elopement guide

Congratulations on your engagement and welcome to James Thomas Long Photography! Planning an adventure elopement is no small task

To that end, I've put together a few tips that I have learned over the years – things that will help set the stage for an adventure elopement experience that is tailored just for you and your unique love story, as well as help ensure you have absolutely amazing photographs too! I'm here to help you every step of the way, so if you have a question about something that’s not covered here or want any recommendations for your unique situation, please feel free to reach out and I would be happy to help! And don't worry, when you book me as your elopement photographer, I'll be in contact with you multiple times in the months and weeks leading up to your big day. And you're always welcome to reach out with questions!

so you've decided to elope!

Congratulations!!! And welcome to the endless possibilities that await you!

Contact me to get started!

I can't wait to meet you and get started!

Contact me to get started!

I hope you find this guide useful as you begin thinking about your own adventure elopement experience. As an adventure elopement photographer, I not only help create gorgeous images for my clients, but I also help plan their elopement experience as well. f you would like to find out more about what I can do to help make your adventure elopement an absolutely amazing experience, please feel free to use the contact link below. I would love to hear from you!

book early!

I can't stress this enough, especially if you are looking to have your elopement in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest! Peak season is from July through October, but for locations at higher elevations (over 5000 feet), the ideal time is really just mid-July through September because before and after that, there can be snow! Other PNW locations, like beaches and forests, lower elevation mountain areas, etc. are more flexible with respect to timing. Don't get me wrong, snow can be great, but it often poses challenges with road and trail closure and accessibility.

Regardless of where you'd like to go, booking early helps us choose the best time of year for your elopement experience. And if you have some flexibility with the date and/or can have it on a weekday, bonus! 

Would it be a scenic overlook up in the mountains? Or how about a Pacific Northwest forest, surrounded by towering fir trees? Or maybe the perfect spot for you is on a beach along Washington’s beautifully rugged coastline? How about a dramatic sunset among the rocky canyons and plateaus east of the Cascades? Or perhaps you’d prefer a beautiful meadow or serene spot by a mountain lake.

Eloping gives you the freedom to get married wherever and whenever you want. Want to go on a hike up to a fire lookout and say your vows to each other surrounded by gorgeous sweeping views at sunset? We can make it happen for you! Or, maybe a beach is more your thing and you’d like to end the day snuggled together by a campfire. You can choose a location that has special meaning to you or that you have always wanted to visit. The world is your oyster and the sky is the limit!

Some possible PNW locations for your adventure elopement:
Mount Rainier National Park
North Cascades National Park
Mount Saint Helens National Park
Olympic National Park
Snoqualmie Falls
Hoh Rain Forest and the coast


Congratulations on your engagement!
I am truly honored to be your elopement photographer.

Our minimum coverage for elopements is 4 hours, but there is not limit on how much you can have and multi-day elopements are a spectacular way to celebrate your love at an adventurous or far-away destination! This is your day (or days) to be intentional about your commitment to each other, so we recommend splurging on yourselves, at least this one time. Slow down and relish in this experience together. Allow yourselves time to be in the moment. You'll be able to revisit the photographs in the years to come and transport yourselves right back to that incredible day where you committed yourselves to each other.

Why the 4 hour minimum? Planning spectacular elopements for our clients is no small thing. From location scouting, permits, travel, itinerary planning, there is a lot that goes into your day. Plus, you've taken the time to buy a dress, plan your outfits, vows, and so much more. And in all likelihood, you've thought about this day for much of your life. Don't cut yourselves short! Do what you want do on this day! Make it amazing. Make it memorable. And make it intentional!

I encourage you to fill out our contact form to get in touch so that we can chat about what you'd like to do, I can give you some ideas, and get a rough timeline going for you. Most adventure elopements that involve a 4-6 mile roundtrip hike to somewhere amazing are around 6-8 hours or more, to give us time to get some photographs of both of you getting ready and/or having a first look, hike in and out to a breathtaking location, time for you to stop and enjoy the scenery, be in the moment, relax, spend intimate time together, have your ceremony and say your vows, have a first dance together on the mountaintop, maybe have a picnic before the hike or celebrate with champagne and food up top... the possibilities are endless! Longer elopements are for couples who wish to fill their day with more activities together, whether it is celebrating with family and friends with a lunch before the hike, going off-roading, or maybe do a longer hike or additional destination. The sky is literally the limit!


What should we wear?

Sunset!!! Because the lighting is by far the best when the sun is low in the sky, plan to be at our most beautiful location an hour or two before sunset to capture both of you in that beautiful light in that beautiful spot! And, if you want something really dramatic, blue hour (the time right after sunset) can be the most stunning time of all, especially if you are up on a mountain with sweeping views!

We call this beautiful lighting situation at the end of the day the "golden hour" as it is that time when the light becomes softer, more flattering, and of course, beautifully golden because the lower sun angle means more blue/violet and shorter wavelength light gets refracted since it passes through more of the atmosphere on its way toward us on the ground. The result is that warmer, longer wavelengths reach us in greater quantity. Hence, golden light! Blue hour is when the sun has completely dropped below the horizon, but the atmosphere is still scattering shorter wavelength light in the sky, giving it a deep bluish/violet color.

what are some possible activities or things to do on our elopement day?

Outdoor Adventures:
Canoeing, paddleboarding, kayaking
4x4 off-roading
taking a helicopter tour
hot air ballooning

Relaxing Outdoors:
riding bikes
sitting around a campfire
snuggling in a hammock
having a picnic
soaking in a hot springs or getting into a lake, ocean, etc.
challenging each other to a snowball fight!

Indoors & at your Rental:
drinking tea or coffee
writing vows together
card games, yard games
cooking together
bubblebath together or hot tub
helping each other get dressed, get ready

Every season has something beautiful to offer, so you can have your elopement any time of year, whether it is in the Pacific Northwest or just about anywhere else in the world! There are some exceptions to this, particularly if you are interested in heading high up into the mountains. Here in the PNW, some locations are really only accessible from July through October, so that is something to consider when deciding on a date. Also, it is a good idea to keep in mind that July through October is also the busiest time of year for elopements, weddings, family sessions, etc. etc., so I recommend booking as early as you can, especially if you would like to have it during those peak times!

what is the best time of day for our elopement?

Be as dramatically overstated or understated as you like! Express yourselves through your outfits and style! Get creative Don't worry about what you are "supposed" to wear - above all, be you!

That said, some helpful things to keep in mind to ensure you look and feel your best:
  1. Make sure your outfits will stand out against our backgrounds, keeping in mind the kinds of colors we encounter. Wedding gowns always stand out! For suits, consider going a bit light (than black, navy, or dark grey), especially if we'll be around a lot of dark trees!
  2. Wear comfy shoes whenever possible! Boots can even be hidden under a dress too!
  3. Bring layers if it might get cold! Even if you have to bundle up, it is better that you be comfortable! And there are always options that will still look great for photographs too (blankets to wrap you both in, faux fur coats, etc. etc.)!
  4. Don't be afraid to accessorize if you like! Hats, dried floral crowns, scarves, etc. can add more dimensions to your look!

when should we elope?

what happens after i book?

We can start planning an absolutely amazing elopement experience for you! It is going to be an incredible day and I can't wait to meet you, here your ideas, and get started!

What if it rains?

I love shooting in the rain! And they say that rain on your wedding day is good luck! Photographs when everything is wet and glistening can be absolutely amazing! Rain creates beautiful reflections and just imagine how much fun you'll have twirling your umbrellas and reveling on your wedding day! After all, it’s just water and when did a little water stop anyone in the Pacific Northwest from having some outdoor fun??!! That said, if the weather forecast is especially bad and we are able to reschedule (say to the day before or after), I'm happy to do so for you!

I'm not just your photographer. I'm also your adventure elopement experience creator! Feel free to bounce ideas around any time and I'm happy to offer insight into how we can fit and implement any activities you'd like to do together on your elopement day! The purpose of doing activities is for you to create shared experiences (memories) together. We don't want this to just be several hours of posing for the camera! So, to get you started thinking, here is a list of some of the possibilities for your elopement adventure: