This article on how to plan an elopement comes from personal experience. If you are thinking of eloping, or are dead set on it, this handy guide will help you to work out your next steps. Plus I will share my top tips on navigating an elopement with your loved ones.
Ready? Let’s go.
Full disclosure, my husband and I, kinda eloped ourselves! Our journey was a little unique in that we had a cancelled wedding a few years prior due to my poor health. When it came to it, we couldn’t face replanning a big do and just wanted to get hitched. Suffering from anxiety, I didn’t want a big thing so we planned a local elopement with our children in the woods. A few weeks later we had a big party to celebrate.
What Is An Elopement?
An elopement is a secret wedding ceremony where a couple go off to get married quietly. Traditionally a couple would run off and get wed in secret. But in modern times an elopement may or may not be a secret, a couple may plan to elope far away or get married locally with key guests, suppliers or witnesses.
Many couples also plan a micro wedding with a tiny guest list or have a post-elopement wedding celebration to celebrate with guests at a later date.
How To Elope In Style!
I’ve figured out 10 key steps to help you plan your elopement with ease. Then I will break down just how to go about planning your nuptials and how to make it super memorable. Small yet mighty!
Make the decision to elope
Figure out your elopement location
Check/work out the legalities
Pick a wedding date
Choose wedding suppliers and venue(s)
Decide on guests and/or witnesses
Write or choose your vows/music
Plan your announcement
Organise a party to celebrate
Photo: Rebecca Carpenter Photography via Boho Beach Elopement Concept & VW Campervan: Vintage Camper Booths
1. Deciding To Elope
Just how do you decide whether to elope? Maybe you just want to get married and aren’t fussed with the pomp and ceremony? Perhaps you want to save money and have a budget wedding? Or there could be other personal reasons.
No matter the reason, you absolutely should and can elope if this is your wish. There are no rules when it comes to weddings. This is your day, you do you!
It can be tricky to decide to elope if you are worried about disappointing loved ones. However, go with your gut, go with your heart. When you look back on your wedding, will you have any regrets? We all want to keep everyone happy. But guess what, no matter the type or style of wedding you have, it’s impossible to please everyone.
However, there are ways to help navigate the process which I will be covering in this article.
Photo: Kirsty Mackenzie Photography via Bohemian Elopement Concept, Styling & VW Campervan: Vintage Camper Booths
2. Choose The Location
Traditionally, elopements would see a couple metaphorically run off into the sunset to a far-flung location. Now you absolutely can jet off somewhere far away. But an elopement can also be close to home. Here are some location ideas:
Places of worship
Traditional wedding venues
Non-legal celebrant ceremony anywhere you choose (countries with ceremony location restrictions)
There are so many options around, including elopement packages designed to take away the planning stress. When it comes to picking your location think of places that are meaningful to you. Is it somewhere that represents your story as a couple? Could you return there in the future to reminisce? Do you wish to get away? Do you want somewhere close by?
For our ceremony, we had a short legal ceremony in our local registry office before heading to our favourite woods to exchange our rings and vows. You can keep things simple yet really meaningful.
Photo: Jenny Appleton via UK Boho Elopement Concept & Styling: ZAZ Events
3. Is It Legal?
Pretty much every country has different rules and regulations for weddings. If you want a quick getaway to get hitched, be sure to check if its possible. There may be lengthy admin required to make a wedding legal. Be sure to fully research your options before you book your elopement.
You could always have a legal ceremony in the UK first, before heading off for a ceremony or blessing at your destination of choice. This can give more freedom, flexibility and less admin headache.
Photo: Thyme Lane Photography via LGBTQ+ Elopement Ideas
4. Choose The Date
Of course, next comes when. Choosing your wedding date can be simple but there are considerations to take into account too. Here are some tips:
Think about the season/weather conditions
Is your preference weekend or midweek?
Do you have favourite or disliked dates/numbers?
Remember important birthdays/events/anniversaries
Do you have enough/too much time to leave to plan?
Check your favourite supplier’s availability
Get in front of your calendar and ask yourself the above questions. When it comes to an elopement, you don’t want to have to keep a secret for ages (if you are having a secret wedding). On the other side, you won’t want to be left feeling stressed if you don’t leave enough time to plan your day. A fine balance is a good idea.
Photo: Chloe Martin Photography via Countryside Elopement Concept Design Planning & Styling: Laura Hillman Weddings
5. Choose Your Suppliers
So you have your location and date. It’s now time to book your venue(s) and suppliers. There are lots of different wedding suppliers you can book, but it’s really up to you if you feel you need them. For an elopement, you may want to consider:
The non-negotiables though have to be your venues, rings, outfits, officiant and someone to capture your day (photo/film).
To make your day really special, you can still have a wedding reception for two, where you may then wish to have some of the other suppliers mentioned. Or simply book a meal at your favourite restaurant and a night away to make your wedding evening super special.
Photo: Oilvejoy Photography via Earthy Elopement Wedding Ideas Concept, Styling & Props: The Toast
6. Guests or No Guests?
It may be that you only want to have the two of you at your elopement. But do remember you may need witnesses depending on where you get hitched. It could be you invite a few loved ones to be with you. Or you could ask your suppliers or strangers on the day to be your witnesses.
Again, there are no rules, so if you want a few guests you go for it. Equally, if a day for two is your dream, then stay true to yourselves.
Photo: Serena Genovese via Tuscany Elopement Event Planner: Sipario Weddings
7. Outfits & Accessories
You can go for full-on wedding regalia and go all-out with your outfits. There is no need to scale back your dream wedding attire. Alternatively, you may wish to keep things super simple. You want to feel like you, feel comfortable and beautiful. It goes without saying that spending more doesn’t mean that will be the end look will be any better either.
From jumpsuits to open-collar shirts, tea-length dresses or tuxedos, the options are endless. Heck, you can even wear swimwear on the beach, hiking gear on the mountain or your favourite pair of jeans if that’s right for you.
Photo: Whitney Lloyd Photography via Stately Home Wedding
8. Ceremony (and Reception)
Now here’s the most important part. Your wedding ceremony. This is what it’s all about!
You may wish to keep to the scripted vows your officiant uses. You may be able to personalise your vows or even write your own vows. You could also add in a wedding reading to add more of a personal touch.
Music can also be another huge part of your wedding memories. For our elopement, I made a playlist for our car when getting to/from our wedding ceremony. Even now I enjoy listening to it and it takes me right back in an instant.
It could be you play music during your ceremony, the walk up/down the aisle or as you toast to being newly married. Live music can be even more special if your budget allows it.
Photo: Lauren Knuckey Photography via Outdoor Beach Wedding Celebrant: Individually Yours
Before the ceremony, consider if you wish to spend the night before together, get ready together, have a first look, travel together or walk down the aisle together. There are so many special ways to lead up to your elopement.
After your ceremony, you can have couples portraits with your photographer, enjoy a meal and still do some of the wedding traditions if you fancy. Speeches, first dance, cake cutting, it’s all possible no matter how many of you are in attendance.
Photo: Laura Adams Photography via Jervaulx Abbey Wedding Ideas
9. The Announcement
One of the key parts of an elopement has to be your marriage announcement. You may wish to keep your elopement a secret or you may be telling your loved ones that you are eloping beforehand. It’s a good idea to carefully consider how you are going to share your exciting news so everyone feels involved in your celebrations. Get a plan at the ready.
Photo: Oydin + Mei via Praia Da Luz Wedding Stationery: The Beye Graphic Design
You can keep things simple with a digital announcement, and you could even create a special graphic to share the news. Phoning or writing to loved ones can be a personal way to tell them about your marriage. Or if you have time, you could visit loved ones for a face-to-face announcement.
You know your loved ones best, so carefully think about the best way to tell each guest. Rather than your exciting news spreading from others or social media.
Not all the reactions may be as you hoped but don’t worry. This is your wedding and your story. Be yourselves and consider how to share your news with care.
Photo: Charlie Britz Photography via Somerset Elopement Ideas Stationery: White Orchid Print & Design
10. Post-Elopement Party
You may wish to elope and that be that. However, a post-elopement party can be a lovely way for your nearest and dearest to feel involved as well as celebrate with you. It could be simple drinks in the pub or garden BBQ.
Or you could go for a full-on wedding reception. We went for the latter and we loved it! We planned ours straight after we got married for 3 weeks later. Planning a party doesn’t have to take months, but can be put together speedily.
You could plan the party before you elope, or set about organising it afterwards. If you want loved ones to get involved and help, it may be nice to plan it after the elopement. Leaving the gap between your elopement and reception too long may not work as well. But it may leave you more time to plan, ensure your guests can come and give you ample time to save.
Where possible, get that party booked in quick sharp thought, just in case you lose motivation to have one at all.
Photo: Jenny Appleton Photo and Film via Lake District Elopement Styling & Props: Tebbey and Co.
So there we have it. My ultimate guide to planning an elopement! If you do elope, I hope you have the most magical day EVER.
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The post How To Plan A Memorable Elopement – 10 Steps To Success first appeared on Whimsical Wonderland Weddings.