How Leave No Trace Applies to a Sustainable Wedding or Elopement

Sustainability in the wedding industry is a topic that is slowly growing into a louder conversation — for good reason! Especially in the United States, weddings have a much larger carbon footprint than they seem at first. As many of us work to incorporate environmentally friendly solutions into our everyday lives, it can be hard to know how to do the same to make a wedding or elopement sustainable. I have a blog post here with tons of information on how you can plan a sustainable elopement! I want to dedicate some space to talking about the principles of Leave No Trace here, and how they apply to weddings!

Before I dive in, I want to preface this by encouraging you that this type of education is always meant to empower you. I will never shame your choices! For many of us, sustainable wedding planning is foreign territory. It takes time to learn about the impact your lifestyle has on the planet when you aren’t aware of it. Nobody is perfect! Environmental ethics are important to learn about and to consider when you’re out in the wild, but be patient with yourself. Even practicing some or most of the principles of Leave No Trace when it comes to a sustainable wedding or elopement is a step in the right direction.

Sustainable wedding bouquets held by bridesmaids

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace (or LNT)

Leave No Trace is a set of principles designed to help people explore the outdoors in a safe, sustainable way. The goal is to preserve the outdoors, so that others have the privilege of experiencing it in the future.

The goal of the LNT organization is to provide education and skills everyone can use to care for the outdoors. If we aren’t mindful of our impacts on outdoor spaces, no one would enjoy them. We’d show up for a hike, camping trip, or sustainable wedding we’re attending, and find that it looks nothing like the pictures we saw online. Trash everywhere, trampled foliage, wildlife abandoning their habitats — these are the results of not taking care of outdoor spaces! 

I encourage you to read about LNT directly from the source, but here’s a brief overview of each of the principles: 

  1. Plan ahead and prepare. Being thorough in planning ahead keeps you safe, and minimizes the strain on natural resources. 
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Sticking to the trails is a big emphasis here. Travel damage leads to soil erosion and the destruction of delicate ecosystems.
  3. Dispose of waste properly. Ever heard the catchphrase, “pack it in, pack it out?” That’s this!
  4. Leave what you find. I think everyone has picked up a rock from the beach or took home a stick from hiking. Leaving these treasures where they belong is an important part of preserving ecosystems!
  5. Minimize campfire impacts. This one is especially important here in the PNW, where wildfires are growing more severe. Fires are often caused by human error! Make sure you pay attention to the fire danger wherever you are. 
  6. Respect wildlife. This emphasizes quiet observation of wildlife, and never intentionally disturbing or antagonizing wildlife in their homes. 
  7. Be considerate of others. All the other principles feed into this one; respect for others ensures we all enjoy our experience!
Sustainable wedding bouquets held by two brides

How Does LNT Apply to a Sustainable Wedding or Elopement?

This is a big question. The language on the LNT website is definitely geared toward outdoor excursions that aren’t necessarily events like a wedding. But these can easily be adapted to your wedding or elopement. Here’s a few examples!

  • When you elope in a national park, it can be tempting to stray from the path because you see something really cool and would love to have a picture taken near or on it. Following LNT principles for a sustainable elopement means sticking to the paths! You can ask your photographer to get creative with angles and positioning to obscure the path, or make it look like you and your partner are standing in the wilderness when you are actually on the trails. 
  • Being thorough when you pack for a sustainable destination wedding or elopement can be huge. In fact, being over-prepared might feel stressful in the packing stage, but having everything you need with you, plus a little extra, means that you won’t put strain on the resources of the environment. For example, simple things like packing a separate bag to hold any trash can make all the difference!
  • Lots of outdoor wedding ceremony locations have restrictions on what you can bring with you. These rules are designed to protect and preserve the natural land. For example, national parks will often have rules about how loud any music can be played, what can and can’t be thrown on the ground, what decor you can set up, etc. These regulations protect the ecosystem and keep you from disturbing wildlife. They also ensure that you can hold a sustainable wedding ceremony without disrupting the experience of the other people around you. Every national park that allows weddings has a specific webpage detailing their specific rules for being environmentally conscious!
A groom cuddles into his bride's shoulder at their sustainable wedding on the beach

What’s a “Leave No Trace Aware” Photographer?

As you browse through wedding vendor websites and social media profiles, something you might see pop up is a badge that says this person is a “Leave No Trace Aware Photographer.” I have this badge too! 

The LNT organization offers a course specifically for wedding and elopement photographers who want to emphasize taking care of the places they photograph. This course teaches photographers how to apply the 7 principles to our work, so that we can be advocates for the beauty of the land around us. And we can help everyone that we photograph learn best practices, too! You do not already have to be an expert in preserving the environment when you have a sustainable wedding or elopement. With me as your photographer, I’ll be ready to help you plan your day with LNT in mind. I’ll help craft an experience you’ll love that also balances respect and care for the earth.


So so important! thank you for sharing the knowledge on lnt – especially in the elopement industry!!

Yes to all of this! Leave no trace is such a important part of eloping!!!

This is just so handy and necessary! It’s always a good reminder to treat the earth right so that we, and others, can enjoy it for centuries to come.

Love how informative this Leave no Trace guide is – its so important to stick to the trail and minimize your impact on the landscape. A must read for any couple eloping!

Leave no trace is sooo important for elopements! Love that you wrote a post about this!!

Thank you so much for writing about this very important topic! Such a must-read for couples!

Yesssss! Thank you for writing about this! I think it’s so important to talk about the LNT principles since the wedding industry is so wasteful. I really appreciate your perspective!!

This is such a good blog woth information for LNT ! Awesome job. The pictures are beautIful too !


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