You’ve decided going the untraditional route for you and your partner is the best option – but now you have no clue where to start. Trust me, I get it -planning a wedding can be difficult, but at least most people have a general idea of what a wedding day looks like – elopements are a whole different world. This is why I created the ultimate guide to planning your dream elopement just for you.
There are so many different ways to elope – but I think the two most common ones people think of are: running off to a courthouse or Vegas without telling anyone or hiking 5+ miles to have the most epic adventure on your wedding day. While both are incredibly fun, before we start, I just want to remind you that you can elope wherever and however you want. That’s the best part about elopements. They have no rules.
Below, I’ll break down my top tips on how to plan your dream elopement, anywhere you can dream of. From picking your location to making sure all the legal things are taken care of.
Eloping is an incredibly intentional decision. You’re most likely deciding that only a few friends and family are coming, you’re getting rid of most of the normal traditions that come with a traditional wedding, and you’re likely traveling somewhere to do it. Are you doing this because you want the day to truly be about you two? Maybe you’re doing it to elevate the stress that can come with planning a big wedding. Whatever your reason – don’t lose sight of that during the planning process – remember this day is about you two, and nobody else.
I’m a firm believer in finding an elopement photographer that you get along with well (hi friends, that’s me!) first. Not just because they book far out in advance most of the time, but because we will be your best resource for planning your wedding day.
Additionally, Most elopement photographers, myself included, help you with all of the major planning. Chances are, you’ve never been to the location where you’re planning to elope at, and if you have, you’ve definitely never planned a wedding there. Heck, maybe you have no clue where you want to say I do it, that is where we step in.
Picking your location, finding vendors, helping with accommodations, planning out the timeline (if you want to have one) for the big day, and so much more are all things that I help out with. My goal for you on your day is for you to have the best day ever, truly. Your day deserves to be exactly how you want it to be. You should be able to just enjoy your day with your partner with no stress attached to it.
If you’re on the hunt for an elopement photographer, I would absolutely LOVE to hear your vision for your day and would love more than anything to capture it for you. Reach out here.
This is likely the part of your day that you’ve been looking forward to or dreaming about, the WHERE. It can likely get slightly overwhelming trying to decide where to say I do, especially since there are so many amazing places where you can elope. This is why I always ask my couples to answer three questions to help guide them in this decision.
Picking what time of year you want to say I do is going to help you narrow down what location is the best. Do you want to say I do in January/February – but don’t want to deal with cold weather + snow? That excludes places like Montana, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Yosemite, etc. Heck, some locations in those areas are actually inaccessible during this time of the year (something your photographer should know and be able to help you determine). Maybe you’re dreaming of a wedding in July/August but don’t want to be sweaty on your wedding day. Then you should certainly stray away from areas like Joshua Tree, Arizona, New Orleans, and Florida. This is why this is usually the first question I ask my couples who have no clue where they want to elope – as it directly impacts your location for your dream elopement.
The answer to this question will help you determine where you can say I do as well. If you only want to have 5 or so people with you, your options are pretty endless. However, if you’re thinking about having your 10-15 closest friends and family with you – we have to keep that in mind when picking a location to make sure there’s room for enough people. Some locations will even require a higher-level permit for more people. Alternatively, you could always say I do with just the two of you – and have an after-party back at an intimate venue or AirBnB to be able to include everyone!
Maybe one of my favorite landscape options is the desert. Rather it’s the muted colors and funky trees in Joshua Tree, California, the vast openness in Death Valley, or the red rocks in Utah – the desert has a lot to offer. A perfect option if you’re wanting to elope in the fall/spring or even winter, as the weather will be comfortable during those times of the year.
The best states for desert elopements are Utah, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and even Oregon.
The number of options that come along with coastal elopements is incredibly exciting and different. Maybe you like rocky coastlines? What about pine trees AND the ocean? Maybe you’re feeling more minimal and love beach grass? Or heck, you just love the beach in general. Coastal elopements can be great any time of year depending on where you choose.
The best states for coastal elopements are Washington, Oregon, California, Maine, North Carolina, and Florida.
Likely the most common place people think of when thinking of an elopement. The mountains are magical, no doubt. You can get alpine lakes or amazing outlooks. You could have a cozy day in a cabin or hike your favorite trail. Or say I do at an amazing overlook that requires no hike. Mountain elopements are great at all times of the year.
The best states for mountain elopements are Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Colorado, Tennessee, and upstate New York.
A landscape that can sometimes go hand in hand with both mountain or coastal elopements. Maybe you want a rainforest-y Twilight vibe or want to be surrounded by massive trees when you say I do. A forest elopement can be done in many different ways. This is also another location that can be great all times of the year depending on what forest are you choose.
The best states for desert elopements are Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Tennessee, and Montana.
An option that I feel gets forgotten or overlooked when it comes to eloping is a city elopement. While yes, you may think of running down to the courthouse and saying I do – but let’s make it fun. Do you have a favorite restaurant or coffee shop, let’s go there!
The best cities to elope in are, New York City, New Orleans, San Fransisco, Nashville, or even your own city!
A great option for those of you who want to have a few more guests than most, but still want that intimate feel. Maybe you want to set something up in your grandparents’ amazing backyard? Maybe you want to have all of your closest friends and family camp with you. There are amazing glamping campgrounds all over the country – if this is something you want to do – name your state and we’ll find something fun. The last option here is to rent an epic Airbnb somewhere and have your elopement there – just be sure to check in with your hosts to see if it’s okay (TIP: some of my favorite AirBnB’s in the country are in Joshua Tree!).
Check out this campground elopement here.
While I totally understand that some people have specific dates that they want to get married on, if you can be flexible with your wedding date, it can assure you that you get all the vendors you want and likely at the best prices with fewer people at your location. This also goes hand-in-hand with picking what season you want to have your elopement in.
Weekdays and off-seasons in areas are usually the best time to plan so be sure to ask your elopement photographer when those dates are in the locations you’re thinking of.
When I say you get to do your elopement however the heck you want. I mean it. How you spend your day is completely up to you. Do you want to wake up together, go to the local coffee shop, get ready together, and explore for the day? Let’s do it. Do you want to spend the day exploring the coast? Heck yes. Maybe you want to run around NYC and go to your favorite museums in your wedding attire, sounds like a DREAM! Want to rent a limo and go to your favorite ice cream shop – on it.
My point is, you can do whatever you want because there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do an elopement. Plan your dream day/date and let’s run with it.
Now, you may be thinking, what vendors do I need if I’m eloping? Well, this all comes down to what you’re wanting to do on your day! Some elopements can have only a few vendors and others can have loads. I’ve listed out some of the main ones for you here.
& videographer if that’s something you’re interested in!
Depending on the state – you may not need one of these, ask your photographer!.
This isn’t a necessity for everyone – but if you’re anything like me, I can’t be trusted to do my own hair and makeup on my wedding day!
You may or may not want a florist, completely up to you. Though, keep in mind, if getting married in a National Park – there are restrictions about live flowers being brought it.
I’m not putting a specific vendor here, because this is dependent on your day1 Maybe you want a gorgeous arch behind you and your partner wants an intimate picnic together somewhere. Maybe you want to have dinner with your family at your Airbnb. The remaining vendors are fully dependent on how your day is going to play out.
Now, while this isn’t technically a vendor I treat it the same way! Picking out where you’re going to stay is super important as it can make or break the whole day! It’s something that you should probably book the second you’ve chosen your location to be able to get the exact spot you want.
One of my favorite parts of the planning process is what you two are going to wear! Running with the theme of elopements being there are no rules – that fully applies here. You can wear whatever the heck you want!
Thinking about a black wedding dress? Maybe a short one? Heck, maybe you want a white suit?
Maybe you want a fancy tux? How about something more casual? Maybe you’re thinking velvet?
Whatever. The. Heck. You. Want.
You can check out a list of my favorite modern wedding dresses here if you need some inspiration.
Probably the most boring part of wedding planning – but one of the most important! Just like a traditional wedding, you need a marriage license to make things official! Laws are different in every state and county – so be sure to know what is required prior to your elopement! Though, if that stresses you out – you can always do all the legal things in your local county prior to or post your wedding date!
Keep in mind, while my list is full of gorgeous National Parks, none of them require hikes to have a gorgeous location – you can elope just about anywhere.
I’m so excited that you’ve decided to make your wedding day fully about you two. That’s a big deal and something that deserves to be celebrated.
Regardless of if you need help planning the whole day, or are just looking for an elopement photographer, I would love to chat here.