Everything you need to know how to plan an elopement, right down to the shoes.
What is an elopement?
Before we talk about how to plan an elopement, let’s talk about what it means to elope. If you ask your grandparents, they might say secretly running away to get married against your parents’ wishes (can we just take a moment to talk about what bad-asses our grandparents were??). Yes, some people do still run off and secretly get married in the name of love (hooray!), and yes, we would still call that an elopement. But our generation has completely reimagined the word (as our generation often does…). Now, elopement has basically become synonymous with “extremely small wedding.” Whether you invite anyone or not is completely up to you but it’s prooobbbably safe to say that your parents are not at home shaking their fists in a disapproving rage. Elopements just allow couples to have a more private and intimate moment than traditional weddings typically offer.
Is an elopement right for you?
What do you want to remember about your wedding day? If the answer is having everyone you’ve ever cared about in the same room crying, laughing, and dancing the night away while they watch you feed each other cake, then eloping is not for you. I personally love sooo many things about traditional weddings but they’re not for everyone. Your wedding is about you and your partner. That’s it. And while this is still true of traditional weddings, it is much more manageable when you cut that guest list down to 0, amiright?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that since you’re reading this, you may identify with one or more of the following…
- You don’t like to be the center of attention
- You want a more private and intimate experience
- You don’t want to deal with family drama
- You’d rather spend all that wedding money on an awesome honeymoon
- You want the focus of your wedding to be each other
- The idea of wedding planning is so stressful, you’re already reaching for that pint of ice cream (and you know what dairy does to you…)
How to Plan an Elopement
You’ve decided to elope, congrats! This may have been a tough choice to make but you’ve made it and your day is going to be ah-mazing. And now you’re thinking, how the heck do I plan an elopement? You, my friend, are in good hands because I am going to break it all down for you right here: how to plan an elopement in 10 easy steps.
1. What do you want your elopement to look like?
Before you make any elopement plans, think about what your ideal day looks like as a couple. Remember, this day is completely about you. I am a big advocate for filling it with all of your favorite things. Do you want an adventure? Is the beach more your speed? Thinking of going with the classic courthouse option? There is no wrong answer. Bottom line, you want this elopement to feel like you. Try to think about the day from start to finish. If that looks like having a leisurely breakfast in bed, followed by a walk on the beach, and finishing the day off with a bonfire in the backyard, do it. I want you to love Every. Single. Moment.
2. Decide if you will be inviting guests.
Now that you know what you want the day to look like, who’s there? Will it just be the two of you? Is it important to have your parents’ or siblings present? Will you regret not sharing this day with any specific people? This can be a touchy question because sometimes close family members, bless them, think they are entitled to being included in your nuptials. Guess what, this day is not about them. And while some may take it personally if they are not invited, those that love you will ultimately support your decision.
3. Choose the elopement location.
Onto the fun part! Where are you doing this thing? Whether staying local or going the destination route (elopement/honeymoon hybrid, anyone?), consider the following when choosing your elopement spot:
- Are there any location restrictions? For example, some places require permits. You’ll want to take care of those ahead of time.
- What are the marriage license requirements? If getting married in another state (or country), the rules may be different as far as waiting period, witnesses, or required documents.
- Is the location accessible? How do you get there? Can you drive there or will you need to travel on foot? If inviting guests, will they have trouble getting there?
- Keep an eye on the weather. Consider the conditions in that location around your elopement date. For instance, if getting married outside in Florida, you may want to avoid hurricane season or come up with a rain plan…
4. Pick a date.
Once you have decided on a location, make sure there aren’t any other events taking place on your elopement date. Public events like festivals, football games, conferences, what have you, can all potentially cause issues such as travel delays, crowds, limited availability for lodging, etc. This will just help you avoid any unwanted surprises.
5. Decide what to wear.
Seriously wear whatever you want. Just because you’re not having a traditional wedding does not mean you can’t wear a traditional wedding dress or suit. Likewise, if you want to go with something more casual, you totally should. You just want to make sure you wear something that’s appropriate for the location, meaning don’t wear heels to the beach or flip flops in the mountains, at least not while you are traveling. If you’d rather get dressed after you arrive, make sure you have a plan for packing your attire so it doesn’t get wrinkled. Comfortable shoes are a must if hiking to your destination but that doesn’t mean you can’t change them once you get to where you’re going.
6. Add some personality to the details.
Here are some things you can do to personalize your elopement: decorate the elopement location with your favorite flowers, wear or bring a family heirloom, hire a musician to play your favorite song as you say your vows. Adding some personal touches will make your elopement feel extra special.
7. Hire your vendors.
While you may not hire all the typical vendors involved in a traditional wedding, here’s a good place to start. And since you aren’t spending all that money to feed 200 guests, you can splurge on those really nice flowers or that delicious cake from that high end bakery – because you should always celebrate with dessert ;)
- hair and makeup
8. Plan your timeline.
Almost done! Remember when I asked you what you wanted the day to look like? Let’s put it to paper, so to speak. Start with deciding what time you want to wake up. Couples usually have to get up suuuppeerrr early for traditional weddings but not you! You can sleep in as late as you want. Make sure you have an idea of what time you’d like to get ready, whether or not you’re having hair and makeup done, how long it takes to get to your location, what time you’ve hired your vendors for, how long your ceremony will be, etc. And make sure you plan for all meals, whether you’re packing sandwiches or going out to a fancy dinner later, don’t forget to eat!
9. Make a list of things to pack.
This will be more important if you’re having a destination elopement. Still, make things easy for yourself. You want the day to be relaxing, you don’t want to spend time looking for anything or feeling like you’ve forgotten something. Make sure to include things like: attire, rings, vows, and important documents (like required IDs and marriage license).
10. Share the good news with friends and family!
After a reasonable amount of time, of course. Take as much time as you want to celebrate alone. When you’re ready, call your people. You know the ones: parents, siblings, best friends, etc… They are dying to congratulate you. For everyone else, you can send announcements. Or they can hear about it in your mom’s next family newsletter (do people still do that??). Announcements are also a great way to let people know if you’re having a reception at a later date.
If you’re not quite ready to run off an elope (even though you totally know how to plan an elopement now), maybe a micro wedding is the way to go. Either way, you’re marrying your person and I am so excited for you!