The Best Ideas for How to Make an Elopement Special & Unique

There seems to be a HUGE misconception about an elopement not being as special as a larger, more traditional wedding. But an elopement can be so special, even more special than a larger wedding! How can you make an elopement special? These ideas will help you make your day special. After all, your elopement is still your freaking wedding day! You deserve to have it be special.

Have an All Day Elopement or a Multi-Day Adventure

What is the best way to make your elopement special? The best way is to make your elopement an amazing, all day celebration. You may be wondering how you fill a whole day with things to do. And you definitely don’t have to do a long hiking elopement to fill your day. What the heck do you do for an all day elopement? Take a Jeep, float in a hot air balloon, hike, climb, rent a boat, take kayaks onto the lake, pack raft your way across islands, tour remote areas in a helicopter, trek up a glacier, explore a slot canyon, the options are endless! I love helping couples come up with ideas of what to do for an all day elopement. You can even have a multi-day adventure elopement! Have one day with family & one day with just the two of you, go on a backpacking adventure in the wilderness, or even take a mini road trip. Be sure to learn more about elopement timeline planning & view some example timelines. An elopement should be more than a quick ceremony followed by a few photos. You deserve more from your wedding day! Make it special!

With an all day elopement, we can go to multiple epic locations like this!

A First Look with Each Other & Your Parents

First looks have become popular with traditional weddings & they are becoming popular with elopements as well! A first look enables you to see each other all dressed up for the first time in a beautiful location & it an be so emotional. If you are inviting guests such as your parents, you can do a first look with them as well. I know that even my mom would really get emotional seeing me all dressed up. There are many ways you can incorporate a first look. If you are having a hiking elopement, you can pack in your wedding clothes & get ready in different locations so you can have a first look. If you are getting ready in a hotel or AirBnB, you can get ready in different rooms & then we can find a nice place inside or outside for your first look. 

Bride hugs her dad during a first look at an elopement.

Invite a Few Close Friends or Family Members

Everyone is different in if they want guests or not. Sometimes even those who are very close to their family choose not to have their family present. Keep in mind that no one has the right or deserves to be at your wedding day, it is for the two of you, not anyone else. But sometimes you do want to invite a few close friends or family members! Depending on how you plan out your day, your friends & family can be with you for most of the day or only for the ceremony. Regardless, be sure to plan out part of your day where you can enjoy some time with just the two of you. 

Writing Personalized Wedding Vows

Personalized wedding vows can be one of the most special parts of your whole elopement day. Why write personalized vows, especially if you feel you’re not good with words or won’t know what to say? Keep in mind that your significant other is marrying you & they love you for you. So be yourself! Don’t try to be someone else or write something that may be fancy but doesn’t represent who you are. After all, an elopement is breaking from traditions, so why not make your vows special & not what other think your vows “should” be. If you be yourself & write from the heart, vows can definitely make our elopement day special. How do you write wedding vows? Think of the person you are marrying. What makes them special to you? What do you love about each other? Some like to write their vows ahead of time, others like to wait until closer to the big day. However you choose to write your vows, the right setting can make a difference. Choose a quiet place, & if you can, choose a place that reminds you of them whether that be outdoors or on the couch you share.

Wear a Floral Pocket Square Instead of a Boutonniere

Want an easy way to add more florals to a suit? Floral pocket squares look sharp, have more florals, & they’re so easy to put in a guy’s suit. A floral pocket square is usually made on a material like cardboard with hardier flowers & is secured with floral glue. Sometimes magnets are also used to help keep it in place. Definitely talk to your florist about doing something unique like this with your florals! View more photos from this colorful botanical gardens elopement.

Have a Wedding Cake or Other Dessert

Sometimes incorporating things from more traditional weddings can help you make your wedding day more special. Some couples like the traditions or they can help make your day more fun. On your elopement day, you can have a wedding cake, cut it, & feed each other. If you are having a more adventurous elopement like a hiking elopement, having a smaller, easier to pack dessert such as cupcakes, donuts, or cookies can be a better option. Besides, who doesn’t love dessert!

Celebrate with a First Dance

I love dancing even though I don’t get to dance that much. There is just something so romantic about couples dancing together. And to see a first dance at the base of a waterfall, on top of a mountain, or on the shores of an alpine lake is truly special & your friends & family would love to see photos or a video of that! And it creates a special moment for the two of you. You can download a first dance song on your phone or just dance to the sounds of nature. If you really want to make your elopement day special, it can be all about creating moments that will be special for both of you.

Do Something Totally Unique

To make your elopement day special, do something totally unique! Think outside the box. What gifts or surprises can you do that are unique? What would you never think to do on a wedding day? You could scuba dive, plan a wildlife safari, or do something more simple & give a unique gift. Write a song & sing it, surprise your significant other with some new adventure gear, & think out of the box about how you can do something special. 

Wear a Colored Dress, Cape, or Something Less Traditional

White is no longer the only color of a wedding dress. You don’t even specifically have to shop for a wedding dress! Look for colors that you love or colors that pop. Black wedding dresses are definitely becoming more popular. Depending on what you want, you may also be able to dye something yourself. A cape is a really nice addition to a dress & can really add something unique to your outfit. You could also pair something like a white dress with something like a colored veil.

Hire a Private Chef for an Awesome Wedding Meal

After an all day elopement & some epic adventures, you’ll be tired & you definitely won’t feel like cooking. You may not even feel like going out & getting food. Having a private chef for your elopement is the answer! Your elopement is your wedding day & it deserves to be special. Hiring a private chef is just one more way to make it special. I bet you haven’t hired a private chef before or only do it for special occasions. A good private chef can cook up some truly excellent food & appetizers, & make you a special meal to enjoy. If you’re having guests at your elopement, they’ll truly enjoy the experience as well!

Setup a Nice Picnic Outdoors

Sometimes when you are off in the remote mountains, deserts, coastlines, & other areas, catering, restaurants, or private chefs are harder to come by. So you can still make your elopement special by setting up a nice picnic! Choose some of your favorite foods, pick up some lunch in town, make a charcuterie board, roast some marshmallows– the options are endless. Get creative & get a little fancy with your food, splurge on some things you may not usually purchase. It is your wedding day after all & you deserve for it to be special. You can also do a nicer setup by using some pillows or a table cloth, setting up some candles, & don’t forget the champagne or other drink to celebrate!

Choose a Unique Cologne, Perfume, or Scent to Wear

Did you know that scents are something that can really bring back memories? One unique but subtle thing you can do for your elopement day is for one or both of you to wear a unique scent. Scent has the unique ability to be able to bring back strong memories, so choose something you will only wear for your elopement day. Then just for special occasions such as your anniversary, wear that scent again & it can bring back memories! If you aren’t really into cologne or perfume & want something more natural, you could choose something like a skin safe essential oil blend. This will not only make your elopement day special but can also bring back memories to make your anniversary special as well!

Decorate a Ceremony or Reception Space

Putting a little bit of work into decorating a space for your ceremony or reception can make it feel more special. Keep in mind though that if you’re having a national park elopement or are getting married in other outdoor areas, decor & a setup may not be allowed. That’s where decorating a space such as your AirBnB can be fun! Decorate it for a little dinner or reception after your elopement. String up some lights, put out a little cake, make it all nice for having a private chef & enjoy an amazing dinner together. 

Incorporate Music into Your Elopement to Make it Special

There are many ways to incorporate music into your elopement to make it special. If one (or both!) of you can play instruments, you can play music for each other or play music tighter for your elopement. If you’ll be incorporating a first dance into your elopement, be sure to download a special song on your phone to play. Or if you want to do a little more dancing than just one song, download a number of songs that you’d love to dance to. If you can play an instrument but won’t be able to take it with, maybe you could eve record a song or some music to play later at your elopement! 

Getting Ready Together for Your Elopement

If you want to have a first look, you’ll usually be getting ready at the same time but in separate areas. But another thing that can make you elopement special in a different way is getting ready together before your elopement day. If you’re not going to do a first look, helping each other get ready can be a very special part of your day, & it can also be helpful if you’re not having anyone else there at your elopement if you have each other to get ready with. I’ve had elopements where the groom has learned how to style his bride’s hair or helping each other put on a dress or tie. There are a lot of way, big & small, that you can help each other get ready & it can make for some very special photos of your elopement!

Do Something Together that You Love

One of the best ways to make your day really memorable is by doing something that is special to you both! Do you have a favorite food you always like to eat together? Or is there a tradition that you have? Or you can even incorporate something special into your photos. If you give each other piggyback rides or do fist bumps or have a special handshake, we can incorporate that into your photos! 

Get Out on the Water

I LOVE when couples want to get out on the water for their elopement days! I personally love being out on (or in) the water. There are so many ways to enjoy the water. Take a canoe out onto a lake, rent a houseboat & have a multi-day elopement, paddle some kayaks through slot canyons, hike up with pack rafts to take them out onto an alpine lake, do some stand up paddle boarding & feel like you’re walking on water, charter a sailboat out onto a reservoir & plan a picnic, take a pontoon out & do some grilling & jumping off the deck. Getting out on the water is just fun!

Elope in a Place that is Special to You

Are you searching for the perfect elopement location? Maybe you can elope in a place that is special to you both. It could take place where the proposal or engagement happened, a place that you’ve visited together, your favorite national park or state park, or even on some private property owned by you or a friend or family member. If you want to incorporate a special place into your elopement but can’t actually elope there (such as a restaurant or coffee shop where you had your first date), you can still incorporate those special locations into your elopement day by stopping there or even taking photos at those locations. You could elope in the place you took your first adventure together or the first place you travelled internationally together! If you’ve been together for awhile, you probably have a lot of locations that are special to both of you.

Choose an Epic Location that is Totally New

Maybe you want to go someplace totally new & create a new memory & have a new special place. In this case, you could choose a location that you’ve always wanted to go to. Or work with your photographer to find an epic location! As an elopement photographer, I help couples find a lot of different unique locations & your photographer can be a huge help in helping you find the absolute best locations wherever you want to elope. National park elopements have become popular but there are sooo many other locations outside of the national parks for elopement locations. Many of these locations offer the same or similar scenery & have less people & more privacy.

Jump in the Water

If you’re really feeling adventurous or maybe it is just hot out, you can always jump in the water! If you elope near an alpine lake, bring your swimsuits & go in for a refreshing dip after your vows. Or maybe you want to do a sort of “trash the dress” kind of shoot, you can jump into the waves in the ocean or even take some underwater photos in certain areas.

Relax in Some Hot Springs After an Adventure Elopement

I absolutely LOVE hot springs! In fact, I have locations saved for over 150 different natural & developed hot springs throughout the western United States. An adventure elopement can leave you tired & maybe a little sore from a long hike. There is nothing more relaxing than just chilling in a hot spring. You can find hot springs all over the place. You can find them in the desert, mountains, plains, forests, & coasts. The developed hot springs are almost always easy to get to while some of the natural hot springs are a little more off the beaten path which also means less people & more privacy for relaxing after a great day.

Pop Some Champagne

Popping some champagne is a classic way to celebrate! But if you don’t like champagne you could pop some sparkling cider or another drink. Pro tip: for a champagne popping photo, it is best to pop some plain sparkling water. This way you can save the champagne for drinking. When eloping outdoors, always remember to practice leave no trace. Popping champagne can leave sugary residue everywhere, whereas popping sparkling water just leaves water on the ground. In some areas champagne is less of a concern but it is highly dependent on the area. As a certified Leave No Trace Aware photographer, I’m always more than happy to answer questions! Remember that leave no trace is a set of principles, not a set of hard rules.

Want to learn more about how to elope? Be sure to check out the below article!

Video Chat with Friends or Family on Your Elopement Day

Want to chat with friends or family on your special day? You can still include them by calling them on video chat! If you are doing a video chat, you’ll want to be sure that you’ll have good service or reliable WiFi. If you don’t have service during your elopement, you could still record a video message to later send to friends & family. Or even better, hire a videographer to create an epic video of your day!

Go Stargazing Before Sunrise or After Sunset

For many of the amazing locations I go to with couples, we have to get up early to catch sunrise or stay out late past sunset. This means that we may be hiking or Jeeping in the dark. This is a great opportunity to see the stars & other things in the night sky! So why not use this opportunity to also take some epic photos?

Read Some Letters or Special Notes from the People You Love

One of my favorite things I’ve seen couples do is reading special handwritten or typed out notes from their close friends & family. Eloping is something you do for you & even many couples who are close to their family elope with no one else there. Reading notes from your family can be so special & emotional for both of you & is a great way to include your family in your elopement if they are not there with you. It also works great in remote areas where you may not have the capabilities for a Zoom wedding, live streamed wedding, or video chat.

Unity & Ceremony Ideas for Your Elopement Ceremony 

Another way of creating a special day is by making your elopement ceremony unique by incorporating a sort of unity ceremony. In areas where it’d be allowed, have a tree or wildflower planting ceremony, or bring along a pot to do it anywhere. Some cultures have unique hand fasting ceremonies that signify togetherness. If you are having guests, incorporate ring warming. You do this by passing around the rings & each guest gets the chance to say a little something special about you. A wine box ceremony can also be something special for your elopement day as well as an anniversary later on. If you want to have the wine on your 1 year anniversary, most any wine will be ok. But if you want to wait 5+ years, red wines that have more tannins are going to be a better option such as a cabernet sauvignon, merlot, port, or malbec. You could get wine in a place local to you or get some in the place you are getting married. If you go to a vineyard or winery, or specialist liquor store, they’ll be able to give you the best advice about what kind of wine to get. Be sure to store wine in a dark, somewhat cool place & lay on its side so the cork doesn’t dry out. You could also choose another liquor that ages well. 

Surprise Each Other on the Day of Your Elopement

Surprising each other can be such a fun thing! You could surprise each other with love letters, surprise the other with the Adventure Challenge book, make a detour & stop at another fun or unique location, plan a surprise musical performance, or work with your wedding vendors to come up with another unique surprise! There are a lot of different ways you can surprise each other & since you know each other best, you’re each going to know the best way to surprise the other. 

Take Some Romantic Elopement Photos Together

How do you make an elopement romantic? Set aside some time for just the two of you to have some time together. You can decide what is romantic for you! Relax in a hot tub together, take an outdoor shower together after swimming, enjoy some desserts, have a glass of wine, or do something else to make your elopement romantic!

Plan a New, Exciting, Fun, Adventurous, or Even Scary Activity Together

If you’re not afraid of pushing your limits or love to really be adventurous, try something new together on your elopement day! There are many adventurous guides that can help you have all sorts of adventures. Hire a canyoneering or climbing guide, get in touch with a company that offers helicopter tours, travel internationally for the first time, or consider other adventure activities for your elopement. Whatever you choose to do, be sure to know your own & each other’s limits & know how far you’re willing to push those limits. 

Rent an Amazing AirBnB or Stay in a Cool Hotel or Lodge

Staying in a cool place is sure to raise your elopement experience. If you’re eloping in a national park, there are usually a lot of great lodge & cabin options within the various parks. But be sure to reserve these in advance as they book up quickly. A lot of destination locations also have a lot of great hotels available. And of course, other options such as AirBnB or VRBO are widely available. The benefit of a vacation home rental is that you get an entire place to yourselves & a lot of the vacation rentals available are absolutely beautiful & there are unique views & amenities at each one.

Include Your Dogs & Other Pets on Your Special Day

My pup Bunji is soooo special to me. I know so many couples feel the same about their pets. You could bring your dog, cat, bird, horses, or other pets on your elopement day! If you can’t bring along your pet, you can include them in different ways. Include them in a framed drawing, have a cake topper in honor of your pet, put your pet’s paw prints on or in your vow books, or you could stop by & take some photos with your pets if they have to stay with family or at your vacation rental. Keep in mind that not all places are pet friendly but I am happy to help you with finding the best locations!

Include Hand Painted Elements in Your Day

There is just something about hand painted art that makes it so special. You could hire a live wedding painter to paint an amazing scene from your wedding day. Or send one of your amazing photos to an artist to have it painted. You could also include things like hand painted favors for your guests to take home. One couple even had hand painted champagne bottles that a friend did for them. It was a unique & simple way to make their day special.

Decorate Your Adventure Gear

To make your elopement special, you can also decorate your adventure gear. It could be something simple such as signs for your backpacks, or it could be more unique such as florals for your chalk bag if you’re having a climbing or canyoneering elopement.

There are a lot of ways to make your elopement day special & with a little brainstorming, the two of you can come up with more ideas! An elopement is such a personalized experience that you can make it anything you want. 


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