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Planning the Perfect Elopement - Stage 1 - Dream & Brainstorm

Dear adventurous couples,

It’s great to see you back, thank you coming back!   I’m excited to share with you my step by step guide to help you plan out the most amazing and unforgettable elopement experience!  As I wrote in my previous blog, planning out the perfect elopement happens in stages. The very first stage we are going to dive into is the Dream & Brainstorm stage.  All the best plans start with a well thought out brainstorming session. One of the best things about eloping is that you can truly go to the most awe-inspiring places in the world to say your vows. 

So... if you could go anywhere in the world to get married... where would you GO?

The goal of the dreaming & brainstorming stage is to form an overall vision for your day.  Here are 3 easy brainstorming tips to get you started! 

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Find a relaxing space together.

The best way to dream & brainstorm is to sit down with your partner some place comfortable and imagine your perfect elopement day from beginning to end. Try cuddling up at home on the couch together or going for a walk.  



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Keep an open mind.

It’s important to keep an open mind during the dreaming & brainstorming stage.  Don’t let yourselves get bogged down in all the details, what’s possible or not, or what’s realistic.  Keep your ideas vague and have fun imagining all the possibilities!



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Inspiration is everywhere. 

Inspiration can come from anywhere and the sky is the limit!  To help yourself plan and get excited, try using Pinterest, Instagram, travel guides, books or a variety of interesting magazines.   


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As you are brainstorming about your epic dream elopement day, ask yourself these questions:

What is the overall intention of your day? 

Is this day just for the two of you? Do others play a role in your day? 

What does the scenery look like?

Are you in the mountains, on a cliff, on a beach or deep in redwood country?

What season is it?

Do you two like hot or cold weather better?  Do you imagine there being snow, or fall colors? 

How much time are you able to use on the trip?

 Is the elopement day part of a larger trip or combined with your honeymoon? How much time are you able to take off from work?

Will it be just the two of you or will you include others?

This is important because it will help determine any permits you will need or accessibility concerns. 

What do you want the ceremony to look like?

 Are there important cultural or religious traditions you’d like to incorporate into the ceremony?

What do you want to wear?

 A dress or suit? Something more casual?  What footwear do you need?

What activities do you see yourself doing? 

These can be activities that you enjoy doing together or ones you’ve never tried before. Hiking, climbing, stand up paddle boarding etc...

Are you starting to have a vision on what your day will look like now?  Even if your vision is a little blurry, that’s okay! It’s a great place to start!  Congratulations, you’ve got stage 1 in the developmental process!  

In my next blog, we will be going over stage 2, the research & logistics of elopement planning.  So stay tuned, it’s coming right up! 

~  Parky’s Pics Photography








How to Plan an Elopement!

Dear dreamers and adventurers,

More and more couples are considering eloping instead of having a traditional style wedding.  So, if you’re reading this, congrats on stepping outside the box and choosing to do something different!  

Eloping means that all of the wedding day choices you have to make, are YOURS entirely. There are no rules. You can truly make your day any adventure you want—it can be a day that reflects the two of you instead of being focused on everyone else’s needs, opinions, and expectations. 

Keep in mind that all of this freedom to plan your dream day can feel a bit overwhelming, which is totally normal!  To help ease some of the stress I’ve put together a step by step guide to help with the process and make things all fall into place relatively easy for you!  

Each week I will post a new blog with content to help you plan the perfect elopement so be sure to come back and check each week!

Before we really dive in, let’s go over some frequently asked questions about elopements.  

What is an Elopement?

Elopement planning doesn’t necessarily have clear consecutive steps, it happens in stages.   Just like climbing most mountains, there are many ways to the top—but if you feel lost, follow my lead!

How long do I need to plan?

The average time it takes to plan an elopement is about 4-10 months.  Planning things out during this time frame gives you a chance to book flights at good prices and find great lodging in advance.  However, I have seen couples successfully plan incredible elopements anywhere from 1 week to 4 months out though. Anything is possible!   

How much does eloping cost?

The U.S. national average for a traditional wedding is $34,000(crazy huh!), but you can have an incredibly amazing elopement for less than half of that!  Expect to spend 50-80% of your budget on photography and the rest on travel, attire, rings, flowers, hair & makeup, an officiant, food, activities, and your marriage license.   The awesome thing about eloping is that you really do have room to play if you are on a budget! 

Can other people come?

Absolutely! An “elopement” is defined by intentionally focusing your wedding day on YOU TWO (the couple). If you have close family & friends that want to support & celebrate with you—go for it.  I’ve experienced elopements with up to 25 people with the same vibe as a 2-person elopement.

Now that we have the most frequently asked questions answered, keep an eye out for my next series of emails that will be focusing on the 5 stages of elopement planning!  The 5 topics we are focusing on are: dream & brainstorm, research & consider logistics, make choices & start booking, finalize details & get ready, and... Have the best elopement day! 

Get ready, stage one is coming right up! 

Curtis & Katie's Sunflower Rosina Vineyards Wedding

I photographed a wedding at Rosina Vineyards in July of 2018. Not long after, Katie contacted me about shooting her Rosina Vineyards wedding the following July. Her plans were for sunflowers everywhere. Fast forward one year, and one pregnancy later. This mama got married not long after having a baby! Big props to Katie! Planning a wedding while pregnant and then having a newborn is definitely not easy! : ) Curtis and Katie’s wedding was on a very warm Southern Humboldt day. It was filled with sunflowers, lots of love, and even more laughter. Tears were shed, amazing dance moves were recorded, and lots of laughs were had. I hope you enjoy viewing their photos! : )

Drakeford Wedding at Camp Bauer

Jeremy and Rene’ were actually neighbors in the small town of Scotia. A friend suggested that Rene try a dating site. She saw that a guy on the dating site lived in Scotia. She told him," “ I live in Scotia too. What street do you live on?” He answered, “Main Street.” Rene responded with" “I used to live on Main St." . He said, "Oh really? Where? " She answered "Across from the fish hatchery". He responded with "Rene' ?" A few months later, they decided to meet for drinks and have been together ever since.

Jeremy proposed on Christmas. Traditionally they do stockings first, but that particular year Jeremy wanted to do them last. When Rene’ pulled the ring box out of the stocking, Jeremy told her to read the tag. It said to “My fiance' “ The sentiment went right over her head. When she unwrapped it, he got down on his knee & the rest is history.

This beautiful couple loves to explore Humboldt County by fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, going on bike rides, and spending time with their two boys. No matter what they do together, they don't have to talk to connect. He is selfless, a good dad, and would do anything for his family. Rene still gets butterflies eleven years later. They are puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly.

I was blessed to capture both their engagement and their Camp Bauer wedding in Korbel (Blue Lake) California. They got ready at the Blue Lake Casino and were blessed with abundant sunshine for their picture perfect fall wedding. : )