How to plan a perfect Lake District Elopement
Thinking about how to plan an elopement in the English Lake District? I’ve photographed over 500 elopements in this area and here are 10 of the things I’ve learnt that might help you to create the tiny wedding day of your dreams.
Should you keep it a secret?
Firstly, can we spare a thought for all those couples who had secret elopements booked in when Covid struck? It’s not easy to keep a secret like getting married and some of these poor couples had to seal their lips for nearly 2 years longer than they planned due to constant rescheduling!
If you’re planning to elope, the decision whether or not to tell anyone is a deeply personal one. The benefit of keeping quiet is, of course, that no one can try to talk you out of it. I’ve seen a definite increase in the last two years of secret elopements. Many couples are concerned they’ll be accused of being selfish or of going against family tradition. If you feel it’s the right thing for you and are confident you can keep it under wraps then go for it. Whilst you absolutely don’t need permission from anyone, the saying “easier to seek forgiveness than permission” kind of applies here (especially if you have nice photos to placate them with!)
One thing to watch out for – if you do keep it secret: be careful not to accidentally get drunk with certain friends and end up telling them or even inviting them! I’ve seen this a few times and on more than one occasion have had to deliver two separate galleries, one with the guests and one without, so as to not upset family who weren’t invited!
If you do tell people, think carefully about when and about how much detail you share with them. If you don’t want to risk them turning up as a surprise then simply don’t tell them the actual venue (yes, I have seen a few surprise guest appearances here and there!)
Should you take anyone with you?
A lot of “Just Us” elopement packages allow for a small number of guests to be catered and accommodated for at additional cost – usually up to around 12 or so. For some couples it is easy to choose who the select few would be, often their parents, children or closest friends. It’s not always that simple though. Any wedding with guests involves the couple having to go through the slightly odd process of rating who they know into A/B/C lists and deciding who should make the cut and who shouldn’t. Having no guests at all is brave but simple.
If either or both of you have children, you may be wondering whether or not to include them. I see a total mixture of decisions here. Lots of couples leave their kids with relatives (often under the guise of a birthday weekend away or whatever), others choose to take them and make a family holiday in the Lakes out of it. Again there are pros and cons. A tiny family wedding can be lovely and you’ll have lots of family photos to remember it. It can also be quite chaotic, less relaxing and result in less time for just the two of you (especially if you’re all staying in a family room….!)
If you are bringing very young children then remember that unless you employ a childminder (or bring a strategic guest) then there isn’t going to be anyone to look after/hold them while I take photos of just the two of you. I do of course always do my best to entertain/hold/shuggle kids whilst taking photos but it’s no mean feat. For babies and toddlers it’s great to have a buggy that they can be safely strapped into (ideally with entertainment and snacks on board!) as we can then take this with us when we do a loop of the lake/gardens and make sure they are safe and occupied while I capture a few photos of just the two of you.
Which venue should you choose?
We are lucky to boast hundreds of great elopement venues in the Lakes. I’ve not shot at all of them, but I have shot at a LOT and I’m always happy to share an honest opinion on them from a photography point of view.
Make a list together of what aspects are important to you. Do you want a completely hassle-free wedding in a venue that has a set package that gets it exactly right day in day out? Or are you looking for a more bespoke option so you can build things into the day more creatively? How long are you wanting to spend on the photos? Do you fancy a trip offsite, or just minimal time wandering down to the lake from your accommodation?
A lot of hotel venues will not offer exclusive use for tiny weddings, so you’ll need to be ready to expect other guests to be using the communal areas and gardens. If this really bothers you then you can go for a venue that offers private space for your ceremony and photos and then head off to accommodation elsewhere.
Be mindful that a lot of venues (and other wedding suppliers) will only offer smaller wedding packages midweek (except maybe in January and February which are the quietest months).
Think about your ceremony time
At any given time, there are precisely LOADS of people planning an Elopement in the Lake District. Booking a slot with the registrars should be done at the same time as confirming your wedding venue. Securing a ceremony time can be competitive, especially in spring and summer, school holidays or with short notice. Before you confirm with your venue check what availability the Registry service have.
Think about light in winter months, especially once the clocks have gone back. Remember that natural light can go as early as 3/3.30ish, depending on your venue and how early the sun (if it appears!) sets behind any fells. You can check sunset times here.
At any time of the year there are benefits to having an earlier ceremony time for your elopement. If it is just the two of you then even with professional hair and make up being done it won’t be a long getting-ready process. You’ll also likely be more nervous than you expect (trust me, I’ve heard this a thousand times). Do you want to spend half the day apart both feeling slightly awkward? If you decide to get ready separately remember you’ll probably only have one room if you’re in a hotel, so this can lead to one person pacing around in the bar while the other is hidden away upstairs getting ready.
A lot of venues also offer a set elopement package that includes afternoon tea followed by dinner. Typically your afternoon tea will be around 90 minutes or so after your ceremony. If you don’t get married until, say 3.30pm, then you’re going to be eating a LOT of food close together all evening! That might suit you fine, but personally I know I’d rather have sandwiches and cake around lunchtime then get out for a walk or boat trip before a snooze and more eating!
Just because it’s only the two of you doesn’t mean you can’t go all out on how you look and feel. In fact, you might find you have more budget to spend on some pampering! Having your hair and make up done professionally is great as not only will you look better in your photos (it will last better against the elements) but you’ll have a friendly, calm person there with you to answer any questions and settle any nerves.
Little touches like new (or old!) jewellery, watches, cufflinks etc make great mementos and nice photos. When it comes to outfits you can do whatever you wish – treat yourself to tailor made suit, or those turquoise Docs you’ve always lusted after. If one of you is walking in to the ceremony while the other waits at the top of the aisle then think about what you’ll do to occupy nervous hands. A bouquet or handbag are obvious choices – dogs and children also work well (and sometimes not so well ha ha!)
Don’t forget about music
Having been to hundreds and hundreds of elopements (not something many people can say, with there being no guests!) I can honestly tell you music makes a big difference. Nearly all venues have provision to play music over their PA system, or if you want to do something a bit different why not hire a live musician or buy yourself a cute record player and some vinyl as a treat.
At the minimum I’d suggest picking three songs, one to walk in to, one to play while you sign the paperwork and another as you dash out hand in hand. So often at big weddings it’s impossible to even hear the carefully chosen music over the cheers and chatter, but when it’s just you and your witnesses it is wonderfully noticeable.
You can still do confetti!
No guests doesn’t mean no one to throw confetti! Even if you’re eloping you’ll need two witnesses for the ceremony. Often one the witnesses is me, but we can always find someone happy to throw confetti and it makes for some fun, candid shots.
Embrace the elements
There’s no hiding from the fact that it rains a lot in the Lakes. It’s something to do with keeping all the lakes filled up I think 😉
One of the things I love most about elopements and micro weddings is that couples tend to be even more willing to brave the weather for their photos. With no evening guests to look perfect for, you can literally get glammed up, get married, go all out in the weather and then change into your comfy pants and drink champagne with no knickers on.
There are lots of tips over on my Waterproof Weddings blog but at the very least please make sure you have sensible footwear and coats, scarves, etc to keep warm and dry as we move from place to place and buggies with a good brake to keep children safe and dry. If you have dogs too consider a screw-in lead holder, as this gives me a chance to get a few shots of the two of you without a straining dog lead just noticeable in one of your hands!
Plan your announcement
It’s worth putting a little bit of thought into how you will share your happy news. If you haven’t told anyone in advance then you may need to be prepared for a range of reactions. I always aim to turn around a selection of at least 20 preview images within 24 hours (usually the evening of the same day) so that you can use these. Sharing good quality images that show how happy you are with the choice you made can certainly soften the blow.
How you tell people your news is a personal choice. Some couples set up a Whatsapp group, post a photo then turn their phones off until the following day. Some Facetime key people later that day while others keep the secret until they’re out of the wedding bubble and back to normal life. If you want to make or buy a cute sign to help easily spread the word then we can incorporate this into your photos. Lots of couples like to use these images for their announcement/thank you cards.
Get the photos you need –
no more, no less
Your wedding day, whether big or small, will feel like it is over in a flash. It’s a bit like when you spend hours making a roast dinner and then it’s happily devoured in 5 minutes flat.
With this in mind, make sure you have a good think about your timeline when planning your elopement and decide how long you want a photographer to be there for. Photographing an elopement is very different to photographing a big, busy wedding. There is nowhere to “hide”, there are less candid moments and interactions happening everywhere you look, and often the couple (who are your only subject) have chosen to elope because they don’t like to be the centre of attention.
For these reasons, the packages I offer for elopements and micro weddings are short and sweet. Generally, I recommend 90 minutes if it is just the two of you, and a minimum of 2 hours if you have any guests. My aim is for the whole process to be as relaxed, enjoyable and unobtrusive as possible…but regardless of that, and all the great feedback I get, there is no escaping the fact that I am (often sneakily) taking photos of you pretty much all of that time.
A photographer who offers longer coverage for the same rate (or less) isn’t necessarily a good thing. Do you really want somewhere loitering around while you quietly work your way through afternoon tea? A photographer who is experienced in elopements and knows the venue will be able to work with you in a relaxed yet efficient manner, allowing you to maximise the time you spend with each other on your special day.
Work with your photographer to determine what is important to you, whether you need to go offsite, and how you can most efficiently get the images you wish for. It’s tempting to think that such a small, simple wedding day doesn’t need photographing, but in reality the exact opposite is true. With little or no friends and family there to capture phone pics, you need to make sure you’re not left without a way to tell the story. You may have chosen to make your promises privately, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proudly share just how wonderful that was.
If you still have questions about how to plan your elopement in the Lake District then please drop me a line here.