July 22, 2020

How to Elope: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

WASHINGTON, OREGON AND DESTINATION ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER

How to Elope: The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide

Post Summary: Thinking about having an elopement?! Congrats! I truly believe that elopements are the BEST way to get married! So much so that I eloped myself! I know the idea of planning an elopement can feel daunting though. Like where do you even start?! Don’t worry, I’ve got you! I’ve created the ultimate step-by-step guide on how to elope so that you guys can create the most epic wedding day experience of your dreams!! Keep reading to find out how.


Congratu-frickin-lations! You’re engaged. And what’s more? You decided to elope?! That’s so great. 

Elopements are all about making a choice and owning it. They’re empowering and meaningful. They are real life magic. I’m so happy for you. Seriously, stop doing such amazing things and being so beautiful. It’s going to make me tear up. 

Mostly, I just want to affirm your choice. For some people elopements can be a hard decision. There are lots of myths about eloping and you may not be able to please everyone with your choice. But you’re doing this for you. You’re doing it so you can live your love out loud. You’re awesome. Don’t ever forget that.

So, how are you going to do it? Want to say “I do” while skydiving or bungee jumping? Or do you just want to head to the courthouse and keep it simple? You have options. In fact, you have a whole world of options and it might be feeling a little overwhelming. How to elope, oh my…

This blog is designed to help you figure out how to elope and how — of all the ways and places — to get married your way on your day. Read on for 10 ways to do this eloping thang!

Step 1. Dream and Scheme

Get ready, you’re about to do a deep dive on eloping. But before you get lost on Pinterest, stop for a moment and ask yourself something very important. What’s your vision for your day?

Close your eyes and picture it. Write it down. Talk it out. Do you see yourself standing on the edge of the Canyonlands? Do you picture something closer to home? Do you want to go somewhere you’ve never been? 

Give yourself some time to let your imagination paint its own picture before you start letting other elopements influence you. This is supposed to be all about you and your love so give yourself the space to dream. Then…

It’s time to find some inspiration. Hit up Instagram like it was your job. Search all those keywords and find those stirring photographers out there. Hit the travel books and look through some guides. If you’re thinking about going abroad there are lots of considerations. 

And (you probably beat me to it already) start that Pinterest board. If you’re the paper and glue type you could even make your own vision board by searching magazines. 

Warning, this can be a rabbit hole so make sure you know when it’s time to take a break from the research. We don’t want you getting swallowed by the internet before your big day!

Step 2. Determine Your Budget

Even though elopements are significantly cheaper than weddings, you still have to think about the cost of every little thing. I mean, unless you don’t, then that’s great for you — go crazy! But for most of us that budget is going to be a big determiner. 

Here are the main things to budget for: 

  • Travel / Accommodations
  • Attire
  • Rings
  • License
  • Photography / Videography
  • Officiant
  • Florals / Decor
  • Food
  • Permits / Fees

It’s your dang day so you can make it as extravagant or simple as you’d like. My recommendation is to get an excel doc going (there are free ones online). It’s easy to estimate but once you get specific with numbers you really start to see what you can or cannot afford. 

And remember, you’re saving sooo much money by not having a big traditional wedding. $33,900 was that average wedding cost in 2019! Good for you, you’re already starting off your marriage by being financially savvy. But don’t forget that the photos are all you’re going to have to remember your day when it’s all over. The largest part of your budget should go to a professional (and hopefully awesome) photographer. 

Step 3. Decide Where to Elope!

This is my favorite part about eloping. The whole world is open to you. Where, oh where, will you decide to go to say “I do”?

First off, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the entire planet, an experienced photographer (AKA meeee, lol!) can act as your human elopement database. They can give you the nitty gritty and help you weigh the pros and cons of where you’re considering. 

This is another place where you can get lost in a rabbit hole so I recommend closing your eyes again and picturing the scenery you hope to be surrounded in when you get married. Are you on the ocean? In an ice cave? The jungle? The beach? A mountaintop? Or a wide open field?

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? Your elopement could easily turn into an elope-cation. Maybe you’re the beaches of Bali type? Perhaps the desert dunes of Morocco? Maybe you prefer the tranquility of Iceland? Or the mountains of Colorado? Ask yourself all these questions.

Then ask yourself what season you love most? What kind of activities do you want to do? Are you wanting to hike to get back into the wilderness? Do you want to knock somewhere off your bucket list? Maybe you could plan the whole thing around your dream honeymoon.

Wherever you decide to go, decide with a good amount of time ahead of you so you can get those deals on airfare and accommodation. 

Step 4. Lock Down the Date!

You could plan out as early as you want, but I definitely don’t recommend procrastinating. I planned mine out in 4 weeks (how crazy is that?!)… So it’s possible, but not recommended. Most couples plan 4-12 months out. And remember, a great elopement photographer can help with all of these plans. They’ve got the know-how and the experience to help you. They’re like travel guides with fancy cameras!

When you’re planning on a date, consider things like weather, budget, season and so on. 

Also —  this is a hot tip —  plan to elope on a weekday. You don’t want to be fighting off tourists for your special spot. 

Step 5. Choose Your Vendors

One of the best things you can do to help plan your elopement is to book your photographer well in advance. Make them the first thing you decide on. An elopement photographer is your best resource for vendors, travel info and all wedding planning. In fact, all couples who book me have access to a comprehensive list of all the reliable vendors I recommend. They’re all the most passionate, talented and experienced elopement vendors in the biz. 

For all of your plans, think ahead. For hair and makeup, are you hiring someone or doing it yourself. With flowers are you picking them up? Near or far? Are you making arrangements yourself? 

Get the vendors on lock before you get too far and it will help all the other pieces fall into place.

Step 6. Make That Guest List (if any!)

Who do you want to be there on the most important and intimate day of your life? 

Lots of couples choose elopement because they value that intimacy, so just the two of you is A-OK! 

Or maybe you want to have that special ceremony with you two and then have a par-tay with friends and family after.

Do you want a few select friends and family members to be present at the ceremony? I would limit the guest list to up to 25 people, but it’s your day and you decide who is there.

I can’t stress enough that IT’S YOUR DAY. Do not compromise! So build that guest list based on your hopes and dreams for your elopement.

Step 7. What to Wear?

This is one of the smallest but BIGGEST details of the whole elopement. Oh, what to wear?

You need to plan for your location (those heels might not work so well on a hike), the weather, the season annnnd the photos. 

You also need to think about timing. Some bridal shops need 6-12 months for custom fittings and designs, while there are places to shop for beautiful dresses online, BHLDN for example. 

If you’re flying, you may want to think about fabrics that don’t wrinkle (although, if you ask nicely a flight attendant may hang up your clothes for you). 

Think about your adventure. Do you need a pair of hiking boots? Will you need layers for the cold? WIll you need to unlayer for the heat? 

Clothes can make or break the day. Dress wisely.

bride and groom reach for each other while standing on a cliffside in Waimea Canyon in Kauai, Hawaii

Step 8. Paperwork, Legalities and Logistics 

Passports? Check. Driver’s license? Check. Marriage license? Che— uh, where’d I put that?

There are a lot of “I”s to dot and “T”s to cross before you just go and get eloped, but don’t let that stop you from dreaming up your day however you want.

One of the biggest things people think makes a wedding official is that marriage license. While it’s great to have and get signed on your day, it’s not the end of the world, or the beginning of your lifelong love, if you don’t have one. Every state and country has their own marriage laws. Look them up and plan accordingly. Some places make you wait between when you get married and when you get your license. But my advice is to not sweat the small stuff like this when it comes to paperwork. You get married when you say “I do,” the rest is just a piece of paper. 

But you still want to think about other logistics. Do you want or need an officiant? Do you even need one? Some places let you self-solemnize.

Do make sure that there are no legal issues with the important docs like birth certificates, passports, etc. 

And finally, check to see if you need a permit for the location you are deciding to get married in. Some places require a permit, some don’t. Your trusted and seasoned wedding photographer should be able to help walk you through all the fine deets. 

Step 9. Make Travel Arrangements

All your pre-planning is done! Now it’s time to make it official and buy those tickets and hotels. 

Before you spend a bunch of money, get yourself a credit card that gives you bonus points. You’re spending all this money, might as well make a little back (especially if it means you can take more trips!). Do some research or call your bank. There are so many credit cards, just make sure you pick the right one for you. 

Hot tips: 

  • Purchase everything on Expedia for bigger discounts and more points 
  • Book lodging first, then transportation
  • Travelling in the higher seasons come with a higher cost
  • Travelling in lowers seasons get you a lower price
  • Try and aim for what’s called the shoulder seasons (right in between the high and low seasons)
  • Book fun activities (kayaking, horseback riding, boat tours, etc.) along with your other bookings and save money

Step 10. Have the Best Dang Elopement Day Ever!

Here’s the easiest part of the whole thing, elope and have an epic time like you’re just two crazy kids in love!

All of your planning and research paid off and now you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor and love. 

And that’s how to elope…

So, go forth and elope!
And remember, if you have any questions or need any help deciding between so many dreamy options, I’m your gal. I’m here for any and all your elopement planning needs.


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COMMENTS

Such an awesome guide! And so many beautiful photos from amazing places – I love the PNW!

What a thorough guide to planning an elopement! This is such a great resource for all couples considering a smaller wedding – your couples are so lucky to have you as their photographer.

The perfect guide to help those who are planning to elope, especially in Oregon! I love how you show a captivating image with each step!

This is such a helpful post for couples! Bookmarking it!

I LOVE everything about this!! Thanks for sharing it!! Hope you’ll have so much fun with the many couples that will be eloping and making their day unique and awesome! Cheers!!

This is such a helpful guide. You literally break down everything someone planning an elopement would need to know!

THis elopement guide is sooo helpful! thank you. I love the images that go along with it too. beautiful!

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