Enjoying a first dance at their sunrise wedding, Austin lifts his bride up and spins her as she gently holds his face and looks into his eyes. The sun is just rising and turns the whole scene golden.

ELOPEMENT TIPS: Advice From Our Own South Africa Elopement

BY CHAD AND VANESSA, ‘THE OUTLOVERS’: YOUR ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHY TEAM

1 March 2021

We want to share our best elopement tips with you!

Long before we became elopement photographers – before we’d ever really heard of an ‘adventure elopement’ – we eloped ourselves in a joyful, low-key celebration just outside of Cape Town, South Africa.

We planned two full weeks of adventures for our immediate family and absolute closest friends: we went wine tasting, we went on safari, we visited cute little beach towns…. And, of course, we GOT MARRIED! 

We wanted our friends and family to be able to just rock up, relax and enjoy every single second. So, we planned this entire shindig to a T. 

Oh, and we did it all while we were living on a boat in Fiji coz, you know, why make it easy?!

The process was not an easy one – in fact, it was a HUGE amount of hard work – but, for us, it was incredibly satisfying. 

Our elopement experience sparked the fire in us that led to the creation of ‘The Outlovers’.

We’d love to share what we learnt in the hopes it might help you with your own elopement planning journey. We KNOW how overwhelming the whole process can’t seem. We hope we can relieve that just a little with our top elopement tips!

YOUR ELOPEMENT TEAM

Photography, planning assistance, ceremony officiation.

Hey! We’re Chad and Vanessa, ‘The Outlovers’. 

We’re an adventurous Colorado and Utah elopement photography team, adventuring with couples across the US and worldwide.

We create epic elopement experiences for adventure-seeking couples who find their deepest connection in the great outdoors. 

ELOPEMENT TIP 1: There’s nothing a wedding MUST or SHOULD be (despite what other people might tell you)!

Other than a couple of key sentences that need to be said for you and your partner to be considered legally married, a wedding celebration can be WHATEVER you want it to be.

How liberating!

It is so important that you and your partner sit down together and really try to pin-point what YOU want from your wedding day. 

Not what your parents want, not what society suggests, not what your great aunt you haven’t seen in 20 years will expect.

For us, we didn’t want a bazillion people. 

We didn’t want formality and rigid structure. 

We didn’t want a frantic few hours whizzing by in the blink of an eye.

What WE wanted was a long, fun day of celebrations with just our closest loved ones, with very little pomp and ceremony.

So that’s exactly what we had!

North Cascades, Washington, mountain elopement. The couple walks hand in hand towards the camera, with an enormous snowy peak rising behind them.

ELOPEMENT TIP 2: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy”…. And Pinterest is the devil in disguise!

How to have a ‘perfect elopement’? Step 1: ditch the idea of perfect. 

Avoid spending TOO much time pawing over Pinterest, Instagram and fancy online wedding blogs, looking at one extravagant ‘perfect’ wedding after another!

Such weddings are not representative of a mix of real brides and grooms and they push us to strive for ideals that are unobtainable.

You do not need to spend mega-bucks on ‘stuff and fluff’ to make your wedding Pinterest-worthy!

It is more important for your wedding to be fun, happy and REAL.

So, turn off the WiFi, disconnect, close your eyes, forget what everyone else did and just daydream about what YOUR ideal wedding day might look like…

ELOPEMENT TIP 3: It’s OK to shirk tradition….

You may be feeling that a lot of wedding traditions just don’t sit right with you.

That’s OK, we were the same! 

The idea of my father ‘giving me away’ seemed patriarchal and old-fashioned. So, I did not have him walk me down the aisle. Instead, Chad and I walked in together, side by side and hand in hand: just as we plan to live our life together.

And the idea of a ‘first dance’ – all eyes on us as we awkwardly sway – was terrifying to us: so, we skipped it all together. This did not make our celebration any less special or ‘weddingy’.

Do not feel obligated to do something you don’t believe in or feel uncomfortable with.

ELOPEMENT TIP 4…But it’s totally OK to embrace tradition too!

There’s some weird sense that if you’re eloping you HAVE to reject all sense of tradition. It doesn’t need to be that way.

Embrace the traditions that feel good to you but don’t be afraid to skip the ones that don’t.

An elopement is all about CHOICE. It’s about INTENTIONALITY and taking the time to think through what you WANT.

We wanted our wedding to be wild, bohemian and free-spirited.

However, we also came to the realization – and acceptance – that, actually, there are some traditions we really like!

The groom not seeing the bride until the ceremony, for example. We woke up together, had breakfast together… But then we went our separate ways to get ready and didn’t see each other again until we came together to walk down the aisle. The anticipation and emotional build up were incredible and something we will never forget.

Oh, and cake! Damn right we had a wedding cake! In fact, we made it ourselves. We absolutely love cake and so we followed the tradition of a full-on, 3-tiered wedding cake.

Moab wedding, utah. The couple share a first dance overlooking dramatic canyons. Her multi-layered dress swooshes as he spins her.

ELOPEMENT TIP 5: The ceremony is THE most important part of the day.

A lot of couples get so wrapped up in the crazy details of wedding planning – the outfits, the flowers, the food, the music, the favors – that they almost forget what the day is actually all about.

The commitment you are making to one another.

Remember to put time and energy into your ceremony and sharing of vows and try to find ways to make it personal. 

Perhaps you’d like to write your own vows or maybe there’s a reading you’d really like to share?  If so, check out this blog post for advice on writing your own vows.

The ceremony was by far our favorite part of the whole day!

Here at ‘The Outlovers’ we offer all of our couples an optional, entirely personalized ceremony, written and conducted by Vanessa. Check out our packages for all the details.

ELOPEMENT Tip 6: Photography really DOES matter!

We’re very minimalist people and don’t really care too much for ‘stuff’. 

Our wedding photos are our single most prized possession.

We come back to them time and time again: and we laugh and we cry and we get ‘tinglies’ all over again.

Make sure you find a photographer who really understands your vision. For us, we wanted quality over quantity and we wanted a combination of natural, candid shots of the ceremony and ‘wow-factor’ epic landscape couple shots! Boy, did our photographer deliver.

As the years pass and the memories naturally fade it is only the photos that can take you back to that day and all its joy: to the little moments that were all but forgotten and the feelings lingering in the depths of your memory, just waiting to be rediscovered.

Colorado adventure elopement. The groom helps his bride as they scramble over rocks together.

ELOPEMENT TIP 7: It’s OK to spoil yourselves a little!

If you are naturally quite frugal and spendthrift, the idea of spending tens of thousands on a traditional wedding probably horrifies you.

It is NOT necessary to spend a fortune to have a meaningful day.

However, weddings ARE special occasions (in whatever form you choose to get married) and you DO deserve to celebrate your love in a beautiful way.

We came to realize it was totally OK to splurge a little here and there. 

So, we DID hire the private chef, and we DID spend a little bit of money on flowers, because I LOVE flowers and they make me smile.

Don’t waste money for no reason but do recognize your love as a reason to celebrate and allow yourselves a few treats!

ELOPEMENT TIP 8: Small weddings take JUST AS MUCH planning as larger weddings!

Honestly, of all our elopement tips this is the one that came most as a shock for us.

We went into this whole wedding planning thing knowing NOTHING and naively thought that planning an event for ‘just’ 20 people would be easy.

In the space of 18 months leading up to our wedding we spent, quite literally, over a thousand hours researching and planning. Finding an overseas venue, booking destination vendors, coordinating 20 people’s travel, finding and locking in cool activities, writing our own wedding ceremony… The list was endless.

It was HARD but it was REWARDING. We had the absolute time of our lives.

We’d do it again in a heartbeat. But this time we want to do it for YOU!

All of our packages include planning assistance. We’re going to help you with: choosing a location, figuring out permitting, finding accommodation, writing a timeline, choosing what to wear and bring…

Sunrise wedding. The couple snuggle up with a blanket wrapped around to watch the sunrise over the mountains as they prepare to share their vows.

OUR FINAL ELOPEMENT TIP: If you’re getting married overseas, do the legal parts at home!

Oh my goodness, TRUST US on this one. We’re speaking from experience. 

We got married in December 2018 and we STILL don’t have our unabridged marriage certificate. Not for lack of trying! We’ve emailed and called the right people a bazillion times over just to be told ‘it takes time’. 

It’s been a HEADACHE. 

We honestly wished we’d signed the papers in one of our home countries before our elopement.

We personally don’t feel it would have detracted from our actually wedding day one little bit. 

The day we shared our vows was the day we got married. 

Signing the papers was just a formality.

If you’re thinking about getting married overseas, check out our Ultimate Scotland Elopement Guide for inspiration.

ELOPEMENT TIPS

So, there you go: our top elopement tips! Overall, our biggest advice is this:

Take your time, think things through. Take these elopement tips and allow yourself the freedom to design a day that feels true to YOU.

Our mission at ‘The Outlovers’ is to make YOUR elopement planning experience a whole lot easier than ours was. We will be by your side through the whole planning process, using our experience to help you figure out every last detail. We want to take some of the weight off your shoulders so you just relax and enjoy the whole process from start to finish.

We would love to create an epic elopement experience for you! We provide planning assistance, photography and officiation for adventure-seeking couples across the US and worldwide. Get in touch to start brainstorming with us!

Chad & Vanessa, ‘The Outlovers’

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