How To Plan An Elopement

Bride and groom walking along shore of lake in Glacier National Park

How To Plan An Elopement

& The Process of Working With Me

Small and adventurous weddings are quickly taking over as one of the best ways to get married – but how do you plan an elopement or adventurous micro-wedding and what is the planning process supposed to look like?

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, that it can be difficult for couples to understand where to begin their planning and what the planning process is supposed to look like.

 

Although I have already written out the basic steps of booking with me at many points throughout my website, I wanted to elaborate a little bit more for those who…

  • are curious as to how an elopement photographer can also be an elopement planner and guide
  • don’t know where to start planning their elopement
  • still aren’t quite sure if they want to elope

Truthfully, who you hire to photograph your elopement matters and you should feel confident in your decision. Before making such an expensive and important investment, I think it’s super important to know and trust the person photographing your day, and to also have a thorough understanding of what it’s going to look and feel like to work with them.

Because I believe so whole-hardheartedly in trust and transparency, I wanted to write up this brief guide on what to expect when working with me and what the elopement planning process should look like.

Table of Contents

How To Plan An Elopement in 5 Simple Steps

Step 1: Picture Your Perfect Day

Before you start doing any planning, sit down and think about you perfect wedding 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 Future 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

Who Photographs Your Elopement Is Important

I don’t like to talk about myself much on my website or social media because I like to keep the focus of my brand on who it matters to most: you.

However, I also understand that 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.

For me, photographing elopements isn’t about the trendiness, the “epic shot”, or even about the travel.

In fact, the reason I am a photographer is because I deeply appreciate subtle nuances, quiet moments, and the beauty of the mundane. A wedding day doesn’t have to be loud or lavish to be special… and with elopements, all you really need is two people, in love, who want to create a space for thoughtful and meaningful celebration.

How to find your perfect elopement photographer

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I set up a call (phone or video chat – couple’s choice) with each and every one of my inquiring couples to not only answer any questions they may have, but also to give them a better sense of my personality.

I’ll admit, it can be tough to showcase one’s true personality through a screen… while I am soft-spoken and very introverted, I’m also super laid-back and try to be as chill and accommodating as I possibly can. I take my business seriously, but I also want to make the elopement planning process feel exciting and effortless.

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: Choose Your Elopement Location

Notice how I listed “Meet Your Photographerbefore I listed choosing your elopement location… this was done purposefully 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.

Think About Your Guest List

Just because you elope doesn’t mean family and friends can’t be involved. In fact, the small size of elopements means you can afford to spend more quality time with guests and share an experience with them.

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 they aren’t able to attend in person, there are still ways to involve friends and family in your elopement experience. For example, you may find ways to get them involved in the elopement planning, such as dress shopping, or host a small celebration for after you get back from your destination elopement.

 

Don’t Be Afraid To Dream Big

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!

How I Help All My Couples Find Their Location

With all of my eloping couples, it’s very important for me to understand the experiences they have shared that inspired the growth and development of their relationship. To do this, I send all of my eloping couples a location questionnaire right after they book with me. The location questionnaire asks similar to questions to above, and will help me narrow down a list of suggestions for the perfect elopement location.

Once the couple chooses a general location, I will do even more research to find the perfect spots for things like their ceremony, portraits, and even places to visit before or after their time with me to ensure an all-inclusive experience.

Step 4: 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.

For this, I recommend a similar approach as finding your location. Start by thinking about your best memories together, and how you can incorporate those memories in your elopement day.

For example, if you went out for ice cream on your first date and ice cream dates have now become a favorite thing to do with each other, I would suggest incorporating an ice cream date on your elopement day.

Or, if you have a dog and enjoy taking your dog for a long walk every evening, you may want to consider incorporating a long walk or hike on your elopement day.

In conclusion, your itinerary should be based on not only your ceremony, but also activities that have helped define and refine your relationship together.

whimsical modern wedding cake and cupcakes

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.

 

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

After you’ve decided on your priorities and baked in some time for travel and rest, it may be time to consider adding more hours (or days) to your photography package.

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?

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. Even if your day is super simple, there are going to be so many little things that pop up that you’re going to way to remember… the colors of the sunrise and sunset, the way the foreign food tasted, the extra time you’re going to want to spend at your ceremony location. All of these little things add up, and with almost nobody else around to soak it all in, you don’t want to depend on only your memory preserve it all.

Because I believe so strongly in experience over service, my elopement packages aren’t based on hourly coverage! Instead, I offer half day, full day, and multi-day elopement packages so my couples never have to worry about me leaving in the middle of a special moment.

Step 5: 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

Elopement Planning Should Be Fun

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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Sound like I could be the photographer for you?