HOW TO ELOPE IN 10 EASY STEPS – PLANNING GUIDE (UPDATED FOR 2023)

You’re finally engaged and ready to tie the knot! Now What? I’m sure you’re here because a traditional wedding day didn’t match your wedding vision and you’d rather experience a wedding that is intentional and true to your relationship. You’ve learned about the amazing idea of eloping and how stress free & magical choosing to elope truly is. But you have no idea on how to elope.

An elopement definition use to be considered running off to the courthouse or Las Vegas and getting married quick and easy before telling anyone. Elopements are more than signing a paper in secret. Here at Escape and Adventure, we define elopements as another way to say I do and experience a wedding day that is a true reflection of who you are as a couple.

If you imagine your day full of adventure, activities that are true to you, love, happy tears, and crossing off your bucket list with non-stop adventure, then you’ve come to the right place!

Here are some helpful wedding planning tips to plan your ‘just us’ wedding experience.

1. SET A WEDDING DATE

The first step to planning your elopement is choosing your elopement date. Your date does not have to be set in stone but it is highly preferred when scheduling meetings with your wedding vendors.

Weather is a big factor to take into consideration when planning your wedding. Eloping in Arizona during the summer between May and August is not a good time because of how hot it can get during the day (up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit). But other states like Colorado, Washington, or Oregon are great places to elope during the summer.

Another tip when choosing your wedding day–will it be busy where you want to get married? Are you going to be in a high traffic / tourist location? Eloping in Sedona for example, the busy tourist season is around April – October. If you’re wanting a more intimate wedding with no by passers interrupting your vow exchange or portraits, ask your photographer / planner when they suggest a good time eloping would be.

Once you have your wedding date officially reserved on the calendar, then you can start wedding planning!

2. HIRE AN ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER & VIDEOGRAPHER

Hiring a photographer and videographer is the first thing we at Escape and Adventure recommend crossing off on your wedding planning checklist. You’ve probably never planned an elopement before and are experiencing mixed nerves of stress and excitement. Having an elopement team of professionals that have done this many times will work with you closely when planning your dream elopement day.

We’ll help you find the best elopement ceremony and portrait locations that match your wedding vision, or even design a day that you never imagined was possible. Recommend local wedding vendors and fun activities that will help enhance your elopement experience. Create a detailed timeline that includes all the things you’ve planned. And capture your elopement day that is a reflection of your experience, focused on your emotions and the detail surrounding you, and tells your story in a timeless and documentary way.

Think of Escape and Adventure as your professional third wheel. We’re here to tell your story and create an experience you never thought was possible. Hiring a photographer & videographer who helps guide you to the resources you need while planning your elopement will take all the stress off your shoulders and make your elopement planning process much easier.

In Addition to Hiring an Elopement Photographer & Videographer to Plan Your Wedding Day, You’ll Also Receive

  • 100+ Page Planning Guide
  • Customized Location Recommendations
  • Local Vendor Recommendations
  • Activity Ideas List
  • Personalized Elopement Planning
  • Optional Officiating Services
  • Permit Assistance
  • Unity Ceremony Ideas
  • Photographer Travel Anywhere in the USA

3. FIND YOUR ELOPEMENT CEREMONY LOCATION

If you could go anywhere in the world and do anything without limitations on your wedding day, what would that look like? Do you picture yourself standing on top on of a mountain? Walking across soft sand barefoot on the beach? Hiking in the redwood forest with only a lantern? Maybe even standing at the edge of a crystal clear lake watching the sunrise?

Sometimes the location you envision has multiple terrains you can adventure during your elopement day.

Deciding on where to elope will help influence your decision on when is the best time to elope. Consider the weather where you want to elope. Do you want warmer temperatures? Dream of a foggy and rainy wedding experience? Do you want it to snow? Or would you rather have a picnic in the spring foliage with purple and yellow flowers? Or throw red, orange, and yellow Fall colored leaves in the air?

Your dream elopement location also will factor in when you want to elope! Do you prefer the soft lighting during sunrise? Or bold golden hour and blue hour during sunset? Do you want to stargaze and take astrophotography / star elopement photos?

All of the above when choosing your elopement location are important and tie into the best time to elope. Remember, what’s most important to you and what your heart desires is the first thing you should choose when planning your elopement.

4. BOOK YOUR TRAVEL AND LODGING

After deciding on where to elope and setting your wedding date the next thing is to book your elopement travel and lodging!

Where you stay can be a big factor of how you experience your elopement day. Have you always wanted to stay in an A-Frame cabin? Experience the luxury of Amangiri? Or stay in a beach front house? While staying a hotel is convenient and more budget friendly, having the privacy and space to yourself in a higher end lodging option is a once in a lifetime experience. Why not experience your bucket list dream come true during your wedding day?!

Where you choose to stay is a part of your wedding memories and will have a big impact on the way your morning feels. If you’re planning to having your getting ready moments captured, hotels and lower costing lodging are not the best lighting or aesthetic wise.

Here Are a Few Things to Keep In Mind

  • Always look for a nice, clean, calm, and open space.
  • The more natural window light, the better.
  • The less busy and distracting the space and decor is, the better.
  • Consider the general aesthetics and decor—do they match the vibe you’re going for?
  • Is this location special and somewhere you’d want to include in your elopement memories?

When planning your travel itinerary, make sure you give yourself buffer space before your elopement to relax and get acclimated to any elevation gain or loss so you don’t get sick the day of your elopement. It is recommended to give yourself 1-3 days before any extensive activity.

If you’re choosing to fly to your destination, make sure you book your flight months in advance. The closer to your elopement date, the more likely it may not be available. Bringing your wedding attire on as a carry on and either asking a flight attendant to put your attire in a private closet or laying them across in the top luggage compartment is the best solution for wrinkles and stress.

5. INCLUDE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITY IDEAS

Because you’re choosing to elope you have the opportunity to experience endless choices for your wedding day. That means you can include unconventional wedding activities such as off-roading, experiencing sunset in a helicopter, or exploring slot canyons.

If some wedding traditions like a first dance or cake cutting are sentimental to you, you still can include them in your elopement timeline! Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you can’t do anything traditional. An elopement is an intimate and intentional wedding experience focused on your love story and celebrating your marriage the way you want while surrounded by nature. Which means you can do anything your heart desires.

Sit down with your partner and talk about some activities you like to do together. Forget about the wedding planning for a minute and think about what is special to your relationship and love language to each other. Do you enjoy hiking? Kayaking? Rock Climbing? Do you enjoy the peace of nature and quiet during a picnic? Why not include your favorite moments together during your elopement day?!

Remember, this is your wedding day, the beginning of a new chapter in your love story. By including your favorite elopement activities into your elopement, you’re not just creating a day to remember. You’re creating a story that reflects your authentic relationship and love for each other. Each moment creates a new memory of your life together, a day of moments you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Explore the endless possibilities, embrace the adventure, and celebrate your love in the most “authentically you” way possible.

Your elopement isn’t just a day; it’s an adventure that represents the story of your relationship.

6. PICK OUT VENDORS TO HELP CREATE YOUR DREAM WEDDING

The next step in how to elope is figuring out where you will need to outsource help from vendors. You have a photographer / videographer by your side as your non-traditional wedding planner but do you also need help getting ready and hire a hair & makeup artist? Or a florist to make the perfect bouquet for portraits? What about a private chef to cook a hot meal when you get back at the end of the night?

Our elopement packages are created with our couples in mind with go-to resources when planning an elopement. A 100+ page elopement planning guide is sent to your doorstep and email with endless information on vendor recommendations and fun activity ideas you could include in your wedding day!

Including the search to find the perfect vendors to enhance your wedding day vision in your ‘how to elope checklist’ will help create a stress free wedding planning experience.

7. CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE WEDDING ATTIRE

Your elopement attire isn’t just about the clothing, it’s an extension of your individuality and the love story you’re writing together. Want to break tradition and wear a black or hot pink wedding dress? DO IT! Not a fan of dresses and would rather rock a jumpsuit or a sharp suit and tie? GO FOR IT!

YOU CAN WEAR WHATEVER THE HECK YOU WANT!

When selecting your wedding attire — consider the location, weather, and activities planned for your elopement. Make sure you’re covering up if it’s colder weather conditions or not wear a lot of layers if you’re eloping in the Summer. If you’re scaling a mountain to say your vows, opt for something that allows easy movement while keeping you comfortable and stylish. Or consider wearing a bridal buddy!

Ultimately, this is your wedding day, a day to celebrate your love in a way that feels authentically you. So wear what makes you feel incredible and comfortable.

8. PLAN YOUR ELOPEMENT TIMELINE

This is the stage in your wedding planning checklist where everything you’ve been dreaming of for months is about to become a reality. You will not be doing this alone!

As your elopement photographer and planner, my mission is to craft a seamless elopement timeline that mirrors your unique adventure. This timeline is more than just schedules and locations; it’s a reflection of your day and the journey that awaits.

3 – 2 months before your elopement date we’ll hop on a video chat to talk about everything you have arranged. We’ll map out your travel from that cozy Airbnb to your breathtaking ceremony spot. We’ll account for all the activities you’ve meticulously planned, whether it’s a serene sunrise hike or a sunset champagne toast. Every moment of your day, every detail you’ve envisioned, will find its place in this timeline.

But more than that, it’s a wedding timeline filled with excitement, anticipation, and your love. It’s the story of your commitment to each other and the irriplaceable adventure that lies ahead.

9. MAKE IT LEGAL

If you’re eloping in the United States, before your elopement you need to pick up your wedding documents at the local courthouse. An appointment may be needed ahead of time so do your research on the rules and regulations and add that to your ‘how to elope – wedding planning checklist.’

In most states you will need an officiant to perform your wedding ceremony and sign your marriage license. Unlike Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin you don’t need an officiant and can perform your own marriage legally. Which means you can have your cat be your witness if you’d like!

If you’re planning to elope internationally, it is recommended to sign your marriage license in the USA before traveling out of country. This is because some countries may require a special marriage visa or not allow it at all. To avoid the stress and extra steps in wedding planning it is best to get legally married at the courthouse beforehand.

Your wedding day is the day you commit your love to each other forever, not the day you sign your marriage license.

You can choose to sign your marriage license before or after your elopement. The most important part of your wedding day is the love you share for each other. If you want to have your marriage recognized by law make sure to sign and turn in your marriage license!

10. CELEBRATE

Choosing to elope means you can either have a just us wedding experience or include a few guests to celebrate your adventurous wedding day with you. How you choose to celebrate is completely up to you. Some couples like to include their friends and family in a special activity they enjoy doing together—like off-roading or going out to a local brewery. Or if you’d rather have a ‘just us’ wedding experience with only your partner and your photographer you can do that too!

Just because you eloped doesn’t mean you can’t have a reception to celebrate! You can host a backyard BBQ and project your elopement gallery on a screen for your guests to enjoy during dinner or rent out a wedding venue to have another wedding ceremony and reception with your guests. Who says you can’t have two weddings?!

Another way to celebrate is getting married at your honeymoon location. Planning on having a honeymoon in Hawaii? Get married on one of the beautiful islands and then boat or fly on over to your honeymoon destination the day after you tie the knot.

Either you choose to have a “we eloped” party or not is up to you. What matters most is you are getting married and choosing your happiness and unconventional wedding experience over everything and anyone else.

YOUR ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER & PLANNER

Hey, I’m Kelcee!

I’ve photographed and planned over 100 elopements since 2020 and know all the elopement tips!

Choosing to elope means you have more options to create a wedding experience that is true to you! I’ll help you plan your best day ever, take away any stress you are experiencing, and support you as your new best friend.

Your elopement is the experience of a lifetime and you deserve not only the support for doing what you love but also the best quality photos that tell your love story that will last a lifetime.

ADVENTURE ELOPEMENT STORIES

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