Does the thought of having a big, traditional wedding make you want to run the other way? If so, great news! You’re in good hands, friend. We love helping couples plan for a wedding day that reflects their values, likes and dislikes, and everything that makes them, THEM. If you want a roadmap for how to plan a stress-free wedding day that you’ll enjoy from start to finish, keep reading. We’re going to lay out exactly how to elope and have the best day ever!
When people hear the word “elopement,” they may have an outdated idea of a couple running off for a quick drive-through wedding in Vegas with an Elvis officiant. Boy, have elopements changed since then. Nowadays, elopements can be as simple or as extravagant as you dream them to be. When planning your elopement, you can incorporate the beautiful dress you’ve always dreamed of, an epic location or venue, lush florals that you’ve pinned on Pinterest, and so much more. Or perhaps you want your elopement to be a simple backyard affair or you want your elopement to take place where you and your partner spend a ton of time hiking. Whatever you’re envisioning, you can make possible through planning an elopement without all of the stress, drama, and details that often accompany a traditional wedding day.
When you’re in the early planning stages of eloping, the first thing to consider is where and when you want to elope. This is the fun part! When thinking of the location and the date you want to elope, consider these factors:
What places have a special place in your and your partner’s heart? Perhaps it’s the place you met, where you spent your first weekend away together, where you go hiking on the weekends, or where you’ve gone on vacation. Planning your elopement for a location that has significance to you can make the day even more memorable.
Is there a place that you and your partner have been dying to go? Maybe you’ve had Iceland at the top of your bucket list or you’ve always been fascinated with Thai culture. Eloping is a great time to have the best day of your life and to visit a country or place you’ve always wanted to see. Not only will you have a very unique wedding day experience with unforgettable photographs, but you can also save money by eloping and having your honeymoon as part of the same trip.
If you closed your eyes and pictured your wedding day, what would you see? Would you see lots of greenery in a forest, a neutral desert, an urban cityscape, an ocean view, or something completely different? By imagining the scenery you want for your elopement, you will have an easier time narrowing down where you want to elope.
One of the best parts about eloping is that you can do whatever you want on your wedding day without adhering to traditional wedding norms. This includes incorporating activities that you love doing together. Are you outdoorsy and love camping? Consider starting your elopement day by hiking to one of your favorite campsites, having your ceremony and amazing photographs taken, and ending the night with dinner over the fire and camping under the stars. Perhaps you and your partner love cooking and hosting fun dinners with your friends where everyone brings a dish. Instead of having a traditional plated meal, you could have everyone help make the food. Making time for something you love to do on your wedding day will make the day much more fun and less stressful. I recommend making a list of things you and your partner love to do and then thinking of how you could add one or more of these things to your wedding day.
How do you want to spend your wedding day? My guess is that if you’ve made the decision to elope, you don’t want to spend the day posing for boring photos or having the same mundane conversation over and over again with people you hardly know. That’s what’s great about planning your elopement; you can do whatever you want! Maybe you both love new, thrilling experiences that get your adrenaline going. A helicopter ride over the glaciers in Alaska could be a fun activity to add to your wedding day. Or maybe you want a relaxing day that focuses on yoga and meditation before your ceremony. The options are literally endless and we would be happy to help you think of some rad ideas.
When determining what day you’ll plan to elope, you’ll want to keep the weather in mind during that time of year. Whether you’re wanting a snowy elopement or a warm day with sunshine will impact the time of year and the location you choose.
Most of the time you will need a permit to get married, especially if you get married in a national or state park. These permits are not very costly, especially when you compare them to the price of a wedding venue, and they’re definitely worth getting in order to guarantee that you can have your elopement at the location of your dreams. We help our couples with obtaining permits.
Once you’ve decided on when and where to elope, you can begin hiring your wedding vendors. When planning your elopement, you may want to include these vendors:
Choosing the right photographer for your elopement is so important because you’ll be spending more time with them than anyone else on your wedding day (maybe even more time than you do with your partner). You’ll want to make sure that you feel comfortable with your photographer, that you trust them with your wedding day, and that you believe they can bring your vision to life. We believe in connection, inclusivity, and environmentalism and we strive to connect our couples to other vendors who share the same values.
While the officiant is usually only at your wedding day for the short ceremony portion, they are a critical vendor to have if you want a ceremony that feels a little traditional. But know – you don’t need a formal officiant to elope! You can have your ceremony be just the two of you (and do something like read letters to one another). Bonus fact – we are able to sign as your officiant or witnesses!
A florist can create any bouquets or boutonnieres that you want for your elopement as well as centerpieces or an arch installation if you’re including rental pieces in your elopement. By including florals in your elopement, you can give your day more of the vibe that you’re wanting such as boho, rustic, tropical, etc.
If you’re planning to have a meal provided on your wedding day, hiring a catering service or chef can help.
You can hire a rental company if you want any pieces like an arch, tables, chairs, etc.
When planning your elopement, ideally you will want to find lodging that is close to your ceremony site. Remember that you don’t have to go the traditional route of staying in a hotel. This is your day! You can stay in an Airbnb, a cabin, a hostel, a yurt, or even in a tiny home!
You’ve chosen your awesome location and your date, but what do you wear for your elopement? As with all of your elopement planning, you should choose your wedding attire based off of what YOU feel best in. If you want to wear a big, ballroom gown with high heels, do it! Or if a jumpsuit is more your scene, go for it! And remember, white is not a requirement. This day is about you and how you want to remember it. If you’re elopement is more on the adventurous side, however, you will want to dress comfortably for it. You’ll want to wear hiking boots, pants that stretch, and light materials. If you have formal wedding attire that you want to wear on your adventurous elopement, you can always pack it and change once you reach the ceremony site.
During the planning process, you’ll want to create a timeline for your elopement so that you and your guests know what to expect, to ensure that you’ll have enough time for everything you want to do, and so that you hire your vendors for the correct amount of time. Here are some things to consider when making your elopement timeline:
A ‘first look’ is a dedicated time for the couple to see each other for the first time on their wedding day. There are many benefits to having a First Look such as getting to see your partner’s reaction to how beautiful you look on your wedding day without everyone else staring at you guys, you will both get to actually talk and touch each other when seeing each other for the first time unlike if you waited for the ceremony to see each other, and it also gives more time for portraits.
Golden hour is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, and is the best time of day for taking photos. As such, you’ll want to have your elopement either around sunrise or sunset. The lighting is different for both sunrise and sunset; at sunrise you’ll have a softer light whereas at sunset the light will be a bit more contrasted. Both are beautiful and are ideal for photographing. If you choose to elope at sunrise and are planning an adventurous elopement that might include hiking or something of the sort, you will be arriving to your location in the dark so you’ll want to keep that in mind and bring flashlights with you.
You might be surprised to hear that most of the elopements that we photograph are 8-12 hours long. A huge misconception about elopements is that they are a cheap and quick alternative to a ‘real’ (read: traditional) wedding day, which is simply not the case. Your elopement day is still your wedding day – every year on your anniversary you will look back on your day. And the reality is that when the food is eaten, the flowers have dried up, and your dress has been put away, your photos are the only thing you can hold in your hands to memorialize the experience you shared together. You deserve to have the entire story of your elopement day told.
With adventurous elopements where you plan to hike, you’ll want to budget time for that into your timeline. We budget 1 hour per mile so you won’t be sweaty or in a rush, and to ensure plenty of time for photo stops along the way.
Your elopement day is finally here! You have one job today: throw out everyone else’s expectations and have fun!
Your elopement has come and gone. Now what? You’ll want to return the signed forms from your marriage license to your county’s Marriage License Bureau to make things official. If you’re able, you should take the next couple of days to enjoy your new marriage! Enjoy these next few magical days together and soak it in.
We can’t wait to get started helping you make all your wedding dreams come true. With 3 years of practice helping guide couples in crafting their perfect wedding day experience, we’ve got all the tools you need to make your dreams a reality. We’re ready to help you pick the best, unique location, connect you with local vendors, and create an adventure-filled and stress-free day. All you have to do is have an amazing time together and get married! We can’t wait to be your elopement photographer and wander with you.