- Pre-ceremony Activities: Start with morning rituals like yoga or making coffee/breakfast together.
- Ceremony: Start new traditions or activities you can do for anniversaries or vow renewals.
- Activities: Do activities on your bucket list or things you would do on a weekend getaway.
- Post-elopement activities: Stargazing, campfires, hot springs–the sky is the limit. Enjoy the outdoors!
- Big Elopement Ideas: Dream big and incorporate a helicopter tour, jeep ride, or anything to explore your elopement destination.
All of the excitement has built up to this! You are eloping with your partner in a stunning landscape. But what do couples do on their elopement day exactly…? This is perhaps the number one question we get! So we’re here to help you find unique elopement ideas to make your elopement as memorable as possible. While also talking about incorporating traditional activities and things we’ve seen frequently.
Couples get very excited with their elopement and their location—but then they don’t know how this is “supposed to go.” We have good news: there is no right or wrong way to plan your elopement and what you want to do on your day.
You can still do traditional wedding activities
We LOVE doing first looks and other traditional activities. Eloping doesn’t mean you have to throw the whole wedding playbook out the door. Instead, try to only include traditional activities that excite you. Maybe you met at a bakery/cake shop in Seattle, so cutting cake on your elopement day is super meaningful. See what we’re getting at?
If you do any traditional wedding activities and invite family, your family might start to think that the whole day is traditional. So you’ll really want to communicate with family what expectations to have for your elopement.
Questions to Guide You:
- Do we want to start any traditions as a couple on our wedding day? Anything we can do every year on our anniversary to celebrate? This can be a really meaningful way to celebrate your anniversary for years to come.
- Are there any traditional activities like a first look/cake cutting that get you excited? Even if it is traditional?
- Do you have any hobbies or things you do together that we could incorporate into your day?
Brainstorm to Discover Elopement Ideas
Put your whole dreamy elopement to the side for a second…and imagine the perfect day with your partner. You two have the whole weekend to yourselves—what does that look like? Where would you go? What would you do? Sit down with your partner and write down these ideas! Get specific and try not to think about your elopement at all. This has nothing to do with your elopement day, remember? Just a casual weekend where the two of you get to have fun.
You can even think about your previous weekend getaways together. What were your favorite getaways? What parts of those weekends made them special or memorable?
Finished writing out ideas? Keep reading.
If you didn’t figure out my little trick by now—I wanted you to stop pressuring yourself into this “wedding day” box where you had no idea what to do. And instead, focus on what an amazing trip looks like for you. Usually, most couples can come up with a few ideas with that exercise alone. But if not—no need to worry. We have a whole list here of different ideas that might speak to you.
Tell us what you’re thinking!
If an idea doesn’t seem reasonable or you’re not sure how to bring it to life—email us or hop on a video chat. We’ve been helping plan elopements for a while now, so we might have some suggestions or advice on how to bring your idea to life. Ryan carried a mini-trampoline up a 14,000 ft mountain in Colorado for a photo idea he had once—so don’t worry about being too ridiculous if the idea excites you (Story for another time)!
We usually recommend calming activities or things you already do as part of your morning routine. Being fully present and calm-minded to start your elopement day goes a long way in setting the mood. A lot of you might have hectic schedules, constant email notifications, and a busy, busy life back home. Try to slow down, separate from your busy work schedule, and be present for your elopement.
Morning Coffee: Whether you always have coffee, tea, or anything else when you wake up—make time for that on your elopement day. Even with a sunrise hike, we can bring out the Jetboil and make a good cup of joe after taking photos.
Yoga: If you practice yoga or any other mindfulness practice together (or separately), it might be worth busting out your yoga mats on the porch of your Airbnb. It’s also not a bad way to prepare your body for a long day of hiking!
We plan a lot of sunrise hikes. So we don’t tend to do a lot of things before your ceremony. But if there are any important morning routines you have—let us know!
Welcome Speech: If you have any guests, you can always make a welcome speech to thank them for coming out to your elopement, for being supportive of your relationship—or anything else you’d like to say at the start (or after) your ceremony.
Vows & Rings: Exchange rings and vows. You should definitely check out Ryan’s extensive article on how to write your vows (I’m using it for our own elopement).
Play or Sing Music to Each Other: If you’re musically inclined (or even if not), you can bring instruments or anything else you’d need to serenade each other.
Read Letters from Family or Friends: This is another great way to get your friends and family involved if they’re not coming to your wedding day. We can document you two reading the letters to each other and you can share those photos with family and friends later on.
Reading from a Favorite Book, Poem, or Letter: Did you write letters to each other long-distance? Have a favorite poem or book that means a lot to your relationship? Bring those along and make a reading part of your ceremony!
- Sage Smudging Ceremony
- Handfasting (cord ceremony)
- Unity Ceremony (candles, sand-pouring, planting a tree together, paint on a canvas together)
First Look: Seeing each other for the first time on your wedding day is a pretty emotional moment, and it also allows you to get rid of some pre-ceremony jitters. Or in the case of a cold sunrise, an opportunity to snuggle and keep warm.
First Dance: We can bring our portable speaker with us on the hike and you two can have a special first-dance out at an epic viewpoint. Let us know the song(s) you’d like, and we can download them from Spotify. We always recommend having a downloaded version on your phones too just in case.
Exchange Gifts: Surprise your partner with a gift, a song, or anything else you’d like to make a romantic gesture. You can incorporate this into a first look (we can help) or make it something you do at the end of a picnic on a hike.
Celebratory Drink: Pop champagne (we can prep you for popping it open), bring beers from your hometown, or bring a bottle of wine. If we’re spending all day together, we recommend saving (or bringing another) champagne for sunset. You spend the whole day exploring and hiking together, and can sit back on a cliffside just the two of you drinking and reflecting on your elopement day! Although we don’t necessarily encourage heavy drinking at elevation or on longer hikes.
Picnic or Sharing a Meal: You can pack up a super cute picnic basket with all sorts of goodies or keep it super minimal. It’s up to you. Would you rather make breakfast for your partner in your Airbnb? Smores at the campfire with your campervan? Grab a slice of pizza somewhere in the National Park? There are a ton of ways to incorporate your favorite foods/drinks into your wedding day. This can include cakes or desserts too!
Campfire: Couples elope near a myriad of some of the best campsites in the US (or overseas). So it makes sense to camp out and have a campfire. Lodges and cute Airbnbs are great, but if you want to really get outdoors for the 24 hours of your elopement day—nothing beats camping. You can easily invite loved ones to the campground for smores to finish out the day—or anything else you’d like to plan.
Reception Dinner (we prefer to call it a dinner get-together): Host a reception dinner at a nearby lodge, local restaurant, or even a place that’s outside of the National Park/National Forest boundaries. You can do this the day before or the day after, too. It largely depends on how close the restaurant/lodge/space is to our planned hikes and activities for your day.
Dip in Hot Springs: We also happen to work in a lot of places that have hot springs nearby. This can be a super relaxing thing to do on an elopement day—or even as a day after session with us. Especially if we went on a long hike, this will feel great on your muscles!
Stargazing: We can typically get better photos if we’re backpacking overnight, but sometimes even a hike back in the dark is doable depending on the trail (using headlamps, of course). Some of the places we work have the lowest light pollution in the country—so stargazing can be a whole new experience if you haven’t spent a lot of time in the backcountry.
Kayaking/Canoeing/Paddleboarding: Get out on the river or a lake and enjoy the landscape from a whole new perspective!
Big Elopement Ideas
You can do a lot of things on your elopement day—why not go big? These are just a few ideas, but we can help find specific companies/adventurous tours based on your elopement location.
Helicopter Tour: Some locations are ideal for hiring a helicopter tour to get a birdseye view of the surrounding mountains and rivers. A thrilling adventure to say the least!
Jeep/Offroading Tour: Ready to hit the road and get into some super unique places? Whether you’re bringing your own Jeep (which would be awesome), or want to book an offroading adventure—this is a great way to get to secluded places and explore the landscape.
Adventure Tours: Glacier crossing tours in Iceland? Paragliding in Brazil? There are tons of unique adventures out there to explore. You’ll probably get a few of these ideas in your client portal if we have any relevant suggestions!
We hope this exercise/article got your creativity flowing and helped you discover some exciting elopement ideas! Our final suggestion is to make sure everything you plan brings you joy—and that while you might add some fun creative ideas—don’t go overboard with planning! The beauty of eloping is keeping things simple, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate your favorite hobbies or cute ideas into your day!
Looking for other unique elopement ideas? Check out our friends at Wandering Weddings to get more inspiration.