Picture this: you and your partner have chosen to escape the hustle and bustle of a traditional wedding by opting for an elopement. The two of you have carefully planned every element of your day, from the stunning outdoor location (maybe Lake Tahoe?!) to the intimate ceremony. It all sounds perfect, right? Except, now it’s time to find your vendors and you have one question that is really stressing you out: do you actually need an 8+ hours of elopement coverage??
The short answer is, maybe. The long answer is more complex, so let’s get into it.
Just so you have some context of who I am and why I have an opinion on this – I’m Ruthanne Z, a former eloper, Lake Tahoe elopement photographer & planner, and as some might say – an elopement expert. I’ve photographed & planned well over 150 elopements at this point and have learned first hand the absolute do’s and don’ts for having your best day ever.
I also want to preface this post by saying: if you’re heading out to the courthouse, are extremely stressed out by having your photo taken, or simply don’t want photos, that’s OK and this might not apply to you. However, I ask that you go into this article with an open mind; and even if you don’t end up hiring someone for 8+ hours, maybe you’ll see the value for yourselves in hiring a photographer for longer than you planned.
Busted: Elopements can be a great way to save money; but budget and affordability are so relative. Someone who may be expected to have a $100k wedding with 200 guests may look at an elopement where they fly somewhere epic, stay for 10 days, bring close family, and hire the best vendors for $25k as cheap in comparison to their other option. Other people may be on a strict $5,000 budget for their entire wedding & honeymoon. In the wedding world, everything is relative. It’s important to go into an elopement with an understanding of your goals as a couple, goals for the day, and an understanding of your most comfortable budget.
Busted: For the most part, people who elope are often seeking to avoid the mass stress of a traditional wedding, intentionality, and authenticity in their wedding day. Eloping on purpose and for the sake of fun is a new concept; it used to be reserved for shotgun weddings or forbidden love. However, in 2023 & beyond eloping is so much more than that. The world is busy, full of stressors, and there are so few chances to actually focus on you & your partner. Eloping offers an incredible opportunity to get intentional & celebrate the things you love most about life together. I always tell couples: think of your elopement as the opening scene of your marriage. It should make you excited about what comes next in life together, set the tone for your goals, and celebrate where you’ve come from thus far.
Busted: The last misconception people have about elopements is that they’re no fuss, quick, and don’t need a lot of time. This can be as true as you want it to be. If you want to have a civil ceremony at the courthouse on your lunch break, that is all you, boo! But! If you want to take a week off and go somewhere beautiful to get married on your terms, that is absolutely your prerogative. Giving yourself permission to enjoy the time on your elopement day (or days, or week!) is 100% okay. Life’s short, and experiences are the spice of life, ya know?
I don’t know about you, but in the last 6 months I’ve noticed a huge shift in marketing & social media content. We’ve traded perfectly curated moments for imperfectly lit advertisements from real people. For a while in photography, the norm was to give your wedding photographer a shot list a mile long to make sure nothing was missed. The tradeoff there, however, was a high stress environment and staged “moments” for the sake of a photo. While there is still a time and a place for a shot list, if you’re eloping, chances are that you’d like to be present in the experience you’re seeking and have images that represent that authentically. It’s so much more powerful to have the time and space to experience an emotional first look with your partner vs. “getting it over with” in 5 minutes because you’re running behind.
Opting for all day coverage for your elopement allows things to happen exactly as they should. Simply because a traditional wedding can fit XYZ into it’s timeline, doesn’t mean that your elopement day should be able to “do it” in less. Ask anyone who had a big, traditional wedding, if they wished they had more time the day of to be in the moment and most certainly their answers will be yes!
I get emails all the time asking for “just a few hours” of coverage. While there is a time and a place for that – the experience most people want doesn’t align with a limited timeline. As a general rule of thumb, 4 hours is enough to meet for ceremony, take family photos, and then hike to one destination for portraits. There is not enough time for a first look (unless done at the trailhead), multiple locations, etc. I know – you’re thinking: “but, Ruthanne…we could get it done quicker, why wouldn’t we??” And my answer is simple: because the best things in life should be experienced fully, without rush, in their own time.
You don’t have to adhere to a strict 8 hour timeline for a 120 person wedding…so why would you? You don’t have to speed through the special parts to make sure you fit everything into the day…so why would you? And again — going back to earlier where I mentioned an 8 hour timeline might not be for everyone: if you don’t wan the fuss, truly, you don’t need it! But if you’re wanting an experience that gives you the butterflies when you think back in 5 years, to remember your day in full, and not feel stressed/rushed…then the time you give to being IN these moments is the best gift you can give yourself for your elopement day.
Remember earlier when I talked about the misconception that you can’t/shouldn’t go all out on just an elopement? We’re gonna dig into that further here. If not now, for the best day of your life, then when? We got up at 2am on our wedding day for a sunrise ceremony, had brunch in the sun with our families, and jumped into the lake afterwards in our wedding clothes. People thought we were nuts, but we thought we were genius. Our elopement day was the best day of our lives, largely because we did it exactly as we wanted to, despite people’s thoughts and opinions. It was not easy for our families. It wasn’t conventional. But it was fun and authentic. If we could do it again, I don’t know that we’d change a thing…except maybe to do something even more outlandish now that we know what is possible.
As an adventure elopement photographer, I’ve hiked 3500 vertical feet in the dark for a sunrise ceremony overlooking Lake Tahoe. I’ve gone with couples on snowmobiles in the dead of winter to epic overlooks. I’ve gotten stuck on top of a mountain in Switzerland because we didn’t read the train return times correctly and then we had to hike down in the dark 3500 vertical feet. I’ve photographed a 2 day elopement in Zion National Park during a record breaking storm. I’ve helped couples plan elopements in less than a month because they got excited about something “crazy” and wanted to just go for it.
When choose to elope and hire an adventure elopement photographer, you are not just hiring someone who takes pictures. You’re hiring someone who will help you create an authentic and stress-free experience. Your elopement photographer will become your guide, your friend, and your storyteller to ensure that your memories will last a lifetime – while also encouraging you to always seek what makes you feel most alive. And…to do so for any less than 8 hours of coverage would be a darn shame!
Think of it this way, would you climb Kilimanjaro without the right equipment or preparation? NOPE. Hiring an experienced elopement photographer, dedicating 8+ hours to your day, and creating a timeline to allow you to be fully present is the equivalent of having the right equipment for your adventure. You can trust that they will capture all the special moments of your day, so you can focus on enjoying your adventure to the fullest, and starting life together on your best foot.
When it comes to your elopement day, hiring an elopement photographer for 8+ hours provides you with the invaluable gift of time. You’ll have a stress-free day, and the most candid moments will be captured authentically to create an epic experience. So go ahead and treat yourselves to the experience you deserve!
And…just in case you need any more convincing, here are 3 incredible adventures that might send you over the edge:
8 Hour Elopement in Redwood National Park
All Day Elopement in Mount Shasta
I can’t think of a better opportunity to send it than for your wedding day. Truly.
Happy eloping, my friend. I hope it’s everything you’ve dreamed of and then some.