Whether your elopement is a surprise, or if everyone is in the know, elopement announcements are a fun way to share the good news with everyone you love. Here are the most popular and creative ways to announce your elopement.
Video call your friends and family as soon as you say “I do!”
If you don’t have cell service, go ahead and record a video instead. Making your announcement at the exact spot that you said “I do” helps share your experience with those you care about. Turn the camera around and share your views, and don’t forget to let them know that even though they aren’t present today, you are carrying them in your thoughts on your wedding day.
Record individual, more personalized videos for family members or friends who might feel a little bit left out!
Make a sign!
Pose with a sign that says “We eloped!” and ask your photographer to include the image in your sneak peek so that you can mail/text/or post the good news right away!
Printed elopement announcement cards take a bit longer, but are a great way to include a registry link or a personalized note. (Older family members especially will love having a print to display.)
If you want to bask in all of your reacts at once- post your announcement to social media as soon as you get that sneak peek! Don’t forget your hashtags: #wedidthething! #surprise! #weeloped #justmarried #weddingday are the most popular.
More great elopement announcement sign ideas:
Inscribe “Mr & Mr” “Mr & Mrs” “Mrs & Mrs” or “Mx & Mx” on a pair of balloons, cupcakes, puppy dogs (!!), custom embroidered jackets, or whatever flavor of Etsy paraphernalia does it for you!
Some other phrases to use for your elopement announcement are:
“We do, we did, we eloped!” “We said yes!” “So, this happened” “We tied the knot!”
And of course the classic “Just Married” works wonderfully too!
Tip: For mountain elopements, include the elevation of where you said “I do.”
Share your sneak peek gallery as a slideshow.
Sneak peek previews of your elopement photos are pretty standard, and you can download these, set them to music, and play them at your elopement reception!
For many of us, our most important relationships are both created and sustained by this shared loved of the outdoors. Choosing to incorporate the outdoors in your wedding day is an expression of who you are and where you feel the most like yourself. In this article we’ll break down exactly what to expect when planning a hiking elopement- from considerations on how far to hike to what exactly makes this new trend in weddings so popular.
Take any Pinterest-worthy quote about hiking and you can easily apply it to a marriage. Creating a fulfilling partnership by overcoming challenges might indeed be the perfect equivalence to pushing your body and mind in pursuit of dazzling views and almost spiritual sense of accomplishment.
If you’ve never heard of a hiking elopement, or are exploring whether this might be right for you, you’re in the right place.
What is a hiking elopement?
Any wedding that requires some hiking has earned it’s title as a hiking elopement! The length of time spent hiking is entirely up to your goals for your wedding day. Just as there are near-infinite types of trails- from 1 miles to multi-day backpacking treks, you can plan a hiking elopement to fit your needs. (You can also expect your elopement photographer to do the bulk of the planning for you).
While your plan will have a foundation of what types of trails and scenes are available in the area you’d like to elope, most hiking elopements involve relatively short hikes (5 miles or less). Even serious adventurers who love a good strenuous trek do not want to spend a full day hiking on their wedding day!
When planning a hiking elopement, you should consider these important points :
Your wedding day is not the time to push yourself physically.
Your hike should be one that is well within your abilities. Be honest with your photographer and planner about what those abilities are, so that you have a truly enjoyable day. Have appropriate expectations on how long the day will be : you’re not just hiking! You’ll be changing clothes, having a ceremony, taking photos, having a first dance, or a picnic, go for a swim or visit a second location. When I plan hiking elopements for couples, I have a fully planned itinerary so you can visualize your entire day in advance. A hiking elopement is more than just walking to a spot and saying vows so it’s important to allot time for all of the activities you want to do.
The type of trail you select matters.
Is your selected trail a loop, or out-and-back? Think about the overall distance of your hike, not just the miles it will take you to get to your ceremony spot. Make sure you are comfortable with this number. Take a neighborhood walk or in-town hike to fix it in your mind, remembering that a flat 7 miles is way easier than 7 miles with a steady elevation gain, which brings me to my next tip.
Elevation gain and you own elevation acclimation.
Consider the hike’s overall elevation gain as well as your acclimation to the area’s elevation. This is especially important if you are traveling from a low elevation state like Florida (sea level) to a higher elevation state, like Colorado (5,280’). It’s difficult to predict whether you will be affected by altitude sickness, so it’s important to be cautious. Even experienced hikers may find themselves short of breath, with a severe headache, or even suffering from nausea with more extreme changes in elevation.
Arriving a few days ahead of your hike is a good idea, but don’t expect to be rid of the effects of a change in elevation so quickly. Studies have shown that the ideal time to acclimate is at least 10 days. If you don’t have that time, there are ways to help your body along, including making sure you are drinking lots of water and avoid alcohol. On the plus side, experts say eating a high carb diet can help speed up your acclimatization, so go for that big carb heavy breakfast!
Another thing to note about high elevation locations is that the sun is stronger and snow more common even in the summer months. In these conditions, the amount of light reflected all around can be very intense. If you have sensitive eyes, a snow covered hike at a higher elevation will likely be uncomfortably bright without eye protection (and you will probably not want to wear sunglasses during your wedding!). Subdued light is yet another reason why sunrise and sunset elopements are the best times of day beautiful photos.
Hiking and wedding attire.
What you wear on and after your hike is also an important thing to give serious thought to. Luckily, I think hiking elopements have a huge advantage in this regard. Wear your usual hiking clothes. Many couples change into wedding clothes once they reach their destination (depending on the length of the hike). It’s safe to assume that your wedding dress will get dirty, even if you change into it after hiking. I encourage you to purchase a dress with this in mind. You will not want to worry about the condition of a $3,000 dress on your wedding day!
Choose a dress that isn’t heavy or difficult to move your legs in (I don’t recommend mermaid styles!). Unless you’ll have a team of hiking bridesmaids to undress you in the woods every time you need to pee, lightweight, flowy dresses are the way to go! This advice holds even for winter elopements. Traditional wedding dresses can be heavy- some can weigh up to 8 pounds! That’s 8 more pounds in your pack (and on your back!) and is unlikely to make a huge difference in warmth. Instead, lined nude leggings, gloves, bridal shawls, and oxygen activated body warmers will be your best friends.
Here are some great examples of wedding dress styles that work for elopements:
The same advice goes for footwear- I love a wedding dress paired with a pair of well loved hiking boots. A trail is no place for dress shoes! I strongly advise against them as their slick bottoms- made for dance floors- can be a serious hazard in the outdoors. If you must, stick-on tread can make things easier but will not replace the safety and comfort of a dedicated hiking shoe. Many people will also choose to change into a simple flat or sandal after the main hike is over. Nothing is better than kicking off your boots after a hike! This is a great choice too.
Another common question about hiking elopements is whether to have an officiant or not. My opinions on whether to have an officiant or not have been formed by my years working as an elopement photographer in Colorado – a state where you can self-solemnize (no officiant is required). I’ve written more about my thoughts on whether you need an officiant or not on your elopement here. In short, I recommend couples perform their own ceremony on hiking elopements, unless you are having a friend officiate. Having a more intimate ceremony is one of the greatest reasons to have a hiking wedding- and I think that less formal ceremonies are perfect for this.
Sunrise Hikes on Elopement Days
The ability to incorporate sunrise into your wedding day is a unique aspect of elopements. Traditional wedding is busy and long enough. Sunrise is a magical time of day, and if you’ve chosen a beautiful wilderness vista at which to get married, I strongly recommend going the extra mile (figuratively!) and including sunrise. You can start your hike at sunrise, or arrive and camp the day before so that you can wake up at your ceremony spot. Both options are wonderful ways to begin a wedding day. Visit this link for more tips on eloping at sunrise.
Why are hiking elopements so popular?
Couples that love spending time in the outdoors together are beginning to see hiking elopements as an option for the first time ever. For a long time, traditional wedding days seemed like the only option. Eloping was always paired with the idea of an Elvis impersonator and a drive through chapel in Vegas. The media, movies and tv and popular culture, have always presented elopements this way. Elopement specific wedding vendors and all of the happy couples who have made the decision to free their wedding from those rigid expectations have changed the landscape for all of the couples who come after them- and that is a wonderful thing to be a part of.
Hiking Elopement Photographer and Planner
Wild Earth Weddings is a full service elopement photographer and planner. I offer elopement packages in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and beyond.
The Columbia River Gorge area is a popular destination for Portland metro area hikers and nature lovers. Its majestic waterfalls are also a beautiful backdrop for intimate weddings and elopements. I’ve created this guide to help you understand exactly how you can elope among the beautiful natural features, lush forests, and stunning waterfalls along the Columbia River.
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, part of the National Forest Service, maintains the trails and day use areas in the Gorge.
Columbia River Gorge Elopement Regulations:
No Exclusive Use
You may not reserve or have exclusive use of any of these public areas. Avoid crowds by eloping on a weekday.
No Outside Vendors (including Officiants)
Outside vendors are not allowed because this is considered commercial use of public lands. The outside vendor rule also applies to officiants and celebrants.You can have a friend officiate your marriage, as long as they are not being paid.
Leave No Trace
Don’t plan to include decorations, or throw rice, confetti, birdseed, flower petals, etc as these are stictly not allowed. You can not have any impact on the land or other visitors’ experiences. Don’t create a mess and make sure to leave the area as you found it!
It is free to elope and hold weddings in the Columbia River Gorge, and groups fewer than 75 do not need to apply for a permit. (Most areas in the Scenic Area are not able to accommodate more than 75 people anyway!)
Best Locations for Columbia River Gorge Elopements
Latourell Falls is a great place to elope or take portraits. It’s easily accessible, and is located just a short walk from the Latourell Falls Trailhead, where there is a decent sized parking lot. This waterfall towers at an impressive 250ft. Continue along the 2 mile loop to visit the upper falls for more privacy. In the winter, the water flow is usually quite forceful. In the summer months the flow often ebbs to an elegantly subdued cascade. In any season, Latourell Falls is a top pick for a magical waterfall elopement location.
Wahclella is a farther hike than most waterfalls in the gorge, but overall clocks in with a relatively short 2.4 miles (out and back). There are some ups and downs along the trail, and you should take care not to slip. Wahclella Falls has two drops to it’s overall 350ft height.
Multnomah Falls is the most iconic waterfall in the Gorge, and you’ll certainly see why when you lay eyes on its impressive double drop fall. At 620ft, it is the tallest waterfall in the entire state of Oregon. It is also the most visited national recreation site in the state! Therefore, this location is best for wedding portraits, rather than a ceremony. Make a reservation at the Multnomah Falls Lodge Restaurant for a post elopement celebration!
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls might be my favorite of all of the Gorge waterfalls, simply because of the perfect rock outcropping that makes for the ideal ceremony spot. Bridal Veil is a half mile walk, and has it’s own parking lot and restrooms. It is an excellent choice for a family friendly elopement or one with small children.
Dry Creek Falls
Dry Creek Falls is must less popular than the other picks on this list, but that’s exactly why I’ve included it. If you are eloping in on a weekend, or during the busier summer months around holidays, this waterfall is a good option. It is around 4 miles from the trailhead, and you can expect to be rewarded with few people at your destination. Dry Creek Falls is around 75ft.
Use the interactive map below to view the best waterfalls for elopements in the Columbia River Gorge!
Some states require a licensed officiant to sign your marriage license, but that doesn’t mean you can’t exchange vows privately!
Don’t get hung up on the idea that your legal paperwork and your elopement ceremony have to be done simultaneously. Here’s why:
Mutual Consent vs Permission from the State
I want to recognize and highlight the difference between a personal decision to marry made between two individuals vs permission granted by the state to access marital benefits. As the fight to legalize same-sex marriage taught us, legal permission has real value for the sake of dignity, equality, and for practical purposes such as the right to be involved in medical decisions and access to certain tax and custody benefits.
Still, I hate to see couples get hung up on the belief that these two acts be performed simultaneously. This is usually easy to navigate when planning a wedding but when planning an elopement, especially a destination or adventure elopement, couples get stuck.
Couples ask :
“How are we going to find an officiant willing to hike to the top of a mountain with us?”
“How do we get legally married overseas?”
“We just want a private ceremony, why do we need witnesses to sign our license?”
“We want to get married soon so I can get health insurance, but there’s no way I can plan a wedding by then!”
“My loved ones can’t travel, would it be ok to have more than one symbolic ceremony? Which one is legal?”
Because the legalities of state-recognized marriage vary from country to country and even state to state, I urge couples who are eloping to consider stripping the legal process of any emotional meaning.
Ask yourself what is important to you:
Will it make a difference to you if your legal document says a different date or a different location than where you said your vows? (If it does, that’s valid!) If it doesn’t, would it help you have the ceremony you truly desire if you didn’t have to factor in the state’s regulations?
Will it change you how conduct yourself in your marriage?
Will it change how and when you decide to celebrate your anniversary?
If so, how will you define that exact moment?
Is it when you sign the license, or is it when it gets mailed in?
Or what about when it’s filed at city hall, or when you receive your fancy certificate in the mail however many weeks later?
Marriage License vs Marriage Certificate
What’s the difference between a marriage license vs a marriage certificate anyway?
A marriage license can be thought of as applying for your marriage certificate.
When the license is granted, you know that if you get married (often within a window of time that the license is valid for), you’ll be able to get your marriage certificate.
Once you wed, you return your license; signed, officiated, witnessed or whatever else the state requires, and in return, usually a few weeks later, you receive your marriage certificate.
The certificate proves you are married. It’s the certificate that makes your marriage valid in the eyes of the government. It entitles you to benefits if you move to another state, or overseas. In the US, Marriages performed overseas are considered valid in the country where they take place if they are entered into in accordance with local law. (1)
Marriage Ceremonies are Already Symbolic
The institution of marriage has come a long way from political alliances between families. Apart from the legal practicalities and benefits mentioned above, these days marriages are colorful and varied and need only be governed by the rules set by the parties to the marriage.
Marriage remains as symbolic as the ceremony you had that declared yourself married. It only means something because you agree that it does. All ceremonies are rituals, and all rituals are symbolic. After all, the institution of marriage was a social contract long before it became a concern of the government.
Celtic history scholar Sharon Krossa notes “..for either method of late medieval marriage, for the marriage to be valid it did not matter if there were any witnesses or not. Witnesses only made it easier to prove. It did not matter if a priest was present or not. It did not matter if the marriage was blessed, or a mass followed, or not. It did not matter if banns had been posted in advance or not. It did not even matter if the marriage was consummated or not. A couple who exchanged consents in the present tense in the back woods with only squirrels for witnesses, against the wishes of their parents, and never had sexual intercourse was just as legally and bindingly married by the law of both church and state as a couple married by the Pope himself with the proud parents looking on and a child nine months later.” (2)
I personally love the idea of squirrels as witnesses, but I really appreciate how simple (and how startlingly progressive) medieval marriages were regarding consent.
Recognizing that marriage ceremonies boil down to pure symbolism doesn’t mean that those ceremonies aren’t important.
Once you are married, YOU will be charged with bringing meaning to that marriage, every day. Marriage ceremonies take up so much space in our lives and traditions because it’s important to mark the intention and the consent to commit to that daily promise of meaning.
I want you to free yourself (and your wedding day!) from worrying about the exact moment your marriage becomes legal in the eyes of the government. It’s so easy to think you need to do something the way everyone else does it- but you know better than that because you’re already rejecting the idea that you need a big traditional wedding!
So go ahead, elope overseas or in a different state.
File the paperwork 6 months before your ceremony if that is what you want or need to do! Say your vows on the top of a mountain or at the bottom of a waterfall. Fulfill your religious imperative at your ceremony, but don’t worry about changing plans for the state. It’s relatively easy to become legally married, and not being able to find an officiant willing to hike 12 miles doesn’t have to hold you back! (I want to recognize the privilege of marrying your partner is not universally available to LGBTQ couples worldwide. I hope that changes.)
Free your wedding! The county clerk’s office is not going anywhere.
At Wild Earth Weddings, I believe that nothing is more beautiful, special, and fulfilling than having a wedding day that is 100% you. I empower couples to seek the deeper meaning behind their intent to marry, and to carry that meaning with them into their marriage.
Here’s why a photographer should be the first elopement vendor you hire.
Once you decide to cast off the repressive traditions and expectations of the “traditional wedding,” you’ll find yourself already at the head of the game. Congratulations! Achieving the clarity and self awareness to keep your adventure-loving values at the front of your soon-to-be-wed journey is no easy task (but let’s be honest, it’s still way easier than planning a wedding with 300 guests).
However amazing and life-changing the decision to elope may be (and it really, REALLY is!) you may still find yourself at a loss as to what your first step on your elopement journey might be.
Here’s everything you can expect a dedicated elopement photographer to help you with :
Getting to know YOU.
That includes learning what types of activities, sceneries, and destinations make your heart soar (and asking the right questions to bring clarity to your wedding vision). Questions like “What types of experiences do you prioritize when you travel with your partner?”
(If you always seek out culinary delicacies, why not hire a personal chef for your best day ever? If you thought about eloping in Venice, why not schedule a stop at Puglia, the olive oil capital of the world?)
An elopement photographer will help you sort out whether you want to get legally married in another state or country, and what exactly that entails, as well as the pros and cons of handling the legalities at home. (In my opinion there are more pros than cons here, but that’s another post.) A good elopement photographer will also be able to navigate the permits needed to have your ceremony at your chosen destination. Not just overseas, but stateside as well. Elopement photographer are well-versed in these areas, and hiring an elopement photographer first can save you a lot of footwork!
An elopement photographer can illustrate the differences between having your ceremony (and photos) at sunrise or sunset vs the middle of the day. Plus, we have really strong opinions about why this is something you should spend some time thinking about! More than that, an elopement photographer will create your entire day’s timeline (I know how long stuff takes!). That means you’ll have a relaxed day from start to finish- no surprises because you didn’t think to factor in your drive time, or that you might want to stick around after sunset to watch the stars come out and share a bottle of wine under the milky way (oh heck yeah I know where and when you can see it!)
Finding other vendors.
As wedding vendors ourselves, elopement photographers are uniquely positioned to help you find all of the other vendors you might want to include on your day. Photographers are tapped in to a world-wide vendor network (ok, it’s Facebook, but still- we talk). We also have our own experience to draw from. Did those silk flowers end up working out, and how does a
Sometimes, despite everything, there may be someone you love who doesn’t understand your kick ass decision to elope. I’m here to tell you how right it is and how wrong they are, whenever you need it.
Tip : Schedule a time to chat with me, and we’ll go over – in detail – everything I’ve mentioned on this list and more. I’m 100% obsessed with making your elopement or wedding a dream come true.
What you can expect when you hire ME as your elopement photographer :
First, we’ll schedule a time to introduce ourselves via a phone call or video chat. Put a face to my name and ask me your toughest questions! Once you’ve scheduled your chat, you’ll receive my full planning and pricing guide, and access to past client galleries.
(It’s totally OK if you don’t have solid plans at this point.)
Second, you’ll let me know if you’d like to reserve a date on my calendar. If you do, we’ll make it official with an easy online booking process. Picking a date (if you don’t have one yet) is the first way I’ll help you get this exciting planning process under way!
Third, through a series of questionnaires and scheduled conversations, I will help you decide on things like : How much coverage do you need and what do your different options look like (with real, completely custom timeline examples). Where exactly will you say your vows and what experiences do you want to incorporate. Your day is starting to take shape.
Finalize your amazing, completely custom elopement plan. You’ll know exactly what to expect and you can kick your heels off and enjoy “the fiancée moment” of your relationship like no one else you know- completely footloose and fancy free as you count down the days till “I do.”
Elopement Photographer + Wedding Wing Woman
At Wild Earth Weddings, I specialize in creating and photographing unforgettable elopement days in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
My philosophy is to be your partner in planning, bringing my expertise and experience to the table so that your wedding planning process is EXCITING, FUN, and makes you so freaking stoked to get married already!
Should you bring your dog to your elopement? As much as I want to shout a resounding “YES!!! PUPPY OMG” The truth is, like many things in life, the best answer is “it depends.”
Consider the experience your dog will have.
Well trained dogs that are frequently your partners in the outdoors are much better suited to joining you for a hiking elopement than a dog that is normally at home for most of the day. If you think your pup will need to be closely managed on your wedding day, but will otherwise be happy and excited (and fit enough!), consider having a friend along who’s sole role that day will be to care for your pet’s needs so that you and your partner can focus on your own experience.
Plan a special session just for your dog.
If your pup is not well trained to be on or off leash, and will be pulling and struggling on a hike or around new sights and sounds- they are likely not going to have a good time (and neither will you!). Consider leaving your pup at home in this case, you can even arrange a special pet session so that your dog is still included in photos but can relax at home when you’re exchanging your vows.
If you are flying to your elopement destination, know that it can be very difficult and stressful for a dog to fly. Internationally, it’s often impossible for a dog to fly out for a short visit due to quarantine and vaccination requirements. For some short nosed dog breeds, flying can even be dangerous. Trust me when I say you’ll enjoy your elopement experience much more when you don’t have to worry about your pet’s safety during the trip.
Check the rules.
Most US National Parks, including Crater Lake National Park are only allowed in certain, specific areas. However, some smaller parks such as John Day National Park (Painted Hills) do allow dogs on leash. Restrictions on dogs in National Parks are in place to protect visitors and wildlife, so checking the rules at each place you are considering is very important.
Bring plenty of supplies.
You should always bring plenty of water and poop bags for your dog, even if you don’t think you’ll need it. Never leave poop bags on the trail, even if you intend to get them later. An empty Pringles can make carrying used poop bags a million times more bearable! The hard cardboard will prevent the poop from being squished in your pack and the plastic seal keeps odors in. As a bonus, it’s reusable! It’s a fantastic idea to bring lots of treats- it helps with posing and sitting for the camera!
Be prepared for an emergency.
Anytime I hike with my dog, I am always be prepared to carry him should there be an emergency or in case he gets injured or over tired. For longer hikes and large dogs, consider purchasing an emergency backpacking dog harness.
What questions do you have about eloping with dogs?
Sunrise brings a touch of magic to your wedding ceremony.
I’m going to assume that you’ve experienced at least one sunrise in your time here on Earth (if you haven’t- get thee to a sunrise immediately!). Put yourself back in that moment and you’ll recall the magical feeling of watching the world quickly change from night to day, a transition that is both achingly slow and shockingly quick once it begins.
Getting married is a transition itself, and you’ll understand how beautiful it is to mark that transition with the rising of a star.
Sunrise will put you in your mortal place; it will remind you that you and your person are in one place on the planet, and that a vast and endless Space exists beyond- and in that whole wide world in that endless night you found someone to share all the days of your life with. It’s humbling and beautiful, so BIG and very very small all at once.
Sunrise makes the most crowded places private.
The practical benefit of sunrise cannot be overstated. Sunrise is often it’s own private show and you’re FAR less likely to have to share a popular place with others. This is a fantastic way to have an intimate wedding ceremony at a popular location like a national park and still have private space to share your vows with your partner.
Moreover, the ephemeral nature of a sunrise experience will remind you to savor the moments you have with all of those around you. Once day breaks, it’s like a veil is lifted (oh, I could do a lot with that metaphor…) and your ENTIRE wedding day lies before you to enjoy as you wish (or nap!) instead of spending the day preparing (and getting nervous) for your wedding.
Sunrise is an effort.
Like all worthwhile things, marriage included, effort is required to experience the payoff. I wake up for sunrise all the time, and it is still difficult to take that first step out of bed. This is a good lesson to begin your wedding day with. Make the effort, together, and be rewarded with a beautiful experience and a sense of accomplishment. As I mentioned in another blog post, the unique experience of waking up early can also help you form more lasting memories of your wedding day.
Sunrise is beautiful.
It is well known that sunrise and sunset are both beloved of photographers because of their beauty. The way the light shoots through the atmosphere is a powerful ingredient for creating stunning wedding photography. Sunrise in particular can produce fiery red light and epic alpenglow on mountains, where rosier light is more common at sunset. If you plan to have a mountain elopement, sunrise is the perfect time of day.
Sunrise doesn’t have to be intimidating- Wild Earth Weddings will help you plan and execute your magical sunrise elopement or adventure wedding in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and beyond!
Everyone can relate to a busy day flying by- over before you know it and kind of a blur. Your wedding can easily end up the same way if you let it. But why does this happen? Is there anything we can do to prevent it?
The neuroscience behind our perception of time
Research into the human brain has shown that our perception of time has a lot to do with what type of information our brains are processing and how familiar we are with that information. It’s why childhood experiences- the passage of years and the long stretch of summer vacation – seemed almost endless at the time, and why experiences we have as adults seem so fleeting.
Novelexperiences– to a child that’s almost everything- take our brains longer to process while rote actions that make up our adult lives- going to work, driving home, even spending time with friends, can flash by with hardly a moment to register.
Put simply, novel stimuli creates an anchor in our brains and slows down our perception of time as our brains process that experience.
How does the perception of time differ on an elopement day?
If you’ve ever been married yourself or spoken to a married couple about their experience, you won’t be surprised to learn that for most people the day is a blur.
While getting married is certainly “novel,” the seemingly unique experience of hosting a wedding isn’t wholly new. By the time most people have their own weddings, we’ve attended them as guests and seen their dramas play out in countless movies and TV shows. We know about what to expect and sometimes even hold a rehearsal.
All told, a traditional wedding is much LESS novel compared with an elopement.
How can we use this research to prevent your wedding day from passing in a blur?
Practice mindfulness Mindfulness- the practice of focusing one’s awareness on the present moment- has been shown to lengthen the perception of time. Introducing mindfulness into the way I photograph a couple is as intentional as their decision to elope. Rather than focus on stiff poses, I direct couples to pause and breathe, to memorize sounds, smells, textures and colors- and together we create an anchor in time, intentionally slowing down the day and creating space for experience.
Try new activities Couples who choose to undertake an adventurous experience like a sunrise hike or mountain top picnic are forcing their brains to process novel stimuli. As we’ve learned, this slows down the brain’s processing time and leads to vivid experiences and memories. Says Michael Flaherty, Professor of Sociology at Eckerd College, “The perceived passage of time can slow down when we’re doing something new, such as learning a challenging skill or going on vacation to an exotic locale.”
Visit new places If you’ve travelled overseas before- you know this one well. Visiting new places is a a very effective way to anchor that experience in time, especially if you are visiting a place that is very culturally or linguistically different than what you’re familiar with. You’ll remember exchanging vows at sunset along Catalonia’s Costa Brava, walking hand in hand to your dinner reservation. You hear seagulls calling above you and squabbling as they land on the beach. Vendors selling wares call to you in Spanish, and their voices mingle with a host of other languages spoken. It makes you feel so humbled and small, aware of your exact position on the planet- so far from the familiar. That thought alone expands your heart because you actually found that perfect person in this wide world- and you just married them.
You won’t find spontaneity in most traditional weddings- and if you do, it’s sure to be unwelcome- a sudden downpour, a guest that’s overindulged. But spontaneity is another neuroscientist-recommended “hack” to slow your perception of time and it fits in perfectly with the principles of an elopement day.
No matter how loose your wedding day timeline is, the truth is that you will still end up planning your day around your guests. If you elope, you and your partner’s experience is the only one that matters. You have the freedom to explore, take detours, be in the moment.
It’s my belief that the “tradition trap” of big weddings sets couples up for lost time. It’s incredibly disappointing to spend months planning a party and have it fly right by.
I don’t want that for you or your wedding day- let’s start the conversation about how to #freeyourwedding
Colorado is one of the leading destination elopement locations in the US- and it’s no wonder.
Colorado has a rich variety of landscapes for every taste and season. Water falls, roaring rivers, desert, mountains, sand dunes, and plenty of activities to make your destination elopement a truly one of a kind experience of a lifetime. I’ve put together a short list of the absolute BEST natural places to consider for your Colorado elopement.
*** As an important note, many places in Colorado require permits for even a private ceremony- so make sure you get one! Always follow Leave No Trace principles and support public lands by abiding by the rules put in place to protect them.
Elope at Great Sand Dunes Park and Preserve
Located in southern Colorado, this natural wonder is the perfect backdrop for a unique and dramatic place to exchange your vows. Afternoon storms often roll in across the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and the seasonal Medano Creek makes for a refreshing wade through the soft sand.
Located right at the parking lot, the foothills of the dunes are popular and easily accessible- although you will feel the effort in your thighs the next day! Surfing down the dunes is a popular summer activity, and clear starry nights- far away from city lights- will have you wanting to stay up all night and watch the sunrise from atop the highest dune.
Elope at Garden of the Gods
There can be no better named attraction in all of Colorado than the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs- indeed it’s one of the most unique places to get married in Colorado.
Strolling through the towering sandstone formations- Gateway Rocks, Tower of Babel, Balanced Rock, Cathedral Spires, Three Graces, Sleeping Indian, Siamese Twins, Scotsman, Pig’s Eye, you can easily imagine it as some grand entryway for greater beings.
Though usually quite busy in tourist season, you can still find private moments strolling through the classic Colorado red sandstone formations that our state is known for. (Did you know that “Colorado” get’s its name from the Spanish for “color red”?). Garden of the Gods is free to the public and offers many free (but limited) wedding sites on a first come, first served bases- perfect for elopements and small wedding ceremonies!
Elope in the Rocky Mountains
Ok, this one is obvious- when you think Colorado, you think mountains. Colorado has so many (so so many) epic and breathtaking mountains which are the perfect backdrop to exchange your vows or having your small wedding ceremony. The options are nearly endless and vary across the entire range of accessibility options.
You can wake up before sunrise and hike for 1 hours, 5 hours, 8 hours, whatever your level of comfort and sense of adventure, and you’ll find a mountain that is perfect for you.
If you or your guests have accessibility requirements, you can still have your dream mountain elopement. (Finding the perfect mountain wedding for you is exactly my specialty!)
I love the idea of supporting the National Parks system by having your wedding in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, in addition to the more well-known (and super popular!) hikes and summits in RMNP, there are hundreds of miles of lesser known and equally stunning area of the Rocky Mountain range that are waiting just for you.
Elope in Boulder, Colorado
Boulder is my favorite places in all of Colorado- I might be biased having lived here for 7 years!- but it is also a great place to elope! With over 155 miles of trails to explore just within the city, you are sure to find your perfect spot!
Centrally located just 30 minutes from Denver and the Denver International Airport, Boulder is one of the most accessible places for couples coming from out of state for their elopement! Boulder also offers many affordable wedding and elopement venues, such as Sunrise Amphitheater- situated at the top of Chautauqua Park and overlooking the city.
Boulder fits right in the with abundant beer culture in Colorado, boasting enough local breweries that you’ll have plenty of options for celebrating your marriage! (My favorites are Avery Brewing Co, Upslope Brewing, Mountain Sun, Boulder Beer, and Bootstrap Brewing- although you’ll be equally as hard pressed to pick favorites!)
Boulder’s iconic Flatirons make an impressive backdrop for wedding photos, but I know a few secret spots where you’re not likely to see anyone else in this busy park!
Elope in the San Juan Mountains
Bluegrass lovers and adventure sports aficionados alike are drawn to southern Colorado to experience “Switzerland of America” otherwise known as the great San Juan Mountain range.
Spas and hot springs alike dot the landscape of southern Colorodo (Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgway is a personal favorite!) and you’ll find activities aplenty to go alongside your mountain elopement set against the backdrop of Colorado’s most spectacular vistas. I recommend setting aside some time to visit Silverton along the Million Dollar Highway- you won’t regret it!