Elopement Planning Checklist - How to Plan the Perfect Elopement
Updated: Feb 19
It’s no secret that elopements are so different from traditional weddings - because that’s sort of the point, right?! So when it comes to the planning process, it’s pretty unique too.
There’s no rulebook or fixed set of guidelines for eloping - and the freedom to plan a day that’s totally unique and personalized for you is pretty amazing, but it can also feel overwhelming with so many options and so many possibilities! To help you plan the perfect elopement, this elopement planning checklist will give you a breakdown of all the steps to your dream day!
Here are the steps in this elopement planning checklist:
Create an elopement budget
Think about elopement locations
Decide on a date or season
Hire an elopement photographer
Choose a location and get an elopement permit
Hire your elopement vendors
Book flights and lodging
Find your attire
Get a marriage license
Create an elopement timeline
Step 1: Create an Elopement Budget
A budget is an essential part of planning any wedding day - so the first step on the elopement planning checklist is to sit down and think about expenses! One of the best things about eloping is that you get to prioritize what matters to you, spending your money on experiences that truly make this day amazing.
For tips on creating an elopement budget, check out this guide!
Step 2: Think About Elopement Locations
Next, start dreaming up potential elopement locations! You don’t have to get specific yet (you’ll see why in step #4), but think about what you want to see and do on your elopement day, how far from home you want to travel, and whether you have anything specific in mind - like a place you love - or if you’re open to the possibilities!
This guide will help you get inspired, and give you some tips for choosing where to tie the knot.
Step 3: Decide on a Date or Season
The next step on the elopement planning checklist is to think about whether you have a date in mind for your elopement, or a season or time frame! If you think about it and realize that you’re totally open to anything, that’s great! But, talk with your partner and decide if there’s a time of year or maybe a significant date that you’re leaning towards for your elopement.
One of the most important things to consider in this step is the kind of weather you want to experience - many outdoor locations have dramatic differences depending on the season. For example, here in Lake Tahoe, winter means lots of snow, while summer means hiking and swimming!
Step 4: Hire an Elopement Photographer
After you think about a few of those logistics, the next step in planning your elopement is to hire a photographer! This one definitely belongs early on in the elopement planning checklist - because after you hire an elopement photographer, every step after this one will be so much easier.
As a photo and video team that specializes in adventure elopements, our job goes beyond documenting your day - we’re also your planning assistants! We’ll help you by providing location recommendations, tips and advice, places to stay, permit help, and everything you need to plan the perfect elopement.
For some tips and signs that you’ve found the right elopement photographer, check out this guide!
Step 5: Choose a Location Get an Elopement Permit
After you book us for your elopement day, we’ll send you a questionnaire that will help us create a list of location recommendations. These will be tailored to you and your needs, so that we can find spots that fit your vision!
Once you choose the perfect place to elope, it’s time to get a permit. Some parks and outdoor spots require a wedding permit for any ceremony, some only require them if you have more than a few people, and some don’t require them at all - so don’t worry, we’ll help you figure out if you need a permit, and how to get one!
Step 6: Hire Your Elopement Vendors
After you’ve got a date and location set for your elopement, it’s time to book the rest of your vendors. This can look different for every couple - some keep it simple with a photographer and videographer, others decide to hire a professional for hair and makeup, florals,, and maybe baking a custom cake!
There are different vendors you can hire for your elopement day, so decide which ones will make your day complete.
Our elopement packages can also be customized to include officiating, live music, and more, so we’ll help you decide which additional vendors you need, and we’ll recommend some of our favorites that are local to the location you choose!
Step 7: Book Flights and Lodging
Next on the elopement checklist is booking your flights and lodging - we recommend doing this at least six months out, because it will help ensure that you get better deals, and that you can find a place to stay close to where you want to tie the knot.
After you hire us, we’ll also recommend some places to stay in your elopement location, personalized to what you’re looking for - whether it’s a campground, a cozy cabin, or a lodge with enough room to accommodate your guests.
Step 8: Find Your Attire
We recommend looking for your elopement attire at least three months out, but if you’re planning on alterations or custom pieces, a minimum of six months is better! Whether it’s an elopement dress, a suit, or anything else you might be wearing, make sure it’s comfortable and will allow you to move freely, so that nothing can stop you on your elopement adventures!
Step 9: Get a Marriage License
To get legally married, you’re going to need a marriage license! The requirements and rules vary by state, so we’ll help you figure out the best time to apply. In most states, marriage licenses expire after a few months - here in California, it’s good for 90 days. So you’ll want to apply with enough time to get your license, but not too early!
If you need to go in person to get the marriage license, make sure to work this into your travel plans.
Step 10: Create an Elopement Timeline
The most exciting thing about elopements is that every single one is unique. It’s not just a ceremony and a few photos, your entire day should be an experience. This is a day you’ll remember forever, so make sure it’s a great one!
We’ll give you some ideas and recommend things to do on your elopement day, then about a month out from your date, we’ll create a timeline of the day. These aren’t as strict as wedding timelines - we’re not about scheduling every minute of your elopement. But, a timeline ensures that everyone is on the same page, and that you know what’s going on throughout the day.
A good elopement timeline gives you some structure, while leaving room to be spontaneous! For some elopement timeline tips, check out this guide.
Step 11: Elope!
The last step on the elopement planning checklist is the moment you’ve been waiting for! After all the planning, dreaming, and anticipation comes to an end, and you’re there, in a beautiful place, with the love of your life. You’ll spend the day exploring and adventuring together, getting married along the way!
If you’re ready to start planning your one of a kind elopement day, contact us!