You can get married without a wedding. Ditch the traditional wedding for a damn good time. Keep reading and we’ll tell you how!
Did you just breathe a sigh of relief? We’re guessing so, because we’ve been exactly where you are. After getting engaged, we started planning a wedding day that
We sat on the floor of our tiny apartment stressing over a growing guest list when we came to the realization that our wedding wasn’t about us anymore.
So, we ditched it and eloped
We threw out what we had, started from scratch and decided to plan a day we were excited about. We immediately felt a massive wave of relief when we agreed that “we could just elope” instead of having the traditional wedding everyone expected from us.
It freaking ruled
Step 1: Choose how you want to celebrate
Step 2: Decide where you want to get married
Step 3: Decide when you want to get married
Step 4: Plan your day
Step 5: Make it legal
There is absolutely nothing wrong with traditional weddings, but they aren’t for everyone. Truth be told, there are endless resources out there for couples planning big, traditional weddings, and that’s great! But, there’s not a lot out there for folks looking for something different.
Sure, you could hop over to the courthouse, sign your marriage license, and be done with it. There’s absolutely no shame in that (in fact, that’s what we did). But, let us be the elopement day BFFs we wish we had!
This is your wedding day, the first day of a fresh chapter. This day is not about signing a piece of paper and checking it off your list. This day is about celebrating the story you have built together, and it deserves more – you deserve more. You deserve a wedding day that:
Meet your elopement day BFFs
Here’s What we’re covering
Our favorite ways to celebrate without losing the intention
Defining your vision
Defining your budget
Deciding on where
Deciding on when
Deciding on guests
Deciding on what to wear
Don’t forget the details
Craft your ceremony (or skip it)
Deciding on what to do on your wedding day
Making it legal
Sharing your day with others
What we wish we’d known
So, we’re obvi partial to elopements as a way to get married without a wedding because they are one of the best ways to create a totally unique and “true to you” kind of wedding day without the pressures of a larger traditional wedding.
As a couple that also chose to elope for their wedding day, we know the visions that word “elopement” can conjure. A quick run to the courthouse, or the flashing lights of Vegas, we get it. But, elopements aren’t limited to these options.
The world of elopements has morphed into a way for couples to create a bespoke experience for their wedding day that allows them to celebrate in a way that feels authentic to them. Elopements are perfect for couples that are looking to build a wedding day rooted in intention and want to start this new chapter of their lives together with a curated experience.
Through this content, we’ll focus heavily on elopements to help you get married without a wedding and still keep your celebration meaningful.
Other alternatives to traditional weddings
Other alternatives to traditional weddings vary depending mainly on guest count such as micro weddings which are around 25 guests or less (our definition). Micro-weddings weave some traditional aspects of traditional weddings, and still have the opportunity to keep things on the casual and intimate size.
This is a non-religious ceremony, usually conducted by a legal officiant. This is basically going to the courthouse and is the quickest and most cost effective way to get married.
After you decide that a traditional wedding isn’t for you, the possibilities of what your wedding day could look like are unlimited.
it’s important to define the vision you have for your day to keep it intentional and stress-free.
Elopements have the reputation of being quick, stress free, and a breeze to plan, and under the right circumstances that is true. However, if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want your day to look like, your experience may not be everything that you’d hoped for.
Take it from us, there is a lot of planning that goes into crafting an incredible elopement experience, BUT with the right team, planning an adventure (whatever that looks like to you) feels a hell of a lot more exciting than planning a wedding.
So let’s start with the big picture and help you define your vision
When you start defining your vision, do so with zero limitations or logistics in mind. Start big and brain write down everything that pops into your brain. really let your imagination go nuts and after you’ve gotten everything on paper, go back through and highlight what really resonates with you and your partner.
Pro Tip: Write your lists separately and then come together to see what you’ve both came up with. This can give you so much insight into what the best day would look like for both of you, and inspire you to create something totally unique to you.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Q: What does your perfect day look like, start to finish with no limits?
Q: What are things that you’d love to do together on your perfect day?
Q: What does this day feel like for you both? Is it a day full of adrenaline pumping activities, or is it relaxed and easy? Is it a combination of both?
Q: What are landscapes and views that inspire you and make you feel excited?
Not sure where to start? We made this just for you!
Check out what we offer
When you get married without a wedding, you’ll definitely spend less than you would if you were planning a traditional wedding which currently clocks in just under 30k.
We have found that our eloping couples are more interested in allocating their funds to an incredible, once in a lifetime experience…and still come in at a fraction of the cost of a traditional wedding.
Step 1: Decide on what your overall budget is for your day. Get real with your finances and decide upfront what feels like a realistic and worthy budget for the day you want to create.
Step 2: Decide on the most important elements that you want to invest in. When working with your budget, make a list of your investment priorities. This could be luxurious travel and accommodations, delicious food, adventures, attire, or documentation.
Step 3: Book your adventure elopement photographers (hiii) first. We recommend this first because as your adventure elopement photographers and elopement day BFFs, we’ll work with you to help you plan the perfect day. It can save you a lot of time and stress to book your photographers before you get super deep into the planning process.
One of the most exciting aspects of getting married without a wedding is that you can get married in some pretty incredible places.
So, go back to your big picture and see what views and landscapes you’re most drawn to.
And don’t feel like you have to pick just one landscape or area for your day. There are so many places that have a variety of views that you can experience in a day. This is one of the big reasons we love the PNW so much! The landscapes are so diverse and the adventures are limitless.
Think about the colors, sounds, and features you’re most drawn to. This can help you define your vision even further.
Check out this piece on the best places to elope
Here’s some location inspo to get ya started
Many traditional weddings happen on a weekend so that guests can attend without worrying about work the next day.
But, when you decide to get married without a wedding, you don’t have to worry about the schedules of guests.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Q: Are there any important dates that would be meaningful to have your wedding day?
Q: How much privacy do you want? If you’d like to avoid crowds, consider getting married on a weekday
Q: Think about the weather and what you’d be comfortable with. Shoulder seasons are great for more privacy, but can have moodier weather
When you decide to get married without a wedding, you have so much freedom when it comes to your guest list, or lack thereof
Go back to your big picture exercise. When you imagined your most ideal day with your partner, was there anyone there with you, or was it just the two of you?
Soapbox: Your wedding day isn’t about the expectations. If you want to invite others to join you, be ruthless with your guest list and keep it to the folks that will support you and enhance your day.
Interested in eloping with your fam jam? Check out this piece on eloping with family
Check out our sister company’s piece on finding an elopement wedding dress
When you decide to get married without a wedding, you are no longer bound to the traditions that come with a large wedding and that includes attire!
Go back to your big picture exercise from earlier. What were each of you wearing and how did you feel wearing it?
Questions to Ask Yourself
Q: What would feel good to wear when you get married? A sleek suit, a dress that billows in the wind, a jumpsuit that you feel badass in?
Q: What colors do you want to wear and feel most confident and celebrated in?
Q: What colors would pop and compliment the landscapes you want to explore?
Q: What footwear would you be the most comfy in during your day?
When you decide to get married without a wedding, you may want to add some extra details to build a really unique experience. This could be in the form of collaborating with other wedding vendors, or being really intentional with certain aspects of your celebration.
You know already know the drill! Go back to your big picture exercise and how you envision your perfect day.
Lodging: Where do you picture yourselves spending your downtime? Is it a cozy cabin with a hot tub? A beach house with stunning views? Or maybe its at an incredible campsite with insane views you backpack to.
Check out this guide to the best Airbnb wedding venues that could be perfect for your day.
Transportation: Do you need any special transportation for your day like a jeep, helicopter, or boat plane? There are some INSANE places to see that may require some badass ways to get there.
You can keep things as simple as you want when you get married without a wedding, or you can get creative and work with additional vendors to create a super unique and curated experiences that make you feel extra celebrated.
Florals: An aspect from traditional weddings many of our couples like to incorporate into their day are florals. A bouquet or boutonnière can add a little pop and elevate your attire. You can build your own bouquet, work with a florist, order dried florals from Etsy.
Hair + Makeup Artist: Many folks choose to hire a hair and makeup artist to elevate their experience. Most folks love their photos the most when they feel like themselves, so work with with a HAMUA that you connect well with.
Officiant: If you’d like someone to lead you through your ceremony, sign and mail in your marriage license, consider hiring an officiant.
Planner: While we help you plan many aspects of your day, recommend vendors, and build your timeline, some couples want additional support in the form of an elopement planner. You planner may even book vendors for you and help coordinate your day if you desire.
Sustenance: You want to make sure your well-nourished on your wedding day. And since you’re getting married without the wedding, your food budget is 100% all for you, so splurge a little and consider hiring a private chef or a luxury picnic service to elevate your wedding meal.
The little things: Ring boxes, vow books, announcements, custom “just eloped signs”, etc. these small details may be something you want to consider to add a lil’ something extra to your day.
Ready to plan one helluva day?
Many couples choose to have a ceremony when the choose to get married without a wedding, but because you don’t have a rule book to follow and your elopement timeline is flexible AF your ceremony can look however you want it to.
When you envision this part of your day, what resonates with you and your partner? Do you want to exchange handwritten vows, or use traditional ones?
Do you want to incorporate any meaningful readings, like your favorite poems, or songs?
Are there union ceremonies that you feel drawn to like knot tying or do you want to create something totally unique to you?
Ready to plan your dream day?
One massive perk of getting married without a wedding is that your timeline is totally structured around your most incredible day and your preferred pace.
Wedding timelines tend to follow a certain structure and tend to prioritize traditions and guest experience. Your elopement timeline on the other hand prioritizes your experience.
Looking back at the big picture brainstorming, what pace did you envision? Was it slow and chill, or would you prefer an exciting day, or a nice balance?
Remember, our biggest priority is your experience, and an elopement timeline is key to an incredible time.
Check out this in-depth Guide to building your elopement timeline
The legalities of getting married without a wedding vary in each state. As Oregon elopement photographers and Washington elopement photographers, we work predominately in the PNW and have helped many a couple get legally married without a traditional wedding.
Sam is ordained through the Universal Life Church (ULC) and has served as the officiant for any of our couples. To be legally married, many states will require that you have an officiant that is ordained through an organization that the state recognizes (most states recognize individuals ordained through ULC).
Your officiant will sign your marriage license and your state may require 2 witness signatures as well.
In general (while looking different in each state), the steps to be legally married without a wedding typically look like this:
Step 1: Apply for your marriage license (you can usually do this online) and pay the application fee (depends on the state and county).
Step 2: Pick up your marriage license or have it mailed to you (some, but not all states and counties may offer this).
Step 3: Observe the waiting period (many states have a 3 day waiting period). Some states, like Oregon, will allow you to pay an extra fee to not have to observe the waiting period, and others, like Colorado don’t have one.
Pro Tip: Want to have a “just us” ceremony experience, but need an officiant to make things legal? Sam is ordained and offers this as a complimentary service to our couples!
Step 4: Have your ceremony and have your officiant and required number of witnesses sign your marriage license. Some states do not require an officiant or witnesses. Colorado will allow you to marry yourselves, don’t require witnesses, and don’t have a waiting period making it one of the easiest states to get married in!
Step 5: Mail your signed marriage license back in and request official copies.
Getting married without a wedding means that you have a lot more freedom in how you share your day with others.
Many couples choose to elope and have their wedding day spent focused solely on each other.
Here’s how our couples have shared their day with others, while keeping their experience private:
Ready to get this party started?
We’re Sam + Kyle, your Adventure elopement photographers and elopement day BFFs.
Right after we got engaged, we began planning a traditional wedding and quickly realized it wasn’t for us.
When we canceled our plans and eloped instead, we felt like a huge weight was lifted off of us. But, adventure elopements weren’t really a thing, and we simply got our license signed at a courthouse and planned an INCREDIBLE honeymoon instead. We had no idea how incredible our day could’ve been until a few years later when we decided to go all out and renew our vows and go all out.
Backpacking to a partially frozen lake, camping under the stars, and watching the sunrise while counting waterfalls was the perfect way for us to do it big and feel so celebrated.
That’s the kind of joy we want for you
Let’s Friggin’ Do This