How To Plan An Elopement

A step-by-step elopement planning guide for couples looking to have an immersive, experience-based wedding day.

More than ever, couples are throwing out the rule book and are getting married under their own terms. They’re choosing more unique attire, adding personalized touches, and are even starting to forgo a party all together in favor of an immersive celebratory experience – what today we define as an elopement.

The problem is that elopements are becoming so popular so quickly, there aren’t a lot of elopement-specific planning resources available. Couples just have no idea where to begin or what they need to consider when eloping!

Step 1: Picture Your Perfect Day

Create A List Of Your Favorite Memories

Start by creating a list of your favorite memories together and apart. Then, look for trends on both of your lists…

  • Were you near home, or in a foreign territory?

  • Were you dressed in fancy clothes, or maybe something more casual?

  • What foods do you both enjoy? Do you prefer fine-dining, or something more soulful?

  • Were there tons of other people around, or was it a more intimate setting?

  • Do you enjoy the noise of a bustling city, or the quiet solitude of nature?

 

Create A List Of Your Dreams

After you’ve summarized your favorite moments together, start thinking about the moments you both dream of…

  • Do you both dream of traveling somewhere far or exotic? Or are all your dreams right at home?

  • Do you both constantly talk about escaping to warmer weather? Or maybe colder weather?

  • What does retirement look like? Are you camping with family, or driving across country?

  • If you won the lottery, would you buy a second home somewhere special? If so, where would it be?

These questions I’ve listed above are just a starting point… but you get the idea. Your perfect elopement experience starts with an atmosphere that allows all the elements of your favorite moments together. Elopements can be urban or wild, peaceful or exuberant, near or far… it’s completely up to you.

Step 2: Hire Your Photographer

Your elopement photographer will be one of the most critical resources available to you throughout the elopement planning process. Not only are they a wealth of knowledge, but they will also serve as your advocate if things get tough.

When you hire an elopement photographer, they are likely going to be one of the only other humans around to witness one of the most meaningful moments of your lives. And because of that, it’s pretty important that you trust who they are and why they do what they do.

Once you find an elopement photographer whose photography you love and whose website feels trustworthy, I highly recommend setting up a call with them and feel them out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions outside business… ask them about their hobbies, favorite movies, why they got into photography in the first place. Get a feel for who they are and whether or not this is a person you want to share such a special moment with. The goal is to understand whether you can trust them to see your day as monumentally as you will see your day.

Step 3: Create your guest list

If you decide to invite a few loved ones to your elopement day, think about accessibility and how far these people would be able to travel for you. If they need to travel far, how many days would they have to stay and would they be able to take that amount of time from work or other responsibilities?

If loved ones aren’t able to attend in person, there are still ways to involve friends and family in your elopement experience.

Step 4: Choose your location

Where you elope is a big deal. Your location will set the tone for your entire elopement experience, and will make each and every memory even more special.

Even if you aren’t a big traveler, something as big and monumental as your wedding day should inspire you to think bigger than “every day.” If you’ve always dreamed of escaping your home town or seeing other parts of the world, this is the perfect opportunity to embrace adventure and make your biggest dreams come true!

You’ll notice I suggested to hire your photographer before you find your location, and that was very much intentional for a few reasons:

  1. Most elopement photographers will travel almost anywhere for their couples. They’ve dedicated their business to giving their couples an experience, and if that means flying across state, country, or the world to work – they will do it.
  2. You really shouldn’t be hiring your photographer based solely on location. Yes, asking a photographer to travel for your elopement will probably cost more. But if you’ve found a photographer you deeply trust and resonate with, that extra cost is going to be an investment, not a burden. You’re going to leave your elopement so happy that a friend was there to photograph it, not a stranger.
  3. You should hire an elopement photographer you trust knows how to travel. If you know you want to travel for your elopement, I can’t stress how important it is for your elopement photographer to know how to travel. This goes beyond finding plane tickets and a hotel to stay… it’s knowing what to pack, how to pack, how to location scout, how many days/nights you’ll need in a location… the list goes on. I can say from my own experience traveling solo both domestically and internationally, traveling for work is not the same as traveling for pleasure. There are so many elements that go into being a talented elopement photographer, and being a skilled traveler is top of the list.

Step 5: Design Your Elopement Itinerary

You have your photographer and you have a location… the next step in planning your elopement is to craft you elopement day itinerary. Start by thinking about your best memories together, and how you can incorporate those memories in your elopement day.

  • Start With Your Priorities. To plan your elopement day, start with your priorities and work your way outward. Remember, less is more here, and leaving plenty of time to immerse yourselves and feel the experiences of your day will make the difference between hectic and enjoyable. Your itinerary should be based on not only your ceremony, but also activities that have helped define and refine your relationship together.
  • Schedule In Buffer Time. Once your priorities are listed, work with your photographer to map out distances between your locations while leaving enough room for things like traffic, bathroom breaks, and maybe even a nap or two! You don’t want to feel exhausted on your elopement day… you want your day to unravel organically and leave you excited for what’s next.
  • Consider more time with your photographer. Elopement photographers are there to tell stories… and with all the freedom that elopements offer, it becomes nearly impossible to tell the full story in only a few hours. Think about it… you’ve probably chosen to elope because you don’t resonate with a lot of the traditions and expectations that come with traditional weddings. And unlike traditional weddings, elopements shouldn’t be based on things like a strict timeline. With your elopement comes freedom to do things your own way – and don’t those memories and feelings deserve to be preserved fully?

Step 6: Sort Out The Details

The final steps in planning your elopement are to plan all the little details! While this step may seem overwhelming, it really isn’t more complicated than starting with your itinerary and writing down all the things you need to make each item happen.

For example… if your location requires travel, you will need to start with finding accommodations, then flights, then researching your mode of transportation (public vs car rental).

Then, if you have chosen to do a hike for your elopement, you will need to create a hiking pack-list of things you’ll need, such as:

  • Comfortable hiking shoes and socks
  • Layers to wear over and under your wedding attire (base layers, leggings, rain jackets, etc.)
  • Flashlights, headlamps, extra batteries, etc.
  • First aid kit and supplies to touch up hair and make up
  • Refillable water bottles and snacks
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Most of us are familiar with what it’s like to plan a wedding, but planning an elopement is a completely different ball game. Many couples have no idea where to begin, what steps are necessary versus unnecessary, and often times keep their focus on the wrong things.

Rather than focusing on the small, purposeful details that are what make your elopement day special, couples end up stressing over things like decorations or accommodations – things they didn’t even care much about in the first place!

The biggest mistake I see couples make when planning their elopement is focusing their time and energy on things they don’t really care about. My goal for every couple that elopes, whether they work with me or not, is to keep their planning fun and intentional. It sounds tough, but if you aren’t enjoying every step of the planning process and it doesn’t make you excited for your day, then you’re probably doing something wrong.

By reading this guide, I hope I’ve steered your energy back on track and that it’s helped make the planning process effortless and fun – the way planning an elopement is supposed to be.

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