Thinking about opting for an elopement instead of a traditional ceremony? Our handy guide includes everything you need to know to start planning!
Couples have been eloping for centuries — whether to assert their independence, circumvent societal pressures, save money, or just to keep their wedding as intimate as possible. When the pandemic hit and wedding plans had to be adjusted for safety measures, even more couples opted to forgo a traditional wedding and elope.
If you’re thinking of planning your own elopement, you might be wondering how to get started and what you’ll actually need to do to make sure everything goes off without a hitch (no pun intended). We’ve put together a simple guide to make eloping easy, enjoyable, and totally memorable — so you can celebrate without any stress. From the budget to the announcements, and everything in between, we’ve got you covered.
Even though eloping can be a big money-saver, it’s a good idea to come up with a budget and do your best to stick to it as you start planning. This will help you determine all the other components of your wedding, including the destination, vendors, and any additional details you might be considering. While a traditional wedding is usually paid for by the bride’s parents, an elopement will likely be completely your responsibility as a couple, so set a budget that you’re truly comfortable with.
Once you know how much you’re willing to spend on your elopement, it’s time to choose where you’ll do it. If keeping things simple is your ultimate goal, there’s nothing wrong with going the courthouse route and saving your funds for an epic honeymoon or post-elopement celebration.
Prefer to get out of town and elope somewhere far from home? Colorado, California, Washington state, Montana, and Oregon are some of the easier states to get it done — National Park ceremony, anyone? That said, for the best photo opportunities, consider tropical locales like Hawaii or Fiji; or go for the views from Santorini, Iceland, or Sedona.
Once you’ve chosen your general location, think about whether you want to hold your elopement ceremony in a venue — such as a vineyard or historic estate — or if you’d prefer to choose your own special spot to exchange vows. Many venues offer elopement packages, so be sure to ask if you do decide to go that route.
Depending on where you choose to get married, there may be laws or restrictions around marriage licenses, wait times, and legally binding ceremonies. For instance, some countries only allow foreigners to hold a non-binding ceremony — meaning you’d have to obtain and complete your official marriage license once you return home. Make sure you leave enough time between this step and your elopement so you can do all your research and gather the appropriate documents before you travel.
You’ll also need to check on any witness requirements and book an officiant (if you’ve chosen a venue with an elopement package, they may have an officiant already). Again, this component may depend on exactly where you choose to elope — the easiest way to find out is to do a quick search online!
Now that you’ve gotten all the bureaucracy out of the way, it’s time to get down to the details. That means picking out your attire, choosing rings, and booking any additional vendors, like hair and makeup, caterers or restaurants, photographers, and florists. When it comes to the clothes, let your location and venue dictate the style you land on. For a courthouse wedding, we recommend keeping it simple but classic (think mid- or tea-length dress, jumpsuit, or pantsuit); on the flip side, a beach ceremony is a great spot for a breezy maxi dress with bare feet. Regardless of what you choose, the most important thing is that it feels like you.
Every step we’ve covered so far comes before you actually elope and get married, but this step comes after your elopement. Even if you’ve told people about your plans beforehand, sending formal announcements is always a nice way to let everyone important to you know you got married. You can keep your announcements simple with a photo and your elopement date, or you could use the opportunity to tell everyone your marriage story through the mail. Find a beautiful design that matches your style on Etsy!
If you’re planning on hosting a celebration sometime after your elopement, your announcements can also double as invitations. Vistaprint has hundreds of customizable templates, or you can upload your own for a totally personalized correspondence.
No right or wrong way to go about it.
Planning an elopement can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be — there truly is no right or wrong way to go about it. As long as you do your research, stick to your budget, and celebrate your love in a way that feels authentic to you, then you’re guaranteed to remember your wedding day forever. Looking for more ideas? You can find more elopement tips here!