Do you want to wed...

...in a castle in Scotland or on a breezy beach in the Caribbean? When you are envisioning your wedding, be sure to jot down the elements that are most important to you as you toss ideas around. The more you get in writing, the more clean and concise your vision will become. Less decision angst and more clarity? YES PLEASE!

Below are some step by step tips and considerations to help you discover your unique wedding destination location.

1. Figure out your budget.

Hosting a wedding in a destination or outdoor / nature location involves some extra expenses, while in other areas it will save you massive amounts. Set firm parameters for your budget early on in the planning process so that you can realistically scout locations, details and vendors.

2. Consider what size wedding you want.

Two hundred and fifty guests require a far different level of attention and budget than fifteen guests. Your guest size will also determine what locations are possible for you and your party.

3. Choose an epic location type.

Now for perhaps the most important step in your wedding planning journey: Pick your perfect (and epic!) location type. By type we don’t mean the exact location, for now just narrow it down to terrain and imagery. From mountaintops to forests to sandy beachy to oceanfront cliffs to sandy deserts, there are so many incredible place types and they all photograph beautifully. So, how do you choose? There are a couple of approaches you can take to make your decision, and the method you use will be as unique as your marriage! You can:

      Choose a place that is meaningful to you.

This could where your partner proposed, your first vacation destination,  or a location that’s been on your bucket list for years.

      Choose a place that takes your breath away. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with picking a location just because it’s pretty. We promise you that saying “I do” at this location guarantees that  it will become a meaningful location to the two of you.

      Choose based on your favorite activities. 

Take a brief inventory of the outdoor sports and activities you enjoy as a couple and go from there. Love hiking? Snowshoeing? Swimming? Find a location that requires you to strap on your boots, jump in some water or  trek through snow to your vow exchange spot. The possibilities are endless!

4. Choose a specific location region.

Okay, so we have narrowed it down to a location TYPE, now we need to narrow down by location REGION. This is where Google and Pinterest becomes a soon-to-be bride and grooms best friend (if it wasn’t already!).. go digging for “Mountaintop Weddings”, “Snowy Forest Weddings”, “Rainforest Weddings”, “Dessert Weddings”, “Waterfall Weddings”, or whatever it is that ignited that spark of adventure in the two of you. Let your imaginations go WILD! When you find a location that makes your heart sing, jot it down. You should have a MASSIVE list of potential locations by the time you are done. This is where you will want to take some time to do your research and really consider the possibilities and potential downsides to each locale, including cost (to both you and your guests) to travel to your location, to stay in your location and to obtain all relevant fees and permits.

5. Choose the season and date.

Because you’ll likely be out in nature, perhaps no single issue comes into play as much as the weather! If you have your heart set on an early spring wedding with wildflowers, but early spring looks like a winter wonderland on your chosen mountaintop, make your plans accordingly (for instance, moving your date to the summer for that fresh spring look, or finding another location with more temperate springs). Overall, you should choose a date in which you feel comfortable outside! Likewise, if you love the idea of a desert adventure wedding but don’t want to break a sweat, choose a fall or winter date when temperatures are cooler. When doing your research on seasons in specific regions, be sure to look at average temperatures, rainfall averages, and so on. Sites like Accuweather come in VERY handy to check historic weather patterns. While you can’t guarantee the weather on your wedding day, you’ll have a better chance of getting ideal weather if you plan ahead!

Also be sure to research the crowd levels and best times to visit. Beyond making sure you’ll have nice weather, you’ll want to check things like peak seasons and local holidays in the location you’ve chosen. If you’re going to a remote location, crowds might not be much of a concern, but local holidays — especially in smaller towns or villages — could make it harder to find accommodations, food, and so on. If you’re going to a place that’s guaranteed to have lots of adventure-loving tourists, we recommend looking into a date in the shoulder season so you’ll have a better chance of securing the location — and all the tourist-free photos that you want. For instance, the National Parks see more than 330 million visitors annually, and while the beauty of the park system is that they are for everyone, you don’t necessarily want to invite all of those people to your wedding!

6. Pick your time of day.

Time of year isn’t the only thing that impacts the crowds, you also need to investigate time of day. Timing will impact both your experience in some landmark areas, and timing will absolutely effect your wedding photography. Timing for your wedding in regards to sunrise and sunset impacts the overall lighting for your vows. From a photography standpoint, timing the lighting is the single most important element to capturing epic and stunning outdoor wedding images.

And finally, be sure to check in with key family members and close friends before finalizing any single date – you want to make sure all of the important people in your life can be there!

7. Choose an exact location for the vow exchange.

By their very nature, adventure and destination weddings are more spontaneous and carefree than traditional weddings, but that doesn’t mean you should leave everything up to fate. We highly recommend having at least one spot for your vow exchange scoped out so that you and your photographer know what to expect and how to map out the most epic images to record your day. Even better, have two or three spots picked ahead of time so you can make a day-of decision in case your first choice doesn’t work out. Many places that look great for photos – and that you may have seen on Pinterest! – are not actually accessible. Many locations do not allow you to walk through established meadows, on the tundra, or on protected cryptobiotic soil. Do your research and if possible, visit the location in person beforehand to scout out locations. Just always, always, always have a back up plan (or two, or three!).

8. Research permit and fee requirements for your location.

Many destinations – even those in remote locations! – require permissions, permits or fees to access them, and in some cases will carry an additional fee if you plan to photograph in them. For instance, if you’re planning to get married in a U.S. National Park, you’ll need to get a permit and pay a fee many weeks or even months prior to your wedding day, and the permit fees varies not only by wedding party size and how many cars you plan to park, but even by how many cameras you plan to have following you on your wedding day! You can check each locations requirements on government or local tourism websites for your chosen destination.

9. Confirm local marriage license requirements.

In addition to location requirements, make sure you understand the marriage requirements of your locale and any legal hoops you may need to jump through to become legally wed. Some locations may require a waiting period between requesting a marriage license and then actually obtaining it. Consider getting legally wed in a civic ceremony at home prior to the wedding to streamline and simplify your adventure into matrimony.

10. Think about your honeymoon.

Will you marry and honeymoon in the same spot? Your likely answer will be yes, since that is part of the beauty and cost-saving benefits of adventure destination weddings! Determine now if you will be widening your travels for your honeymoon after the big day, or keeping it central to the location of your wedding for the duration of your stay, as this will impact your plans and your overall costs.

11. Choose accommodations for yourself and your guests.

Some of the necessities of an outdoor, adventure and / or destination wedding are no different than any other traditional wedding venue. You have to book the ceremony and reception locations, figure out where everyone is going to sleep, and find a way to feed them. Depending on the location you choose, these various issues range from easy to complicated.

First, you must understand any rules and restrictions for the ceremony location you’ve chosen. Then you can figure out how to feed and house your guests, and if that would be possible within the ceremony region. If you have picked a truly isolated or restrictive location, then you may need to consider widening your search for nearby reception venues that can meet your post-ceremony needs. Keep in mind that the reception venues that do exist near parks and scenic landmarks might be fairly restrictive on what you can bring in as far as outside wedding vendors, which will all impact your choices for accommodations and food. Planning ahead is an absolute must if you want yourself or your wedding guests to eat and sleep during your wedding celebration.

If you’re flexible and have a sense of adventure (which I’m going to safely assume you are, because, duh, you’re reading this right now!) then you can come up with a totally unique game plan that meets all of your needs and your guests needs without feeling the pressure to follow “traditional” wedding schedules or norms.