What is an elopement?
When you think of an elopement, what is the first thing that comes to mind? A spur of the moment trip to Vegas? Or maybe a secret courthouse ceremony? If you’re thinking of either of those things, your image of an elopement needs an update.
Modern elopements are no longer just spontaneous weddings held in private. They also can include full-scale weddings that are small and involve just the couple, or the couple and a handful of their closest friends and family. With these elopements, gone are the big venues, the over the top decor, and the over the top prices. An elopement showcases you as a couple and your love.
Elopements focus more on the couple and the love they share than the festivities of traditional weddings. After all, that’s what marriage is all about, right? Eloping isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for some.
To elope or not to elope? Here are some reasons that you might want to jump on the elopement trend:
It is authentic to you
An elopement is all about you and what you want. You don’t need to worry about catering to what your mother, mother-in-law, or anyone else wants for your wedding. You get to have the day you’ve been dreaming of, exactly how you envisioned it.
It’s less stressful
Elopements have less guests, less vendors, and cost less overall. There isn’t as much planning and coordination involved, and because they are often secret or limited to your inner circle, there will be less drama.
It’s an introvert’s dream
An elopement can be just you and your fiance/ee. At most, it might involve a few other guests and vendors, but that’s about it. If you are an introvert or just have a fear of large crowds, you don’t need to worry about reading your vows in front of a ton of people, having to make sure you talk to and thank everyone, or having everyone’s eyes on you all day.
It’s easier to plan
If it’s just the two of you at the ceremony, you can keep everything to a minimum. You’ll just need to pick a venue, hire a photographer and officiant, and bring your own dessert and champagne, and you’ll be all set. Even if you do invite a few family members and friends, you still won’t need as many vendors as you would for a full-scale wedding.
It will save you money
Because you’re not worried about having seating and room for tons of guests, an elopement venue is usually a beautiful outdoor location. The National Parks charge a permit fee around $100, and some outdoor places don’t charge at all. You’ll save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars by eloping rather than having a traditional wedding, just on the venue alone.
You can spend the money you would have spent on invitations, wedding favors, decorations, and catering on a lavish dinner for two, a luxury hotel, or your honeymoon. (your elopement can even double as your honeymoon if you make it a destination elopement!).
It will allow you to get amazing photographs
Elopements are intimate events that allow photographers to capture all of the little moments between you and your love. You’ll receive photographs of just you in a beautiful location that tell an authentic story of your romance.
How to Elope
Your elopement location could either be a place you’ve always wanted to visit, your favorite destination, or a place where you are already planning to travel to for your honeymoon.
Your elopement could have an adventurous, classic, beach, forest, mountain, or destination vibe.Look to wedding Instagram and Pinterest accounts like The Knot and Green Wedding Shoes for style inspiration.
The basic list of vendors you’ll need are a photographer, officiant, possibly a planner, hair and makeup artist, and maybe a musician for an added touch. Check out the vendor directories on websites like The Knot, A Practical Wedding, and Zola.
Although elopements are a lot easier to coordinate, you do still need some kind of plan for the day. Come up with a shot list to make sure your photographer captures all of the moments that matter. Decide whether you want a sunrise or sunset photoshoot, if you want a first look, and where you want to get some amazing couple’s photos. Plan out what the day will involve (besides the actual ceremony, of course). Do you want a fancy brunch or dinner, a campout under the stars to celebrate, or any extra activities for fun?
Your day should be completely dedicated to celebrating your marriage and making it the best day of your life, so plan your timeline around whatever your hearts desire!
Elopement outfits can be a lot more casual and comfortable than traditional wedding attire, but you probably still want to dress up a bit for your photos. Choose outfits based on the venue and surrounding destination. Check the weather patterns for the day and time in the area to help make your decision If you’ll be hiking find a dress or suit and shoes that you can hike in, or bring a second outfit.
The vows are the best part of the ceremony, so make them count! They can be intimate and uncensored, because only a select few people will be there to hear them.
Some states require you have an officiant and at least 2 additional witnesses to sign the marriage license. The photographer can act as one witness, and the other could be a park ranger, or anyone who owns the space where you are hosting the ceremony.
To make it official, you’ll need to pick up your license from the county clerk’s office as soon as you arrive at your location. Bring identification that proves your identity and your age. Some states allow you to use your license immediately, others have a day or two waiting period, so plan accordingly.
Do the thing! And then celebrate with your libations of choice, good food, and dancing (or however you like to party).
Announce your elopement via printed announcement, e-mail, or social media.
Consider having a laid-back dinner or party to allow family and friends to celebrate your marriage.
Each state has different requirements, but since a lot of my elopements take place in Utah below are the requirements for obtaining a marriage license:
An officant is required and an officiant can be one of the following:
Any ordained minister who is at least 18 years of age, Native American spiritual advisors, the Governor, Mayors, Justices of the Peace, Judges or Commissioners, County Clerks, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, retired Judges or Magistrates, U.S. Judges or Magistrates may perform weddings.