For a lot of couples, the realization that they want to elope instead of throwing a big wedding is quickly followed by the realization that they have no idea how to elope! It’s totally normal to feel a little overwhelmed – if you haven’t planned an elopement before, you’re likely not sure where to start, what to do, and how to make the whole thing come together.
But, after helping countless couples plan their unique, adventurous elopement day, I’m here to share all my tips on how to elope, with a step by step elopement planning checklist!
Elopement Planning Checklist
To help you figure out how to elope, I’ve broken it down into 10 steps! Here’s the elopement planning checklist, and the steps to your dream day:
- Start Dreaming About Your Elopement
- Think About Elopement Dates
- Hire an Elopement Photographer
- Decide Who to Invite
- Pick an Elopement Location
- Get an Elopement Permit
- Hire Other Elopement Vendors & Make Bookings
- Learn About Local Marriage Laws
- Make an Elopement Timeline
1. Start Dreaming About Your Elopement
After you’ve made the decision to elope, the fun can begin! The first step in figuring out how to elope is to let your imagination run wild – think of everything and anything that would make your day truly amazing. When you picture the perfect day, where do you see you and your partner exchanging vows? What kind of scenery are you surrounded by? Who (human or fur baby), if anyone, do you see by your side? Don’t be afraid to dream big – this part’s all about imagining the possibilities and getting excited for your unique day!
2. Think About Elopement Dates
You don’t have to set a date quite yet – staying flexible can help you work with your favorite photographer to find a date that works for both of you, so that you don’t have to compromise when it comes to vendors. But, thinking about a timeframe or a season (or if you do have your heart set on a specific date) can help you move along the elopement planning checklist. For example, if you’re a teacher who has summers off, you may want to plan to tie the knot in that season. If you love snow, you might prefer to get married in the winter!
3. Hire an Elopement Photographer
Hiring an elopement photographer should be early on in the elopement planning checklist, because they’ll be the ultimate guide in helping you figure out how to elope! Once you have a few ideas floating around in your head about what you want your day to look like, reach out to an elopement photographer.
Once you book with me, my job is to make the rest of the process a breeze, and to help you plan the perfect day.
4. Decide Who to Invite to Your Elopement
The next step on the elopement planning checklist is figuring out who you want to invite. And it’s totally okay if you realize that the answer is nobody! It’s not about excluding your loved ones, it’s about what kind of experience you want to have. Some couples love the idea of a completely private day that’s just the two of them, while others can’t imagine tying the knot without their family or a few close friends. Talk about it with your partner, and decide what feels right for you!
Another thing to think about is pets – if you want to bring your dog along, or even your horse, you’ll need to consider pet friendly locations for the next step on the elopement planning checklist.
5. Pick an Elopement Location
Choosing an elopement location is one of the most exciting parts of planning your elopement – because the options are basically endless! You can elope abroad in a tropical paradise, go to a gorgeous national park, choose from forests and cactus gardens, and more.
I recommend deciding who to invite (or at least having a general idea of how many people will be there) before you pick an elopement location, because some places will have restrictions on how many guests can be at a ceremony. Keeping your guest count in mind before you start looking can help you narrow down your options!
Part of my job as an elopement photographer includes location scouting – which means I do the heavy lifting, and give you a list of options that fits what you’re looking for. I’ll send you a questionnaire with questions about what kind of vibe you’re going for, what kind of scenery you like (woodsy, desert, mountains, and more), how far you want to travel, and more, to help me put together a personalized list – and all you have to do is choose the one that speaks to you!
6. Get an Elopement Permit
After you decide on a location, I’ll help you figure out if you need a permit, and how to get one. Some places require a wedding permit for even the smallest ceremony, while others don’t require them at all – the rules vary, so I’ll make sure you know how and when to apply for your permit if you need to.
7. Make Bookings and Hire Elopement Vendors
I’ll send you recommendations for places to stay close to your location – so you can find the perfect cabin, Airbnb, houseboat, lodge, or whatever kind of accommodation you’re looking for! Book your flights and where you’ll stay early on to ensure you can be close to where you want to tie the knot, and reach out to your favorite vendors as soon as possible – their calendars can fill up fast.
I’ll also give you a list of my favorite vendors close to your elopement location, so you can choose the best people to make your dream day come to life!
8. Learn About Local Marriage Laws
To get legally married, you’ll need to brush up on the marriage laws at your elopement location. They vary from country to country and even state to state, so I’ll make sure you know how to get a marriage license and how to make your marriage official!
You’ll usually apply for your marriage license about three months out from your elopement date, but when you should apply depends on the expiration time, whether you need to go in person, and the waiting period.
9. Make an Elopement Timeline
The final big step in how to elope is to make a timeline for the day! I’ll start working on this about a month out from the big day. Each timeline is completely personalized for the couple, and it includes getting ready, the ceremony, and any adventures we’ll have throughout the day! As I get to know you, I’ll work on ideas for things to do when you elope, and the timeline will include some fun activities like hiking, off-roading, a picnic, and whatever else you’ve got planned!
This is it – the day you’ve been waiting for, when all that elopement planning comes together and you get to marry the love of your life. I’ll be there to adventure with you, and of course, to document the whole thing. We’ll have an incredible day that you’ll remember forever, and after a few short weeks, you’ll have your photos back to relive the story of your one of a kind wedding day all over again!
Need Help Figuring Out How to Elope?
If you’re ready to tie the knot with a once in a lifetime adventure, contact me! I’ll help you figure out how to elope, plan your epic day, and give you all the tips and advice along the way to create your unique adventure.