How to plan an elopement

Elopement Tips


Elopements have become much more common in the recent years. But they aren’t quite considered the “traditional” way to go about your day. With that being said, you may be the first of your friends & family to consider breaking the rules, and celebrating in a more intimate way! If that is you, then you have come to the right place!

As an Elopement photographers, we work closely with our couples to help them plan the day, share our expertise and create an experience they won’t regret! Not only are we writing this to share our knowledge and assist you in planning your dream day. But we also want to shed some light on why this may be the best way to celebrate. Not only are we photographers. We are also here to help create the most authentic experience for the two of you. Always work closely with our couples to ensure we find the perfect location, create a timeline for the day, go over ways we can add meaning to the day, and assist with any questions along the way.

We are a firm believer in doing whatever is most true to you. Planning an elopement is the perfect way to do just that! Whether you’ve just discovered that a big traditional wedding really isn’t for you. Or you’ve known all your life. We’re here to walk you through my ultimate step by step guide to planning your dream elopement day!

Step one – chose a date & location

The best part about choosing to elope, is that you have the full freedom of choosing where and whenever you want! Although, we do recommend choosing a location that will have some type of significance to you. Whether that be somewhere familiar or somewhere you’ve always dreamed of going together. It will ultimately add to the experience and be more meaningful to you.

Your elopement location should not only have some significance to you, but also be a reflection of your personalities. If you’re not an avid hiker but you both spend all your time in the ocean. Maybe you would consider an easily accessible cliff top view overlooking the ocean, or a sandy beach beneath your toes. Or perhaps, the two of you spend every weekend away in the mountains. You may want to consider hiking into a secluded location deep in the wilderness.

Some other types of scenery that may have some significance to you, could be a forest, waterfall, beach, the desert, your own backyard and anywhere you could dream of! Take a step back, dive deep, and reflect on how the two of you love spending your time together. Choosing a location based off personal significance & your personalities, will ultimately help create a more authentic and unique experience for the two of you!

When deciding on a date, you may also want to consider privacy. If you’ve always dreamed of eloping in a more public place, such as a National Park or popular tourist spot. You may want to consider a weekday date! Or even perhaps a sunrise ceremony! By choosing either a weekday or a sunrise time slot. This will ensure you will beat the crowds and ultimately create a more intimate experience for the two of you.

some questions to ask yourself when choosing your date and location

  • where do you feel the most like yourselves?
  • when is your favourite time of the day? (ie. sunrise, golden hour, etc.)
  • where is somewhere that has significance to you? (first date location, favourite holiday, etc.)
  • where do you like to spend your time together?
  • who do you want to include at your elopement, and how accessible does the location need to be for them?

Step two: consider a guest list

You may be thinking eloping, means that its just the two of you. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Eloping is truly about creating an authentic experience that is personal, intimate and meaningful to you. If you’ve always dreamed of having your nearest and dearest by your side, then there are no rules telling you not too! Generally guest lists for elopements are under 20 guests.

Or perhaps you are seeking intimacy and adventure, and the thought of having guests by your side, doesn’t quite feel true to you. The great thing about eloping, is there, is no rules!

heres some ways to include friends and family without them being there…

  • take them with you shopping for your attire
  • ask them to write letters for you to open and read on the day
  • video call them the morning of, or right after your ceremony
  • incorporate “something borrowed” from a loved one
  • throw a reception or a post elopement party – this could be as causal or elaborate as you desire
  • send photos & a card in the mail, thanking them for supporting your decision & relationship

    for more ideas check out how to include family in your elopement day

Step three: make it legal

How you go about the legalities, will all depend on where you elope. And whether its in your home state, out of state or international!

There is really two ways of going about this though, the first way being, hiring a celebrant for the ceremony. They will ensure everything is done legally and legitimately on the day. If you do it this way, it also means you will need to have witness’s at the ceremony as well. This could be a great way to bring a long a handful of friends and family. Or if you prefer to keep it just the two of you. Side note, we are always happy to sign as witness’ too! So you could always ask your videographer, or photographer to sign for you!

While the alternative is, to do all the paper work and legalities at your local court house. And have your elopement day on a separate day, where you say you’re vows and celebrate your marriage. This is a common way to do it, if you are eloping overseas or out of state. As it can get start to get a bit tricky with international or other state legalities. You can either do your paperwork, before or after your elopement. This doesn’t mean your elopement day is any less special. It’s just a great alternative to relieve any stress from the day. While truly focusing on the two of you celebrating your love in an authentic way. Once you throw on your wedding attire, exchange vows and rings, thats when it will be the real deal. Paperwork aside.

Another legality to consider when eloping is, that you may need to acquire a permit depending on your elopement location. For reference, if you wish to elope in a National Park, you will need to acquire permits for the day. This is definitely something, we as photographers, am more than happy to assist with, if you chose to work with us!

For more information on how to legally elope, check out this blog post.

Step four: make a budget

Many people resort to having an elopement as a cost saving option, and it certainly can be! Or it can also be a great way to use a traditional wedding day budget to create a more meaningful experience. Instead of spending thousand’s of dollars on elements of a large wedding (ex. venue, catering, invitations, etc.) you could instead use that money to invest in a more meaningful experience for the two of you (ex. destination location, dream dress, favourite photographer, etc.) Your budget can really be anything that you want it to be! Sometimes elopements can even be more expensive than a larger wedding. It all just depends on what your priorities are and how deer your budget may be!

A few things to keep in mind when deciding on your budget, are the vendor experience, and what elements of your wedding you may be able to do yourself. Please not that vendors that charge less, often have less experience. Meaning the quality of the work may not be up to your desired standard. While on the contrary, you can also save some money if you are able to do some elements of your wedding yourself. Such as create your own bouquet out of wild flowers from the location where you are eloping. Or even do your own hair and makeup on the day! These are just somethings you may want to take this into consideration when deciding on your budget.

if you are looking to save a few dollars, you could…

  • a small guest list or no guests at all
  • a local location
  • ordering take away or having friends & family cook for your reception
  • renting your wedding attire

if you have a few dollars to work with, you could consider…

  • eloping internationally & having your honey moon there too
  • hiring all of your dream vendors
  • hiring a private chef to cook for you at your Airbnb
  • throwing a reception party

Step five: choosing your vendors

This goes hand and hand with your budget. So when making a budget, you may also want to create a list of vendors you will need for you day. You can definitely DIY some areas on your elopement day. But others, we would highly recommend hiring a vendors, such as a photographer and videographer. Hiring a photographer and videographer, are some of the best investments you can make on the day. They are the only elements that will live past the day. And allow you to relive the memories for years to come.

some other vendors you may want to consider hiring for your day…

  • celebrant
  • florist
  • stylist
  • planner
  • caterer or private chef
  • hair & makeup artists
  • venue or Airbnb

Step six: creating a timeline

Much like a traditional wedding, it’s also equally important to go into your elopement day with a plan. This will ensure the day runs smoothly, help your vendors stay on track, and overall create a stress free experience. Once you’ve planned your location and the type of experience you want to have on your elopement day. Now it’s time to assess, the elements you wish to incorporate on your day.

This could be, a first look, getting ready photos, any adventure elements (hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc), ceremony, family & couple portraits, celebratory toast, post elopement meal, and so on. You will also want to take into consideration, the time of day you wish to have these elements. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of a golden hour ceremony with sunset portraits. If this is the case, then you will have to create a timeline that ensures you have your ceremony during golden hour, and portrait’s during sunset.

here is a sample timeline for reference…

2:45pm – arrive at trail head to meet up with vendors
3pm – begin hike to ceremony location
4pm – arrive at ceremony location, get into your wedding attire, and do your hair & make up
5pm – ceremony, vows & champaign toast
5:45pm – couple portraits + spend time taking in the scenery as newly weds
6:45pm – hike back down to the car park
8pm – head back to airbnb for a private dinner prepared by a personal chef
8:30pm – served meal on private deck outdoors
9:30pm – campfire & first dance under the stars

Step seven: writing your vows

The best part of elopements is that you don’t have to worry about your vows being “too cheesy” or “too personal” to share with hundreds of guests. No more scripted, generic vows, that have little to no meaning. Eloping gives you all the more reason to be raw and real. While creating a safe intimate space to be yourselves.

As an elopement photographer, I like to keep my distance while the two of you are saying you’re vows. Capturing your reactions and emotions from a distance, to allow for an intimate and meaningful exchange. Depending on your comfort levels, you can even ask you celebrant and guests to take a step back during this time to create an even more intimate space between the two of you.

Most importantly, just remember that you are writing them speaking to your spouse, no one else. The best vows are always meaningful, raw, and unscripted.

here’s some tips to writing your vows…

  • make it personal, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just has to mean something to the two of you
  • tell your story – this could include pivotal moments in your relationship, hopes and dreams for your future, etc.
  • share ways you promise to commit yourselves to one another
  • make notes, take time to scribble down your thoughts – its okay if its messy because its real
  • when finalizing your vows, writing them in a booklet or special paper, will only make them a more meaningful keepsake for years to come

The best part about planning an elopement

there is no right or wrong way, it can truly be anything you want it to be

As elopement photographers, we not only photograph your elopement but we also assist with planning and sharing our expertise. When you book us, we don’t expect you to have any plan at all. We are there to walk you through the process. From giving you vendor suggestions, location scouting, create a timeline, suggest options within your budget, answer all your questions and so much more! As well as work closely with you to ensure this is a stress free, meaningful, and authentic experience.

We hope you found some value in this guide, and it can assist you in your planning process. Every relationship and every elopement, is so unique to the couple. So if you have any questions or want to get started on planning the elopement of your dreams. We’d be more than honoured to help!