The concept of a traditional wedding is ever-changing, and as concepts shift, elopements, destination weddings, and intimate at-home ceremonies are on the rise. And while options such as a courthouse ceremony, an at-home elopement, or tying the knot at a far-off dream destination are certainly on the table, there’s another alternative that’s ever-growing in popularity for those who love the outdoors.
What Is an Adventure Elopement?
An adventure elopement takes a traditional elopement to the next level, as couples travel to say "I do" in far-flung destinations that are, you guessed it, an adventure to get to.
Planning an adventure elopement offers couples a unique opportunity to celebrate their nuptials while surrounded by nature. “Many of our couples tell us they want an adventure elopement because they feel most spiritually connected outdoors,” says Erika Hernandez, owner of The Greatest Adventure Weddings. “With an adventure elopement, the possibilities are endless. From mountains to waterfalls, to beaches, caves, and glaciers to even helicopter rides and jeep tours, an adventure elopement can literally be wherever or however your imagination takes you!”
Meet the Expert
Erika Hernandez is the founder of The Greatest Adventure Weddings, an elopement and wedding planning company with a focus on adventure weddings in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
If you’re ready to see where your sense of adventure takes you on your big day, an adventure elopement may be the perfect fit. Just be sure you still have all of the details planned so the day goes off without a hitch. To get started, read on for the ultimate guide to planning an adventure elopement.
Is an Adventure Elopement Right for You?
Big, traditional weddings aren’t for everyone, and there’s certainly no harm in choosing a different route. Choosing to have an adventure elopement is a great option for those who love to explore the outdoors, those who have a passion for traveling, and couples that enjoy discovering new places. It’s all about the experience.
“Couples elope for all sorts of reasons,” says Hernandez. “It can be because of money or sticky family dynamics. The couple may want to focus on only each other, maybe they don’t have the time to plan a big wedding, or they could simply want to spend the day doing something they love together!”
Do You Need a Planner for an Adventure Elopement?
Just as with any style of wedding, planning an adventure elopement comes with a number of factors to consider. “Even if the wedding is smaller, there are still many of the same logistics to plan,” says Hernandez. “Sometimes, there may be even more involved if you’re planning a destination adventure elopement.”
The possibilities for an adventure elopement are seemingly endless, and a planner can help you narrow down your vision and be realistic about the logistics. “It's helpful to have a planner that either knows the area well or is a professional travel planner,” adds Hernandez.
There may be considerations to keep in mind such as any car rental needs for the area, especially if high clearance is necessary, along with the best times of year to elope in that area or any other tips for gear or location specifics. “A planner can help you get the right permits for your location, can help you get your marriage license, and can help you find accommodations in the right area and near the amenities that are suited to your needs,” says Hernandez.
It’s much more complicated to run errands such as picking up a small cake and flowers or finding lodging in a location you’re not familiar with. Overall, having a planner that knows the area well and understands the format of an adventure elopement can be incredibly helpful.
How to Choose a Location
Choosing the location for your adventure elopement may be the most important task of all. After all, that’s typically why you’ve chosen to say “I do” outdoors in the first place. Hernandez suggests first thinking about any locations with a significant meaning for you and your partner. The location of a first date, a trip you took together, or a spot you’ve always talked about exploring can be a great starting point.
Next, think about the landscape. Do you picture mountains, deserts, or the coast as your backdrop? Or perhaps you’re hoping for a ceremony in or near a particular city? Hernandez also suggests considering how hard you want to work to get to the location. “Do you want to work a little for the views and seclusion, or is accessibility the priority?” she notes. Of course, if you want to incorporate activities into the day, such as hiking or kayaking, that will play a role in your decision-making as well.
Ultimately, consider the most beautiful location that you and your partner will love and work backward to ensure it’s possible to plan an elopement there.
What to Bring (and Not Bring) On-Site
Because you’re likely tying the knot in a public space or on public lands, it’s important to keep décor to a minimum. Plus, that way you can plan on letting the beauty of the location do all the talking. You’re choosing a stunning landscape for a reason, right?
“We love flowers and styling a picnic,” says Hernandez. “We’ve hiked in with small tables, cakes or pies, champagne, and candles.” Consider what you’re willing (and allowed) to lug into a location, and be sure to pack everything you take with you out. Following the leave no trace principles will ensure you’re not causing any harm to the location you’ve chosen for your ceremony, keeping it as beautiful as you found it.
If you choose to keep décor for the ceremony to a minimum, celebrating with a small reception or dinner at a nearby lodge or Airbnb may a great fit. Don’t forget to ask permission before hosting additional guests on-site.
Should You Hire a Photographer for an Adventure Elopement?
Especially if you’re planning to say “I do” at a far-off destination or after having to hike into a spot, it may seem more daunting to find the right fit in hiring a photographer. But searching for that ideal photographer to match your big-day desires will absolutely be worth it.
“Spend the money on a photographer you love!” says Hernandez. “You likely have a little more wiggle room in the budget because you're not feeding 200 people. And not only will you keep these pictures for the rest of your life (like all wedding photos), but it's how you will share the day with the people that couldn't be there.”
Search for a photographer that understands your plans and vision, and make sure they’re comfortable with it as well. After all, they have to be able to get to the location and work within its potential constraints.
If you are planning an adventure elopement without any guests present, you may want to add hiring a videographer to your to-do list as well. Hernandez suggests that this is a great way to truly capture the day, and then you’ll have a video to look back on and to share with your friends and family.
Other Considerations to Keep in Mind
As you’re considering or planning an adventure elopement, think about what everyone involved will wear. Chances are, if you’re headed out for a hike to get to your location, you won’t want to be trekking uphill in a dress. Though, there may be the potential to pack it in and change into your gorgeous dress once on-site.
Don’t forget to look into any special use permits or location permissions required. National parks serve as great locations for adventure elopements, but there certainly are guidelines to follow.
Most importantly, be prepared and have a plan. An adventure elopement can be the perfect fit for anybody, even those who don’t avidly hike or explore the outdoors. However, it’s crucial to know where you’re going and to have an emergency kit packed to be prepared for any situation while enjoying the outdoors.