Top 10 Elopement Tips

Elopement Tips
Top 10 Elopement Tips

We are Stephan and Adriana, a husband and wife Photo + Video team based in California, and we’re here to share our TOP 10 Elopement Tips with you!

#1 Don’t rush your day!

This is our number 1 tip because it’s the most common mistake couples make when planning their elopement day. Traditional weddings typically last from 8-10 hours. A lot of couples think that, just because they’re eloping, their wedding day should be shorter. But hey, that’s not true. When you choose to elope, it doesn’t mean your wedding is any less special, and therefore, should be just a quick 2-4 hours thing. Your wedding day can be WHATEVER you want it to be!

So if you want to spend your day hiking around a place that’s special to both of you, waking up to see the sunrise, having a picnic on the beach where you had your first date, and simply just make the MOST out of your day, guess what? You can, and you should! We’ve shot 8-10 hours elopements, and multi-day elopements as well. Each couple has chosen to spend their day in a unique way that reflected their relationship, and that’s the only thing that should determine how long your elopement should last. Not some unknown “rule”.

Elopement Tips
#2 Don’t forget about the legal stuff

A big part of the elopement planning process is figuring out what it takes to get married in the location you choose. From getting your marriage license to the actual wedding ceremony, you should know that each state, each country, will have a different process. In California, for example, anyone over the age of 18 can get ordained online and have the power to officiate a wedding, which is super cool. That way, you can have a family member or a friend conducting your ceremony and marrying you, which makes everything even more special! Your photographers (us!) can always sign as witnesses.

As you can see, it really isn’t too complicated, but it’s something that often gets forgotten! In the midst of all the elopement planning fun, picking locations, building a timeline, finding the perfect dress, and etc, sometimes this important piece of the puzzle gets left behind.

Santa Cruz Wedding Photographer
#3 Permits!

Are you getting married in a National Park, State Park, or National Forest? Chances are you WILL need a Permit. Here in California, each National Park has a different permit application process and a different fee.

In Yosemite, for example, the process is simple. You just have to fill out an application anytime from 21 days to 1 year prior to your wedding date, mail it to the Park with a non-refundable $150 fee, and that’s it! It’s all very well explained on their website. You can also check out our Complete Guide to Elope in Yosemite!

Yosemite Elopement
#4 Your wedding day = your guest list

As I’ve mentioned before, every elopement is different. Every couple chooses to spend their day in a way that represents that relationship. Some couples have a day just for the two of them and don’t even have a guest list. Some invite the closest people in their lives.

So don’t feel bad about not inviting everyone and their mom, seriously. One of the MAIN reasons couples choose to elope is so that their whole day is meaningful. And that often means the guest list will also be meaningful. You’ll want to share that day with the people who truly love and know you. Your wedding day = your guest list!

Yosemite Elopement
#5 Ask for your photographer’s help

There’s a reason why elopement photographers often act as planners as well. And let me tell you a secret, we absolutely love that part of the process! Finding a location that perfectly matches your vision, building the timeline, looking up sunrise and sunset times, and etc. ALL of that plays an essential role when it comes to designing the perfect day for our couples!

A lot of couples choose to elope because they simply can’t stand the idea of planning a traditional wedding. But don’t forget, elopements do take a bit of planning as well, but it’s a different kind of planning! Sometimes the amount of freedom you have can end up being overwhelming, and that’s what we’re here for – to HELP!

Adventurous Wedding
#6 Keep an open mind mentality

Knowing things can always change, and not everything will go exactly as planned, will help you enjoy your day to the max. I mean, let’s talk about 2020. COVID-19 changed a lot of people’s plans. Then there were wildfires, and then poor air quality, and then National Parks were closing. It’s been one thing after the other.

It hasn’t been easy, but one of the greatest things that this year has brought is the ability to make the most out of a situation, even when things just seem to keep going “wrong”. We’ve seen couples changing their plans 4, 5 times, overcoming whatever comes their way. Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is to celebrate that union between two people.

#7 Know that we can’t control the weather

Let’s be honest, anytime we take a trip, wake up at 4am to watch the sunrise, we always have high expectations. As photographers, we do that quite a bit! We go out for a session or an elopement and, wanting it or not, we’re always hoping to see a beautiful sunrise or sunset. BUT, here’s the thing: out of all the elements of elopement planning, that’s the ONE thing we can NOT control, whatsoever. The weather. So just stay flexible, and know that sunshine or rain, you’ll get married and that’s all that matters!

Elopement Tips
#8 Keep it simple

One of the beautiful things about getting married in the outdoors is that you’re already surrounded by so much beauty. So you don’t have to plan or think too much about decorations. Plus, most decoration items end up going to waste.

Less is more. Keep it simple, save yourself some work and help the enviroment!

Elopement Tips
#9 Have a blast

It’s your day. You’ve designed it. You chose the location, you chose how you wanted to spend it, you chose who was there with you. Now it’s time that you just let go of all the expectations and ENJOY IT!

Have a blast, laugh at whatever goes wrong, dance in that rain that the weather forecast couldn’t predict.

Elopement Tips
#10 LNT – Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace is a set of principles we can all practice to make sure we leave anywhere we go, better than how we found it. It’s such a privilege to be able to use those stunning backgrounds, like Yosemite National Park and Big Sur, to create the perfect + unique elopement days. But we can’t take calling these lands our wedding venues for granted.

The principles are:

  1. Plan ahead & prepare
  2. Travel & camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of others

We took the Leave No Trace Course created by some of the pioneers in the elopement industry and we are now “Leave No Trace Aware Photographers”. That way, we can help couples create their unique wedding experiences that are kind to the planet.

Don’t go yet, check out:

CONTACT US to start planning your next adventure!


Leave a Comment

  1. Natalie says:

    These are such insightful tips and so important to consider for your elopement day! I love your point about not rushing and also rolling with the unexpected; especially when you’re celebrating your wedding outdoors, you have to prepare for the unexpected! Just part of the magic of nature 🙂 Thanks for putting this list together, so helpful!

  2. Jacqueline G says:

    So many great tips and suggestions! Elopements are so beautiful because of their flexibility and spontaneous nature!! Wonderful article!

  3. Stacy Garfield says:

    What great tips for anyone eloping in nature!!
    That first picture is the cutest! If couples follow your tips, they will certainly be as happy as the couple in that first photo!! 🙂

  4. Kai says:

    Love these tips. I don’t feel like I’ve seen some of these on other blogs before. These are going to be super helpful for couples who are planning their elopement.

  5. Marla says:

    These are perfect tips! Everything that you wrote rings true. And that last photo in Yosemite is everything!!!

  6. Kristen says:

    Really important tips in here for anyone looking to elope or really get married in general! Definitely do all the legal stuff and have fun!!

  7. Traci says:

    These are all fantastic tips and advice!

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