In March I traveled to Vietnam to capture Josh & Sarah’s elopement. We spent 5 days adventuring around northern Vietnam and going to the most epic locations.
This was my first time in Asia, and it was an experience of a lifetime! I brought my boyfriend Tyler along to adventure with me, and it is now one of our favourite memories together. Watching him drive a scooter for the first time had me in tears…but I will make a separate blog about our adventures at a later time lol.
I have realized that my ultimate passion is capturing the most intimate of weddings & elopements, and I truly hope to photograph more moments like this. Josh & Sarah did not bring any guest to their elopement, so it was only them, myself, Tyler, and the videographer, James!
We spent each day of the trip together, all while learning more about each other and becoming better of friends. James came all the way from Australia, so now we have someone to visit when we go there again 😉
Josh and Sarah could’ve chose anyone in the world to capture their elopement, but they chose me. To say I am honoured is an understatement. I am so grateful and feel so special!
So, in order to help future couples, I asked Sarah & Josh to share their experience with planning an adventurous elopement! I hope this helps you when planning your adventurous wedding, and if you have questions or need more advice, feel free to get in touch!
What made you decide to elope?
When we first met, we were immediately drawn to one other because of our shared sense of adventure.
Early in our relationship we planned a backpacking trip through Thailand, and after this experience, we knew we wanted more!
We decided to go on a 5 day mountainous trek in Peru, and this was the location where Josh proposed! Immediately, we felt like an elopement wedding was exactly what we wanted–it allowed us to remain adventurous while focusing on just the two of us.
We didn’t a big show and production that a traditional wedding often becomes.
How did you choose the elopement location?
We knew we wanted to bring a photographer and videographer with us to document the entire experience. It was important to us to share these moments with our loved ones once we arrived back home.
When we started searching for videographers, Sarah presented Josh with 3 video clips and asked him to choose his favorite. He selected James Alexander of Zephyr Productions, and when we got in touch with James, we realized he had a “bucket list” of travel destinations which included Vietnam.
Ironically, when we travelled to Thailand together, we always discussed travelling to Vietnam. We really felt like Vietnam was calling us and thanks to James’s bucket-list, that’s how we chose!
What was the hardest part in planning?
The hardest part of planning our elopement was the inability to see possible elopement locations beforehand! Even though we wanted to keep it adventurous and explore locations upon arrival, we did read reviews and look at photographs of potential locations before we left Canada.
It’s really hard to not be able to plan certain aspects of your wedding until you arrive in the country; however, in the spirit of adventure, it made the experience that much more exciting!
What is your best advice for future couples wanting to do an adventurous elopement?
The best advice we have for couples wanting to elope is to make your decision based on what YOU want. We have talked with many couples who want to elope in theory, but struggle with the fact that family and friends won’t be there.
Your wedding should be a reflection of who you are as a couple. You can always come home and celebrate, but getting married on the other side of the world, is something special and unique.
Another major piece of advice we have for couples: make plans but be prepared to be flexible. You are really limited on your ability to plan from the other side of the world, so have back up ideas just in case.
Be accepting that not everything will go exactly as planned, and that it’s okay! For example; the day we planned to elope, it would not stop raining! Rather then view this negatively, we embraced it and viewed it as an opportunity to enhance the adventure!
What’s something you didn’t do that you wish you did (or something you wish you thought of)?
Although we planned the elopement incredibly well, we forgot one basic item: an umbrella. The weather was something we never put much thought into because we were going during the “best” time of year.
As a result, we were not exactly prepared for the rainfall that we experienced. We were rained on–and at some points we were downright soaked, but we embraced it and accepted what we could not control. In the end it made for an adventure of a lifetime!
Finally, budget. Did you have a budget? Do you have any tips or tricks you want to share?
Our entire elopement costed us under $5000! Because we had traveled to Southeast Asia before, we knew what to expect once we got there. Vietnam is very inexpensive, and the quality is AMAZING. We also decided to cut non-essentials, like having a bouquet!
A year before our elopement, we got a travel rewards Visa. We used the Visa for every single purchase, and we ended up using the points for two round-trip flights!
Before finding the perfect fit, we spoke to 30 different photographers & videographers! Some packages were really expensive and very limiting. Christina & James were both willing to adventure and capture our vision, and they both had special rates for out-of-country weddings!
We were originally going to use a wedding planner in Vietnam; however, if you put in some extra work, I recommend skipping out on a wedding planner. You will find tons of information from other people and social media.
The Adventure Begins….
We departed on a bus from Hanoi at 6am, and travelled to Cat Ba Island. Josh and Sarah wanted to do their first look here, so once we arrived, James and I started scoping out the perfect first-look location!
The weather was a little rainy, but it had stopped just in time for Josh to see his bride!
Day Two: Exploring the Caves
On Day two, Josh & Sarah had planned to elope on top of Cat Ba Island National Park’s peak. While driving to this location, it began to POUR rain. Josh and Sarah were soaked (as well as James, Tyler and I!), so we decided to scrap the hike idea and go explore some nearby caves.
The caves were called Hospital Caves because it’s where they hid injured soldiers during the war!
Day Two: Boat Tour & Kayaking
The weather had cleared up just in time for our boat tour around Ha Long Bay. We drank Vietnam beer, enjoyed some local food, kayaked through the Bay, and got to explore one of the many islands.
“Find someone who is willing to travel and experience something out of their comfort zone–they will create magic for you!”
Day Two: The Elopement
Josh and Sarah originally planned to elope that morning, but because of the rain, it did not work out! While on our boat tour, they decided our next stop–Van Boi Island–was the perfect location to say their vows. This was followed by a traditional Vietnamese meal…or what we considered to be their reception dinner!
Moments like this is where flexibility is important. It was a last minute decision to say their vows on the Island, but it turned out to be the best decision they could have made!
Day Three: Cat Ba Island National Park
Before heading to the next town, we decided we wanted to hike to the peak of Cat Ba National Park. We didn’t have much time before the bus came to pick us up, so we hiked the mountain in record time (normally the hike is supposed to take 2 hours round trip, and we did it in an hour!). Safe to say we were extremely sweaty, but the view was worth it!
Day Four: Nihn Bihn
After a 6 hour journey on day three (which included buses and ferries), we arrived in Tam Coc. Josh and Sarah had booked a river boat tour of Nihn Bihn, and ohhhh my goodness, it was one of the most epic landscapes I have witnessed.
Day Four: Temple
In the evening, we went to tour around Tam Coc and see the beautiful temples. It was incredibly hot outside (over 40 with the humidity), but the hazy, evening sun was perfect for these photos.
Day Four: Hang Mua Viewpoint
After seeing the temples, we decided to hike up to the famous Hang Mua Viewpoint. It had beautiful views of the river, and about 1000 stairs to the top! It was our last day in Tam Coc, so we wanted to get all the views in.
Day Five: Hanoi
This was our last day all together. Josh, Sarah, Tyler and I were on our way back to Hanoi, and James was headed on a bus to another town. The four of us toured around Hanoi (in 40 degree weather), and ended up walking 15km’s that day! We ate a ton of street food (the boys even had frog….which yes, I tried), and stopped in a bunch of street vendors and stores.
Josh & Sarah played hacky sack with the locals, and tried to jump rope with the children!
Capturing Josh & Sara’s adventure elopement in Vietnam has been a highlight in my career.
Not only did I make new friends, but I also was able to make amazing memories with Tyler. I am forever thankful for the moments that lead to this opportunity, and I am motivated to capture MORE moments like this in the future.
Videography: Zephyr Productions
Check out the unreal video: Josh + Sarah’s Adventure Elopement Video
Dress: Stella York
Rings: Emilian Jewellery
Photography: Christina Stirpe Photography