Are you ready to plan your dream elopement? This ultimate elopement checklist can help you make your dreams a reality with little to no stress!

If you daydream about an easy, fun, and memorable wedding day – eloping is the way to go. As an elopement photographer, I’ve photographed and helped plan many amazing elopements.

In this guide, I’ll share everything you need to know from start to finish for planning an epic elopement. I’ll also answer common questions and offer some helpful resources!

Elopement Checklist by Among the Pines Photography
Elopement Checklist by Among the Pines Photography

Here’s the best elopement checklist for the perfect elopement experience:

  1. Choose a location.
  2. Book your elopement photographer.
  3. Book other vendors.
  4. Pick a date.
  5. Apply for permits.
  6. Book your trip.
  7. Get your wedding rings and attire.
  8. Get your marriage license.
  9. Write your vows (if you want to). 
  10. Enjoy your wedding day!
  11. Announce your elopement.

* Bonus: guest list and invites only if you want

Below, I’ll share the details you need for each item on your elopement checklist.

elopement photo by Among the Pines Photography
Among the Pines Photography

How does a couple elope?

Long ago, couples eloped by secretly running off for a quick courthouse marriage. Some couples still do this today, while others plan a unique, intimate ceremony away from home with or without a few guests.

The purpose of eloping is for couples to have a special day that’s all about them. Unlike traditional weddings, elopements allow couples to start their new chapter in a less hectic and more meaningful way. You can coordinate a day all about you and your love without wedding planning around guests.

Even though elopements are meant to be simple, you can still plan out details to make your day unforgettable.

As an elopement photographer and planner, I help couples plan the ultimate elopement ceremony. Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy day to tie the knot or you’re dreaming of an epic adventure elopement, I have many tricks up my sleeve to help you!

The Ultimate Elopement Checklist

Now, for the fun part. Let’s learn how to plan your dream elopement!

1. Choose a location.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve already been considering locations. You may even have your dream elopement destination in mind. With so many elopement and wedding venues worldwide, the opportunities are endless.

When choosing a location, I recommend considering the scenery you want, whether you’re looking for adventure or not, and how far from home you want to go. You may also decide to go to your local city hall, then have a ceremony at one of your travel bucket list destinations. Make this about you!

elopement photo, Among the Pines Photography
Among the Pines Photography

Read more about some of the best elopement destinations:

2. Book your elopement photographer.

As an elopement photographer, I often hear from couples that beautiful photos capturing the elopement day are most important. Not to mention, many elopement photographers like myself double as a planner. That’s why I recommend this one at the beginning of your elopement checklist.

In fact, Among the Pines (that’s me!) doesn’t only take pictures to help you remember your big day and share it with loved ones, but I also help plan a personalized wedding day experience for you and your partner.

“You won’t find a photographer better-rounded than Brooke!”

-Krystal & Brandon

3. Book other vendors.

Depending on the size of your elopement, you might want to book other vendors.

I recommend booking your photographer first because many will help with other vendor recommendations.

Here are some examples of other vendors you might want for your elopement:

  • Florist
  • Caterer
  • Private chef
  • Hair & makeup artist
  • Musician
  • Driver

4. Pick a date.

Once your date is selected, it helps with the rest of your elopement planning. Here are a few things to consider regarding the best date for your elopement: weather, travel costs, and time off from work. 

5. Apply for permits.

Various elopement venues require different permits. Some don’t require any at all, so you’ll need to look into this. 

It’s easy to find these requirements online or by calling your location. This is also something your photographer/planner can also help with. Most permits cost between $50 and $300.

6. Book your trip.

Now it’s time to book your trip! Depending on how far you’re traveling to elope, you may or may not want/need to fly. 

Tip: Look at flights on Google Flights to see the best date to fly if you’re working with a budget. You can also get notifications on Hopper for a specific flight to wait for prices to drop.

I suggest booking your flight first to confirm the dates before booking your accommodation. When you book your accommodation, keep in mind that you want your elopement location to be easily accessible.

With Among the Pines elopement packages, I offer advice on finding the most affordable flights and an Airbnb recommendation list for your elopement location if you’re interested.

7. Get your wedding rings and attire.

This is the most fun part of the elopement checklist for many people! Your ring exchange and attire can make your entire day. But, again, it’s all about what you want.

Some couples who elope opt for traditional wedding bands, while others keep it simple with new-age silicone rings. It’s entirely up to you and your partner’s style and budget!

As for attire – think about what you want your wedding day to look like. From simple or adventurous to bohemian or luxe, there are many options. If you’re going for an adventurous elopement, don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes.

elopement photo, Among the Pines Photography
Among the Pines Photography

8. Get your marriage license.

If you plan to elope legally, you’ll need to contact the local city hall to find out the legal requirements for obtaining a marriage license. Again, your photographer/planner can help with this.

You’ll want to ensure you have legal documents like birth certificates, driver’s licenses, etc. You may also need an appointment to apply and a witness and/or officiant.

Fun fact: I’m a wedding officiant and love to officiate elopements for the couples I work with. This saves you money too!

9. Write your vows (if you want). 

One of the most fun parts about eloping is doing whatever you want. You can write personalized vows to read to each other or exchange traditional vows. Up to you!

couple reading vows (elopement checklist)
Among the Pines Photography

10. It’s time to elope.

We’re finally to the good part! After you’ve followed all the steps to get to this part of your elopement checklist, it’s time for your big day. Don’t forget to stay present and appreciate the experience for what it is. 

If you’ve booked a photographer/planner to help you, it’ll be even easier for you to have a stress-free, fun, and memorable day.

11. Announce your elopement.

Yesss! You’re finally married, and it’s time to share the big news with your loved ones. 

You may have already told the people closest to you, but many couples also send elopement announcements to all their friends and family. You can even use your favorite elopement photos to create announcements to mail or share online.

Read more: Announcing Your Elopement: Top Tips & Elopement Announcement Ideas

Bonus Elopement To-Do: guest list and invites if you want

If you’re inviting guests (yes, you can have guests at your elopement ceremony!), you’ll need to make a guest list and send invites. Since most couples that elope want an intimate, stress-free wedding, it’s best to keep your guest list small. 

Tip: If you’re inviting guests, I recommend limiting your guest list to 8-10 loved ones.

You can make your guest list early on if you want to consider your numbers as you plan. You can also plan your elopement and make your guest list around your plans.

If you’re inviting guests, you’ll want to send out invitations with enough time for them to plan accordingly. A good rule of thumb is sending invitations for a destination elopement at least 3 months ahead of time.

Don’t forget that there’s nothing wrong with eloping without guests. Your special day is about you!

elopement photo, Among the Pines Photography
Among the Pines Photography

Other Tips for Having an Unforgettable Elopement

  • Before you start planning, dream up your best day. Think about what you’d want your elopement day to look like if there were no boundaries. You can turn this activity into a date night with your partner as you write down all your ideas.
  • Make the big decisions first. These are things like if you’re going to have a guest list, where you’re getting married, and how long your trip will be.
  • If you’re not having guests for your elopement but want to include the special people in your life, there are many unique ways to do this. You can throw an engagement party, have them help you pick out your attire, ask them to write letters you’ll read during the ceremony, gift them some elopement days photos after the ceremony, and/or have a reception with them after your elopement.
  • Don’t forget to plan fun activities for after the elopement ceremony if you have a few extra days (or even just 1 day) after your big day.

Elopement Checklist FAQ

Here are answers to common elopement questions.

What do you need to do before eloping?

Before you elope, you want to decide your location and timeline, book your vendors, and plan the logistics of your wedding day.

Use this elopement checklist to guide you:

  • Decide if you’ll have guests. Create your guestlist if so.
  • Pick your location.
  • Book an elopement photographer.
  • Book other vendors.
  • Choose a date.
  • Apply for permits.
  • Book your trip – flights, accommodations, activities, etc.
  • Get your wedding rings and attire.
  • Obtain your marriage license.
  • Write personalized vows or go with traditional vows.

What should be included in an elopement?

The most important part of your elopement is you and your partner exchanging your vows. You might also want to include:

  • Vow books
  • Wedding rings
  • A bridal bouquet
  • An Officiant
  • A Photographer
  • A first dance
  • Fun activities
  • Comfortable attire (or clothes to change into)
  • A champagne toast
  • A wedding cake

Read more: How to Make an Elopement Special: 15 Unique Ideas for a Memorable Day

Who to invite to an elopement?

Since eloping is all about you and your partner having an authentic experience, you can invite whoever you want. Most elopements are limited to about 10 guests. You can invite your closest loved ones and those you know support your elopement. You might also choose not to invite anyone but your officiant and photographer.

Do elopements have bridesmaids?

Most elopements don’t have a bridal party. However, there’s nothing wrong with having bridesmaids and groomsmen if you’d like. That said, I recommend limiting planning elements and guest count to ensure you can stay in the present and enjoy your elopement day with your love.

Do you have an engagement party if you elope?

Whether or not you have an engagement party is entirely up to you. Many couples who elope have an engagement party to celebrate with loved ones. This is also an excellent way to make sure everyone feels included. You can either have a party with friends and family before or after your elopement.

Elopement Checklist: Final Thoughts

I hope this ultimate guide and elopement checklist have you feeling ready to plan the elopement of your dreams! While anything as special as your wedding day requires planning, elopements should be as stress-free as possible.

Among the Pines can help make this experience fun and (mostly) effortless for you. I offer elopement photography and planning for adventurous dreamers, and I’m ready to help you execute your perfect day!

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