We are thrilled to bring to you this guide from Taylor Ochoa, aka TMinspired Photography (@tminspired), a destination elopement photographer based in Seattle. She and her videographer husband, Nathan, regularly zip up and down the West coast shooting elopements of all varieties—she knows a thing or two about finding the perfect location for your elopement. Here are her top 5 tips.
1. Think about the sentimental value.
Consider the places that hold special meaning to you. Maybe the perfect place for your ceremony is the location where you got engaged. Maybe hiking together is one of your favorite things to do and your dog always comes along, so you seek out dog-friendly trails for a perfect sunset hike elopement.
I also encourage you to think about your guest list. If it’s just the two of you, you have total flexibility on where to go. But what if you deeply want your family members and closest friends there? Would you want to be close to an area where you can all go out to dinner together? Would grandma be up for a hike or should you choose a more accessible spot?
You could always divide up your ceremony, too. Read your vows at the top of a mountain or in your favorite coffee shop, then join your guests for the formal ceremony to exchange rings and sign the official documents.
You do you, boo. We support you no matter what.
2. Consider the vibe.
Do you love hiking and camping and find peace and serenity in the middle of a forest? Do you love to hear the ocean waves with your toes in the sand? Maybe a different kind of sand stands out to you and you want to go to the sand dunes or desert and soak up all the boho vibes. Or, maybe you spend your evenings grabbing dinner in the city and the urban vibe speaks more to your soul.
When thinking of the perfect location, think about what vibe would mesh well with you two as a couple. Can the location be a way you can tie your love story into your wedding day? Choose what you want to be surrounded by and allow the location to be your décor.
Side note: If you’re looking at parks, beaches, hiking trials, etc., you will most likely need a permit—simply Google and make some calls to find out what is required. Showing up uninvited and having your wedding get shut down or getting fined is probably not how you’d like to spend your best day ever, ya know?
3. Seek out formal (or informal) venues.
A lot of formal venues are currently offering micro wedding and small wedding packages, and this is definitely something to consider if you’re having guests. One of the best reasons for going with a formal venue is that they have a team of people designated to help set up/tear down your space. They also have ample parking.
However, if the formal venue isn’t the route you want to go, that’s cool! Maybe you would prefer a private space to have dinner with your guests. A great way to do that is to seek out Airbnb or Peerspace properties. Be careful, though, and please be completely honest when booking. A lot of Airbnbs cannot formally host parties and gatherings due to current restrictions (or simply don’t allow events at all).
4. Google is now your best friend.
As an elopement photographer, I spend SO MUCH TIME on Google, researching via Google Street View to see nearby locations for photos and virtually heading down different streets to find those perfect little nooks. It’s extremely helpful when I’m unable to see the location in person before the big day.
Another fan favorite is Google Earth Pro, where you can seek out exactly what the lighting will be at any point of day at any location. This is a DREAM tool to use if, for example, you want your ceremony to line up with sunset.
You can also Google search photo blogs to get a really great sense of what a venue, park, beach, and hiking trails look like. It’s great to see the location from different points of view and in different seasons.
5. Lean on the direction of your photographer.
You don’t need to know all the things. That’s why you hire the experts who specialize in what you’re looking for! We are the vendors for you to rely on when it comes to natural light and researching sunlight direction. We see locations differently than the normal eye and can make nearly any location look like the dreamy wonderland you want it to be.
When we see a space, we can quickly and easily calculate when the sun might duck behind a large hill, tree, or building. We are intentional, meaning we’ll pick a ceremony spot that’s downhill instead of uphill if it’d be more flattering for you. We think a lot about the time of day, and though we can’t control the weather, we will absolutely have it in mind when making recommendations.
Adventure photographers typically have a heart for the outdoors already. Most of us spend our free time location-scouting in lesser known locations. We probably already have some hidden gems to share with you, and are just here asking you to trust us in the process.
At the end of the day, it’s all about mindset. This is the day you’re getting married! That’s the top priority. Everything else is just here to amplify that celebration.
To connect with Taylor or hire her for your elopement, message her directly through her vendor profile here.