The crazy fact is – this isn’t an entirely hypothetical scenario.

Despite the popularity of elopements and weddings being held on public lands (national parks, state parks, wilderness areas, beaches, etc.), there has not been a widespread increase in awareness, education, and action in keeping these lands beautiful.

The increase in traffic has meant that the land managers have no choice but to add permit systems, increase permit costs, reduce the amount of available permits, and even having to close off certain locations that are getting too damaged.

If we don’t all learn (couples AND photographers) to take care of these beautiful places that we get to photograph at or get married at, we’ll all continue losing access. Eventually, eloping on public lands may not even be possible.

SO – what can be done?! Learn about and practice Leave No Trace:

What is Leave No Trace and Why You Should Care About It:

Have you ever heard of the saying “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time”? In a nutshell, that is the basics of Leave No Trace. More officially, Leave No Trace (LNT) is “a set of ethics and practices everyone should follow to enjoy and protect the outdoors at the same time” (from the official LNT website here).

There are 7 Principles of LNT:

  • Plan and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors 

— Essentially, LNT is meant to protect the outdoors, parks, campsites, beaches, forests, etc. for people to enjoy for years and years.

Why You Should Care About LNT for Your Wedding and Elopement

If you’re wanting to get married outside, whether at a venue or on the beach or a mountain top, I’m taking a wild guess that it’s probably because you love nature’s beauty and the views, you find peace while spending time outside, or you love adventure (or a combination of these reasons).

— Well the way to KEEP nature beautiful is to make a conscious effort to enjoy being outside sustainably and responsibly.

Without LNT principles being followed, photoshoots, elopements, and weddings can have a huge impact on the environment including–

  • Current locations that are available for weddings and elopements could become off-limits for special events– meaning you may not be able to come back to that location for a vow renewal or anniversary shoot in the future
  • The spot you said your vows in could become so trashed or destroyed that it needs to be closed for restoration and/or won’t look the same when you come back in the future (fences could be put up, more signs up, etc.)
  • The cost of permits could raise, making it difficult for any events to be held on public lands

By reducing our impact while we’re visiting, photographing, and celebrating outdoors, we can protect the places we love! You don’t have to limit your celebration to reduce your impact, I promise.

4 Sustainable Alternatives for Your Wedding or Elopement

Here’s a few fun and sustainable alternatives for popular wedding trends:

  • Instead of popping champagne — pop sparkling water
  • Instead of throwing confetti — throw leaves off the ground, shake ribbons, ring bells, throw paper airplanes, etc.
  • Instead of carving your name into a tree or rock — create your own sign (Etsy has tons of beautiful options)
  • Instead of lighting candles outside — use LED lights, use headlights from a car, use lanterns, buy fairy lights, etc.

There are plenty of other alternatives to other wedding and photography trends that you can still follow while putting your own twist on it. Once you book with me, I will share a ton more sustainable alternatives and LNT Tips to help make sure your wedding day is just as beautiful while also taking care of the land.

I send out a Leave No Trace Guide for you to learn everything you need to know once you book your photoshoot, wedding, or elopement with me! Don’t be super overwhelmed by all the information; it’s merely a guide to make sure you have the best wedding experience while also taking care of Mother Earth. Remember that the goal is to just be better than the day before while becoming more sustainable!! It’s almost impossible to be absolutely perfect, but if the effort is there, then that is all that matters!

What I Did, and What You Can Do To Help

I am an “LNT Aware Photographer”. To become one, I took the Leave No Trace Course for Wedding and Elopement Photographers that was created by Leave No Trace Center, Adventure Instead, Anni Graham, and The Foxes. All the proceeds from this course went directly to Leave No Trace Center.

This course has helped me SO much in making sure I can give the best wedding experience to my couples. I grew up in the outdoors – hiking, camping, kayaking, etc. – so taking care of nature is second nature (pun intended) to me. But this course has given me the extra boost of motivation and confidence to educate my couples too, in making sure that we are all on the same page. LNT is important to me so that both myself and others can continue to explore the wilderness, national parks, state parks, and other outdoor areas with my family and friends for the rest of my life.

COUPLES: Take the time to learn how to protect the gorgeous location you have dreamed of saying your vows at, so that you can come back to that same exact spot in 5, 10, 50 years from now and still look just as beautiful.

PHOTOGRAPHERS: I’m guessing you take photos of your clients in the outdoors – whether your niche is couples, weddings, elopements, families, seniors, etc. Check out the course here to become an official “LNT Aware Photographer” too.

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