10 Things To Consider When Planning an Adventurous Wedding

Austin Wedding Photographer | Sarah E. Photography

He’s put that rock on your finger, you can no longer belt single ladies at the top of your lungs but you’re not too keen on having the traditional wedding venue celebration

While I’m not married or even engaged for that matter I have been dreaming of my wedding day for years, especially since my job is to take photos of weddings every weekend. I know I want an adventurous wedding but still want my family and friends to celebrate with us which means making sure the location is both accessible, secluded and a bit unconventional.

The whole idea of having 300 people staring at me all night long makes my skin crawl, my heart longs for intimacy and adventure, so here’s my two cents on planning an adventure wedding


10 Things to consider when Planning an Adventure Wedding:

1) Find the right spot for YOU

While this may seem pretty obvious if you’re planning a destination/adventure wedding. There are a few things to consider. Just because it looks cool on instagram or you saw something on Pinterest that doesn’t mean its right for you. The world is full of stunning places and you could get married in almost any one of them, but make sure you’re making you location choice for you two. National parks have a ton of options for amazing wedding locations, some are way harder to get to than others and some are a lot more public than pictures would lead you to believe. If you are looking at getting married in a National Park, first check out their website and see if they have designated sites that would give you a better location ideas. Most national parks have sites designated for weddings to protect the park and other visitors. I also recommend cross referencing the location with a map of the park or google maps to see how close it is to roads, visitor centers, etc. If you are looking to find a location not in the national park, awesome, you just may need to do some extra scouting. Be cautious that you’re not on private property, you don’t want to be intruding or in trouble in the middle of your wedding. Or find someone that knows the area you’re looking in well that can help. If you are you flying or traveling to the location for your wedding, allow yourself an extra day to scout out your location beforehand and be sure it fits everything you need.  Like if you know you don’t want to see your man before you walk down the aisle make sure there is somewhere you can hide before walking down the aisle (that may be your car), or if there is even the space to make an aisle or if your clumsy like me, no rocks in the way because I would eat it and that ain’t pretty. Or check and see if the spot has some tree cover for shade if it’s summertime or protection from unexpected rain. Or if you have guests coming are you peeing in the trees or is their a restroom near by. If you’re wanting an open field, narrow down exactly where you want to stand and consider where the sun will be rising/setting so your not squinting the whole time. There are so many little things to consider when picking out the right location for you, you may want to hike up a mountain or you may want to drive, both are awesome options, everyone has their own adventure limits. Wherever you decide to adventure, be ready for a little extra scouting/planning and some dirt stains on your dress.  


2) Getting there:

 Once you have an idea of where, the rest of the W’s come in to play. If you’re able to drive to you location you may want to coordinate another meeting spot before driving to the park as most parks charge on a per car basis. Lots of National Park wedding sites have designated parking areas available but only allow a certain number of vehicles at the site or only get you half way to your destination, be sure to read the fine print. You may even need to rent a car with four wheel drive if you don’t have your own or are flying in to make sure you can get to the trail head safely and not get stuck. If you decide to hike up to your picture perfect spot you’re not going to want to do that in a wedding dress, I personally sweat too much lol. So make sure you have the appropriate gear, backpacks, shoes, a towel to dab the sweat away, deodorant, whatever you need to get their safely and comfortably. 

3) Staying nearby:

Around National Parks there are usually some lodging options. Some parks have lodging inside them, others on the outskirts, or lodging options may be found in the town closest to the park. If family and friends are coming it’s important to consider different budgets and accessibility. If it’s just you and your love you can be a little more flexible with lodging. Or you may want the perfect sunset ceremony on top of a mountain, which means by the time you hike down it may be dark so you have to plan ahead or bring a tent! I personally wouldn’t mind staying in a tent for the rest of my honeymoon but not for my wedding night, so you may have to mix up the order of the events to have family photos before the ceremony or tweak the timing of things to make sure its not completely dark before hiking back down the mountain. 

4) Family and Friends:

If you aren’t eloping and want a few family and friends to come along you’ll want to consider their activity levels and abilities. I know my grandmother won’t be hiking up a mountain to my ceremony but she could walk down a trail to a ceremony site at a National Park or ride up a gondola to the top of a mountain. I have already told those who will be bridesmaids in my wedding to get ready because we’ll be adventuring. Which for some may be way out of their comfort zone, heels and dirt paths don’t exactly go together well. 


You can’t just waltz into a National Park and get married anywhere you want, there are permits involved. I mean that would be nice but there are regulations and fees for the safety of the park and other visitors. A lot of National Parks have permits for particular sites, these sites need to be reserved and often have limits to the number of people allowed, that number includes photographers, videographers and the officiant, not just your friends and family. These permits can cost anywhere between $50-$300 dollars, so be sure to budget appropriately. While I think that’s a steal for the cost of a “wedding venue” you may not have thought it cost anything at all. I have yet to shoot a wedding in a National Park that a ranger didn’t come and double check the permits before, during or after the ceremony. So be sure to have them printed out and handy. 

6) Finding the right people to document everything:

I consider myself and an adventurous photographer willing to lug my gear up a mountain side in a heart beat. But not everyone is comfortable or willing to do that. When inquiring with vendors be sure to communicate exactly what you’ve been dreaming up so you aren’t heartbroken when your dream florist says theres no way she can get the arbor covered in flowers to your ceremony site. If you’ve been dreaming up an adventurous wedding I’m sure you’ve been scouring Instagram and Pinterest and already found a handful of photographers and videographers that fit your vision, lifestyle and passions but it doesn’t hurt to double check. I volunteer myself as tribute to anyone itching to climb a mountain for the big day

7) LNT:

Decorating your ceremony site can make a National Park picnic site turn into a magical wedding venue quite beautifully. But putting decor on trees and plopping an arbor in a field can do more damage than you think. So consider how you’re transporting all these items to the site, you don’t want to destroy a field with a wagon or cart trying to get your flowers in place or poke holes in a tree trunk trying to nail your sign to it. Leave No Trace practices aren’t always “required” but do yourself, the park and God’s creation a service and consider the impact you’re making going in and out of these amazing locations.

8) Expect the Unexpected:

Lions, Tigers and Bears oh my. But really if you’re adventuring anything can happen. Unexpected wedding crashers can happen, I had a moose waltz right up to a ceremony site and it wasn’t a friendly bullwinkel. The weather in more remote places or at higher altitudes can change quickly and dramatically so be prepared for rain, sleet, snow, and a 20 degree drop in temperature in an hour. If I know anything from backpacking and hiking, it’s to watch your surroundings carefully. I tend to get lost in the beauty of it all so being aware is key.

9) Timing is everything:

I wish I more people would consider how important time of day is for photographs in particular. You’ve been dreaming of that stunning warm sun flare photo, but having a ceremony at 1 pm won’t allow for that kind of warm buttery light. Consult your photographer (🙋‍♀️ I’m a pretty great, but may be biased) and/or videographer, check the sunset time the day you’re getting married (google “sunset on …”) to narrow down the best ceremony time. This will allow for enough time to get to and from you location, have the best light for photos and not have you feeling rushed. National Park site reservations have time limits so consider how long you have the site for, how long you want the ceremony and how much time you want to allow for photos. Lastly, consider, cardinal directions, the sun sets in the west and it’s better to have the sun behind for photos, so you may want to check out where the sun will be in relation to your ceremony site to not be blinding guests or having harsh shadows in every photo. 

10) Most Importantly:

Design your day for you two, no one else – While getting married on a mountain may be unconventional to some if you’re reading this I’m sure your considering throwing convention out the window. Or maybe not. I want an adventurous wedding but with a lot of the same traditions of a conventional wedding. Communion, vows, bouquet and garter toss, etc. Your wedding day is for you and your love, not your parents, your aunt who wants to have her say in every detail or your friend who is pushing you to follow in their footsteps. And it certainly isn’t trying to live up to something you saw on Instagram. Create the day around what you love and what your husband/wife loves, create your day around each other. 

Colorado Elopement Photographer | Sarah E Photography

Adventurous Wedding Photographer | Sarah E Photography



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