5 Secrets to Planning an Awesome California Elopement

There are a million books on the shelves and websites on the internet to help you plan a traditional wedding, but what do you do when the wedding of your dreams is a little further off the beaten path?

These five tips will help you make the best of your nontraditional wedding day!

1. Choose a weekday

When you’re planning a big traditional wedding, it’s natural to choose a weekend. When else are all of your friends and family members going to be available at the same time?

But when you’re eloping, you have a lot more freedom. This day is about you, not about scheduling around other people.

If you’re eloping in a public place, like an awesome wilderness park, picking a weekday is a great way to reduce the number of strangers that you’ll be sharing the space with and ensure just a little more privacy during your ceremony. There are also some great wedding spots here in California that run out of parking on the weekend, so choosing a weekday can help to avoid awkward wedding-day parking dilemmas (eek!).

2. Take advantage of the beautiful light at sunrise and sunset

The hours closer to sunrise and sunset often have the best light for photography (not to mention beautiful skies), so they’re a great time for the parts of your day that you'll want to remember the most, like your ceremony or your adventure portrait time. You don’t have to pick sunrise or sunset exactly, but it's a good rule of thumb to aim for times when the sun is lower in the sky. This also helps to avoid crowds at your ceremony location, by timing your elopement ceremony for before others have gotten up or after they’ve gone home for dinner.

Some spots (such as deep valleys or forests) are particularly beautiful at a different time of day, so if you have any questions be sure to check with your photographer about the best ceremony timing for your specific location (this is something I'm always happy to help my clients with).

3. Celebrate all day long

Elopements get downplayed a lot, but this is a real wedding day. You don’t have to try to cram it into a short period of time. This is an occasion worthy of all-day celebration!

Think about what activities or awesome places would make your wedding day feel like the best day ever, even outside your ceremony time. A morning hike to a mountain peak? A bicycle ride along the coast? Wine tasting? An all-day foodie adventure? This is a wonderful time to treat yourself!

Plan out your day with ample time so you can enjoy it all without being in a rush, and don’t forget about post-ceremony refreshments for yourself and your sweetheart - you’re going to want to toast to this!

For more info, read "What Does an All-Day Elopement Look Like?"

4. Choose your footwear carefully

In any natural environment, flat shoes with treads are a lifesaver. They’ll help you get to your location safely, and explore it comfortably. You can bring a separate pair of “fancy” shoes in your bag for when you get to your destination, or just score a pair of hiking shoes that you’re happy to be photographed in. Classic leather hiking boots look good with anything!

5. Leave No Trace

We all owe it to ourselves and to each other to take care of the world we live in, so read through the principles on LNT.org to ensure that you’re planning a celebration that will be kind to the environment you love!

The Seven Principles are a great place to start, and you can also find information about the specific parks and ecosystems that you’ll be visiting on park websites. Make sure to also familiarize yourself with the specific policies and permits for the park you’re celebrating in - most parks require wedding and/or professional photography permits, and the cost of the permits helps to preserve the space for future generations.


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About Kate:

I photograph weddings and elopements for unconventional people who prefer to build their own traditions and choose their own adventures.

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