Choosing an elopement location can seem tough. With Instagram, Pinterest, and your own personal travels to consider—how can anybody ever pick just one place? In prep for our own elopement, we’ve had a lot of people say, “That’s got to be especially tough for elopement photographers to decide!” It’s a unique situation we’ve found ourselves in–since we’re elopement photographers who have yet to get married. But choosing an elopement location for us was a lot easier than you’d think. And we’d like to share our thoughts on how we made this decision.
Your Marriage Is a Journey–Not a Single Destination.
After your elopement—the real adventure begins. And we don’t just mean marriage. We mean years upon years of epic hikes, sunrises, sunsets, and packing up the bags to head out on weekend getaways, or longer vagabonding trips around the world. Where you elope matters, but keep in mind that over a lifetime, it’s only the first spot on the map. Thinking about your elopement location like this helps a ton. The 8 places you’re considering are all worth visiting and hiking. You just have to pick the one that feels right and stick to it. The other places you can visit during your honeymoon or 10 years from now—no need to be in a rush.
Go Somewhere New or Go Somewhere Meaningful
We love watching couples experience a location for the first time on their elopement day. It adds a lot of heightened emotions to an already emotional day. We’ve seen it enough that we’re even eloping somewhere we’ve never been (in June 2020). It helps add a sense of adventure and makes a trip that much more unforgettable.
You can also return to a super meaningful trail/Park. If the two of you met in a National Park, or frequently hike the same trail—that’s also a heightened emotional place to get married. You’ll be reflecting on all the times you’ve been there throughout your relationship. You’ve also planned trips there before, so it takes some of the planning stress out of it.
Avoid Looking at a Ton of Options
Social media and even photographer’s websites can give you a wealth of inspiration. Anywhere from the Faroe Islands to the North Cascades are bound to show up in your Instagram feed as you start planning your elopement. And while we totally recommend couples to explore different ideas (which is exciting and fun), avoid looking at too many locations and vendors. Alvin Toffler first coined the term “overchoice” in the 1970s. Overchoice is having so many options to choose from that you struggle in making your decision. So there is a tipping point in when your research might lead to “overchoice” or anxiety. You have 7 photographers and 18 locations you love—how could you possibly choose?? Research enough to make a good decision that feels right—and then stick to it! You’ll be far less anxious and you’ll be able to put that extra thinking energy towards the rest of your elopement planning!
Our Own Planning Mistakes
We originally planned on eloping on a long hike in Isle of Skye. As we followed accounts on Instagram, started passively planning an elopement there, we realize two things:
1) We were becoming pretty desensitized to the landscape. These epic places that made us say “Woah!” were becoming far more normal for us to see, even if just from our phones. We definitely knew where we were going and what the best hikes were—but at the expense of a more novel experience.
2) We thrive on spontaneity—yet we were planning every detail. We didn’t want to miss the best hikes, and we wanted to really know we were going to see everything. We asked ourselves, “Would we be happier knowing we for sure found the best hikes and photo locations? Or that we were our spontaneous dorky selves and missed out on a few locations? We’re super organized in a lot of aspects, but we love our personal travels to be more relaxed. So we knew that we had to stop researching and just enjoy whatever crazy plans happen on our wedding day.
Location, Location, Weather…
This is our little inside joke about choosing a location. Weather plays a pretty big role in your elopement day—since the majority of the day we’ll be outdoors hiking. Our travel schedule usually follows the best weather in any given location—so that’s always a great place to get inspiration. During our own elopement, our 50-60 mile backpacking hike is only accessible for 6 weeks out of the year. So you can see how certain locations really rely on the time of year (although our location is a little more extreme).
Shoulder season (on the “shoulder” of peek season) is great to avoid crowds and potentially get cheaper accommodations. It also means that there might be road closures and less predictable weather. Peek season typically means ideal weather conditions for hiking. This means accommodations are more competitive and the trails will be busier. So you can see the tradeoffs for both approaches.
For shoulder season:
- Road closures might prevent easy access to popular spots (like Taft Point in Yosemite)
- Potential for snow packed trails, requiring crampons or snowshoes (not a bad thing!)
For peek season:
- You might have to plan further in advanced to secure accommodations and permits
- You’ll probably want to have a ceremony during sunrise (or on a more remote hike) to avoid crowds and keep things intimate
Accessibility for Guests
If you’re inviting guests, it’s also important that your location is a good fit for everyone. There are plenty of ceremony sites that are easy to access (with minimal to no hiking). In choosing a location though, you’ll want to figure out how accessible your ceremony site needs to be for your guests. Can everyone hike? Does it need to be super accessible with no hiking? Is anyone afraid of heights? Is everyone willing to wake up for sunrise?
We’ve seen guests summit Half Dome. And we’ve seen guests who need a flat, easy path to access a ceremony site. There’s a whole spectrum out there. So keep in mind what outdoor/physical experience level your guests have—and if you can find an appropriate ceremony site for them. Ceremony sites within National Parks are fairly accessible. So this isn’t usually a challenge for couples. But if you have 8 physically fit hikers attending your elopement day—why not make your ceremony site epic!
Bringing Your Dogs
Most National Parks allow minimal access for dogs. So if you’re bringing your dog(s), you will typically choose a location outside of a National Park. Don’t worry, though. There are a ton of dog-friendly elopement locations in epic places. Some of our favorite dog-friendly locations are in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.
You Don’t Have to Do What’s Trending or Popular
We can say with confidence that some of the most beautiful places to elope in the United States are not all that popular for elopements (yet). We love these less popular locations because they’re less competitive, less busy, and still…insanely beautiful. The more popular places are easier to envision because there are thousands of photos that help make the idea seem more real. But if you’re willing to step outside of trends or what’s available on Instagram—there are a lot more locations available where you can create a really unique experience.
Imagine planning a second trip (that’s not your elopement). Where would you go? What’s a place you’ve been dying to explore and hike? What state/park has been on your bucket list? It’s a really surprising difference in your thought process here. Because a lot of couples don’t realize how much elopement planning shifts their thinking process. Social media has a huge impact. And if you can focus more on your wanderlust and bucket list—you might end up with a totally different location that isn’t super popular on Instagram for elopements.
Eloping is intentional. It’s deciding to not only do something different, or something that gets better pictures for Instagram—but to do something you want to do. Use Instagram/Pinterest for inspiration, but allow yourself the space to be creative and think outside of the box. You never know what trail you might end up on!
What Matters Most
At the end of the day, what matters most is marrying your special person. Your location will heighten emotions and create an unforgettable experience. But this is only the start of the adventure to come.
We’re incredibly happy with our elopement location—but we won’t be following special accounts on Instagram, trying to go with any trends, or doing any more research. We chose a location that spoke to us, that allows us to go on an epic backpacking trip together, and will give us an experience that reflects our relationship (and marriage). Once you reach that zen place in your planning, exit out of all of your Pinterest tabs, grab a couple of beers to celebrate—and start counting down the days until you’re married! Wooh!
And for those who are curious, we are keeping a lot of details about our elopement “hush hush” until after our elopement. While we’re incredibly excited to share, we want to be really intentional in how we express and share our elopement this summer. We’ll be sure to share lots about it later this summer!