It’s no wonder more and more couples are opting to get married in the great outdoors when you could get married with mountain views and natural beauty no ballroom could hope to compare. Whether it’s an elopement filled with adventure deep in the mountains or a more traditional wedding taking place at a State Park, outdoor weddings have been rising in popularity over the years.

I love working with couples that want to incorporate nature into their wedding experience. Part of holding an event of any size means taking responsibility to preserve the area you’re in. Enter, Leave No Trace.

If you’re a hiker, you’re probably aware of LNT and why it’s important. But if you’re not, I’m going to walk you through what it is, why it’s important, and how to implement it for your elopement.

What is Leave No Trace?

Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics and principles that promote responsible and sustainable outdoor recreation by guiding individuals and groups to minimize their impact on the environment. The goal is to protect nature to preserve its beauty, to keep the animals that call it home safe, and to protect the landscapes for future generations to come.

I’ll get more into the specifics of Leave No Trace, so keep on reading.

Social Media and its Effect on Nature

Social media has played a big role in the current state of our outdoor landscapes all around the world. Natural locations that were once only known to locals and avid adventure seekers have become bucket list destinations to millions of people thanks to social media.

Between geotagging and influencers publicly sharing locations, these once-remote spots are now overflowing with traffic. I think it’s wonderful to see so many people enjoying nature, however, many are ignorant of the critical impact they have on these fragile ecosystems. 

Whether it’s hiking off the beaten trail, littering, or just having hundreds of people visiting a once unknown area, many of these spots have been worn down by people getting the perfect shot for the ‘gram.

Taking a few steps off the designated trail may not seem like much, but if one person does it, then another will follow, and another after that. Soon enough, there’s hundreds, if not thousands, of people trampling the natural landscape, drastically affecting the area.

These natural landscapes require care if we want to preserve them. This is where Leave No Trace comes in. It provides guidelines and principles for responsible outdoor recreation and encourages individuals to minimize their impact on the environment. By following Leave No Trace principles, you can help mitigate the negative impacts of increased visitation, such as overuse of natural areas, habitat destruction, and littering.

In an age where the addiction to social media can lead to both the appreciation and degradation of nature, Leave No Trace provides guidelines to help us preserve this natural beauty we love so much.

With that said, it isn’t all bad.

Positive Effects of Social Media on Nature 

Awareness and Advocacy

Social media platforms have the power to reach millions of people, allowing individuals and organizations to raise awareness about environmental issues, conservation efforts, and the beauty of nature. This can lead to increased support for environmental causes.


Stunning images and videos of natural landscapes can inspire people to connect with nature and appreciate its beauty, potentially driving them to become advocates for environmental protection.

Leave No Trace Principles for your Elopement

There are 7 principles in Leave No Trace, and I’m going to explain each of them and how you can apply them to your adventure elopement.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Planning and preparation will not only help you create a stress-free day, it will also help you recreate responsibly outdoors. Make sure to thoroughly research all of your locations for your elopement to make sure that you come prepared with any permits or permissions to use the space, and know the regulations for the area. This will prevent you from getting any negative surprises the day of your elopement.

It’s also best to plan for a backup location in case something causes your first location to be unavailable (such as a wildfire, flooding, or wildlife management). Always make sure to come with a plan for your backup as well!

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Whether it’s for your ceremony, having your first dance, where you’re setting up camp for the night, choosing a proper location is a big priority! Stick to areas already well-established for recreational use or designated areas for weddings to leave the least amount of impact on the environment. Make sure to check with the local authorities for the best locations if you plan on bringing guests with you.

National Parks, State Parks, and other protected areas usually have designated spots for ceremonies. Be sure to research and respect the rules and guidelines wherever you are, and inquire ahead of time about any possible restrictions.

How to Plan a Hiking Elopement

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

Proper waste disposal is a crucial element of Leave No Trace. This includes packing out all trash and litter, as well as carrying out all human waste. Remember, the goal is to leave the environment as you found it, or even better.

4. Leave What You Find

As the saying goes, “take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints.” Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects just as you found them, don’t touch historical structures, and don’t build any new structures. Items found in nature have their own roll in the ecosystem, so its important to leave them where they are to preserve them.

5. Minimize Campfire Impact

It’s popular to include a romantic campfire at the end of an elopement day. If you do, make sure you have it in a designated fire ring, keep it small, bring your own locally purchased wood, and never cut down twigs or branches to burn. When you’re done with your fire for the night, make sure you put it out properly and never leave a fire unattended unless it is completely out.

6. Respect Wildlife

Remember, you’re entering into their home. Make sure you give them room. Keep your distance, observe quietly, and never feed the animals.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Depending on when and where you choose to elope, you may very encounter other people during your day. Make sure to respect other people. Keep the volume down, respect their privacy, and yield the right of way on trails. Remember that your celebration is important to you, but it shouldn’t disrupt the enjoyment of nature for others.

How to elope in Yellowstone National Park

How to Have a Leave No Trace Elopement

Now that you know why Leave No Trace is so important, let’s discuss how to follow Leave No Trace on your adventure elopement.

Choose an Appropriate Location for Your Elopement

When choosing your elopement location, make sure to choose a spot that is appropriate for your plans. Some areas have restrictions on things like wedding arches or a limit to how many people can be a part of your ceremony. Take these things into account when deciding on a location and choose an appropriate spot.

North Idaho Elopement Locations

Stay on Defined Trails at All Times

One of the most important things you should do on your elopement day is make sure you always stay on marked trails. This is not just for the safety of the landscape but for yourselves.

You may have seen some beautiful photos where it looks like the couple is off the beaten path, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are. With some forced perspective, a photographer can make a shot look different from reality.

Skip the Confetti

Throwing confetti (or rice or flowers) into the air might make for a good photo, but it’s harmful to nature, not to mention ruins the landscape for the visitors that come to the area after you. Even if you plan on cleaning up after yourselves, it’s just not possible to get every piece of confetti, so it’s best to skip it.

Clean Up After Yourselves

As with any adventure outdoors, if you pack it in, pack it out. Leave the space you visit better than you found it. This includes cleaning up your trash, bringing back your wedding decor, properly dealing with waste, and anything else you bring with you.

Not properly cleaning up after yourselves can cause areas to be closed off to future couples, or tourists entirely.

Choose Appropriate Florals

Some areas, such as many National Parks, have restrictions for what kind of florals you can bring with you on your elopement day. If you plan on including any florals in your day, it’s important to do your research on the area you plan on eloping at and choosing non-invasive species of flowers and follow any restrictions for that area.

Alternatively, you could opt for a artificial flowers made out of fabric instead. The added bonus of this is that they will last much longer and will be a keepsake from your elopement day!

Follow the Rules and Regulations for the Area You’re In

Plan ahead and know the rules and regulations for weddings in the area you are eloping in. Many public lands will require a permit and may have restrictions for group size, time of day, or have specific locations designated for wedding ceremonies. It’s important to know and follow all regulations in place. If you have questions, reach out to your elopement photographer and they should be able to help you.

There you have it! The principles of Leave No Trace and how to apply to your elopement. You can learn more about Leave No Trace by visiting

Happy eloping!

If you’re planning an adventure elopement and would like to work with a Leave No Trace aware elopement photographer, let’s talk! As an outdoor enthusiast and photographer, I love helping couples plan and document meaningful wedding experiences outdoors while also protecting nature.

How to have a Leave No Trace Adventure Elopement

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