How to Plan an Elopement Wedding
As couples across the world prepare to downsize their weddings, elopements are back in style in a spectacular way. Eloping allows you to have a guest-less wedding where you are the focus. You can personalize your day however you please and create long-lasting memories with just the two of you. Bliss!
Though it is a little less complicated to plan an elopement than to plan a full wedding, there are still quite a few considerations before you dive in.
What is an elopement?
The term “elopement” has been bandied about in many contexts. You may have seen a wedding of 10 people classified as an elopement. Or perhaps the term evokes the image of two runaway kids/adults tying the knot in Vegas. Both are true in a way, but definitions are important so here we go:
Elopement - a wedding consisting of the couple only and perhaps witnesses if legally required. Witnesses could also be the vendors on-site (e.g photographers).
Micro-wedding - a wedding with a small number of wedding guests. This is culturally specific. In North America, it would be around 4-30 guests.
Wedding - a wedding with a larger number of guests than a micro-wedding, so more than 30.
Step by Step Elopement Planning Checklist
1. Decide on a range of dates
As with all wedding planning, first, you must set a date. Setting one date, however, is completely backward as it minimizes your chances of having an available venue, officiant, and photographers all on the same date. The best thing to do is to choose a range of potential dates that could work for you and your elopement. You’ll then have some options to coordinate everyone. We recommend having at least 5 dates in mind to give you some flexibility.
2. Find the perfect elopement location
Whether on home turf or abroad, the world really is your oyster when it comes to elopements! Imagine a peaceful, woodland wedding at Sequoia National Park or a unique, beach escape in Mexico. You have so much flexibility in location when planning an elopement so do let your imaginations run wild. One practical note here, though, is making sure of local marital laws. If you want your wedding to be legally binding, it may have to happen in a certain building. That said, you could always register your marriage in a courthouse and have a celebrant-led blessing wherever you choose. Speaking of which...
3. Arrange an officiant or celebrant
You need someone to lead your ceremony in your dream location so you’ll need an officiant, celebrant, and/or notary in some cases. Officiants are religious usually and celebrants are not. Notaries legally register your marriage and their presence depends on the legalities of your union wherever you decide to marry.
4. Book an elopement photographer
Photography is so extremely important! Here at Mauve et Blush we love amazing wedding photos. Start searching for a photographer after you have a location, officiant, and a date in mind. To choose your perfect elopement photographer, research using a range of sources e.g Google, Instagram. Pinterest, friends, and family, etc. Choose the photographer whose photographs you most connect to and you click with as a person.
5. Consider some styling
Who says that only full weddings have themes? Just because you are downsizing to the lowest possible guests count does not mean you can’t splash out on something spectacular. Elopement styling can range from simple personal flowers like bouquets and boutonnieres to full ceremony arches and a divinely styled table for your evening meal together. Whatever you choose, make sure that your elopement also has a touch of personal flair.
Do’s and Don’ts of Eloping
Do make it as personalized as possible
To plan the perfect elopement, the key is to remember it is all about you! No Aunt Annie is sniffing the canapés before she eats them. No open-bar happy work colleagues that need to be carted home by 11pm. This day is truly just about the two of you, so you can do whatever you want. Now, this amount of choice can be overwhelming at times, but start with what would make you both happy to see on your private wedding day and you’ll craft a day that is perfect for you.
Don’t scrimp on photography
We said this before but we cannot stress enough the importance of photography. A great photographer can make or break your memories of the wedding day. There is nothing better than reliving your special day over and over through the emotions of your photos. Scout for the best wedding photographer you can afford for incredible photographs you’ll prize for years to come.
Do hire a wedding planner
Of course, we are biased. After all, this very article is being written by a wedding planner, but with good reason! Marvel at my endless bank of wedding knowledge. All jokes aside, do consider hiring a wedding planner if you want the planning process to be a little more relaxing. A planner can help you location scout, design your day, and arrange any paperwork you may need.
Don’t expect it to be cheaper
This is a controversial point, but elopements can be as luxurious as you like, and therefore still come at a premium depending on your choices. Venue fees, transport, accommodation, celebrants, photographers and videographers, florists, and caterers can still add up. It is possible to have a very low-cost elopement but not always!
Do choose your officiant/celebrant wisely
Photography is how you remember your wedding day. Your ceremony is your wedding day. Don’t overlook this crucial part of your elopement. Be sure to choose a celebrant or officiant who you like and who will create a ceremony that is personalized and memorable.
Don’t forget to research the legal bits
This is doubly important if you choose to marry abroad, but do look up the local marriage laws. If you minted to marry outside on a mountain or by a lake, what are the legalities of that? If you have a destination elopement, will you need a translator for your documents and an interpreter for your ceremony? If you get married out of state, do the same rules apply in terms of documentation and notice?
Do consider destination or more remote locations
Sprinkled throughout this article, we have mentioned the possibility of going a little further afield than in your local area. The US has some incredible locations to elope, but if you want, and are able, to travel abroad for your elopement, that is also an option too. When it’s just the two of you, ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough.
Don’t feel guilty!
You may feel a pang of dread when you mention to your parents that you’ll be eloping instead of having a gathering. We’re sorry to say that you’ll likely feel that twinge of doubt in your decision however you slice it, particularly if your family is close. To get over this, you must remember this is your day to spend how you truly want. Your friends and family want what is best for you above all, so don’t feel bad for putting yourselves first.
If any guilt-tripping does come your way, however, you can always have a bigger party at another time to celebrate your union if you so choose. Provided your internet reception is good, you could also live stream your elopement for close friends and family not in attendance.
Planning an elopement is exciting, personal, and freeing. We hope this guide helped you to pull together your dream day, and do submit your photos to us afterward. We would love to feature your elopement!
Olivia de Santos
Olivia is a British wedding planner, writer and founder of the destination wedding planning company Nulyweds in Portugal. She is passionate about travel, weddings, beauty, cinema, horse riding and BIPOC issues. She lives in Portugal, and is in her element exploring the country to create unique, colorful weddings.
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