your Elopement day
One thing we want to get out of the way first - elopements are just as important as big weddings. In fact, we believe elopement photography is even more important than big wedding photography because we are literally the only people taking photos of you that day! We take this job extremely seriously. We also believe that just because you're eloping, doesn't mean you deserve a less exciting day. A lot of people think elopements are short little ceremonies and a few portraits, but we believe they deserve so much more. So, we encourage you to really dream big for your elopement day. Plan a fun little picnic, go on a jeep tour (please bring us with you for epic photos!), do a hike together, or rock climb, or soak in a hot spring. You've chosen to break the norm here, why not make a whole day of it? Below, we'll detail every aspect of an elopement day we love to capture, and you two get to decide what you want us to join you for. The last point we want to make is this - you probably chose to elope so you could have some time to yourself. We want to respect that, and while we think we're pretty fun people to have around, we also want you to genuinely have the best day possible. So if that means an adventure without us, or a private picnic, we promise we won't be offended :)
Every elopement is different - that's what we love about them! The timing, details, locations, and what we capture will vary with each couple. With over a year of experience shooting 20+ elopements, we have seen so many different ways of doing things and we have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't. This guide is intended to be helpful, but not limiting. You are always free to ask us questions or do things differently - the number one priority is creating a day that feels true to YOU. That being said, these tips are all written with photography in mind, because we're pretty sure you love our photos if we've made it this far :) This guide will help you get photos like the ones that made you fall in love with us in the first place!
When planning your elopement, consider every detail of your day. Where do you want to wake up? What do you want the vibe that morning to feel like? Do you want to have a slow morning, sipping coffee and helping each other get ready, or do you want to get ready separately to keep the suspense? We encourage you to find a cool airbnb that will feel fun to get ready in and relaxing to come home to at the end of the day. A cute A-frame cabin in the woods, a camp-style yurt, or a rad tree house (you'd be amazed by what's out there!)
Not only will this help set the mood for your day, but it will make for some really sweet photos together that capture you in an authentic manner. It's also a great way to start your time with us in a relaxing environment so we get comfortable with each other before moving on to your first look. Imagine having photos of you making breakfast for each other and cuddling by a fire, or you doing your make up while your partner ties their tie - these little moments are easy to forget, but will likely be most similar to your real married life, so why not capture them too?
This is the moment you finally see each other all dressed up. First looks vary for each elopement, so we'll give some overall details and then list a few different options for logistics depending on your custom wedding day plan.
Firstly, you're welcome to request that we step away completely and don't take any photos for this moment. We completely understand that decision and it will not have a major affect on your final gallery. That being said, we love capturing emotions and first looks tend to carry a lot of them! If you choose to have us capture your first look, we will stand back and give you two plenty of space. We prefer to have the groom stand in position facing away as the bride approaches him from behind. We suggest having the bride walk up and tap the groom's shoulder or cover his eyes (as shown above), then prompt him to turn around and see her. Then we give you two time to just enjoy each other, say a few words, kiss, etc. before we begin directing photos (at least 5 min of unprompted time, never worry about us if you're enjoying just being together in that moment!). If you want to add a special element to your first look, consider writing each other letters to read back-to-back before seeing each other or exchange gifts during this time.
If you choose to get ready in the same place but in separate rooms, we will direct you to a nearby location (for instance, if you're getting ready in a cabin in the woods, Callen will take the groom outside and Abbi will walk the bride out shortly after). We prefer to do this within walking distance of the getting ready location so we don't have to deal with multiple cars.
If you choose to help each other get ready, but still want a first look moment, we can save a finishing touch like putting on the veil, buttoning up the dress, or even just holding a bouquet to add the full affect. Sometimes our couples have planned their outfits together, and he's seen her in her dress a few times already, but there is still nothing like the moment you finally face each other, all done up, on your actual wedding day.
If you want to have your first look in a special location that we'll drive or hike to, we suggest getting all the way "ready" (hair, make up, etc) and then change into your wedding clothes on location. We've had brides change in the back of our van (it's nice, we have a mirror and counter, and you can stand up in it!), in national park restrooms, or even in the woods after a hike! We have strategies for packing dresses and suits up mountains, so feel free to go this route if you want your first look in an epic spot!
As a rule of thumb, we suggest keeping hiking in your wedding dress to 2 (easy) miles maximum. For longer or more strenuous hikes, we reccomend packing in your clothes and changing on location.
Your ceremony is truly the most important part of the day. Sometimes our elopement couples say something along the lines of "our ceremony will be super short, we just want to do it and get on with the photos!" and while we are honored you've chosen to prioritize the photos so much, we want you to enjoy the moment and remember your ceremony fondly. Consider writing your own vows to read each other, or researching alternate vows that mean something to you two. Depending on the location, we also suggest bringing out a small speaker to play some music as soon as it's over! Callen will gladly press "play" on a favorite song so you two can enjoy those first few moments as husband + wife without any distractions. Depending on your ceremony location, we might ask your celebrant to stand to the side (see the above photo) for a number of reasons. Not only does it allow for better photos (you two and the environment, vs you two with someone standing right between you!) but it also makes you ceremony feel a little more intimate and helps us be less distracting.
Tip: If you are planning to have any guests or witnesses (other than us) one fun thing to consider is giving them something like lavender or flower petals to throw - it will make that moment feel so special and makes for amazing photos! If it's just us but you like that idea, you can bring some along anyway and we'll have Callen throw it for a photo!
Bride + Groom Portraits
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is what you hired us for! With elopement days, we tend to spend at least 3-4 hours on portraits, but we prefer to break that up, starting with a first look and then scheduling the ceremony somewhere in the middle. We tend to hike around, stop and chat, take breaks, etc during this time, so it's not like there is a camera in your face for multiple hours with no break.
Our shooting style varies on a scale between cinematic (where every detail and movement is planned) and documentary (where nothing is planned or placed, 100% candid). We create moments for you by asking you to move and interact together in ways that allow us to capture your candid moments in a flattering style. Instead of playing fly on the wall and expecting you to look natural in front of our cameras, we give prompts and directions that include movements, words, and feelings. During photo sessions, you'll sometimes forget we're right there. When viewing your finished photos, you'll think something like "Woah, I didn't realize we could look so rad/adorable/adventurous/playful on camera." At least, this has been our experience so far!
Almost all of our couples feel nervous before getting their photos taken. This is completely normal and natural, but we want to assure you - Callen and I are super fun to be around and the moment you're with us, you'll feel the pressure go away. We have perfected the photo session experience to make sure every couple is comfortable and having a great time with us. It's totally normal to feel a little nervous during those first 10-20 minutes, but I promise it goes away quickly when you realize we're total dorks and just have fun with it :)
This tends to be the most flexible aspect of your day - sometimes our couples choose to do everything in one location, but depending on how many hours we have together, you're welcome to do portraits somewhere other than your ceremony location, or even a few different spots. This obviously varies a ton based on where you get married, but we're always happy to suggest spots if you want variety in your photos! We do reccomend limiting your driving time to one hour per four hours booked to make sure we still get a good amount of time together. For hiking, we suggest up to one mile per hour booked (so up to four miles of hiking for a four hour elopement).
Tip: If you haven't done an engagement session with us, we suggest reading our adventure session guide together a few days before your wedding day. This will give you an idea of our shooting style and what to expect when it's time for portraits! Find it here.
Additional Wedding Day Activities
As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, we believe elopement days deserve more than just a ceremony and portraits. You chose to break the norm and prioritize each other, so why not make this a full day of doing the things you love together? Depending on your location, there are so many options for how to spend your elopement day, but here are a few fun ideas: a romantic picnic, a first dance to your favorite song, hiking together, rock climbing, canyoneering, going on a jeep tour, a helicopter tour, skydiving, canoeing, skiing, enjoying a meal at the national park lodge, trekking on a glacier, finding a hot spring, watching an episode of Parks & Rec on your computer, or literally any other activity you love doing together! We think every bit of this day should represent you, and we'd love to come along for all of it! We know local guides (specifically for rock climbing, canyoneering, and skydiving) in many different locations and would be happy to reccomend someone to take you on an epic adventure no matter what your skill level is.
We do want to reiterate what we said above, that while we would love to join you for every aspect of your wedding day (and know you'll love having photos of all of it!), we also want to respect your space and fully understand if you choose to do any of these activities privately. Our number one priority is that you enjoy your entire wedding day experience.
Lastly, and this obviously depends on your unique situation, sometimes our couples choose to include their family is some way on their wedding day. A few ideas: Facetiming your parents, siblings, or close friends after your ceremony, taking a photo with a sign that says "we eloped!" to send out as announcements, using a special heirloom detail like grandmother's necklace or your mom's veil, writing a letter to your parents for them to read on your wedding day or even asking people in your family/friend group to write you letters for you to read (this could also be a sweet surprise for your spouse if they were hesitant about eloping!).
We understand that every couple chooses to elope for different reasons, so if none of these things resonate with you, that's perfectly fine too! As mentioned before, every single elopement experience is different. We are here to help facilitate, capture, and enjoy your day with you, however that may be.
Legalities, safety, and bad weather
Permitting: This section applies to every elopement, but it's especially important if you're getting married in a National Park in the US. Every National Park and many state parks require a wedding permit for any ceremonies performed in the park. This is often very easy to get, and very inexpensive, but 100% necessary. While we will help point you in the right direction for this process, it's ultimately up to you to make sure it is all covered. You also need to make sure you have a copy of the permit with you at all times on your day.
Safety: It doesn't take more than a few minutes on our portfolio to see that many of our weddings happen in precarious places. Our couples tend to love big cliffs, epic hero-shots, and stunning scenery. We love that too, but it's important to realize that with these types of experiences come inherent risks. Your safety is our top priority, but as you read in our contract, every decision you make is ultimately up to you. We will never force your to go on a ledge, continue on a hike, or do anything at anytime. You always have the freedom to say no, and we strongly encourage that you keep your experiences well within your comfort zone on your wedding day. No photo is worth getting hurt, and we'll argue that no photo is even worth the fear of getting hurt. As we've mentioned, your experience is our top priority, so even if you get a rad photo on a cliff, if you were terrified during that moment, we don't believe that photo was worth it. Please be very clear with your partner and with us what your comfort levels are, and always be willing to say no to a particular shot or experience. Lastly, we want to reiterate that we are not guides. We will join you on amazing outdoor adventure, but ultimately we are not responsible for your own enjoyment and/or experience at the end of the day.
Bad weather: We are proud to say we have never had to cancel or reschedule a session or wedding due to bad weather. Now, maybe we're just really lucky, but we think there is more to it than that. Have you ever heard the saying "there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear"? We believe that whole-heartedly! We always say if our clients are willing to embrace it, we are too. We have all the gear necessary to embrace anything from a white-out snowstorm to a flash flood rainstorm. Obviously we will be smart about it, for instance we won't go up on Glacier Point during a lighting storm, but we also love what "bad weather" does for photos and have gladly embraced sketchy forecasts many times.
What to wear
Depending on where you are in your planning process, this might not be very applicable, but if you're in the early stages and haven't picked out key outfit pieces yet, you might find this helpful!
Wedding dress: Obviously this is a super important part of how your photos will look! We have photographed so many different kinds of dresses and the bottom line is - you do you. Do what feels right. Nothing you pick will be outside of our skillset, but here are a few things to keep in mind: if you're working with us, you're not getting married in a ballroom. You're getting married somewhere outside and will spend most of your day moving around, facing weather, possibly even crawling over fallen trees, scaling rocks, or skipping across creeks. It's super important that you choose a dress you can move and breathe in. When trying on dresses, as silly as it sounds, make sure you can sit down, fix your shoes, walk up and down stairs, be picked up, and be active in without losing your breath. We suggest staying away from super tight corsets, mermaid/tulip fits (where the dress is tight below your hips), extremely poofy/layered skirts, strapless dresses you have to constantly readjust, and fabrics that wrinkle easily. After a day with us, your dress will likely have some dirt, sticks, and possibly mud on the bottom, so keep this in mind when choosing what you want!
Here is a pinterest board we've created of wedding dress inspiration: www.pinterest.com/abbihearne/adventurous-wedding-dresses
Footwear: We're going to be honest with you, stilettos don't mix well with adventure weddings. We highly suggest finding a pair of cute hiking boots that have good traction. There are so many options for shoes that photograph well and do great in adventurous environments. When shopping for shoes, keep an eye out for good shoe bottoms (nothing slippery!), ankle support, and ideally something close-toed. Men, this advice applies to you too! Dress shoes with wooden or smooth bottoms are a death trap. Make sure you'd be comfortable hiking down a granite slab or traversing a slippery log in whatever shoes you choose to wear. Lastly, invest in a good pair of socks. We recommend Darn Tough or Smartwool socks from REI, but any hiking sock will do.
Accessories: This is mostly applicable to cold-weather couples, but can be relevant for any wedding day! One fun thing about elopements is the casual nature of it - we love the look of a colorful kimono or stylish leather jacket with a wedding dress. For cold weather wedding days, we reccomend our couples bring base layers (brides, white or nude base layer leggings will save you on a cold day!), scarves/hats/gloves, stylish but warm jackets, and hand warmers. We have a few wool blankets that we often let our couples wrap up in as well, but if you have a favorite blanket feel free to bring it along! We're also big fans of more traditional bridal accessories, like a veil or a bridal cape. Just because you aren't getting married in a church doesn't mean you can't have a cathedral-length veil!
Here is a pinterest board we've created of accessories inspiration: www.pinterest.com/abbihearne/bridal-accessories-for-adventure-weddings
Grooms: Men, your look matters too! Even though you're getting married in the outdoors, we still recommend grooms wear a suit or tux. For our traveling couples that don't want to pack a tux, we reccomend tux rental companies like Generation Tux. We're big fans of interesting colors like burgundy, burnt orange, forest green, or navy blue, but black is also always a great choice. We also encourage you to let your personality shine - are you more of a bowtie or traditional tie kind of man? Or does the idea of a quirky bolo tie feel more accurate? Every detail matters on your wedding day, and when you're eloping with no extended family members to judge your look , you can feel free to let your personality shine!
Here is a pinterest board we've created of groom style inspiration: pinterest.com/abbihearne/groom-style-for-adventurous-weddings
Your Wedding Officiant
Last but not least, we want to talk about a detail that often gets overlooked in the elopement world but is arguably the most important one - your wedding officiant! This is who will make it all happen and make sure at the end of the best day of your life, you're legally married! As we mentioned before, we believe your ceremony is an extremely important part of your wedding day and the person who performs your ceremony has a lot of influence on how it goes. As you can imagine, we've worked with a huge array of officiants and had some wonderful and some not-so-wonderful experiences. We obviously help put a lot of planning into your elopement day, and nothing can put a hitch in those plans quite like an officiant who refuses to hike, insists on a certain time for the ceremony, or has some other demand that doesn't align with your vision. It is extremely important that when you begin looking for an officiant, you find someone who at the very least is willing to be flexible and understand that you are planning an adventurous wedding.
The best officiants we've worked with are stoked on adventure, believe in the love between our couple, and want to create a ceremony that fits their personalities, not just the traditional law-abiding words. It's important that they are comfortable in the outdoors, willing to go through with the plan in any weather, and know how to handle themselves in a wilderness environment. It's also important that they understand the legalities of your unique location, what needs to be done when you're around, and what all they need to do to make things official.
With that being said, Abbi is super proud to introduce our absolute favorite officiants, her brothers Ben and Conner! Note, they aren't a package deal - you pick one or the other :) Ben and Conner are both passionate about the outdoors, believe deeply in human connection, and (our favorite part) work extremely well with us as photographers. We highly recommend either brother and would be happy to help you decide which one might fit your personalities the best if you're still on the fence after reading their bios below.
Conner Strickland - Wedding Officiant
Austin, Texas | Travels Anywhere
I spend most of my time in the city, working as a structural massage therapist. For fun I like to play music, paint, and write/perform sketch comedy; however, nothing gets me more excited than getting out into the wilderness, where I like to climb, flyfish, hike, and camp.
- I believe in commitment. The levels of vulnerability and trust that marriage calls for are unique among relationships, and I think these factors can shape us into better people over time, and enrich our lives.
- I spend a lot of time asking questions and thinking about why people are the way they are. Because of this curiosity, meeting new couples is fascinating for me. I like to see the quirks that bring people together.
- Yes, I can give massages in the wilderness.
Ben Strickland - Wedding Officiant
Eugene, Oregon | Travels Anywhere
During the week you'll find me en route to my physics PhD studying collective behavior of bacteria, and leading courses at the University on rock climbing and self rescue in the vertical environment. I spend every weekend I can either climbing at Smith Rock (when the temps are sendy), backpacking and bagging peaks in the Cascades, or traveling to the people and places I love. Through all of these activities I surround myself with great people and good vibes. To me, there's no greater purpose in life than to share our experiences with others, and there's no limit to the love we can give.
- As a scientist, I'm always aware that we are all biological, by which I mean we're bound by the laws of nature to live, eat, and die. How we spend our time is important, and who we spend it with even more so.
- Life can feel short, and yet it affords many, many decades for enrichment and experience. We should never stop learning, and should ceaselessly explore our tiny corner of the universe.
- Humans have come to be what we are by shaping ourselves. Besides siblings, the commitment of marriage grants us what is likely the longest partnership of our lives. Marriage is special in that it's the partnership we choose, with someone we've just happened to meet in this cosmic adventure called life.
Frequently asked questions
Do you have vendor recommendations? Absolutely! We love connecting with great vendors and always keep people in mind when we (or our brides) have a great experience with them. We also do our best to help you research vendors if we don't have someone in mind for your location.
When can I expect my photos? After your wedding, we’ll spend the next few weeks sorting through your photos, editing and curating them in a way that tells the story of your wedding day from beginning to end. You can expect a preview on Facebook and/or Instagram within the week and your full gallery delivered to your e-mail inbox within 4-6 weeks.
Where can we buy prints? Our gallery service has a built-in shop that utilizes a high-quality, trusted print shop. If you want quality, this is the best way to ensure you're getting wonderful prints. I do give my clients a print release, so you are always welcome to use whatever print shop you typically use, but I strongly suggest printing through PASS to ensure the best quality!
Can I decide to order an album after the wedding day? Absolutely! You are always welcome to order an album. Due to the nature of design services I use, I can only guarantee the originally quoted pricing for 6 months after your wedding date. After that, the pricing is subject to change.
Can I share my photos with my mom, grandma, aunt, and best friend? Yes! The beauty of my online gallery service is that it is a sharable link that you can give anyone access to, and anyone with the link is welcome to order prints. This link can be password protected if you choose. Also, the gallery stays online for 10 years, so if you ever lose your copies of the photos you can easily re-download them!
Do you have a guide for adventure sessions? Yes! It's just as helpful and way shorter than this ;)