Elopements & adventure weddings have become increasingly popular over the past half decade, adding to the tens of millions of visitors that visit our national and state parks each year. The majority of people never intend to harm nature but our presence can certainly take a toll. These areas suffer from litter, animals that become habituated to humans and trail erosion, just to name a few things. If you haven’t spent much time in the outdoors (or even if you have), you may not realize that our negative behaviors make a big impact.
I grew up in the shadow of Mount Rainier, where my family would volunteer as Meadow Rovers on summer breaks. We would hike the trails to check on trail makers, report animal sightings and trail violations–Did you know you could be fined, per foot print, for walking on the meadows up and Paradise and Sunrise? As a teenager, I probably thought this was all boring too but unlike for many people, the Leave No Trace Principles were taught to me and instilled in me at a young age and now I consider them every time I work or play in the outdoors. Right now, it is relatively easy to take our couples to get married in the outdoors but if we are careless and inconsiderate, it may become more challenging in the future. Let’s not let that happen–No matter what age you are, it’s never to late to start putting the Leave No Trace Principles into practice!
So what is Leave No Trace anyway? The Leave No Trace (LNT) principles are the guidelines we should follow to best enjoy and protect our natural spaces. Rules and regulations are usually more strict at the national level but these principles are good to keep in the back of your mind anytime you go outdoors. If you’re a vendor that specializes in elopements and adventure weddings, you should be the expert in these and should consider yourself a steward of the outdoors–Educate yourselves, your couples and other vendors you work with!
Plan ahead and prepare:
- It’s important to know the rules and regulations for the specific park/area you’re going to be visiting. If you’ve never been, I always recommend calling ahead to ask about permits and any other special considerations
- Be prepared for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies. Before an elopement or adventure wedding, I check and email out the expected weather forecast, recommendations on clothing and gear and even a reminder to fill up gas tanks!
- Let me preface this little story by saying that I absolutely adore this vendor (and he knows I use him as an example)–It was said vendor’s first elopement and we were planning to snowshoe with our couple on Mount Rainier. It was the dead of winter and the forecast called for snow and 19 degree weather. Come to find out, he had never been snowshoeing himself and showed up in jeans and dress shoes. I don’t think I need to go on, you get the picture. It ended up being preeeeetty chilly but totally fine…luckily! However, if you’re not prepared it can not only make you look unprofessional but may hinder you from doing your job to the best of your ability. In some situations, it could even be dangerous! Again, your couples look to you as the expert and their guide–Don’t take couples to places you’ve never been, into weather you’re not comfortable in yourself or do activities you’ve never done on their wedding day. It’s not the time for a test run.
- Keep an emergency kit in the car and on your person, especially in the winter or when poor weather conditions are in the forecast. Think chains, snow shovel, hand warmers, a blanket, extra gloves, snacks and water. See The 10 Essentials recommended for every adventure
- To lower your impact, avoid times of high use. I try to schedule most elopements on the weekdays!
- Smaller groups do less damage and will make for a better experience for you and other visitors! We recommend, at the very very max, up to 25
Travel, camp & elope on durable surfaces:
- Durable surfaces include established trails, designated picnic areas and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses and snow
Properly dispose of waste:
- Pack it in, pack it out. This is a BIG one for me–PICKUP AFTER YOURSELVES! I don’t know how many times I have been to some of the more popular locations and had to pick up after other vendors–Disposing of plastic water tubes for flowers, picking confetti out of a lake. I know flowers are biodegradable but take those too, take everything that isn’t natural to the area, take anything you brought! And please, let’s not throw bouquets off cliffs–It’s littering! This behavior is a really bad look for ALL OF US, if we want to keep doing weddings in these places!
- Speaking of confetti–If confetti is a must have, opt for dried flower petals! They are biodegradable it’s obvious they aren’t trash, unlike some other eco-friendly options. In the past, we’ve used the rice paper confetti that melts away when it gets wet but if it doesn’t rain, it looks like garbage for days. While we know it will go away, others don’t and it may ruin their experience. Check out Charismas Confetti Co.–We love their dried flower petal confetti!
- Go to the bathroom at least 200 feet from rivers, streams, lakes, etc. to avoid polluting water sources
- If you have to go number 2, bury it 6-8 inches deep. Make sure you pay attention to the signs at trail heads as some are now asking that you pack out your business
Leave what you find:
- Don’t build structures, bring in furniture or dig. This means no arches, tables, chairs, etc. unless you have a permit/permission and/or are careful to make sure you are on a durable surface
- Foraging is fun and it may seem cute to pick your own wildflower bouquet but if you’re on federal lands (national parks, national forests, national monuments), it’s ILLEGAL to pick plants. Many of these lands are already fragile and undergoing restoration-–Find a local florist and ask them for a wildflower-style bouquet that uses local and in-season blooms. This is sustainable, supports multiple local businesses (florist, markets + growers) and will be beautiful!
Minimize fire danger:
- If you plan to incorporate sparkers or candles, be sure to check current burn bans. LED candles are a good substitute!
- Do not feed the animals! Feeding animals can be harmful to their health and cause them to become too comfortable with humans, possibly putting them and you in danger
- Don’t throw (as confetti) rice, non-native seeds or other foods that aren’t a part of the native animals’ natural diets
- Store trash in proper waste receptacles or again, pack it out!
- Observe animals from a distance, they are not photo props and can be dangerous, especially during mating season or if they have babies!
- Control pets at all times or leave them at home
Be considerate of other visitors:
- Don’t hog the best view points for photos and ceremonies. Even with a permit, in national and state parks, you can’t ask other people to leave an area or not watch–The parks are for everyone to enjoy!
- Limit music as much as possible and make sure it isn’t too obnoxious or profane. Avoid using amplified noise as much as possible. Mics and big speakers are not necessary for these types of weddings
- Yield to others on the trail, especially if traveling as a large group
Geo-tagging & social media:
- While I am all for sharing trails, camping spots, etc. in real life, be careful when tagging specific locations on social media. The rise in social media has significantly increased traffic to many popular and previously lesser known spots, which has also increased the wear and tear
- Make sure the photos you post don’t promote poor LNT practices. For example, feeding wildlife, stomping through meadows or throwing bouquets of cliffs
- Educate (don’t shame) each other! Social media is a powerful way to get the word out and raise awareness
As someone who claims to be an expert on elopements and adventure weddings, I take these principles seriously and believe they are essential to preserving our natural lands! Be safe & respectful out there!
Need help planning your elopement or adventure wedding? Contact The Greatest Adventure Weddings & Elopements to set up a complimentary consultation!
Cheers & happy planning!