limitations on the number of people who can be in attendance, and that includes your vendors, like your photographer (me!), videographer, and officiant. If an elopement is truly what you want but you’re finding your list of attendees growing by the second, maybe opt to have a reception later. That’s always a fair choice, and lots of my couples to that! If you plan to have an elopement I have a feeling you are dying to have something truly intimate and I encourage you to invite as few people to attend as possible, maybe even none. Enjoy the moment together and party with friends and family later. It’s worth it!
Stay tuned for a whole post on this part…the friends and family part…there’s just so much to say, so much to consider.
Honestly, whatever the heck you dream of. No, seriously, when I had you close your eye…what did you see? Your ceremony can be whatever you want it to be. Ideally, I will play some music, something you choose, on a small portable speaker. You’ll walk to your loved one all mushy and in love like. You’ll stand together as the song finishes, hold hands, or do something cute. Think and soak in the atmosphere, the depth of the moment. You might read some vows, we all cry a little. (or a lot probably, I’m a crybaby) And then you freaking kiss!
If you have friends or family you would like to include you can! You want to read a letter or tell a story you totally can. If you want to dance you CAN! It’s really amazing how personal you can make your “I do” moment.
Oh, my gosh! You’re going to grow bored of me saying this but…LITTERALLY anything you want! That is the magic of an elopement. It is YOUR day. You can have a picnic (a beautiful catered personalized picnic, I have people for that! Montana Picnic Company!) or you can pop a bottle boo! Do your thang! You can have drinks round a campfire, stargaze, you can canoe, you can hike more, you can ride horses on the beach as you fade off into the sunset….you get it. ANYTHING you want, you can have.
If you have friends and family maybe you’d rather hit a local brewery for drinks with everyone, or order takeout to the Airbnb. There are no wrong answers here. Choosing a few little things, or big ones, to create an essence of your day will help it feel more…YOU. And it helps create those warm fuzzies to look back on years from now!
And that’s all folks! Planning your epic elopement really can be that simple. And if you choose to work with me it can be even easier than all that! Planning your day WITH your photographer, even if it’s not me (womp womp) will totally ease the process and make everything run so much smoother, and find someone who knows your location well to help with drive times, hike times, etc. I hope this made you feel a little better and less stressed about planning your day! And if you think I’m…THE ONE…I would absolutely love to help you create and capture all the magic of your love story! Shoot me a DM babe!
Columbia Falls | Montana
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