Elopement Options - What to do during an Elopement

Elopement Options - What to do during an Elopement

Often, I get asked by couples who choose eloping “What do I do for my ceremony?”

An elopement ceremony is different than a traditional wedding ceremony because there’s more freedom to create something that you both feel represents you as a couple. We wanted to share a few ideas for what to do during your elopement ceremony, whether you choose to have a self solemnizing ceremony on a mountaintop or a intimate wedding ceremony with a few close family and friends.

Western North Carolina Elopement Blog Sunset Haze

You probably have realized it's western north carolina is my favorite elopement destination for any couple. Moods for days here and with every season within access it’s your decision. It’s my favorite place to photograph adventure engagement sessions, weddings, and elopements too. So it should be no surprise that these photos of Riley + West in the mountain tops of Asheville and it’s one of my favorite adventure photos yet. These two are so adorable together and we had so much fun with them! I had so much fun working with everyone

Elopements - You have Questions and I have Answers

“Elopements - Everything you need to know, didn’t know, and thankful you know now Guide”

Elopement Photography by Ashley Lee

Hey ya’ll this is pretty straight forward. This is an Elopement Q&A as well as a guide that links to Planning your Elopement and Packing, along with potential Elopement Destinations in Western North Carolina and much more. Elopements are so exciting and thrilling but it’s good to know everything to see if that is what you truly want for your day.

How do Elopements work?

It seems like when a lot of people imagine eloping, they imagine running down to city hall, finding the judge, and getting married in five minutes or less after filling out a bit of paperwork. That is one way to do it.

OR if you want to truly elope (just the two of you) but aren’t interested in the city hall/courthouse route… why not pick an epic location and go for it? Think next to the Blue Ridge Mountains, standing on a cliff in the Great Smoky Mountains, or somewhere in Asheville that you love. You’ll need an officiant to legally seal the deal, but that’s just about it. 

Eloping Is a personal decision . Every couple has their personal reasons and definitions of what it means to elope.

But really, what is the definition of Elopement?

Yes, 'elope' has historically meant "to run away secretly with the intention of getting married usually without parental consent." But it has also meant—and still means—"to escape." Elope appears to have become shorthand for "small destination wedding," "wedding that is not financially insane," or "wedding that allows us to not invite all the people we would rather not invite." This certainly differs from the "disapproving parents and sudden questionable decisions" sense of the word, but is it new? Click here to see history of the word.

Do we have to plan ahead for our Elopement?

Yes. Even couples who are choosing to elope will need to make some plans to ensure that their ceremony is seamless and legal. Depending on the location, the couple should contact the local city hall to understand the marriage license requirements. Some locations will require an appointment, a waiting time, and designated witnesses to conduct a wedding ceremony or issue a marriage license. The couple will also likely need their birth certificates and official identifications, so if you are planning a destination elopement, be sure to check local laws prior to leaving for your trip. To see a link scroll to mid/bottom of page for websites in areas around western north carolina, click here

Reasons why Elopements rock:

Saves you a lot of money
No stress no stress no stress
Go wherever your heart desires
Make it all about you two
Party the way you want
You can splurge on things you wish

Difference between an Elopement and Intimate Wedding?

An intimate wedding is just a “normal” wedding day with a smaller guest list.  You opt for a smaller location and a guest list of maybe one or two-dozen people tops.  Intimate weddings aren’t necessarily smaller budget weddings; in fact, a lot of the time a bride or groom will splurge more on their guests with intimate weddings because instead of using a $20,000 wedding budget to create an event for 120 people, they can use the same amount and give 20 people an amazing experience.  Intimate weddings are often very relaxed and to a certain extent, non-traditional.  Sometimes the bride and groom will get ready in the same house and simply have their first look casually in the hall way.  Sometimes there isn’t even formal seating for dinner.  While there is a focus on on beautiful portraits, there’s also a focus on photojournalistic images; a storytelling approach to the day in order to capture all the intimate moments between the few guests present.

Does Eloping Mean Not Having a Wedding at All?

Forgoing a traditional wedding to elope does not mean completely skipping a ceremony or reception to celebrate the occasion. Sometimes, couples who elope simply want to have a more intimate and quiet wedding with a limited amount of guests. 

Other couples may elope to a destination, then return home and host a small reception that includes family and friends to celebrate their union. You might even find couples who exchange vows in front of their guests, even though they're already legally married because they eloped and had a private ceremony first. Totally up to each couple. That’s the beauty of it. You decide.

Eloping and Wedding Etiquette

Gifts - It is not traditional for couples who elope to register for wedding gifts. If the couple is having a celebration after their private elopement, they may still register for gifts, up to couple. If you hear about a friend or family member's elopement, it is proper etiquette to send a gift or a card sharing your good wishes. Even though you won't be attending a wedding, this is still a nice practice and allows you to extend warm thoughts to them.

Intimate Wedding vs Elopement: Photographic coverage

Elopements - Couples often need 3 or 4 hours of coverage for an elopement; that’s it.  It’s photographing of the ceremony and an intimate adventure portrait session.  There’s rarely any getting ready images and never any cocktail hour coverage or reception coverage because elopements don’t have those things.  Period.  The photographer’s job will be the 3 or 4 hours of work on the day to capture the ceremony and portrait session and provide an amount of images reflective of how many hours they photographed.

Intimate weddings, photographically, are the same as full day “traditional” weddings.  Couples almost always still want getting ready coverage, the ceremony, formal photos with family members as well as the couple and coverage of their reception.  A photographer can still spend 8, 10 or 12 hours photographing an intimate wedding day.

A photographer’s job, and thus the cost of their services, is not reflective of how many guests are present.  So intimate wedding vs elopement means you’re still going to pay, for the most part, the same hourly rate.  An hour of a photographer’s time is an hour of a photographer’s time – whether they are photographing 2 people, 20 people or 200 people.  They still process a number of photographs reflective of the number of hours they were shooting for.

Elopement in Asheville or Western North Carolina?

Visit this link here for suggestions and much more info such as permits, ideas for elopements, etc.

Planning an Elopement in North Carolina or U.S.?

Visit here for a in depth blog.

Some parting words from a wise bride “it was easiest & most relaxed way to get married!” 

Isn’t that just what you want for your own wedding? You shouldn’t have to pull your hair out trying to plan the happiest day of your life. It can be as relaxed as you want it to be. It’s your day after all. So many couples are choosing to elope these days, how about you?

Adventure Elope in Asheville & NC Mountains - Ashley Lee Adventure Photographer

Adventure Elope in Asheville & Western NC Mountains- Ashley Lee Adventure Photography

Many couples travel to Asheville and the mountains of North Carolina for an elopement or a small wedding celebration with a few friends or family members. It's the perfect place to elope. Since we have so many public lands such as national and state parks and forest, nature provides the ultimate setting and decoration! Having a simple wedding means there is more time for exploring.

Biltmore Estate
Elope on the private grounds of America’s largest home (you choose the spot) and get access to the entire estate for photos! Their Elopement Package ($2,000) includes luxurious overnight accommodations for the couple at the Inn on Biltmore and up to 12 chairs for guests. Biltmore’s wedding team books elopements within 90 days of the big day. You can add on special experiences like a carriage ride, special tours of the house and a romantic dinner. Go to their website.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Elopements with 25 people or less are allowed along the Blue Ridge Parkway with a permit (application fee of $60 and permit fee $40). There are many places, ranging from waterfalls to mountaintops, but none are private. So you may have some extra onlookers. The permit covers two hours for a ceremony - no receptions. Permits are not issued for federal holidays or the month of October (busiest month due to fall color). Keep it simple: no live plants, no releasing of doves/butterflies, no birdseed/rice throwing, no open flames, no decorating with ribbons, no balloons, no alcoholic beverages. For ideas, see our Top 50 Parkway Stops near Asheville. No weddings allowed at busiest spots such as Waterrock Knob, Graveyard Fields and Devil's Courthouse. Go to the Blue Ridge Parkway website for Wedding Policies & Permit.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
A permit for a ceremony or portrait photography is required ($50) with application completed at least 14 days in advance. Much of the park is open to outdoor weddings with a maximum of 20 people and six cars. If you want a larger wedding, they have approved locations for a ceremony - including historic churches:

  • Road to Nowhere, Fontana Lake overlook, maximum of 15 cars and 30 people

  • Deep Creek Picnic Pavilion, a good choice if you want a picnic afterwards. A very busy area in the summer with camping, waterfalls and tubing.

  • Historic Mingus Mill (no private events March-Nov 9AM-5PM when open for tour) - perfect for evening wedding.

  • Historic Smokemont Church, maximum of 6 cars and 40 people (pic above)

  • Collins Creek Picnic Pavilion off Newfound Gap Road

  • Heintooga Overlook on Heintooga Ridge Road, adjacent to picnic area. Entrance from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  • Historic Palmer Chapel in Cataloochee Valley - maximum of 10 cars and 50 people (pic at very top of page)

If you have a NC license, be sure to stay on the NC side of the park. Remember that since this is a national park, there are many regulations. Download a PDF of their Permit Guidelines for Weddings. For more info and permit applications, go to their website.

Pisgah National Forest & Nantahala National Forest
If you have 75 or fewer people, a permit is not required. If you want to get married at a developed site with an office, just notify them first. Otherwise, you can have a ceremony anywhere on public forest land. Of course, you cannot block trails or prevent other guests from visiting. You cannot bring in decorations, flowers or food (unless it's a simple picnic). Keep it simple!

Chimney Rock Park
Find a variety of spots for a wedding for the cost of park admission for each guests. Say your vows atop the famous Chimney or in front of Hickory Nut Falls if you have 15 guests or less. Stay away from weekends in July and October. Contact them to check dates - all weddings require a reservation. For larger groups, they have a Pavilion for up to 150 guests. And their Old Rock Café has a great outdoor deck for a meal afterwards. Read more.

Lake Lure
Morse Park by the marina offers a lot of lakefront spots - no reservations needed for a small wedding with no chairs / decorations. A gazebo is also available by reservation. Another option is renting a pontoon boat and getting married on the lake. Nearby in Chimney Rock Village is the Riverwalk with plenty of spots by the rushing river. Read more.

Lake Glenville
Rent a pontoon from Signal Ridge Marina and get married by a waterfall that cascades into the lake. Or find a secluded cove. Read more.

North Carolina Arboretum
The beautiful setting of gardens and natural areas has an elopement package for 10 or less guests. It includes one hour at a wedding site, table, folding chairs setup, free parking, event coordinator, bridal room, and one year membership. $500 for Sunday-Thursday dates and $1,000 for Friday or Saturday. Read more.

State Parks: Mt. Mitchell, Lake James, Gorges, South MountainsA Special Activity Permit is required, but it's only $35. Call the state park office first for best locations and their procedures. 

Bed & Breakfasts
These grand homes office the ultimate romantic setting for a wedding and honeymoon. Innkeepers love to help you coordinate and many have packages. See our Top 30 B&Bs.

How to make the most out of your Sarasota Summer Wedding


Guest post by Orla James

Summer has always been a popular wedding season.

Why? Good weather means less problems. It means you can make the most of the amazing venue you’ve booked, and you can have your summer wedding photos taken in front of a beautiful, foliage-filled backdrop.

But a lot of weddings don’t make the most of the season. There are countless things you can do to make your day even more special.

This article is your ultimate guide to having a summer wedding.


Summer weddings give you loads of options when it comes to the theme.
Some of the most popular are:

Festival Theme – Make your wedding look like a music festival, right down to the invitations and festival band to finish the night off. This theme has become really popular in the last 10 years.  

Boho Theme – Based on the boho-chic fashion style, this bohemian theme is perfect for summer.

English Summer Theme – Think old-style ice-cream vans, strawberries and cream and other classic English treats.

You don’t have to be strict with your theme. You can pick your favourite bits from a theme and make it your own.

Colour Scheme

Pastel colours are always perfect for a summer wedding. It is becoming more popular to throw some bright colours in as well, but you have to be careful not to create a clash. It’s always a good idea to check out your wedding venue before deciding on a colour scheme so you can pick out a theme that matches with your dream location. Then, head over to Pinterest and create a board of your favourite colours.

Dress Code

Your dress code will depend heavily on what theme you pick, or even if you pick a theme at all. You need to factor in the weather to your dress code – choose light fabrics for the dresses and suits but also have something warm to wear in case the weather isn’t as good as you’d hoped. It’s also important to remember that what you’re wearing accounts for this too! While white dresses and gold rings is more traditional you could mix it up with more vibrant colours on your dress to match the brighter theme. Warmer coloured jewelry matches this well. Perhaps choose rose gold wedding rings instead of a more traditional silver, why not a sapphire coloured necklace, or maybe accessorize some bangles and bracelets for a more fun look.

Of course you’ve also got to bear in mind make-up too. With the sun beaming down all day it’s pretty likely everyone will start to break a sweat – which isn’t good news for makeup! Using waterproof and sunproof cosmetics wherever possible such as waterproof mascara and moisturizers containing SPF will do a world of good. And of course always remember to keep it light and bright! 


Your flowers are linked to your colour scheme. Always choose flowers that will fair well in hot weather if your wedding is outside – like dutch hydrangea and garden spray roses.

Work closely with your floral designer to get the best colours and florals for your wedding. 

Keeping Guests Comfortable

It’s not always the first thing you think about when planning your wedding, but it’s really important to think about your guests’ comfort. Summer weddings are beautiful, but can bring in extreme gear and humidity depending on where you are in the world.

If you are spending most of the day outside, you could provide sunglasses and sun-cream for guests. You should also make sure there is plenty of water available and plenty of shaded areas.

Having a basket of flip-flops is also fun so guests can take their uncomfortable shoes off for dancing.


It doesn’t matter when your wedding is, entertainment is one of the biggest factors. It will take up a large part of the evening and will be what you and your guests remember about the day.

Outdoor games – The benefit of a summer wedding is you can play fun outdoor games. A lot of companies rent out giant Jenga, Scrabble and other games. If you have a lot of outdoor space you could go for a game of lawn croquet or cricket.

Entertainment – Some wedding-band agencies have specific bands for summer weddings. You can get great Mumford & Sons style bands which will give your wedding that special touch. 


The food at your wedding is a huge decision to make. Here are a few quirky ideas that could make your wedding something to remember.

Summer Picnic – Instead of a formal sit down meal, why not have a summer picnic? Your guests can sit on blankets and eat from wicker baskets. If your guests are drinking, they will need something more substantial than a couple of sandwiches though.

Sweets Table – Why not have a classic pic ‘n’ mix table for your guests to select from. This is guaranteed to be a hit with the kids.

Posh BBQ – Who doesn’t love a BBQ in the summer? Why not have a posh BBQ with gourmet burgers and kebabs? Get a professional in though, the last thing you want is a stressful cooking experience on your big day.  

Ice-Cream Van – An ice-cream will fit into almost any wedding theme. You can have an old-style ice-cream cart for those english summer weddings and your classic ice-cream van for everything else.


Choose refreshing drinks for a summer wedding. You should make sure all the drinks are well chilled and not too heavy.

Pimp Your Prosecco – Have a prosecco station where your guests can embellish their drinks with different fruits.

Gin & Tonic – G&Ts always go down well in the sun. You could freeze pieces of fruit to use as ice. This is a great way to get creative with your gin.

Summer Cocktails – Hire a professional cocktail specialist and choose a couple of house cocktails so your guests don’t get carried away.

There’s no doubt that the summer is one of the easiest times of year to plan a wedding. Whether you choose the ballroom or the beach, picnics or prosecco or you dress down or up to the nines; your options are near endless.

However you choose to make your special day extra special you’re sure to have an incredible day surrounded with fun, friends and family and we wish you all the best for your sun soaked entry into married life!

There’s no doubt that the summer is one of the easiest times of year to plan a wedding. Whether you choose the ballroom or the beach, picnics or Prosecco or you dress down or up to the nines; your options are near endless.

However you choose to make your special day extra special you’re sure to have an incredible day surrounded with fun, friends and family and we wish you all the best for your sun soaked entry into married life!






How To Make The Most Out Of Your Summer Wedding by Vanessa Joy Photography and Orla James
taken from http://vanessajoyphotographyblog.com/2018/04/how-to-make-the-most-out-of-your-summer-wedding/

Wedding Time Line - Step by Step - Sarasota Ashley Lee

Time line - Step by Step

Thanks so much for checking our my Wedding information page.

Naturally I would love to be apart of your wedding and hope that this guide helps to answer some of your questions about working with me. I want to ensure that we can creat beautiful photos together but do it in a way that allows you to enjoy your day.

I love working with people who do their own thing and I want their photos to be authentic expression of who they are! I focus on dcumentary-approach, capturing the raw moments. I'm into catching quiet moments and spontaneous and joyful ones too. My goal is to capture the story of your wedding day by collaborating the candid photos, natural portraits, and unique details that make your day unique.

I am VERY into making memories! The Real ones. The ones that give your goosebumps and bring a tear to your eye. Those.

Shall we begin? (see guides below)

Getting Ready

This chapter usually starts 1-2 hours before your ceremony. As the details come together I will be documenting all the personal details that make your day special. If you are able to get ready in a room that has good window light, I may die in photographer heaven!

Also keeping clutter to a minimum or in a separate area is important to keep in mind when you want clean and conceptual images. 

First Look

A private moment. 

Some couples are really into this, and some are adamant about not seeing each other until the ceremony starts. This is your story. 

Deciding whether to have a private moment together before your wedding has some advantages. Knowing your options and also how it will impact your timeline, can help you decide whether or not it's for you! Typically first look will take place after you get ready and we'll choose a spot where you can still that surprise moment when you see each other for first time. For some couples sharing this moment with just each other (and well me too ;p), can make it more intimate than seeing each other for the first time.  It's a moment of reflection and a chance to really relax and take a breath before the story continues. 

Some of the best lighting of the day is about an hour before the sunsets. This is the golden hour and I will steal you two away for some beautiful photos during that time as you cannot recreate this lighting!

If you absolutely do not want to see each other before ceremony, that is totally fine. We will get the desired photos in a timeline that works for you! I need a good 30-45 minutes for these. I'll also have a list so a someone can round everybody up too!

At the end of the day I want to make sure you're allowing enough time to get the kind of photos that you want and will help you plan your timeline to make this possible. I'm here for you. 

The Ceremony

The Main Event! 

You'll want to check if your venue has restrictions for photographers. I am always careful to be quiet and subtle during the ceremony, ignore me!, and while I capture your intimate moments -- Vows, first kiss, and all the small moments in between. 

Group Portraits

Family portraits do not need to be stressful We keep things organized so we are able to work through them as smoothly and quickly as possible. consider a site lose to proximity to the ceremony/reception to keep you on track.

Take careful consideration when planning a timeline for portraits. The bigger the family the more time needed.

I like to think I'm great at planning and time management, lets discuss if you're unsure or just want to talk. 

The Reception

Time to Party! While you go relax, I'll ensure that all the work you put into your reception is documented. I focus on the details in the place settings, desserts, name cards, florals, and especially those great candids of your guests. After the toasts, cake cutting, and special dance, you and guests can really go all out as the camera will not be on them. 


12 Month Wedding Planning Checklist here

Wedding - Packing for your Elopement here

Wedding - Creating a Timeline here

Wedding - Planning your Elopement here

Wedding - A Complete DETAILED timeline breakdown here 

Your Wedding Proposal: Should you include family and friends? - Ashley Lee

Your Proposal: Should you include family and friends? 

Proposing to your loved one is a huge step towards the future — a future filled with new experiences, new memories and new family. Asking parents for your partner’s hand in marriage is an old tradition, however, including their family in your proposal is a new idea that many people are embracing.

The current trend of including family and friends into one’s marriage proposal is becoming more and more popular. Whether you choose to propose at a simple gathering of loved ones or you plan an extravagant proposal comprised of renting out a baseball stadium and hiding loved ones in the dugout à la Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, a marriage proposal that incorporates the most important people in your partner’s life is a thoughtful way to illustrate your commitment to them; However, sometimes keeping the big moment a secret can become a little tricky when you involve others.

Some people, especially family and close friends, may have a hard time keeping the news of your proposal to themselves. In general, the fewer amount of people you confide in, the less likely word is to get out. So, if you need to work with a family member to plan your proposal, choose your accomplice wisely. It’s important to work with a family member whose discretion you can rely on. Keep your trustworthy accomplice in the know so they can mobilize other family members without giving away your special plan. If you need more than one accomplice to help make your proposal a success, think about keeping them on a need to know basis. Maybe you start by telling them that you would like to plan something special for your partner, followed by feeding them more details as the big day approaches and finally, right before the special moment, reveal your true intention.

A unique way to involve family and friends without telling them your master proposal plan is by filming loved ones sending warm wishes and sharing stories about the two of you. Once you have an array of touching clips, compile them into a heartwarming movie that ends with you asking for your partner’s hand in marriage. This is a great way to involve loved ones and ensure the safety of your secret.

If you’d rather have family and friends present, arrange for the proposal to take place on an already special day — such as your partner’s birthday or your anniversary. While family and friends are under the impression that you are planning a surprise party, help them plan an unforgettable surprise, such as memorizing your partner’s favorite song or creating a crafty project.

If including loved ones in your marriage proposal is a must, don’t worry about the secret getting out, just be smart when choosing whom you work with and what you reveal about your plan





taken from https://howheasked.com/proposal-tips-from-the-proposal-planner/