How to Plan the Perfect Adventure Elopement

Fairytale Mountain Elopement

While we’re certainly known to go wild about every little detail of the wedding day, we’re honestly just as stoked about the simplicity that is a stunning adventure elopement. From mountain peaks to cityscapes, desert views to international destinations…we’re here for it all.

So, what exactly is an adventure elopement? We’d label it as anything that takes you outside of the traditional wedding setting, as well as outside…literally! Part of the adventure is the journey to whichever beautiful destination you choose. And there you’ll say your vows, surrounded by nature. There is no rule book and it is almost always epic. Truth be told, many of the elopements you’ll find here on GWS could be classified as adventure elopements!

Wondering if it’s right for you? We’ve got your guide to planning an adventure elopement below, complete with helpful quotes + advice from real couples we’ve featured on GWS. Ready? Away we go!

above photo: The Foxes Photography from this Rugged Backpacking Adventure Elopement

permanent dibs elopement signphoto: Jessika Christine Photo | florals: Wild Lyon Flower | Dress: The Dress Theory | Jacket: Kindred Looms | Hair: Hair by Alise | Makeup: Li Sun Goh

Sunrise Yosemite Elopementphoto: Anni Graham from this Stunning Elopement in Yosemite National Park

We focused on our marriage — where we wanted it to begin and the quietness and intimacy we wanted it to begin with.

Lake Louise Elopementphoto: Terry Photo Co. from this Magical Elopement Near the Turquoise Waters of Lake Louise

Get there early. Allow yourself at least a full day before the wedding and after the wedding to help you stay present.

Iceland Adventure Elopementphoto: Anni Graham from this Adventure Elopement Through Iceland

Where (and When) to Go

First things first: where do you want to go? When you’re planning an adventure elopement the location is kind of The Thing. Everything you do will revolve around where you go, so it’s worth taking the time to do your research and wait until you find the place that really feels like your place.

Here are a few questions to ask yourselves to get the ideas flowing:

What’s on your bucket list? This is a simple place to start. Is there a place the two of you have always wanted to go? Narrow it down by making your own lists and see which places you have in common.

What is meaningful to you? There is no rule that says you can’t elope somewhere you’ve already been because, well, there are no rules! Maybe there’s a place that could also be meaningful to your heritage or family history. We’re always going to suggest implementing as much meaning into your day as possible and location can play a huge role.

What do you like to do? In terms of outdoor activities, what gets you excited? Hiking, horseback riding, fishing, tasting local fare, etc.? Where you go is also going to inform what you do — so make it fun!

Where are you relaxed? A HUGE plus to eloping is the fact that there is far less to planning, taking a load of stress off the table. So, let’s take it a step further and think about where you truly feel relaxed. By the sea? Surrounded by trees? Off the beaten path? Lean into that!

What season do you like? Seasons can definitely play a big role in your final decision. Envision a snowy mountaintop? Do your research to find out the best time of year to travel.

If you need some inspiration, have a look at one of our most popular posts ever:
25+ Jaw-Dropping Places to Elope

Horseshoe Bend Elopementphoto: Jordan Voth from this Intimate Horseshoe Bend Elopement

Don’t think about the organization or, even better, let professionals do it for you. Motivated and inspirational photographers or wedding planners who are used to elopements are just an undeniable pro.

adventure elopement with sparkly dressphotog: Jordan Jankun Photography | florist: Wandering Poppy Co | dress: Rue De Seine

Elopement in the Fijian Highlandsphoto: Kama Catch Me from this Mindful Elopement in the Fiji Highlands

One thing I’m so happy I did do was inviting my closest family and friends. Without them, there’s no way our day could have turned out so amazing.

Desert Elopement Inspiration Turned Surprise Proposal

photo: The Hearnes Adventure Photography from this Elopement Inspiration in the Moab Canyons

Who and What to Bring

Guests? One of the common misconceptions about elopements these days is that you can’t bring guests along. But that’s no longer true! We say eloping gives you the perfect reason to be intentional with your guest list, keeping it small and intimate. An adventure elopement gives you an incredible opportunity to spend quality time with your people and create memorable experiences together.

Animals? Many couples love to bring their dogs along for the adventure! This might be something to also consider when you’re looking into location.

Food and drinks. Now this one is a must! You may only be able to bring what you can carry, so plan accordingly. Just make sure there’s room in there for champagne.

Decor and details. Sure, that view might be enough decor in and of itself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little something-something. A simple idea might be a small rug to stand on for the ceremony. You may also want to bring some cute vow books to read from, a ring box, or a “just married” sign!

Flowers. This one may be a bit trickier, but not impossible. We suggest either working with a local florist (more on that below) or bringing your own DIY bouquet. Faux florals can make a really beautiful bouquet, plus they travel well! And keep in mind that if you’re eloping in a national park, you likely won’t be able to bring in any fresh florals.

Thinking about making your own faux bouquet? We’ve got a DIY here:
DIY Silk Flower Bouquet for an Elopement

Adventure Elopement

photo: Adventure Instead

If you are eloping I think that choosing your photographers wisely is key, as they are the ones capturing your day and the only other people present with you.

Yosemite Campground Weddingphoto: India Earl from this Yosemite Wedding with a First Look at Glacier Point

Woodsy Elopementphoto: Jessika Christine Photo | Dress: The Dress Theory | Hair: Hair by Alise | Makeup: Li Sun Goh

What to Wear

For the bride, you may as well accept the fact that you’re probably going to get a little dirty. But if you’re considering an adventure elopement we’re willing to bet you’re okay with that!

What you wear depends on how you’re getting to the location. If it isn’t too strenuous, you can easily hike in your wedding wear. But you may need to carry it with you if you’re journey is a bit more complicated. This is another instance where location really does inform every other decision!

When it comes down to it, all that matters is that you choose something that feels like you — just like you would for any kind of wedding celebration. That being said, you may want to consider your footwear (here are a bunch of bridal boots you can hike in), and maybe even a cute jacket.

All the bridal jacket ideas:
Complete Your Look with These Rad Bridal Jackets
How to DIY a Custom Leather Jacket

photo: Anni Graham

Urban Boho Glam Los Angeles Elopementphoto: The Hendrys from this Boho Elopement Across the City of Angels

Boho Black elopement
photography: El Momento Perfecto // videography: Fragment Collection // planning: MC2 Mon Amour // florals: Antonio Rodriguez // crown: Lelet NY

Even though we wanted our wedding to feel cavalier, we still had to plan. When hiking to your ceremony and camping after, you’re limited on space and weight and you can’t go back if you forget something. For one night we carried a lot, but I was so happy we did. Having delicious food and drinks and being able to share the moment with our family and friends made it that much more special. Bring lights, bring some decorations. A little bit seems to go a long way in the wilderness.

Italian Dolomites Elopementphoto: Artur Saribekyan from this Elopement in the Dolomites

Ojito Wilderness Elopement

photo: Katie Lively from this Elopement in the Ojito Wilderness

How to Pull it all Together

The second (and probably most important) biggest misconception about eloping is that you can go into it without a specific plan. And sure, that is part of the nature of eloping, but there is more that goes into it than you may think from the outset. This is where your vendors come in!

Photographer. At the very, very least, you NEED to have a stellar photographer. Because “photos-or-it-didn’t-happen” is real when you’re eloping. We suggest going with a photographer who has experience and expertise with adventure elopements. They’re going to think about the unique aspects like avoiding crowds, getting the best light, what to expect with travel, organizing permits, and making any necessary reservations. (You can find a lot of our favorite elopement photographers linked in this post to get your search started!)

Videographer. It goes without saying…you’re going to want to relive this day. Again, a videographer with some experience in this area is key.

Planner. A local wedding planner can be a HUGE help if you’re traveling to elope. They can help organize a cute picnic afterward or maybe they know about some location spots for the vows. Planners can help coordinate hair and makeup, florals, backdrops, food, and work with your other vendors to bring the day together without any hiccups.

Florist. If you’re able to bring flowers along for the ride, do it! Florists can design some beautiful pieces for the alter + celebration afterward, along with the bouquets and boutineers.

Officiant. Do you need a wedding officiant? This one (like everything else) is totally up to you but definitely something to consider. You may want to make it official at the courthouse then share your vows high on the mountain peak. A local planner can help arrange an officiant, or if you’re bringing guests, a friend or family member could do the honors!

Think you might want to elope in a national park? We can help:
How to Elope in a National Park
These Breathtaking National Parks Will Have You Saying I Do at Your Own Outdoor Wedding!

bride and groom backpackersphoto via The Hearnes

Packing in our clothing, food, beverages, and dogs made me feel more connected with her and helped me relax. At that moment, no matter who did the planning, we both were putting in the work. It felt like a solid start to a marriage.

So, here’s to the adventure! We hope you find joy in the journey along the way!