Elopement Planning

The Elopement Planning Checklist

When it comes to elopement planning, there aren’t quite as many details to stress over versus a traditional wedding. BUT that doesn’t mean an elopement plans itself. There are still a few things that you will need to figure out before your celebration day. From ceremony location, to accommodations, to the details that you want to include, and the documents needed to make your marriage legal. I’ve put together this elopement checklist to help you through it all.

  1. Determine your budget: Before you start planning, decide on a budget for your elopement. This will help guide your decisions on the location, vendors, and other details. Once you’ve decided on a budget, stick to it. It’s okay to be flexible on some things that you really have your heart set on. Such as venue, photographer, or cake maker for example. But please do not put yourself into financial difficulty booking dream vendors.

  2. Choose your location: Decide on the location for your elopement. Consider factors such as the scenery, accessibility, and any necessary permits or reservations. You’ll also want to consider what is or isn’t permitted at all possible locations. Nearly all National Parks do not permit live or dried flower bouquets that are not native, ceremony arches/altars, or drone photography. Other locations may only allow a certain window of time (e.g., 3 hours max) for your ceremony.

  3. Consider the time of year + weather: When deciding on your location, make sure to take into consideration the time of year and weather. If you’re thinking about a relatively popular area, warmer months may mean larger crowds during your ceremony (if in a public area, such as a National Park), or more difficulty making dinner reservations for you and your party. Whereas cooler months may mean fewer people, but increased chance of unpredictable weather.

  4. Book your accommodations and travel (if needed). Make sure to secure your travel and where you’d like to stay for your elopement experience. Popular destinations during popular times of the year may mean booking a year or more in advance for lodging. Flights are typically best priced roughly 6-8 months prior to your desired travel date.

    Depending on your location, this may need to be arranged sooner rather than later. You’ll also want to consider the distance from your accommodations to your ceremony location or venue. With that in mind, you’ll have to determine if you’ll be changing into your wedding attire on location, or beforehand.

  5. Book your vendors: Book any necessary vendors, such as a photographer, officiant, and florist. Take your time in booking them and do your research! I cannot emphasize this enough. There are some wedding vendors I’ve seen first hand inflate their Google Reviews to look better than what has actually reported by their couples. Get all agreements in writing, and make sure to be clear about your expectations. And do not be afraid to tell a vendor that they’re not a good fit for what you’re envisioning.

  6. Obtain any necessary permits or licenses: Depending on your location and plans, you may need to obtain permits or licenses. These could be required for things like your ceremony, park entry, parking arrangements, or commercial photography permits. Research the requirements and make sure to obtain any necessary documentation. Your photographer or planner can most likely help you learn and navigate the process.

  7. Choose your attire: Decide on your elopement attire, including any necessary accessories such as shoes and jewelry. Don’t feel like you have to wear traditional attire if that’s not your thing. Love that bright, floral dress? Wear it. Want to wear a suit but it makes more sense to wear hiking boots? Do it. Once you have your attire, you may find you need to have it altered. Make sure not to put this step off for too long because seamstresses can be hard to find depending on your location.

    If your elopement day involves a hike, make sure to take the time to practice packing your hiking bag. Especially if you plan on changing into your wedding attire at your ceremony location. You want to make sure that you bring all the necessary gear for your hike and your wedding attire, and still be comfortable while making the trek.

  8. Plan your meals: Decide on any necessary meals, such as a pre-ceremony breakfast or a post-ceremony dinner. Research local restaurants or caterers if necessary. Don’t forget to pack snacks for the day itself because sometimes we forget to eat. Some go to snacks that I absolutely love are Frooze Balls!

  9. Plan transportation: Determine how you will get to and from the location. If necessary, arrange for transportation. If getting to your ceremony location requires a hike, you’ll also want to account for the physical ability and accessibility needs of you, your partner, and any guests you’re having along.

  10. Schedule a hair/makeup trial run: If you plan on having your hair and/or makeup professionally done, make sure to schedule a trial run. This way both you and your artist can work together to create a look that you will love for your wedding day. ALSO, do not be afraid to tell your artist if there’s something about your hair/makeup that you don’t quite like. That doesn’t mean go full Karen and be inhumane. It means communicating effectively with your artist to create something together because you are essentially a team.

  11. Create a timeline: Create a timeline for your elopement day, including any necessary preparations, the ceremony, and any post-ceremony activities. Your photographer is likely the best resource for help with this if you’re prioritizing your wedding day portraits. They’ll take into account the lighting throughout the day at each planned location.

  12. Enjoy Your Handcrafted Elopement Experience: If we’ve worked together to create your personalized elopement experience, this is your chance to live fully in each moment that unfolds. Know that you’re in a safe space with me, and you’re welcome to be vulnerable with your partner without risk of judgement. Your celebration will be emotional, do yourself the favor and embrace those emotions.

One Week Before…

Make sure to:

  1. Pack all your wedding attire/gear
  2. Keep tabs on the weather
  3. Pick up your marriage license
  4. Finalize your day-of schedule/timeline

If you’re wanting some help building your dream elopement experience, get in touch!
Let’s start planning your elopement together!

Here are some other elopement planning resources you may enjoy!
How to Write Your Own Vows
10+ Dinner Ideas for Elopements and Intimate Weddings


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