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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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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
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!  

Categories
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.