Post Summary: Below is a guide with my best tips & advice on how to elope intentionally and ensure that you have the BEST, most meaningful day possible! I’ll tell you why it’s so important to be intentional with your planning, and how to do so when it comes to every aspect of your elopement including your location, details, vendors, and more.
If you’ve read any part of my website or follow me on Instagram, then you’ll know I preach about the power of elopements constantly; the power that comes with having total freedom to plan the day of your dreams that is 100% unique and special to you. When it comes to planning your elopement, you can toss out that old bridal magazine your mom gave you or the planning checklist you saved to your Pinterest board 10 years ago! Instead, let’s focus on intentionality: setting goals and intentions for your elopement, thinking through every detail, and figuring out what would make it the most special to YOU – not to every other couple out there or the recently-married celeb couples who are giving you allll their tips in People magazine.
My hope is that you leave this guide feeling excited to create your dream day, rather than feeling overwhelmed at everything there is to; that you start to plan based on your authentic story and love, not based on the other weddings you’ve seen. It’s your day, so freaking have fun with it!
What Does It Mean To “Elope Intentionally”?
First of all, what does it even mean to “elope intentionally”? Essentially, it means that you go into your elopement with full confidence that you’ve planned and prepared everything with careful thought, so that it feels 100% authentic to you. There is SO much that goes into planning a beautiful elopement besides just getting your marriage license and hiring an elopement – everything you plan will have an impact on how your day ends up, so it’s important to be intentional every step of the way.
Why you should prioritize intentionality when eloping
When you choose intentionality for your elopement, it really ensures that your day is 100% yours! It is SO freaking easy to plan a cookie-cutter day that feels like it was copied & pasted from a Pinterest board, or even from the other weddings you’ve attended. And there’s totally nothing wrong with finding inspiration in other couples’ days, but you definitely have to be intentional to really create a unique day that’s right for you.
Your elopement will be 100x more meaningful & memorable if it’s tailored to you and only you, no matter what that looks like. If you plan your whole day around catering to somebody else (your parents, grandparents, friends, etc.), it’s almost certainly going to end up not feeling quite right to you, whether that’s through small and seemingly unimportant things like what cake you choose, or something as big as where you elope. Prioritizing intentionality throughout the entire planning process will make sure you have ZERO regrets, and that you can always look back on your elopement as one of the best days of your lives!
Figure out why you’re eloping
A great way to be intentional right from the get go is to really be open & honest with each other about why you want to elope. This can be part of the conversation when you’re deciding between a wedding/elopement, or what size group you want to invite – or it can be a convo once you’ve decided on an elopement! It’ll help you both set proper expectations and figure out your priorities together – maybe your partner wants to elope because they value intimacy & don’t want to invite guests, while you might want to elope because you want to get married sooner. Having an open discussion about why you each want to elope will make sure you’re on the same page and can make it special for each other as possible!
Set specific goals for your elopement
Another thing you can do to get on the same page before you start planning, is to set specific goals for your elopement! Now I’m not talking business goals or 5-year plans here – just decide what your priorities are and how you can make them happen! For example, your #1 goal as a couple might be to prioritize intimacy. This probably means you won’t invite many guests (if any), and you’ll want to find a quiet location without tourists around. Maybe your biggest goal is to have a freaking epic adventure, so you know that means you’ll want to find a place you can hike, that will fit your group, that has activities to offer, etc. Setting goals will help inform all your decisions moving forward and will hopefully make them all easier!
How to Create An Intentional Elopement Day
Now that you understand why being intentional is so important when it comes to your elopement, let’s talk about how you can actually bring that intentionality into the planning process!
Location has a massive impact on the atmosphere of your elopement and how your day flows, so it’s super important that the location you choose reflects your intentions! If your main goal is to have a party with all of your friends after your ceremony, don’t choose a tiny Airbnb that doesn’t have space – opt to rent a room at a restaurant or book a spacious cabin instead. If you want to be intentional about creating a quiet, peaceful atmosphere, maybe go for a ceremony on an underrated trail in the forest rather than a super popular viewpoint in a national park.
I’ll absolutely help you research and select a location that aligns with your goals, because trust me – I know how freaking hard it can be when there are SO many amazing options! It can also be really helpful to go location-scouting ahead of time (which I’ll do, as well) – see if you can plan a trip to the general area where you want to elope, and then explore different spots to find the perfect one for your ceremony/portraits/etc.. That way you know exactly what to expect and where to go when your elopement day arrives!
For more in-depth tips on where you should elope, check out my blog post about How to Choose the Right Elopement Location For You!
It’s alllll in the details, my friends. Your elopement day is about your love story, and it’s the little things that often speak the loudest – so be intentional about each and every one of them! Detail photos might seem like an afterthought in the whirlwind of planning, but they’re the secret sauce that really adds depth and emotion to your wedding story. That doesn’t mean you have to have the most exquisite, intricate elopement ever; you can have a super simple elopement and still put a lot of thought into the little details that make up your day!
Now when I say “details,” I mean things like:
- The lace on your wedding dress
- The wildflowers you wanted in your bouquet
- The meal you eat that comes from your home culture
- The vintage ring you’re wearing from your grandma
- The family quilt for your mountaintop picnic
- The shoes you wore on your first date together
Details can also include elements such as the wedding stationery you design or hire somebody to create for you, the veil you pick out that you absolutely adored from the moment you put it on, or the table settings that match the color palette you went with. You could even bring along meaningful items from your time together to include in your detail photos such as old Polaroids, movie tickets, or letters you wrote to each other!
Above all else, choose details that symbolize the milestones, values, and promises that have brought you to this day. Including details that hold sentimental value can be a great way to honor loved ones who may not physically be present on your elopement day, and are a beautiful tribute that adds yet another layer of significance to your celebration.
When it comes to your elopement ceremony, you may have a vision of a simple ceremony, where you simply recite the traditional vows, exchange rings, and voíla – you’re married! And while this is absolutely a great option if it feels right to you, I’d encourage you to open your mind up to other opportunities to add more significance & unique meaning for the two of you. The significance of crafting personalized vows and rituals can’t be understated, as it helps make your ceremony completely your own, completely one-of-a-kind.
As far as vows go, saying the traditional vows may not feel right for the two of you if you have a lot more you want to share – so you can opt to write your own vows instead! Alternatively, if you’d prefer to keep your personal vows private and don’t want to say them in front of guests, you can have a private vow exchange before or after your official ceremony. I’ve seen a lot of couples say their private vows the next day at their bonus adventure session, or exchange them right after their first look on their elopement day. It’s totally up to you!
One more tip for your vows: write them by hand. You can type them on your phone or write them down before your elopement, and then write them down in your vow books by hand the morning of your elopement. Reading vows from your phone can sometimes look and feel kinda odd and can interrupt your presence in the moment, and plus – photos of you writing your vows will be beautiful to have!
Here are some other ideas for a unique & meaningful elopement ceremony:
- Lighting a unity candle
- Incorporating your pet(s)
- Exchanging love letters
- Reading letters written to you by your loved ones
- Incorporating cultural traditions or rituals
Next up is including activities in your elopement day! Incorporating meaningful activities into your timeline is an amazing opportunity to infuse your elopement with your own unique personalities & interests. Whether it’s your shared love for a particular book, a hobby you love doing together on the weekends, or an epic shared adventure you’ve been dreaming of doing, these kinds of details will really reflect your individuality as a couple.
Think about all your favorite things to do together: what’s your go-to weekend activity? Your favorite thing to do during a Friday night in? What activities & hobbies have been present throughout your relationship? Maybe you decide to go to the beach together on your elopement day, or your favorite local coffee shop. Maybe you make waffles together in the morning, you go paddleboarding on the lake with your friends after your ceremony, or maybe you do that 4x4 tour you’ve always wanted to do. There’s no right or wrong way to incorporate activities into your elopement, so have fun with it!
Want a huge list of fun options to get your ideas flowing? Here are 100 Unique Elopement Ideas + Activities for an Epic Celebration!
Putting together your guest list can often be one of the more difficult parts of the process, especially if you want to keep your group small without hurting any feelings. So I want to remind you that your wedding day is about YOU and YOUR relationship, not anybody else! Don’t let anyone else pressure you into inviting them if it doesn’t align with your vision for your day, or to pressure you to do anything you don’t want to do (e.g. following certain traditions).
Obviously this is a discussion you’ll have to have more in-depth together, but here are a few quick general pros & cons of having guests at your elopement:
- You get to celebrate with the people you love most
- You get to be in one place with friends and family from all over
- You have the support of people who care from you
- You might feel pressure to invite certain people who you don’t really want there
- You might feel external stress/expectations from guests
- You have to think about travel, transportation, & accommodations for everyone
- You have more mouths to feed (a.k.a. Higher food and drink costs)
While you can absolutely elope just the two of you if that feels right, there are also definitely ways you can incorporate your loved ones into parts of your celebration if you don’t want them to miss out! Here are a few ways you could do this:
Option 1: Get ready just the two of you, then have your guests join you for your ceremony
Option 2: Have a private vow ceremony just the two of you in the morning, and a larger ceremony with loved ones at night
Option 3: Have a two-day elopement so you can spend one day adventuring with each other & do everything you want to do, and then spend another day with your loved ones (I offer multi-day elopement packages specifically for this!).
Whether you choose to elope in private, with guests, or a mix of both, remember that this is your day to be selfish, and if there are any hurt feelings along the way, hopefully your loved ones can respect whatever decisions you make!
This can be a harder subject to discuss, so if you’re looking for more advice, I recommend reading my blog on How to Include Your Loved Ones on Your Elopement Day!
Another major part of your elopement that you’ll want to be intentional about is your timeline. The schedule you create will have a big impact on the flow of your day, and the vibe as well – if you’re trying to cram too much in, you might feel rushed and get stressed if anything runs behind schedule. Keep your photography coverage in mind, too, so that you’re not packing your day full of activities from morning to night if your coverage doesn’t allow for it!
Build your day around not rushing, and being able to soak everything in – the last thing you want to be worrying about is the time, especially because things don’t always go to plan. Slow down, and trust your photographer when they tell you how much time is needed for each event of the day! And don’t worry, I’ll absolutely help you create your timeline, as well as give you a checklist to help you stay organized.
Making backup plans is a huge part of making sure your timeline has room to adapt & be flexible – so be sure to read my guide on Why You Need to Have Backup Plans for Your Elopement!
Hiring the right vendors is JUST as important as inviting the right guests! You want to make sure that you select vendors that align with your elopement vision, your values, your priorities, and your budget, obviously. Hiring somebody just because they’re the “cheapest” usually doesn’t go over well; you might run into issues if they’re inexperienced, or if they can’t quite deliver what you’re looking for. It’s crucial that you hire vendors that you can effectively communicate with and that you can trust to help bring your vision to life – and make it even better!
It’s time to ditch that Pinterest board, my friend! I know we all loved dreaming up our future weddings when we were younger and following the super aesthetic wedding trends, but honestly, your wedding day is NOT about the photos. I know, I’m a photographer – but I truly believe that if you plan your day around what you want the photos to look like, it really takes you out of the moment and doesn’t allow you to be as present.
Make sure to hire a photographer who has a more documentary-style approach (a.k.a. me!); who will lightly direct you, but still allow you to be completely yourselves. The most important thing is that your photos feel like YOU, and that your gallery isn’t just filled with cookie-cutter poses or inauthentic moments.
It’s just realistic to expect the unexpected when it comes to elopements, whether that be bad weather, closed roads, or traffic delays – something’s bound to go wrong. But if you get in the right mindset beforehand and prepare to be flexible, adapt as needed, and find beauty in the spontaneity, then you’ll be golden & ready to handle whatever comes your way.
Don’t let unexpected rain, wind, or fog derail your special day – here are all my tips on How to Handle Bad Weather On Your Wedding Day.
Finally, once the day itself is over, I really recommend taking time to reflect on how it went. You’ve just taken a huge step in your relationship and successfully pulled off your dream day, so bask in those feelings together & be proud of yourselves! Whether you go on a honeymoon right away or you’re heading straight back to your normal lives, try and make the most of that post-elopement bliss and enjoy the special time together.
Once you have your photos back, print those babies! Your photos are meant to be held; to be physical items you can admire in your home, not just a gallery you scroll through on your phone. I always recommend commemorating the day with an heirloom album to keep the memories alive, and to have a stunning book to keep on your coffee table, your bedside, wherever it may be! You can pass your wedding photos down through generations in the way they were meant to be seen.
My Best Advice for Eloping Intentionally
Before you go, I wanted to give you one last piece of advice for creating a meaningful, intentional elopement day: throw all your preconceived ideas out the window.
Chances are, you have some sort of set idea or visual of what you think a wedding day “should” look like – and that’s a surefire way to create a day that doesn’t align with your unique relationship. Ditch the traditions if they don’t mean anything to you, and keep the ones that do. Don’t be afraid to say no; to guests, to ideas, to expectations. Infuse every freaking part of your day with your personalities, hobbies, and interests. Allow yourselves to be fully, completely present every moment of the day.
And a good rule of thumb to go by: think about what you & your partner’s best day ever would look like, and make it freaking happen!
I hope you feel ready to plan a day that feels so right to you, and that you feel encouraged to think outside of the box & go against the norm. I’d absolutely LOVE to help you dream up what that day looks like, and to capture it when it arrives – when you’re ready to hire a photographer to be there with you on your adventure, get in touch here!
PIN FOR LATER
In order to make your dream elopement day happen, it's super important that we connect and that you feel comfortable with me! The best way to do this is to reach out and schedule a call so you can learn more about me and I can learn about you two so i can document what's real + the most important to you.