What to Know About Elopement Weddings

Bride and groom smiling as they walk together through the streets of Paris following their elopement.

Image Source: Let’s Run To The Sun

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When you picture your wedding day, what kind of ceremony do you envision? Some people look forward to the grandeur of traditional weddings, with all the bells and whistles. For other couples, the idea of getting married with a much smaller ceremony in a meaningful location can be a better fit. Whether it’s a budget consideration, a social preference or simply an exciting approach to getting married, many couples are choosing to elope. 

What is an Elopement?

An elopement is an intimate wedding ceremony in which a couple gets married without the formality of a traditional wedding. Often, elopements are small, with just the couple and an officiant or witness attending. Elopements have typically been done without the knowledge of the couple’s friends and family, sometimes conducted secretly away from home. But today, elopements look different from one couple to the next. Elopements can range in size, with some couples choosing to have a witness, a photographer and select family and friends attending as well. Elopements are often casual and always exciting.

Reasons Couples Choose to Elope

Bride and groom eloping in the mountains

Image Source: Andres Molina

Adventurous couples, thrifty couples and partners of all ages choose to elope. There are many reasons couples choose to elope, including: 

  1. Saving money 
  2. Celebrating in a way that feels authentic 
  3. Enjoying an adventure together 
  4. Getting married in the perfect location  
  5. Reducing wedding planning stress 
  6. Avoiding potential family drama 
  7. Taking an environmentally friendly approach  
  8. Having the perfect wedding photos  
  9. Celebrating without social pressures  
  10. Having a truly non-traditional wedding  

Budget is one of the biggest reasons couples choose to elope. Elopement packages are often priced much lower than traditional weddings, helping couples save for other expenses. Depending on where you choose to get married, your elopement destination may also be the place where you honeymoon, helping you save even further.

As with all wedding celebrations, it’s about what feels most authentic to you and your partner. While there are many reasons couples choose to elope, it is ultimately a personal decision. 

How to Plan an Elopement

Even though getting eloped can take less planning than a traditional ceremony, there are still key steps to this kind of wedding. There are wedding planners who specialize in elopements, but many people prefer planning an elopement on their own. 

Step 1: Set Your Budget

From engagement rings to elopement dresses, budget is always an important aspect of planning. Before you even start looking at flights, destinations or elopement packages, you and your partner should come to an agreement on how much you’re comfortable spending for the whole elopement. Having a budget in mind will help steer the rest of your elopement planning decisions in the direction that’s best for you.

Step 2: Decide What’s Crucial to Include

At their core, elopement weddings are minimalistic. They have the couple and any legally required officiants and/or witnesses. From there, it’s up to couples to decide what else they’d like included in their elopement. 

Many people choose to have a photographer document their elopement. Some couples also choose to invite a few friends and family, such as parents or close shared friends. If you do choose to invite any guests to your elopement wedding, be sure to invite them ahead of time so they can make their own arrangements to attend. 

Step 3: Book Your Location and Any Travel

Once you’ve set your budget and figured out any additional guests or vendors, it’s time to decide where you’d like to elope. The location varies greatly from one wedding to the next. The key is choosing a location that is important to you both. 

Many couples plan international destination elopements, while others head out of state to get married. For a low-key elopement, consider your own backyard or local park for the event. 

Bride and groom sharing a hug during their city elopement

Image Source: Kadarius Seegars

Because elopements typically do not involve the substantial guest lists of classic weddings, these smaller ceremonies can take place virtually anywhere. Consider national parks, international destinations or other meaningful places when planning your elopement. It’s best to choose a few location options together and then research their regulations regarding elopement ceremonies to determine which is your best fit. 

If you’re heading out of town for your elopement, make sure to book your trip as well. Consider adding an extra travel day before the actual ceremony to give yourself time for flight delays or traffic on the road. 

Step 4: Figure Out Legal Obligations

Unless you are planning an elopement commitment ceremony, you’ll want your special day to include the legal requirements that make your marriage official in the eyes of your home state. Each state has its own requirements for marriage ceremonies, and different countries have their own requirements as well. 

After you’ve chosen the location for your elopement, it’s important to research that area’s rules regarding marriage ceremonies. Make sure you’re following the regulations regarding wedding officiants, marriage licenses waiting periods and any additional paperwork that may be required for out-of-country destination elopements. 

Step 5: Hire Your Photographer

Wedding photographer taking a photo of a bride and groom during their elopement

Image Source: Mariah Krafft

Your elopement is sure to be a memorable day, and getting a photographer to document your wedding can help showcase your love. Photographers specializing in elopements are often willing to travel to many destinations, and some elopement packages include specific photographers. If you are planning on announcing your marriage after your elopement, professional photographs of the ceremony can help your loved ones feel included. 

Step 6: Choose Outfits and Ceremony Elements

Now that you’ve chosen your location, decided who to invite and you’ve determined any legal requirements, it’s time to pick what you’d like to include in the actual ceremony. This is entirely personal to you and your partner. If you’re a bride, be sure to pick an elopement dress, wedding nails or outfit that you’re comfortable wearing at your destination. Because these kinds of weddings are very informal by nature, the outfits you and your partner wear can be tailored to your exact style. 

You’ll also want to plan the ceremony itself. Will you and your partner say vows you’ve written? Do you want to have any unity ceremonies, religious elements or other traditions at your elopement? Are you planning on setting up any decorations? Your ceremony can look however you prefer, and many planners, officiants and other elopement professionals can help you decide what to include in your special moment. This may also include additional vendors, such as florists. 

Step 7: Have Your Wedding and Decide How and When to Inform Family and Friends

Couple eloping in Las Vegas at a wedding chapel

Image Source: Wesley Tingey

Today, getting eloped doesn’t necessarily mean you’re keeping your plans secret from those closest to you. It’s up to you and your partner to decide when and how you’d like to tell your loved ones about your elopement. If you are inviting some guests to the ceremony, then they will know about your elopement before it even occurs. 

If you are telling everyone after you’ve gotten married in a private elopement, it’s important to share the news in a positive and respectful way. Consider telling your closest friends and family in person or over the phone in a one-on-one conversation. You can also send out photos or share the news about your nuptials on social media to inform extended friends and family, though it’s best to tell your closest loved ones individually before making the exciting news known to everyone else.

Easing the Elopement Planning Process

For the easiest planning, consider preset elopement packages. These are reservations and services that make getting eloped simple. Packages often include a venue, officiant, photographer, flowers and even lodging. Many popular elopement destinations have businesses offering elopement packages. 

Questions and Answers About Elopement Weddings

When it comes to planning your elopement, there’s no exact way to embark on this meaningful ceremony. The only requirement is that you choose elements that resonate with you and your partner. Because some family members may be sensitive to your elopement plans, it’s best to delicately tell your family of your wedding in a respectful manner. 

Aside from the legal regulations of who must conduct your ceremony, you are not required to invite anyone to your elopement ceremony. Some people choose to invite a few select friends and family, but it is ultimately up to you and your partner. 

Elopements are very casual and can look as traditional or as unconventional as you’d like. You do not have to walk down the aisle if that is a tradition you don’t want in your ceremony. 

There is no exact etiquette for these nontraditional ceremonies. Instead, it’s about choosing elements that resonate with you and your partner. You do not need to invite people out of obligation. But it is important to keep the feelings of your loved ones in mind. If you are telling your extended circle about the elopement after your ceremony is complete, it is best to tell your closest friends and family personally before making a larger announcement.

If you do not invite guests to your elopement wedding, there is the downside of not having your loved ones with you on this special day. Some friends and family may feel left out, but you can help them feel included in other ways. Throwing a post-elopement party or gathering after you’re married may help your family feel included in aspects of your celebrations. 

Yes, getting married by eloping can be incredibly romantic. These ceremonies are adventurous, intimate and exciting. Without the stresses of traditional weddings, elopements are very romantic.

Yes, you can include any classic wedding elements you’d like in your elopement. This includes writing vows, wearing the classic wedding attire, exchanging wedding rings and taking photos of your special day. 

Planning a Meaningful Ceremony

Elope 2

Image Source: Andres Molina

Ready to tie the knot in a unique way? Elopement weddings are an intimate and exciting way to start your journey as a married couple. Many destinations have all-inclusive elopement packages, and there are also local elopement planners in every state who specialize in these celebrations. 

Getting married is an exciting journey and starting with an elopement can set the tone for adventure and dedication to your partner. Choose the location, jewelry, guest list and ceremony elements that best fit your relationship, your personalities and your budget. 

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