The Ultimate Guide To Planning an Adventure Elopement

0. What is Elopement and Why to Elope?

For those who don't know us, we are Tu & Tara, an adventure elopement & intimate wedding photographer & videographer duo based in Europe. We were born and raised in Vietnam but now residing in Germany - happy to call here our new home. We love traveling, outdoor and seeking adventures - we tried 9-to-5 jobs before but it didn't suit us well. So we quitted and now we're grateful that thanks to our current profession and passion, we have been to almost 40 countries capturing some rad adventure elopements & weddings in Kenya, Morocco, India, Singapore, Vietnam, Iceland, Italy, Spain, France, Macedonia...

The more we shoot weddings the more we love elopement. And fact is, people are still eloping. Nope, it's not a fad. And personally we think elopement is one of the best things you can do right now!

So you're engaged and instead of having a big wedding back home, you've decided to have an adventure elopement in a different corner of the world. It may sound exciting and awesome at first but then you started to feel overwhelming with all the planning. Or you having a trip to a place in a different side of the globe in a month and want to elope on a whim! Just because. We feel you! So here we are to make your life easier with the most comprehensive guide to planning an adventure elopement you can find on the internet! *Drum roll*

1. Have a clear vision of how you want your elopement to be

Plant an idea. Dissect it. A clear vision will open your mind to the endless possibilities of what you want and are able to create. If you're super open and flexible, we're more than happy to help you putting together some rad ideas for your elopement.

A strong and current vision that is well defined helps you to focus and create a purpose of your elopement planning, know what and why do this or that, overcome obstacles rising along the way and connects with your passion.

A vision can be used in two different ways: inspiration and prediction. It is first used to inspire you in creating an adventure elopement the way that you are truly wanting. It is also used in prediction for changes and hiccups (often last minute in a very in your face style) in the future so you have the flexibility to deal with it.

Your elopement is about who you are, as an individual and a couple. So when you create a successful vision of your elopement, you begin to feel passionate about it. You visualize it and set goals and a employ plan of action to reach your goal (Pinterest is your best friend!). Over time, you will begin to see more parts of your vision coming true and can't wait for your elopement to come soon enough. Head over the link below to get inspired by some rad ideas for your adventure elopement that we created: from Antarctica expedition trip, Annapurna Circuit Trekking, Cruising the Nile River, Overland Trip through Russia, Exploring East Java of Indonesia with camper van, safari elopement in Kenya to Scottish Highlands... Seriously, there is no limit.

2. Choose a location / date

Finding a location is the most important decision you can make while planning an adventure elopement. The cream of the crop among your long bullet point list. Seriously, It can make it or break it. The location will dictate everything else of the planning progress, hence the most important factor of planning an elopement. Did we say it twice? You can also choose to pick a location in a way that you can combine your elopement and honeymoon in one trip.

That's why we have written a super lengthy, in-depth blogpost to help you pick the most perfect location (and date, because they are very correlated) for your adventure elopement so head over the link below.

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3. Find the right elopement photographer / videographer

The most important vendor for your elopement / wedding. Yup we said it. No shame haha. Not because we're photographer & videographer. Because we are like magicians, we can create unicorn in your photos (or at least, dinosaur!), we can design a trip for you so unreal that it makes you believe in god like Life of Pi and last but not least, we will be the greatest third wheel you've ever had in your lifetime, promised!

Are we trying too hard to be funny?

Update: it felt so awkward/cringe reading what we wrote here after a few months lol.

Joke asides, in a more serious note, after everything is said and done, the photographs and film are the only thing remained that will help you relive and cherish your day forever. Be it wedding or elopement.

And secondly, an experienced elopement photographer / videographers who had done a handful of elopements around the world like us can provide you invaluable tips, tricks and hands-on advices based on real world, complex elopement planning experiences. We'll take a step further than just capturing your elopement visually but work with you closely from scratch to make the best out of your journey.

Thirdly, eloping is incredibly intimate and way different than wedding, you will need someone who knows the elopement game which requires a particular skill set. Someone who has just the right amount of "intrusiveness sensitivity". Someone who makes you feel comfortable and want to spend time with during the trip, someone who knows when to be stealthy like a ninja, back off to give you personal room to diving deep into the emotional waves during the most intimate moments while still be able to capture them. But at the same time knows when to give you a little external push and pep talk (without crossing your personal boundaries and be annoying) to get the best results.

Fourth, if you want to do an adventure elopement, you probably want someone who really walk the walk and not talk the talk. Photographers who are at least as adventurous as you, who are frequent travelers, master of travel hacks and seeing outdoor activities and seeking adventure off the grid as a lifestyle, not business slogan or marketing. Who knows Leave No Trace, who knows what to pack for multi day backpacking hundreds of miles through remote backcountry, who has some basic survival skill set, who approach wilderness with respect, cold head, common sense and abundant safety knowledge to keep you safe from harm when everything else fails.

Fifth, before you start finding photographers, you'll need to know, brainstorm and stick to the style you like, as that will help determine which kind of photographer / videographer you'll want shooting your elopement. It's kind of counterproductive and pointless to ask a photographer to work in a way that you can clearly see it's not their style just by looking at their portfolio.

Sixth, check past couples' testimonial, ask them to view a full elopement story blog and not just the best photographs here and there to make sure work is consistent and match your style 100%. For instance, on our gallery you can see 150-200 images of each elopement. Why showing so many photos? Because for us, the purpose is not just creating images that can stand alone but also to observe their power as part of a greater collection. The collection – not the isolated image – is the bigger stake here for us.

And finally, I know that even that after you stalked the hell out of their website and social profiles, there are still concerns and uncertainty. But we have to ask you to trust your wedding photographer / videographer unconditionally. It's the biggest gift you can give them, and yourself. 

4. Tackle down the elopement itinerary

There’s no right or wrong way how to elope, as long as you have fun! Planning an elopement itinerary is basically not that different than planning a vacation. And we love planning trips - building up all the excitement! It’s good to do your homework and have a good plan A (And Plan B, Plan C - because things often never go according to plan!), but being flexible and following your whims makes it all the more fun.

Basically planning an elopement itinerary boils down to three parts: travel arrangements from your location to the elopement location, the timeline of the elopement day itself and itinerary for the adventurous day(s) before/after. Read more on the blog below.

5. Get reinforcements

Elopement planner, Coordinator, Tour Company, Event Manager of the accommodation... Extra help is always welcome. Especially for complex, multi day elopements in foreign countries when you don't speak the language, we strongly recommend you getting some local reinforcements to make your life easier.

For example this 4 day elopement in Moroccothe couple has booked a tour company which has taken care of everything that meets our demand and need: arranging pick-up from Marrekech airport to the hotel, all accommodations in different locations we required, private van with driver around the clock for the whole four days, Sahara desert tour and glamping, candlelight dinner, setting up ceremony....

Or this 3 day elopement in Maasai Mara, Kenya, we have an agency working together with the Governors Camp's General Manager to coordinate, execute and bring all the complex details together.

That being said, there were also many elopements that we did without any external help. Like this elopement in Iceland, this elopement in South of France (they did have a florist for the reception though), this elopement in the Dolomites, this elopement in Vietnam.... Know what works best for you, but sometimes it's great to have a great base acting as a gateway to explore the wilderness! Check the link below for inspiration!

6. Styling guide

Based on timeline, we categorize outfits in two groups: outfits for the elopement day itself (ceremony / couple shooting / reception) and outfits for other days.

The best thing about getting eloped is you can pick to bring and wear whatever wedding outfits you like on the day of. It could be traditional, unconventional, alternative, modern... It doesn't have to be white, it doesn't have to be dress, it doesn't have to be suit. It could be anything, any styleBy letting your minds run free, you allow creativity energy to flow and make you more satisfied.

Same rule applies for your outfit for other days of your elopements when you're doing outdoor activities or just exploring the region, walking around town and getting lost. You want to wear something that makes you truly you, but also comfortable, fulfilled, smart and confident.

No worry, check out our Pinterest elopement stylinginpiration! Also each couple of us will also receive our personal helpful advices, tips and trick that tailored-made for their kind of elopement! But the rule of thumb is while the main goal is to stay true to your style and personality, feel free to add a local, tradition flair (of the elopement's location) or artistic touch to your casual outfits to make it fashionable.

Want a complete styling guide for adventure elopement? Head over the link below!

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7. How to make your Elopement special?

- Personal Vow
Yes, yes thousand yeses please. Every couple of us did write personal vows to their loved ones for the elopement ceremony and it's always the most emotional part of the day. ALWAYS. Never once had a couple walking away from their elopement ceremony with dry eyes.

- Rings:
Many details and traditional rituals will be left out when going the elopement route instead of having a wedding, but rings and ring exchange are not one of them.

- Bouquet / Boutonniere
This is something totally optional, depending on your preference.

- Want to incorporate some of your traditional / cultural rituals into your elopement? Yes!

- Honor someone you love during the ceremony? Yes!

- Blending you and your partner's personal touches (flower, music, outfits, details, location...) or vivid memory between you two into the trip itinerary or ceremony.

- Creating a personal scrapbook of your trip filled with handwriting journals, maps, sketches, polaroids, sticker, keepsakes from various places of the journey...

- Personalized Decoration / Styling.

- Adding a subtle underlying backstory like what we did with the watermelon on this desert elopement in Morocco.

- Do the first look differently!

8. Decoration - yay or nay?

There are ceremony & reception decoration at every wedding. Elopement doesn't necessarily translate to bare basic. The question if you want to have some decoration at your elopement ceremony and reception (and to which extent) is totally left to you to answer. There is no such thing as "should" or "shouldn't" when planning elopement!

If you feel like bringing bouquets and decorations up to the mountain by yourself, then just go with it. You do you! But if you do, you definitely need a planner or florist to help making your life easier. We personally find that decoration that goes in harmony with the landscape, taking advantage of natural elements that are already there work best.

9. Hair / Make-up?

It could be a problem finding any make-up artist and hairdresser at all (let alone a good one) in remote locations so if that's the case, you have to prepare to do the hair and make-up yourself. Otherwise, if make-up/hair is so important to you maybe consider another location (or somewhere a bit less remote near that location?) or fly someone in?

Or when you do hiking elopement, you have to consider if you're doing hair and make-up before the hike or you can find an adventurous hairstylist/make-up artist enough to hike with you to the top. Which hairstyle would look good and requires less maintenance? Which kind of touch-up you have to fix after the hike? But no matter what happens, just plan it ahead and embrace the imperfection on the way.

10. The moment of Truth

After all the brainstorming and planning now it's the day! What should you do during the trip and on the elopement day?

- Have fun! Be prepared for the unexpected as everything is possible during a trip. Don't stress out about incidents and enjoy your days, do what you love, be who you are. Relax and focus on having quality time with your partner!

- Trust your photographer / videographer. Do share with us your need and want, what is important for you but at the same time allow us to do our job and to be creative, which will result in better photographs / films.

- Make sure your getting ready location (if you have at all) tunes in with the look and feel of your elopement day.

- Safety first. No photograph in the world is worth your safety, health and life.

11. How to elope sustainably?

What Is Sustainability and Why Is It Important?
Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. We have now reached the point of no return so we think living a more sustainable lifestyle is now a unquestionable choice for many couples and should be considered for everything and for every action - and getting married is one of them.

When we realize our direct impact on the rest of life on the planet, we simply cannot continue to do harm. To live with integrity, we have a choice to change, as much as possible.

And lucky for us, sustainable elopement is possible! For us the concept of sustainable elopement is based on three pillars: environmental, ethical and social - click on the link below for a super in-depth blog post that we wrote about how to elope sustainably!

12. Legalities

Marriage law is different everywhere. For most of the couple, elopement is just symbolic - maybe except for american couples who elope in the states then they only need an ordained officiant to make it legal. Usually when you elope in foreign countries, it's impossible to do an elopement with legal marriage certificate or the complexity of the process and paperworks need to be done is not worth going into that route. In that case, we think a simple town hall marriage & civil partnerships registration can simply do it. Before or after the elopement.

Looking for an adventure elopement photographer and videographer? Let's chat!

© Tu Nguyen Wedding Photography in Greece, Italy, Spain, France & Germany  //

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