A bride leads her groom by the hand as they walk along rocks next to the river in Glacier National Park on their leave no trace elopement day.

How to Have an Unforgettable Leave No Trace Elopement

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Leave No Trace(LNT) is super important to us as elopement photographers and something we’re passionate about sharing with you for your elopement day. If you’re not familiar with what Leave No Trace is, that’s ok, because we’re breaking it all down for you in this Leave No Trace Elopement Guide! We’ll chat about what Leave No Trace is, the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace, how to Leave No Trace on your elopement day, and why hiring Leave No Trace Elopement Photographers is important!

What is Leave No Trace?

To kick things off let’s chat about what Leave No Trace means! Leave No Trace is an organization that created the 7 Principles that say when you are out in the world exploring, seeing new places, and eloping, you are making sure that you aren’t leaving things worse than you found them. In fact, you’re leaving them better so that more people can enjoy them. They have been an organization for 25 years and are on a mission to spread the word to help create a better world for us all and to continue educating people on why Leave No Trace is so important!

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace

According to the Leave No Trace Organization, there are 7 main principles that we should try to follow while recreating and planning elopements in the wild. Here they are:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What you Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be considerate of Others

Are you ready for your own LNT elopement? Or want to learn more about Scenic Vows?

How to Have a Leave No Trace Elopement

• Plan Ahead and Prepare

One of the ways we help couples have a Leave No Trace Elopement is by planning ahead and preparing them for the day! We do this by researching the area they are eloping in, finding any information we can, and then making sure that everyone who is going to be there is aware of the rules and regulations. We also make sure to have a plan B and C because we know how weather and conditions can change very quickly when you’re out in the wilderness.

• Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

What this means for your Leave No Trace elopement is that when suggesting ceremony locations, we’ll make sure that they are in an area where all of your guests can comfortably stand. And then throughout the day after the elopement ceremony, we’re just being really aware of where we’re walking (on a designated trail). We don’t want to trample flowers or meadows as they take time to restore once they are trampled. We also want to stay off cryptobiotic soil as it is super super fragile and could take 50-250 years to fully recover from one misstep.

• Dispose of Waste Properly

When planning your Leave No Trace elopement, it’s important to think about the waste that your elopement day might create. Are you bringing paper or plastic plates and forks for everyone to use during your picnic reception? Will you be popping champagne for a group toast? If you answer yes to those questions, take a second to think about what you’ll do with them once you’re finished eating. If you are planning on hiking to a remote location for your Leave No Trace elopement, you won’t have access to trash cans so you will have to pack everything with you on your hike out. 

Disposing of waste properly also means human waste. We want to make sure that water sources aren’t contaminated so you need to be aware of where you are choosing to use the bathroom when out in the wilderness. 

• Leave What you Find

One of the biggest things that comes to mind with this principle is picking flowers. If everyone picked just one flower, very soon there wouldn’t be any left for anyone else to enjoy. The same goes for those giant pine cones found in Yosemite! If everyone took one, there would be none left for the squirrels to munch on. 

When you start planning your Leave No Trace elopement, just remember that you need to leave the area the same way you found it. That way other people can come along and enjoy it after you.

• Respect Wildlife

We love seeing wildlife during Leave No Trace elopements! But we also know that they are wild, so we always give them plenty of space and distance so that they don’t feel threatened or afraid. When you think about it, we’re in their home so we need to treat them with respect. 

Another way we respect the wildlife during Leave No Trace elopements is by making sure all of our food is secured and somewhere that they can’t get to. When we feed animals human food, it is damaging and sometimes deadly to them. So if you’re bringing food for your elopement celebration, make sure you stay around it or you lock it in a bear storage container so that animals can’t get to it.

• Be Considerate of Other Visitors

It’s understandable to get caught up in the moment during your Leave No Trace elopement and to forget that anyone else is around. But we do need to be respectful of other people who are just trying to enjoy the same thing we are! Most National Parks don’t allow you to have elopement ceremonies in highly populated areas for this reason and we’re sure you would probably rather be somewhere more private anyway. 

Hiring Leave No Trace Elopement Photographers

The main reason for hiring Leave No Trace elopement photographers is so that they can help you follow these principles on your elopement day and to help you prepare for a Leave No Trace elopement ahead of time!

Since this is important to us, we took a course offered by Leave No Trace that was created specifically for Elopement photographers! It feels great knowing that we can continue to educate our couples to help make the world a better place.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about LNT or Scenic Vows,
click one of the links below!

Throwing Out Commonplace Ceremonies For Outdoor Experiences

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Did you just breathe a sigh of relief? We see you. Go ahead, ask us how this works.


We Leave No Trace, but there are some throwbacks on our feed.