How to Elope | Elopement Photography | Captured by Marcela

From brainstorming to saying 'I do"

Elopement Planning Resources

 head due north

captured by marcela

Imagine a wedding day focused around you and your love! That's exactly what elopements are all about. I love that elopements allow you to express who you are as a couple by getting married in a way that is authentic to you. I truly do believe small intimate elopements are the most connective, meaningful, and emotive way to unify your love.

I have used my experience traveling, planning and photographing elopements to build this guide and it should help give you starting points to planning your epic elopement! Feel free to reach out with any questions you might have.

As you go through this process, stay true to yourself and to the vision of your celebration. Congratulations for embarking on the best adventure of your life - marriage.

PLANNING YOUR ELOPEMENT

ARE SO AMAZING

WHY ELOPEMENTS 

Just like there are no rules to eloping, there are no rules to planning your elopement. There's no right or wrong way to do it. But as an elopement photographer and a bride who eloped, I found that there are a few things to keep in mind when tackling your planning to-do list: 

1. envision your day

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With all the steps involved in planning an elopement it can feel like you're losing sight of how precious each detail is. I urge you to celebrate each milestone, every decision. When it's all said and done, it can seem like the whole process flew by, so make a point to spend quality time with your loved one during this amazing time!

Sit down together, get comfy and start envisioning your perfect day. You two will inevitably have some differing ideas. Make a point to communicate your priorities and  listen to each other's needs.

Slow down & Celebrate the Process

Life isn't always in the habit of giving us what we want so when something doesn’t go quite as planned, I encourage you to take a step back, breathe deep and relax. These small hiccups truly aren’t that big of a deal. Trust me on this one.

Remember that your elopement is special isn't because of the type of flowers you chose or because of the decorations you have but because you two have decided to love and cherish each other for the rest of your lives. If you ask me, that's the most important detail of it all! 

Focus on what's important

You don't have to elope alone. Remember that elopements are all about celebrating your love in a way that brings you joy. So if you would be heartbroken to not have your mom or best friend at your wedding, invite them!

Instead of inviting others out of obligation, create an exclusive guest list of people who you want to celebrate with. And remember that you’re not dissing anyone by shortening the list. Instead, you’re choosing to spend quality time with those you DO invite! And it's also absolutely okay if that means not inviting anyone!

Invite those you're excited to see

The Internet is a great place to look for wedding inspiration but the sheer amount of information can feel overwhelming. The following is a list of my favorite blogs & online magazines. They have a ton of helpful advice and beautiful images to get you inspired for the big day.

www.junebugweddings.com
www.hellomay.com.au
www.greenweddingshoes.com www.rockmywedding.co.uk
www.google.com/earth/
www.lonelyplanet.com/places

Find inspiration for your day

Will it be just you the two of you or are you wanting to invite some guests to witness and celebrate your love? Will you be bringing your furry friends?

What kind of food are you enjoying? Are you having a packed meal or cooking something on portable stove. Maybe you're hiring a private chef to cook you an amazing meal of your favorite foods.

Is there something special about your love story that you want to incorporate? Do you want to listen to a certain song, or reread some old love notes?

Think about the emotions you want to feel (excited, happy, content, connected, adventurous, relaxed...) and really talk about what you can do to experience those feelings.

Will there be music? Do you want to pop champagne? Have a picnic? Will you read your own vows or enjoy a cake? Will you have a bouquet?

How long will your elopement celebration last? A day, a weekend, a week? Will you combine it with your honeymoon?

DON'T HOLD BACK

dream of all the possibilities

If you could teleport to your favorite location, what does it look like? Are you on top of a mountain? In a magical forest? On a sandy beach? Maybe your in a tree house, or near a waterfall?

What season are you wanting to elope in? Do you want a share your vows in a winter wonderland? Do you imagine there being a field of wildflowers or do you see fall colors?

What would you love to spend your time doing? (This is my favorite question because the possibilities are endless! Remember - don't get caught up on logistics - just dream!) Are you spending the night stargazing? Do you want to go on a hike? Will there be a helicopter involved? Maybe you're wanting to celebrate at a brewery afterwards or soak in a hot spring. Or maybe you want to go skiing or zip-lining. How about relaxing on a hammock or enjoying a warm camp fire. Seriously, the sky is the limit right now!

Do you plan on wearing traditional wedding attire? Or do you want to throw caution to the wind and get married in casual yet comfortable clothes? What if it rains?

This is your chance to dream about all the ways you want to celebrate your love. Doing this will help you find what speaks to you most. Make is a date night out of it. Snuggle up, pour your favorite drink and let your imagination go wild. Don't focus on the logistics or the how-to's right now. That step comes later. Right now just have fun with the idea of what could be. Consider some of the following questions and remember there are no wrong answers: 

seriously!

2. pick your location

When you elope you don’t have to limit your ceremony location to accommodate the needs of hundreds of guests. You can elope on a sandy beach, a majestic mountaintop, a Tuscan vineyard, or under a waterfall in Iceland. Want to take a helicopter to the top of a mountain, do it! Want to get married while hiking in a canyon – sweet! Wherever you choose to elope, make sure this location has significant meaning to both of you.

Remember that public places usually make awesome backdrops for beautiful photos, but may require a permit. These permits can cost anywhere from $0-$500 and can take 1 day to 2 months to obtain. Make sure to allow enough time to get everything in order!

Choose a location that represents you as a couple, someplace that feeds your soul and makes you feel alive! Some couples have a relaxed and playful relationship and may want a boho beach wedding while others may be more adventurous and will want to hike a mountaintop.

If you can't decide on just one location, don't! Have a multi-location (or even multi-day) elopement. That's exactly what my hubs and I did. I love being high on top of ridge lines and he loves the forest. So we ended up going to two different locations on our elopement day. It was the best of both worlds.

Part of eloping is being at the mercy of Mother Nature. So in case the weather doesn't cooperate, it's always good to have a backup location. Being flexible will help lower stress if things don't quite work out. And remember, your wedding isn't about the beautiful backdrop but your love for each other.

don't limit yourself

you do you, boo

have a backup

Each season brings different weather. Research the time of year for the area you are considering and be mindful of rain, snow, wind, and the likelihood of storms.

Double check the road and transportation conditions. Some roads close during the year due to heavy snow, floods, avalanches and even animal migration.

Check which season is best. You may want to opt for an off season when there are less tourists. This can also lower your overall cost.

you want to visit your location

the time of year

don't forget to research

If you stop to think about the best day you two could have, with no limitations or restrictions, I bet you could go on for a while. You deserve that full experience on your elopement day. Your wedding day is the start of your marriage and it should be celebrated and focused on all the things that make you happy, bring you joy, and deepen your connection. Explore some ideas below:

3. PLAN YOUR ACTIVITIES

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Most couples who elope do so because they feel more at peace in nature. That’s why hiking can be the perfect elopement activity. Hiking to an amazing location is not only rewarding but it also adds that sense of adventure in your day. How far you hike is entirely up to you. It could be anything from a small hike to a multi-day backpacking trek. 

ALTITUDE SICKNESS IS NO JOKE. If your coming from sea level don't expect to hike a 14er for your elopement, no matter how athletic you are. You don't want to spend your wedding day feeling miserable in the hospital. 

Hiking Elopement

Hiking isn't everyone's cups of tea and that's cool too. If you still want to get to those epic views but don't want to break a sweat, consider renting a high clearance 4WD.

When you drive to your elopement location, you're also able to pack more items with you. It also allows you to visit locations that are farther apart without stressing about time or exhaustion.

You can even hire a driver if the idea of off-roading makes you nervous. That way you can  relax and enjoy the whole drive!

4x4 roading adventure

If you're looking to add a unique aspect to you elopement, the sky's the limit - literally. Flying to your elopement location is definitely the best way to ensure privacy. You'll be able to check out some amazing places that would other wise be inaccessible and can get married somewhere no one else has. 

Just imagine enjoying a scenic flight over a mountain range or waterfall or being dropped off on a glacier, or even a secluded island. It truly is a once in a lifetime, unforgettable experience for your elopement.

Helicopter + plane rides

If water makes your heart happy consider the following activities:

Swimming (wedding clothes optional)
Canoeing
Fishing
Scuba diving
Snorkeling
Cliff jumping
Sailing
Soaking in a hot spring
Kayaking
Stand under a waterfall
Whatever floats your boat

incorporate water

Just because the sun goes down doesn't mean your elopement fun needs to end. If your a night owl these elopement ideas are perfect for you! 

Have a candlelit dinner
Cozy up to a campfire
Make some smore's
Stargaze
Go for a night hike with headlamps 
Dance by the firelight
Camp
Play flashlight tag

For the night owls

This is the first day of your marriage. Go wild, have fun, do what makes you happy. If you need more inspiration check out the list below:
Zip-lining
Mountain climbing
Get tattoos
Go to a brewery
Ski / Snowboard / Snow Shoe
Yoga
Horse back riding
Hammock
Build a snowman
Watch the sunset on a hot air balloon
Meditate



This is the first day of your marriage. Go wild, have fun, do what makes you happy. If you need more inspiration check out the list below:

Zip-lining
Mountain climbing
Get tattoos
Go to a brewery
Ski / Snowboard / Snow Shoe
Yoga
Horseback riding
Hammocking
Build a snowman
Watch the sunset on a hot air balloon
Meditate



the possibilities are endless

Now that you have all your elopement ideas in mind, it's time to put it all together in a curated timeline. 

A big thing to keep in mind is lighting. Lighting is the number one most important element in creating breathtaking photos! The best light is usually at sunrise or sunset. The sun is at its lowest, immersing the world in warm, soft light that looks incredible in photographs.

Keep in mind that the middle of the day is less than ideal for photos. At that time the sun is very high in the sky, creating a bright light with harsh shadows. You'll either be squinting or needing to wear sunglasses, neither of which make for great photos.

Even so, it is absolutely possible to get great shots during the day and an experienced photographer will be able to adjust for this situation. Just note that the overall vibe and ambiance of these images will be different than those captured in the early or late hours of the day.

4. Organize your vision

Make sure there is enough time scheduled in your day. You can do so by adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes after each activity. Not only will this ensure you have enough time for each event you have planned, it will also give you time to relax and enjoy yourself rather than feeling rushed and hurried. The last thing you want to do during your elopement is feel stressed or anxious about fitting everything you have planned into a specific time. 

Add wiggle room

The best part of sunset elopements is being able to sleep in. If you're a night owl this might be the option for you. This will also give you more time to get your hair and make-up done by a professional. The temperature tends to be a bit warmer and so are the colors. You'll witness soft oranges and reds which can create alpine glow over the mountains. You can also spend the rest of the night dancing under the stars or enjoying a warm campfire with snores!

sunset

Sunrise elopements are usually more secluded. Not as many people tend to wake up early in the morning so you'll most likely have the location all to yourself! Sunrise tends to have cooler colors such as pinks, blues, and purples. The temperature is also cooler which keeps you from getting too sweaty. Sunrise elopements also give you plenty of time to spend the day reveling in your love. You have the whole day to celebrate your union however you see fit!

sunrise

5. TIMELINE EXAMPLES

10:00 am - Getting ready photos at a treehouse airbnb

11:00 am - First look

11:30 am - Hike to epic ceremony location

1:00 pm - Ceremony

1:30 pm - Champagne celebration

2:00 pm - Road trip to waterfall for portraits

4:00 pm - Amazing portraits

6:30 pm - Return to airbnb and have dinner for two prepared by private chef

7:30 pm - Sunset photos

8:30 pm - Campfire photos

9:30 pm - Photos slow dancing under the stars

10:00 pm - Photographer leaves

8:00 am - Meet at cabin - getting ready and detail shots (hand written vows, shoes, flowers, cabin shots)

9:00 am - First look!

9:30 am - Hike to the beautiful canyon for the ceremony

12:00 pm - Ceremony

12:30 pm - Celebrate with family and friends, group/individual portraits

1:00 pm - Couples portraits

1:30 pm - Hike back to cabin

4:00 pm - Return to cabin and relax until tomorrow's adventures!

2 Day Timeline Example

FULL Day Timeline Example

Day 1

Day 2

5:00 am - Head to mountain top in a 4x4 with just you and your partner

6:00 am - Stunning sunrise photos

7:00 am - Picnic breakfast

8:00 pm - Adventure to hot spring for more beautiful photos

9:30 pm - Photos enjoy the warmth of the water and the love for each other

10:30 pm - Return back to cabin

11:30 pm - Photographer leaves

I'll help create a timeline that includes all the amazing things you want to document during your elopement and reflect the top location you chose!

I will make sure you arrive at the perfect moment to capture that gorgeous sunset (or sunrise) - you don’t have to worry about that!

Chris, Anniversary SESSION

"The photos we just got back from Marcela are giving me CHILLS!! They are absolutely stunning!!!

She did SO MUCH more than just photograph us — she created special moments that I’ll cherish forever. She encouraged Con & I to genuinely interact & share intimate moments together. She prompted us to tell each other things that we love about one other, ways that the other person inspires us, & how being together has positively changed us.

It was more than just a beach shoot. We ended up giving each other precious, heart melting encouragement & that makes these photos all the more treasured to me. "

ANDREA, WINTER VAIL ELOPEMENT

"We had a pre-meet with her before the big day which definitely helped me feel more relaxed going into the wedding day. She gave us great suggestions and things to think about to be ready with on the wedding. On the day of she showed up early to help scope out the venue. She was creative to try and pull extra joy into our photographs.

When I look at these photos I see more than just beautiful images. I feel the moments that Marcela helped us experience and the connection we had.

I can't thank Marcela enough! We will treasure these moments forever!"

Lauren, Great Sand Dunes

"We loved every moment of the day she helped create. Marcela was the perfect photographer for our adventure elopement! She worked tirelessly to make our adventure into marriage happen after our first options were snowed in! Great Sand Dunes felt like the perfect unique place for two Floridians who met in the mountains.

She made us comfortable to be ourselves throughout the whole day while making her job look effortless and fun. Our cheeks hurt from smiling, laughing and a few tears.

Marcela captured every precious moment! Her photography is absolutely stunning every way! I highly recommend Marcela for your elopement or wedding!"

Amy, BEACH ADVENTURE SESSION

"Instead of telling us how to pose or interact with each other, Marcela gave us prompts that seemed simple but made a huge difference.

She asked us to talk about our first date. We discussed the weirdest things we loved about each other (which made us laugh) and how we could fulfill each other’s love languages. Amy and I played games with each other and Marcela captured the energy that happened naturally between us.

I love this shoot because it perfectly captures the love we share. It’s incredible to see that love and admiration encapsulated in a photo! Thank you for this!"

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CLIENT REVIEWS

Let's chat about your elopement