How Do You Elope? Everything You Need to Know

For some couples, traditional weddings just aren’t how they envision their wedding day. Luckily, elopements have become super popular, and while the idea of planning a wedding day that is focused on you and your partner sounds perfect. But, how do you elope? In this post, we’ll cover your questions about the legalities of eloping and the foundations of planning your dream elopement.

What is Eloping?

I took a wedding quiz when I was in middle school and after adding up my score, Cosmopolitan told me that I should elope. This option was illustrated by a bride with a 50’s pin-up look, standing outside of a Vegas chapel, in a bold black and white polka-dot dress. Awesome, but definitely not me. For a long time, that’s what eloping seemed to be, a spontaneous trip to Vegas, unplanned and a little…dare I say…scandalous? But, years later, when the time came to start planning our wedding, scrapping our more traditional plans to create a day that really represented us became super appealing. Trying to find venues, a caterer, create a guest list that included everyone started to feel incredibly overwhelming and like the day wasn’t really about us or our relationship anymore, so we decided to elope instead. I can honestly say there was no better way for us to get married. Eloping is simply getting married, but instead of having a huge traditional wedding, you create a day that is just focused on you, your partner, and the things you love the most. Eloping means slipping away from wedding industry standards and leaning into creating a wedding day that celebrates your values.

Sound like what you’re looking for?

Forest elopement inspiration

Why Elope?

Not everyone resonates with the idea of eloping. Traditional weddings with big receptions appeal to a lot of folks, but the idea of eloping is becoming more and more popular and giving couples the freedom to explore what their wedding day could look like. There are plenty of reasons to elope: 

  1. Family dynamics may be difficult or strained 
  2. You value experiences 
  3. You’d rather spend the day focused on your partner 
  4. Elopements are less damaging to the environment 
  5. Elopements are a fraction of the cost of a traditional wedding 

For more on these reasons and a few more, you can check out this piece we wrote detailing 10 reasons to elope to help you decide if eloping is what resonates with you and your partner.

Want to talk about planning your dream elopement?

Montana elopement inspiration

How Much Does it Cost to Elope

It’s obvious that eloping can cost SIGNIFICANTLY less than a traditional wedding. Clocking in with an average $34,000 price tag, many couples value putting their hard earned money into an unforgettable experience. Can an elopement still cost 30K? ABSOLUTELY! But, that money is spent on YOU, not buying dinner for upwards of 100 people. 

Because there are no industry standards or a ton of societal traditions around eloping, your budget can look like whatever you need it to. Many people think that couples that elope don’t value their wedding day. We can say from first-hand experience, that this is total BS. Couples that choose to elope value their wedding day just as much as couples who choose to have a traditional wedding. Truthfully, they value different experiences and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

What is the Average Cost of an Elopement?

  • Photographers $2,500 – $3,000
  • Permits $25-$300
  • Flowers: $30-$500
  • Officiant $200-$450
  • Travel – Very dependent on if you’re eloping somewhere local or doing some big travel so we’ll average it out $3,000 – $7,000
  • Attire – Varies here as well since many couples like to thrift their wedding digs, but we’ll average it out to $1,500-$2,000
  • Marriage paperwork – this depends on where you get married, but we’ll round up to $80

This is obviously dependent on so many factors and can be arranged to suit your specific wedding vision, but even on the highest end of your elopement budget, you’re looking at a little over $13,000. This is a fraction of the cost of a traditional wedding and can be made to fit any budget. For budget-conscious couples, eloping is a killer choice for your wedding day.

Want more info?

Elopement dress inspiration

Is it Legal to Elope?

In a nutshell, yes. Eloping is totally legal and requires the same paperwork that traditional marriage requires. However, depending on where you elope, you may need to do some research. Different states have different legalities about what is required for your marriage license, who can serve as an officiant, who can sign as a witness, how many witnesses you’ll need, etc. marriage laws vary state to state, and can require a little digging to figure out. There are plenty of resources out there to help you know what to plan for, but you can also chat with your elopement photographers (heyyyyy) and they’ll be able to help you research and give you some insight. We really like starting our research for new states using this site and then refer to state and county websites based on the general laws.

Is Eloping a Legal Marriage?

In order to elope, you’ll have to complete and submit the same state paperwork that you would need to for a traditional wedding. What makes your marriage legal in the eyes of the government is by applying and submitting your marriage license. Things can get tricky around WHO is legally allowed to marry you, as some states have different rules around this. For example, Colorado allows couples to self-solemnize, meaning the signature of an officiant isn’t required, whereas, in Texas, you’ll need a legal officiant and 2 witnesses. Finding a legal officiant that is recognized in most states is a lot easier than it sounds. Most states recognize individuals that have become ordained through The Universal Life Church, but others may not. Becoming ordained is also insanely easy and takes less than 5 minutes. We’re both ordained to give our couples the option to have a super-private ceremony and forgo hiring an officiant that will also adventure to their ceremony location. You can have family members or friends become ordained here if you want someone you know to be part of your day or lead your ceremony. 

How Many Witnesses Do You Need to Get Married? 

This also varies by state! We get asked this question by couples that are having a “just the two of us” elopement because the thought of having to decide who will be your witness(es) can make you feel a little stressed, but fret not, it’s no big deal to find witnesses on your wedding day. States that require witnesses typically require two, so we have both signed as witnesses for our couples. When one of us has signed as officiant, the other will sign as a witness and then we typically run into at least one other person out on the trail that is always STOKED to sign as a witness. The only requirement for witnesses that you’ll usually see is that they are of legal age. However, some states, like Colorado will allow for your pup to sign as your witness, which is honestly so ideal.

We love helping our couples find all the info they need!

Elopement ceremony inspiration

How to Keep Your Family Involved When Eloping

While plenty of couples prefer to keep their elopement private until they’re ready to announce their marriage, other couples may want to keep family members and friends involved. This is, of course, dependent on your family situation, but if you are wanting to involve your family or others in your elopement day, there are plenty of ways to make that happen. Here are a few ideas to share your day.

  • Read letters from friends and family after your ceremony 
  • Zoom call in the morning or evening before/after your ceremony
  • Plan a party for later with your friends and family to celebrate together 
  • Share your photos with them 
  • Involve them in planning some of the details
  • Invitee the folks you can’t imagine having your wedding day without! Eloping doesn’t have to mean that it’s just the two of you.

Can You Tell People That You’re Eloping?

Whether or not you choose to tell people about your elopement is totally and completely up to you. Some couples want to tell people before their elopement and involve friends and family in the planning process so that they feel involved in their wedding day. However, some couples want to keep their wedding day top secret and share after. Here’s a few ideas on how to tell people you are eloping/that you’ve just eloped:

  • Send out some super cute announcements before your date 
  • Share some announcements after your reffing day 
  • Share images on social media
  • Have a dinner party and share your images

Wanna know more?

Rented dress helps to budget for an elopement

How to Plan an Elopement

Feeling unsure of how to plan your elopement? That’s ok! First, things first, you’ll want to find the right elopement photographer for you. Obviously, you’ll want a photographer that has a style you like, but you also want to be sure that you’ll get along with them since they’ll be hanging out with you on your wedding day. 

You’ll want to decide on a general time of year, if not an exact date. This will help figure out what location will be perfect for you (unless you already have one). 

Once you’ve got your “when” generally figured out, you’ll want to determine where you want to get married. Choose a place that offers up the views you want and has the types of activities you enjoy accessible. 

Get your legalities taken care of! This includes applying for your marriage license, applying for permits and submitting all of the necessary paperwork before/after your ceremony.

How to Decide on Where to Elope

There are plenty of factors to consider when deciding where you want to say your vows. You want to spend some time thinking about what you want your wedding day to look like and then choose a location that reflects those values and allows you to do all the things you want! Consider the type of scenery that you want to be surrounded by. Think about any activities you may want to do together, or what types of foods you’d like to eat. If you’re considering a location that is a little more remote, you may want to think about what other vendors you’ll be needing for your wedding day and have a realistic idea of what logistics you’ll need to keep in mind.

Where To Elope in The US

There are plenty of killer places to elope in the United States and really, where you choose to elope depends on what you want to do and what you want to be surrounded by. The western side of the US is our absolute favorite and can offer up some killer views, coupled with privacy and adventure. We spend our time traveling between the southwest and pacific northwest and these regions are some of our favorites to explore. If you’re thinking about getting married in the Pacific Northwest, you can check out these pieces that cover everything you need to know about getting married in Oregon and Washington state to get an understanding of the legalities around eloping. We also have this blog breaking down eloping in Texas, in case the desert is calling your name.

Elopement Checklist

Here’s a super basic list of what you’ll want to start thinking about doing as you start dreaming up your elopement day.

  • Hire photographers that specialize in elopements so you’ll have someone that can assist you with logistics and planning. 
  • Apply for your marriage license for the state you’ll be getting married in
  • Start looking for your wedding attire
  • Don’t forget your rings 
  • After deciding where you’d like to elope, don’t forget to apply for your location permit (your photographers can help with this) 
  • Consider what florals you’d like to incorporate into your day
  • Find an officiant or put together a ceremony plan

Want some help planning?

How to plan an elopement

Maybe you’re considering eloping because you want a wedding day that is focused on you and your partner, maybe you want to have a killer experience on the day you say your vows, maybe you don’t want to sacrifice intentionality for a lower budget, or maybe the thought of planning a traditional wedding makes you sweat. Whatever your reasons may be, we encourage you to explore planning your elopement and having a wedding day that is totally and completely “you”.  

Ready to start planning the perfect wedding day?

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