Elopement Planning

How to Leave No Trace During Your Elopement

As you start planning your elopement, you probably heard the term leave no trace or LNT thrown around a couple of times while browsing through our site or even looking for some inspiration on socials. This term is actually incredibly important for elopement and adventuring in general to maintain and respect the lands we visit. LNT is what keeps elopements possible for future couples!

Here’s everything you need to know when planning a leave no trace elopement adventure!

What is Leave no Trace?

Leave No Trace (LNT) started as a collaboration between three public land agencies (National Park Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Outdoor Leadership School) in 1987. The original purpose was to promote environmental responsibility and has since evolved into one of the most important principles for adventure elopements around the world.

The concept of Leave no Trace is a framework that should be taken into consideration when visiting somewhere outdoors. The 7 principles of LNT are a great foundation to go over when planning your wedding day with your partner. Without LNT in mind, our lands would become heavily impacted and destroyed. However, there will be different LNT principles and regulations you should consider, depending on the area you’re eloping. This is why we can’t stress enough the importance of teaming up with experienced elopement vendors in the area you’re thinking about eloping.

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace to Remember

According to the Leave no Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, there are 7 key LNT principles that make up the core of the Leave no Trace (LNT) curriculum. Originally, these principles were created to minimize impact in remote areas, but with elopements growing in popularity, these principles can be applied for all outdoor activities (even if you are just exploring somewhere together).

  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 other visitors

How to Plan a Leave no Trace Elopement

When it comes to planning your elopement and considering LNT, keeping the 7 principles in mind is a great way to get started. Here’s what you need to remember when planning:

Plan Ahead

Planning an elopement is definitely less stressful than planning a traditional wedding, but there are specific things you need to plan for when it comes to planning an adventure elopement. This is especially important when considering leave no trace principles.

Once you decide where you are going to elope it’s important to familiarize yourself with the regulations that come with the specific national park or location you’re eloping at. If something isn’t clear, then contact someone at the location to answer any questions you may have.

Consider the following:

  • Go over the leave no trace with your elopement vendors and what you should keep in mind when it comes to the specific area you’re visiting.
  • Obtain proper permits and apply for your marriage license.
  • Consider bathroom arrangements. If you’re in a super remote area, then there may not be any portable restrooms nearby. Bring some doggy bags and toiletries to clean up!
  • What is your plan in case it rains? How does the rain impact the area you decide to elope in?
  • Wear comfortable shoes to stay on the trails.
  • Pack light, but consult your vendors to make sure you pack the essentials.

Learn how to elope here.

Make Sure You’re Following Proper Permit Regulations

We provide location guides and permit information in our elopement packages. However, it’s important to remember that permits and regulations can change at any time. If you’re using our site as a tool to help plan your wedding adventure, then remember to jump to the website to double-check the latest permit requirements.

Permits are really important during your adventure because they keep you from getting a fine on your wedding day, and they ensure you follow certain locations’ rules and regulations. Eloping somewhere and not following that location’s regulations will only put your elopement spot at risk for other people to not be able to visit.

Work With an Elopement Vendor Who Specializes in the Area

Our directory features elopement vendors from around the world. Each of these vendors is located in the area they serve full time. They are experts in their area, and it’s important to team up with an expert to ensure you’re practicing correct LNT principles in the area.

Here are some questions to ask your vendor before deciding to team up with them:

  • How many elopements have you done at this location?
  • What would our backup plan look like in case it rains, or if our ceremony location is not reachable due to road closures?
  • What should we pack for our adventure based on the location?
  • How’s the wildlife in the area? Should we bring bug spray or bear spray? If we do, what kind do you recommend?
  • What is our limitation on snacks we can bring?
  • What time of day should we elope at this location?
  • Is this location crowded, or do you recommend a different spot or time of year?

Stay on the Trail at All Times

Photo by Julia Goldberg Photography

Elopements are becoming more and more popular every day. It’s pretty easy to see why when you run across some pretty epic elopement photos on Instagram featuring stunning views of Yosemite or Sedona. But a lot of these pictures, without couples even knowing, go against Leave no Trace principles (specifically they are OFF TRAIL).

Going off trail poses risks to not only yourself but to the land too. An established trail is usually wide enough for two people containing dirt, gravel, or wood. Some trails even have markers for you to follow.

Gravel, water, deep snow, rock, packed dirt, and dry grass tend to have less of an impact than stepping outside on the actual vegetation. Stay clear of wet grass, meadows, fields of wildflowers, cryptobiotic soil, and sensitive alpine tundras. If you run across a trail that is muddy from the rain, then make sure you pick up your wedding dress and walk through the mud in your hiking boots!

Go Minimal With Decor & Leave it Better Than You Found It

A big thing with leaving no trace is leaving the area exactly how you found it or better yet, better than you found it. This can become difficult if you decide you want to have an arch, chairs, etc… While it’s completely possible to follow LNT principles and have wedding decor on your elopement, it becomes a bit more difficult. It also depends on your location’s restrictions surrounding decor.

We think the best option you can opt for is to let your elopement location be the perfect backdrop for your ceremony. You’ll have way less logistics to worry about, and you’ll be able to explore more instead of worrying about set up and take down.

If you do decide to include decor on your elopement, please make sure you pick up everything. If the park’s regulations specifically prohibit flowers, please respect this. Talk to your florist or photographer for possible other options you can include such as dried or silk flowers.

Once your elopement adventure is over, pick up around you. If you see trash that you did not leave, please pick it up. You’ll be making a big impact with every piece of trash you pick up.

Pack Only the Essentials

The more stuff you pack, the more stuff you’ll have to carry. We recommend only packing the essentials to make it easier to LNT and for yourself, in all honesty. Ask your elopement vendor what you should consider packing for the specific location you’re visiting.

Here are some essentials to keep in mind when packing for your elopement:

  • A small first aid kit
  • Extra layers if you’re planning a winter or high-altitude adventure
  • GOOD hiking shoes (break them in before your adventure)
  • A reliable backpack
  • Snacks
  • Any trails maps

Keep Your Wedding Party Small

A lot of couples who decide to elope will keep their elopement between just the two of them and their elopement vendors. However, you can absolutely include some of your family and friends if you wanted to and plan a micro wedding adventure!

Remember that the more people you include, the more foot traffic you will have to your elopement destination. If you’re planning on having a small wedding ceremony, then we suggest you hold your ceremony at a more known location that is easily accessible and save the more remote spots after or before your ceremony to explore together.

Respect the Land and Local Wildlife

The last and most important point you’ll want to remember is to respect the land and local wildlife.

Remember to:

  • Stay on the trail to not disrupt any vegetation or wildlife nearby.
  • Leave what you find. It may be tempting to pick flowers or move something, but please keep in mind you may be disrupting little critters home or causing damage.
  • Dispose of all waste properly. We suggest bringing garbage bags with you and little doggy bags.
  • Minimize campfire impacts.

Practicing Leave No Trace After Your Elopement

Once your adventure is over and you get your amazing photos and videos back, you’ll probably want to share your elopement on social media. Most people wouldn’t think geotags could cause harm to a location, but they certainly can in more remote locations. We don’t condone gatekeeping of these elopement locations, but we do encourage you to respect the fact that some elopement spots are better kept a secret.

There are a bunch of places to elope that many people automatically think of, and that list is continuously growing with the growing popularity of eloping. In order to keep the spots that are still a secret more remote, we encourage you to use general geotags instead of specific trail tags. Keeping the specific trail off of your social media also honors the work of your fellow elopement vendors who took the time to scout out such an epic spot for you.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding an LNT Elopement

Can I still have wedding decorations during my elopement considering LNT?

While more LNT elopements are kept very minimal, you can include some wedding decorations at your elopement location if you want to. The easiest way to do this and consider LNT principles is to contact your elopement location and ask what restrictions are currently in place regarding any decor. If you do decide to bring along some decorations, then don’t forget to pick up after yourself and leave the land better than you found it.

Is it OK to go off the trail when there’s an “unofficial” trail we found while scoping out the area?

The short answer is no. While it may be tempting to go off trail and explore an area others have clearly explored before you, it’s important to stick to the official trail at all times. By people continuing to explore areas outside of the trail, it causes damage to the vegetation and wildlife. If you found a “trail” that isn’t marked, then ask your elopement vendor or park ranger for more advice on the matter.

I wanted to take a picture like the one I found on Social, but my elopement photographer refuses because it goes against LNT principles. Should I find another photographer?

Your photographer respects the land and wants to preserve it. The fact your photographer is acknowledging an LNT concern from your photo inspiration means they are knowledgeable of the safe practices in the area. We say, stick with your photographer and ask what they can do to achieve a similar look and feel to the inspo photo you want while honoring LNT.

Do all elopement locations have the same LNT regulations?

No. A lot of parks have specific restrictions on their website, especially concerning floral arrangements and decor. Some locations don’t even have any regulations, but that does not mean you should not follow the 7 practices even though there isn’t a park ranger overseeing things. Believe it or not, there are still some locations that aren’t strict on leave no trace yet because they aren’t as crowded as some of the more well-known places to elope. We still highly encourage you to follow the 7 LNT principles anywhere you decide to adventure together.

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