You decided to elope. Now what?
First, let me be the first to congratulate you! You have taken a major step toward creating the perfect day and amazing memories for you and your person.
Elopements provide far more opportunity for intimate moments and authentic connection than large weddings.
There’s no point in denying it. Planning an elopement is significantly less involved than planning a traditional big wedding.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no planning involved. If you’re scratching your head at where to start, fear not. These steps will provide a simple, customizable framework for you to start planning your impending nuptials.
Step 1: Your Day Your Way
The main question you need to answer to begin planning is this… What do you want to remember?
An elopement is such a wonderful opportunity to create the perfect representation of your love story.
What’s your vibe? Your aesthetic? Your goal? Your level of adventure or luxury?
Do you want to romp through an epic landscape? Hike to the top of a mountain? Kiss under an iconic skyline?
Adventure elopements are increasing in popularity, and they’re so fun to plan. But adventures are personal. Some folks want sand between their toes and the smell of salty ocean air. Others hope to leave a trail with boots (and maybe dress!) caked in mud, having been hit by the spray of a secluded waterfall. Others still like a stroll down Spanish city streets, hunting for perfect tapas.
Identify your vibe to start curating your perfect elopement experience.
Check out some other blogs posts for full galleries and inspiration.
Step 2: What’s the bottom line?
You need to determine your elopement budget early. It will impact nearly every aspect of planning an elopement.
Location is a rather weighty factor when deciding on a budget. Do you want to cross state lines? Head overseas? Obviously, the further afield you roam, the higher the price tag for travel (usually). Of course there are sales, specials, promo codes, airline miles, etc. These can bring your costs down, but a good general rule is this: more miles equals more dollars.
How extravagant or simple do you want it to be? Generally speaking, an elopement tends toward the simpler side, but there is still room for extravagance if that’s your jam. Glamorous gowns or jewelry could enter the equation. A ridiculously luxurious hotel perhaps… I think it goes without saying that extravagance is more expensive. So consider that when mapping out your budget.
Step 3: Find your vendors
The first sub-step of this step is to decide where you plan to hire vendors, and what you plan to DIY.
A major pro of eloping is that the cost of vendors tends to be lower for certain things. You don’t need to buy a giant cake. You don’t need to provide 200 meals. You don’t need to decorate an entire castle with flowers. And so on.
But you’ll still have to decide whether you want professionals to help you with hair and makeup. You’ll need to decide if you want a floral element. Things like that.
Something you absolutely should not skimp on is your photographer. Your families and friends that were not present are going to want to see evidence of the beautiful event. And you’ll want to remember it.
Elopements are so special and wonderful and unique. Everything else on your wedding day will fade, but the photos and your love will last forever. (Plus elopements provide for really amazing photos! Photographers are generally thrilled with the opportunity to be more intentional and artistic).
Step 4: Make it Real (in the eyes of the law!)
Make it Official. That’s the whole point, right?!
Do your research and get to know the marriage laws in the state you’re eloping in. Some places have more hoops than others to jump through.
Definitely definitely definitely do your research if you plan on getting married overseas. Much of the time you’ll need all kinds of official documents like birth certificates, photo IDs, visas, etc. You do not want to arrive in Iceland and discover you’ve got none of the things you need to make it official.
If you don’t want to deal with all that, you could opt for a simple courthouse ceremony at home to make it official, followed by a commitment ceremony or vow exchange in the exotic destination of your dreams.
Step 5: Dress it Up (or Down)
What are you going to wear?!
Consult the vibe you identified in Step 1. The world is your oyster. Wardrobe is an area where you can communicate who you are and what you’re about. There is so much room for creativity and personality here!
Many brides still want The White Dress for their elopement day. Are you one of those brides? Maybe you want a bright white pants suit. Or a scarlet dress that stands out against the sand dunes where you’re getting hitched…
Are you the groom wearing a tux as you wade into the ocean? Maybe jeans and flip flops with a rad tie…
Whatever you do, consider your venue (climate, terrain, accessibility, etc.). For example, hiking in a strapless dress or thick wool suit is not always advisable!
Step 6: Spread the Word
Let your loved ones know! There are several different strategies to take with this one.
Tell folks after the deed is done. It’s fun to have a little secret. It can bring you and your person closer… knowing that only YOU know you’re about to jet off to Iceland and get married on a glacier. This creates the most space for intimacy between the two of you. You’re not distracted by anything anyone has to say about your decision because no one knows!
Declare, then get outta there! Announce your elopement to the folks you might hope to celebrate with. Then immediately bounce away to Bali and get married. Tell people you love, but don’t fall prey to answering questions or replies. This option still holds space for intimacy, but if you’re the type to worry about emails, it may be a bit more distracting. The upside is that people will be ready to party upon your return, if that’s what you want.
Invite the folks you’re closest to. Are there people you can’t imagine getting married without? Invite them! An elopement doesn’t have to be alone. Maybe you’ve always promised your sister maid of honor duties, or your best buddy from high school has already written an epic toast. There are no rules here. Your elopement is not less valid because you invited people you cherish.
Step 7: Be Prepared to Explain Yourself
Something you’ll almost certainly have to do when you decide to elope is have The Conversation with a lot of people. The Conversation in which people react to your decision along the spectrum of “Are you nuts?” to “Are you selfish?” to “Do you need money?”
Explaining the choice to elope can be difficult. Especially with our cultural norms leaning towards Bigger is Better. Not to mention, most people love weddings. A wedding can be a place for wonderful reunions of old friends and loved ones. If you don’t have one, they don’t get to go!
But it’s not your job to help other people stay in touch.
If you won’t find the hoopla of a big wedding as fulfilling, don’t do it. Simple as that.
It is YOUR day.
If you have any questions or are ready to start planning your elopement, get in touch with me here. I can’t wait to adventure with you!