Ceremony Ideas for your Adventure Elopement

Ceremony Ideas and Logistics for Your Adventure Elopement

I wrote this blog post for my clients but also I want this to be a loving resource for anyone who needs guidance on the HOW of adventure elopements. We get a lot of questions on this - with Adventure Elopements being fairly new; they are just now gaining traction after a few years of existence. I assist my clients with this entire process, but I understand that there can be some questions on what to include in your ceremony.


Before Diving In - What is an Adventure Elopement?

An adventure elopement can be whatever you want it to be. Some may view it as a destination wedding. For us, we define adventure elopements as wedding days spent outside- hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, and/or climbing mountains. Our clients are here for the experience and the memories- truly enjoying what brings them joy- exploration of the great outdoors.

Personally, we think our clients are incredible for choosing something so deliberately and intentionally them. We are huge cheerleaders for getting married at sunrise, shortly after rolling out of your sleeping bag!

If an adventurous elopement sounds like the perfect fit for you- reach out, let’s talk and manifest the elopement of your dreams.


Ceremony Legal Logistics

For your elopement, you’re going to want to ensure you are sound legally to get married (if you’re opting for a legal celebration). Here are a few things to keep in mind, when planning logistics of your ceremony.

  1. Wedding License Requirements: Is there a wait time? For instance in Washington there is a 3 day waiting period to get your marriage license. This is a common thing to consider, as it fluctuates depending on the location, as many have “residency requirements”, this applies to many states, so be sure to look into that. If you’ve already booked flights, etc- an easy solution is to make it “legal” in the state or country you reside in beforehand.

  2. Do you need an officiant? Surprisingly, in a few states, you don’t need an officiant! For instance, in places like Colorado! If you DO need an officiant and are planning something like a hiking elopement, there are many that are willing to hike. For our clients, we are both ordained to sign your marriage license. In our case, you would have to opt to have only one photographer if you wanted a full-blown ceremony with an officiant taking lead- instead of a simple vow exchange.

  3. Do you need witnesses? If so, how many? Most states require two witnesses. If you are concerned about witnesses, when you want it to be only the two of you, a solution is to find some hikers on the trail who are willing to sign your license as witnesses- you’ll find it’s easier than you think!

  4. Who Returns the Marriage License to its Issuance Office? If you’re eloping with us, we do require that you send the license back to the issuance office, unless if local laws state otherwise. We don’t mail the license in, just because with something of this nature and with how many states we work in and our nomadic lifestyle, we want to ensure nothing gets lost, etc.

  5. Once the Marriage License is filed, you should get a copy in the mail to confirm its validity.

Writing Vows on Your Own

Personally, I believe handwritten vows are so much more powerful than reading the vows the officiant tells you to. This gives you the opportunity to really speak to the heart of the person you’re marrying. In addition, this is an incredible time to really be vulnerable- this is where I see a lot of hand holding and gestures aside from crying that really speak about how the power of someone’s vows had on them. If you want photos that reflect and speak to the core of your love story and how someone’s love has shaped your life- write your own vows!

I’m a very emotional writer- people tell me all the time how when they read something of mine- they FELT it too. If you’re someone who has a difficult time putting your emotions into words, here’s a few of my personal tips to help you write from the heart:

  1. Get into your heart space. As cheesy as this sounds- everyone has the opportunity to become a poet/comedian/writer, if they know how to write from their own heart. When I wrote vows for my husband, Evan- I closed my eyes and imagined he was sitting in front of me- with visualizing that, I told him I loved him, that I wished him happiness, and that I was excited to spend the rest of my life with him. If that’s difficult for you- think back to all the memories you’ve experienced together and remember how those memories made you FEEL. Get in touch with those moments that helped you fall in love with the person you’re about to marry

  2. Set an intention before you start to write. Whenever I’m writing something- I ask myself - who am I talking to? What do I want to make them feel? Loved? Laughter? Joy? Inspiration? You get the idea, pinpoint the emotions you want your partner to feel when you’re conveying what they mean and add to your life. When I sat down to write vows for Evan (my husband), I wanted him to feel loved and supported that was my intention.

  3. Write whatever comes up when you sit down to write. Sometimes when I write, I don’t even write sentences- I just write the emotions that I want to flow in each paragraph - first paragraph- funny, second paragraph- loving, third paragraph- supportive, fourth paragraph- adventurous. Sometimes I just have one sentence that pops in my head and I just write whatever flows out afterwards. I recommend writing on your cellphone/computer before you write anything down on paper, so it’s easier to edit. The first draft can basically be in a different language, terrible grammar, etc- don’t judge your writing, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Emotions are the opposite of logical, so lean into whatever comes up and trust you can help it make sense later on.

  4. Edit the emotional vomit to now make sense. This is key to being an emotional writer, while still having it make sense. If you feel like you use a lot of repetitive words, I recommend using a thesaurus or you can even look up “loving soul words” on Google to give your writing a fresh look. I use a lot of words that focus on being “alive” in my writing, so I often focus on how his existence affects my “senses”.

  5. Write down the final vows on paper! I recommend you write all of your vows in a book specifically for your vows (many on etsy, etc) or on a piece of paper, if you don’t want photos of you reading your vows from your phone! I think if you’re going for timeless photos- avoid reading from your phone. Otherwise you’ll look at your photos and think - WOW! This is when I used an iPhone 8 when I now can text with a grain of rice (terrible joke)! When you should look at your wedding photos and remember what you FELT that day.

Other Ceremony Traditions to Consider Including

Hand-Fasting Ceremony

Hand fasting is when a couple bind their hands together with rope or string (can be colorful, climbing rope, or whatever you desire) during the wedding ceremony (before, during, or after sharing their vows). This is often to convey their commitment to one another. In addition, they can still exchange rings or vows with this tradition- you can include this as a large part of your ceremony or something simple!

Unity Candle Ceremony

A unity candle is a great tradition to represent two families or souls coming together as one. Generally, this is lit with three candles total, with one larger candle that is lit together by the couple (each person holding a candle for lighting the larger candle). The unity candle is often lit AFTER the vows have been exchanged, but you can include this as any time! If there are any burn bans in effect, this might not be possible to include.

Include LIVE music in Your Ceremony

There’s something about live music in nature- it’s unheard of! It doesn’t happen often enough, in my opinion. Music has a way to amplify our emotions and also to ease our nerves- having music a part of your day can make for an incredibly special experience. If you’re unsure of any musical artists to include in your adventurous day, I know someone! Her name is Anastasia Allison- you might’ve heard about her as she’s the famous violinist of the Musical Mountaineers! Click Here to inquire about her adventure elopement violinist offerings.

Sand Ceremony

A sand ceremony is like a unity candle- it is meant to convey two people/families coming together as one. This ceremony is often done before or after the vows are exchanged. How it’s done, is by a couple pouring different colored sand into a larger container. If you plan to do this outside- I recommend avoiding any sand that has been dyed, etc- it is not great for the natural environment and it’s an eye-sore for anyone visiting a wild place, to see hot pink sand, etc. Opt for natural sand that doesn’t have any dye. If your ceremony location is a farther hike, you might want to avoid this ceremony as sand can be quite heavy.

Wine Pouring Ceremony

A wine ceremony is like a unity candle and sand ceremony- it is meant to convey two people/families coming together as one. This ceremony is often done after the vows have been exchanged. It’s when the couple/families bring two separate bottles of fine wine pouring into smaller carafes and pour those together into a larger carafe.

Plant Potting Ceremony

A plant potting ceremony is like all of the unity ceremonies above, but it involves potting a plant together as a couple. It will flow best if it’s done after the ceremony/vows. It holds a symbolic nature of bringing two persons together and also a great symbol of nurturing and choosing to take care of your love together.

Sage-Smudging Ceremony

If you come from an indigenous background or if you believe in “energy”, you might like having a sage-smudging ceremony as a part of your wedding day. The purpose of this ceremony is because sage (or Palo Santo) are known to have cleansing abilities- purging negative energy- giving the couple space to start their life together in a positive space.

Commitment Ceremony

If you have a strong desire to vow your life to someone, but you don’t want the government involved in your marriage- you can opt to have a commitment ceremony. In this case, you don’t even need an officiant to make your marriage legal. You just need enthusiasm and love for one another. A commitment ceremony is for people who want a wedding, but they don’t want to be married by law. If you’re interested in a commitment ceremony, please know that I offer these without judgment- I believe all love should be celebrated.

Crystal Intention Setting Ceremony

If you’re into the healing and metaphysical properties of crystals, you can both hold a crystal together, setting an intention or intentions for a couple’s life together while holding the crystal. A twin crystal is recommended for this ceremony. This crystal formation is said to bring energy that assists with building relationships of all kinds.

A Final Word from Marie:

I hope this blog post was helpful with planning your adventure elopement! I’m a resource for you. If there’s any ideas that you come up with for your ceremony- I’d love to capture your trend setting ideas and include them in your story. I’m all about being there for my clients and really creating an experience for them simultaneously. Whatever your beliefs are with marriage or vowing our lives to one another- I will support you, as I’m incredibly open-minded and all I desire is to create a loving and fun space for you on such a special day.

If you’d love to learn more about our packages and inquiring for your wedding day, please head to our investment page where you can see the investment required + a form to inquire! We’re stoked to hear from you!

Marie & Evan Vanderpool are Adventure Elopement & Intimate Wedding Photographers for Adventurous Couples. Helping couples elope in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, WA and beyond. Traveling to Adventurous Outdoor Destinations for Hiking/Backpacking Mountain Elopements for Couples who love to explore and travel. Specializing in Adventure Elopements and National Park Elopements in the Pacific Northwest. Living on the road full-time, living van life.

Helping clients elope in Yosemite National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, Mount Baker National Forest, and Olympic National Park and Forest.