I am so STOKED for you and your brave decision to elope!! Not many couples are brave enough to choose a wedding day that is different and all about them!
I can help you bring your dream elopement to life! I want to help you make your elopement day epic and far better than you've ever imagined. This day is all about celebrating your relationship in a way that is authentically you!! You deserve to have an experience that is stress-free, fun, and have it all documented for you to look back on for years to come. While the freedom to do whatever you want is liberating- it can also be overwhelming. So this is where this guide comes in- to help you step by step in creating your ultimate wedding day experience!
I hope this planning guide helps you as you begin to plan your adventurous elopement or intimate wedding. I'm so excited for you and can't wait for you to begin planning your dream day!
What is an elopement?
Elopements are a intentionally intimate, authentic, emotional, and deeply meaningful way to celebrate your marriage. They can be just the two of you or with your closest friends and family. Elopements focus on what's most important- celebrating your love!
Eloping allows you to set aside stress, expectations, and instead allows you to create an experience ALL ABOUT YOU.
How long does it take to plan?
It really depends on you and how much time per day you want to spend planning your elopement!
On average, I would suggest anywhere from 4-10 months to plan your elopement so you have adequate time to plan, book flights, find lodging, and get all the details in order. That being said, it is definitely possible to execute your dream day in a shorter time period.
How Much does Eloping Cost?
Traditional weddings in the United States have a national average of $34,000. However, you can have an absolutely epic elopement for much less than that! Expect to allocate the your budget on photography, travel, lodging, attire, flowers, rings, food, activities, hair, makeup, and your marriage license.
Can other people come?
Of course! An elopement doesn't necessarily mean that is has to be just the two of you. If you want to, you can choose to include your closest friends and family! An elopement is a wedding experience that is focused on the two of you! If it is important for you to have some of your loved ones there to support and celebrate with you- bring them with you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Determine what your perfect day together looks like and incorporate that into your elopement!
Step 1: Dream Big!
Relax. Sit down with your partner (and perhaps your favorite beverage!). Start dreaming about your dream elopement day. Imagine your day from the beginning to the end. Have fun with it! Your goal today should be to create an overall picture of your day, including the general area of the world and the time of year you want to elope.
If you could go anywhere in the world on your wedding day- where would you go?
Don't be afraid to dream big!
What does the scenery look like?
Are you in the mountains, on the beach, in a forest, by a waterfall, or in the desert?
What does the ceremony look like?
Are there any important traditions to you that you want to include in your ceremony?
Will it be just you two, or will you include friends and family?
Do you see others playing a role in your elopement? Or is it just you two? Remember you can do both- you can have one day that is just you two and another with your closest loved ones!
What time of year is it?
Do you like hot weather or cold weather? Do you imagine fall colors, wildflowers, or snow?
What do you want to wear?
A dress or suit? Something more traditional or something more casual? What kind of footwear will you wear?
How much time can you use on your elopement?
How much time can you take off? Are you combining your elopement day with your honeymoon?
What activities do you imagine doing?
What do you imagine yourself doing? Do you want to do your favorite activities together or try something you've never done before? If you had to design your "perfect day", what would it look like?
Now, do you have a picture of what your wedding day looks like ?
Step 2: Logistics
After you have a vague idea of what your elopement day looks like, start researching to determine what is realistic or not. Here, you'll start turning your vision into a reality. Try and make it as fun as possible. Create a relaxed environment to really delve into your research! If you get stuck, there are lots of people available to hire that would love to help you! This stage is where I come in with most of my couples and their planning process. I would be more than happy to assist you as well! As you're researching, ask yourself these important questions:
What are the local marriage laws and regulations?
Marriage laws are very different in other countries and states. You will want to ensure you can get legally married and that you know what paperwork and documentation you will need. Depending on where you get married, you may need an officiant and witnesses. However, you don't need to let paperwork keep you from having your dream elopement day! Many couples choose to complete the legal paperwork at home either before or after their actual elopement day for ease of mind and simplicity, The day you say your vows and commit your life to your partner is your wedding day! Don't let paperwork and technical logistics get in the way.
What is the weather going to be like on your date?
What do you need to prepare for? Research beforehand average temperatures, precipitation, and weather for your chosen area. Check for any natural disasters that frequently occur during certain months. Decide when is the best time to visit your destination. There is always the risk of bad weather with an outdoor elopement. Have a backup location and be ready to go with the flow- just enjoy getting married to the love of your life!
Do you want other people to be with you there?
Do you want the day to be just the two of you, or do you want your closest friends and family by your side? What role do you want others to play in your elopement day? If you are having trouble deciding, you can always split it up into two days- one for just you two and another with your loved ones.
How busy or remote is your ceremony location?
Some locations have high and low seasons which can impact how busy your chosen destination will be. If you're intentionally going in "off season" to avoid crowds, make sure to research road closures that might impact your travels.
How will you get to your chosen destination?
Are you planning on hiking to your location? Or do you want to off road in a jeep, take a boat or take a helicopter?
What permits are required?
Most public lands require a permit to have your wedding ceremony there and for your photographer to photograph there. Always make sure to get the proper required permits! You don't want to risk the possibility of getting kicked off your planned location because you didn't prepare. Plus, it is important to support the conservation of public lands to help preserve them for years to come!
What types of activities do you want to do?
What fun activities do you want to do on your elopement day? Do you want to hike, see the Northern Lights, play in the waves on the beach or fly in a plane?
Do you want a "first look"?
Some couples decide they want to do a first look before their ceremony. It can be an exciting way to see each other all dressed up in your wedding attire for the first time before you say your vows!
Do you want to do a celebratory drink or meal?
Is their a particular meal or food that you feel you need to have on your wedding day? You can go to a restaurant, hire a private chef, or pack a picnic. Do you want to celebrate with a special drink? Just remember is you pop champagne, to find and pick up the cork!
What vendors do you need?
Do you want an officiant, a bouquet, professional makeup and hair? Try and make a list of everything you might need.
Have you made progress turning your vision into a reality? You're one step closer to getting married in a meaningful, unique, and intimate way! Yay!
Don't let paperwork stop you from having your dream day! You can do the legal ceremony before or after your elopement day.
Tip: If you elope on a weekday, chances are, your destination will be much less crowded!
Step 3: Start Booking
Okay! Now is the time to make solid choices and start the booking process. You've picked out what's important to you, researched your options, and come up with a clear vision of your day. You don't have to finalize every detail right this minute, but at least get the most important things set. You can finish the small details later.
What should you decide first?
Pick your date
-Is there a meaningful date that you want to get married on? Does your date work with your location and your ideal photographer's schedule? Does your date work for others that may be joining you?
Pick the general area you want to elope at
-Decide the general area you want to have your ceremony at so you can book your transportation and lodging.
Book lodging that is close by
-Find a place to stay that is closer to your ceremony site. The closer you are, the easier your day will be. If you're eloping in a more remote location you may still be 1-2 hours away.
-Figure out the best way to travel to your destination and how you want to get from your lodging to your ceremony. Does your location require 4WD?
Yay! Now the biggest details of your elopement day are falling into place.
Step 4: Finalize Details
You're getting so close- I'm so excited for you! Now that you have the biggest details of your plan in place, you only have the little details left. There's a lot of things to now, so make sure to take it in little, manageable chunks at a time.
Shoes (make sure if you're going to be outside all day they are comfortable, have good support and have good tread!)
Layers (If you're going somewhere cold or windy)
Jewelry and Accessories
Book a Photographer
Hair and Makeup
Other vendors: Music, private chef or catering, additional transportation, etc
Fun activities planned out (and any other necessary materials to do them)
If you're hiking to your destination bring additional hiking and outdoor gear (plus a good, comfortable pack!)
Finalize your ceremony: write your vows, include any important traditions to you, buy your wedding bands, and plan your ceremony structure and timeline.
Consider planning a surprise for your partner, like a special letter, song, or gift.
Compose your timeline. Leave lots of time for spontaneity without feeling rushed or stressed. Work with your photographer to decide the best time of day and lighting for photos. Leave lots of time to celebrate and enjoy the moment!
The week before your big day:
Pack in advance
Finalize your timeline
Check the weather
Get your marriage license and documents (if you're doing the legal ceremony at your destination)
Relax, drink lots of water, eat a good meal, and get plenty of sleep! Take care of your body and mind!
Tip: If you want a dress without the pricetag, try researching "white maxi dress"
Be present in the moment- enjoy having the day of your dreams and marrying the one you love!
Step 5: Have your dream elopement day!
Yay!! It's finally your elopement day- you get to marry your love and commit your lives to one another. All your hard work and planning is finished. All that's left is to have the best day of your lives! I hope that it is better than anything you could have possibly dreamed of.
Be present in the moment with your partner and enjoy every little bit of your elopement day!
Enjoy your unique wedding experience and don't stress. Enjoy the day and time spent with each other! This is everything that you've been dreaming of , so have the best day ever!
When you return home:
Share your exciting news with your friends and family (if you haven't already)! Share your previews of images from your elopement day so you can relive the day with your loved ones. Now it's time to celebrate- you're married, go crazy! Have a party, casual dinner, or reception with your loved ones.
Relive your elopement experience over and over again through your photos! Consider ordering an album from your photographer so you can view your story and relive all the wonderful memories again and again.
Hi! My name is Kathleen and I'm an adventurous elopement and intimate wedding photographer based in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. I'm here to document and help plan your epic elopement day! I'll provide you with awesome location suggestions, timeline recommendations, permit information and TONS of helpful tips and tricks to make your journey as smooth as possible. I'm super passionate about helping people execute their dream wedding day and documenting their entire adventure.
I absolutely love hitting the trails as often as I can, and enjoy finding beautiful, remote places to explore. I love The Office, my fur babies, and could live off a diet of tacos and coffee. I grew up travelling with my family all across the United States, which has sparked a life long passion for travel in me! I am always dreaming of new places to go and new things to see. I love travel hacking and finding unique, epic spots in every place I go to. Whenever I am adventuring in a new place, I am truly happy and at peace. I am available to travel anywhere in the world- come adventure with me!