So you've chosen to elope and you're ready to do the dang thing. Congrats!
Some couples will know immediately where they want to get married — the Oregon coastal beach where they had their first date together, or the mountain hike they first said "I love you" to each other, or underneath the arches in Moab where you just knew that you were going to get married to your person. But guess what? It's totally okay if you're not sure where you want to elope. Here's how to choose your elopement location (or at least, narrow down your search for the perfect place!)
1. Imagine it together
Try putting away your phones, playing your favorite tunes (here's a link to a lovey, dovey, indie love playlist that I curate for my couples: https://spoti.fi/3tuyI8f), closing your eyes, and imagining what your day looks like. You might be surprised with what comes to mind immediately — maybe it's super important to you that you watch the sunrise, and you imagine yourself hiking together, lit by headlamp, and watching the sun come up over the horizon while you read your vows to each other. Maybe when you close your eyes, you're among the hoodoos & needles of Canyonlands. You might be surprised what you find out about yourself and what you want for your wedding when you close your eyes and take the time to see what just feels right.
2. Create a this or that list
If you're not tied to a specific area, you love to explore, and you're not afraid to leave some big decisions up to fate, this one is for you! Think of all of your favorite places, all of the places you've wanted to travel, anywhere that inspires you. Make sure to pick an equal number of places.
Here's a random list, for example:
Yosemite National Park
Arches National Park
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Our Family Cabin
High Uinta Wilderness
Grand Tetons National Park
Once you have your list, write all these places on a stack of notecards. Shuffle all of the cards, and lay them facedown in two columns. Flip over all the randomly placed cards, and pick one from each row, THIS VS. THAT. Once you've gone through that round, do it again with the locations you chose, and continue the process until you've narrowed it down to one or two locations that sound amazing to you!
3. Ask if your photographer has any recommendations
For real. Elopement photographers spend tons of time researching locations and day dreaming of beautiful wedding days. They'll definitely have tons of ideas & recommendations. I know I sure do! Your photographer will likely send you a questionnaire once you book that gets at the heart of you who are, what is meaningful to you, and all kinds of logistical questions, like whether you want a simple, laid-back day, or a crazy adventure with a 10 mile hike, whether you want to have guests or not, and more. Here at Kira McGrigg Photo, it's actually one of my favorite things to be able to be able to match my couples with the perfect location. If your heart isn't already set on a specific place, this can be a great way to decide where to get married!
4. Consider whether or not you want to include guests in your elopement
This one is important! If you think that you'd like to include your nearest and dearest, this could seriously change where you should be looking for ceremony locations. If you'd like to bring your grandparents but they have mobility issues, maybe it makes more sense to elope closer to home! You might also want to consider renting lodging that will fit your whole family, and exchanging vows right on the property (just always make sure to ask the owner first!) to simplify the process, and then go on your own adventure nearby to soak in your new marriage.
5. Think about what season you'd like to elope in
This is an easy way to narrow down the decision! If your heart is set on a winter elopement, but you don't love the cold, that immediately gets rid of places like Alaska and more mountainous regions like the Wasatch Front in Utah. Thinking about the time of year that you two will get married is an easy way to narrow down the list.
Wherever you decide to elope, trust me when I tell you that it's going to be seriously magical.
This list is by no means all encompassing, but it will get you started on the way to choosing the best location for you & your partner! Feel free to go through the exercises multiple times to see what comes to you. It's a big beautiful world out there, and together we'll find the location that is most you.
Kira McGrigg Photographer & Guide is based out of Utah and specializes in elopements that connect couples more deeply to the planet through sustainable practices and incredible experiences.