leave no trace

how to Leave no Trace on your wedding day!

If you’re eloping or planning your wedding in nature, you have a reason to do so. Whether that means you have a deep appreciation for a certain location, or you just find it stunning, there is something that is drawing you there. In order to keep these beautiful areas protected, it’s important to follow Leave No Trace (LNT) practices to minimize your impact and leave it better than you found it!

There are seven Leave No Trace (LNT) principles or guidelines that are important to follow. These help to minimize your impact on the environment and protect it for the future. These are not laws and are up for interpretation, but they do provide a guiding framework on how to enjoy the outdoors!

The Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  1. Plan and Prepare Ahead
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

#1 Plan and Prepare Ahead

When planning your wedding in the outdoors it’s very important to plan and prepare ahead! Being prepared and having everything you need minimizes your impact on the environment and makes your day go smoothly. Poor planning can result in mistakes, injuries, land degradation, and ruin your experience. Before your wedding day, create a full plan for the day and include backups in case your original plan is not possible. Your elopement photographer should work with you to make sure you are both prepared with everything we need to make sure your wedding day goes perfectly!

Important things to consider when planning a wedding outdoors

  1. Are there road or trail closures that might affect time, access to locations, or experience?
  2. Do you need a permit to get married here? (More often than not the answer is yes. Permits are fairly easy to get depending on the area, and are there to protect the land)
  3. Is there a busy season in this location?
  4. What gear do you need in order to be prepared for this hike or location?
  5. Are you physically prepared for this hike? (The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a position to get hurt on your wedding day)
  6. Do you have a backup plan in case you can’t get to your location?
  7. Do you have service there or should you get a satellite phone?
  8. Are there any bans in the area you should be aware of?

Making sure you are prepared before your wedding day means you can enjoy yourself more and your impact on the land will be minimized.

leave no trace

#2 Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Some other important ideas to think about when you’re on trail

  1. Avoid making “shortcuts” through the trail. It’s common on trails that have switchbacks to see markings where other hikers have “cut” through to make the hike shorter to the top. Over time this area gets very degraded and the vegetation gets destroyed. Keep in mind that the trail was made a specific way for a reason and we should stick to it!
  2. If a trail is closed for restoration or animal mating, respect that! It might change your plans slightly or make your hike a bit longer, but in the long run that’s what keeps these areas beautiful!
  3. This goes back to the preparedness principle, make sure you know what kind of surfaces you’ll be encountering on your trip. For example, if you’re traveling to the desert, read up on cryptobiotic soil and learn how to properly identify it. Cryptobiotic soil is a living organism that looks like dirt but is extremely important for these desert landscapes! The same goes for alpine areas. Alpine areas are extremely fragile, so brush up on info about how to limit your impact when in these areas!
how to leave no trace on your wedding day

#3 Dispose of Waste Properly

#4 Leave What You Find

It’s enticing to grab a rock or flower from the area you got married in but if everyone who visited the area did that, it would be ruined. You might think if you do something it won’t make a difference, but it does. Every little pebble or flower that makes up the area you are in is what makes it so beautiful. Even grabbing a small rock can impact the environment and alter its balance. You have a photographer with you on your wedding day for a reason, if you want to capture something special let them know! At the end of your wedding, you’ll have a gallery of amazing photos that capture your entire day that you can look back on. In national parks, it’s even illegal to remove natural objects.

#5 Minimize Campfire Impacts

Ending your wedding day cuddled up next to a campfire sounds like the perfect way to end your night. But, check you’re allowed to do that first! Check if there is a fire ban in place before starting your fire – this information is super easy to find online and can save the environment! If there is no fire ban in place, just be sure to build your fire in designated fire rings or in areas that explicitly allow it. Make sure to keep your eyes on the fire and be cautious of the wind. When you’re all done, check the ashes are cool to the touch before you leave it!

#6 Respect Wildlife

Wildlife is amazing and we’re always stoked to see something, but remember, they are wild! Although you may want to feed them and see them up close, avoid doing so. Feeding animals can be harmful to them and can eliminate their fear of humans which is dangerous for both sides.

Side Story: One day when we were in Zion National Park a squirrel, that was clearly not afraid of humans (very obviously was fed by humans), kept trying to crawl into our backpacks and onto our legs to get closer to the food we were eating. Although we love wildlife, we love seeing it from a distance and not on top of us lol. We were terrified and were forced to leave this beautiful river area because it would not leave us alone.

Make sure to store your food properly (especially in bear country)! This stops animals from getting into it or putting you in a dangerous situation. If you’re in bear country, look into buying or renting a bear bag/odor-resistant bag when hiking outdoors.

how to leave no trace during your wedding

#7 Be Considerate of Other Visitors

how to leave no trace on your wedding day

Last but not least, Leave No Trace on Social Media

This one is slightly controversial but important to bring up. Over the years the rise of Instagram and geo-tagging locations has led to amazing locations becoming overcrowded and damaged to a point of no return. Places like Horseshoe Bend in Arizona were once a local hidden gem, but after people started tagging the location on Instagram the area became a crowded hotspot. Be conscious of what you’re posting online. Instead of geo-tagging, an exact location be vague. If you’re eloping at a secret spot in Acadia National Park just tag the park, or Maine as a whole, or the restaurant you went to after your ceremony. Keeping your elopement location a secret online can protect landscapes and ensure they last for a long time!

leave no trace

Whether you’re backpacking across mountains or going for a stroll in your local park, make sure to practice LNT!

Meet your photographer team

We’re Bridget & Ryan!

Adventurers turned adventure elopement photographers specializing in national park and hiking elopements! We help couples craft a wedding day that feels authentic to them in a meaningful and epic location. Life’s an adventure, let’s make your wedding one too!