How to Plan an Elopement?

How to Plan an Elopement?

Why are elopements gaining so much popularity? It’s simple – they’re about crafting a wedding day that truly reflects who you are as a couple. Instead of worrying about a long guest list or catering to family expectations, elopements allow you to escape the norm and focus entirely on your love story. Imagine a spontaneous declaration of love on a mountaintop or an intimate beach ceremony – with an elopement, your options are limitless. Let’s learn how to plan an elopement.

Busting Elopement Myths

Let’s dispel some common misconceptions about elopements:

  • Myth 1: “Eloping is the same as running away to get married.”

Absolutely not! Elopements are just as intentional and filled with meaning as traditional weddings. It’s about choosing a path that best aligns with your values and creating a day that resonates with you

  • Myth 2: “Eloping is selfish.”

Your wedding day is ultimately about celebrating your love and commitment. There are many ways to include your loved ones in your elopement – from sharing videos and photos to hosting a post-elopement party.

  • Myth 3: “Eloping means I can’t have a beautiful dress or professional photos.”

Definitely not! Elopements are just as deserving of gorgeous details, whether it’s an intricate dress, stunning florals, or a pro photographer to capture it all. It’s your day, so dream big!

Where to Start Your Elopement Planning

Where to Start Your Elopement Planning

Now, let’s talk about the exciting part – how to plan your dream elopement:

1. Envision Your Perfect Day

It all begins with a conversation between you and your partner.

Here are some questions to spark your imagination:

  • Where have you always wanted to travel?
  • Do you prefer a serene natural setting or a vibrant city scene?
  • Are there any activities you’d love to incorporate into your day (hiking, a helicopter tour, enjoying local cuisine)?
  • What’s your ideal elopement timeline? Would you like it to be a spontaneous adventure or a multi-day celebration?

2. Decide on Your “Must-Haves”

What are the elements that would make your elopement feel truly complete? Perhaps that’s professional photography, a meaningful keepsake, or even a particular meal. Discuss your priorities and determine the non-negotiables of your wedding experience.

3. Set a Budget

While elopements generally aren’t as costly as traditional weddings, establishing a budget will guide your decisions and keep spending in check. Factor in expenses like:

  • Travel and accommodation
  • Vendors (photographer, officiant, hairstylist, etc.)
  • Your outfits and rings
  • Marriage license and permits
  • Activities and dining

4. Choose Your Elopement Destination

This is where the fun really begins! Let your dreams and passions guide you in selecting the perfect setting. Here are some inspirational ideas:

  • Epic Adventures: Exchange vows amongst towering redwood trees, on a majestic mountain peak, or near a cascading waterfall.
  • Coastal Vibes: Say “I do” on a remote beach with gentle waves crashing in the background.
  • Urban Glamour: Embrace the romantic allure of a bustling city like New York, Paris, or Venice.
  • Cozy and Intimate: Escape to a secluded cabin in the woods or a charming countryside villa.
  • International Extravaganza: Jet off to an exotic destination and create memories that will last a lifetime.

5. Research and Hire Amazing Vendors

Even the most intimate elopements can benefit from the talent of dedicated professionals. When it comes to choosing your vendors, look for specialists who have experience with elopements and whose style matches your aesthetic.

Here are the pros you might want to consider:

  • Elopement Photographer: This person will be responsible for capturing all those priceless moments. Choose someone whose portfolio speaks to you, and find out if they offer packages specifically tailored to elopements.
  • Officiant: An officiant can personalize your ceremony and add a level of formality to your elopement. There are also options for online ordinations if you want a friend or family member to officiate your marriage.
  • Florist: A bouquet or floral arrangements can infuse your day with color and whimsy. Check to see if there are local artists in the area, and discuss ideas that complement your setting.
  • Other Creative Talent: Depending on your desires, consider adding touches like a hairstylist and makeup artist, a private chef or picnic provider, a musician, or even a videographer.

6. Handling the Legalities

Handling the Legalities

  • Marriage License: Do your research on the marriage license requirements and fees for your chosen location. Some areas may necessitate an in-person application, while others allow you to complete the process online. Make sure to confirm deadlines and waiting periods as well.
  • Permits: National parks, public lands, and some beaches often require permits for ceremonies. Start this process early, as securing a permit can sometimes take a few weeks.

7. Timeline and Logistics

Let’s bring order to the beautiful chaos of your elopement day:

  • Timeline: This doesn’t need to be a rigid, military-style schedule. Instead, create a simple outline to set expectations for you and your vendors. Remember, elopements can be super flexible, so leave room for spontaneity.
  • Travel and Accommodation: Book your transport and lodging well in advance, especially if you’re visiting during peak season. Consider accommodations that provide a level of intimacy and enhance your romantic atmosphere.
  • Backup Plans: As with any outdoor adventure, it’s wise to have some backup plans in place. Brainstorm ways you could alter your location or timeline in the event of inclement weather.

Example Elopement Timelines

Need some inspiration? Check out these possible scenarios:

  • Sunrise Celebration: Start your day with a breathtaking hike to a scenic location. Exchange vows while the world awakens around you, then capture stunning photos as the sun climbs higher. Enjoy a post-ceremony picnic before exploring your surroundings for the rest of the day.
  • All-Day Escape: Wake up leisurely and prepare for your ceremony together. After taking those cherished “getting ready” photos, embark on a relaxed hike or scenic drive. As the afternoon light starts to soften, settle down for your vows and take advantage of the golden hour glow for those romantic portraits. Celebrate with a delicious dinner as the stars begin to twinkle.

8. What to Wear

Your elopement is the perfect excuse to wear something that reflects your style and feels amazing on you.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Your Environment: Opt for attire that matches your chosen location, both aesthetically and practically. Will you need sturdy hiking boots or something more sophisticated for an urban setting?
  • Comfort is Key: Choose clothes that you feel comfortable moving around in. Elopements often involve plenty of adventure, so you don’t want to feel restricted.
  • Embrace Your Style: This is your special day, so let your true personality shine through! Opt for colors and styles that feel authentic to you, whether that’s a flowy bohemian dress or a fitted suit.

9. Making It Official

The ceremony is the heart of your elopement. Here’s how to make yours perfect:

  • Write Your Own Vows: Take time to express your love in your own words. Personal vows add an incredible layer of depth and emotional impact to your ceremony.
  • Meaningful Readings: Opt for a favorite poem, song lyrics, or religious excerpt that adds another element of personalization.
  • Symbolic Rituals: Consider incorporating rituals that have meaning for you, like a tree-planting ceremony, a handfasting tradition, or the exchanging of special tokens.

10. Celebrating, Just The Two of You

The beauty of an elopement is that you can truly do whatever feels right to celebrate.

Here are a few ideas for some post-ceremony excitement:

  • Champagne and Cake: Share a romantic toast and cut a small cake.
  • Picnic Delights: Whether a catered feast or a basket you packed yourselves, enjoying a beautiful meal out in nature is an elopement classic.
  • First Dance: Find a secluded spot and embrace the magic of your first dance as newlyweds.
  • Adventure-Seekers: Embark on a thrilling adventure – ziplining, horseback riding, or even a sunset kayak session.

Telling Your Loved Ones

Decide how and when you’d like to share the news of your elopement with family and friends.

Here are some possibilities:

  • Send a Surprise Announcement: Design a card with a stunning photo from your elopement, including a heartfelt message that shares your good news.
  • Share Over Video Call: Invite your loved ones to a group video call and reveal the excitement with smiles and laughter.
  • Host a Post-Elopement Celebration: Throw a party and let your loved ones celebrate alongside you after the fact.

Incorporating Special Touches

Make your elopement a true reflection of your personality with these ideas:

  • Your Love Story: Find subtle ways to weave in details that represent you as a couple. Exchange gifts symbolizing a shared inside joke, have a picnic filled with your favorite foods or play a song that has special significance in your relationship.
  • Sentimental Objects: Consider bringing along a family heirloom, a framed photo of a loved one who couldn’t be there, or any other item that holds deep meaning for you.
  • Letters From Loved Ones: Before your elopement, ask close family and friends to write letters expressing love and support. Open and read those heartfelt messages together while celebrating your big day.

Embracing Elopements with Guests

Embracing Elopements with Guests

While traditionally associated with just the two of you, an elopement can absolutely include some of your nearest and dearest.

However, here’s how to keep it intimate:

  • The Micro-Wedding Vibe: Think of it as a small, curated celebration rather than a traditional wedding. A “micro-elopement” is perfect for couples who desire that elopement magic but still want to include close family and friends.
  • Guest List: To maintain the elopement feeling, try your best to limit the guest count. Somewhere between 2-10, loved ones makes for a cozy and intimate gathering.
  • Communication is Key: Be open and honest with your invited guests about your desires for an intimate experience. If some family members won’t be present, make sure to assure them they are still deeply valued.


Eloping is about celebrating authentic love and forging your own unique wedding experience. Don’t be afraid to break the mold, ditch the unnecessary stresses, and create a day that’s all about the two of you and your commitment to each other. If you prioritize connection, adventure, and creating unforgettable memories, an elopement might be the perfect way to embark on your marital journey.


Do I Need Witnesses To Elope?

Check the requirements in your chosen location. While some states in the U.S. allow self-solemnization (meaning no witnesses are necessary), most require signatures from one or two witnesses. Your photographer or officiant can easily fill this role!

I Feel Pressured to Have a Huge Wedding. How Do I Handle Family Expectations?

Open communication is your best friend here. Sit down with loved ones and express your vision for an intimate elopement. Remind them that this day is about your partnership and how much you’d love their support on whatever path feels right for you two.

Can I Still Wear a Wedding Dress If I Elope?

A resounding yes! There are no rules when it comes to elopements. Feel free to channel your inner princess with a full-skirted gown or embrace a sleek, modern silhouette – wear whatever makes you feel absolutely fabulous.

Isn’t Eloping Less Special Than a Traditional Wedding?

This one’s all about perspective. True intimacy can be incredibly special. Elopements allow you to craft a day fully focused on your connection as a couple and the start of this next chapter in your relationship. To many couples, that feels way more special than a large, traditional wedding.

Will We Miss Out on Gifts If We Elope?

This is one area where it’s good to consider your situation. Eloping often means your loved ones will shower you with celebration and good wishes instead. Some couples may choose to set up a small registry so those interested can still send a token of support.

James Barnes

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