Hey, adventure seekers and lovebirds! You know what’s trending? Elopements and adventure weddings, and they’re joining the ranks of the millions exploring our rad public lands. But here’s the deal—while we don’t mean to, our trail-blazing ways can sometimes leave a not-so-awesome impact. I’m not just a pro-elopement photographer; I’m your nature-loving sidekick. Let’s chat about how to elope while keeping our wild spaces wild.
Unleash the Love, but Respect the Trail
Before You Elope In A National Park Here’s A Quick Head’s Up:
Share the Love: National parks are like the hangout spots for all nature lovers. So, don’t be surprised if your heartfelt vows have a squirrel audience or a real audience. You may or may not find a lot of privacy when eloping in a park. There are always hidden gems in every area that have a better chance of offering that “just us” vibe (and your photographer should know where they are!) but it’s a good idea to plan to see other people and then be pleasantly surprised if you don’t.
Always clue in on the park’s specific rules. Some allow real flowers and others don’t. Some will let you put up an arch and others will fine you for it. It’s important to know what you’re allowed to do and what you aren’t before you start planning how your day will look.
Be ready for unexpected weather: Listen, sometimes (most times) everything goes as planned and the weather is pretty darn perfect. National Parks can have some weather mood swings, though, and that means storms, snow, and everything in between. Being flexible in case of bad weather is key when planning an elopement in a park. In many cases, just switching to a back up location is enough, so be sure to chat with your photographer about deciding on a backup plan ahead of time, just in case the clouds open up and decide to dump a downpour on your wedding vows.
Time to decode the magic of Leave No Trace (LNT)
These are like the unsaid rules to rock your outdoor experience. Each park has its quirks, but LNT principles are your cheat codes to nailing outdoor awesomeness. For elopement pros like me, they’re the rock anthems of nature lovers and we follow these codes no matter what.
As you step into your elopement adventure, some easy steps will help you keep the wild vibes alive:
Time It Right: Weekdays are the best option when eloping in a park to avoid the influx of crowds. Bringing friends or family along is doable and a guest list of 25 max, but preferably 10 or less is ideal. National Parks are great spaces for a true “Just Us” elopement or a few select guests. If you want to let a large group tag along then finding a venue could be a better option.
Rock-Solid Path: Stick to the well-loved trails, campsites, and designated spots. Nature’s our jam, but let’s not make her grumpy by leaving tracks everywhere. In some areas, trampling across wildflowers and other flora can damage fragile ecosystems that could take years to recover.
No Trash Talk: Rule of thumb—carry out what you carry in. No litter left behind, even if it’s confetti or bouquet bits. We’re taking nothing but memories! If we pop some wine and lose that cork we’re staying until we find it. Leaving a space the same or better than how we found it is how we help keep wild spaces wild…and open to use for other elopements in the future.
Wild Restrooms: Wander away from water sources for your bathroom breaks. Find a bush or a tree off the path. And if you’ve got to go #2, bury it deep. Enough said.
Building Dreams: Nature’s got her own style; we don’t need to redecorate. This goes back to my previous suggestion to look up specific park rules. No arches, tables, or DIY projects unless you’ve got the park’s blessing. And hey, sometimes you can get that blessing! If you have your heart set on a big floral display or a beautiful arch then there could be a national park that will welcome you to set one up.
Flower Power: Skip plucking on federal lands—it’s a no-no. Even if the flowers are breathtakingly beautiful on the trail, cutting them fresh off the land for your bouquet isn’t a good idea. Instead, score local florist bouquets that are earth-friendly and gorgeous.
Campfire Smart: Check burn bans before lighting up. LED candles bring the vibe without the fire scare. This is especially important in dry areas with a high fire risk.
Creature Friends: No feeding the critters, even if they’ve got puppy-dog eyes. Keep snacks for yourself and appreciate from a safe distance.
To bring your dog or not? Each park will have different policies about dogs. Some will happily welcome your four-legged friends to join you on your elopement day, while others have a strict no-dog policy. If having your pup along for the wedding ride is important to you then make that one of the deciding factors when choosing your location.
Chill Tunes: Keep the tunes low-key, so it’s zen, not a rave. Big speakers? Nah, nature’s the real DJ. Remember you are sharing this space with other people, some who didn’t sign up to attend a wedding that day. Being considerate and keeping the music to a reasonable volume (or not using any at all) is the way to go.
Social Media Smarts: Be mindful when you tag locations. Sometimes, too much love can hurt these spots. It’s tempting to want to tell everyone exactly where you eloped but keep the wild wild and maybe keep this specific location your little secret.
As your trusty elopement photographer, I’m all in for keeping these natural treasures pristine. So, go out there, love hard, and remember to leave nothing but footprints.
Stay wild, and let’s make your elopement a legendary adventure!