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Adventure Elopements: What They Are & How to Plan One!

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Bride and groom hold hands while walking through a desert during their elopement; image overlaid with text that reads Adventure Elopements, what they are & how to plan one!

I love photographing adventure elopements – these exciting mini-weddings always seem to radiate a sense of joy and fun that’s hard to forget. Picture hiking boots under a wedding dress, the pop of champagne on the crest of a mountain, a newlywed couple heading off into the sunset in a kayak – adventure elopements truly create the most one-of-a-kind memories!

What are adventure elopements?

I’m glad you asked! These days, when people say ‘elopement’, they tend to mean any kind of marriage celebration that is different from a classic wedding. Normally elopements are small, with under 20 guests, and often it’s just the couple and their officiant with a witness or two. One of the great things about having an elopement is that you can do basically whatever you want – you aren’t confined by traditions or the expectations of the people around you.

Bride and groom kiss in the desert during their adventurous elopement

Eventually, people took that freedom a step further, and adventure elopements were born! Instead of getting married in a courthouse or a church, couples began to plan adventure into their wedding days. Adventure elopements usually happen out in the wild beauty of nature, often somewhere dramatic and remote. No two adventure elopements are the same – some couples will craft a luxurious day in a beautiful part of the world with their nearest and dearest, and some choose to celebrate their marriage with all kinds of adventurous activities. Boating, hiking, camping, skydiving, ziplining – if you can dream it up, it can form part of your adventure elopement!

Planning adventure elopements: These are the steps to take 

Everyone knows that planning a traditional wedding is no small feat – it usually takes months! Adventure elopements aren’t usually as complicated, but while they’re definitely easier to organize than a huge white wedding, you absolutely do need to plan some of the details. Here’s how to start!

Make your adventure elopement official

One of the first things you need to decide is where you’re going to make your marriage official. Now, all of the adventure elopements that I’ve photographed have had an officiant and witnesses to make sure that all the legal requirements are being met, but you might not want even that many people present. If it’s a completely private and intimate elopement that you’ve set your heart on, you might want to plan a visit to the registry office before you head off on your adventure – and then make your own personal vows just the two of you.

Close up image of bride signing her marriage certificate

Otherwise, make sure you’ve registered for a marriage license at least a month ahead of your elopement, and ask your officiant if they are up for going on this adventure with you!

Start with location

Adventure elopements revolve around the location. Your location is what’s going to create the atmosphere for the day and crystalize the memories you will cherish forever – so when you picture your dream elopement, where are you? Pledging your love on a white sand beach? On the dunes of an epic desert? At the edge of a green cliff top overlooking the sea?

Once you’ve decided on your dream location, everything else can start to come into place.

Apply for permits

If you want to get married in a public space like a national park, be sure to do the research to see if you need a special permit. The last thing you want is for your dream elopement to be broken up by park rangers! 

Get your guest-list

This might not take all that long! Who do you want to be with you on this special day? Is it just you and the one you love, or do you want some family and friends to be present? Get your guestlist together and you can start booking!

Book travel and accommodation

So many adventure elopements happen off the beaten track, and that’s part of what makes them so exciting! So, one of the most important things about making sure your day goes smoothly is to organize your transportation. Do you need to book accommodation for the night before or can you drive there in a day? Do you need to fly there? 

Some couples rent AirBnB cabins or bungalows to house the whole family, others will book a honeymoon getaway in a gorgeous hotel, or maybe you want to spend your wedding night sleeping under the stars. Whatever you’re picturing, be sure to book it beforehand!

Decide on vendors

One of the most freeing things about adventure elopements is that you can do away with any of the wedding traditions that you don’t absolutely love. Instead, you get to design a day that’s perfectly attuned to who you are as a couple, and if that looks more like beers and barbecues than dinner and dancing, make it happen!

With that said, here are some of the vendors that many adventure elopements will incorporate for you to consider:

Photography: I might be biased, but I hope you’ll agree that a photographer is a must-have! Capture these incredible moments so that you can look back on them forever. It’s best to work with a photographer who has experience in shooting adventure elopements – if you want to chat about what this could look like, get in touch!

Cake: If you want a mini wedding cake, consider local bakeries.

Catering: What are you going to eat on your wedding day? Whether you want to hire a chef to cook a lavish meal for you and your nearest and dearest, or you want to grab some takeout to round off the evening, just make sure you think ahead. My top tip for adventure elopements? Go heavy on the snacks!

Music: If you want music to be part of your day, how are you going to do that? Bluetooth speaker, a friend with a guitar, or even a live band you book just for the two of you?

Flowers: It’s best to get a local florist to make the bouquet and any floral arrangements you want – you can swing by and pick them up the day before or on the morning of your elopement.

Activities: Is there a special way you want to celebrate with your new spouse? No idea is too out-of-the-box! You could go horse-riding, jet skiing, or even bungee jumping! 

Final thoughts on adventure elopements

Adventure elopements are an incredible way to kick off your marriage in style! And if you’re looking for a photographer to fully enter into the spirit of this joyful experience with you, get in touch. I would love to help you have the adventure elopement you’ve always dreamed of!

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Images of a bride and groom holding hands and walking or dancing on a beach during their elopement; images by Makayla McGarvey and overlaid with text that reads Adventure Elopements: what they are and how to plan one!
Brides hold hands while walking through a field together; image overlaid with text that reads Adventure Elopements: What they are & How to plan one!

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Specializing in Elopement & destination wedding photography

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