HOW TO PLAN YOUR WEDDING
MAKE THE BIG DECISIONS FIRST
Once you have come up with the overall vision for your day, the next step of the planning process is about making the biggest decisions that will most affect your wedding experience: who you're inviting, where you're getting married, and how long your whole trip is going to be.
Take your time with these and make sure what you choose is in alignment with what you two decided you wanted out of your wedding experience when you were brainstorming.
DECIDE ON "WHO"
ARE YOU INVITING ANY FRIENDS OR FAMILY?
For some couples, this is a super easy question to answer -- and for others, it's more of a debate. The truth is, an elopement doesn't have to be just two people and a wedding doesn't have to include every single person you've ever known in your entire life. You can definitely still have an intimate wedding experience and a day that's fully centered on your relationship with your closest friends and/or family involved.
However, if you do decide to invite family or friends along, whether it's just a celebratory meal, the getting ready portion of the day, just the ceremony, or the whole day, make sure they're fully on board with your vision and understand that you're not having a big traditional wedding, but a unique celebration that's authentic to your relationship.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN INCLUDING FAMILY OR FRIENDS
Out of the people you're considering inviting, is everyone on that list going to be just as excited as you about the experience and be fully on board for what you have envisioned for your day?
Is there someone who you think it would be really meaningful to hear your vows, or would you rather read them privately to your partner without anyone else listening?
Do you feel like inviting a few people could result in a "snowball effect" where you have to continue to invite more, or is there a clearly defined "shortlist" that you do't imagine would spiral out of control?
Is there anyone you're planning to invite that may try to take over or take control of your experience, try to shift focus away from what matters to the two of you, or who makes you uncomfortable, nervous, or stressed out?
How accessible do you envision your ceremony location is going to be? Can everyone you want to invite physically make it to that kind of spot?
What about transportation and lodging? Where is everyone traveling from and is it possible for them to get to and from your location? Are there going to be suitable places for everyone to stay nearby?
As you decide, remember that there are many beautiful ways to include family or friends in your "getting married" experience, even if they're not physically present when you say your vows. There's no right or wrong answer here as you're following your heart. Don't compromise. Don't fall victim to expectations. Don't let anyone else tell you how to have your day (that's what big weddings are for).
HOW TO INVOLVE FRIENDS & FAMILY ON YOUR WEDDING DAY
If you do decide to bring friends and family along to your wedding, there are multiple options on how you can include them in your day.
HAVE ONE, INTIMATE CEREMONY
Planning a single ceremony to include your family and friends in your wedding is a beautiful way to have the people closest to you standing right by your side as you commit your lives to each other. The only caveat is that you might have to consider making compromises about the ceremony location to make sure to accommodate everyone's needs.
SPREAD IT OVER TWO DAYS
If you like the idea of doing two ceremonies but feel like that would make for a very long day -- spreading your wedding experience over two days can be the perfect solution to really being able to relax and not feel super rushed or exhausted. You can include your friends and family on the first day, and then have a second day all to yourselves. Or, you can have your dream 2-person elopement experience on Day 1, and then celebrate and take photos with your friends and family on the following day.
SPLIT UP THE DAY
If you want to involve your family and friends in your ceremony, but don't want to make compromises on your ceremony location, you can have a private vow-reading with just you and your partner, and then have another ceremony with your family and friends during a different part of the day. You can choose to read the same vows for both ceremonies or you can keep your vows private and have a different type of ceremony in front of your family and friends. This way, you get to read your vows in total privacy, in the exact location you're envisioning, but also have a meaningful ceremony with your closest people next to you.
INCLUDE THEM IN OTHER INTIMATE MOMENTS
Your family and friends can be physically present and involved in your wedding day, even if you don't necessarily want to have a ceremony with them. You can invite them to help you get ready or see your first look, before sending you off to have an entirely private ceremony by yourselves. Or you can invite them to just take some formal portraits with you afterward and have a celebratory dinner in the evening.
HOW TO INVOLVE FRIENDS & FAMILY IF THEY'RE NOT PHYSICALLY PRESENT
If you choose to have a "just us" 2-person wedding, or if you have family or friends who aren't able to be physically present, you can still involve them in the process of you getting married in many creative and beautiful ways.
Throw an engagement party
Ask them to help you pick out your wedding attire
Invite them to watch you sign your marriage license before you leave for your trip
Include family heirlooms as detail items in your day
FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom them on your day
Invite them to write letters that you'll read during your ceremony
Invite them to write letters that you'll read during your day
Send them photos, videos, and selfies during your day
Open gifts or cards from them on your day
Bring something back for them from your trip
Have a party or reception with them after your elopement
Share your full gallery of photos with them (you can even have a photo reveal party!)
Gift them prints or an album
HOW TO TELL YOUR FRIENDS & FAMILY OF YOUR PLANS
Whether you're eloping just the two of you or inviting some friends and family but not others, it's important to think through how you want to communicate your decision to have a wedding day that's unique to the two of you.
You can choose to tell everyone in advance and even send out an announcement, or you can tell a select few people only, or keep your plans entirely secret and announce it after. Do what feels the most empowering to the two of you that will enable you to relax and fully enjoy your day, without anyone else's opinions or expectations. These are my best tips on how to make the news go over as smoothly as possible if you choose to share:
TIP 1: DROP HINTS & BE OBVIOUS
Dropping hints before getting engaged or announcing your wedding plans can ease friends and family into the idea of you eloping or holding a smaller wedding without you formally having to tell them yet, reducing objections and any surprises. If there are certain people you expect will be more skeptical of the idea of an elopement or small wedding, you can also ask other friends and family members to help you drop hints, too.
TIP 4: KEEP THEM INVOLVED
& SHARE AS MANY DETAILS AS YOU CAN
Asking your friends and family to participate in your planning process can help them feel like they are still involved in your big day in some way while also reassuring them that they are not being excluded. Telling your friends and family about all the details of your elopement or wedding day can help them understand the time, energy, effort, and thought that you've put into creating your perfect ceremony -- and why it's perfect for you and your relationship. Keeping them informed allows them to feel involved and excited since they know what you are planning.
TIP 2: TELL THEM FACE TO FACE
(OR ON A VIDEO CALL)
Many couples opt for telling their friends and family that they are eloping or holding a smaller wedding in-person because it makes it easier to explain why you are choosing this route and to share your genuine excitement through your expression and voice. If they don't live close by, video chat is the closest replacement to telling them in-person.
TIP 5: SHARE YOUR PHOTOS WITH THEM
Some couples reveal their elopement or wedding with their friends and family by surprising them with the pictures, which are the best and most tangible way to show how much fun you had on your actual wedding day. Sharing your photos can help those who weren't present understand what your day was all about because they can see your joy, your happiness, and overall how incredible the day was for you and your partner.
TIP 3: SHARE YOUR REASONS WHY
Some friends and family members might react to your plans based upon the misconception that your elopement or small wedding means excluding them. Explaining your reasoning behind why you decided to go this route can help relieve those negative feelings.
A few common reasons you can share are:
We wanted to do something incredibly meaningful to us on our wedding day
We wanted our wedding day to be truly intimate and not performative
We wanted to spend as much time together on our wedding day, making each other happy instead of any guests
We wanted to say our vows in a beautiful and private place that just won't fit a huge group
We wanted the process of getting married to be as stress-free as possible
We don't want to wait to plan and pay for a big traditional wedding, and we are ready to celebrate our love sooner by eloping
We decided to save for a house, a travel experience, or another investment instead of spending that money on a party
TIP 6: REMEMBER THE DAY IS FOR YOU
It's good to empathize with friends and family who may be initially disappointed in your plans, but don't forget that your wedding day is a celebration of your love with your partner (not anybody else) and that you deserve to have the day that feels right and authentic to you.
DECIDE ON "WHERE"
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO SAY YOUR VOWS?
There are a ton of factors that will affect your wedding day, but picking your location is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle that will determine the experience of your day. Your location should feel right for you -- it should be somewhere you feel overwhelmingly happy, somewhere you feel absolutely alive, somewhere you know you and your partner can focus on each other and truly be in the moment.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN PICKING YOUR LOCATION
SCENERY & VIEWS
What type of scenery do you and your partner feel connected to? What views fill you with a sense of happiness, inspiration, and peace? Where would feel the most "you" to say your vows? Remember back to your brainstorming stage of the process and what you two determined about your vision for your day. What scenery would fulfill that experience that you're dreaming of?
SEASONS & WEATHER
Some types of scenery and landscapes really shine at certain times of year so consider the season you've chosen to elope, and what types of scenery are best at that time of year. If you're getting married in the spring, waterfalls tend to be flowing their best, there's usually snow at high altitudes, and the desert can be quite pleasant. If you're eloping in the middle of summer, you could go somewhere with blooming wildflowers and high-elevations are more accessible. If you're eloping in the fall, consider where the best fall colors may be.
How accessible your location is will greatly affect your wedding day experience. What types of transportation are you and any potential guests willing to take to get to your spot? A long car ride? A bumpy 4x4 road? A bush plane, float plane, helicopter, gondola, or ferry? Are you (and any potential guests) excited about hiking to a location? Make sure you deeply consider what experience would be the most fun, relaxing, and totally "you." How accessible you want your spot to be can help you narrow down your location options. Also keep in mind any guests that might be attending and their capacity to travel or hike.
In a perfect world, your elopement location would ideally have world-class postcard scenery, super easy accessibility, and total seclusion. But, most of the time you usually have to prioritize two out of those three. Some locations that are easier to access usually have less privacy because of it. The general rule of thumb (although not a set rule) is that the further you are willing to travel, the more secluded your spot will probably be! Ask yourself how many people you would be comfortable having around or how much privacy you would be willing to give up for an Instagram-trending view. You can also find great seclusion at "hidden gem" locations that are just as gorgeous as the Instagram trendy spots but just less well known. Eloping at sunrise is another way to get more privacy at a typically busy spot.
Be intentional about the place you decide on and the significance it has to you nor or could have to you in the future. Maybe it is a favorite place to travel to with your partner, a place you've always wanted to go, or a place that you could travel back to every year to celebrate your anniversary.
EXPERIENCE & ACTIVITIES
Beyond saying your vows and taking portraits, what else do you want to do on your elopement day )or weekend, or longer!)? Whether you want to relax in a hammock between the trees, take a helicopter or float plane ride, go sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, skiing, paragliding, wine tasting, or stargazing, some locations will lend themselves better to certain activities. When you are planning these activities as a part of your day and overall trip, keep in mind realistically how long they will take and how long it might take to get from one to the next (with a buffer, just in case!). If you have your heart set on a particular activity, this could help you narrow down where you choose to elope.
Do you want others to be involved in your wedding or just you and your partner? If you do opt to invite guests, be intentional with how many people you invite, aware of any accessibility or travel needs, and decide on how much of the day they will be involved in. Figuring out the number of guests involved is an important component of choosing a location since some locations have very specific limits on the number of guests that can be in attendance -- but don't be discouraged because there are gorgeous places out there that can accommodate more guests! Just be certain that you are setting realistic expectations with any guests in attendee about how much traveling is involved and how much they are going to be involved with your elopement day.
TIPS FOR PICKING THE BEST LOCATION FOR YOU!
PRIORITIZE YOUR EXPERIENCE
You've chosen to elope or hold an intimate wedding in the first place because you and your partner wanted to be true to your authentic selves and have a fun, stress-free day. So, don't pick a location that isn't aligned with what you two know about yourselves and what you really enjoy doing together on an everyday basis! There are endless beautiful places in the world. Don't feel any pressure to travel too far, hike too far, or do anything that isn't you just to get a certain backdrop. The most important thing is that you two enjoy your day. Bottom line? Make sure the spot you pick and what's required to get there allow you two to do just that -- enjoy your wedding day.
DON'T RULE OUT A MULTI-LOCATION EVENT
Can't decide on a single spot for your wedding location? Then don't! Going to more than one location is a really great way to get a ton of variety of scenery, activities, and experiences. If you two love touring around, sightseeing, and soaking in as much as possible, a multi-location wedding could be perfect for you! Also remember that you don't have to fit your wedding experience into one single day. If there are several spots you want to visit and see together, don't be afraid to spread your experience across more than one day.
DON'T FORGET TO THINK ABOUT PERMITS
Many locations on public lands (like National Parks, State Parks, National Forest Land, BLM Land, etc) require permits in order to have a ceremony or have a photographer (/videographer) document it professionally. Fortunately, if you're getting married in the Adirondacks, this does not apply to you! A permit is only required when overnight camping with large groups. Before finalizing your location, make sure you contact the designated person or entity in charge of that location (like a ranger station or park staff in charge of special events, special use, or commercial use permits) and get first-hand information on what's required for your specific event. Some locations don't require a permit for smaller events but it's important to always check ahead of time. Ask about how much time would be needed to secure the permit, possible restrictions of the permits, how many guests that permit would allow for, whether or not the photographer would need to apply for a separate commercial use permit, and what the costs of the permits are. It's best to get permit information in writing in case you are asked to show proof.
BE READY TO LEAVE NO TRACE
Leave No Trace is a set of ethics that everyone who recreationally uses the outdoors should strive to practice in order to do their part in protecting the environment. It is made up of 7 principles that guide decisions to leave the least amount of impact possible on outside spaces:
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Be Considerate of other Visitors
To be follow Leave No Trace, you should do research beforehand so that you can make a plan to stick to trails and other durable surfaces, be ready to leave everything you find and pack out everything that you bring in, and be prepared in case you encounter any local wildlife.
Following the Leave No Trace ethics helps preserve outdoor spaces and our access to them by making sure that we use them sustainably and responsibly -- so that you can return to whatever location you choose to have a vow renewal or anniversary session and still have it be as pristine as the day that you got married.
©1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
DECIDE ON LENGTH OF TRIP & CELEBRATIONS
The journey from dating to being married can have many steps and "thresholds" that you two cross as a couple so the final big-picture decision to make about your experience of getting married is how many days your whole trip is going to be and if there's any additional celebrations you plan to have along the way.
Who says your wedding has to all fit into one single day? It doesn't. Many couples choose to spread the joy over multiple days. You may want to consider a multi-day wedding if you want some of your time to be with friends & family, and some of it to just be you two. You may also have grand plans of exploring multiple places or going on a lengthy adventure just the tow of you that spans multiple days. Make sure the overall trip you are planning includes time for your celebration to extend beyond just one day so that after you book travel & loving, you don't look back and wish "Ah, I wish we had carved out more time!" In my experience, no one has ever said they wish they had planned a shorter trip, so when in doubt, go for more days rather than less.
One very popular route many couples take that helps more friends and family feel included is to have a party or celebration after their elopement day. You can have a reception the day-after your elopement, or in the same week, but from experience I'd suggest you plan it 3-6 months afterward so it's not stressing you out on your actual wedding day. A reception can be anything from a casual BBQ in your backyard, to taking over a local brewery or restaurant, to doing something fancy in a catered venue. Deciding to have a reception may change who you want to invite to your actual wedding day, or where you decide you want to elope -- so this is a great decision to make early in the process, before you're too deep into planning.
Just because you're eloping or holding a smaller, intimate wedding doesn't mean you shouldn't still have an engagement session! Engagement sessions are a fantastic way to enjoy the excitement of being engaged, have another fun adventure with your partner, and practice being relaxed in front of the camera. If you two have never been photographed professionally before, it can be really fun to go out on a totally casual adventure with me (your photographer) in your everyday attire and do something fun together that I'll document before your wedding day. Engagement photos are also perfect to use in elopement announcements, intimate wedding invitations, a guest book, or in decor for your elopement. If you'd like to chat more about adding on an engagement session, just shoot me an email and I'd be stoked to chat about it with you!
PLAN OUT THE DETAILS