If there’s one thing I hate about the stigma of elopements, it’s the myth that they don’t include any tradition or special moments. As if you’re just walking into the woods with little intention and thought and that’s it. For my couples, it is quite the opposite. There is so much thought and intentionality that goes into every piece of their day; but it can be easy to forget about some of the small pieces that don’t feel as important because your guest count is less. Couples often say “We don’t need XYZ, it’s just us!” As if the need is based on others presence. It’s 100% fine if it’s not important to you, but you’re also allowed to want to include some of the traditional pieces even if its just the two of you, plus a few guests.
If you have spent any time looking at traditional wedding photography, if you’ve had friends get married, or scrolled through Pinterest or a wedding hashtag on Instagram, you’ve probably seen a really gorgeous flat lay photo of paper invite details, velvet ring boxes, boutonnieres, and just about anything else that ties into the wedding day.
When I first began shooting elopements I didn’t know a lot about how I wanted to approach wedding days. I hadn’t been married long myself, and hadn’t quite explored the magic between the layers I initially included. As I continued to want to push myself and create galleries that went deeper than the backdrop and epic photos, I started exploring what it would look like to incorporate flat lay details into elopement days. The first one I think I ever did was literally in the middle of shooting their portraits — no time set aside specifically for it — and used very minimal pieces. But they loved it and I think that one made me realize how special detail photos and flat lays can be.
I now look at details as the tone-setter of your day, in a sense. The basic items that most couples always have are rings, jewelry (such as cuff links or earrings) florals, shoes, a tie, watch, etc. Sometimes, there are family heirlooms, a post card they picked up in town, or a cork from their first bottle of wine. All of these items — while just simple objects — have the power to work together to create a powerful collage of new and old.
There is nothing quite like being at an elopement, asking a couple for their details, and seeing a mom or family member become teary realizing that her grandmother’s ring will be photographed; or that the groom’s grandfather’s pocket watch is part of the lineup. Detail flat lay photos are a beautiful way to give tribute to those who couldn’t be there.
So, with all this said, you probably now want to know how to make sure that you have everything you need for your photographer (or if you’re a photographer who wants to explore this!) to create the best detail photos for your elopement day!
You can ask your photographer if they’re familiar with capturing details like this, and if so — do they have everything to make it happen? If they don’t, you can find some items to make it yours on Etsy. There are many options for velvet ring boxes, ribbon, post cards, etc. I will say this: I don’t like when details are styled for “style” and not for intention. If it doesn’t have a connection or correlation to the day, it doesn’t belong. So don’t just copy everything you see online because it looks cool, try to get creative to bring specific pieces to life with yours! And this goes for photographers too — just making it insta-worthy is not really enough. We are storytellers; what is the story we tell with these photos?
At this point in my career, I have a very large toolbox filled with everything I might ever need for detail flat lay photos, to bring the ordinary items my couples include to life. This includes an extensive set of ring boxes, silk ribbons, riser blocks to create depth and dimension, command hooks to hang wedding day outfits stress-free and temporarily, dried florals, some post cards and letterpress items from local artists, and a mini steamer. I also have many small coasters/trays that I use to add depth, make items stand out with, and create cohesion. For my photogs out there — Rebecca Yale has an incredible course on flat lays & details that really blew my mind and made me look at it on a whole different level as an elopement photographer.
The non-staged detail photos are just as important too; so while you’re mesmerized by the backdrop and everything else, try to stop and snap photos of the pieces in action, too.
I’ll be talking extensively about capturing flat lays and detail photos on elopement days from the photography/experience side in my new elopement course. So if this piqued your interest and you want to learn more about bringing details to life, stay tuned!
For more elopement planning tips and resources, check out The Elopement Podcast!