Congratulations on your engagement and your upcoming elopement! This guide is meant to help in the beginning, early stages of Elopement Planning to cover some of the basic planning steps – the Who, What, Where, & When. This does assume that you have already made the decision to have an Elopement vs. a large wedding. Your reasons for this are unique to you, and it is helpful to know what they are and keep those in the forefront of your mind during this process. Stay true to yourselves and what you are wanting for your day!
Elopement Planning is different than wedding planning. No matter what ‘Elopement’ used to mean, currently, in 2021 it means something totally different. Present day meaning is an intentional day focused on you and your soon to be spouse. I just want to be clear – it doesn’t mean cheap, running away, secretive or ‘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 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 on you two, celebrating your love story rather than sticking to a traditional, pre-determined timeline.
Four Steps for your Early Planning Process
These four 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 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 four steps in order 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.
Step One: Who will be joining you for your Elopement Day?
Elopements are small in size but the exact size is up to you. For your elopement to be legal, you might need two witnesses as well as your ordained officiant depending on where your elopement takes place. But aside from what might be ‘required’, let’s chat more about what you want for your day. 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 day.
When thinking about this and trying to determine your ‘who’, don’t worry too much if your guest count suddenly jumps to 40 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.
Just because you don’t want them there on your day does not mean you do not love them. This might also be a great reason to hire an awesome videographer who can capture your day for your family or friends who will not be there.
Here at Myrtle Creative Co., we distinguish an Elopement as an event with 0-10 guests. If having 11-50 guests, we distinguish that as an Intimate Wedding. This helps us during the planning process as there are usually different aspects of your day to consider depending on your guest count.
Your Loved Ones
To us, being inclusive of your choice of guests is important. This is your day and we want you to have the best day ever with the people you love. This is one of the reasons why we have this as step one. Just because you have decided on an Elopement does not mean your loved ones cannot be part of it too! Who are your must have people?
Step Two: What do you want your Elopement Day to consist of?
Now that you have a general guest count and know who will be joining you for your day, you can start thinking about the moments in your day and what those might be. The options for your Elopement Day or Elopement Weekend are essentially endless. You could go horseback riding to your ceremony location. Then you could have an intimate lunch with guests before setting off for a river rafting adventure. Your rafting trip could end at a special location for your first dance at sunset. Finally, end your day by celebrating with guests for dinner and dessert. That could totally work and be an awesome day!
If wanting to have a unique Elopement Day that just screams ‘you’, I would recommend starting with these extra special things you want to do for your day. This isn’t your ceremony or meal, etc. but those other things that you want to include in your day. Planning your Elopement should be fun! So have fun with this.
These experiences could be a 4×4 off-road drive, sky diving, rock climbing, wine tasting, personal happy hour, stargazing, hiking, etc. For a complete list of ideas, check out this blog here (To Come!). By deciding on these extra special moments first, you can really put your wants and intentions first. It is much easier to work those other more standard aspects of your day such as ceremony, around them. Stay true to what you truly want to do on your day!
Another great thing with choosing an Elopement, aside from the obvious 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, find a solution. Hike in the morning for your first look where you exchange your personal vows but return to a more accessible location later for your actual 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.
Elopement Day Options
Rather than thinking about an Elopement as a smaller or shorter wedding, think of it as a day to celebrate and truly experience together doing just what you want to. If you need any help on creating your custom, intentional day I would love to chat with you! Planning assistance is always provided with all Elopement, Intimate and Wedding Photography packages and I love working with you to bring your dreams to life.
Step Three: 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.
Your Location Requirements
With your ‘who’ and your ‘what’ in mind – let’s chat about the ‘where’. This can easily be the most fun part of the planning process as you see so many gorgeous location options but before you get overwhelmed with options, what are you envisioning for your day? And does your ‘what’ require a specific location or activity options? For example, if rock climbing is a requirement 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 location is pet friendly. In this way, you might instantly have it narrowed down to approximately three ideal locations to choose from.
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. 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. Especially after 2020 and the surge of elopements in well-known parks, many rules have changed for 2021 and moving forward.
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 an Airbnb, 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 a camping Elopement weekend, multi-day river rafting adventure and more!
To have an intentional day, you need to plan it with that intention in mind from the start.Myrtle Creative Co.
Step Four: When is the best time for your Elopement?
This is the fourth step because your location will most likely be a deciding factor for your Elopement Day. 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.
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 location.
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 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 adjust a day or two as needed to accommodate – great!
Awesome! You have your Who, What, Where and When 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. This can help in the planning process. 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!)
- Hair & Makeup Artist
You might also want a local river guide, band, boat captain, ranch personnel, personal chef, caterer, 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!
However, 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 hell yes!
I hope this guide will be a great start to your Elopement Planning and when in doubt – always reach out early! I would love to chat with you for all your Elopement needs.