Everything You Need to Know to Plan an Elopement or Intimate Wedding


Adventure Guide and Photographer

You’ve decided to elope, or maybe you're still contemplating taking the plunge, but you have no idea of where to start with all the planning. Many of my couples start planning a large traditional wedding but ditch the idea due to all the drama, expense and stress. An elopement is a great alternative to create the wedding of your dreams!

Below are five key things to know while planning your elopement...

Big Sur California Destination Wedding Photographer
  1. Research is key

Planning an elopement is simpler and easier than planning a large, traditional wedding, but research is still key to a successful event! Finding the best elopement locations and the right time of year for your elopement or destination wedding requires research. Depending on your vision and budget, an elopement package that includes planning services like mine, may serve your needs well. 

For example, do you envision returning to a place you traveled together before or a new adventure to start your marriage? Do you have a place with personal meaning or significance for your relationship’s history? The answers to these questions create a starting point for your planning. Also, factor in the high and low seasons for a destination wedding to save money and avoid crowds. When planned thoughtfully and intentionally the result is the perfect intimate wedding day!

As an adventure wedding photographer and guide, I help with the research and wedding planning process. I walk you through important questions to narrow down your ideal location, accommodations and other vendors. Did you know I even recommend destination florists to my couples? I offer the best elopement packages, including vendors that share my desire to create meaningful celebrations. I select vendors incredibly gifted at their crafts so you feel confident on your wedding day. Here are a few that I team up with regularly…

Hereafter Films - Elopement and Wedding Videography

Blushing Blooms Creative - Wedding Planner and Florist!

Moab Utah Adventure Wedding Photographer

2. Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the most underestimated factors when eloping or having a small, intimate wedding! Weather does not always cooperate and other countries often function much differently than in the U.S. I always suggest unique elopement places based on the couple’s personalities and vision for their day, always avoiding crowds or tourists! For example, is the couple more of a type-A personality that likes to plan everything out well in advance, or are they more laid back and okay with finalizing items upon arrival? Adding an extra day onto your elopement or destination wedding is always a good idea because it allows room for flexibility in case the weather doesn’t cooperate or plans change!

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3. Familiarize yourself with the local cultures and laws

As a destination wedding photographer traveling to locations stateside and abroad, including Iceland and Greece to name a few, I’ve become an expert at learning local cultures and laws. Wherever you decide to elope or host an intimate wedding, being respectful of not only the land, but the culture, is critical. Understanding cultural norms and traditions helps bring awareness to conversations and planning. I always abide by the Leave No Trace Principles, regardless of the location!

Most locals welcome and willingly help provide information and guidance about local culture and customs. One key thing to remember is popular tourist destinations usually have more regulations and laws regarding where you can get married and host wedding related events. 

Finally, it’s not always feasible to get legally married while visiting certain countries. Some countries do not allow foreigners to get married or may restrict the areas where you can have the actual ceremony. For example, in a church. The legalities and paperwork can also be time consuming.

Moab Utah Adventure Wedding Photographer

4. Elopements aren’t always cheaper

I often hear that couples to elope so they can save money. This might be due to a tight budget or because they want to have a long honeymoon abroad. If money is an issue, I suggest eloping in a location where you want to honeymoon or at a location close to your desired honeymoon. This helps create a memorable experience beyond your wedding day.

Don’t settle for poor quality photos or videos to achieve an affordable wedding photography solution. Capturing your day with beautiful and mindful photography and videography when eloping or hosting a destination wedding creates a lifetime of shared memories. Even if it’s just the two of you, documentation of the day allows your family and friends to experience your wedding.

Whether it’s just you and your partner or your entire family, quality photos and video capture your wedding day with all the experiences, emotions and memories. This allows you to relive the same emotions and memories years later, passing them along to your children, grandchildren and future generations! . 

Eloping can be cheaper than a traditional wedding since you forgo a venue and feeding each guest. However, travel, accommodations, photography and all the other items do cost money.

Also, hire someone with experience planning and shooting destination weddings and elopements! Their knowledge and abilities include many intangible skills that only develop over time with actual hands-on experience. The relationship built in the planning process is priceless during your actual elopement and wedding!

Junebug Weddings has a wonderful blog post on planning and adventure elopement that I highly recommend reading for more tips! 

Moab Utah Wedding Photographer

5. Family and friends may be disappointed

When deciding to elope, there will inevitably be a few people disappointed you aren’t having a traditional wedding. This may be due to their upbringing, beliefs or expectations. I always encourage couples to stay true to their hearts and vision for their wedding day. Regardless of if you have a large wedding or elope, there will always be people with opinions on how you should do things. This is even more so with a traditional wedding! 

I’m here to cheer you along in the process and incorporate ways to include your family and friends on your wedding day so they don’t seem so far away. Many couples that elope decide to have a relaxed backyard BBQ or some other sort of celebration with their friends and family after the adventure wedding. Ideas may include a bride and groom first dance, mother and son dance or any other traditions their family values. It can be the perfect way to have the celebration you desire while also incorporating the people you love most. 

Elopements don’t mean it’s just the couple present. It’s not uncommon for elopements to have parents and siblings present, making it a family affair!

Plan Your Elopement or Intimate Destination Wedding with a Professional Guide and Adventure Wedding Photographer

Thinking about planning an elopement or intimate destination wedding? I’m the owner of Map + Compass Photography and an adventure guide and photographer dedicated to helping couples plan a unique experience and wedding day, stateside or abroad. I work with like-minded vendors who put the couple and their experience first, like Hereafter Films and Blushing Blooms Creative. Contact me so we can start planning your dream celebration!