How to Plan an Elopement

Many people dream of having a wedding as a child. However, there are times when a traditional ceremony is just not possible. Perhaps the families of the bride and groom do not get along. Or, there is not enough money to have a formal wedding. For those and many other reasons, some people choose to elope.

Most people think when you elope, you just run off somewhere and get married. However, if you want to do it the right way, it does take a bit of planning.

What is an Elopement?

The formal definition of “elope” is to run away. However, people often tie the term to marriage. When people speak about eloping as related to marriage, they typically mean that the bride and groom secretly got married.

Some choose to get married at the courthouse, but others decide to jet off to a destination to tie the knot. Regardless of where you decide to get married, you can still elope. You also might choose to let your family in on the secret but have a wedding with just you and your spouse.

No matter what way you choose to conduct your marriage, there are some critical steps you need to follow when planning. If you do not plan well, the experience might be just as stressful as a traditional wedding.

Reasons to Elope

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to elope. Each couple is entitled to do things in whatever way works for them, their lifestyle, and their family and friends. There are plenty of noble reasons to elope. Although some people might view an elopement as a selfish act, it can be selfless. However, this is your wedding, so if you do plan to elope, it needs to be for the right reasons.

Your Families Do Not Get Along

The last thing you and your future spouse want to worry about is your families fighting on one of the most important days of your life. Weddings are supposed to be a celebration. However, if your families do not get along, you might end up with a giant brawl instead. If this is the case, you probably want to avoid the drama, and an elopement can be a great way to do that.

You Do Not Have Any Family

Not everyone has a family. There are many people, especially later in life that has few family members. So, rather than bring up the feelings of having a wedding with no one on their side of the church, they decide to forego a traditional wedding and go for something that is more private.

Your Wedding Party Does Not Have Money

If the people you would ask to be in your wedding do not have the money to buy bridesmaid dresses or groomsmen suits, you might not want to subject them to that. Weddings are expensive for everyone involved, not just the bride and groom.

Furthermore, most people will want to buy you gifts if they are at the wedding. However, when you elope, you take a lot of pressure off of everyone.

You Decide to Marry on a Whim

Even if you have been with your significant other for a long time, there is always a chance the two of you will just decide one day that you want to get married. Surprisingly, a lot of couples choose to do this when they are vacationing. They are feeling really in love and just know they want to spend the rest of their lives together.

You Have a Limited Amount of Time to Marry

Elopements are common with people who are in the military or work abroad. If you know your beloved will not be available for some time, you might want to tie the knot before they leave. If this is the case, you might not have a lot of time to plan a traditional wedding.

You Want to Save Money

Many people who choose to elope have the money to get married, they just cannot justify spending it on a wedding when they are just starting their new life. If you want to save money, eloping might be the best option for you. It is a great way to roll the wedding and honeymoon into one. It might even give you the money to have a spectacular getaway with the love of your life.

Choose a Location

The location you choose is an essential part of planning your elopement. You want to pick a place that is special to you and your betrothed. Just because you are not doing a big event does not mean that you will not want the experience to be just as memorable.

Plus, there are different laws for getting married in various destinations. You will need to plan to follow them, so you need to have a location in mind before the special day.

Best Locations for an Elopement

Traditionally, people think of Las Vegas when you say you are going to elope. However, there are far more locations that are fit for saying, “I do,” in a private setting. Some places are better than others, though. So, here are a few of the most popular locations for an elopement:

Florence, Italy

Florence is a popular place for tourists and a beautiful location. However, that is not the only reason that this spot is a favorite of people who want to elope. Obtaining a marriage license in the Italian city is relatively straightforward.

Niagra Falls, New York

Niagra Falls in New York is another great place to tie the knot. The falls are picturesque, getting a marriage certificate is pretty straightforward, and there are plenty of places for a quick marriage, including wedding chapels, and even helicopter rides that allow you to say your vows above the falls.

The British Virgin Islands

If a beachfront wedding is your dream, the British Virgin Islands is a perfect place. You can find great wedding deals there, and getting a marriage license is simple too.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a great place to elope. There are many perfect locations there for a private ceremony. You do need to have your passports, and two witnesses, though, and the witnesses cannot be related to you. So, this is an excellent place to get married if you want to bring a few friends along.

The Florida Keys

Another great beach location is the Florida Keys. In addition to the perfect scenery, there is no waiting period for out-of-state couples, and the state does not require you to do blood tests, either.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is a popular location for people who want to get married quickly. The process for getting a marriage license is pretty quick; the state does not require a waiting period or blood tests. However, you do have to go to the courthouse to obtain the license.


If you want to get married in Europe, Scotland might be the easiest location. The marriage certificate is easier to get than most other European countries. However, you do need to follow some specific guidelines, and you are required to submit documents 29 days before you wed.

Reno, Nevada

Reno is another excellent place to get married in Nevada. Like Las Vegas, the laws for obtaining a marriage certificate are simple, and Lake Tahoe makes a perfect location for a romantic ceremony.

Decide What You Are Going to Wear

You will likely want to wear something special when you get married. So, you need to plan for that. Menswear is a bit easier to get in a hurry. For brides, getting a dress might take a bit longer.

Bridal Attire

As a bride, you definitely want to have something different to wear on your wedding day. Your outfit will be a significant memory of your wedding. It is also essential for photos. You need to plan each part in enough time to get each piece together.

If you plan to wear a wedding dress, you will need to prepare for the cost, and you need to order your dress months in advance. The average time it takes to get a wedding dress made is between three and four months. However, experts suggest ordering your dress nine months before your wedding.

Just because you are eloping does not mean you will be able to get the dress made faster. However, there are options for getting a dress on the fly. You can get an off the rack dress. These are dresses that the bridal shop will sell you then and there. However, this does limit your options.

If you are not set on wearing a traditional wedding dress, it might be easier for you to find something. However, you still need to give yourself some time. Otherwise, the task will be stressful, to say the least.

Groom Ensembles

As a groom, finding something to wear is not as difficult. However, you do still need to plan. If you plan on traveling to your wedding destination, you need to make sure your outfit does not wrinkle on the way there.

So, you need to give your ensemble some thought. You also want to make sure you remember all of the little details, like shoes. Many grooms forget pieces of their wedding day outfit. Since you will not want to pack the components too early to avoid wrinkles, it might be a good idea to make a list of the items you need to remember to put in your luggage.

Follow Elopement Etiquette

There are a few things you should know before you decide to elope. When you choose to exclude your family and friends from the event, you should not ask them to buy you gifts. So, you will need to forego your wedding registry.

You also need to make sure that you tell people in the right way to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. You need to choose if you will tell people before or immediately after you get married.

The longer you wait to tell people, the more difficult it will be, and the more likely your family will be to get upset that you did not tell them sooner. So, you need to have a plan for telling people.

Get the Necessary Legal Documents

If you do not apply for the correct legal documents, your marriage will not be legitimate. Therefore, this is one of the most important steps when planning your wedding.

Eloping in Your Home Country

It is much easier to elope in the country where you and your spouse reside. However, the laws are different for each country. If you live in the United States, you simply need to go to your local courthouse and apply for a marriage certificate. When you go, you will need to have:

  • Valid photo identification
  • Proof of age
  • Parental consent if you are underage
  • Proof of divorce (if you were previously married)
  • Proof of death (if your previous spouse died)

Eloping Abroad

The laws differ in every country, and your marriage will only be recognized if you abide by the requirements outlined in the location in which you wed. If you plan on marrying outside of the country, you should check with the U.S. Department of State to make sure your marriage will be recognized in the U.S. If you live outside the United States, you will need to check with authorities in the country where you live.

You should also check with the country where you plan to marry to make sure your marriage will be valid there. Typically, if you follow the laws in the location where you say, “I do,” the U.S. will acknowledge your union.

You also need to plan to have a witness if you are tying the knot outside of the country. So, if this is the route you decide to take, you might consider bringing a best friend or two along.

Hire the Necessary Vendors

You are going to need some vendors for your wedding, even if you plan on having a fairly private ceremony. Unless you opt for a quick service at the Justice of the Peace. However, even then, you will probably want to have a photographer or someone to take photos. Hiring the vendors ahead of time will help ensure you can book the vendors you want.


If you plan to get married away from home, you need to hire a wedding photographer in the location where you will be getting married. Photographers are not the easiest vendors to book. So, it is a good idea to book yours as early as possible. For traditional weddings, experts suggest hiring a photographer 12 months before the ceremony.

You probably do not need that much time if you are having a small event. However, it is a good idea to prepare as early as possible.

An Officiant

You will need to have an officiant for your wedding, and finding one on the fly is no easy task. So, make sure you contact one as soon as you know you want to get married. Otherwise, you might need to have your ceremony at a wedding chapel.

A Wedding Chapel

Even if you decide to go to a wedding chapel to get married. You need to make sure you can book your wedding on the day and time you will be there. Wedding chapels are actually surprisingly busy at certain times of the year.

A Wedding Planner

A wedding planner knows all of the ins and outs of getting married in the location where they work. These professionals are often the easiest way to make your wedding planning a lot less stressful. However, their time is usually booked months in advance.

Hotel Accommodations

If you are going to get married in a destination away from home, you need to book hotel rooms for you and anyone that will be joining you. If you do not book your rooms in advance, there is a chance you will get stuck without a hotel room or that you will have to pay a ridiculous rate for rooms.

However, with a little advanced planning, you should be able to find some sweet deals. You should also be sure to tell the booking agent that you are planning on getting married during your stay. If you do, they are likely to give you some complimentary perks.

A Florist

You might not be decorating a church with flowers. However, you will at least want a bouquet and maybe even a boutonniere for the groom. Florists are another vendor you will want to contact as early as possible so you can make sure they can get the job done on time.

An Elopement Package

If you want to make the entire process more simple, you have the option of purchasing an elopement package. These packages include everything you need to tie the knot with ease. They even provide vendors like musicians, photographers, officiants, and pretty much anything else you need to make the day special.

Book Flights

You will need to book flights if you plan to get married out of town. Booking flights last minute can be a nightmare. Not only are they expensive, the closer you book them to the date. There is a chance you will not be able to get a flight when you want if you wait too long.

Rent a Car

Many married couples like to drive off into the sunset after the ceremony. Even if you only plan to have a small wedding with your bride or groom, you might want to rent a nice car. Fancy rentals often require you to have specialty insurance and put a larger deposit down. So, it is essential to look into all of that before the date.


Witnesses are not really vendors, but it is vital to make sure you have witnesses if the place you are getting married requires them. The last thing you want to do is try to find some random person to witness your wedding or not be able to get married after all of your planning because you do not have anyone available to attend.

Plan a Location to Take Photos

Even if you are having your wedding at the courthouse, you will likely want to have beautiful wedding photos to show your family and friends. So, it is a good idea to plan a location to take those photos.

Many locations require you to book them in advance and to pay a fee to use their facilities for photos. So, you should make a list of possible places and contact them for details, so you know what their requirements are in advance.

Tell Your Loved Ones

If you did not decide to tell your family before you got married. You need to do it immediately afterward. So, plan time to make necessary phone calls to the most important people in your life.

Your close friends and family may want to keep you on the phone for a while if you decide to do it over the phone right after the event. So, prepare for this ahead of time. Make sure you have some time between the ceremony and anything else you have planned to do.

Decide What You Are Going to Do After

After you get married, you are likely going to want to celebrate with your new husband or wife. There are many things that you can do to celebrate, but depending on your preferences, you might need to book the celebratory activities.

What you do after will depend on where you go. However, here are a few ideas:

  • Go to a fancy dinner
  • Have a night out on the town
  • See a show
  • Take romantic photos
  • Go to a lookout or observation deck
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • Ride in a helicopter

Have a Reception

Choosing to elope does not mean that you have to forego a reception. Actually, having a celebration after you get married is a great way to involve your family and friends and avoid any hard feelings.

You can plan a laid back event, or you can go all out with a traditional reception. You just need to keep in mind that you need to let people know in advance so they can plan to attend.

A great way to do this is to send out announcements and an invitation to the celebration at the same time.

Book a Venue

You will need to book a venue for your event. Depending on how many people you plan to invite, you might need to book your party in advance. You also need to decide where you want to throw the party. Some of the locations you might want to consider are:

  • Restaurant
  • Civic center
  • Arboretum
  • Public garden
  • Park
  • Wedding venue

You need to know that if you are eloping to save money, the reception can be one of the most costly parts of a wedding. So, if you plan an extravagant dinner, you will not be saving a ton of money.

Plan to Make it Special

One of the most important things you need to do when planning an elopement is to make it unique. Getting married is a huge life decision, and the day is one you will likely want to remember forever. So, you need to think of ways to make the day truly memorable.

You can do this by wearing an incredible outfit, getting married at a location that is really special to you and your future spouse, or by doing something memorable after you say, “I do.”

You will want to make sure you have some time to spend with your love before and after the event. No one wants to go back to work the day after they get married. So, plan a week or two to enjoy the bliss of being a newlywed.

An elopement is also a great way to roll in an incredible honeymoon. You are saving money on the wedding, so use that towards a once in a lifetime vacation. Even if you do not want to get married in a faraway place, plan a trip to a destination, you have always wanted to go after you get married.

Have Fun Planning

Getting married should be a fun and exciting time. So, above everything else, make sure you have fun in the process. The event should be all about you and the love of your life. So, do not stress over it. Just be prepared and enjoy the process.

You also want to make sure the event is as stress-free as possible. So, getting everything together as early as possible is a great way to make sure you are not rushing at the last minute. It will also prevent you from getting cold feet.

An elopement is a perfect way to take all of the pressure of a traditional wedding away. You do not have to consider everyone else’s opinions when you elope—instead, just do it!

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