Before you read any further, first of all, congrats on getting engaged and deciding to elope!!! I eloped myself, and it was seriously the best decision for my husband and I! Just remember that choosing to elope is SUCH a personal decision and you are allowed to have different reasons for eloping from me. Here’s how I started to plan my dream elopement day.
First and foremost,
Just because you’re eloping does not mean your wedding day is any less important.
I believe that your marriage is A BIG FREAKIN DEAL. I mean, this is who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with! Getting married is just the beginning of this new adventure together! You deserve a day to celebrate, even if you want no one else is present or just a few close loved ones are present. You deserve to and you’re allowed to have a celebration together, whatever you decide together that that looks like.
Next: Decide on Your Dream Location, Look into Their Marriage Laws, and Figure Out a Date/Timeframe
Choosing a location is the first step after you decide on wanting to elope. You have a few different options:
– You can elope in your current hometown, your city, or your town. Maybe you’re both in love with where you live or that’s where you met, and you want your wedding photos to reflect this season of life.
– You can elope somewhere nostalgic like your grandparents’ home, the beach or coffeehouse where you first met each other, or your childhood vacation cabin in the mountains.
– Similar to the above, but you can elope at your childhood hometown where one or both of you grew up.
– You can elope somewhere neither of you had been to before. If you both have a love for traveling and experiencing new places together, go elope in a new city, a new state, or a new country. You can also go straight into your honeymoon after your elopement day.
– Again, similar to the above, but you can elope somewhere that allows you to do your favorite activities. If you love hiking and exploring, go to your favorite or a new National Park to go hiking on your elopement day. If you love the snow and cold, go to Colorado or Alaska (or wherever else) that will allow you to ski or drive/ride snow mobiles or go snowshoeing for your elopement day.
Once you figure out where you’re getting married, look into the marriage laws. Every state’s marriage laws in the USA are similar but also slightly different from each other. Getting married in another country has its own set of marriage laws too with the required paperwork needed. Make sure to pay attention to the required paperwork needed — usually you’ll need one or more forms of ID. Make sure to also consider how many witnesses you need present. For most states/countries, you need one or two witnesses.
Once you figure out a location, figure out a date or what season you want to get married in. Always dreamed of having wedding photos in fall foliage? Or maybe a snowy winter wonderland? Now is your time to shine in getting to choose when to get married. One thing to keep in mind is to also make sure you’re aware of what activities are available during that season. If you want to go skiing on your elopement day, then maybe a summer elopement isn’t the best idea. Same with if you’re wanting to go tent camping in the winter- it might not work out how you’d like it to.
Figure Out a Budget and What Vendors are Most Important to You
Make sure you’re both on the same page about what your budget is for your elopement!! Open communication is important!
After you have your budget, figure out what vendors are most important to you for your elopement. You only get one wedding day and you ARE allowed to hire vendors to still have a beautiful, smooth, and fun elopement day. Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you have to skimp out on vendors.
If you elope, you can still have:
– an officiant is usually (but not always) a MUST to become legally married. Some states do not require an officiant, so do your proper research!
– a photographer (aka me!)
– the wedding attire of your dreams
– florals / bouquet(s)
– hair and makeup artist
– a videographer
– picnic setup / a private chef
– cake / desserts
Reach out to vendors as soon as you figure out a location and general timeframe of when you want to get married. While being flexible is helpful if you have a *dream* vendor you want to work with, the more vendors you reach out to, the more you need to figure out a specific date!
Are Guests Allowed at an Elopement?
This is entirely up to you!! You can absolutely have a guest list if you would like. Or you can have it be just the two of you. It’s up to YOU! One thing to absolutely keep in mind is to be aware of the number of people allowed at your dream location. For example, if you wanted to elope at a National Park, there is typically a strict amount of people allowed at the ceremony spot.
I know it can be hard to choose to elope especially if it means disappointing a few family members and/or friends. Trust me, I know. BUT your marriage and your decisions are between you and your partner. There’s no time like now to start practicing that than for your elopement plans. Don’t sugarcoat it or beat around the bush; just have an open conversation with your loved ones. You can, but don’t have to, explain all or some of the reasons you’ve chosen to elope.
It’s completely up to you if you want to tell your loved ones before you’re eloping or after you’ve already eloped. It’s also completely your decision on how or if you want to announce it on social media. You know your loved ones better than I do, but here’s a few ways you can break the news:
- Tell them in-person (or over Facetime). Even if it’s awkward or painful, having your family and friends hear the excitement in your voice usually wins them over in supporting your decision.
- Drop obvious hints long before you’re even engaged. Some people or couples just know that a big wedding day was never for them, so tell your loved ones that you dream of eloping way ahead of even being engaged.
- Share as many reasons and details as you can. Share your reasons for eloping, and share the details for your elopement day to show how much time, effort, and money you’ve put into planning YOUR dream day. Having them understand your reasons and seeing/hearing your excitement over your plans helps them to also get excited for you!
- Include them. Have your loved ones write you a letter to read on the morning of your elopement or have them create a video to watch the night before or on day of your elopement. Sometimes having your immediate family is a good compromise too, but only if that’s what you want.
- Celebrate in-person with your family and friends before or after. Have a mini reception, go out to eat, meet up at your favorite brewery, the options are endless in how to still celebrate with your loved ones while keeping your elopement intimate.
- Share your photos and videos with everyone afterwards. Send out a card saying you’ve eloped, share photos on social media, print photos for your parents and grandparents to hang on their fridge. Seeing your happiness over photos and videos helps them to see how amazing your day was, even without them present.
Have an Activity (or Two) Planned
An activity could include, but is not limited to:
- hike at sunrise or sunset
- go on a sailboat
- go on a helicopter ride
- rent and drive around in a Jeep / vintage car / motorcycle to different nearby spots
- go sightseeing around a city
- go to a brewery / winery
- go out to eat at a restaurant / have a picnic setup / hire a private chef
- go kayaking or canoeing
- hike on a glacier
- drive/ride ATV’s
Have a few different activities you want to do on your elopement day? A Day-After session is also an awesome option! You can spend your elopement day all dressed up doing one activity, and then spend the next day either dressed up in your attire again doing a second activity or wearing a totally different outfit doing another activity.
Pro tip if you are planning on inviting a few guests: Create a list of things to do, things to see, and food to eat for the area you’ll be staying at. You don’t have to spend every second of your elopement day with your guests. For example, your guests could always come to your ceremony in the morning and then meet up later in the evening for dinner while you go off and do something just the two of you together in the afternoon. You can still spend time with just your significant other during your elopement day!
At the end of it all, keep in mind that this is your and your partner’s day. Not your family’s day, not your friends day. YOUR day. Your marriage. Your decision. My own elopement day was so “us”. You deserve the exact same for your own elopement day.