Elopements now carry a different meaning than they once did. THANK GOODNESS!! Having a traditional wedding where you have to pick out table linens and worry about centerpieces isn’t for everyone and for those who desire to get married in a different way you have an alternative option. But, would you even know How to Elope?!
Elopements are all about crafting a day that truly reflects the two of you! There are no rules to eloping so however the two of you want to celebrate and spend your day you can do it! You can take a helicopter ride to an epic remote location, you can hike or not hike, you can take a boat ride, you can stroll through a forest. If you can dream it up you can do it!
Would you even know where to start or how to elope to plan your dream day? I totally get that you might have no idea, but don’t worry, I got you! After helping many couples plan their dream elopement day I’ve put together this list on How to Elope so you can know where to begin to get the ball rolling for your epic day!
CREATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD
The first step in planning an elopement is deciding what type of style you like. Elopements are perfect for adventurous couples because there are virtually no limitations on the type of wedding day you can plan. Aspects to think about for your inspiration board include locations, colors, flowers, decorations.
Have fun with this planning process because it’s the perfect time to think about what you both really love. Where do you plan on having your ceremony? Would you like to hike to your elopement ceremony location? Do you both prefer the mountains or the beach? What type of season do you both enjoy the most? What time of day do you want to get married? Are you planning on including a small group of family members, or will it be just you two during the ceremony?
First you need to nail down the basics…and we assume you know the answers to these questions:
What's your budget?
What date would you like to be married?
Where do you want to elope to?
Will you be inviting any guests? (Yes, you can have a few family and friends and still call it an elopement!)
Will you need to hire any wedding vendors, such as an officiant or photographer? (More on this later.)
Tying the knot at the local courthouse, Las Vegas, or some exotic locale? That is the question.
If you're eloping to a destination, take care of your travel arrangements early—get those earlybird airfare and hotel deals!
If you'd like to get married at the local courthouse, do your research. Go to the website for your city/county's Clerk's Office for the specifics on how your day will go. Here are some issues to be aware of:
Popular city hall locations (like San Francisco City Hall) can book up months in advance, so you'll need to make your appointment early.
Some courthouse locations don't even take appointments for marriages—meaning it's first-come, first-served, with DMV-style waiting.
Some states require two separate appointments—one for your marriage license and (within 90 days of that) another for your ceremony.
Oftentimes couples getting married at a city hall aren't allowed to read their own vows during the ceremony.
One more thing: Some city hall locations put a limit on the number of guests you're allowed to bring (including witnesses).
If you want a totally turnkey elopement, consider hiring an all-inclusive elopement service with professionals that take care of everything for you, or find a wedding venue that offers a special elopement package.
THINK ABOUT WEDDING ATTIRE AND DETAILS
For this step, consider how your wedding outfit will fit with the location you both decided on. You should also consider what you’ll be doing in your attire before and after your elopement ceremony. We like to think this step is the best out of all the steps to elope because you get to go shopping!
You’ll also realize you shouldn’t limit yourself to wedding attire based on traditional wedding views. In fact, we encourage our couples to think outside of the box and wear something they feel comfortable in and love!
Consider if your ceremony location requires hiking, or if you have to pack your wedding dress and change into it after your hike up to your location. Another great element to consider is the weather where you’re getting married. Will you need to bring an umbrella, towels, or a jacket to shield you from the cold? Are you ok with trashing your wedding dress, or do you want to slip it on right before saying “I do”?
TRAVEL + ACCOMMODATIONS
If you're traveling out of state—or out of the country—how are you getting where you're going?
Make travel arrangements/bookings whether you're going by car, bus, plane, or pack mule. (Grand Canyon elopement, anyone?)
Book any overnight accommodations.
DO ALL THE PAPERWORK
It actually does not take very long to plan an elopement. Planning your elopement can take at least 3 months to organize your inspiration, budget, and vendors. We advise doing all of your paperwork 2 months away from your elopement day.
Make sure to obtain your marriage license, book all accommodation and travel arrangements, and discuss fees and permits regarding your elopement venue.
For this elopement step, it’s important to know that every state has a different law about marriage licenses. In some states, like California and Colorado, for example, you can self-solemnize your marriage.
If you’re planning on getting married in a different state or country than where you live, then make sure to do your research. Our Wandering Weddings members are experts in these requirements, so we highly recommend teaming up with one of them.
Some couples become worried about how to elope in a different state, so we are here to say that it can be easier to officially get married and obtain your license at a city hall in your own city. After you obtain your marriage license, you can hold a symbolic ceremony at your wedding destination without stressing about the logistics of it all. Photography + Vendors
PICK OUT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER TO CAPTURE YOUR ELOPEMENT
One thing we don't recommend skimping on? Your wedding photos. You may also want to think about additional wedding services.
Book a photographer in advance. No, it's not mandatory, but you'll no doubt want photographic evidence of this momentous occasion. So why not take advantage of all the money you're saving with this elopement by splurging on a professional photographer? Ask if they offer hourly rates or special city hall packages.
If you simply can't swing it, charge up that iPhone. If time or budgetary constraints prevent you from hiring a photographer, at the very least bring along your own camera or smartphone. Ask your witness to capture a few sweet shots of the two of you crazy lovebirds as you say "I do".
Would you like a bouquet and/or boutonnière? If you do want wedding flowers you can either swing by the local flower shop or have a professional provide them. If it's the latter, be sure to book them in advance!
Other vendors to consider include:
Caterer, cake maker, and/or DJ if you're planning an after-party