Ooooooh, buddy, we’re so excited to dive into this elopement checklist with you. If you’re planning to elope with your sweetheart, there’s a lot to consider – but fear not! We’ve got you covered. From the dreaming stage to the planning stage, to enjoying your magical day, your elopement can be anything you want it to be with a bit of preparation. So, what are you waiting for?! Let’s get started!
- Dream about it
- Set a budget
- Choose a location
- Decide what activities you’ll do
- Pick your special date
- Hire the right vendors for you
- Decide who you’ll celebrate with
- Plan your elopement ceremony
- Get the gear to make it happen
- Make it legal
DREAM ABOUT IT.
This is our FAVORITE part of the planning process! This is where you grab those special glasses, pour the champagne and imagine what your special day could be like. The beauty of eloping is the freedom to do exactly what you want to do without worrying about what others want you to do. We’re a bit partial here to adventure elopements, but there are all sorts of ways to make your special day special!
Would you enjoy kayaking in the clear waters of Fiji, rock climbing in Boulder, or getting up close and personal with the volcanoes of Iceland? You can have an intimate celebration overlooking your dream travel location, checking off your bucket list, AND marrying your honey! You could plan a full day elopement with just the two of you, a multi-day elopement in a different country, or even a micro wedding if you’d prefer to have a few friends and family join you. Here are a few questions to help you dream about your wedding day:
What is the overall meaning of your day? Is this day just for the two of you? Do others play a role in your day? What does the scenery look like? Are you in the mountains, by a lake, on a cliff, in a forest, or in front of a waterfall? How much time are you able to use for the trip? Is the elopement part of a larger trip or combined with your honeymoon? How much time are you able to take off work? Will it just be the two of you, or will you include others? What does the ceremony look like? Are there important cultural or religious traditions you’d like to incorporate into the ceremony? What do you want to wear? A dress or a suit? Something more casual? Are you wearing shoes – or not? If it’s cold, will you need to wear extra layers? What footwear do you need? What activities do you see yourself doing? Are there activities you enjoy doing together or ones that you’ve never tried before, like hiking, stargazing, stand-up paddleboarding?
So many questions to answer on your complete elopement checklist! Take your time and a bottle of wine to your favorite spot and daydream!
SET A BUDGET
While eloping can absolutely save you money, make sure you still have a plan for how much you want to spend. TLDR: You will spend some dough on your elopement – that’s how it ought to be! You deserve it. Instead of putting a lot of money into catering or venues, you’ll be able to splurge (yes, splurge) on other things. Because each elopement adventure can provide endless options and therefore we’ve seen budgets vary at a wide range. That being said, here are a few things you can ‘bank’ on (we couldn’t resist):
Photographer: $4,000-$8,000. A photographer’s biggest priority is capturing those priceless moments of you and your honey without being in your face. Adventure elopements are perfect for this! They should also be your main guides on where to elope, making it legal, permit information, etc.
Photographer + Videographer: $7,500-$12,000. One of the biggest pieces of advice we hear couples telling other couples: hire a photographer AND videographer. With an adventure elopement, this makes for some EPIC photos and video footage of you and your love being YOU!
Elopement Planner: roughly $4,000. It’s helpful to think about your time saved vs. the investment in an elopement planner who knows the area well and is experienced in elopements. You can even hire a day-of coordinator to make sure things go smoothly! If you’re hoping to have a beautiful arch set up or even a picture-perfect picnic on the mountain, you’ll want to hire someone who can make all of those details come to life.
Travel Arrangements: Literally put any number here! Depending on sooooo many things, like: Will you be flying? Do you need a passport? Are you driving your car or renting one? Do you want a fancy AirBnB (the answer is yes) or to camp all week (also yes)? Do you have a loved one’s vacation home you can stay in? Travel costs will be your biggest variable. Most of our couples plan for travel investments by either picking their dream location and saving for the elopement adventure they want or picking a budget they can afford and planning an elopement adventure that fits within their budget.
Pro tip of your complete elopement checklist: If you’re looking to save money in this category, we recommend searching for flights using websites like Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Momondo to find the best flights at the best rate.
Marriage Licenses: $50-$100.
Wedding Attire: Same thing here as with travel arrangements. We’ve had people use what’s in their closet or splurge for a handmade wedding dress and suit. It’s YOUR day. Make sure you feel comfortable, exquisite, and like the damn royals you are!
CHOOSE A LOCATION
Think about where you’ve been together (or individually) or what you’ve experienced that sets your soul on fire. Does standing at the top of the mountain take your breath away? Does the smell of the ocean make you forget the world? Is your dream to elope by a lake, on a cliff, in a forest, or in front of a waterfall? Do you envision getting married in a courthouse then hopping on a plane for an epic adventure? We know how important finding the perfect place to say your vows and marry each other is. There’s a whole world out there worth exploring, and your plans will revolve around where you go. Check that epic location off your complete elopement checklist. When you plan an adventure elopement, you’ll want to find somewhere that really feels like your place. While you’re doing research, know that there are people (like us!) who can help if you and your honey don’t want to worry about the logistics of getting there, having the right permits, making sure you see all the epic sights, etc.
If you’re looking for a mountain elopement, look no further than these epic U.S. mountain elopement locations! you’re thinking about a beach elopement, might we recommend Mexico or any of these San Diego elopement locations? If the PNW coast is more up your alley, look no further than these Oregon elopement locations! We could go on and on about different locations, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some help narrowing down your dreams into real options!
Speaking of reaching out, if an international elopement is all you’ve ever wanted, we would LOVE to accompany you and capture your epic elopement. We’re offering huge discounts to couples who travel to any of our ‘bucket list’ locations: Peru, Iceland, Greece, Ireland, the Italian Dolomites, Switzerland, or Patagonia!
DECIDE WHAT ACTIVITIES YOU’LL DO
Of course, part of choosing your perfect location is finding that great AirBnB, breathtaking glamping spot, renting the sprinter van, or borrowing a loved one’s vacation rental property. You get the idea! By dreaming about where you want to go, how much you can afford, and the activities you want to do, you can now plan your travel arrangements. Is it important to you to hit up all the fantastic restaurants where you’re traveling? Do you want to fly first class? Do you want to stay in one place or visit many locations? You got this.
Oh, the adventures you could choose. Do you ride bikes together regularly? Love hiking? Enjoy bar-hopping? Ducking into your favorite local coffee shop? You two could do something that makes your day feel like home. Or, would you rather have your elopement be an adventure filled with activities you have yet to do? Think: kayaking in the clear waters of Fiji, rock climbing in Boulder, getting up close and personal with the volcanoes of Iceland! Your complete elopement checklist could turn into the bucket list of a lifetime!
Fun activity tip (pun intended): Each of you take 5 minutes, and speed write as many activities you’d like to do together and see how many matches you have!
Here are 35 of some of our favorite activities to do on your wedding day:
pop that champagne
have a picnic
throw axes post-ceremony
kayak/canoe to your elopement location
get up for the sunrise or soak in the sunset
book a bucket list trip
enjoy s’mores by the campfire
summit a mountain
go mountain biking
take a scenic gondola ride in a mountain town
order room service
jump in a body of water in your wedding attire
rent that dream AirBnB you’ve had your eyes on
hike in the dark with headlamps
start the day in a cute coffee shop
go off-road jeeping/ATV-ing
rent standup paddleboards
visit a plant nursery and buy a plant that will remind you of your special day
go on a hot air balloon ride
bake your own wedding cake
go on a helicopter ride
have a romantic dinner on the beach
dance under the stars for your first dance
have dinner at a local restaurant
make a piece of art together
cheers over your favorite cocktail
go bar hopping together or with friends/family
go snowboarding or skiing
tell each other stories from when you first met
read your text messages to each other from your first few weeks of dating
As you can see, you can do just about anything on your elopement day! We can’t wait to see what you come up with. If you’d like more ideas, check out more things to do on your elopement day!
PICK YOUR SPECIAL DATE
Seasonality plays a BIG part in how your plans will unfold. Are you thinking of a winter elopement with epic mountains in the background, or would you like something on the beach instead? Typically, summer months are more challenging to plan and more expensive due to increased tourism, but it’s not impossible.
Keep in mind, our adventure friends – high elevation locations have a very short season, usually mid-June through early September. This can make planning in high elevation locations tricky, but again, not impossible (think: Lake Tahoe, Colorado, Utah, mountain locations, etc.). Are you game to grab some layers for a winter elopement? We’re so down. For those of you looking for some epic locations with pleasant temperatures year-round, we’re here for you too! Here’s a list of warm locations all over the world to elope in.
If you’re looking to create an elopement adventure on a budget, it’s beneficial if you can be flexible with your travel dates. Here’s a pro tip on your complete elopement checklist: for example, it’s almost always cheaper to fly during the middle of the week than on a weekend because most people travel on the weekends, and airlines hike their prices then. Prices are also cheaper if you fly early-morning or late at night because fewer people want to travel then. Avoid Fridays and Mondays as that’s when most business travelers fly.
HIRE THE RIGHT VENDORS FOR YOU
Here are just a few of the vendors you might want for your elopement:
Florist for your bouquet and boutonniere
Hair and Makeup Artist
Caterer, Baker, Chef – you get the idea, someone to make you food!
If you’re looking to knock out a photographer, videographer, AND elopement planner, you’re in the right place. We have so many tips and tricks up our sleeves to make sure your elopement experience is perfect. From the moment you hire us, we are a team.
It all starts with the questionnaire to find out what is important to you for your elopement. You’ll get a list of customized location options, resources to help you plan, and vendor recommendations. We’ll dream and scheme! We will help you navigate those top 10 things couples forget when planning their adventure elopement. We’re available for advice, bouncing ideas around, and talking through logistics. No matter what, we’ll create an elopement timeline to ensure we’re at the right spot at the right time. We’re your dream team, and we’re ready to guide you through all things eloping!
Documenting the whole experience of your elopement allows you to relive your special day for years to come! Ps. Always fit in a day after session. It’s good for the soul. Here’s an outline of what your photos/video could involve:
The first look.
The epic hike to your ceremony spot.
The reading of your heartfelt vows.
The happy tears as you say “I do.”
The sunset views.
Dancing under the stars at the end of the night.
DECIDE WHO YOU’LL CELEBRATE WITH
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: your elopement day is YOUR elopement day! You get to decide who you’ll celebrate with. Whether you have a few people, no people, or a micro wedding, we recommend letting your family and favorite people know. Many times, our loved ones have dreamt about this day just like we have! Letting them know ahead of time gives them space to process, support you, and enjoy your stories to tell after you’ve eloped.
There are lots of ways to keep people included if they’re itching to help! For example, you could share the details of your day with your friends and family and let them get involved. Between booking travel arrangements and lodging to attire and honeymoon plans, there are many areas where you could enlist their help and expertise. Loved ones looove being a part of the complete elopement checklist.
Eloping also doesn’t have to mean giving up on your favorite wedding traditions! Take your mom and girl’s dress shopping with you, have your friends throw a bachelor/bachelorette party, take something old, new, borrowed, and blue from your loved ones, and incorporate that into your day. Another one of our favorites is having people write the two of you letters to read on your big day.
Lastly, if you’re having a celebratory reception after your elopement, a video or slideshow of your images will make your guests feel included and a part of your day! The smallest things can really make a difference in making your friends and family feel included.
PLAN YOUR ELOPEMENT CEREMONY
Decide how involved you want to be with the planning. Think about if it’s worth the time you’ll save to invest in an elopement planner who knows the area well and is experienced in elopements. You can even hire a day-of coordinator to make sure things go smoothly.
Once you’ve decided that, the very first thing to do with any timeline is to start with your sunset time. Once you’ve accounted for how much light you’ll have in your day, you can work backward from there and decide how much time you want to spend on your actual ceremony. Remember that sunset and sunrise are the best time for photos, so if those are important to you, block out that time so your photographer has the best light to work with.
Tip for creating your ceremony: list your top three priorities of moments during the day. This will ensure that no matter what else gets put on the list, these three things will absolutely be there for you. Add a little bit of wiggle room in your timeline, so you’re not rushing, and you can enjoy your day. Spontaneity tends to be the best part of most elopements!
If your prioritized activities are inside or have to do with businesses that might have hours of operation, note that in your timeline. See more of our cool ideas on what to do on the complete elopement checklist. If you want to do an epic white water rafting session before your ceremony, for example, be sure to know how long it lasts and when you can reserve your time slot.
Now that you have the timeline in order, will you be writing your own vows? Do you want to have your officiant read a special quote or religious prayer? Do you want to read letters from your family during the ceremony? You can literally do whatever you want! Tip: think about what you’ve loved at other’s weddings if you’re stuck. No shame in borrowing what others also thought was beautiful and meaningful, if it’s beautiful and meaningful to you too!
GET THE GEAR TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
More than anything else – it is essential that you feel absolutely beautiful, comfortable, and happy on your wedding day. There are no rules. Whatever you love that best fits “you” and who you are will be perfect. Once you find that perfect, flowy dress, you can check if off your complete elopement checklist.
For hiking elopements, the best idea is to pack your dress away in a backpack and change when we get to the ceremony spot. Consider getting a lightweight gown style dress and avoid heavy materials like corsets with boning or huge amounts of tulle in a puffy skirt.
Pick something that best fits your style and the environment. Make sure you give yourself room to wear an extra layer underneath if you need the extra warmth in cold locations. Be sure to check “move around like you would if you were hiking and lifting your significant other to ensure the best fit” off your complete elopement checklist.
Good solid footwear with actual tread is very important when walking and if you’ll be hiking on your elopement day. There may be some very epic photo spots on top of rocks & boulders that will require good stable footwear with tread. I highly discourage heels of any kind and also strongly discourage men’s dress shoes that are completely smooth on the bottom.
For a longer hiking elopement, I highly suggest wearing the best pair of hiking boots you can find (make sure you break them in if they’re new!). You can keep them on for your photos or pack a different pair of shoes in your pack to change into. If you opt for changing shoes – they still need to have tread!
If you’re traveling for your elopement, you might want to pack a few layers. Here’s what we recommend:
Under wedding dresses: I highly suggest wearing leggings, long underwear, yoga pants, etc. This is one of the best secrets of our complete elopement checklist. Plan for more than one layer depending on the time of year at your location. If the top layer is nude, it blends in very well for photos. Amazon has a lot of options for nude fleece tights.
Outer layers: The weather can be unpredictable, and it is always a good idea to have outer layering options! A packable rain shell to block wind and/or unexpected rain. And something warm – depending on your season and location, this may be a down jacket, a fur wrap, a chunky sweater, or a wool shawl. Brands I love: Fjallraven, Patagonia, Arcteryx.
backpacks & gear
Some adventurous elopements call for a bit more gear – and the complete elopement checklist has you covered! If you’re hiking you may want to consider a backpack to hold your extra layers, water, snacks, vow books, etc. A headlamp is also necessary if you are hiking before sunrise or after sunset.
Backpack: Get one with sturdy hip straps to help take the weight off of your shoulders.
Headlamps: A must if hiking in the dark! And so great for star photos.
Water: Drink plenty of water! Staying hydrated will also help keep you from getting altitude sickness. Bring it along in a hydration pack or Nalgene. For longer hikes, I recommend bringing along a water filtration system such as the Sawyer Mini.
Food/Snacks: Don’t forget to pack tons of snacks to keep your energy up. For early morning hikes when I don’t have much appetite, I find that runners gels or energy chews are great options to get quick calories & energy. Also, consider packing a picnic to enjoy and celebrate after saying your vows. I recommend Clif Bars, Bobos, Honey Stinger, Oloves, Patagonia Provisions.
Thermos: Warming up from the inside out in cold conditions is always a treat! Consider bringing along some warm soup or drink in a thermos.
Backpacking Stove: This is an excellent option for doing some light cooking in the backcountry. Boil water for a hot cup of tea or coffee, or cook up some oatmeal, scrambled eggs, or a backpacker’s meal! Good To Go Food are my favorite backpacking meals. The complete elopement checklist has you covered for our hangry friends, amiright?!
Trekking Poles: Recommended for long hikes to save your knees.
MAKE IT LEGAL
The complete elopement checklist wouldn’t be complete without getting you married for real! Getting a marriage license is SUPER important, so don’t skip this part of the planning process! Depending on where you get married, you will want to plan where you’ll obtain your marriage license and which permits you’ll need. A few things to consider: do you need an appointment to pick up your marriage license, or can you mail it in? Do you need an officiant or any witnesses? Is there a waiting period before you can use your marriage license?
For example, if you’re eloping in Lake Tahoe, you’ll want to decide which side of the Lake you’ll elope on – Nevada or California. To get married in California, you’ll need to obtain a marriage license at any County Clerk’s Office in California. Take a valid ID and $90-$100 cash or check. Marriage licenses in California are valid for 90 days, and you don’t need to get married in the county you receive your marriage license. You can even get married the same day you pick up your marriage license! If you’re traveling from outside of CA, check out El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, and Sierra Counties to obtain a license when you arrive. To be married in Nevada, you’ll want to ensure your officiant is certified in Nevada. You can search here to see if your officiant is legal to facilitate marriages in Nevada. If you’re traveling from out of town, you can obtain a license at Washoe, Carson City, and Douglas Counties in Nevada on your way to Tahoe.
If you’re an adventure elopement seeker – did you know there are different permits for National vs. State Parks? And that lots of hiking locations require a permit? But not ALL hikes need a permit? For example, you can day-hike through Yosemite National Park without a permit (unless hiking to Half Dome), but a wilderness permit is required year-round for backpacking, overnight climbing, or any other overnight stay in the Yosemite Wilderness. I mean, we said this was the complete elopement checklist and we meant it! There are also different rules for State Parks versus National Parks (ie: you can keep a pup on a leash at State Parks, but you must leave your furry friends home at National Parks). This is something that can be super overwhelming for couples, BUT we actually love to nerd out on permits. Truly – we’ve yet to be somewhere without the proper permit – we’ve got you!
We use Tahoe and Yosemite as examples to show you each county and state can have differing marriage license laws and requirements. Marriage licenses and laws differ from country to country, so be sure to read up on those as well. Do your research and plan ahead, or get some help (yep, us again!) and know that you’ve taken care of everything to make your marriage legal! You can’t have an elopement without “get fuckin married” on your complete elopement checklist.
Whether you’re looking for a two-day elopement experience (think: two 8 hour days of documentation, or mix it up and do a 12 hour day and a 4 hour day), a full day elopement experience (up to 12 hours of coverage), an 8-hour elopement experience, or a partial day elopement experience (up to 4 hours of coverage), we can’t wait to plan your dream elopement experience.
Let us know about your dream elopement – we can’t wait to connect with you.