How to Plan Your Elopement

This Blog Post has been updated September 2023

Congratulations on your engagement and your upcoming elopement! This is such an exciting time and the planning process can be just as fun! Wondering how to plan your elopement? Then you are in the right place! To us, elopement planning is different than traditional wedding planning. This five step guide is meant to help in the early stages of Elopement Planning to cover some of the basic planning steps – the Vibe, What, Who, Where, & When and get you out of the box of traditional wedding planning so you can plan a truly unique day you love!

I should mention, this blog post does assume you have already made the decision to have an Elopement vs. a large traditional wedding. This is truly your decision and nothing I or anyone else says should be convincing you of one way or the other. Your reasons for this are unique to you. However it is helpful to know what they are and keep those reasons in the forefront of your mind during this process. Stay true to yourselves and what you are wanting for your day! It is also ok to change your mind and give yourselves grace during planning.

Elopement Planning is different than wedding planning because you have more freedom to have your ideal dream day. No matter what ‘Elopement’ used to mean, today it holds a new meaning. Present day, it is all about having an intentional day focused on you and your partner. You may find yourself reminding loved ones that it doesn’t mean cheap, or running away, being secretive or simply a ‘mini wedding’ anymore. Yes, it can be less expensive but that is a result, not a driving factor for most.

Your Elopement Day is still the day you marry your best friend. It still holds the importance of any other wedding day. It is still meant to be an amazing experience that you will look back on and cherish for years to come. Your Elopement is an authentic day centered around you two, celebrating your love story the way you want to.

How to Plan Your Elopement: Five Step Guide

These five steps of Elopement Planning are meant to get you out of the box of traditional ‘wedding planning’ from the start. Some of the same aspects may apply of course, but it is the intention of the day that makes Elopements unique. To have an intentional day, you need to plan it with that intention in mind from the start. Going through these steps during your early planning process, will hopefully free you from any limiting beliefs and help you create a wonderful day that is unique to you. Let’s get started!

Moab sunrise elopement in Moab, UT

Step One: How do you want your day to feel?

Before getting into the tangible details, spend some time daydreaming about your ideal day. What kind of vibe are you wanting? How do you want to feel on your day? And overall how do you want your day to feel?

Interested in a relaxing day that leaves you calm and more connected to each other? You may want a more luxury experience with quiet moments together throughout the day. Or what about an adventurous day that leaves you feeling exhilarated for what is to come? You may want to check off a bucket list item together and incorporate a once in a lifetime kind of adventure to mark this special moment together.

Write down your ideas for your dream day with specific feelings and an overall vibe that you are excited about creating. This step ties closely to step two where you begin brainstorming tangible actions to create this feeling and vibe.

Step Two: What do you want your day to include?

The options for your Elopement day, weekend or multi-day event are essentially endless. This is why Step One (above) is the best place to start. If you truly want a relaxing day then hiking 10 miles up a mountain might not be for you but rather a beach elopement or being able to drive to beautiful vistas without a long hike.

Think about the feeling and vibe you are wanting and activities you two enjoy that match the desired feeling. Try not to overthink how you will incorporate these activities quite yet – instead brainstorm freely! Dream big! If you could have your dream day, what would it include? Need some inspiration to get the ideas flowing? Then check out these 100 Activities for your day!

Unique Experiences

As you brainstorm activities for your Elopement try to narrow down to those that just scream ‘you’. What resonates with you best? Maybe these are bucket list activities or much loved activities. Whatever they are, write down activities that will be unique experiences you are excited about.

Step Three: Will anyone be joining you for your Elopement Day?

Now you have your vibe and your dream activities. Next step is determining if your elopement will be truly just the two of you or is including guests in some way important to you? Elopements are small in size but the exact size is up to you. Do you want your immediate family there? What about your fur-babies? How about your closest friends? These are things to chat with your fiancé about and determine who ideally would be joining you both for your Elopement.

Remember, there are multiple ways to include loved ones and you do not have to determine the how right now. You have probably seen people hold a small party or dinner to celebrate your marriage after the fact. Or you can include loved ones during the ceremony, have time for some photos with them and then set off for the rest of your day or some variation of these. And you can definitely have an incredible experience with just you two! What option is true to you and would make your dream day complete?

Guest Count

When thinking about this and trying to determine your ‘who’, don’t worry too much if your guest count suddenly jumps to 20 or if it is only 6 people. This is your elopement day, and there is no right or wrong answer here. These are your people! Ideally you will not feel pressured to include people you do not want to, and you will have the final say in who joins you, if anyone. The main thing to note here is that your guest count may impact your location options which is why it is important to get an idea of what your number is before moving on to location.

Moab Elopement at Sunset

Step Four: Where do you want to Elope?

I will be honest, this is normally the first thing people think about, myself included. And it makes sense as you might be drawn to a certain area for its scenery, meaning to you or travel opportunities it provides. Whatever it might be that draws you – by planning your Elopement in the order of these steps will hopefully prevent you from either being disappointed or being stopped short in your planning process because you realize later something you really want to include is not possible at the location you have already selected.

This is a great time to research! Scour Pinterest, Instagram and Google ‘sailing elopement in the US’ for dream locations that truly match your dream day!

Your Location Requirements

With your Vibe, Activities and Guests or not in mind – let’s chat about your ideal elopement location. This can easily be the most fun part of the planning process as you see so many gorgeous location options and by keeping your previous brainstorming decisions in mind, you can begin narrowing options down instead of getting overwhelmed by the vast number of them.

For example, if rock climbing is a dream activity then you will be looking at key rock climbing locations. If kayaking or boating are important, then a lake, river or ocean will be necessary.

Consider your ‘who’ and if they have travel or accessibility needs which might lead you to specific location options as well. If your fur-babies will be joining you, then make sure the location is pet friendly. In this way, you might instantly have it narrowed down to approximately three ideal locations to choose from.

Guest Inclusivity

Another great thing with choosing an Elopement, aside from the fact that you literally can do whatever you want to, you also don’t have to cater to guests during every point of the day. For example, if you want to include your immediate family but you also want to do your own thing, no problem! Include them for the ceremony and perhaps later for a group meal but what you do before and in between, can be just on your own or with your closest friends. This is totally fine!

If you want to hike to a special location but you also want to include your grandparents who would not be able to make it to that location, there is always a way! Hike in the morning for your first look where you exchange your personal vows but return to a more accessible location later for your ceremony with your guests. Then they can relax, enjoy the area while you and your newly married partner go for an afternoon adventure before ending the day back with your guests once more for dinner.


If looking at National or State Parks, do reach out early to learn what the rules, permit process, permit fees and locations available for your elopement there are. Each park is unique on these aspects and a quick Google search can usually be a big help. Also, always reach out to the actual park and person in charge of this rather than taking a friend’s word, or something you read on a forum as fact. If having guests for a ceremony, most parks have designated ceremony locations available for specific head counts.

Location Options

Elopements can happen in pretty much any location. From Yosemite National Park, a local county park, your own backyard, in a hot air balloon, at a local pub, at private venue, on the beach, in a treehouse, at a scenic overlook, etc. Picking a location that you love, meets your needs and you are super excited about getting married at are key indicators that you have found your location! If you are having trouble finding a location for your elopement day – I would love to chat! Also, multi-location and/or multi-day elopements are totally an option. Don’t limit yourself to one day and one location when you can have an Elopement weekend, multi-day event, destination elopement/honeymoon and more!

Mt. Rainier Summer Elopement

To have an intentional day, you need to plan it with that intention in mind from the start.

Myrtle Creative Co.

Step Five: When is the best time for your Elopement?

You have your Vibe, Activities, Guests or not and a Dream Location for your Dream Day – how exciting! Now it is time to determine when this is all going down. 🙂 This is the fifth step because your location or activities will often be a deciding factor for your Elopement Day date(s). You want to select the best season, month and day. For example, at Yosemite, if you want to include a first look at Taft Point then Tioga Pass will need to be open. If you want to go snowshoeing to a hot spring on your Elopement day, a winter date would be necessary. Wanting to go swimming on your day then probably a Summer day would be best.


When eloping in a public space, selecting a weekday is recommended. Specifically a Monday – Thursday date would be ideal. This usually means less people and more availability especially if selecting a National Park or beach location, but really any public location.

Guest Consideration

In addition, do reach out to your selected guests and let them know when you are thinking. This isn’t so much asking for input as assessing. For example, if you are only inviting six of your closest friends and one happens to have their once a year required training happening during that same time and you can change or adjust a day or two as needed to accommodate – great! When you have only six people coming, it is great when all six can come!

Bonus Step Six: Is a Blended Day or Event for You?

Did you get stuck at one or more of these steps? Are your dream activities not aligning with who all you want to include? Good news! You might be looking at a blended event! In short, this is usually a combination of an elopement and a micro wedding. For example, you could have your dream elopement with just you two that includes all the activities for day one. And day two is an afternoon micro wedding with 25 of your closest people and much of the traditional wedding activities. Does this sound like you? Then do it! 🙂 Multi-day events can be a great way to incorporate all the things without feeling rushed or confined to one day. I provide multi-day options and would be happy to chat about your unique event!

What Next?

Awesome! You have so much figured out in your Elopement Planning! This is great! Now is definitely the time to reach out to vendors. And in fact, you might have already reached out to some vendors as vendors can be very helpful in the planning process too! If you are having trouble in any of the steps, please reach out! I provide planning assistance with all Elopement Photography packages and would love to chat.


This vendor list is going to vary depending on your day but in general these would be the vendors to reach out to and a recommended order:

  • Photographer (that’s me!)
  • Videographer
  • Officiant
  • Activity Guide
  • Hair & Makeup Artist
  • Florist
  • Dessert/Bakery
  • Caterer/Private Chef/Restaurant

You might also want a band, boat captain, ranch personnel, Jeep rental company, etc. as your day dictates. Here at Myrtle Creative Co., we do provide vendor referrals as well. Do reach out early to have assistance in finding local vendors who may be an awesome fit for your day.

Stay True to You!

When you get engaged and are talking about your dream wedding experience, really take time to envision together and chat about what your dream day looks like. Make a date night out of going through this five step process! Work together to determine what your dream day feels like, and what it can be. What activities do you want to incorporate? How do you want your day to unfold? And who do you want to share this experience with? Together you can create your dream day that is so incredibly you.

Need help or more inspiration? Do not hesitate to reach out and know that you always have the final say in your own elopement experience. Whether it be me recommending vendors or other ideas – please, please stay true to you! Do not let anyone steer you from your intentional day. Unless of course you discover a dream experience that can happen and it’s a new must have!! 😉

I hope this guide has helped answer the question of how to plan your elopement! And when in doubt – always reach out early! I would love to chat with you for all your Elopement needs – cheers!

Ann Marie of Myrtle Creative Co.

Myrtle Creative Co. is your Elopement Photographer for love + adventure. Ann Marie provides custom planning assistance, vendor referrals, itinerary creation and so much more so you can have the day of your dreams. Reach out today for your Elopement needs!

  1. Stacy says:

    What a very helpful elopement planning resource…and in just 4 easy steps!! Couples will find this very helpful.

  2. Kalie says:

    Beautiful photos and such a handy guide for elopements. Thanks for posting and gathering all the information, great work!

  3. So good information of where to start! That would help most couples!

  4. So many great tips and things to think about when it comes to planning an elopement! I’m sure many couples will find this incredibly helpful!

  5. Kristen says:

    This is a really helpful resource for those considering eloping and don’t know where to even start!

  6. Laura says:

    I love how you break the process down to really make it feel more doable and less daunting! And beautiful photographs!

  7. Meaghan says:

    This is such valuable information for eloping couples to have. You definitely thought of all the big important details! Gorgeous photos too! Thanks for putting this together.

  8. Natalie says:

    Such a helpful guide for couples wanting to elope!

  9. […] And finally, do bring your photographer along (me)! 😉 You don’t want to miss out on having these special moments captured and I love being your unofficial tour guide as needed! Are you ready to chat about ideas for your day? Would love to put together custom examples for you! Reach out here. Ready to plan your Elopement or Intimate Wedding Day? Check out my Four Step Elopement Guide here. […]

  10. Kat says:

    Ahhh so many pretty photos and ideas that I have needed answers to!

  11. Jennifer says:

    So many helpful tips for couples planning their elopement! Clients would be so lucky to have you as their photographer.

  12. Leo says:

    Thanks for putting together such a useful collection of ideas! The permits and guestlist considerations were something I’d never considered. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Sierra says:

    This is a great guide for how to plan an elopement! I love how your first step is focused on asking yourself how you want to feel* on your elopement day!

  14. Naomi Levit says:

    This is such a helpful guide! I like the tip about picking a weekday. Something so simple can make a world of difference regarding how your day looks!

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