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NATURE HOMESCHOOL

Nature Schooling- Books and Curriculum for Nature Loving Homeschoolers

Homeschooling Educational Philosophies

Child reading a nature book during homeschool.

Homeschooling doesn’t have to look like conventional schooling, and it most certainly doesn’t have to be stressful! Whether you have always wanted to tuck into homeschooling, or Covid has left you with little choice, it can be a rewarding experience for both you and your children. And if you take a nature schooling approach, the experience may even leave you all with a deeper connection to the outdoors.

In order to avoid the stress, it’s important to have grace with yourself. Homeschooling can seem daunting. You may find yourself worrying about whether your kids are learning everything they should. The truth is, you do not need to plan out every moment of every day. You’ll find that flexibility is your new best friend, and allowing your child to lead the way a bit will increase their enthusiasm, and forge a lifelong learner as well. Relax, find the magic in the little things, and trust in the process.

While flexibility is necessary, the other side of the coin, rhythm, can be incredibly helpful, too. This is especially the case with younger children. Building a basic rhythm into their day lets them know what to expect next, prevents meltdowns, and can turn into a lovely family tradition. For instance, you may decide to dedicate Tuesday afternoons to a poetry teatime with a home-baked treat that they helped prepare. This becomes something you can all look forward to, builds community, and is a lovely way to destress and take a breather. Increase the magic in your homeschooling experience by looking to nature for the most beautiful seasonal rhythms for inspiration. In fact, nature can form a lovely basis for your homeschooling, instilling an appreciation for the natural world in children from an early age, and capitalizing on all of the benefits that we know come from unstructured outdoor play.

Poetry teatime is a lovely ritual for a nature inspired homeschool.

 

A poetry teatime is the perfect way to establish a weekly rhythm for kids and gives everyone in the family something to look forward to.

The following are educational philosophies that many nature schooling parents decide to incorporate into their homeschooling experience. One may resonate with you or your child(ren) more than another. It’s also very likely that if you have more than one child, they learn differently. The best approaches take the learner into consideration. Create something that takes into account the whole child, their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. You’ll find that a  holistic and more eclectic approach will better meet everyone’s needs.  

These are each of the basic approaches in a nutshell.

Botanicum book is a great nature book for homeschooling.

Waldorf

  • created by Rudolf Steiner in 1919 
  • a heavy emphasis on arts and handwork (the arts train the will)
  • human connection is key to learning
  • rich stories told by a teacher/caregiver (usually with gestures, figures, and other simple storytelling manipulatives)
  • emphasis on connecting with nature and the rhythm of seasons
  • lessons are long and focus on one subject at a time in depth
  • natural play materials
  • holistic philosophy that seeks to educate the whole child: i.e., educating the hands, head, and heart

Charlotte Mason

  • created by Charlotte Mason
  • books do the teaching (living books written in narrative that present noble ideas are used in lieu of textbooks)
  • emphasis on nature and time spent outdoors exploring
  • habits train the will and good habits should be cultivated
  • lessons are brief and switch from one subject to another
  • emphasis on narration and writing

Montessori

  • created by Maria Montessori in 1907
  • beautiful materials do the teaching (the child has his or her “work”)
  • instills independence in the child, as the materials allow for self-correction
  • child led (they may choose their work and how long they will spend on it, though the teacher has already prepared the environment by choosing the materials that will be in the classroom that day)

Reggio Emilia

  • created by Loris Malaguzzi in Reggio Emilia, Italy after WWII 
  • environment is viewed as the third teacher
  • project based and child directed learning with the teacher as a collaborator in the learning process
  • very hands on utilizing lots of loose parts and manipulatives to create

Classical

  • dates back to the Middle Ages
  • objective is teaching students how to learn
  • learning occurs in three stages: 1) preparing, 2) grammar, 3) dialectic
  • learning occurs in three stages: 1) grammar, 2) logic, 3) rhetoric
  • five tools of learning: 1) reason, 2) record, 3) relate, 4) research, 5) rhetoric

Unit Studies

  • all studies are centered around a particular theme
  • a great way to teach to the whole child while capitalizing on their interests
  • For example, honeybee unit may look like the following. Studying bee anatomy and the bee life cycle, creating a beehive, a field trip to visit a local beekeeper, experimentation to explore how pollen sticks to a bee’s body, planting a bee garden and observing bee activity while collecting data and making a chart to illustrate it, tasting honey and pollen, reading books about bees for literacy and language development. 

Unschooling

  • completely child led, the child’s interests and passion drive their learning

Wildschooling

  • nature recognized as a fundamental human right and necessary for optimal human development
  • respects the whole child, and like forest schooling, recognizes the need for children to take calculated risks to develop their autonomy
  • nature-child relationship is dynamic
  • emergent learning emphasized
  • aligns with the rhythms of nature

Eclectic

  • pick and choose what works for you and your child(ren) from any of the approaches
  • some approaches may work well for one child, but another child may thrive in a different learning scenario
  • the eclectic approach is very flexible, allowing you to choose what resonates with you and what works for your specific home situation

Homeschooling pumpkin unity study

 

Pumpkin unit study

This Homeschool Style Quiz can help you decide what feels right for you.

On to my favorite nature inspired curricula! Some of these are pretty comprehensive and can absolutely be used alone. Or, if you’re like me, you may want to pick your favorite parts from each and create something wholly unique for your child and inspired by their own interests. Also, if you have children of multiple ages and you would rather not purchase a different curriculum for each of them, some of these can be adapted for mixed ages as well. 

Nature Schooling Curriculum Round Up

Nature homeschool curriculum

Exploring Nature With Children by Raising Little Shoots (Love this and would add it to any of the other curricula without hesitation. It’s a really beautiful way to celebrate and observe nature and how it changes with the seasons.)

The Habitat Schoolhouse (I’m in love with this curriculum and, for me, it fits perfectly with Exploring Nature With Children. The lessons are all based on nature and the outdoors.)The Habitat Schoolhouse has their new Fall Bundle available as well! There are so many goodies in this. 

The Peaceful Press (Main curriculum, but there are also standalone guides that make a lovely addition to your nature study or a different main curriculum of your choosing. There is religious content, but not so much that this curriculum can’t be used in secular study.)

A Year of Tales (Literature focused preschool curriculum inspired by Beatrix Potter tales. There is a small religious component, but if that’s not your cup of tea, you can adapt it for more secular study.)

Blossom & Root (A main curriculum and book seeds, which are guides inspired by fantastic children’s nature books that make wonderful “unit” studies.)

Wild Math (Takes math outside using nature as concrete manipulatives.)

Rooted Childhood (Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool resources.)

Christopherus Homeschool (homeschool Waldorf Curriculum)

Compilation of Free Nature Based Curricula

Brave Writer (Not nature-inspired, but a great writing resource to complement another nature program.)

Tanglewood Hollow (Waldorf inspired nature-based curriculum and nature studies/materials.)

Wild + Free subscription (homeschooling resources and inspiration + homeschooler meet up groups)

Nature Lesson Guides from Firefly Nature School (great for “unit” studies)

Little Acorn Learning (a wealth of Waldorf homeschooling resources)

My own Pinterest board is also a great resource for early childhood education. I’m constantly  adding nature resources and DIY’s on here. 

Favorite Etsy Shops for Nature Homeschool Printables

Bee unit study for nature based homeschool.

 

Bee Unit Study

These are some of my favorite shops to purchase nature-inspired printables to use in homeschooling unit studies and to complement larger curricula with hands on materials.

Chickie and Roo (lovely printables to complement your nature-based learning)

Red Oak Adventures (outdoor adventure gear for your entire family)

Brave Grown Home (nature guides, three-part cards, and other printables)

Honeycomb Cabin

Fiddlesticks Ed (lovely hand illustrated watercolor nature-based educational resources)

Brilliant Bungalow (homeschool curriculum and resources with beautiful homeschool bundles)

Twig and Moth (nature inspired illustrations and educational materials)

Steph Hathaway Designs (beautiful unit study bundles)

The Little Oak Learning (very Waldorfy feeling, focusing on storytelling (meet the Hiddles) and rhythms in a nature)

Kindergarten Toolkit (minimalist tools for preschoolers and Kindergarten)

***Many of these shops participate in seasonal bundles with other shops on this list!

Favorite Shops for Natural Toys

If you want to go all out with your homeschooling environment and create an atmosphere that will ultimately nurture your whole child, educating their head, hands, and heart, these shops have everything you need. Remember though, less is more (the book Simplicity Parenting will tell you all about this). Higher quality materials that encourage open-ended and imaginative play will not only physically last a lot longer, they also have more staying power emotionally and developmentally for your child. Their play becomes much more creative and sophisticated. 

I feel I should take a moment here to say that it’s also okay to let your child “be bored.” Parents aren’t put on this planet to entertain their children. We’re here to create enriched and wholesome environments filled with love, so that our children thrive, become increasingly independent, lifelong and enthusiastic learners, divergent thinkers, and, ultimately, actualized human beings.

Nature shelf for collecting treasures found outdoors during nature homeschooling.

Nestling + Nook (one of my very favorites)

Pickwick & Sprout (books and gorgeous toys/homeschool materials for early childhood)

Mirus Toys (my favorite Etsy toy shop with loads of nature inspired Waldorf and Montessori educational toys, from puzzles to play dough stamps (animal tracks!) to matching, sorting, and manipulatives)

Geodessee Toys (Montessori felt boards and three-part cards)

Wiwiurka (wooden climbing equipment and toys for active play)

Dimokl Wooden Toys (lovely tree blocks and other wooden toys for when you don’t want to make them yourself)

Mamuma Bird (More lovely wooden objects, including puzzles for little ones. We purchased a beautiful wooden leaf puzzle from here.

All Alive (nature inspired Waldorf and Montessori toys)

Sea of Grass Studio (gorgeous handmade natural art supplies, such as beeswax crayons)

Magic Stones Art Shop (story stones for early literacy to bring your child’s favorite nature books to life)

Favorite Nature Schooling Books

Finally, if you’re looking for beautiful nature books to build your child(ren)’s library, books to complement any of the above curriculum (or to create your very own unique curriculum), books to get cozy with on rainy days while drying out after tramping through wet forests, or books for your own parenting/teaching journey, they’re on this list. 

Nature Anatomy, Farm Anatomy, and Food Anatomy books by Julia Rothman

A List of Beautiful Children’s Picture Books About Nature

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World

The Snail and the Whale

Mud Pies and Other Recipes

"The Story of the Root Children" and "Mud Pies and Other Recipes" books

The Story of the Root Children: Mini Edition

The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems

Foraging with Kids: 52 Wild and Free Edibles to Enjoy With Your Children 

Moon: A Peek-Through Picture Book

Nature All Around: Bugs

Pond Circle

Over and Under the Snow

Nature’s Day: Discover the world of wonder on your doorstep

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year

Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter

The Organic Artist for Kids: A DIY Guide to Making Your Own Eco-Friendly Art Supplies from Nature

Tiny, Perfect Things

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Botanicum: Welcome to the Museum

Botanicum and Animalium books

Animalium: Welcome to the Museum

A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature

All About the Bees

Bees: A Honeyed History

The Honeybee

About Trees

Trees: A Rooted History

Nature All Around: Trees

The Magic and Mystery of Trees

Because of an Acorn

Seeds and Trees: A children’s book about the power of words

I Am The Seed That Grew

For Very Tiny Ones

Adventures with Barefoot Critters

Counting with Barefoot Critters

For Parents/Caregivers

Homeschooling books for parents

Play The Forest School Way: Woodland Games and Crafts for Adventurous Kids

A Year of Forest School: Outdoor Play and Skill-building Fun for Every Season

Forest School Adventure: Outdoor Skills and Play for Children

How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature 

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids

The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education

The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life

The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

Handbook of Nature Study

"Exploring Nature With Children" and the "Handbook of Nature Study" books for nature based homeschools

Waldorf Books for Caregivers of the Very Young

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher: Encouraging Your Child’s Natural Development from Birth to Age Six

Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing Our Children from Birth to Seven

Online Class for the Yogi Parent

Parenting through the Chakras (I have learned so much from the woman who created this course. Whether you’re a yogi parent or not, there is a lot to gain from this woman’s calming presence and immense knowledge about child development.)

That’s it! I hope this post serves as a handy set of field notes and gives your homeschooling journey some direction. Or, at the very least, has inspired you to go out and create something that educates your child and feeds your own soul, too. Remember, there are communities of like-minded parents out there, so you don’t have to go it alone! And if I’ve missed something on this list, please comment with it below! I want this to be a really comprehensive resource and that means I’ll be continuously updating it with all the suggestions I receive, as well as new treasures that I find during my own nature schooling journey.  

The best books and resources for nature homeschooling your kids.

Raising a wild child with nature homeschooling curriculum.

Categories
ELOPING WITH KIDS HOW TO ELOPE

Eloping With Kids- Ultimate Guide for Including Children in Your Elopement

Including children in your elopement takes planning, but it is a meaningful way of showing them that you’re truly all in this together! Your new adventure as a married couple is an experience you deserve to cherish for the rest of your lives, and planning a day that involves your children can foster feelings of connectedness and belonging amongst all of you. There are lots of reasons for eloping with kids. Below are just a few, as well as loads of ideas for how to include them in your elopement day.

There are lots of ways to include children when eloping with kids along.

Reasons to include your children in your elopement plans

Our children learn from watching us. Their mimicry and imitation of our words, actions, and emotions can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s also a strong motivator for you to be intentional and authentic. Involving them in your elopement plans gives you a chance to show your children what matters most to you – your relationship with your partner, with them, and with our planet. It’s an opportunity to set an example, align your actions with your beliefs, and demonstrate your values in an immensely tangible way. By eloping instead of planning an expensive and wasteful traditional wedding, you show your children that you value experiences over things, and that time spent outdoors with your loved ones is your favorite way to celebrate! By sharing this celebration outdoors in your favorite space, you’re forever connecting intention and celebration with your deep love of nature.

Child in a stroller at an outdoor elopement ceremony.

Our children benefit from experience outdoors

Showing our children what we value most will help them appreciate those same things as they grow older. Developing a connection with nature at a young age helps your children in so many ways! Yes, an elopement is just one day outside, but it’s an immensely important one! And it could very well be the spark that ignites a lifelong love of nature!

Reason 1: Nature facilitates the development of creativity & imagination.

Little girl blowing a wish flower while enjoying time in nature.

  • Natural environments and their contents are more open-ended and less structured, which allows children to use their imaginations, to dream of new possibilities, and to use objects in novel and inventive ways.

Reason 2: Time in nature helps our kids build confidence.

  • They learn to take calculated risks, and discover they can do things without the constant help of adults.
  • Kids have freedom to act outdoors, instead of actions being completely dictated by a curated interior environment, which gives kids a greater sense of efficacy.

Reason 3: Nature helps children build connections and take responsibility.

  • Children who fall in love with wild places are more likely to grow up wanting to protect them.
  • Being outside stimulates a sense of wonder! Children become interested in the Earth and the systems on our planet that foster life. 
  • Being outdoors is the most natural way to teach Leave No Trace principles to our young ones. When they are outside, they learn firsthand what happens if they forget to water a plant, or what happens when they pull a flower. They come to understand the power their actions can have on the planet. 

Reason 4: marrying your best friend is the most amazing experience to share with your children!

By planning your dream outdoor elopement, you’re teaching your kids that anything is possible, and to follow any kind of dream they may have. By watching you act upon your convictions, they witness evidence that untraditional and intentional actions can have great reward, and result in the most meaningful experiences! And by including them in your elopement plans, you’re showing them that you’re all in this together!

Flower children at an outdoor family-friendly elopement.

You are embracing YOUR adventure, prioritizing your relationship in front of your children, and modeling an Earth-centric way to commit to your partner and your family.

Things to think about when planning your family-friendly elopement

Remember this: Your relationship with your partner is still the focus of your elopement, even when your kids are along. Involving your children in your wedding day doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice intimacy with your partner. It’s okay to preserve the elopement ceremony for just the two of you! There are many ways to elope with kids, even if you do choose to step aside at the ceremony to privately share your vows. If a family-friendly elopement is your dream wedding, you’ll find creative ways to involve them below! 

Whether you want to involve your kids in your ceremony or not, you first have to decide what kind of ceremony you want to have! Yes, there are more ways than one to have a wedding ceremony – now is your chance to choose the method right for you and your family.

Your answers to these basic questions will influence how your elopement takes shape:

  • Will we get legally married at this elopement, or will this be a commitment ceremony?
    • Commitment ceremonies are basically just wedding ceremonies without the legal paperwork. For many reasons (such as, timing, location, and guest count) couples choose to separate the legal requirements from their elopement. This means you don’t have to have witnesses or an officiant present on the day you say your vows.
    • Commitment ceremonies are sometimes called “symbolic ceremonies,” and they give you the freedom to do things in whatever way feels right for you! Write your own vows, celebrate your own traditions, and remember that there’s no “wrong way” to celebrate!
  • Will we be self-solemnizing or will an officiant be marrying us?
    • An officiant or celebrant can be a minister, a best friend, a close relative, or even your photographer (I’m actually a licensed officiant and can do this for you!). If you’re not getting married in one of these self-solemnizing states (PA, IL, WI, CO, DC, CA, ME, NV, KS), you will need a licensed officiant, and likely witnesses, at your ceremony. 
    • If your ceremony destination is remote and requires some effort to get to, you may have to find an officiant who is as adventurous as you are!
    • If you’re in a self-solemnizing state, anyone can lead the ceremony – no license required! 
  • Will there be a religious component?
    • Some religious ceremonies necessitate the inclusion of specific passages and readings.
    • Certain religions also have strict rules regarding who can and cannot be involved in the legally binding portion of your marriage union, so keep that in mind as you look to include your little ones.

After nailing down the details of the kind of ceremony you wish to have, you can start dreaming up ways to include your children. The following will help!

how to include your children in your elopement- ideas for eloping with kids along

1. Have your little ones help you during the “getting ready” phase of your day

  • Have your daughter brush your hair, and brush hers. Have your child zip up or button your dress (even if they have only started practicing zippers and buttons). Have your child tie your tie, or button your jacket. Even if they don’t manage to actually accomplish these tasks from beginning to end, I promise these getting ready moments will make beautiful photographs and memories for all of you. You can do this whether your children are coming to your ceremony or not. It’s a way to both involve them meaningfully and to make them feel a part of the action.
  • Expert tip: Make sure to set aside plenty of time for getting ready when small kids are involved. I am familiar with the anxiety that stems from needing to be somewhere at a certain time, despite small children wanting to do everything on their own (and painfully slowly!). Kids move at a different rhythm than adults, and there’s no sense in trying to impart in them a sense of urgency. It won’t do you any good. Give yourself time to enjoy moments that naturally unfold during this intimate part of your wedding day. 

2. Family First Looks

Bride laughing with the flower girl and ring bearer during a family first look at an outdoor wedding.

  • Have a first look with your little ones, before or after a first look with your partner. Your child will feel so important seeing you ready to get married before your ceremony, and the sweet moments this creates are such a lovely addition to an already incredibly meaningful day. And they photograph beautifully.

3. Ask them to be flower children or ring bearers

Little girl acting as the ring bearer during an outdoor elopement ceremony.

  • Yeah, it’s a more traditional role, but remember elopements don’t have rules! You can take what you like from traditional weddings and leave all the rest! Just don’t forget outdoor weddings require a bit more care, and LNT principles should be followed at all times (it’s also a great time to teach your kiddos what LNT principles are all about!). LNT means that you won’t be throwing confetti or flowers in wild places. Instead, let them get creative! Have them brainstorm how they would like to perform their role. I promise, they will think of ideas you would never imagine.

4. Write vows for everyone

  • Write vows for your partner, and your kids! Or ask your kids to write down their feelings to share during the ceremony. If they aren’t old enough to write yet, they can tell an adult what they want to say in their letter (maybe an older sibling, or grandparent). If they’re too young to really verbalize their feelings, have them draw a picture!
  • Including vows to your children shows them the commitment being made is not only to your partner, but to them, and to your family as a whole.
  • You can write your vows to your children in the cover of their favorite childhood book as a special keepsake for them.

Vows can be written in a favorite book of poetry and given to your partner as a keepsake after the ceremony.

Vows can be written in a favorite book and given as a keepsake after the ceremony.

5. Set aside a special time during your ceremony to let them talk

  • Your marriage is a change for them, as much as it may be for you. Even if your typical living situation hasn’t altered much and you’ve been living with your partner for years, there’s something solidifying about tying the knot and making it all “official” with a ceremony. Your kids may feel this weight even more than you do, as kids find a lot of meaning in rituals (especially young ones). Give them an opportunity to talk about what this means to them and what they are looking forward to. You may be surprised and really touched by their earnestness. 

Flower child at outdoor elopement with kids.

Tips and inspiration for writing vows

Vows are often quite personal, may be handwritten, and are filled with and elicit a lot of emotion.  You and your partner can write these together, or compose vows separately and have it all be a surprise, steeping your day in that much more emotion. There’s absolutely no need to memorize your vows. Your wedding day will be filled with so much emotion; take some pressure off and hand write them in a vow book. Or, as a memorable sentimental gift, hand write them in a favorite book and give it as a special gift to your partner at the end of the ceremony.

If you’re writing your own vows, here are a few questions to ask yourself to kick-start the writing process:

  • What is one of your very favorite things about your partner, about your children?
  • Describe one of the times you were proud of your partner, or children.
  • What’s one of the craziest, most adventurous things you have done with your partner?
  • Why did you fall in love with your partner and, importantly, why are you still in love with them?
  • And finally, What are you promising your partner, or your children?
Need more help with writing vows? Check out this “how to write your personal wedding vows” blog post for tips, tricks, and inspiration.

6. huge list of ways to Involve them in the ceremony

Unity ceremony ideas with child 

In a unity ceremony, you take separate things and combine them, turning them into a new singular item. These ceremonies take on many different forms, so there are options for anyone wishing to add some symbolism to their wedding day, and to include their children in the process. 

Couple adding soil to their tree during a tree planting unity ceremony at an intimate wedding.

  • Unity candle ceremony – Light one large candle from smaller candles held by you, your partner, and each of your children, symbolizing the union of you all.
  • Tree planting ceremony – Gather soil from each of your hometowns, have your children gather soil from the home they now live in, as well as the place you intend to build your future together, and combine it in a pot to plant a tree. In a backyard wedding ceremony, this tree can be planted in your own yard right from the start to serve as a reminder for the whole family of your wedding day and of the commitments you have made to each other. This symbolizes that relationships take tending and nurturing to grow big and strong. Giving your children the job of caring for your tree continues to make them feel a part of your wedding, your family, and helps them to learn to care for a piece of nature as well!
  • Sand ceremony – Each of you and your children get a different color of sand in separate vessels to pour into one single vase, creating a lovely display, and signifying a union that is impossible to separate. This is a great alternative to a candle ceremony for outdoor weddings taking place in windy locations. It’s also great for younger children who may not be able to safely handle a lit candle.
  • Blending paint – Perfect for your little artists. Each of you choose a different color of paint and then pour it onto a single canvas, symbolizing your union, and creating a piece of art representative of your relationship. And you end up with a great and sentimental piece of art to hang in your home.

Bonus Idea for Adult Unity Ceremonies: Wine or Beer (and maybe Whiskey, too!) – You choose two different (but compatible!) wines or beers and pour them into a glass to create a third perfect blend that you then drink together. And when your kids are of age, they can toast you as well! Of course, you can involve your kids in more than just unity ceremonies. Below are some more suggestions!

Wine bottles in a handmade wooden box to seal for a later time.

Handfasting ceremony

This is a Celtic marriage tradition, and very possibly where we get the phrase, “tie the knot.” The couple joins right hand to right hand and left hand to left hand, making a figure eight to represent eternity. Then a strip of cloth, ribbon, or piece of fabric is used to tie their crossed wrists together symbolizing union. Your child can do the tying, either alone or with the help of an older sibling or adult. 

Sage smudging ceremony

This is a ritual you may not have considered. Smudging can be used in a secular or religious ceremony, regardless of your faith. You need only three things: a bundle of sage, something to light it, and a bowl to hold it while it burns. After the bundle of sage is lit, an intention, affirmation, or blessing is said by you, your officiant, or even your child (if you’re a Waldorf parent, this may be right up your alley!). Sage is an herb thought to have cleansing properties and, when used on one’s wedding day, is believed to cleanse away negative energy, allowing the family to commence marriage on the right foot. Note: Sage smudging has deep religious and cultural ties to indigenous peoples and should be done respectfully. Take the opportunity to teach your little ones the history and importance of this cultural tradition.

Lasso or El Lazo ceremony

Traditional in Mexican, Filipino, and Spanish cultures, this involves draping a floral garland or rosary around the couple (twisted in the infinity symbol, of course). Your child can do the draping, or can even squeeze into the garland. It is then saved as a symbol of love and unity.

Lei exchange

A lei exchange can be done between the couple, between the couple and their kids, or  grandparents can bestow the leis on the couple and their grandkids. Maile leaf is a popular choice for guys, whereas women wear more fragrant flowers, such as tuberose. Of course, you can use whatever you want!

Ceremonies involving the sharing of a cup

A quaich at a family wedding ceremony.

Communion isn’t the only time a wedding couple might drink from a cup. They are varied, and are used in many cultures, for instance, a Scottish quaich or a Native American wedding vase. You can celebrate by using a child-friendly beverage and all take a sip from the communal cup.

Other ideas to involve your kids

Bride and groom nailing a family time capsule during an outdoor elopement ceremony.

Create a family time capsule!

  • A family wedding day time capsule. Each of you can add a special love note or meaningful item to the box to be stowed away to open at some later date. This is a great way to remind you of what your children were interested in, and where they were in their childhood when you got married. It will be a sentimental reminder for all of you of what your life was like with kids the year you got married. 
  • Let your child pronounce you married. It’s okay if they aren’t quite talking yet. Baby babbles are super cute and a moment you’re not soon to forget!
  • Have your child sign your marriage license. If you’re getting hitched in a self-solemnizing state, your child can sign as witness or officiant. They will feel so important, and this becomes a lovely keepsake to pull out when reminiscing about your wedding day.
  • Do you or your children have other skills you want to put to use on your elopement day? If musically inclined, you could play a song together, or maybe your children could perform one for the two of you. You can write your own song, or choose one that is meaningful to your family.
  • Local traditions. If you’re getting married via a destination elopement, consider incorporating local traditions. Learning about the place you’re getting married can bring up some wonderful ways to celebrate while tying the knot!
  • Cultural traditions. Traditions that give a nod to your roots can imbue your day with even more purpose and intention. This can teach your kids about where they come from while celebrating the future of your family!
  • Start your own family tradition, and have your children help! This can literally be anything you and your kids can dream up. Put them to task brainstorming ways to make your ceremony extra meaningful and they’ll probably come up with things you never would have considered! 
  • Involve family and friends who won’t be there with you. Ask family and friends to write notes for you to read to each other at some point during your wedding day. You’ll feel their love and support from a distance, no matter how far away they are.
  • Wedding cake.  If a wedding cake is as important to you as it is to me, go ahead and have some. Let your kids help choose a style, pick a flavor, and dish it out! I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t like cake!
  • Family wedding reception. You can pack a family picnic to enjoy after your ceremony, and revel in the view from where you chose to say your vows.

Groom playing a song to his family during an intimate forest wedding with kids.

Final things to consider when eloping with kids

7. Be honest with what you want.

If you want an adventurous ceremony that is a bit too exciting for the kids, there are still many ways to involve them! As mentioned above, bring your kids in on the planning and give them a chance to personally craft part of your elopement day, so you can see their hands in the celebration whether they are present or not. You can also include your children virtually by calling them before or after the ceremony.

If your kids are up for part of the adventure, but might not make it all day, split your schedule to spend time with your children before and after your vow exchange. If you want a private vow exchange with your partner, invite your children in for the first look or while you’re getting ready, so they can see how excited you are for this commitment. You can also plan a multi-day wedding experience where one day is family-focused, and another is just-us time with your partner.

8. Be realistic with your expectations.

Only you know your children, their capabilities, and their limits. You are intimately aware of what makes them happy and what is going to put them in a bad mood. Choose an adventure they can handle, or have an alternative plan. Remember: if they can’t handle a backpacking elopement and that kind of adventure is super important to you, you can still make it happen and involve them in other ways! Be realistic about their abilities and have back-up plans. 

9. Designate a kiddo wrangler.

A kiddo wrangler at an outdoor elopement ceremony can entertain your children while you have the best day ever.

Designate a best friend or family member who is attending as your kiddo wrangler, so your child can be present and you can get married without needing to constantly worry about their safety and happiness. Your kids will be happy to have someone else to interact with. Plus, if your kids are anything like mine, they’re much more likely to behave well for another adult.

10. Explain LNT principles to your children in a way that makes sense to them

This article will help: 

Help Kids Leave No Trace 

11. Come prepared! 

Little girl carrying her lovey at an outdoor elopement with kids.

Encouraging your child to bring their lovey along is a great way to keep them occupied and have them feel safe and secure in a new situation.

The best way to ensure everyone is safe, has fun, and doesn’t become overwhelmed is to be prepared for your elopement location and plan. Check out this blog post for the list of essential outdoor wedding gear you’ll want to have on hand!

In summary: You can absolutely have a stress-free wedding day with children, if you plan accordingly! I’m an expert when it comes to planning outdoor celebrations that involve children, and I’d love to help you plan and document the perfect elopement for your family.

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ELOPEMENT TIPS

Top 9 Reasons to Have an Outdoor Wedding

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of families spending time together in nature. So it was only a matter of time before I figured it necessary to tuck into all the reasons to have an outdoor wedding, too. 

Generally speaking, kids that spend time in nature are less stressed, have healthier immune systems, are more focused and creative, and have greater feelings of self fulfillment and social connectedness than kids that spend the majority of their time between four walls. And children naturally want to spend time in wild places. But nature isn’t just good for kids; being in nature is an integral part of what makes adults human, too. And it’s fantastic for our relationships. 

Whether we embrace the outdoors or not, most of us intuitively know that nature is good for us. And there is now ample scientific evidence to back up this intuition. Research suggests that nature makes adults happier, healthier, and even more creative. We also now know that exposure to nature can promote healing, decrease depression, and improve overall psychological well-being. There are several theories circulating as to why nature has such a positive influence on our health, including the Psychoevolutionary Theory, the Attention Restoration Theory, and the theory that seems straight out of a sci-fi movie implicating a bacterium present in the soil.  

As an eclectic Psychology PhD, I genuinely believe that all of these theories (and probably many more!) account for some of the positive benefits gained from time spent in wild places. However, as someone who photographs outdoor family weddings for a living, I have to ask one question that seems to be glaringly absent from the conversation. How might time in nature help us to forge and maintain a strong bond with the people we love? We are social animals and we evolved in natural spaces with other social animals. Nature must play a role in our socio-emotional lives and, specifically, in our close relationships. After all, a happier, healthier human is also more likely to be a better social partner and parent. So, in the spirit of answering this question, I’ve compiled a list of nine ways that being in nature can create the very best wedding day and strongest emotional footing possible when commencing life with your chosen person.

Wedding couple running through a slot canyon in Arizona during their outdoor wedding.

 

Top Reasons to Have an Outdoor Wedding

Reason 1: Nature reduces stress and anxiety.

Simply viewing natural scenes has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. However, getting out there in the thick of it has additional benefits. Think about how you feel after binge watching that new Netflix original. A little dazed? Perhaps, disoriented? Really anything but connected. Now think back to how you feel after a day spent in the forest, or kayaking on a body of water. Rejuvenated, clear-minded, recharged, right?  

Need a reason to have an outdoor wedding? Having a stress-free experience that is rejuvenating, rather than draining, is a pretty good one. Though you dodge quite a bit of stress and anxiety by ditching the traditional wedding scene, life itself is a source of stress and anxiety. Do yourself a favor and reduce those on your wedding day by taking your love outdoors. And while you’re there, soak in all that beauty. 

Reason 2: Nature facilitates trust, cooperation, and generosity.

Wedding couple holding hands on a hiking trail during their outdoor elopement in the Pacific Northwest.

Natural environments, by their very nature, may provide unexpected challenges. Coping with these challenges necessitates both communication and cooperation. And successfully meeting these challenges increases feelings of connectedness and our sense of trust. All of these elements are important in a healthy union, and the strengthening of the social bonds in your family.

In a way, nature helps us prepare for the challenges that inevitably occur in a marital relationship, not to mention the challenges that are prevalent during parenthood. Start your marriage off on the right foot by conquering a challenge together, and you’ll know that your partner has your back no matter what happens down the road. Being married and being a parent is a team sport. Consider hiking that mountain on your wedding day your very own spring training.

Reason 3: Nature increases closeness.

Couple kissing outside at their adventure elopement.

Nature increases positive emotions that are necessary for feelings of closeness, reducing the boundaries between self and other. Breaking down our emotional barriers allows us to let others in to share experiences more fully. If fully immersing yourself in the experience with your loved one isn’t a reason to have an outdoor wedding, I don’t know what is. 

Reason 4: Nature slows time down and places us in the moment by heightening the senses.

Nature increases our calm alert state bringing us more fully into the moment. When we are in nature, we are engaging senses that are underused in our more modern, urban environments. While we do still engage the visual sense, we become more aware of sound and touch, as well.  For instance, we become cognizant of the sound of wind rustling through the trees and, at the same time, we can feel it lightly touch our faces.  

While these underused senses are engaged, the frontal lobe is deactivated. This deactivation allows for a kind of reset to take place. Our batteries recharge, and the attentive processes that are depleted in a complex urban environment are restored. Alpha waves increase that contribute to this calm, alert state. Essentially, nature makes us feel zen. Distractions are removed, giving us a chance to focus on each other and reconnect in a mindful way. 

Reason 5: Nature increases our feelings of connection to a broader reality.

Wedding couple gazing at a mountain range during their adventurous elopement at Rattlesnake Ledge in North Bend, Washington.

It’s harder to sweat the small stuff, the tiny hurts and emotional slights, when we’re taking in something so much bigger and more comprehensive than ourselves. We’ve all been there. Gazed at a distant mountain range and have felt that we are but a small part of something larger. Being in a state of awe on your wedding day is a pretty magical combination and definitely a reason to have an outdoor wedding in nature.

Reason 6: Nature influences the very, well, nature of our memories.

Having an experience in the outdoors makes for richer memories, exactly what you want for your wedding day. As a species, we now spend so much time inside that being outdoors has become a novelty, resulting in the creation of stronger memories. These rich memories correlate with more enduring love. So how does nature increase memory? Immersing oneself in nature decreases cortisol levels, which are known enemies to memory capacity. Cortisol is a stress hormone. So give yourself the gift of a stress-free wedding by having it outdoors with the people you love and who love you the most.   

Reason 7: Being in nature results in faster emotional processing.

Bride and groom embracing during their elopement in a slot canyon near Page, Arizona.

Our modern urban environments are filled with distractions that eat up our attention. We’re constantly receiving phone calls, fielding emails, and being bombarded by stimuli from all directions. Our brains have to deal with this and to do so, they start to filter out very subtle cues, even in important social relationships.  

Nature has a remedy for this already hinted at above. A natural environment has far fewer distractions, and this allows us to reenter a state of calm, bringing us back into the moment. All those tiny signals that our partner gives us and that we send to them are more easily picked up on and interpreted in a natural environment. This, in turn, increases feelings of connectedness and understanding. Basically, you feel that you’re on the same wavelength. Emotional situations become that much more emotional and meaningful when you feel seen, heard, and understood so thoroughly. I can’t think of a more perfect scenario for a wedding day.

Reason 8: Nature as love potion number nine?

Baby touching wildflowers along a hiking trail in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.

The soil contains a bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae, which in mice (and probably humans, too) results in the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to play a role in maintaining a positive mood and warding off depression. In nature we are also exposed to terpenes, the aroma emitting component of essential oils created by plants, flowers, and even some insects. Two major terpenes are limonene (a chemical found in citrus fruits) and linalools (found in flowers and spice plants and the primary compound responsible for scent in lavender). These natural fragrances can relax us and enhance mood, or even put us in the mood ;-).    

Reason 9: Spending time in green spaces is as good for nature as it is for us.

When we develop a love for the outdoors, we are more invested in protecting these natural and wild pieces of the earth. We share this love with our children and they, too, grow up invested in protecting these same places. We are all more likely to take care of our planet, if we truly experience it.

Groom holding a grasshopper at an outdoor wedding.


It’s not surprising that there are so many benefits from experiencing nature. For most of our ancestral heritage, we were living there, right smack dab in the middle of it. The myriad of natural experiences that influenced us in our ancestral past have shaped our psychological world and, in turn, our ability to cultivate connections with other social beings. So get back to nature and take your intimacy to the next level.

Convinced an outdoor wedding is right for you? This post will help you choose the perfect spot to say “I do.” 

Ready to plan your elopement in nature?

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BEST PLACES TO ELOPE ELOPEMENT TIPS

Where to Elope- Tips for Choosing Your Dream Location

One of the biggest wedding day decisions you will make as a couple is where to elope. What piece of earth should you choose to get married on?

I strongly believe that a couple’s wedding day should be wholly representative of their relationship, authentic, and relevant to who they are as a couple. And, if their kids are involved, authentic to their little family, too. Everyone deserves a true-to-you wedding day experience. After all, these are moments that are going to stay with you over the years, something to celebrate during good times, and a buoy for your relationship when the waters get rough. One of the best ways to bring your true selves to your wedding day is to choose an elopement location that is completely you.   

The beauty of elopements and intimate weddings is that you can get married *almost* anywhere for any reason you wish. There is so much more flexibility to be had when your wedding day consists of just you, your kiddos, and a handful of others (or just you and your kids!). I’ve photographed weddings on mountaintops, lakeside, and in deserts, in 200 year-old barns, and in ancient old growth forests. Each of my experiences has shown me that commitment is enriched when it’s wrapped in the warmth of a location that speaks to your collective soul. 

I get it though, the seemingly limitless options can be downright overwhelming. All that flexibility can feel like both a blessing and a curse. I’m here to help! Keeping these considerations in mind while dreaming up a location can help you narrow down the options, and discover a location that is utterly and completely reflective of your family’s love story.

How to choose where to elope, whether it's in a slot canyon, like this couple, or anywhere else on the planet.

Wedding locations can be broken down into two main groups, 1) locations that have a nostalgic aspect, and 2) those that are novel/adventurous. Of course, a location can be chosen because it falls into both of these categories, as well! Let’s look at them more closely and, hopefully, spark some ideas in the process.

1. Nostalgic Locations

These are locations that evoke a sense of history. Perhaps yours, your relationship’s, your family’s, or a cherished relative’s. Maybe the place you had your first date or first hike, the place where you first said, “I love you,” or a special location that you often frequent together. Nostalgic locations may also stir childhood memories, a place where there are family ties. Such locations may be significant due to ancestral, religious, or heritage-related reasons. Maybe you want to marry your loved one in the exact location that your great grandparents met, or were wed.  

Nostalgic locations are steeped with history and, as a result, are oftentimes brimming with sentiment. These locations are a great choice for amplifying those feelings of purpose and intent that are already naturally present on your wedding day.  

A little Italian Chapel on Orkney Island  is the perfect nostalgic location for an elopement or intimate wedding.
Maybe your Grandparents were wed in a little chapel like this one on Orkney Island.

2. Novel/Adventurous Locations

Novel and adventurous locations become meaningful by virtue of the history that you will create with your partner and your children at that site. If you want a new experience or adventure to share as part of your wedding day experience, these types of locations do the trick.  

A couple exploring a slot canyon during their elopement day.

A novel location has the added benefit of providing challenge, both physical and mental. Facing an unpredictable new landscape or engaging in a new activity together leads to increased cooperation, feelings of trust, and heightened intimacy, all elements that you want present on the day you promise your life to your chosen person (and on all the days that follow!). Sharing a new adventure together forges memories of accomplishing something novel and meaningful as a couple. These memories can, in turn, be revisited when your marriage needs a little pick me up. 

Horseshoe Bend at sunset is an adventurous elopement location perfect for a couple or family that wants to share a new experience on their wedding day.

Your location might fit into one of the above categories, or may have qualities that make it an equally good fit for both. The most important thing to keep in mind when brainstorming where to elope, and eventually choosing a location, is that it truly represents you and your partner, either literally, symbolically, or both. Perhaps sequoias that have stood the test of time are the perfect giants to witness a union that will, likewise, be enduring. Maybe a placid alpine lake best represents your easy-going natures and the tranquility that you find in each other’s presence. Gazing out from a rugged cliff edge may perfectly embody the excitement that you feel about taking this leap of faith into building a life together. 

Where to elope, if you want wildflowers? This couple eloped at Discovery Park in Seattle, WA when the wildflowers were blooming.

Finding a location that speaks to your collective soul is incredibly important. And, let’s face it, it’s pretty romantic as well. But what about the more practical aspects of location selection? Thinking about the following early on in the planning process will help turn those elopement location dreams into a stress-free reality! 

3. Geographic and Ecological Interests

Probably the most obvious characteristic of a location is it’s geography, all those landforms that make a place so unique. Natural landscapes may be mountainous, coastal, riverine, desert, or tropical. Knowing what type of geography speaks to you is a good starting place for finding the perfect piece of earth to say “I do.”  

Interestingly, the geographic characteristics of a location are important enough on a psychological level that researchers in both environmental psychology and anthropology have dedicated their lives to studying how people develop attachments and emotional bonds with the land. It’s easy to see how bonds might form between humans and landscapes, beyond what you would expect is strictly necessary for survival. Landscapes seem to take on a personality and emotion of their own. Rugged mountainous landscapes can evoke a sense of wonder and awe, reminding us the world is so much bigger than we are. This sense of “awe” can make us more generous and increase other prosocial behaviors, like cooperation. And some landscapes just feel romantic.   

So ask yourself, is there a particular geographic landscape that reflects you as a couple. A place your family naturally gravitates to? Somewhere you seem to just “fit”? Move beyond choosing a landscape simply for the breathtaking images, and pick a place that provides additional meaning on your wedding day.

A couple eloping in the Superstition Mountain foothills with their toddler.

4. Activities

What activities do you and your kids want to do on your wedding day? Some locations lend themselves to certain activities more than others. Hiking works well in mountainous landscapes. Cliff walking necessitates the presence of cliffs. And you can’t kayak without a body of water. I know it seems obvious, but believe me, it’s worth pointing out! It’s funny how things like this can be overlooked in the excitement of dreaming up your day. 

If you’re eloping with your kids along, it’s also super important to be realistic about both your own and your children’s abilities. If you’ve never hiked as a family before, but are set on this type of adventure for your elopement day, go on some shakedown hikes (shorter and easier day hikes where you can practice and see how your kids cope). If you want to do something you don’t have a lot of experience with, it’s still absolutely doable, it just takes a little planning. 

The Sonoran desert at sunset is a stunning location to consider when deciding where to elope with family.

5. Time of Year and Weather

This is a super important consideration to make when choosing where to elope, as some locations are inaccessible during certain times of the year. If you envision your wedding day taking place in a snowy wonderland, but the location you love is closed during the winter months, you’ll want to know this and make alternate arrangements early. Likewise, if you dream of chasing the changing leaves, then you’ll want to make sure your chosen location puts on an epic show during the fall.

A couple kissing during their elopement under a giant tree in an old New Hampshire forest.

6. Privacy and Seclusion  

How private, secluded, and remote of a location do you want?And how much are you willing to work to get there? Some really remote locations require backpacking in. Others are so remote that they require access via a helicopter. If having a really private and secluded ceremony is important to you, a remote location may be the way to go. But a remote location isn’t necessarily needed to experience privacy and intimacy either. You can find pockets of seclusion in even the most frequented National Parks, but it, like everything else, does require some planning. You may have to opt for getting married during a particular location’s off-season. 

If you’re absolutely in love with a location, but crowds seem impossible to avoid, try exploring locations within a 50-mile radius of the place that you love. The landscape will likely be similar, and you can very possibly avoid hoards of people. The most geotagged locations (those that are popping up on Instagram and Pinterest again and again) will be the most popular. Use those as a jumping off point, and then venture out in all directions to find something that will provide both the landscape and the seclusion that you desire. 

When deciding where to elope, consider a mountain elopement like this couple did at Mount Rainier National Park.

7. Accessibility

This is a big one to consider. Not only because some locations are completely inaccessible during certain times of the year and under certain weather conditions, but also because they may restrict the number of guests who can attend. So ask yourself how many people will be attending. Also, keep in mind any guests that may need special accommodations to get to your ceremony site, and make sure your chosen location has these available. If it’s just you, your partner, your kids, and a couple of vendors (maybe your officiant and photographer), then you’ll have more options for where to elope. However, if close family and friends will be celebrating with you, it’s still entirely possible to find your perfect elopement location!  

Can’t bear to part with your dog during your wedding day? Don’t! Finding dog-friendly locations and trails is definitely doable, and definitely worth doing. After all, dogs are family members, too.

A Goldendoodle puppy running in the Sonoran Desert.

A note on permits. Many locations require permits for the ceremony and for photography as well. It’s worth researching and procuring these in advance. If you have a wedding planner helping you out with the logistics, they come in handy during this research. Some elopement photographers will look into this when scouting locations for you as well (I happen to be one of them!).

8. Advance Booking

How much time is needed to ensure the availability of a particular location? Are things booked out months, or even years, in advance? Your timeline is going to partially determine what locations are available to you. If you are putting something together in just a couple months (Hey! It’s possible!), some sites may no longer be available. Ask yourself what your timeline looks like, how flexible it is, and whether it meshes with your chosen location.

A little stone cottage perched on a hill in the North Cascades during Autumn.

9. Domestic or International 

There are additional special considerations for international weddings, such as visa requirements, local laws and customs, and general accessibility issues (among others). A lot of these are quite specific to the region. The good news is that many elopement photographers are more than happy to help you navigate these (Yep, me again!). So, if your dream location involves hopping on a plane and heading to another country, don’t let the logistics stop you!  

The Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye in Scotland is a family friendly elopement location to consider when choosing where to elope.

There are many moving parts to planning a meaningful and intentional wedding day, and while the above will help you choose where to elope, it’s important to keep in mind that spontaneity and flexibility are as essential as preparedness. In fact, it’s the spontaneity that oftentimes yields the most meaningful moments. So don’t be afraid to dream a bit and take some risks when choosing your wedding day location. This is your day and there are no do-overs, so above all else prioritize what matters to you!

I hope this helped inspire some ideas! Location scouting is actually one of the most fun aspects of my job. I love nothing more than helping families pinpoint the perfect location for a true-to-them wedding day experience. Get in touch and we’ll find your perfect spot!

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ELOPEMENT TIPS HOW TO ELOPE

How to Elope Without Offending Family- Tips for Telling the People You Love that You’re Eloping

While eloping is arguably a lot less stressful than getting hitched the traditional way, telling friends and family that you’ve decided to forgo a big wedding can feel anything but (hello family dynamics!). Navigating how to elope without offending family is one of the biggest hurdles couples face when deciding to elope. And while I’m not going to lie and say that it will be easy, it doesn’t have to be quite so hard either. Read on for suggestions on how best to announce your intention to elope— you’ve got this!

How to elope without offending family top tips.

Top Tips for Telling Family You’ve Decided to Elope

Tip 1: Tell Them in Person, the Earlier the Better 

Though the word elope is defined as “running away secretly to get married, especially without parental consent,” the word no longer has such clandestine connotations. Today, eloping generally refers to tying the knot on a smaller, more intimate scale while opting out of a large formal wedding.  

Eloping doesn’t have to involve running, and it certainly doesn’t have to be secret. In fact, the best way to elope without offending family is to let them know in person. If you’re anticipating a negative reaction, it may be tempting to break the news over a text message or in an email. Resist this temptation. Talking face-to-face (or FaceTime-to-FaceTime) not only prevents potential misunderstandings, but also shows that you respect the individual and care about their feelings.  

And it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. You don’t want the first time your close friends or family hear about your elopement to be on social media.

Telling friends and family that you’re eloping before you actually do it can go a long way in minimizing hurt feelings. If you’re close with them, you may also want them to participate to some extent. Telling them early will allow them to feel involved and to take part in a meaningful way, even if it’s from a distance (see ideas for involving family and friends below and in this article).  

When announcing your decision, start with those closest to you and move outward. Try to do it in one day so they get to hear it from you and not someone else (creating a list of all the people you will call in advance will make this easier).

Couple embracing during a Pacific Northwest beach elopement.

Tip 2: Prepare for Negative Reactions    

You’re stoked that you’re eloping and others should be, too, right? Well, yes, but don’t expect them to be. While many people will be thrilled about your decision, others may not feel so over the moon. This can be really disappointing when you feel so good about your decision, but don’t let it color your response too much. Instead, active listening and a little empathy can go a long way. You don’t have to give in to validate their feelings. Just understanding and voicing that you do get it can decrease negative emotions when they crop up. Keeping in mind that their emotional reaction isn’t coming from a bad place, rather it’s because they genuinely care about you, may help you keep any disappointment you’re feeling in check.

A couple hugs during a Mount Rainier elopement ceremony.

Tip 3: Share Your Why

Explaining why you’re choosing to elope may be all that’s needed to get some family members on board with your decision. I know it sounds cliche, but letting them know it’s not about them, but rather it’s about you, can really make all the difference.  

Explain to them the reasons you are choosing to elope. There are loads of reasons, but some of the most common ones are:

  • wanting to avoid the stress of planning a big wedding
  • wanting a truly intimate day where the focus is on the relationship
  • wanting to save money for a big trip or a down payment on a house  
  • wanting this to be a special experience for just the two of you and your children 
A bride and groom swing their child while walking through the desert at their Lost Dutchman State Park elopement.

Remind your family that you love them and that your decision has nothing at all to do with them, but is instead what you genuinely feel is right for you and your relationship.

Tip 4: Get Them Involved

Some of the negative responses coming from family and friends may stem from feeling that they are, in a way, being deprived of something. Deprived of planning your wedding, deprived of celebrating with you, deprived of…  Finding ways for them to participate, even if it’s from a distance, allows them to feel involved.  

Tapping into their love language, that is, the way they speak and understand emotional love, can deepen their involvement. For instance, if your mom’s love language is quality time, suggest she plan an engagement party, or intimate affair either before or after your elopement. This acknowledges her desire to spend time with family and friends, and also makes her feel valued. A win-win.  

You may also consider an additional small ceremony that close friends and family can participate in, such as a tree planting ceremony. The tree you plant then serves as a reminder of your commitment to one another and to your family, of how love that is nurtured will grow, and of the love that you all now share. And it can be revisited again and again. Emphasizing the significance of this ceremony and how happy you are to have your friends and family share it with you may go a long way in helping them accept your decision to elope. More unity ceremony ideas can be found in this post.  

You can elope without offending family. This couple had an intimate celebration that grandma attended following their actual elopement.

There are tons of other ways that you can involve friends and family. Invite your mom or best friend dress shopping. Collect letters of well-wishes, marriage advice, or funny memories that can be read during or after the ceremony. Or write a letter to your parents that they can read on your elopement day. They will feel emotionally connected no matter how many miles are between you. Even just giving them the details of your elopement can make them feel that they are part of the planning process.

Tip 5: Stand Your Ground

You have made the brave choice to elope, and family and friends shouldn’t be able to dictate how your day unfolds. Be firm and confident. Remember, this is your day and you deserve a true-to-you wedding experience.  

A couple kissing at a stunning overlook during their Mount Rainier National Park elopement.

Tip 6: And Document the Hell Out of It

I’m not just saying this because I’m a photographer. When you elope, photos become that much more important. During a conventional wedding day, Mom, Dad, Uncle Bob, and a gazillion other people you may (or may not!) know are there to take it all in. They get to see every event as it happens. When you elope, it is very possibly just you, your partner, your kids (if you have them), an officiant, and a photographer.  

Documenting the story of your day, all the big and little moments from beginning to end, and then sharing this with family and friends that were not present helps them to feel cared for. Seeing beautiful images that truly capture the emotions that washed over the day may even help them to understand why you chose to elope in the first place.  

A wedding couple looking at one another and smiling during their Discovery Park, Seattle elopement ceremony in the forest.

Eloping doesn’t mean what it once did, and while some may still be eloping to escape friends and family, many others are choosing this route because they want to focus on their relationship, and the commitment that they are making to each other and to their own little family. While telling friends and family can be difficult, remember that you were badass enough to make this decision in the first place, and you definitely have the strength to see it through.  

Everyone deserves a meaningful wedding day experience. If you have more questions about how to tell friends and family that eloping is ultimately the best choice for you (or you just need some moral support!), I’d love to help. 

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BEST PLACES TO ELOPE

Best Off-The-Beaten Path Locations to Elope in Arizona for Adventurous Families

How do you choose where to elope in Arizona? You have a few specific things you’re looking for, and the location has to be family friendly, but how do you narrow down choices? You don’t have time to visit all the vistas and trails you’ve saved on Pinterest and Instagram – and now you don’t have to! Below, I’ve detailed the Top 10 Family Friendly Locations to elope Arizona. Keep reading to learn more about each location, discover the best time to elope at each place, as well as what to consider when bringing along the kiddos for your Arizona elopement adventure!

These off-the-beaten-path elopement locations in Arizona are all tried and true family friendly adventures. Whether you’re looking for a waterfall, a desert scene, a lake, or a mountain peak – there are options below to satisfy any desired Arizona environment. My goal is to help you choose the elopement location that best suits your family’s needs while also being one of the most picturesque spots in Arizona that isn’t swarming with crowds. With a little planning, you can have the family friendly elopement of your dreams!

Eloping in Arizona with Family

Each of the below locations is suitable for families with kids. The hikes are on the shorter side and easy or moderate with no rock scrambling required. That said, depending on the age of your children, some will be more suited to your goals than others. Some have steep drop-offs so children should always be watched closely. It may help to designate an elopement guest as a child wrangler, if your chosen location warrants an extra close eye on your little ones.

Once you’ve picked a location for your elopement, we can discuss what specific things you’ll want to pack and prepare for that place. Every location is going to serve each family and elopement timeline a little differently. Below, I’ve outlined all the general things to consider when planning a family friendly elopement, and there are some rules that will apply to each family, every celebration, and all locations. For instance, you’ll want to pack A LOT of water! Arizona is hot most of the year and dry all year. When you think you’ve packed enough water, pack more. These locations also require a basic knowledge of Leave No Trace principles, so we can traverse the environment without negatively impacting it. An adventurous elopement is a perfect opportunity to teach children about protecting the environment, and you can set a positive example by including LNT education in your elopement planning!

There are dozens of stunning locations in Arizona perfect for eloping couples with kids. From secret slot canyons (Arizona is home to more than just Antelope Canyon!), to breathtaking vistas, Arizona has something for nearly every type of adventurous family. Even if you’re only adventure(ish), there’s a trail for that! The 10 locations to elope in Arizona listed below are some of my favorites, but if for some reason none have that Goldilocks-perfect feel, reach out, and we’ll find YOUR place!

Best Off-The-Beaten-Path Elopement Locations in Arizona

Watson Lake and Granite Dells near Prescott, Arizona on a clear day.
Watson Lake & Granite Dells image via Shutterstock

1. Watson Lake / Granite Dells

Closest City: Prescott, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: May – October

Length of Hike: 100 Feet to 10 Miles (Hiking is optional) 

Description: Rocky granite boulders give this lake a dynamic and dramatic landscape, especially when the water is still and the reflection gives the depths a sense of incredible beauty and mystery. The Boulder Creek Trail provides an optional up to 10 miles of hiking, if exploring beyond the water’s edge is of interest. This lake is accessible year-round, but does get pretty cold and possibly snowy in the winter months.

Fun for the Kids: The Highlands Center for Natural History and Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary are nearby. The site is also a popular location for camping, hiking, fishing, and boating. You can rent canoes or kayaks, or go rock climbing and bouldering.

The Painted Desert is composed of colorful striped mounds, making this an incredibly unique backdrop for an elopement.
Painted Desert image via Shutterstock

2. Petrified Forest National Park / Painted Desert

Closest City: Holbrook, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round

Length of Hike: 100 Feet – 1 Mile (Hiking is optional)

Description: The Painted Desert overlaps with the northern part of Petrified Forest National Park, and the colorful striped mounds make this an incredibly unique backdrop for an elopement. The Blue Mesa Trail is a .9 mile loop trail that takes you through one of the most picturesque areas of the Park, but there are also many gorgeous drive-up locations within Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.

Fun for the Kids: Rainbow Forest Visitor Center houses paleontological exhibits complete with skeleton displays of prehistoric animals. Little astronomers will undoubtedly enjoy visiting the massive nearby meteor crater, created about 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch.

Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona at sunset.
Coal Mine Canyon image via Shutterstock

3. Coal Mine Canyon

Closest City:  Tuba City, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round, though March – May can be extra windy and winters are on the colder side, June – November best

Length of Hike: 1 Mile + (Hiking is optional) 

Description:  We’ve all heard of the Grand Canyon, but this remote canyon has all of the beauty and none of the crowds. Only 70 miles from the East entrance of the Grand Canyon, this location receives fewer than a couple hundred visitors a year. That’s good news for those who wish to elope here and want epic vistas, but also prefer intimacy. Here you will find gorgeous intricately eroded spires, hoodoos, gullies, and cliffs in an impressive array of colors. While there are no clear trails down to the floor of the canyon, the view of this location is stunning from the rim. Just be sure to steer clear of the edges, as the sandstone along the rim is soft and crumbly. A permit is required to visit here ($12 in 2020) and is available at the Navajo Parks and Recreation office in Cameron or online at https://www.navajonationparks.org 

Fun for the Kids: Your budding paleontologists can visit some real dinosaur tracks (most dating to about 200 million years ago!) just West of Tuba City. Parking is free and tours are optional. It takes about 15 minutes to view all of the tracks, though with small children that like to explore it will likely take longer. The Navajo Interactive Museum is also nearby where kids can learn about Navajo culture, traditions, family systems, and see a traditional Navajo Hogan (home). Visit the Hopi Mesas (there are three) outside of Tuba City for a glimpse into ancient Hopi ways of life that still endure today. The settlement atop the Third Mesa, Oraibi, was established around 900 – 1000 AD making it the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the US!

The scenic Apache Trail in the winter with snow capped mountains.
Scenic lookout along Apache Trail image via Wild Kin Wandering

4. Apache Trail / Lost Dutchman State Park

Closest City: Phoenix, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: September-November or March-May

Length of Hike: 1.4 Miles +

Description: This is for you desert lovers! The red rock and wind-carved desert features combined with saguaro cactus give Lost Dutchman State Park a truly “Arizona” vibe. There are many trails to choose from and ways to access views of the Superstition Mountains. Driving along the 40 miles of Apache Trail gives dozens of options for short hikes or drive-up views.

Fun for the Kids: Goldfield Ghost Town is a reconstructed 1890’s gold mining town. Kids can visit an underground mine, ride a train through the town, pan for gold, see a reptile exhibit, and witness reenacted gun fights.

Slide Rock State Park near Sedona.
Oak Creek Canyon image via Shutterstock

5. Oak Creek Canyon

Closest City:  Sedona, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round, late September through mid-October for peak fall foliage, late October for apples

Length of Hike: West Fork Trail is a relatively flat 6 – 7 mile out and back trail, though families can hike as much or as little of that as they like. 

Description: Home to ancient ruins and gorgeous red rock, Oak Creek Canyon is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. The pine lined canyon itself is 12 miles long with Oak Creek winding along its base. Though the hike is long, the stroll is easy, scenic, and absolutely family friendly.

Fun for the Kids:  Located inside Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Rock State Park is rated one of America’s top 10 swimming holes by the Travel Channel, and is basically a series of natural red rock water slides. Sure to be a hit with water-loving kids, slide rock itself is an 80-foot long slippery shoot that is worn into the sandstone. You could easily spend an entire day enjoying the beauty of the red rocks that Sedona is famous for while cooling off in the nearby wading pools. Just be mindful of the summer crowds at all Arizona swimming holes and go early in the day to get a prime spot.

Elopement inside a secret slot canyon near Page, Arizona.
Secret slot canyon image via Wild Kin Wandering

6. A Secret Slot Canyon

Closest City:  Page, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Late March through early October

Length of Hike: Requires a kayak or paddle board to get into the canyon, but you’ll be rewarded for your trouble with very few other visitors and ample time to explore. 

Description: Similar to Antelope Canyon but without the crowds! If you are a water-loving family, this may be your perfect location to tie the knot. The slot canyon is accessible only by kayak or stand up paddle board so it guarantees that your elopement is on the adventurous side. And since it’s a bit more difficult to get to, you can expect fewer visitors and more time to explore the nooks and crannies of this canyon on your own timeline. Conveniently, both kayaks and paddle boards can be rented right on Lake Powell

Fun for the Kids: If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll find lots of fun exploring Lake Powell itself. Page is also home to Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River. The view is astonishing, and honestly, slightly scary. It’s definitely a place to hold on tight to squirming toddlers who like to climb (or keep them in a carrier), but so worth a quick visit. Just across the Utah border, you’ll find the Big Water Visitor Center for Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and the Dinosaur project. Here kids can learn about dinosaur fossils and receive their very own Junior Scientist badge.

Spider Rock rising from the floor of Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.
Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly image via Shutterstock

7. Canyon de Chelly + Spider Rock

Closest City: Chinle, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round

Length of Hike: 100 Feet + (Hiking is optional)

Description: Right in the heart of Navajo Nation, Spider Rock is an impressive sandstone spire rising more than 700 feet above the desert floor! It was formed more than 230 million years ago and is the centerpiece of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Guided tours are available by experienced Navajo guides, or you can visit on a self-guided tour along open and paved roads to take in impressive viewpoints.

Fun for the Kids: Hubbel Trading Post National Historic Site where kids can poke around to find treasures and souvenirs at the still-functional trading post, see old farm equipment and an old homestead, and make a trip to the visitor’s center where they can become junior rangers.

Cibecue Falls in the Salt River Canyon, Arizona.
Cibecue Falls image via Shutterstock

8. Cibecue Falls / Salt River Canyon / Apache Falls

Closest City: Whiteriver, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: May – June

Length of Hike: 1 Mile – 5 Miles

Description: This is located on Apache lands and requires a permit to visit, but if you purchase the White MT Apache Salt River Canyon Recreation Permit, you’ll have access to Apache Falls (1 Mile Hike) and Cibecue Falls (4 Mile Hike). Apache Falls are breathtaking and at the heart of the Salt River Canyon.

Fun for the Kids: For little ones, Apache Falls will be the better hike. For older kids that can handle a bit of canyoneering, Cibecue Falls might be a great place to hike and also camp at one of the two primitive campsites in the canyon. You may even be visited by some wild horses.

Sycamore Falls with snow cover in the winter time.
Sycamore Falls image via Shutterstock

9. Sycamore Falls

Closest City: Williams, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: March – May

Length of Hike: ½ Mile +

Description: This impressive waterfall runs through a rocky canyon with steep cliffs and pillars of fractured basalt. The hike from the parking lot to the viewpoint is only .25 miles, but many other trails diverge to access the canyon itself or the rim. At the viewpoint, you’ll be able to witness two waterfalls about 70 feet tall pouring into a natural rock basin at the foot of the canyon.

Fun for the Kids: Bearizona Wildlife Park isn’t home to just bears. There are Rocky Mountain goats, elk, Alaskan Dall sheep, tundra wolves, arctic wolves, mule deer, American burros, bighorn sheep, white and brown bison, among other wildlife. There’s also a great birds of prey demonstration where the birds swoop right overhead.

Couple eloping at a lookout on Mount Lemmon in Arizona.
Mount Lemmon image via Wild Kin Wandering

10. Mount Lemmon

Closest City: Tucson, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: March – May or October – November (the latter is peak leaf peeping season)

Length of Hike: 3 Miles +

Description: With a summit elevation of 9,159 feet (2,792 m), Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. There are many intermediate trails in and around this mountain, and the forests will look distinctly different with each season. This is a wonderful place to explore the beauty of Arizona on a hike, different from many of the viewpoint-specific hikes mentioned above. Driving up from Tucson, you will witness various ecological transition zones and see the flora that accompany them.

Fun for the Kids: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has an aquarium, zoo, natural history museum, extensive botanical garden, art gallery, and loads of exhibits that will appeal to even your littlest wanderer. Small star lovers will enjoy Kitt Peak National Observatory. Spelunking at Colossal Cave Mountain Park provides over 5 kilometers of passageways inside the caves that can be explored, and dwellings previously used by Apache Indians that can be roamed.

A Few More Things To Consider When Choosing Where to Elope in Arizona

Learn the History

Arizona is a culturally rich and dynamic physical landscape, and there is also an interesting indegenous history worth knowing before setting out on any adventure. Whether the location you choose is still within the boundaries of sovereign indigenous nations or not, they all were at one time. 

Pay Attention to the Season

I’ve mentioned above the general best times to visit these locations. However, do your own research and stay up to date on any road closures, flood risks, etc. that could affect your chosen location during certain seasons or situations. You can rely on a few things from Arizona weather:

  • Fall is generally the best time to elope in Arizona (unless you’re looking for stronger flow at a waterfall, then spring is best!)
  • Winter is usually mild, but can cause flooding in canyons. It does snow in some areas, but don’t count on a typical “winter” by other state standards!
  • Spring is perfect for wildflowers, don’t be fooled by the desert stereotype. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a colorful desert bloom!
  • Summer is HOT, which means high-altitude locations will be some of your best choices for a summer elopement (and a great way to escape the heat).

Know Arizona Marriage Laws

If you’re getting legally married during your elopement ceremony have an officiant and two witnesses. Some couples choose to sign the paperwork beforehand or after and forgo witnesses and an officiant during the actual ceremony. Of course, we’ll go over the specifics of this during the planning process! A couple of things to note:

  • Arizona has no waiting period after applying for your marriage license.
  • You’ll both need to be present when applying.
  • There is an application fee (around $80 in 2020).

Once you’ve selected your perfect Arizona elopement location, you may be wondering how to include kiddos in your elopement plans. There are loads of ways to include your children in even the most adventurous elopements, and this post will tell you all about it.

Feeling better prepared to elope in Arizona? I hope so!

Categories
ELOPEMENT TIPS HOW TO ELOPE

How to Write Personal Wedding Vows that are Modern & Meaningful

You have decided to do away with tradition and elope, or have an intimate wedding. But what about the vows?  

While eloping doesn’t require the composition of personal wedding vows, many couples who decide to elope are doing so because they want a more intentional and authentic way to wed. A way that is completely true to them and incredibly meaningful. Just as a traditional wedding day didn’t feel right, traditional vows may not either.  

Writing your own vows gives you the chance to imbue your wedding day with more meaning. And, perhaps most importantly, gives you the opportunity to make promises to your partner that actually matter to you and your relationship. You could even include some recognition of your children in your vows. After all, this is a very important day for them, too. Some couples write a set of vows specifically to their kiddos that are attending. It’s a super sweet way to show the commitment that you are making not only to your partner, but to your little family. Your personal wedding vows will likely be the most significant and most difficult accumulation of words you ever write, because these are the words you will be uttering in the very moments before you take that leap into married life (talk about pressure!). The good news is that there are ways to make the process easier, and maybe even enjoyable.    

Composing your own real vows is a beautiful, intentional way of commencing life with your best friend. Use the tips below to write vows that are poetic, profound, and above all else, representative of your relationship and the future you plan to build.

Wedding vow book for holding your personal wedding vows.

Tips for Writing Your Personal Wedding Vows

Should You Incorporate Traditional Elements?

One thing to consider when thinking about vows has to do with the type of ceremony you are planning. Certain religious ceremonies require you to recite specific traditional vows. Some will allow you to complement the traditional portion with your own personal and more modern vows, but it is important to check with your officiant in advance. Even if you are not having a religious ceremony per se, you may choose to incorporate elements of traditional vows into your own for cultural or personal reasons. 

An open book.

Together or a Surprise? 

The first step of actually writing your own personal wedding vows is deciding whether or not it will be a team effort. Will you and your partner be sitting down to write them together? Or will each of you write them as a surprise for the other on your wedding day? Both methods yield heartfelt moments, so it really is a matter of what feels best for your relationship.  

If you opt to write them together, the process of formulating them becomes an opportunity to gain more understanding and deepen your love. You can decide together what promises are most important for the longevity and happiness of your relationship. Doing this can sometimes cause differences of opinion, or even values, to surface. Just remember, you won’t always be perfectly in sync with your partner (nor should you be, you are unique individuals after all!), but acknowledging where there may be gaps in your understanding can bring you that much closer to respecting and appreciating each other for who you are. And this ability to appreciate each other’s differences is a characteristic of an enduring relationship.

A groom hand writing his vows before the wedding ceremony.

Romantic Wedding Vows

Vows are by their very nature romantic. Even if you’re not typically the lovey dovey type, when tackling the vow writing process, you may find that romantic bone that you didn’t think you had.  

Start by paying attention to your partner’s little quirks (the cute ones, not the annoying ones 😉 ). 

  • What tiny, seemingly insignificant behaviors and characteristics does your partner possess that you just love?  
  • Think about when you first met. What was it that caught your eye, and when did you decide that you loved this person?  
  • Why are you still in love with this person?  
  • If you could have only one character trait of your partner’s, what would it be and why?
  • When do you feel most loved by your partner?  
  • Recall one of the times you were proud of your partner.  
  • What is one of the wildest, most adventurous things you have ever done with your partner? Talk about it.  
  • Think about the promises (both broad and specific) that you want to make to your partner, your relationship, and your family, but make sure you can keep them.
Groom reading his personal wedding vows to bride during an outdoor intimate wedding.

These prompts can provide the raw material for some really heartfelt and authentic personal wedding vows. And don’t forget to take inspiration from everywhere. From your favorite poet (mine just happens to be Neruda), to classical literature, to a favorite movie, inspiration is all around. To get you started, here are some of my very favorite sites for vow inspiration:  

Literary passages wedding vows 

Bookish wedding quotes

Most romantic lines from literature

A poetry excerpt from Pablo Neruda's Captains Verses

Evidence-based Wedding Vows

I’m a sucker for science and evidence-based anything, including personal wedding vows. Luckily there is a whole field dedicated to the study of romantic relationships. So if you love science as much as I do, you may want to take these research-based wedding vows to heart.  

In an article written for Psychology Today, Samantha Joel, Ph.D. lays out a number of real wedding vows that she composed with her partner in hopes of achieving long-term marital bliss. These promises are based on decades of research into the practices, values, and beliefs that lead to a happy and successful union. Their promises address behaviors such as:  striving to see your partner in a positive light (and not dwelling on imperfections), recognizing and protecting your partner’s autonomy, vowing to sensitively meet your partner’s needs, serving as a secure attachment figure, as well as being committed and expressing gratitude.  

I encourage you to go take a look, and if they speak to you and your relationship, consider adding them in some shape or form into your own ceremony.  

Couple saying their wedding vows during an elopement ceremony in the Superstition Mountain foothills of Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

How to Write Your Vows & What to Do If You Get Stuck

Writer’s block isn’t unusual. These are important words, and it only follows that some of them may take longer to come than others. Thankfully, there are certain things you can do to help get (and keep) those creative juices flowing.  

Choosing a quiet and relaxing environment where you can truly focus helps. So go ahead and grab a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of wine, or a dram of whiskey, any beverage that helps you feel warm, fuzzy, and RELAXED. Yes, you will use your brain to compose your vows, but this is the stuff that comes from your heart, and for that you’ll have to do some feeling as well.  

Begin by jotting down notes. These don’t have to be perfectly formulated ideas from the start. It’s more than okay to scribble down phrases, or even just words, to get the gears turning. Lists work especially well at this point. You might consider starting with a list of things you absolutely love about your partner (the kind of stuff you just couldn’t do without), as well as a list of promises you want to make to both your partner and your relationship. Getting it all outlined this way gives you a framework for the more complete thoughts and phrases that will follow.  

This doesn’t all have to happen in one session. Just writing down ideas and then giving yourself some time to walk away from it for a while will provide your brain with the downtime it needs to boost creativity. Research suggests that breakthrough thinking occurs most often when you let your mind wander and your imagination roam. So give yourself (and your subconscious) time to dig deep and experience the process.    

Handwritten vows sitting on a bench under a wedding bouquet.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you should procrastinate! The beauty of starting on your vows early is that there will still be plenty of time to take breaks and let your creative juices ebb and flow, without the added pressure of an impending deadline (unless you’re particularly good at working under pressure!). You can take your time and give your vows the attention they deserve. One of my favorite things about elopements and intimate weddings is that you can really let loose and make these vows true to you as a couple, without fear of what others will think. Remember, you’re writing for your partner and your relationship, not anyone else.

And if you truly have a difficult time coming up with anything and have kids, ask them to brainstorm with you! It’s amazing how perceptive those little people can be. Seriously, ask them what they love about your partner and you’ll likely hear your own thoughts echoed, but in a beautifully simple way.

You Don’t Have to Memorize Them

Shelley's Defense of Poetry Book
Vows handwritten in the cover of a favorite book can serve as a keepsake for after the wedding day.

You don’t have to memorize your wedding vows! I mean, you can if you want, but you certainly don’t have to.  

I love the idea of writing them down in the cover of a cherished book, maybe something with some significance to your relationship. You can then gift it to your partner after the ceremony. Likewise, little love notes can be scribbled into your childrens’ favorite books for a special keepsake for them, as well. There are also beautiful vow books that are made to serve as momentos. There are so many out there, you’re sure to find something that feels like you and your relationship. Searching for handmade leather journal turns up some really lovely ones, like this one. If you and your partner love travel and adventure, this one may perfectly embody the current of wanderlust that runs through your relationship. Seriously, there’s something out there for everyone. 

   

A leather journal is perfect for holding  your handwritten personal wedding vows.

The Anatomy of a Wedding Vow

The anatomy of a personal wedding vow includes a declaration of love, promises that you will make to each other and for your future, and your own personal and meaningful touches. If done right, you are left with the very essence of your relationship, that is, what is most important to you as a couple, and how you both tick together. Your vows then become a roadmap for how you will live life as a married couple. They are reminders of what matters most when life gets complicated, and they serve as a guide for keeping your marriage on track when things get tough.

P.S. – Did you know that when dogs get married the promises they make to one another are called bow vows? If not, there’s so much more information I can also impart, so feel free to reach out 😉  

Categories
BEST PLACES TO ELOPE

Top 8 Elopement Destinations for Adventurous Families

Family Friendly Destination Elopement Locations

From islands off Scotland to the west coast of Africa to New Zealand, these hidden gems are the best places to elope all over the world! Whether you’re looking to hike lush green hills to ocean overlooks, or you’re dreaming of sand dunes as far as the eye can see, there is a perfect elopement destination out there for your adventurous family! Ready to find it?

In Top 8 Elopement Destinations for Adventurous Families I go over some of my personal favorite destinations, the best times of year to travel there, and a bit of added fun for your little ones. When you’re ready to begin planning your elopement, reach out! We’ll dig deeper into the logistics of a destination elopement with children, and narrow down your location list to one that is perfectly YOU. Until then, keep reading and get inspired!

Best Places to Elope for Adventure Loving Families

Mayan ruins on the beach in Tulum on the Yucatán Peninsula
Mayan ruins, Tulum image via Shutterstock

Location #1 – Yucatán

Region: Southern Mexico, bordering the Gulf of Mexico

Best Time of Year to Visit: October – April

Description: Hello white sand beaches, lush exotic greenery, turquoise cenotes, and lands steeped in rich history! If you’re a free spirit and inclined to worship the sun, a boho elopement in Tulum will feel the perfect fit for your wedding day experience. And there will be ample stunning locations to say your vows, from old haciendas to having a traditional Mayan ceremony at the base of some ancient ruins. Climb a temple looking out over the forest and you’ll see vegetation covered mounds hiding countless structures yet to be revealed. Marvel at the astronomical precision at Chichen Itza, where Venus and the sun were used to orient temples and mark important ceremonial and agricultural times of the year. Cool off after your adventures by swimming in a cenote or “sacred well,” a cavernous limestone pool filled with deep blue waters. Cenote Cristal is even toddler friendly! 

Must Sees: 1) The evening light show at Uxmal, which celebrates the Mayan rain god, Chac, while illuminating palaces and temples. 2) Celestun, where thousands of flamingos congregate in the wild.

A Bit of History: One of the many attractions on the Yucatan peninsula are the Mayan ruins (some right on the beach in Tulum). Built between 300 and 900 AD, there are several impressive complexes in the peninsula. When you walk these ruins, remember that you are at the very edge of the impact zone of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.

For the Kids: All of the kid-friendly activities make this one of the best places for families to elope. Your little ones will love Campeche, an old walled Spanish town that was sacked by pirates many times over. If your kids love the beach, walk the white sands of the Bay of Campeche and play “I spy” with an unbelievable array of shells. Explore lantern lit caves with a local guide, and see bats swirling and swarming out at sunset. Witness species of animals you have never seen at the zoo in Merida, an old Spanish town and the peninsula’s capital. Merida also has a huge market where kids can shop for just about anything.

The Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye in Scotland is one of the best places to elope for adventurous families.
Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye image via Wild Kin Wandering

Location #2 – Isle of Skye

Region: Off the west coast of Scotland

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round

Description: The Island of Mist, right out of Middle Earth. Skye is a magical land of Neolithic cairns, caves, cozy pubs, and craggy peaks. Cuillin hills will please the novice hiker, as well as challenge the most seasoned mountaineer. Plus, the rugged coastline is stunning! I’ve found many off-the-beaten-path places perfect for a romantic Scottish elopement. You could elope at Fairy Glen or Brother’s Point (2.25 mile hike), but wear waterproof shoes because part of the hike takes you through a soggy bog!

Must Sees: 1) Dunvegan Castle and Gardens is home to a fairy flag and was built in the 13th century. It overlooks a sea loch, Loch Dunvegan. 2) The Trotternish Ridge is the longest landslip in the region and home to the Old Man of Storr, a 160ft pinnacle rock formation that looks like, well, an old man.

A Bit of History: After he and the Jacobites were defeated at Culloden in 1746, Bonny Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart), disguised as a maid, fled to the safety of Skye.

For the Kids: The beaches at Staffin or Duntulm have dinosaur footprints that are 165 million years old. Kids can climb the mystical hills of the well named Fairy Glen (if fairies are real, they most certainly reside here). Wade in Fairy Pools, visit a castle, sea kayak, or spot grey seals along the shoreline.

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland image via Shutterstock

Location #3 – Northern Ireland / Giant’s Causeway

Region: The northernmost tip of Northern Ireland, in the UK.

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round, but watch out for high winds!

Description: An UNESCO World Heritage site made up of basalt columns formed by volcanic activity in the area more than 60 million years ago. Two different trails lead down to the Giant’s Causeway, the lower blue trail and the upper red trail. Neither trail is difficult, though the easiest is the blue (approx. .6 mile down a gentle slope). Go early to have the place to yourself, but the best light for photos is nearing sunset. If you’re staying for a few days, you’ll want to home-base out of Belfast or nearby. Take the opportunity to visit the Titanic Museum – you’ll be amazed how much you learn!

Must Sees: Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is suspended at almost 100 ft above the Atlantic Ocean and built so fishermen could walk from a tiny island back to the main island. You’ll need your hands for the bridge so it’s best for older kids or for babies/toddlers in actual carriers.

A Bit of History: Irish legend tells us the causeway was built by Finn McCool, an Irish giant who was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn McCool built the causeway across the North Channel so the two giants could meet and fight. 

For the Kids: Nearby is The Jungle in Moneymore – an outdoor activity center for kids of all ages. Montalto Estate, in Ballynahinch, is home to beautiful walking trails (all of which are suitable for both children and adults), an impressive wooden tree house kids will love, a natural play area, and a cafe for parents to refuel.

Lago De Braies, largest natural lake in the Dolomites
Lago De Braies, Italian Dolomites image via Shutterstock

Location #4 – The Italian Dolomites

Region: Northeastern Italy

Best Time of Year to Visit: Summer – Fall

Description: A land of jagged peaks and idyllic rolling hills. Wildflowers blanket the meadows during the summer months and make this an alpine heaven with fairytale scenery and one of the best places to elope for families. Hike the iconic Tre Cime di Lavaredo – the entire loop is 6 miles long and mostly flat with an elevation gain of 1115.5 feet. You’ll see three distinctive and jagged peaks rise up from the surrounding scenery, with lots of opportunities to let your little ones out of their packs to run around and explore on this hike. Make sure not to skip the short spur up to the Refugio Locatelli where you will find the best view of the Tre Cime. Chair lifts and cable cars run during the summer months to make hiking to various peaks optional.

Must Sees: 1) Lago De Braies is the largest lake in the Dolomites and the water is a gorgeous turquoise color in the summer, and covered with ice in the winter. 2) Livinallongo del Col di Lana Town has World War I trenches, ruins of forts, barricades, tunnels, and a museum for those who love history.

A Bit of History: The Italian Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 for being the “most picturesque range of mountains in the world.”

For the Kids: You’ll be near amazing adventure parks where kids have access to climbing walls, little streams with water games, mini golf, slides, adventure trails and geocaching. Visit Ötzi, the Iceman, a glacier mummy from the Copper Age at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.

The Atlas Mountains in Morocco are a top elopement destination for adventurous families.
Atlas Mountains, Morocco image via Pixabay

Location #5 – Morocco / The Atlas Mountains

Region: Northern Africa

Best Time of Year to Visit: March – June, September – November

Description: The Atlas Mountains, in northwestern Africa, separate the Mediterranean Sea from the Sahara Desert. The Atlas mountains are known for gorgeous snow capped peaks, box canyons, and gorges. In town, the main square in Marrakesh, Djemaa-El-Fna, has loads of entertainment – musicians, magicians, and artists take up shop in every corner and perform until the early hours of the morning. And you’ll want to try traditional Moroccan food at the dozens of stalls beckoning visitors in! Nearby, you can immerse yourself in a labyrinth of souqs, magical narrow streets that twist and turn until, if you wish, you are lost amongst a sea of colorful rugs and lanterns.

Must Sees: 1) Toubkal National Park, home to the highest peak in Morocco, is perfect for any length of elopement – from day hikes to multi-day outings with Berber mules carrying the freight (and your kids when little legs get too tired or the terrain becomes a bit too technical). 2) The Sahara desert. The dunes are a far ride from the mountains, but if you’re staying in Morocco for any length of time, you won’t want to miss a chance to stand on the edge of the largest desert in the world.

A Bit of History: The gateway to the High Atlas Mountains is Marrakesh, one of the four imperial Moroccan cities, with walls, or rampart, dating to 1100 AD. On the coast, the city of Casablanca is home to the largest mosque in Northern Africa, the Hassan II.

For the Kids: The souqs contain a myriad of tiny shops that should keep kids enthralled for hours – and if they look to the corners of these shops, they’ll undoubtedly spy a few sleeping kittens. Nearby parks have pony rides, or kids can ride a camel! Children can take an oasis tour, rock climb, visit an amazing garden or the informative Berber Ecomuseum, or just hang out in the Djemaa-El-Fna.

Ancient acacia trees sitting in front of the famous red sand dunes in Deadvlei Namibia.
Deadvlei acacia trees, Namibia image via Shutterstock

Location #6 – Namibia

Region: Southwest Coast of Africa

Best Time of Year to Visit: July – August

Description: Namibia is one of the safest countries in Africa – there’s no need to worry about malaria in tourist areas, or yellow fever. The landscapes are gorgeous, and varied. Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, and perfect for a sunrise elopement. The Sossusvlei red sand dunes are the largest in the world, and you can take a balloon ride over the dunes. Deadvlei is a white salt pan with ancient acacia trees – climb a dune to watch the sunrise. 

Must Sees: 1) Quivertree Forest is in southern Namibia – Bushmen used the branches of these trees to make quivers. Namibia’s national tree, Quivertrees bloom May to July with bright yellow flowers. 2) Giant’s playground – dolerite rock formations dated between 160 and 180 million years old. 3) Spitzkoppe, a gorgeous but less frequented landscape perfect for camping and a sunset elopement. 4) Etosha National Park in Northern Namibia is the biggest wildlife sanctuary in the country. 5) At the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, hundreds of thousands of seals hang out and call to each other.

A Bit of History: Namibia hosts the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein, which is the largest site of ancient Bushman rock engravings in Africa.

For the Kids: Visit the quirky settlement of Solitaire, with a permanent population of less than 100 people, on your way to Namib-Naukluft National Park. Anywhere you go, the varied landscape and wildlife viewing is sure to entertain your little ones.

Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand is one of the best places to elope in the world.
Hooker Valley Track, New Zealand image via Shutterstock

Location #7 – New Zealand

Region: South East of Australia

Best Time of Year to Visit: November

Description: The land of four climates, more waterfalls than you can count in one view, and the homebase of the greatest adventure ever taken – Hobbiton. Visit Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki / Mt. Cook National Park to see the highest mountain in New Zealand. Hike the 6 miles round trip (262 ft elevation gain), cross three swinging bridges, and end up at a stunning glacial lake with Mt. Cook in the background. This is a popular hike, but with so many lovely viewpoints, you’re sure to find an intimate nook or cranny perfect for exchanging vows. Visit the wineries in Marlborough, which are family-friendly, too! Wairau River has a large outdoor lawn and garden games, Cloudy Bay has a huge garden with croquet, petanque, and various bats and balls for kiddos to play with, and Forrest Wines & Wither Hills both have grassy lawns and toy boxes right in the tasting rooms. You can also visit Hanmer Springs, natural hot springs 90 minutes north of Christchurch. Soak in mineral rich thermal pools, while taking in the scenery beyond. 

Must Sees: 1) The Punakaiki Rocks are a landscape strewn with pancake shaped rocks and blowholes sending up jets of water along the coastline. A gorgeous natural wonder best viewed at high tide. 2) At Truman Beach you can walk under a small waterfall cascading from the limestone cliffs above onto the beach below. 3) Waipara River Boys Brigade Swimming Hole has a rope swing, tarp water slide, banks to picnic on and a nearby river to play in.

A Bit of History: Legend is that New Zealand was fished from the sea by a demigod named Maui. He fashioned a magical fishhook from an ancestral bone, and while fishing with his brothers hooked the world’s biggest fish. Upon carving into it, Maui and his brothers created the deep valleys and sharp mountain peaks of New Zealand.

For the Kids: Enjoy the drive to Kaikoura, a small town on the east coast of the South Island and about 112 miles from Christchurch.  Throughout the drive, you’ll view a stunning coastline, snow-capped mountains, wildlife, and clifftops. Watch for dolphins, whales, fur seals, and dozens of bird species! Kaikoura means crayfish in Maori, and here kids can catch their own. Kids 8+ can swim with dolphins, and those 5+ can go on a dolphin watch. Kids 3+ can go on a whale watch tour, depending on the sea conditions.

 Múlafossur Waterfall in the Faroe Islands looks like it's falling off the edge of the world.
Múlafossur Waterfall, Faroe Islands image via Shutterstock

Location #8 – Faroe Islands

Region: Pretty much directly between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic

Best Time of Year to Visit: Summer

Description: While some hikes are definitely more popular than others, the Faroe Islands has the epic views of Iceland without the throngs of people. One of the more well-known hikes is to Lake Sørvágsvatn / Leitisvatn, a lake sitting atop dramatic sea cliffs on the island of Vágar. The hike is 3.7 miles round trip and flat, but the views are stunning! The best view is from Trælanípa cliff, but make sure to continue on to Bøsdalafossur waterfall.

Must Sees: 1) Saksun Church on the island of Streymoy. The stone walls and grassy roof are backed by a cliffside waterfall and give the building a truly remote and natural aesthetic. 2) The sea inlet at Sund on Streymoy. When foggy and still, the reflection and silence here is eerily beautiful! 3) Mulafossur Waterfall on Vagar Island. The waterfall leads directly off a cliff to a sharp inlet on the coast, and feels like it’s dropping off the edge of the world.

A Bit of History: Irish monks were the first known settlers in the islands. In the 6th century AD they told of the “Islands of the Sheep and the Paradise of Birds.” The name is derived from old Norse and means Sheep, given by the Viking settlers coming from Norway in the 9th century.

For the Kids: Take a ferry ride to Mykines to see the puffins on a sunset guided hike and stay in a lovely small lodge afterwards (this hike would also be a gorgeous elopement location!). The views are epic, the tourists are gone come evening, and the puffins are pretty much the cutest creatures ever.

Things to Consider for Any Elopement Destination

Travel at Your Little One’s Pace

My favorite thing about photographing family-friendly elopements is the wonder and attention to detail that children bring to life! Even when hiking with kids means traveling at a snail’s pace, remember this is part of the journey – you’ll appreciate the stones beneath your feet and the vistas before your eyes more with them present! Seeing life through the eyes of your kids is pure magic. Yes, traveling is easier without kids, and so is eloping. Outdoor adventures with little ones can be tough! But would you really have it any other way? They force you to slow down and soak it all in. Every. Single. Detail. What at first may seem pretty dang annoying becomes the very best way to get married and to walk through life – with eyes, ears, and heart open to it all. Trust me, you’ve got this!

Be Prepared. Check the List Again!

Only you know what your family is capable of – what kind of destination will suit your elopement experience, and where to draw the line between adventure and struggle. I am in no way advocating that you go far outside your comfort zone for the sake of an adventure elopement! Everyone has different needs, expectations, and a unique family. My goal is to hear your dreams, learn what experiences you’re comfortable with, and help you plan a family friendly elopement wherever in the world you’re hoping to go! If you’ve never taken your kids on a hike longer than two miles, we probably won’t be choosing an elopement destination that requires an all-day hiking adventure. But there are many ways to make your day easier, and to craft a memorable experience for your family. For instance, if you have kids between the ages of 4 and 8, a pack animal to carry them when their legs get tired could be the difference between tears and laughter. Similarly, there are some basic safety rules that outdoor enthusiasts with kids try to follow. Example: When kids are ready to carry a bag of their own, make sure the maximum weight of the backpack doesn’t exceed 12% of their bodyweight. Second, be mindful of altitude and never take a child under 5 years of age above 8200 ft or a child under 10 above 9800 ft. 

Just be honest with yourself; only you can decide what works for your family. You want this adventure elopement to be fun, and ensuring it’s the best day ever takes proper planning. Pack sunscreen, water, jackets, and layers. Invest in comfortable and durable shoes suitable for the terrain. And bring a lot of snacks!

Want more elopement location inspiration? In this post you’ll find the best off-the-beaten-path locations for Arizona elopements. Wherever you choose to elope, I support you! I support your adventurous spirit, family connection, and love of nature. I support YOU!

Are you and your family ready to plan your own adventurous destination elopement?

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ELOPEMENT TIPS

Guide to Elopement Dresses- What to Wear to Your Adventure Wedding

If your elopement involves lacing up your hiking boots and celebrating your wild love in a wild place, this guide will help you choose the perfect adventure wedding dress.

Do you know why women wear white wedding dresses? It’s ok, I didn’t know until recently, and only thanks to my PBS addiction. Queen Victoria wore a white lace gown when she married Prince Albert. This was an unusual and somewhat brazen choice. Up until then, most women wore colored gowns. Little did the Queen know that she would lay the foundation for almost two hundred years of tradition.  

Knowledge is power. Now that you know it’s origin, feel free to keep with the tradition or break it. The choice really is yours. Your elopement dress is yet another opportunity to make your wedding a true-to-you experience. So whether your dream gown is traditional white, a deep scarlet, or even jet black, be true to yourself!  

Bride wearing a floral and black wedding dress at her adventurous elopement while the groom kisses her cheek at an overlook on Mount Lemmon.

But, if your idea of a perfect wedding day is lacing up your hiking boots and celebrating your wild love in a wild place, then here are some things to consider when choosing the perfect elopement dress to take on your adventure. 

Elopement Dresses Guide for Adventure & Hiking Weddings

What activities will you be doing? And what will the landscape and terrain be like?

An adventurous wedding couple walking across some boulders at Rattlesnake Ledge overlook in North Bend, Washington.

Many adventurous brides end up hiking to their ceremony location. If you’re one of those brides, a dress that allows movement is a must. Steer clear of elopement dresses with corsets that restrict breathing, too. The air gets thin on mountaintops. Certain styles, such as mermaid and trumpet, are super confining. A ball gown-style, on the other hand, may make it difficult to see the trail in front of you. Instead, choose a lightweight dress that will move with you.  

While carrying your gown in your backpack will allow you more flexibility in terms of style, the last thing you want is to be trekking up a fourteener with a sequin gown that weighs almost as much as you do. I recommend material, like chiffon, that is light, wrinkle resistant, and that will catch the wind for those incredibly romantic windblown mountaintop images. Lightweight materials also won’t weigh you down, if there is any chance that you’ll encounter water on your wedding day (I’m looking at you, kayaking elopements).   

 

Bride wearing a backpack with her bouquet in it during an adventurous elopement in Mount Rainier National Park.

Think About the Weather

Groom putting a jacket around a bride at their adventure hiking elopement.

Your wedding day should be a time to focus on one another and your relationship. That’s why you chose an intimate wedding in the first place, right? Turning blue, teeth chattering, in a strapless dress while standing on top of a glacier, or sweating buckets while wearing a long sleeve and bulky gown in Moab doesn’t sound like much fun to me. And that’s why it’s so incredibly important to think about your location, and how the weather there might change based on the time of year (or time of day!) you’re getting married.  

If you’re eloping in the desert, elopement dresses made of lightweight materials that breathe, like chiffon and silk, are perfect. Getting hitched at a location that sees snow? Wool and layers are your new best friends. Additional layers for over your gown, like a shawl or stole, will keep you warm and cozy (in other words, happy), and have the added benefit of photographing beautifully. Nude fleece leggings, wooly socks with boots, and hand warmers (only the best invention ever) make cold temps much more manageable. I have recommendations for any and all of this. Just ask!

And don’t forget that even warm locations can get pretty chilly early in the day or later in the evening, which are coincidentally the most ideal times to be photographed. Having layers that you don’t mind seeing in your pictures is essential, and is yet another way to work some of your own personality into your wedding day attire. 

Special Considerations for Expecting or Nursing Mamas

A mother holding her infant wrapped in a blanket during her desert elopement wedding.

If you’re expecting a little love or still nursing, I’ve got you covered as well! I love when couples bring their littles along to their elopement! It’s actually my favorite thing ever. And there are so many gorgeous elopement dresses out there for pregnant and nursing women. Below are just a few to consider.

This one has an empire waist and is pleated so it fits perfectly over any baby bump. And this lace maternity wedding dress with cloak sleeves is perfect for the mum who loves all things boho. It would be perfect for a beach or desert elopement. Finally, this off shoulder lace dress with an empire waist and flowing train would be lovely for a forest or woodsy elopement. 

Attire for Less Feminine Folks

Groom at the top of Rattlesnake Ledge in North Bend, Washington during his adventure wedding

While a black suit is traditional wedding attire, we’ve already established that your elopement day is your chance to break from any traditions that don’t make you feel like you. By all means, wear a black suit, if it makes you feel good, but be sure to choose something you can move in, and something that breathes. A colorful suit is a great way to imbue some personality into your wedding attire, and the color really pops against natural landscapes. You can wear a tie, but you don’t have to. Vests are also a great option. And base layers are important for you guys, too! 

If you haven’t gotten it by now, the point is that everything you choose is absolutely up to you! Make sure you’re comfortable, that you can move, and that what you wear is a reflection of who you are. 

This stretchy suit will keep you cool

Another colorful suit option

Summer suit ideas for guys

BHLDN jumpsuit for women

More wedding pantsuit ideas for brides

The Importance of Boots  

Couple in their hiking boots during their adventure elopement in the forest.

Probably the most important detail of all, a comfortable shoe or boot with excellent tread. The actual shoe (like the dress) will depend on the weather conditions, your chosen location’s terrain, and your activity, but being practical is key here. In my opinion, nothing says badass like a bride with hiking boots peeking out from under her gown.  

By the way, considering the right shoe goes for the guys, too. Those smooth, slippy soles are a definite no for hiking elopements. Safety is definitely the priority here. 

Elopement Clothes for Children

A little boy in corduroy overalls.

I think it’s great when couples decide to bring their kiddos along on their adventurous elopement. It definitely requires more planning and prep, but it is so worth it for the memories that are created. Appropriate gear and clothing are probably even more important for kids than adults though. Children aren’t as efficient at regulating their body temperature, don’t always have the language to let us know what’s bothering them, and aren’t as stoic as adults when it comes to dealing with discomfort. Some extra planning here can go a long way in making sure your littlest adventurers can make the trek happily, and in comfort and style.

A little girl in a white dress with floral embroidery.

These are my favorite base layers for keeping children comfortable when the temperature dips:

Ella’s Wool 

Chasing Windmills thermal long johns

The best base layers for babies

And these kids hiking socks will keep their toes warm and blister free.

Some of my favorite kids’ elopement styles are:

This sweet and simple boho girl’s dress

Another sweet boho style

Boy’s classic blazer

Linen baby boy wedding outfit

Linen suit vest

How Do You Feel About Dirt?

When purchasing an elopement dress, ask yourself whether you mind getting it dirty. Personally, I love the ombre look that occurs when a wedding dress is taken along on an epic adventure. A dirty dress very much equals a gorgeous dress in my book. And it’s a sign that you had a good time! You may or may not feel the same way, and this might determine how much you feel comfortable spending on a dress. The good news is, there are loads of places to purchase affordable elopement dresses. Which brings me to my last point, where to find the perfect gown for your adventure or hiking wedding. 

Where to Shop for Elopement Dresses   

A bride wearing a dress from We Are Reclamation during her desert adventure elopement.
dress by We Are Reclamation

I’m a bit of an Etsy fanatic, so it may not come as a surprise that some of my very favorite wedding gowns are available in Etsy shops, like Blush Fashion ,We Are Reclamation, and Flutter Dresses (this last one has dresses for your littles as well).  

BHLDN is full of both bohemian and classic styles.   

Dreamers and Lovers is a CA-based dress studio run by some self-proclaimed laid-back ladies that design and hand make all their boho-chic dresses. They prioritize comfort without sacrificing style. Honestly, every.single.one of their dresses makes me gasp, they’re just that gorgeous.  

Grace Loves Lace specializes in ethically handcrafted gowns in Australia that are as gorgeous as they are comfortable.

For elopement dresses that are more budget friendly check out this dress roundup, which contains dresses from places like Modcloth and ASOS (pssst, all the gowns are under $1000).


Only you know when you are truly comfortable. And I can’t stress it enough, when you’re comfortable and confident, you naturally look amazing. The most important part of the selection process is choosing clothing for your elopement that allows you to experience your wedding day fully, and to be completely and utterly in each moment as they come. 

The goal is to be able to look back and say, “That was the dress I was meant to wear on that day, on that mountain, when I married my best friend.”

I would be over the moon to help you with all the tiny (and big!) details of your elopement day! Whether it’s dress/suit shopping, choosing an epic location, telling family, coming up with ways to involve friends and family in your elopement from a distance, or documenting your wedding day with authenticity, I’m here to help!  

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ELOPEMENT TIPS ELOPING WITH KIDS

The Ultimate Gear Guide for Hiking Elopements with Kids!

Hiking elopements with kids and adventure family sessions are loads of fun, but take a little extra planning. Ensuring you’re prepared with the right gear for your elopement or family session is the best way to prevent accidents, have fun, and feel confident while enjoying yourself! You don’t want to be worried if you or your children will be too cold, too thirsty, or too tired to reach the overlook. If you’re adventuring somewhere you’ve hiked before, you probably have a good idea of what you’ll need. But even if your elopement or family session location is new to you, or you’re new to hiking in general, this gear guide will make sure you and your children are properly prepared for the best day ever!

A hiking elopement or adventure family session with kids means even if you’re familiar with the hike or activity, your little ones are still learning the ropes. Below is a list of what gear you’ll want to have handy to ensure a safe and fun experience. You’ll find out how to choose which gear is best for you and your family, see examples from my experience of what gear has worked best, and get help choosing for yourself which pieces will suit your individual needs.

The ultimate gear guide for hiking elopements with kids.

Gear Checklist for Hiking Elopements

  1. Comfortable shoes for kids
  2. Baby carrier (for extra-small explorers)
  3. Headlamp
  4. Hiking socks
  5. Layers
  6. Blanket or sleeping bag
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Water, Formula for babies (or even more water, if you’re still nursing)
  9. Snacks

Shoes for Hiking Elopements with kids

adult and kids' hiking boots for a hiking elopement

Let’s start with the most important thing – shoes! If you’re able-bodied, you can’t hike without putting one foot in front of the other! What you put on your feet is going to directly correlate to how enjoyable a hike can be. No one wants blisters on their toes – read carefully and learn how to choose the best footwear for your elopement! Location, personal needs, and length of hike will all be part of the consideration. 

FACT: Don’t buy the reviews on shoes!

The right footwear is whatever is most comfortable for YOU! You can read all the reviews, ask all your friends, and make all the lists but ultimately you just need to go try shoes on. 

Every hiker has different needs, and whether you will want more ankle support or not isn’t something I can answer. However, MOST people will benefit from shoes that fit four criteria: good tread, flexible, minimalist, and lightweight. If you’re looking for shoes that will serve you for many miles on the trails, you’ll want something that promotes a natural stride, gives your feet a chance to move naturally over uneven terrain, and has only enough protection to prevent rocks and roots from digging in. You should FEEL the ground beneath your feet – avoid shoes so stiff your arch can’t flex! Stiff shoes can cause serious foot pain over the course of many miles. And don’t forget to break in the shoes you choose BEFORE your elopement day!

Bride tying her hiking boots during her hiking elopement.

Minimalist & lightweight footwear is especially important for children

Your little one’s feet are growing, developing strength and balance, and learning how to physically navigate this world! Yes, kids grow out of things quickly, but if you do a lot of hiking as a family (or want to start), it’s worth choosing the right shoe. Heavy shoes require more effort to move, making little ones fatigue faster on adventures (meaning their big people also fatigue faster because they have to carry them). Heavy shoes also tend to be less flexible with thicker soles that make it difficult for children to navigate obstacles. Lightweight shoes, on the other hand, are both more flexible and breathable, providing support while keeping feet cool. Kids’ feet sweat 2-3 times more than adult feet, so a cool and breathable shoe is super important, especially in warmer climates! Choosing low top shoes for kids is also important because it allows ankles to flex and move the way they were meant to, meaning knees don’t have to compensate. To ensure they don’t have pain or discomfort in the future, and that their gait develops naturally, their feet need the room and flexibility required to develop muscle strength in the feet, ankles, and legs.

Barefoot is best

Walking barefoot, especially when you’re young, is the best way to develop the muscles necessary to prevent injury when you’re older. Obviously, unless your hiking elopement is through a plush grassy meadow or somewhere on the beach, you and your children are going to want shoes! The next best thing to barefoot is a shoe that mimics barefoot walking – wide toe box, thin and flexible sole, and zero-drop platform (a sole that is flat, rather than being a bit higher in the heel). 

Summary: Look for lightweight, breathable, flexible footwear for your hiking elopement, and break it in!

My Top Choices for Elopement Footwear for Children:

Best for flexibility & durability

The perfect combination of being flexible and durable, this children’s shoe by Splay has all of the characteristics of a barefoot shoe, plus a velcro strap and tongue that pulls back making them easy for preschoolers to put on themselves.

Best minimalist shoes for kids

Softstar moccasins are handcrafted in Oregon, and the sizing is extremely flexible coming in narrow, regular, wide, and extra-wide, which is so important when you’re trying to fit small kiddos with wider feet for shoes. For more cushion and warmth, removable sheepskin innersoles can also be purchased.

softstar moccasins for toddlers during hiking elopements with kids

Best kids shoes with good traction

The Xero Prio shoe for kids has a flexible rubber sole that provides protection, traction, and still allows little ones to receive feedback from the terrain.

Best for colder weather

The winter version of these Wildling shoes and boots feature a wool lining and exterior to keep feet extra toasty and dry. The shoes made from Washi (a paper-type material from Japan) are durable, breathable, and dry quickly after getting wet, making them a perfect choice for summer hiking elopements.

Best if you want a thicker sole

Merrell’s Bare Steps line features a shoe with a bit thicker sole than the other minimalist shoes on this list, but still features a wide toe box and flexible grooves on the outsole to provide a barefoot feel.

Best for lightweight when barefoot isn’t an option: 

Teva Arrowood Hiking Shoe

Keen Chandler Hiking Shoe

Carriers for Hiking Elopements with kids

Hiking elopements with children present their own set of challenges, and an added level of complication can sometimes be that our littlest hikers simply can’t make the journey yet on their own two feet. This is where an awesome hiking carrier can come in handy! However, unless you’re an extremely experienced hiking family, the number of options on the market for carriers can be overwhelming. There are super stowable soft carriers, and then hard carriers with a more structured frame, like a backpacking backpack. How do you know which one to choose? Well, I’ve outlined the pros and cons of each kind of carrier to help you pinpoint what is best for your family and your elopement!

Soft Carriers

Soft carriers are exactly what they sound like – there’s no hardware and construction to them. They are perfect for smaller babies who can’t yet ride in a more structured carrier, but they also work well for those with larger babies that are only going on a short hike. I can’t tell you exactly what mileage or age is the cutoff for using a soft carrier, so if you’re on the fence, you might want to at least try on both types to feel the difference. 

Pros of a Soft Carrier:

  • No age limit – even newborns can be carried safely
  • Carried in front and against your body, your little one can hear your heartbeat and breathing, which can be really soothing
  • It’s easier to monitor your baby’s temperature and to keep them warm 
  • Keeps really young ones close and in your field of vision, which can be reassuring for parents
  • Allows you to nurse on the trail
  • Versatile and can be used on your back for older babies
  • Has a lower center of gravity, which may make some parents feel more stable
  • Can be shoved in a backpack, diaper bag, or small space for easy stowing, and can be easily pulled out when needed
  • Less expensive than a framed carrier
  • So many options, you’re sure to find one that “feels” right

Cons of a Soft Carrier:

  • They can get really uncomfortably warm in the summer
  • If worn on the back, some babies might be too low for them to see over your shoulder
  • No or very little sun/rain protection
  • No gear storage

My Top Choices for Soft Carriers:

My go-to baby carrier for hikes

The Happy Baby is my very favorite baby carrier; these linen carriers are a dream to wear in the summer time. They are easy to get on and off, and come with a protective hood, which is rare in soft carriers. The original carrier model can be used to carry newborns without needing to purchase an additional insert, and can be used to carry your child until they are up to 45 pounds. After that, their toddler option allows you to wear your child from 25-60 pounds. Note: the Original Happy Baby and Toddler Carriers allow only front inward facing and back positions, but the Revolution Carrier also has a front outward facing carry option.

Perfect for a day hike with a newborn

Not for racking up the miles, but perfect for a day hike (especially with a newborn). Solly Baby’s soft silky wraps feel so nice for you and your baby, and can be wrapped as tight as needed. Just keep in mind that the baby should be wrapped high enough to make sure airways are always clear. This carrier is perfect for shorter jaunts with babies during those first few months.

Newborn carried in a Solly baby wrap during a snowy hike

Perfect for adjustable carrying positions

Tula’s Free-to-Grow Baby Carrier accommodates newborns, infants, and young toddlers ranging from 7-45 pounds. Back and front carry options allow ergonomic positions for comfortable carrying and healthy hip and spine development for your baby. Adjustable, padded shoulder straps and breathable material make this comfy for both you and your kiddo. However, this one doesn’t allow for front outward-facing carry.

Perfect for multi-use

We use the Ergobaby Omni 360 and love it. It’s a bit bulkier than the Happy Baby carrier above, but has more carry position options, and is still super comfy. They are advertised as the carrier when you need every option, and that pretty much sums it up. They can be used to carry newborns (without an insert) to toddlers, and have many carry position options, front carry inward facing, front carry outward facing (from 5 months +), and hip and back carry (from 6 months +). They also come in a mesh breathable version for cooler carrying in warmer climates. Finally, the straps are crossable, providing additional lumbar support.

Baby on a hike carried in an Ergo baby carrier

Framed Carriers

Hardshell or framed carriers sit much higher on your back than the soft carriers. They are structured, like the name suggests, but this means they are not suitable for very young babies, who need more protection and a more bundled hold. Framed carriers are meant to be the backpacker’s solution to carrying children on hikes, and you could go all day with the right carrier and a willing infant. That said, they can also be frustrating to deal with on a very short hike, and it can be helpful to have a second set of hands to adjust straps and make sure your baby is secure. 

Pros of a Framed Carrier:

  • You can hike much longer with a more supportive weight bearing capacity
  • Has storage options (all those snacks have to go somewhere!)
  • Babies and toddlers sit higher in these so they can see better and appreciate the view
  • The baby is held farther from your body, allowing air flow and a cooler hike
  • Many offer sun and rain protection

Cons of a Framed Carrier:

  • Can’t be used with newborns or smaller babies (generally cannot be used safely before 6+ months of age)
  • Center of gravity is higher and can make a wiggly baby hard to balance
  • Since your baby isn’t against your body, you’ll be less attuned to their body temperature on a cold or hot day
  • Can be difficult to put on and take off
  • Heavier, bulkier, and can’t be easily stashed away when not in use
  • More expensive

My Top Choices for Framed Carriers:

Perfect for larger babies and toddlers

The Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier is super comfortable for both parent and kiddo with a sturdy metal frame that accommodates a growing child, a padded hipbelt, and a mesh back panel for ventilation. The arched profile frame transfers 70% of the load into the hip fins for increased comfort. A soft, removable pillow and side support cushions support sleepy heads encouraging mid-hike naps. The side entry option and roomy suspended child seat make this the best option for larger babies and toddlers.

Perfect for smaller toddlers, with more storage capacity

I love my Osprey backpack and wanted to love the Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier for my kiddo, but when it came to fitting us both, the Deuter was a much roomier seat for my two-year-old. The Osprey felt incredibly snug and constricting in comparison. This pack is lovely though and for a smaller child would likely be perfect. Plus the storage is better in this one (at 26 liters) than the Deuter. That said, it lacks the side entry option that is invaluable on treks with toddlers.

Summary: The age of your child, length of the hike, and your comfort with carriers is going to strongly affect whether you’d prefer a soft or hard carrier for your hiking elopement. If using a soft carrier with a front carry option though, make sure your baby is close enough to be kissed on the head, and that their airways are always open!

Other Gear for Hiking Elopements

Headlamp

You always want to hike with a headlamp or a good flashlight, even if you’re planning on being back before the sun sets. I consider this a safety feature that is just as important as a first aid kit or cellphone because you always want to be prepared for a hike taking longer than expected. Also, if you’re out before sunrise or after sunset, headlamps are essential for making a hike safe, and the photos at these times are always stunning! Bring extra batteries with you or make sure your headlamp is fully charged, if it’s the rechargeable type. You may need a headlamp for safety, but kids appreciate bringing their own for the fun factor.  

A Perfect Hiking Elopement Headlamp

Best headlamp for kids

Hiking Socks

bride walking in hiking boots during her hiking elopement

Wool socks are an essential part of your hiking gear. The best socks prevent blisters, regulate heat, and allow you to hike all day in comfort. There are many brands out there, but Darn ToughSmartwool, and Wigwam are my favorites. 

The Best Wool Socks for Hiking Kids

Clothing Layers

Child dressed in cute overalls during a hiking elopement with kids.

Base layers, knits that can be easily removed, and clothing items with texture, like corduroy, photograph lovely and keep little ones warm, but not too warm.

Layers are a must, no matter the time of year! If you’re wearing a dress, I always recommend a solid pair of nude leggings to keep you warm without standing out in photos. Under suits, a wool base layer will keep you warm without feeling stuffy. Look for merino wool to get the performance of wool with the comfort of cotton. It’s not stiff and scratchy, and wicks moisture much better than other materials.

I cannot stress layers enough. For you and your children, flexible layers can be the difference between a meltdown due to discomfort or the ability to stay cozy and happy all day outside. Down jackets, chunky sweaters, wool shawls, small blankets, scarfs, gloves/mittens, and beanies are all essential if eloping during the winter, at high altitudes, or even in the desert in the evening. The textures of chunky sweaters and scarfs photograph beautifully, and you’ll photograph more beautifully if you’re comfortable, too. Hand warmers can do wonders and they’re so easy to stash in pockets, gloves, mittens, or even in between layers when the weather becomes a little too cold for comfort. Toe warmers are worth considering, though harder to stash in tight shoes. In the summer, sun hats are a must for kids on long exposed hikes.

child in a sunhat taking a break during a summer hike

Base Layers for Kids and Babies:

Ella’s Wool 

Chasing Windmills thermal long johns

The Best Merino Base Layers for Babies

This bunting can double as a sleeping bag without needing to worry about your little one getting swallowed up:

The Most Versatile Outerlayer for Kids

Blanket or Sleeping Bag

Bring along a lightweight blanket or sleeping bag even if it isn’t cold out! It can make for a beautiful addition to cozy pictures, or serve as a dirt-free place for your little one to hang out while you’re a couple steps away getting some individual portraits. If it is cold, a sleeping bag that packs down easily can be a perfect piece of gear for your kid to snuggle up in, if they get chilly or want to sit down.

My Favorite Blankets For Style

The Most Lightweight Hiking Blanket

My Favorite Children’s Sleeping Bag

mom holding her baby in the Arizona desert during a hiking elopement with kids

Sunscreen

Sunscreen isn’t necessary only in the summer! A little dab on exposed noses in the winter can help when the sun is reflecting off freshly fallen snow. Sunscreen, or even just a little bottle of lotion, can also help if the wind picks up and cheeks become red and chapped. It really is a basic necessity during hiking elopements with kids. 

Baby safe sunscreen that’s great for everyone in the family

 

Water & Snacks

This one is the most obvious yet the most overlooked necessity when hiking with children. My rule of thumb is to always have one more meal on hand than you think is necessary, and as much water as you can comfortably carry. Even when it isn’t hot out, hiking depletes your water reserves and hangry isn’t just a result of lack of food. Adequate hydration and regular snacking are essential for keeping morale high during a hiking elopement. Never underestimate the power of a well-timed cracker in keeping kids from getting cranky.

child outside eating a cracker

Never underestimate the power of a snack for calming a fussy kid.

Now that you’re prepared to check these things off your gear list, it’s time to get down to planning the specifics!! Need some inspiration? This post has loads of ideas for including kids in your elopement day! 

Each location and each family is going to be a little different. The items listed above are essential for all hiking elopements with kids, but let’s talk about what you need for your dream location! I love guiding couples and their families through every step of the planning process, from location scouting to double checking that everyone is having fun midway up the trail.