How to Start Planning an Elopement

Have you decided to elope instead of having a traditional wedding? That’s so exciting! I think that eloping is the BEST way to get married! You get to make the day whatever you want & keep the focus on the two of you instead of everyone else. One thing I’ve realized being an elopement photographer, is that most couples don’t know how to plan an elopement. No worries, I got you! I’ve created a list of things that are important to consider when you’re eloping. I want to help you figure out the best location for your big day, along with other important stuff such as permits, vendor recommendations, & more.


Choosing a location is one of the first things you should consider when planning your adventure elopement. What kind of background do you see yourself wanting for your photos? Do you want to get married on top of a mountain? Or next to a waterfall? Or do you love the warm desert vibes or maybe want to run barefoot on the beach? The best part about having an adventure elopement is that there’s no limits! You can get married just about anywhere.

The next question should be what kind of experience do you want to have on your wedding day? When you elope, you’re not stuck at one location like you are at a traditional wedding. You can incorporate unique & adventurous activities into your day. You can pick a place that means a lot to your relationship or you can choose a place you’ve always wanted to visit! Either way, you can incorporate the most important people into your day. With that said, the next thing you’ll definitely want to consider is how accessible your location is.


Depending on the location you choose, you need to make sure it’s able to be accessed during the time of year you want to get married. There are a lot of locations that are closed during the winter or require special permits at certain times of the year. For example, if you’re wanting to elope on top of a mountain near Asheville, you need to make sure you have a backup plan. The Blue Ridge Parkway closes for any freezing weather because the roads aren’t maintained in the winter. Generally in North Carolina, you’ll have to wait until late April or early May for the parkway to consistently stay open. In other areas, the roads remain open but you’ll need a 4WD vehicle to be able to access them.

Another thing to remember is, who are you going to invite? (If anyone.) Elopements can include a small amount of guests or it can just be the two of you. If you do want guest to attend your adventure elopement, then you’ll want to make sure they can get to where the ceremony will be. But don’t worry, just because you’ll have guests who aren’t adventurous, doesn’t mean you can’t still have an adventurous elopement! You can always choose a beautiful location for a first look & bridal photos & then later in the day go to a separate (easy access) location where you can have your ceremony in front of your friends & family. Another way is to keep your ceremony a private affair but have a reception at a location where you celebrate with all your loved ones. & the best part is that your reception could even be the next day! That was you can spend your elopement day doing activities that you & your partner want to do like hiking, camping, & just enjoying the views together.


This is one of the most overlooked aspects about getting eloped outdoors! Although there are sooooooooo many public spaces, most of them have their own rules about ceremonies & weddings. It’s extremely important to do the permit thing by the book so that you don’t get kicked out of your location or fined for not complying! The permits at national & state parks are made to protect the land, so it’s for a good reason! It’s very easy to find specific permit regulations for the parks. A simple search for your location & “wedding permit” should pull them up. But don’t worry, I already have all the info for many of the popular elopement locations near Asheville. Another important tip is to make sure you research this first thing after choosing a location so that you can be sure to receive your permit before your wedding date.

Marriage License

Another extremely important part of planning is to figure out what you’ll need to legally get married at the location you choose. Here in North Carolina, the requirements are that you need to get your marriage license from the County Register of Deeds beforehand, you’ll need an ordained minister (NC does NOT recognize those ordained online), & two witnesses to sign the marriage license after the ceremony. If you’re worried this will ruin your plans of a private ceremony, don’t worry! I count as a witness & I’m happy to bring an assistant to be your second witness. 🙂 When picking up your marriage license no matter where you’re getting married, just make sure to bring all the required documents & paperwork.

Finding the Perfect Photographer

If I’m going to be honest, this is the most important part in planning your elopement! You want to find a photographer whose work will mesh with the vibe you’re going for with your adventure elopement. For example, you don’t want to find a photographer whose website shows a mix of everything (family, newborn, kids, traditional weddings). Photographers who dabble in a little of everything don’t have the time to devote to helping plan your epic day & they generally don’t have all the knowledge of photographers who specialize in elopement photography. Remember, when you elope your photographer is the person who is going to be there all day with you. You want to make sure you hire someone whose personality you can get along with & someone who is willing to put 110% effort into helping you plan your day. Other important aspects to look for are a great communicator, someone who is qualified & experienced in hiking adventures as well as adventure photography. As an adventure elopement photographer, I’ve made sure to undergo the training in order to receive my Wilderness First Responder Certification. Chances are that everything will run smoothly but it’s smart to have someone who is trained to act in an emergency situation out in the wilderness. Other adventure elopement specific topics I’ve familiarized myself with are the Leave No Trace principles, essential items to keep in my first aid kit that I bring to every session & elopement, & researching restrictions & requirements for each location I suggest to my couples. A traditional wedding photographer most likely won’t know any of this or how to respond in an emergency on the trail. As a trained first responder & elopement photographer, I made sure to keep my couple safe, happy, & ensure that they’re having a great time. All in all, just make sure you choose a photographer who you can trust.

A Few More Important Notes

Even if you plan your elopement perfectly, there’s going to be something that happens not according to plan. The weather is a big game changer with adventure elopements. That’s why it’s important to have multiple backup plans. I always insist on having a backup plan that’s easier to access, one that’s indoors (breweries & airbnb’s work super well), & one that’s at a lower elevation. The best way to ensure your day still feels perfect is to know that plans could change going into things. If it’s just a little rain & wind, I am so down to still go adventuring with y’all. The unpredictable is what makes your wedding day memorable!

Check out my blog posts about elopements for more important info!

Top Five Locations to Elope in Western North Carolina for Adventurous Couples


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