How to Plan Your Elopement

You’re Ultimate Elopement Checklist…

So, you’ve decided to elope. That’s fantastic! In today’s world, elopement has become a seriously #trending option for couples wanting to break away from the stressors and costs associated with planning a wedding. You’re lucky, because your options have opened wide before you, and your restrictions have been basically eliminated.

You can breathe easy.

Mostly.

While elopements come with significantly less in the way of planning than traditional weddings, they’re not completely devoid of it. There are still a few important elements to take into consideration when eloping, and we’ve listed out a few of them here.

Initial Questions

Before you take anything else into consideration, you should consider these important items:

1. What is our budget? 2. Where do we want to get married? 3. WHEN do we want to get married? 4. Do we want to invite any witnesses? 5. How do we want the ceremony performed?

Once you’ve decided upon these items, you can move forward into the more creative aspects of planning.

Budgeting

One of the greatest things about elopements is that they can come with pretty small price tags, especially when compared to their traditional alternatives. However, “cheap” doesn’t mean “free,” and once you’ve decided upon your budget, you can start planning how best to spend that budget. Here are a few areas to consider when deciding where to place your money:

1. Marriage licenses

This is a pretty important piece to plan. While marriage licenses aren’t hugely expensive, they can be the legal proof that you are, in fact, married. Therefore, researching the cost of a marriage license in your chosen location should be a top priority item.

2. Travel

With the world at your feet and a destination in mind, you should definitely plan accordingly when it comes to travel. If you’re marrying down the street from your home at a local courthouse, you have nothing to worry about. If you’re flying to a remote beach, you’ll need to account for airfare and accommodations.

3. Officiant

The cost for an officiant can range from nothing (if you’re self-solemnizing) to a few hundred dollars (if you hire someone specially trained or ordained to a specific, unique faith).

4. Clothing

While elopement ceremonies require less in the way of traditional white dresses and tuxedos, it’s still a good idea to plan out your outfits and factor their cost into your budget. If you have a favorite dress that will make you happy during your elopement ceremony, GREAT. If you want an excuse to go out and buy that amazing suit you’ve had your eye on for years, also GREAT. Just make sure to understand your own finances before making that decision.

5. Other items to consider

While those four items are definitely key to solid budgeting, there are a few other things to take into consideration when planning. While these things aren’t required as part of an elopement ceremony, they are common, and therefore worth considering:

• Flowers

• Rings (or other marriage symbols)

• Park entry fees or permits (if marrying outdoors or on public lands)

• Photographers

• Videographers

• Wedding/elopement planner

Location

Elopements are awesome, because you can basically choose to get married ANYWHERE. However, depending on where you want to get married, there may be differing costs, legalities, and accessibility considerations to account for. Below are a few popular location options and their pros and cons.

A Local Courthouse

These are tried and true classics. Courthouse weddings have been the go-to options for couples looking to cut costs and logistics. They are simple and standard, and you can basically bet money on the fact that they’re 100% legal. However, depending on the city and state you select as your location, they may come with some caveats. For example, some popular courthouses (Like the San Francisco courthouse) book up months in advance, so you’d have to pick your date early in order to get married there. Some courthouses don’t take reservations at all, but marry couples on a first-come-first-served basis (meaning there could be a line of white dresses and black tuxedos ahead of you). And some locations require two separate appointments – one to sign your marriage license and one to GET married. While none of these things should ever be considered deal-breakers in your planning process, they’re always worth considering.

An Outdoor Destination

This option has become more popular, especially with the rise of adventure wedding photography on Instagram. Couples are flocking to the mountains for breathtaking vistas on which to say their vows. And while this option is appealing to many, these locations come with their own planning necessities:

Accessibility – can you GET to your location (and can your guests, if you decide to have them, get to it as well?)

Legality – is it legal to get married in the location you desire?

Permits – does the area require wilderness or access permits?

Weather – will this area be suitable for the outdoors on our wedding day?

Ultimately, your perfect location will be perfect for you no matter what. Don’t let planning scare you away from your dream destination (unless it’s illegal to get married there, of course). Once you have your location in mind, the planning will come easily.

People

When you elope, you can choose to involve as few or as many people as you want. Here, we’ve listed out a few to consider in your planning process:

1. Officiants

In most states, it is required that you have a licensed officiant perform your ceremony. This person can act as your witness, and lead you in your vows. However, in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Washington D.C., it is legal for couples to perform “self-solemnizing” ceremonies – meaning you could marry yourselves. These ceremonies are legally recognized throughout the country, but only if they are performed in one of those states.

2. Witnesses and/or Guests

For some couples, the thought of getting married without ANY of their friends and family is uncomfortable. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to see a small group of loved ones surrounding a couple as they elope. If you’d like to invite any friends or family to your ceremony, be sure to invite them early and allow them time to plan for any travel they may need.

3. Photographers

These are probably the most common invitees to elopement ceremonies; couples want photographs of their elopement as much as anyone wants photographs of their traditional wedding. If you opt to hire an elopement photographer, be sure to research someone who shares your artistic style. Plan ahead and book a photographer early, especially if you’re getting married at peak wedding season. Finally, work with them closely to ensure they understand your plans and have the physical capability of joining you for your ceremony.

Legal Considerations

One final item to consider when planning your elopement is the legality of your ceremony. Obviously, you have to ensure that your location is legally accessible (as we’ve already discussed), but you also want to ensure that your wedding is legal. You know, so you are actually MARRIED at the end of it. Here are a few questions to research when ensuring you’re crossing this T. Remember, these things can vary based on the location of your ceremony, so be sure to research within that area.

1. Do you need witnesses?

Some states allow self-solumnizing, some allow your officiant to be your sole witness, and some require as many as two witnesses be present for an elopement to be legally recognized. Make sure you check these requirements and take them into consideration when planning.

2. How long is the waiting period?

We all know that you can get married in Vegas at the drop of a hat, but that’s not the case everywhere. Some states require that you apply for and wait to receive your marriage license before tying the knot.

3. Do you need an officiant?

Along the same lines as witnesses, some states require a licensed professional to perform your ceremony, and some require no one but yourselves. Make sure you know what is expected and plan for those expectations.

4. Do you need to make an appointment?

If you want to elope somewhere popular or in a very specific location, make sure you research what is required when it comes to appointments. Some places REQUIRE appointments, while others will not allow you to make them.

5. Will you need other paperwork?

A marriage license is one thing, but some locations require that you bring other items as well, such as birth certificates, divorce certificates, or other documentation indicating that you are legally able to marry.

Ultimately, the wonderful thing about eloping is that you can choose the right path for you as a couple, without the need to take into consideration the requirements of others. Therefore, if one item on your planning checklist gets too logistically difficult to manage, you can change your mind. Planning is important, but you get to decide how difficult each piece of the plan becomes. As long as you are doing your research and ensuring the legality of your ceremony, you’ll be fine.


Does this all STILL seem a little overwhelming? That’s okay! We’ve got you covered.

Click the link below to download your own Ultimate Elopement Checklist!