If you’ve been with me for a while, you know how much I love elopements! Literally the first wedding I photographed after starting my business was an elopement at a local courthouse. Elopements and micro-weddings have a special place in my heart. That’s why I’m excited to share these 3 tips to up-level you elopement!
People make the decision to elope for all different reasons. No matter what the reason though, I love that elopements are all based around the idea that two people are eager to officially (and legally!) start their life together.
I have photographed probably a dozen or so courthouse weddings, and probably another couple dozen micro weddings outside of a courthouse. Through that experience I’ve come to learn what can really take your ceremony and portraits to the next level. That’s why I’ve put together this list of 3 tips to up-level your elopement.
Tip #1: If you’re a bride, bring a bouquet.
The first of my 3 tips to up-level your elopement is to bring a bridal bouquet (if one of the people getting married is a bride). As I said, there are multiple reasons people choose to elope, including wanting to save money, not wanting to have to do all the traditional parts of a wedding, and wanting to keep things simple. Totally understandable. Even if these are your main reasons or even some of your reasons, I still recommend bringing a bouquet to your elopement.
When you elope and have the occasion photographed, the main part of your celebration besides the ceremony is your portrait session. Said a different way, the majority of your time in front of the camera will be for portraits. A bouquet enhances portraits so much!
First and foremost it gives you something to do with your hands, which is something I’m always paying attention to.
And it completes that ‘bridal’ look to really make your portraits stand out from any other photo you’ll have taken for the rest of your life. I especially encourage you to bring a bouquet if you’re not wearing a traditional wedding dress (for any culture). Again, the bouquet really signifies that these are your wedding portraits. Funny how a little bundle of flowers can say so much! But it’s true.
The bouquet is also a great element to tie your details photos together. I can use it when I’m photographing your rings, as well as highlight it in your bridal portraits. A bridal bouquet is a heavy hitter on any wedding day!
I always recommend leaving creative jobs to professionals and want to support local vendors, so I definitely recommend working with a local florist for your bouquet (reach out to me if you’re in the DMV area because I have referrals for you!).
If it’s between no bouquet and store-bought flowers that you make into a bouquet yourself, I say make the bouquet yourself. I’d rather you have a bouquet you made yourself than no bouquet at all. I’ve worked with multiple brides who have had success with this, so it is possible! In fact, here’s a helpful tutorial as well as my own tips for the picture perfect wedding bouquet. (I also highly recommend not using a shiny white ribbon as is featured in the tutorial.)
Tip #2: Choose a Beautiful Location for Portraits
The second of my 3 tips to up-level your elopement is to choose a beautiful location for portraits. One of the major bonuses of eloping is that you’re not tied to certain locations. You have more freedom to choose your portrait location because you aren’t tied to a super strict timeline or venue. You have more time to travel between your ceremony and portrait locations.
Some couples elope at the courthouse. In some cases, the portrait session can take place in the area surrounding the courthouse because some courthouses are beautiful or are in beautiful locations. That’s not always the case though. If your ceremony is at a courthouse, be open to choosing another location for your portrait session.
That could be a spot you’ve always loved, one that’s just super picturesque, somewhere that has special meaning to you and your fiancé, or you can ask your photographer for suggestions.
Other couples get married at their home or the home of a family member or even their officiant. Some folks have lots of land where finding a good portrait spot is easy. Most of the time, though, that is not the case. If you’re getting married at your home or someone else’s, be open to choosing a second nearby location for your portraits so that they can be stellar!
Last, maybe you’re working with an officiant who is willing to do the ceremony anywhere you want. That is the best scenario because you can choose your ceremony location based on how beautiful it will be for portraits!
Tip #3: Schedule Your Ceremony During Magic Hour (or as close as possible!)
The third of my 3 tips to up-level your elopement is to schedule your ceremony during or as close to magic hour as possible. Magic hour is the time of day, within the two hours before sunset, when the light is at its best for natural light photography. It’s the easiest to work with, the most flattering on your skin tones, and will give you the most beautiful portraits.
Before scheduling your courthouse appointment or your booking the time of your ceremony with your officiant, google what time sunset is on your wedding day. Subtract two hours from sunset time, and that is the time frame you’ll want to schedule your ceremony. For example, if sunset is at 7:30PM, the magic hour window is from 5:30 to 7:30PM. You’ll want your ceremony to start around 5:30. That way the light will be ideal for your ceremony and your portrait session.
If you’re getting married at a courthouse, they are usually only open during business hours. I recommend scheduling your appointment for as close to their closing time as possible. The closer you get to magic hour, the better the light will be.
What you absolutely want to avoid is scheduling your ceremony for any time around noon. At noon, the sun is directly overhead and that does not make for flattering light! Don’t schedule your ceremony for anywhere between 11:30-1:30.
If it’s completely unavoidable, then you’ll want to choose a location for an outdoor ceremony and/or portraits that has a lot of open shade (you might want to leave that to your photographer, as finding the perfect spot is pretty technical).
Did this post get you excited to book your own wedding, elopement, or engagement session?! If yes, send me a note and we can chat about what you have in mind: contact me
Hi – I’m Rachel! A wedding, engagements, and headshots photographer in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and northern Virginia. I love taking photos of elegant people who love to laugh, as well as of much in-love couples. If you’re a dog owner, that’s a plus! I’m currently booking 2020 portrait sessions, as well as 2020 and 2021 weddings.