Traditional weddings can be a lot of fun to attend, but when faced with the thought of planning one for ourselves, we weren’t sold. Instead of an aisle, we wanted a dirt trail, and instead of hundreds of people, we pictured hundreds of wildflowers.
We chose to elope near our home in Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada. We backpacked into an alpine lake backcountry site with four of our closest friends, our two dogs, and our incredible photographer (and her assistant). We hiked six hours in, set up camp, had dinner and wine, and called it an early night. At sunrise, Reid and I exchanged our vows to each other and after a brief rain delay and breakfast, had a ceremony surrounded by our friends and the mountains. We hiked out later that day back to a cabin to celebrate with a self-made taco bar and all the wine. When planning our day, we couldn’t find too much information online to assist us, so if you’re like us and dirt trails and wildflowers speak to you, here are 8 things to consider when planning your own backpacking elopement.
Don’t have a specific place in mind just yet? Start with deciding what season you want to get married in and then go from there. Are the wildflowers just right at the end of July? Or would the fall colours in late September be more your style? The options are endless, from river valleys to mountains and anything in between.
If you’re backpacking into a designated campsite, be sure to know when it opens for registration and snag those sites! We booked all the available sites at our desired location so that we could be up there alone.
There’s no shortage of photographers in the elopement game, so spend some time following them on Instagram and cruising their websites to find one whose style you love. Don’t be afraid to reach out to multiple photographers and share your plan with them (after all, a backpacking elopement is not a typical adventure elopement). Once you narrow it down to a couple photographers that are excited about your day, meet up with them (in person or via skype). It’s important that you all vibe well because you will be spending a lot of time together over the course of your elopement. They can also be a great source for brainstorming locations and finding other vendors!
If you think finding a photographer to come backpacking with you for an elopement is hard – try finding a willing officiant! Depending on where you live, this might be easier for you (in some States you don’t even need an officiant!). Up in Canada, things are a little trickier and we decided that we would do the legal portion of the marriage ahead of time. If you have family that are not attending the elopement and consequently feeling left out, this could be a great way to include them. Doing the legal stuff months before also gave us the ability to write our own ceremony and have one of our good friends “officiate” our elopement.
Keep it simple! Whatever you choose to wear on your special day, remember – you have to pack it in. Finding a wedding dress made from fabric that won’t wrinkle will be a huge life saver. My dress was loosely folded in the top of my backpack, wrapped in dry cleaning bags to keep it safe from the rain. Once there, I laid it out in one of the tent vestibules overnight. It was made of lace and tulle, and although it did not wrinkle, the tulle snagged on everything. Everything! Don’t be afraid to get your dress dirty!
For the groom, a simple suit is timeless and can be packed in inside of a garment bag and hung on the back of the pack. Reid chose to bring along dress shoes, while I wore my hiking boots.
We highly recommend bringing a couple black garbage bags with you in case it starts to rain on the hike in. They sure came in handy for us!
Silk flowers are your friend! Not only will they last the trip in and overnight, you can keep them forever. There are options online for premade silk bouquets (check ETSY) or you can choose to DIY one (like we did) to bring your exact vision to life. Silk flowers also guarantee that you will not introduce any foreign flower species into the environment on accident (Leave No Trace approved!).
This can be daunting when deciding to do a backpacking elopement. Getting the “bridal” look without also bringing along a makeup artist and hair stylist can be done though! Depending on your comfort level doing your own makeup and how you want to look, you can do a few things prior to make it a little easier on yourself. I chose to get eye lash extensions and a brow tint, because I knew I would be doing my makeup in the tent in the dark at 4:30AM.
For hair, the option is there to find a good hair stylist that will do your hair before your hike in! A good style should hold and the stylist can help you pin it up so that it doesn’t get too sweaty. I chose to also get hair extensions sewn in because my hair doesn’t hold style that well and the extensions ended up holding curl through a six-hour hike in (in the rain) and overnight in the tent. Highly recommend!
- Little Details
Because this day is all about you and your love, you can choose to add little details to really make it your own! Do you want to write your vows in customized vow booklets? Make floral collars for your dogs? Bring in a “Just Married” sign? Have letters from your loved ones to read? Hike in your favourite beers or snacks? It’s completely up to you, and we hope you have fun with this part of the planning!
- The Elopement
Often, weddings don’t go according to plan. Add a backpacking trip into that and you can almost guarantee that things won’t. It’s important to embrace the adventure and to soak every moment in! The beauty of a backpacking elopement is that there really is no structure – spend all morning getting caught up in the beauty surrounding you, have your first dance on a certain spot of ground that looks right, it’s all up to you!
Written by Domonique and Reid Anderson
All photography taken by Celestine Aerden Photography
To view her full portfolio of work please visit https://www.celestineaerden.com