Are the mountains calling your name, or maybe somewhere down by the coast? Maybe the place doesn’t matter, but you know that you want it to be epic, non-traditional and outside the box. You love intimate moments, documented in a way that showcases your legacy and your love story. Um hi I think we just became best friends. I’m Michelle Johns, I’m an Alaska wedding and elopement photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. Since besties don’t keep secrets, I’m going to give you my no shit process on how to plan an epic elopement. Yep you heard me right!

Why eloping is awesome?

If you’ve found yourself here you’ve probably already decided that eloping is the way you want to celebrate your love. So I probably don’t need to give a huge explanation on why its so awesome. Cause your a couple of rockstars and you already know it! I see you!

As an Alaska wedding and elopement photographer I love educating and helping couples turn their elopement dreams into reality. This guide for planning an epic elopement is jam packed with tips and tricks to help get your feet dirty. It’s an outline and by no means a one size fits all guide to eloping.

If you find yourself feeling stuck, frustrated and feeling overwhelmed. Take a deep breath. It’s 100% okay ask for help or advice. I’m here if you need help or if you just want to talk. So let’s get into it!

An epic elopement in Golden, Colorado.

8 Tips and tricks for planning a epic elopement from an Alaska wedding and elopement photographer

Pinterest your heart out

If you’re like me and your brain fizzles when putting pen to paper this is your holy grail. Sometimes it’s hard to envision something without seeing inspiration first. Totally get it. Believe me when I say that you’re not alone. I use Pinterest almost daily, whether I’m looking for decor ideas for my house or trying to pull inspiration for my business.

You can start off with a broad search. Say for instance you search elopement inspiration. By doing this you can start to see things you love, but odds are highly likely you’ll probably also come across things that aren’t your vibe. This is great! Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, how is this great Michelle? The reason is now that you’ve now found what isn’t your vibe and your one step closer to finding out what is.

Planning an epic elopement isn’t a process that happens over night. After all this is a once in a lifetime celebration of your love. We don’t put added pressure or stress on a moment that’s suppose to be special.

Adventurous elopement in the the great sand dunes national park shot by Alaska wedding and elopement photographer Michelle Johns

Hire the the dream team

Odd’s are pretty likely that this is your first rodeo. It’s okay to not know or to ask for help. The elopement industry is packed with seasoned professionals who have been doing this for years. This is their bread and butter. The thing that lights them up when they get up in the morning.

They have experience on how to plan epic elopements because they do this on a daily basis. They’ve seen what works best first hand and will be a sounding board for all your dreams and visions.

Guests or no guests?

This one is totally on you! Believe me I get it, its tough choice to make, but make sure its a choice that happens between you and your partner. Don’t let the outside influences get to you. (aka moms, grandmas, the old lady up the street or social media)

This is YOUR day, celebrate it the way you envision it. If you want to plan an epic elopement to celebrate your love then lets freaking do it. I promise that you wont regret it for one second.

An epic elopement experience at a casino in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Prioritize what matters the most

Obviously getting married is priority number one. Duh! But ask yourself, and your partner what things matter most on this day. Is it the florals, the dress or cake. Maybe it’s the memories you carry with you long after this day has passed like photo’s or videos.

There isn’t a right or wrong answer and it’s completely up to the two of you! Prioritizing what matters most to two the two of you will allow you to focus and build a budget for those specific services.


I’m a huge app girl. I firmly believe that all good things come from the apple app store. As an Alaska wedding and elopement photographer my secret weapon for planning epic elopement’s and finding locations is a little app called All Trails. There is an online version as well but I find its not as mobile friendly.

This app is the bomb plan and simple. I use it to location scout from my house. It gives me an idea of what a place looks like before heading there to check it out myself. If you’re planning an out of state elopement or your unfamiliar with an area you need to check out this app. So you too can see a location without ever leaving the comfort of your home.

How to plan an epic elopement.

Here are some of my favorite places to plan an epic elopement in the U.S:

Making it official

Do you remember this scene from The Office. When Michael declared bankruptcy and then Oscar told him you can’t just say you declare bankruptcy. Then Michael goes on to say I didn’t say it I declared it. Making your elopement official doesn’t just happen by rings and saying I do. There is a little bit of paperwork that goes into the process as well.

Filing for a marriage license is a little different in every state but for the most part the process is very similar. I recommend applying for a marriage license at least 30-45 days prior to your date. This gives a little bit of a buffer window in case theres any issues with holds at your local courthouse.

Here in Alaska there is a three business day waiting period to receive your wedding license. You can check out and complete the application here if your eloping in Alaska.

Scenic landscape in Colorado shot by Alaska wedding and elopement photographer Michelle Johns.

Elopement attire

But what will I wear, thats it I’m not going. (grinch reference lol) Finding the elopement attire of your dreams is a big deal. You can wear literally whatever you want. Above all else there are some elopement must haves check out the list below.

  • Hiking Boots or tennis shoes
  • Water source
  • Backpack or bag to carry everything in
  • Snacks to enjoy throughout the adventure
Bridal session in Colorado shot by Michelle Johns an Alaska wedding and elopement photographer

Activities to commemorate your epic elopement

This is the fun part! Really dig deep with this one. When you elope the sky is the limit. You can go all out plan an epic elopement adventure for the two of you with your favorite things to do together or maybe you both just want to get lost together. It’s completely up to you the way you decide to commemorate your elopement.

If you’re struggling to come up with idea’s here are some of my personal favorites as an Alaska wedding and elopement photographer.

  • Grab a bite to eat (tacos, pizza and the list goes on)
  • A spontaneous trip to the tattoo parlor
  • Activities you enjoy doing together (snowboarding, hiking, ect)
  • Catch a helicopter ride over the mountains (or city)
  • Enjoy an evening sunset together

Last but not least

Have an absolute freaking blast. Like I’ve said over and over throughout this post planning an epic elopement shouldn’t feel stressful. After all this is a celebration. A celebration of the love that the two of you share. Think of this process like getting a taste of what your elopement will be. Take it in and soak it up. Enjoy celebrating the process with your partner by your side.

Crack open an ice cold white claw, bottle of whine or whatever tickles your fancy because this is something to celebrate. If you need help planning, finding your dream team of vendors or just want to chat click here. If you want to see more resources like this one click here.

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