When browsing the web, I’ve come across many articles preparing couples for their elopement. While I definitely agree that that is a necessary resource, I haven’t found a ton to help photographers prepare! (Have no fear, elopement couples… there’s a resource coming for you soon! Stay tuned). If you’ve never shot an elopement before (or even if you’ve done 135), it can be overwhelming to plan. As a full-time elopement and intimate wedding photographer, I’ve had the honor of not only assisting my couples with their elopement, but I’m currently planning my own! So take it from me, and let’s dive into a photographer’s guide on how to prepare for an elopement.
Photographer’s Guide to Preparing for an Elopement
Whether you’ve photographed an endless number of elopements, or this is your first one, knowing how to prepare for an elopement will ensure that the day goes off without a hitch. While I’m going to take you through preparations closer to the elopement, there are a few things you can do once you have an elopement on your calendar. This might look different for each photographer, but I like to walk alongside my couples through the process. My biggest goal as an elopement photographer is to ensure my couples have the most magical, stress-free day.
Months in Advance:
- Send a detailed questionnaire to gather allllll the details. From the vibe down to their favorite part of the National Park or location, the more the merrier!
- Touch base frequently (but not too frequently). Planning a wedding, regardless of the size or location, is a lot of work. Tell your couples upfront how frequently they can expect to hear from you.
- Help create a timeline! Take into account your couples’ wishes – maybe they want to go for a morning swim or hike. Make sure there is time for that outlined in the timeline.
- As their date nears, send an additional questionnaire to chat through shot lists, necessary addresses and final details (Airbnb, parking, etc.)
- Order any special hiking gear that you may need! If your couple is planning to have an adventurous wedding, where you’ll be hiking 3 miles one way through the snow, now is the time to prepare. (I also suggest keeping up on walking/hiking to prepare your body – especially when carrying so much gear!)
If you have a current workflow for your traditional wedding couples, I encourage you to create one for your elopement clients. Pour as much as you do into them as you do your traditional wedding couples.
The Week of the Elopement:
- Fuel your body!
- From solid nutrition to good rest, don’t take this one for granted. During busy season, it can be so easy to let these fall to the wayside, but try your best to take care of your body.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!! ‘Nuff said.
- Confirm accommodations/Travel if Needed
- I personally arrive to the elopement location a couple days beforehand if I’m traveling. Not only does this ensure I’m on-time, but it allows me more time to settle in, scout locations, etc.
- Scout locations
- If the elopement is local, I have tons and tons of previously scouted locations that I double check to make sure they are open and no extra permits are needed.
- If the elopement is not local, I scout the majority of locations a few days before the elopement, but I like to get a head start when I first arrive. This also ensures I have ample time to have backup plans in tow.
A Few Days before the Elopement:
- Pack your gear + clothing
- I highly recommend checking out my Elopement Emergency Kit for Photographers! I’ve laid out an entire list of gear you’ll need for more elopements (as well as some extras for your couples). Honestly, you can never be too prepared for an elopement. While it’s important to keep in mind that you’re responsible for carrying everything you pack, I’d rather have more than enough resources than not enough. Nobody anticipates an emergency, but you should always plan for one!
- Pro Tip: If the elopement is in the desert, be prepared for hot and cold weather. The desert is like its’ own separate planet, I swear.
- Pro Tip: Just as the desert can change in an instant, so can a mountainous area. Be prepared for freak storms, wind, and wildlife.
- Print timeline and emergency/vendor info
- I know, I know. You’re not the “paper kinda person”. But trust me: you want to print this info! Not only are most elopements in remote locations with limited cell service, but technology can fail. By having paper copies of the timeline, shot list, emergency info, and vendor contacts, you’re as prepared as you can be.
- Re-Scout locations and hikes
- If you’ve ever tried to plan a hike at a National Park, you’ll know how frequently trails close. Whether there have been bear sightings, downed trees, or flash floods, you are at the mercy of mother nature.
- Plan the best parking and access to photo-ops, hikes, and other scenery that your couple wants to catch.
- Have backup plans! I personally write these down, and do my best to be familiar with how to get to these locations as well. There’s nothing worse than stressing your couple out because you can’t remember how to get to a certain hike or overlook. Pro tip: I use the app OnX to mark locations! The app gives you the capability to send pins and directions!
- Confirm meeting location and time with couple
- Things change! Couples change their minds, and often don’t have time to communicate it beforehand. I make sure to chat with them a couple days in advance (and the night before) to double/triple check what time and where they would like to meet and adjust the timeline if needed.
- Charge electronics and gear
- It’s a no-brainer to charge your camera gear, but don’t forget about your other gear! Headlamps, GPS devices, extra batteries, etc. all need to be properly charged to avoid any disasters. I like to keep backup batteries in tow, as well, if at all possible.
- Gas up (or charge) your vehicle
- Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I am guilty of running on E for as long as I can (my toxic trait 🤷🏻♀️). But I assure you, I never get gas the morning of an elopement! Making sure my vehicle is full at least the day before is one of my top priorities. This is especially important when traveling through remote areas (National Parks, the desolate desert, back roads, etc.). You never want to be without fuel!
Day of the Elopement:
- Wake up early
- While this one certainly depends on what time your coverage begins, the earlier you’re up, the more prepared you are.
- Eat a filling breakfast, drink water, and pack snacks
- You’ll find that I include snacks in my packing list for photographers, but make sure to eat before you head out for the day. Elopements are a bit different than traditional weddings. Most elopements are spent hiking with little time to sit.
- Check the weather
- The weather, unfortunately, is one thing that cannot be changed on an elopement day. Embrace it! Pack any additional gear you may need. If you’re able to drive in your vehicle or a rental, pack additional gear as a backup. The weather is always changing!
- Meet up with the couple!
- The best time of the process is finally here. I typically meet my couple at the entrance of the National Park (if applicable), because there’s normally no service within the park. We either caravan in together or carpool.
- Have a kicka** day!
- You’ve spent months preparing for this moment, and it’s time to kick it off. Embrace peace, knowing that you’re as prepared as can be. Let’s get these two married!!
Alright, fellow photographer, now that you know how to prepare for an elopement… it’s go-time. There is nothing more heartwarming than finally seeing all the months of preparation come to fruition. It can be such an anxious time to capture an elopement if it is your first one (or even first 10). But you’ve got this. You’re the expert – your couples have put their trust in you. Now, go crush it!!
Looking for more elopement tips or inspiration? BINGE THE BLOG HERE🎉 And I’d love to hear how your elopement goes over on Instagram (@sydneybreannphoto). Are you ready to wander?
[…] photographers to help prepare for an elopement and what I do to prepare. (You can view that blog HERE). And now I’m so excited to share my Couple’s Guide to Preparing for your Elopement! […]