So you’re considering doing away with a bigger wedding celebration in favor of an elopement. I, for one, am obsessed with elopements and I’m so excited for you to begin this journey! But, as I’m sure you may already know, planning an elopement instead of a traditional wedding doesn’t necessarily mean less stress for you and your partner. There’s a whole different set of considerations when it comes to eloping, and I’m here to help you get organized and begin planning your ideal day. This guide is full of my best tips for how to plan an elopement, so let’s get started!
Before you get bogged down in trying to figure out details like guests, flowers, photography, etc., it’s a good idea to start with your budget! You can absolutely shop around for vendors to help give you an idea of the price point for everything you’ll need to plan an elopement – use that as a baseline to determine the costs. It also might be a good idea to figure out which elements are most important to you! If a destination location is at the top of your list, you can cut back in other areas, like a smaller celebration after your ceremony (or none at all! Do what works for you).
I recommend beginning with your budget, and then finding your location, date, and the number of guests you want there with you (if any!). When it comes to choosing your location, consider both the scenery AND the privacy & accessibility of that spot. Is there a chance it will be crowded? Do you feel like hiking to your ceremony spot? Choose a location that represents you and your relationship – a place that feels like a true reflection of the love you share and the journey you’re on with each other.
Don’t forget about the legal part of getting married when you plan an elopement! Most states require two witness signatures in addition to your officiant’s signature, so even if you’re envisioning a ceremony that’s especially intimate, you’ll need those two witnesses. (As your photographer, I am willing and honored to be one of those witnesses for you!) Be sure to check the specific requirements for the state you’ll be eloping in. Additionally, many elopement locations require a permit or license for you to hold your ceremony, especially if your elopement is in a national park or on land managed by the BLM. Again, this can vary depending on the size of your party and the exact location, but make sure you’ve secured any permit you need! Nothing would be worse than finding out too late that you can’t elope where you planned to.
Now that you have an idea of the where and the when, it’s time to dig into those details! Start booking your vendors – and remember that the vendors you choose should align with the style you have in mind as you plan your elopement! This day is all about you.
I may be biased, but I recommend finding your photographer as early as you can! Many photographers book up to a year in advance, and having the memories of this amazing day to cherish forever is so, so important, especially so that you can share how beautiful you look with your friends and family afterward! Other vendors that may be at the top of your list include a florist, a videographer, makeup and hair stylists (unless you feel confident about doing it yourself), and a caterer & musician/DJ if you’re planning any kind of reception. This is also the time you’ll be finding those perfect outfits for your day!
One other important thing I want to highlight about vendors is the option to hire an elopement planner or coordinator. It is not necessary that you have one, but they can provide you with a lot of peace of mind when it comes to putting everything together! As an industry expert, they’ll be able to answer any questions you have and help you coordinate travel, timelines, etc. Hiring a coordinator can be as simple as a day-of service all the way up to a full service planner.
Travel time! Factor in the time it will take to get from your getting-ready location to your ceremony location. Will you have to hike or walk a bit? Do you want to do a first look and take some time to yourselves in a more secluded area before your ceremony? Make sure that when you’re building your timeline, you take all of that into consideration!
Food! In all the excitement, don’t forget to EAT! Do you want to have a small dinner after your ceremony? Have In-N-Out or pizza delivered for a more casual hangout? Additionally, if you’re hiking anywhere throughout the day, I highly recommend bringing snacks with you!
Consider sending an elopement announcement to your loved ones! If they won’t be there on the day, they can still be thinking of you and celebrating you from afar when you get married.
Phew, that was A LOT of information. Here’s a smaller, more digestible list for you to help you keep track as you get started!
Take a deep breath – you’ve got this! And all your vendors are there for you to help you make the day amazing. Congratulations on starting this new journey! If you have more questions about how to plan an elopement, reach out to me here to begin planning an amazing experience.