Elopements are on the rise, with more and more couples choosing to ditch the traditional wedding in favor of a more intimate and personal affair. While eloping can be a great way to save money and avoid the stress of planning a big wedding, you need to make sure that your elopement does not harm the environment. This is where leave no trace elopements come in.
Leave No Trace principles are widely recognized as the best way to enjoy the outdoors without harming the environment. Leave No Trace elopements are weddings that adhere to these principles, resulting in a low-impact event that is sustainable and eco-friendly.
In this piece, I share a complete handbook that you can use to plan a leave no trace elopement.
Simply put, Leave No Trace is a set of guidelines that help individuals enjoy the outdoors without harming the environment. These guidelines are based on seven principles:
Plan Ahead and Prepare: This means doing your research ahead of time. Know where you want to elope and what restrictions or permits may be required.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: This principle is two-fold. First, stick to established trails and campsites as much as possible. Second, if you need to camp overnight, use a tent or tarp to minimize your impact on the ground.
Dispose of waste property: This includes everything from garbage to human waste. Properly dispose of all trash, and pack out anything you brought in with you.
Leave What You Find: Take only pictures (and maybe some flowers) and leave the natural objects and wildlife as you find them.
Minimize Campfire Impacts: Use established fire rings if you have a campfire. Keep your fire small and put it out entirely before you leave.
Respect Wildlife: Do not approach or feed any wildlife you may encounter. Not only is it dangerous for you, but it’s also harmful to the animal.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors: This is the most essential principle when eloping. Remember, you are sharing the space with others, so be respectful and considerate.
Now that we have a better understanding of what leave no trace is let’s see how you can apply it to your elopement.
A Leave No Trace elopement is an elopement that leaves no environmental impact behind. This means planning and carrying out your elopement in a way that does not damage the natural environment or leave any litter behind. For this, you will need to google and see if there are guidelines and directives that are relevant to your elopement location.
Here’s how to plan a leave no trace elopement:
The first step is to make a plan. This means you will need to do some research and figure out where you want to elope. Once you have a location in mind, check the internet (or ask me) for leave no trace guidelines specific to that area. You should also check with your state’s environmental agency to see if there are any additional leave no trace requirements you need to be aware of.
When finalizing your elopement location, it’s essential to consider other potential visitors. If you’re looking for a truly secluded experience, consider getting married during the week or the off-season.
If you want to get married on a popular weekend, try to avoid the busiest times of the day. Remember that sunrise and sunset are often the most beautiful—and popular—times for photos.
Very often, we plan to go up to the location early, before sunrise. That way, even in high season, we can be pretty sure to have the place to ourselves. When researching and scouting for you, I also try to find locations that are not on the frontpage off all hiking guides.
When packing for your leave no trace elopement, consider bringing items that have multiple uses. For example, a tablecloth can double as a picnic blanket and a sarong can be used as a beach towel.
Also, be sure to pack environmentally-friendly products, such as biodegradable soap and insect repellent. You can find leave no trace approved products at your local outdoors store or online.
Also, make sure to pack out any trash you create during your elopement. This includes things like food wrappers and waste from cooking. If you are planning on having a campfire, be sure to bring only enough wood for that fire. Never cut live trees or collect wood from the forest floor.
If you’re planning on having a campfire during your leave no trace elopement, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, you might need to obtain a fire permit from the local authorities. This can sometimes be done by filling out an online application.
Second, you need to make sure you have enough wood for your fire. Never cut live trees or collect wood from the forest floor. Third, keep your fire small and put it out completely before you leave. Be sure to stir the ashes and soak them with water to make sure the fire is out.
Finally, never leave your fire unattended. If you need to leave for any reason, make sure someone else is there to watch the fire.
One of the most important leave no trace principles is to leave what you find. This means not taking anything from nature, such as rocks, flowers, or shells. It also means not damaging any plants or trees.
If you’re tempted to take home a souvenir from your elopement location, consider taking a photo instead. This way, you can leave the natural environment exactly as you found it.
For example, if you’re getting married in a meadow full of wildflowers, leave the flowers for other visitors to enjoy. If you want to make a flower bouquet for your wedding, consider the damage that will be caused.
When eloping in nature, it’s important to remember that you are sharing the space with wildlife. You should not approach or feed any animals you may encounter. It’s important to remember that even harmless-looking animals can be dangerous.
Also, be sure to dispose of any food scraps properly. This means packing out all trash and cleaning up any food that may have been spilt. Animals are attracted to food odors, so it’s important to leave no trace of your food.
Be especially vary of plastic. Animals can mistake plastic for food and eat it, which can be very dangerous. If you’re using any plastic items, be sure to pack them out with you when you leave.
While traveling to the elopement location, it’s important to think about your mode of transportation. If you’re driving, be sure to carpool when possible and avoid driving on sensitive areas, such as meadows or beaches. The same applies for trekking into the backcountry — be sure to stick to established trails.
It’s also important to be aware of any environmental regulations that may apply to your mode of transportation. For example, some national parks have bans on gas-powered vehicles. If you’re flying, offset your carbon emissions by purchasing carbon offsets. Further, try to hire professionals who do the same, including your photographer and officiant.
It’s also important to consider the noise you’ll be making. If you’re planning on eloping in a remote location, be sure to keep your voice down out of respect for other visitors.
When leave no trace eloping, it’s important to dispose of your waste properly. This means packing out all trash, including food scraps and wrappers. You should also bury human waste in a cat hole.
To do this, dig a hole six to eight inches deep and at least 200 feet from any water source, campsite, or trail. After doing your business, be sure to bury the waste and pack out any toilet paper.
It’s also important to properly dispose of any feminine hygiene products. These items should never be disposed of in a cat hole. Instead, pack them out in a zip-top bag and dispose of them in a trash can when you get home.
Eloping in nature is a beautiful and intimate way to get married. But it’s important to remember that you are sharing the space with other visitors. The great in-between is following leave no trace principles. By doing this, you can plan the perfect leave no trace elopement that you and your spouse will remember for a lifetime.
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Copyright Kim Kjærgaard Sørensen
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