Post Summary: One of the absolute biggest mistakes I see when couples elope is NOT choosing a backup location for their ceremony. When it comes to outdoor adventure elopements, my best advice is to hope for the best, plan for the worst. There is almost always an unexpected “adventure” of some kind, and planning ahead for all possible scenarios gives us the chance to get ahead of it! This blog will walk you through how to make backup plans for your adventure elopement.
Hey friends! Today, I wanted to cover a SUPER important topic when it comes to elopement planning: having backup elopement plans + locations in place before the big day arrives. The reason? You can never know what mother nature will bring, or what obstacles might pop up unexpectedly at the last minute. I’m all about being flexible, adaptable, and making the best of whatever scenarios we get hit with, so this blog post is going to help make sure you have realistic expectations going into your elopement day & can prepare as best as possible!
Why Make Backup Plans for Your Elopement?
Here are just a few things that could possibly get in the way of using your original ceremony location:
- Non-ideal weather (rain, snow, ice, fog, wind, etc.)
- Extreme weather (hail, wildfires/smoke, winter storms, etc.)
- Trail reconstruction
- Road closures/roadblocks
- Permit issues
It’s not uncommon to have to adjust our timeline to adapt to weather, or switch to a different location altogether, especially in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve experienced rain, snow, sun, wind, fog, and bright blue, clear skies all in the same day! You just truly never know what you’ll be met with – foggy mornings often lead to pure blue afternoon skies, and morning sun might disappear behind the clouds for an overcast evening.
Crazy rain storms or unexpected snow can make it difficult to hike certain trails, and may even cause trail closures due to safety hazards. Or maybe you’re eloping in the fall and the location you’re eloping at just happens to get a crazy early snowfall that year!
The Pacific Northwest tends to hit wildfire season around mid-summer, as well, and these wildfires can cause smoky air that’s super unhealthy to breathe, plus there’s a potential for road closures depending on where the fires spread.
See what I mean? There are HUNDREDS of things that could pop up that we simply can’t predict, so it’s crazy important to have multiple backup options! This is the first step to making sure you can still enjoy your elopement day regardless of what happens.
On that note, be sure to check out my blog post about How to Handle Bad Weather on Your Wedding Day!
How to Make Backup Plans for Your Elopement
Here’s how I personally like to make backup elopement plans with my couples, and how I recommend you come up with your own!
Plan A: Your original ceremony location
Plan A will obviously be your original ceremony location – your top choice, priority pick from the Location Inspiration List.
When my couples book me for their elopements, I go into full research mode for them right away, and I create a customized Location Inspiration List packed with unique ceremony spots, permitting info, example photos, and more. I do this based on a location-scouting questionnaire I send them upon booking, so you better bet I’m going to find THE perfect location for their ceremony!
Plan B: A secondary ceremony location
Plan B should be a secondary ceremony location from the Location Inspiration List.
I have couples look through the list while we’re in the location-scouting part of the process, and pick a location that’s different from their original location in terms of hiking length, elevation or area.
For example: if your Plan A location involves a 5-mile hike up to the top of a mountain peak, you’ll want to choose a Plan B location that’s maybe only a mile long, and lower down on the mountain. In case a freak snowstorm happens the day before and we can’t access that higher alpine road, the chances of us accessing that easier hike, lower down on the mountain, are significantly higher!
It’s also possible that rain, fog, or other unforeseen weather conditions might be super bad in one location, but not another nearby – so you can definitely have your Plan A & B locations be in the same general area. This is super common in the mountains – sometimes the clouds can get stuck at a lower elevation, or the there’s dense fog higher up the mountain but lower elevation locations are clear.
Or maybe the weather ends up being bad during one part of the day—for example, if it’s raining at sunrise—we can switch your ceremony to sunset! And if the rain is still bad at your original location at sunset, we’ll move to Plan B.
Plan C: Airbnb/VRBO
An Airbnb or VRBO rental can be a great backup-backup (AKA Plan C) for your ceremony!
If you’re booking a place to stay the night of your elopement, think through whether or not it would be a good place to hold your ceremony in case of emergency.
Ideally, this would be a location with lots of windows and open spaces to enjoy plenty of natural light. White walls are a bonus, as they allow for more light to be absorbed into the room! You can hold your ceremony inside the house, in the backyard if there is one (and if the weather permits), or out on the deck if there’s one in the front or back. You can really embrace the vibe of the home and have your ceremony feel super home-y, cozy, & intimate, especially if you have a couple guests with you!
Keep in mind that not all short-term rental homes allow for events or photography, so make sure to reach out to the host prior to booking and get permission to hold your ceremony at their rental.
Plan D: A location further away with no permits required
Finally, Plan D should be a location much further away that doesn’t require you to apply for any permits in advance.
This should be somewhere you can easily get to with just 24-48 hours of notice where you won’t need to apply for a Special Use or Commercial permit in order to hold your ceremony! You should avoid national parks and even some state parks that might require permits, and instead look into BLM land, community parks, beaches, backyards, or other areas where you can potentially go at the last minute. Some BLM lands to require permits, so do your research carefully early on when making your backup plans!
For example: if both your Plan A and Plan B locations were at Mount Rainier, and you don’t have an Airbnb/VRBO rented in the area, your plan D might come into action if there’s a wildfire, construction, or road closures that prevent you from accessing the mountain.
Elopement Backup Planning: Example Plan
Let’s go through a quick example real quick of what your backup plans look like! For this example, we’ll say this couple is eloping at Mount Rainier National Park and really wants to take the 5.7-mile out-and-back hike to the Mount Fremont Fire Lookout.
Plan A: Mount Fremont Fire Lookout
- 5.7 mile hike
- High elevation
- Stunning views
- Ceremony at the top of the hike
- Average completion time: 3 hours
- Located: near Paradise Inn
Oh no – it looks like it snowed early at Rainier and now you can’t access the higher-elevation trails!
Plan B: Paradise Inn area
- No hike required
- Lower elevation
- Still beautiful scenery, and access to lower-elevation trails if weather permits
- Ceremony in front of the inn, or at an accessible picnic area nearby
Dang, all park entrances just closed off due to a landslide – it’s no longer safe to enter any part of the park.
Plan C: A-frame Airbnb in Ashford
- It’s the Airbnb you rented for the night, anyway!
- Plenty of natural light + large windows
- Events are allowed (you got permission from the host in advance)
- Adorable little deck for your ceremony
It looks like Snoqualmie Pass got a crazy snow storm over the weekend, so now you & your couple can’t even cross the pass from western to eastern WA.
Plan D: Family’s backyard in Seattle
- Free & available at the last minute
- Has enough space for your ceremony
- No permits needed
- Covered area in case of bad weather
Last-Minute Elopement Preparation Tips
- Download offline road + trail maps for ALL of your potential locations
- Monitor the weather, trail, + road conditions of your locations in the weeks leading up to your elopement (the NPS website keeps its park pages super updated, if you’re eloping at a national park!)
- Download the Weather Underground app to keep an eye on the radar on the day of your elopement
I hope this has helped you feel more prepared as you plan your adventure elopement, and feel confident that you’ll enjoy your elopement and be able to adapt in any scenario! Come up with Plan A, B, C, D (and even more, if you want to!), and get ready to roll with the adventure. We will make the best, most beautiful, and most memorable story no matter what gets thrown our way. You marrying the love of your life is the most important thing, anyway, right?
If you’re looking for more planning resources to help you create the elopement of your dreams, check out a few more of my personal faves below!
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In order to make your dream elopement day happen, it's super important that we connect and that you feel comfortable with me! The best way to do this is to reach out and schedule a call so you can learn more about me and I can learn about you two so i can document what's real + the most important to you.