Eloping is a super personal experience that is different for each and every couple. Your elopement is yours and yours alone. There are, of course, plenty of couples who have eloped before you and have some wisdom to impart as you gear up to plan your elopement. While it is true that you can choose to forgo plenty of the customary traditions — that’s part of the fun of an elopement — there are a few logistics that you won’t be able to sweep under the rug, as it may end up causing friction on what should be a beautiful day, and, in the long run, causing issues with the legality of your union.
At its core, your elopement day is simply about celebrating your abiding love — and making sure you have the paperwork to prove it! With curious pre-elopers in mind, we’ve put together our Fundamental Elopement Checklist, so that you can decide which of these considerations take priority as well as which aspects of an elopement day you can do without.
Set your budget
One of the perks of eloping is the overall cost, as elopements typically cost far less than a traditional wedding. You and your partner should decide what budget makes the most sense for your elopement before looking into specifics.
Choose your location and venue
Once you’ve settled on an elopement budget, put your heads together to decide where you’d like to spend your special day. Elopements are often smaller affairs than traditional weddings, so you’ll likely have more options to consider for venues in whichever town and state you decide to elope in. Keep in mind that choosing a destination elopement will increase your overall elopement budget to accommodate for travel costs, housing, and transportation.
Pick a date
Now that you know where you want to elope, check out photographs of the area and maybe even some elopement photography to get a feel for your chosen location throughout the year. Some places celebrate all four seasons, while some milder climates may be more accessible year-round. You might fall in love with a snowy mountain scene or a lake surrounded by fiery fall foliage. Figuring out what you’d like your elopement backdrop to be will make it easier to decide what time of year makes the most sense for your elopement.
Decide if you want to hire a planner
Even if you are eloping with a strict budget, an elopement planner may be within reach. Not only is a local helper often included in elopement packages, but these elopement packages also typically cost a fraction of the price associated with planning a full wedding. We can’t recommend an elopement planner highly enough. They take a lot of the typical stresses off of your plate and they tend to know all of the area’s hidden gems and insider tips!
Make any necessary travel and accommodation bookings
If you settle on a destination wedding, you will want to make any necessary travel arrangements and accommodation bookings as far in advance as you can. Making your reservations early will give you the best chance of securing your first-choice picks with early bird rates. If you are planning a destination elopement, we encourage you to arrive at your destination a few days before your big day to avoid any issues with travel delays and to allow you to rest and decompress in a new place.
Don’t wait until the day-of to figure out how you’re getting around. Whether it’s simply a shuttle ride to and from the airport or a weeklong car rental that you’re after, find out what your options are ahead of time and finalize your reservations before you travel.
Decide what you want your elopement day to look like
Your elopement ceremony likely won’t take up the entire day. After you’ve said your vows, it is time to celebrate — and you get to decide what that looks like! Maybe you prefer a picnic at a nearby park or a fancy five-course meal? Maybe you still like the idea of cutting a cake? A first dance? Whatever your dream “reception” looks like, your elopement destination likely has a host of options for you to choose from. Remember: it is your special day, so don’t skimp on the post-ceremony celebrations.
Figure out how to make your elopement legal
This is one of the few items on our elopement checklist that you really can’t gloss over even if you want to. It might require a bit of advance planning, but it will save you a whole lot of hassle if you want to make your elopement legal. Imagine flying out to your chosen city, getting to the clerk’s office, and finding out you left a crucial document back at home. Each state and county has different rules and requirements for legal elopements. Be sure you know what those are well before your elopement day. Do you need witnesses? Will you need an appointment in order to pick up your marriage license? Is there a waiting period before you can elope? In some states, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes so be sure to check out the requirements of the local country clerk’s office as soon as you’ve chosen your elopement destination.
Decide if you want to have photography and/or videography
If there is one aspect of your elopement that we suggest you don’t skimp on, it’s photography. Just because you’re choosing to go a more informal route for your nuptials doesn’t mean the day is any less impactful. Having photographs of your day will not only be great reminders of your elopement, but it will also allow you to share your elopement with any of your nearest and dearest who were unable to be with you on the day. In our experience, couples never regret having some photographic evidence of their big day, so if a professional photographer doesn’t work with your budget, be sure to charge your phones up fully to capture the day through your own eyes.
Confirm any vendors
If you want to have any extras either at your elopement ceremony or afterward, during your “reception,” confirm these plans before you travel to avoid any hassle in the days leading up to your elopement. Live music, decorations, and food are all fabulous ways to mark the occasion.
Write your vows
A typical elopement is less formal than a church wedding and that means there is some room for creativity during your elopement ceremony. You will want to plan the specifics of your ceremony with your officiant before the big day and one thing you can’t do without is your vows! This is your chance to tell your partner why they mean so much to you, so make sure you spend some time planning the words you want to say. And then, if you can, print them out on a snazzy piece of paper or write them down in a notebook. This way you aren’t stuck reading a love letter to your life partner off of your mobile phone screen.
Pick out rings
Talk to your partner about rings: do you even want them? If so, do you want to go classic gold bands or something more unique? What is your budget like for items like this? If you decide that rings are your thing, make sure you grab them before you travel — and bring them with you on the day of your elopement!
Decide what to wear
Figuring out what you will wear to your elopement should be a breeze; just decide what you feel your best in! The day is yours and you should wear exactly what you want, whether you have your heart set on a classic white gown or suit or a sparkly jumpsuit or your pajamas. Just be sure to dress appropriately. If you are eloping outdoors or in certain seasons, you might need to consider bringing extra layers, comfortable shoes, and even a change of clothes if your elopement venue is off the beaten path. On a related note, try to steer clear of any especially restrictive garments if you need to walk or hike to your chosen venue.
Announce your elopement
Now that you have eloped, it’s time to let your family and friends in on the secret! How you do that is totally up to you, but be sure to keep in mind that some people might be surprised if they find out about it on social media. Phone calls and formal announcement letters may not seem like the easy-breezy elopement way, but it will make the announcement much more personal and appreciated.