There are few things more magical than the idea of getting married in the beauty of nature; celebrating your love while basking in cool mountain air, or feeling the mist of a breathtaking waterfall or running your hands through warm golden sand. As 2020 draws to a close one thing has certainly become clear, big weddings are not the only way to celebrate the happiest day of your life! More and more couples are turning away from the traditional ceremony and are instead opting for intimate and personal elopements tailored to the couples special memories. As these nature-centric weddings rise in popularity there is also increased awareness for the environmental impact that these events leave behind and so the trend of a "leave no trace" wedding was born!
What is a "leave no trace" wedding? It's honestly pretty self-explanatory, you make sure that your wedding and wedding guests make no change to the environment around you, allowing you to preserve the beauty of nature for others to enjoy.
The most obvious choice is to invite fewer people, the fewer guests you have the smaller impact you and your nuptials will make on the environment around you. It's a lot harder to ensure that 30 to 60 people are being respectful of the space around them and so you run the risk of nature being trampled, rubbish being left behind or worse, people turning the great outdoors into their bathroom! Having 3-7 people (including you and your spouse), usually, the size of a hiking group gives you the best chance at preserving the beauty of nature while immersing yourself in it. This doesn't just go for your guest-list though, you have to downsize the decor, the clothes and the ceremony to a degree to ensure you're not only not leaving any rubbish behind, but you're also making sure you don't leave an imprint on the ecosystem.
2/ Do Your Research
Before you set anything in stone DO YOUR RESEARCH! This isn't like booking a hotel ballroom or renting out a manor house, accommodations will not be made for you by mother nature and it's vital that you have this in mind before putting down any money on travel, accommodation and the ceremony. Take a look at the general weather of the area you're interested in, look at the temperature in your desired season going back a few years to get a good understanding of what to expect. If there's a chance of flooding, landslides or gale-force winds you're likely to find a pattern of behaviour in weather archives and this is information you will need to know before you expose yourself to the elements!
3/ Plan, Plan, Plan
Certain areas require permits to host private events on and this is certainly the case for national forest parks or wildlife reserves. Once you have a location picked and scouted get your application for a permit in asap, you're not only competing with other brides and grooms for this space! Also, think about the needs of you and your guests, ask questions like; Where is the closest bathroom? Who do we call if something bad happens? Can we bring food? Is there phone signal in case of an emergency? How far can we bring a vehicle? How much walking is needed to get to our desired location? What is the terrain like and what do we have to wear?
4/ Respect Your Space
You're in someone else's home! Nature is the home for millions of animals, insects and reptiles that rely on its natural bounty to survive. You wouldn't go stomping through your mums rose bushes so don't so trample down the brush in a forest or cutting back the weeds on the beach for that perfect shot! Stick to the trails and if you're careful and do your research you may find a scenic space to snap a few photos that won't ruin an ecosystem! Talk to whoever maintains or manages the piece of land you want to go on and they may be able to give you some sage advice on where to go and why.
5/ Don't Take Anything
I know it might be a cute idea to take a keepsake of your special day but that goes against the whole idea of a "leave no trace" wedding. Everything you see is the environment for some creature and while in the grand scheme of your life taking a branch or plant might not be a big deal, it certainly is for the insects, birds and small mammals that call it their home! Taking can be just as damaging as leaving so think carefully about why exactly you want something and try to substitute it for a photo or memory to carry from the day.
6/ Reduce Avoidable Hazards
Please don't start lighting fires if you're in a naturally flammable area! There are certain hazards that can be easily avoided by picking a safe and suitable spot, e.g. don't have your wedding on a mountain top if your partner is notorious for their bad balance. Doing careful and honest research when you're scoping out a space, talk to local guides or rangers about what they think could be potential hazards and how to circumvent them before tragedy strikes. If the beach you love is filled with wild dogs that come out at night then maybe take your special day elsewhere or have a beautiful morning ceremony.