Elopement Checklist – An Actionable Guide

Elopement checklist guide

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Congratulations! You’re engaged and now you’ve decided to elope, throwing caution to the winds and riding off into the sunset with your fiancé. Yes, it’s a brave decision but unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it may seem. Unlike a traditional wedding, an elopement does consist of far fewer details to worry about, but you do need to pay attention to some significant factors to ensure you don’t forget anything important on your big day!

If you’re worried about how your elopement will turn out and you haven’t got the slightest idea of what you’re supposed to do, fear not because we’re here to help! We’ve got you covered with this complete elopement checklist to help you through it all, one step at a time.

For a detailed look at the pros and cons of eloping, check our article here.

The Basics

Couple discussing their elopement checklist

First of all, let’s sort out the basics. This means you’ll likely want to have the answers to the following questions:

  • What is your budget? How much are you willing to spend on your elopement? There isn’t much use planning your wedding until you’ve decided on the budget so make sure you get this done first. Whether a low budget courthouse elopement or a more elaborate destination elopement package, there are many choices available to you.
  • What’s the date you’ve chosen? When choosing the date for your elopement, consider the weather, your budget and any sentimental value of the day. Giving these things priority will help you make your decision.
  • Where would you like to elope to? There are tons of venues and themes for you to choose from so have fun going through your options with your partner and deciding where you would like to go.
  • Are you planning to invite any guests? An elopement doesn’t strictly mean just the two of you. You can have your closest family and friends if you’d like or it can be just you.
  • Do you want to hire any vendors? For example, a photographer, videographer or officiant.  

The Location

Destination wedding

Are you planning to exchange your vows at the local courthouse or some exotic destination?

  • If you’ve decided on a destination elopement, make sure you sort out the travel arrangements in advance. Don’t leave anything for the last minute!
  • If you plan to get married at the local courthouse, do your research first and find out the specifics. There are legal aspects that you need to keep in mind before you plan the rest of your day. Some city hall locations don’t allow couples to read their own vows during the ceremony and others have restrictions on the number of guests you’re allowed to bring, including the witnesses so find out all the necessary information before you go ahead.
  • Consider going for an elopement package. There are professional elopement services you can consider hiring or wedding venues that take care of everything for you, so you don’t have to go through the stress of planning it all yourself. 

The Marriage License

Couple signing wedding documents

Every city, state and country has its own legal requirements for a marriage so before you go ahead with your elopement, research the marriage laws carefully first to make sure you will be legally married. Don’t forget to double check the following:

  • Do you need to get an appointment to collect your marriage license? Look into this in advance because you may need to get an appointment on a separate day to collect your license.
  • Is there a waiting period for you to get your marriage license? In some states, couples need to wait for at least a week from the time they file for their marriage until they can legally get married.
  • Do you need to have any witnesses? In most states, the requirement is two witnesses to be physically present at your ceremony to sign the license. However, this can differ. There are some states that don’t require you to have a witness at all.
  • What is the requirement for an officiant? If you’re not getting married at a courthouse, you will probably need to book your own officiant.
  • What are the other legal issues you may come across? Keep your birth certificates and other important documents with you so they are readily available if you need them.

The Travel and Accommodation Arrangements

Laptop showing destination for elopement

Now, let’s move on to the fun part! Are you travelling out of the state or country and how do you plan to get to where you’re going?

  • Book your overnight accommodations if you have planned any.
  • Make your travel arrangements: whether you’re planning to go by bus, plane, car or just go on horseback, make sure you plan ahead so you won’t miss anything.
  • Are you going to exchange rings? The exchanging of your wedding rings is symbolic and most people follow this tradition during elopements as well. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend thousands of dollars on them. If you’re on a low budget, there are several options that you can go for.

The Vendors You’ll Need

Woman fixing her camera

One of the most important things that you wouldn’t want to skimp out on is your elopement photos. There are also additional wedding services that you may want to think about.

  • Hire a photographer. Try to do this in advance. While it’s not mandatory to have a professional photographer at your elopement, you will want to have photographic evidence of your special day. Since you’ll be saving a lot of money by ditching a traditional wedding, why not splurge on a professional photographer?
  • If a professional photographer is too costly, bring along your own smartphone or camera and make sure it’s fully charged. You can ask your witness or any guests you may have to capture some lovely shots of all the special moments.
  • Do you want to have a bouquet? If you want to have wedding flowers from a professional, be sure to book them in advance. If not, you can drop in at the local flower shops and grab some yourself.

Consider hiring other vendors such as:

  • A videographer
  • A caterer and cake maker
  • A DJ (if you’re planning to have an after-party) for you and your few guests. If it’s just the two of you – skip the DJ. It’ll just look weird.

The Wedding Attire

Couple at their elopement wedding

Some people tend to think that if it’s an elopement the bride should wear a short, white cocktail dress or a pantsuit and the groom should go for white shirt and slacks since elopements are usually associated with casual or informal attire. There are no rules here. Do what suits your couple style. Ultimately, you want to look and feel your best on the special day so choose what you prefer and feel comfortable in.

  • Match your outfit with your partner’s. It may look a little strange if the bride wears an extravagant gown for the day and the groom is dressed in ripped jeans with a casual T-shirt so whatever you decide on wearing, make sure that you and your partner’s outfits match.
  • Consider choosing your outfit according to your travel choices. If you’re planning to fly, go for fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily when they are packed. Just in case, carry an iron with you or make sure that your hotel has one.
  • Decide on the makeup and hair. It’s perfectly fine if you’ve decided to go ahead and do your hair and makeup by yourself but if you’re opting for a glamorous look, call ahead and make an appointment at a reputed salon. If you’re keeping your look minimal, most salons do offer these services on a walk-in basis. However, check beforehand to be on the safe side unless you’re confident about doing it by yourself.

The Ceremony

altar marriage

Plan this carefully to make sure that everything runs smoothly on the day.

  • Write out your vows. If you’re planning to write your own, do this in advance to avoid unnecessary stress at the last minute.
  • Decide on any rituals you want to include and let the officiant know. If you’re thinking of non-traditional rituals like handfasting or thread-tying, make sure it’s planned and accommodated for ahead of time.

The Post-Elopement Arrangements

Couple post elopement celebrations

Once your nuptials are over, you’d want to have some sort of post-elopement celebration so consider the following:

  • How do you plan to celebrate your marriage? Even though your elopement may not have been as lavish as a large wedding would have been, it’s still a big deal so you deserve to celebrate it accordingly. This doesn’t mean that you need to have a huge after party. It can be an intimate dinner with your closest friends and family or just the two of you on a tropical getaway.
  • Don’t forget to send out elopement announcements. It’s a good idea to share your plans for your elopement with your friends and family ahead of time, unless it’s an on-the-spur-of-the-moment-kind-of-thing. Although it is not mandatory and the decision is entirely up to you, it’s best to tread carefully so that you won’t cause anyone to have hurt feelings. Inform them in person or by phone and then you can send out elopement announcements to let everyone know your new relationship status.

Wrapping Up…

Making sure you have everything done ahead of time will ensure that you have a smooth and hassle-free elopement wedding just the way you desire. An elopement is a lot less stress than a traditional wedding, but you’ll still need to give it some attention to make sure it goes well without a hitch, so that you can get hitched (see what we did there?) exactly as you plan!

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