Why you should care about Leave No Trace Principles on your Wedding Day

January 29, 2024  •  1 Comment

It's a gorgeous 55 degrees in January, which always reminds me that spring is quickly approaching. With Engagement season right behind us, maybe you're thinking about doing that dang thing in your favorite outdoor space. Getting married outdoors is a surefire way to make your wedding day memorable and enjoyable. So long as you practice the very simple leave no trace principles during your day. ( and always)

We are 100% on board with the Leave No Trace Principles, and here's why you should be, too. 


Weddings, elopements, and photo sessions can have a big cumulative impact on the environment—and without following Leave No Trace, this is what could happen:


  • Locations currently available for weddings, & elopements could become off-limits for special events and professional photography—meaning it could become impossible to return to a location for a vow renewal or anniversary session in 5 years.
  • The spot where you said your vows could get so badly damaged, destroyed, or trashed that it needs to be closed for restoration and won't look the same when you want to come back in the future.
  • The prevalence and costs of special event permits could spike, making it more difficult to enjoy public lands.

We've already seen it happen a few times where someone thought it was romantic to spray paint hearts and names on rocks and benches by the river, where people thought beer cans burned up in a bonfire, or times we see someone's discarded cigarette butts all over the ground. (They're not fun to edit out of photos or pick up) The absolute worst is when someone can't behave themselves in nature and feels the need to mark their territory with spray paint, claiming their devotion to their new lover. No one really finds that to be romantic, do they? 


You don't have to limit your celebration to reduce your impact, but you do have to use a little common sense and planning. Calling ahead and making plans with the park you're dreaming of is essential. In Missouri, we have the extreme privilege to enjoy Missouri Conservation Parks and Ground for FREE. They don't require reservations or special use permits to use the parks. Their sole mission is to facilitate and provide opportunities for all citizens to use, enjoy, and learn about these resources. How lucky are we that our state sees the value in opening 975,000 acres of land for anyone to use? Now, that's not to say you can host a gathering of any size anywhere you want, but for elopements and small photo sessions... That's 975,000 reasons you don't have to spend thousands on an elopement venue. 


My husband and I got married in our favorite outdoor place. We went on dates there, had our first kiss there, and really loved this place because it was off the beaten path, outside of the box, and we could come back year after year to celebrate with minimal crowds. You'll only see anyone there if they love the outdoors like we do. We chose that spot because it meant something to us. We could go back year after year and enjoy that same sentiment whenever we felt like it - day, night, or weekend. There were no admission fees, no lines, and pretty basic rules. Leave what you find, pack out what you bring in, don't be a jerk to the wildlife, and leave it better than you found it. We gathered up a few close friends and family to witness our celebration. 


We served a simple iced zucchini bread cupcake, which my sister, daughter, and I had baked the night before at my parent's house. It was perfectly displayed on a table one of my closest friends made, with my great-grandmother's handmade tablecloth draped over it. We had a box that would keep notes from our guests of wisdom they had acquired over their marriages and years instead of a guest book, where we would add our photographer's portraits of our guests later on. We said our vows, perfectly written by my best friend, under the giant oaks that had been there for generations. We listened to a simple playlist of our favorite songs ( you can find here https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1R1imDx9eFgNntZ8AUOSyp?si=a5346a5769754c6a ) and then took our photographer to the creek to get a few shots that I had been dreaming of. There are a lot of details in this simple little celebration that means the world to me. - It's what shaped me into the photographer I am. I fell in love with the simplicity of planning small, intimate elopements. Providing each of my clients with the same feeling I had when I got married drives me to do the absolute best I can for each couple I serve. Am I for everyone? Surely not. Am I perfect for someone reading this thinking, this is exactly how I want my day to look? Hell yesss.


Suppose you want to float the river to a giant cave opening to say your vows, followed by a picnic, look into a perfect park with giant pink granite boulders, create an ideal weekend getaway in the Ozarks, and experience a stress-free elopement. In that case, I'm in - all in. 



I desire to extend my perception of the insightful content introduced on this website. The emphasis on leave-no-trace principles in the context of wedding ceremony photography is refreshing and commendable. The considerate discussion on environmental accountability in the wedding enterprise is enlightening and serves as a valuable reminder for couples and photographers alike. Thanks to the writer for shedding light on this vital topic.
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