Elopement Photographer | Avonture Elopem

About 

AVONTURE

I'm Shanmari - elopement crafter and photographer here at Avonture. I'm based out of Ohio and travels worldwide to help venturing couples like you plan their dream elopement that values their beliefs and authenticity.

Leave No Trace When Eloping

Table Of Contents



"TAKE NOTHING BUT PICTURES, LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS."



What is Leave No Trace/LNT?


Leave No Trace was created to teach us outdoor enthusiasts how to protect the outdoors better when we are adventuring together or alone. To more easily learn what impact we truly have on the outdoor environment, sometimes it is much greater than we can imagine.

The leave no trace principles are not a set of rules that anyone has to follow, it’s simply just a set of ethics/morals that the leave no trace centre has put together in order for us to enjoy the outdoors safely while also taking care of it.


Every little bit of


THINK

BEFORE

I

DO.


will have an incredible impact on our beautiful public lands and

therefore we’ll get to enjoy them for many more years to come.





Leave No Trace has a set of 7 minimum-impact principles, that help guide our decisions when we’re outside.

  • Plan Ahead & Prepare

  • Travel And Camp On Durable Surfaces

  • Dispose Of Waste Properly

  • Leave What You Find

  • Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Respect Wildlife

  • Be Considerate Of Other Visitors



Principle Number One:

plan ahead and prepare


| “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”


Researching prior to your wedding day will truly allow you to have a stress free wedding day. You can check online resources and recent trail or location data, you can even call local land managers or rangers. Getting to know the area well will give you that knowledge to bring the right gear and attire, the flexibility to truly enjoy it and allow you to educate your guests to have an amazing experience together.


Problems LNT principle #1, Plan ahead and prepare, will solve for you:

  • Finding the correct/how many permits you’ll need.

  • Knowing the trail surface, difficulty and more.

  • Understanding the seasonal changes there.

  • Knowing when to be careful around certain animals and fragile natural elements.

  • Knowing what type of bouquet you are allowed to use (faux or real)

  • Knowing where the nearest town is and what it has (stores/hospital etc) ...

  • Being prepared with the right gear and attire.

  • Being knowledgeable on peak season/ tourist season and off peak season (busiest and least busiest time)

  • Know where the beautiful hidden spots are.

  • Gives you the opportunity to educate and prepare your guests.

  • Know when there will be certain trail/road closures.


And so much more!


bride and groom stargazing silhouette next to a tree while bride lifts her dress up


Principle Number two:

travel and camp on durable surfaces


| “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints” (on durable surfaces)


Hiking trails exist for a good reason, our footprints have a much bigger impact than we ever thought it could have. Staying on designated trails is a good start to travel on a durable surface. Durability refers to the ability of surfaces or vegetation to withstand wear or remain in stable conditions. So simply put - if you can step on it without destroying/killing it then it’s durable!


Living soil and biome for example can be destroyed with one footstep and can take years to restore.


ONE FOOTSTEP!


Alpine Tundra Ecosystem that you can find between elevations of 11,000 to 11,500 feet is a fragile ecosystem with tiny but brilliant flowers and plants growing in a harsh climate. Footsteps can destroy them.


Biological Soil Crust, found in desert areas, is a living soil that creates a crust over the landscape, it helps control erosion by keeping soil stuck together in one continuous crust. Only one footstep can destroy these entirely and it takes years to restore.





Durable surfaces to and not to walk on:


YES to gravel, paved trails, rocks and sand, these are highly durable and can tolerate repeated trampling, these are your best options. Deep snow and a layer of ice are also good options as the effect of traveling across these surfaces are temporary.


NO to living soil and fragile vegetation like moss, tundra and wildflowers. Do your absolute best to stay off of these fragile ecosystems - one footstep truly can destroy these and they take many years to fully restore.


MAYBE to vegetation, the resistance of vegetation to trampling varies. Dry grasses tend to be resistant to trampling. Wet meadows and other fragile vegetation quickly show the effects of trampling. So make careful decisions and only go off trail when absolutely necessary.


bride and groom walking on a trail in Moab

Your footprints could create a

“satellite trail”

= a walkway that looks like a trail that’ll cause many other visitors to follow that trail even though it’s not and then destroying that area permanently.



PRO TIP

If you and your guests absolutely have to go off trail, spread out instead of forming one line, because that will prevent creating a new satellite trail and causing more footprints to follow.


BUT, on designated trails form one line to avoid making the trail bigger and to follow proper trail etiquette.





What is trail etiquette?


Think of it as a few guidelines to avoid a traffic jam on trails.

  • Stay right - pass left. (opposite in countries that drives on the other side of roads)

  • Yield to uphill hikers and horse riders. (downhill hikers have gravity and a broader perspective on their side that allows them to easily see what’s ahead)

  • Single hikers and smaller groups yield for bigger groups.

  • On trails hike in a single file line.

  • Let faster hikers pass you and give hikers ahead of you a warning you're about to pass (a simple hello will suffice)

  • Be friendly!


Just a little disclaimer

NO ONE is perfect, we all make mistakes.


Even I have stepped on natural elements before only to find out afterwards that it was destructive. Trust me, you feel extremely guilty and like a terrible human being.


We all make mistakes but being open to educating yourself even after you’ve made those mistakes and learn from them instead of dwelling in them says a lot about your character - like I mentioned before, leave no trace isn’t there for everyone to do everything perfectly, but instead, it’s there for everyone to do things a little better than before.




Principle Number three:

dispose of waste properly


“To leave the world better than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people's trash."


Not asking you to pick up trash on your wedding day - I'll make sure that's taken care of - if you book me of course. All you have to do is not leave your own trash behind. Pack an extra plastic bag in your pack to make this easy.


You picked this beautiful spot to get married at - make sure you leave it beautiful.


Elopements have a much smaller ecological footprint, but there’s still some ways that elopements could be harmful. Here’s a few guidelines and alternatives to help you have a harmless elopement day.


How to have an elopement that CARES


Bouquets & Decorative Flowers

It’s always best to avoid bringing invasive species of plants into environments in case pollen or seeds do drop. You’re not allowed to bring foreign flowers into some parks. Make sure you reach out to the park to see what their restrictions are.


Confetti, Seeds & Rice

The same counts for these - it can take years for a place to be restored after an invasive/damaging confetti is thrown there. Research first.


Leave Everything You Find

Mementos are super sweet, but imagine if every single person that visits the park take something home to remember it by, what will be left in a few years? If you see something you want to remember, take a photo instead and leave it for the next person to admire.


Pack Everything out

Just absolutely EVERYTHING, take it back home. Even items that seems harmless are likely not native to the environment and take a lot of time to degrade.


Human Waste

Yes we're gonna talk about poop.

In this case you have two options:

WAG bags & a 6+ inch cat hole.

Make sure you know where you're allowed to make cat holes but always try to be prepared and make sure to prepare and plan for your guests and any pets.

You'll never know when Mother Nature calls.



Healthy Alternatives


"Let nature be your wedding decorations, let the stars be your arch and the sound of the wind your wedding bells " - Shanmari Shehaj


| Champagne - sparkling water with no sugar (sugary smells can attract wildlife)


| Confetti - native leaves, snow or anything that can easily be brought back home like ribbon wands.


| Decorations - instead of hauling a bunch of big destructive decorations in and out on trails, use natural arches and the beauty of nature instead. Find an arch between two trees or an arched rock, you can even let the landscape create a natural visual frame around you two.


Like this:


The landscape FRAMES them




A true natural ARCH.

I mean come on, who doesn't want to be framed by the Milky Way?



Principle Number four:

leave what you find


“The earth has music for those who listen. ”


Imagine if every single person that visits a park take something home to remember it by, what will be left in a few years?


n o t h i n g.


Once again, elopements does have a much smaller ecological footprint, but there’s still some ways that elopements could be harmful.


Here’s a few guidelines and alternatives instead.


How to have an elopement that's HARMLESS


Wild Flowers


Picking a few flowers does not seem like it would have any great impact and, if only a few flowers were picked, it wouldn’t. But, if every visitor thought “I’ll just take a few,” a much more significant impact might result.


  • Take a picture or sketch the flower instead of picking it.

  • Find ones on the ground that has already fallen/fell due to wildlife activity.


Taking photos in Wild Flowers

Here's a magic trick that I learned from the Foxes on the LNT course.


Let your photographer create the effect that looks like your standing/laying in the wildflowers:


Stay on the trail standing up or even laying down on a blanket and have your photographer crouch down super low to the ground, even laying down works.


Let them frame you with the flowers.


Then you get this:

couple hiking on their elopement in the smoky mountains



They are on trail as you can see here,

there was this huge rock that I used to crouch down on off trail and I was able to capture this. Also their matching shirts are so cool!






lesbian couple kissing at sunset in a wildflower field in Cleveland Ohio


These soft purple wild flowers melted my heart! Here there was a big muddy gap where they are standing and getting this effect while I was on trail was easy.






guy hugging girl from the back surrounded by wildflowers in Cleveland Ohio


They are on the trail as well and I was standing next to to wildflower field using my zoom lens to get this effect.







gay couple kissing at sunset in a sunflower field in Cleveland Ohio


In sunflower fields this effect is easy to get because they have numerous little "trails" next to every line of sunflowers that were planted.







Ceremony site & decorations


Equipment such as tables, chairs, carpets, tents, floral displays, and generators cannot be used in most parks. A few portable chairs (provided by the permittee) for the elderly are sometimes permitted.


  • Avoid hammering nails into trees for hanging things.

  • Do not dig trenches for construct lean-tos, tables, chairs or other rudimentary improvements.


Harmless Alternatives


| Setting up a big arch = Find a natural arch like I previously shown.


| Setting up chairs for the guests = Let them stand in a fun shape around you, make sure your guests are aware that they will stand during the ceremony.


| Carving your names into a tree or rock = Create your own signs that you can attach on your backpacks or plan to do a fun art project together that you can keep forever.


| The best alternative is just to let nature be your wedding decorations


"Make the stars your chapel & the wind your first dance song.

Make the crevices of mountains and the edges of trees your decorations."


Because after all, you chose to get married in such a beautiful place.

Make use of that once in a lifetime beauty.

LGBTQ couple hiking on their elopement day


Principle Number five:

Minimize campfire impacts


"do not play with fire" - that should be obvious...


Nearly %85 - %90 of wild land fires in the United States are caused by humans. Human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.


This is something WE can PREVENT.


BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE.

  • Check fire bans.

  • Check for high winds.

  • Only use designated fire pits for campfires.

  • PUT FIRES OUT PROPERLY.

  • Practice EXTREME caution with candles, sparklers, fireworks and smoke bombs. Or just don't use any of these out in nature.


How to check for fire bans in a certain area:

A QUICK online search can tell you everything you need to know, google is your friend here. You will most likely also see tons of signs on the side of the road when entering a park that there is a fire ban in place.


How to put a fire out properly:

WATER. WATER. WATER.

Drench it in water until there's no heat, smoke or visible fire.

The embers should be cool to the touch, it's best to burn all wood to white ash.


On beaches, don’t just cover up the campfires with sand when you're done, the next morning someone can step on it and get hurt really badly. Put it out with water and keep it visible, make sure it's far from anything that can easily catch on fire.


Use designated fire rings.

Fires built on the ground overheat the organic soil and kill the creepy crawlies living in it. It may take a very long time for anything to grow in the spot where a fire was built. An established fire ring is a sacrificed spot in which fires are accepted to prevent destruction of other areas.


In case of an absent fire ring opt to use a camping travel stove instead, they are cheap and easy to find. They're also super compact and very easy to travel and hike with.



Safer Alternatives to fire


| Campfire - Hot springs are awesome to warm up in, they are super adventurous and fun! Indoor fireplaces are super romantic as well and for cooking food, use a camp stove.


| Sparklers - LED lights, fairy lights, cell phone flash lights and even glow sticks! Make sure whatever you bring, take it back home.


| Candles - LED candles looks super realistic! They're easier to travel with and is totally mess free.


| Smoke Bombs - Create a dust cloud on the trail by rubbing your feet on the ground a few times, looks way cooler!




RESPECT other peoples' and animals' homes when you travel for leisure. Be a decent human.




Principle Number six:

Respect Wildlife


"we can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals"


Remember, you are a visitor to their home.


Always Keep a safe distance.


family viewing wildlife on their elopement day



2 ways to know you're too close:


  • If an animal is reacting to you, YOU ARE TOO CLOSE.


  • Have you ever stuck your thumb up in the sky up to the moon to cover it? Stick your thumb out in front of you and close one eye—if you can’t cover up the whole animal with your thumb, you’re too close.








Never ever EVER feed them!


By eating human food, animals can lose their preference for natural food sources and their fear of humans. Over time, these animals may begin approaching people in search of food. They can become aggressive, unpredictable, and dangerous.


How to hike & backpack with food properly.


Not only food, but anything with a smell needs to be stored and packed away properly, bug repellent, sunscreen, cosmetics etc.


  • Choose foods that are compact, compressible, high calorie, and lacking in strong odors, such as rice, tortillas, jerky, pastas, nuts, dried fruits, peanut butter, and protein bars.


  • Take food out of its original package. This allows you to fit more food in your canisters and reduce garbage. Use resealable bags instead of bottles, jars, and cans. Force air out of bags or packages.


  • Carry food and garbage in plastic bags to contain crumbs and grease that can leave odors in your backpack.


  • Bear-resistant containers only work if they are closed and locked. Be sure to keep the container closed and locked even while you're around your campsite.


  • Do NOT dispose of food waste in the wilderness. Pack out all uneaten food and food particles. Treat food wrappers and other garbage the same as food.


  • Never store food in your tent! It can attract bears and other wild animals searching for food.



Picnics on elopements


All of that might sound scary and difficult to accomplish. Just know that it sounds much harder than it really is and remember that I will guide you through everything, even the process of packing your picnic in your pack to keep it safe and fresh on our hike.

couple having a picnic under the turret arch at arches national park



What about our pets?


Our furry companions can have a large impact on how wild animals will react when encountered.


Double check with the park rules and regulations that your pet is allowed on the trails and if they have to be on leash at all times. There's trails that allows pets on leash and off leash. All it take is a call to the park or a google search!


Make sure your pet is well trained and can easily be kept under control. Pets get lost in parks a lot, you're not gonna want to lose him/her - opt to leave them at home if you know they tend to misbehave outdoors.

interracial couple embracing their dog on their elopement day



Principle Number seven:

Be considerate of other visitors


"Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from."


Share the outdoors. kindly.


It's important to maintain courtesy toward other visitors on your elopement day, as much as it is your day - we are lucky to have access to public lands and there's visitors from all over that also want to enjoy the natural beauty we're surrounded by.


Just be KIND & PATIENT.



How to respect other visitors on your elopement day.

A few guidelines to be mindful of others:


  • NOISE.

People enjoy the outdoors naturally, usually escaping the hustle and bustle of life - be considerate when it comes to playing loud music on trails and even at your ceremony.


  • SPACE.

Keep your distance from other visitors and don't hog them if you're trying to see the views, don't block trails and allow others to pass while staying on trail.


  • VIEWPOINTS.

Viewpoints can get crowded, everybody has a right to get their shot, they all deserve their chance to capture these memories, remember that even though it is your weddingday try to remember that it is public space and it's kind to share.


  • POLITELY ASK.

Just be polite, kind and considerate. If you need to get a shot in a certain spot, just ask and then do it in a timely matter so others can have the same opportunity.


  • RESPECT.

Most other visitors are very kind with couples getting married and are happy to step away so you can get thegood views, but in a case where someone wants to enjoy that view a little longer, try to stay kind and respect that you're standing on public land and sharing it with everyone around you. Just smile and say "enjoy the view" :)


  • PATIENCE.

When dealing with people patience is always needed - not everyone will be kind or knowledgable on hiking etiquette or sharing - just try to be a good example and if needed, educate kindly. Being courteous goes a long way.





How to get more privacy & seclusion on your adventure elopement.


Public lands cannot promise privacy or seclusion but doing some location-specific research goes a long way!



SUNRISE

When it comes to privacy and seclusion, my best tip to my couples are to elope at sunrise. There is nothing like standing alone in a spot with your partner while the day is waking up around you and then being able to spend that whole day together as a married couple. Getting up early to witness such an experience is worth it, every time.


WEEKDAYS

People have the most time to enjoy the outdoors on weekends, weekdays will always be less crowded anywhere.


OFF-SEASON

Just like weekends, eloping in the off season will be much less crowded - landscapes can change with every season but it does not mean they are at their most beautiful when tourists comes.


ALTERNATIVE LOCATIONS

Going against the grain and searching for an off-the-beaten-path spot to elope always pays off. With very popular spots you might have to share it with other couples getting married or even stand in a line to see the view. Doing some research, hiking there or reaching out to locals is a great way to find *your spot* more secluded.


PLAN B, C, D.....

Nature does her own thing and so does people. Any spot can be crowded or weather impacted at any time. Alway be prepared with back up locationS!

Yes more than one.



If you have made it to this point then you are filled with great tips on experiencing an elopement that also cares for the planet. I am proud of you for caring first. Thank you for that. I hope you learned a lot of amazingly helpful things here today!


HAVE FUN ADVENTURING WITH CARE <3


couple running in the desert of arches national park in their wedding attire on their elopement

Elopement Photographer | Avonture Elopem

About 

AVONTURE

I'm Shanmari - elopement crafter and photographer here at Avonture. I'm based out of Ohio and travels worldwide to help venturing couples like you plan their dream elopement that values their beliefs and authenticity.

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