One of the best and most exciting parts about eloping is that it can be anywhere: from your backyard to a favorite local hangout, or even somewhere across the world! With so many options, couples can find the process of narrowing down the perfect location a little overwhelming. As a professional elopement photographer and specialist, I am here to help guide you and create the day of your dreams!
So let’s get down to it and find out what you need to think about when choosing a destination for your elopement.
Elopements give much more freedom than a wedding, so you’re not restricted to any area. If you could get married ANYWHERE in the world, where would it be? If you don’t know where to begin start by writing down a giant list of ALL of your dream locations; even if they’re halfway across the world. If you need inspiration, turn to travel guides, ask your favorite photographer’s recommendations, or think about YOUR past experiences. Think of your wedding day as the most epic day of your life, because it will be.
One of the best parts about eloping, is that the ceremony itself is a very inexpensive way to get married. With the savings you make by having a smaller guest list, and therefore a smaller reception, you can budget more on getting to your dream destination. With air travel becoming more and more accessible, you could feasibly go anywhere in the world on a modest budget.
Choosing a Meaningful Location
So with your list of dream destinations written, it’s time to think about the practicalities. While in theory, any place at any time is possible, you might want to consider the following points.
When I ask my clients what they most want from an elopement, the answer is often “epic views.” But think deeper! What does an ‘epic view’ mean to you? This could be anywhere from your very own backyard, to somewhere you have visited together (or have been dreaming of visiting together!) Desert? Beach? Mountains? City views? The options are endless!
If you feel like a kid in a sweet store and want to do it all, or you’re just overwhelmed by the number of options, ask your photographer to help you plan your elopement. Their knowledge and experience will be really helpful, not to mention that an elopement specialist is likely to have visited many park, beaches and mountains in their time. I know I certainly have!
Maybe you are an avid hiker or rock climber and would like your backdrop while saying your vows to be deep in a canyon or on top of a mountain? Although many elopements are based on the “just us” experience, many couples choose to have their closest family or friends present.
One thing to keep in mind while planning these types of adventurous weddings is WHO you would like to be included in your special day. Can your Great Aunt Miriam get to the top of Mount Rainier? Choosing somewhere more easily accessible for your guests to be present while you say your vows and then opting to adventure afterwards for some dreamy photographs may just be the way to go if you plan to have your loved ones surrounding you!
Bringing Your Dogs and Pets
While bringing your dog to your elopement can make for some super cute bride and pup photos, you’ll need to do a bit of research to see if your fur babies are allowed at your chosen destination. Most National Parks allow minimal access for dogs, so if you’re planning on bringing your furry family to your elopement, you will typically have to choose a location outside of a National Park. And of course, there are a ton of dog-friendly elopement locations with epic views!
Date and Season
Another thing to consider while planning your elopement is the season. If you already have a date in mind, this could help you narrow down your options as some places aren’t accessible during certain times of the year. Where I’m from in Wisconsin, like with other Midwest states, gets VERY cold during the winter. You may want to consider an outdoor hike in a wedding dress!
Staying flexible with your date will give your more options, but if you already have a date set in stone, use that date to help you narrow down your location and planning your timeline.
Something that concerns couples is whether an elopement is legal. There’s no need to worry, because at least in the USA, it is perfectly fine to elope. However, you do need to be aware of some caveats.
Once you have found your elopement location, always research permits. Make sure you read up on all of the legal requirements for getting married, how long you need to register in advance, what type of identification and paperwork you need to bring, and whether the marriage will even be valid in your own jurisdiction. You also need to know whether you require an officiant to solemnize the marriage, or if you can do it yourself.
There are different requirements for obtaining a marriage license in different states. Most will have you apply and file the license in the county in which you get married. They each also have different rules on how many witnesses you need and how soon you will need to get married after receiving your license. It is best to read up on your dream location and the legalities involved, especially if you are planning for an out-of-country elopement where additional planning may be involved.
Remember, what matters the most is marrying the love of your life. Your location will create an unforgettable experience but this day is only the start of your adventures that are yet to come together. Make it a day all about you and what you want to experience.
I specialize in helping couples find the perfect elopement location and capturing it all on film. With years of experience working with adventurous couples, I can work with you to make your elopement dreams come true. So don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know what kind of location you’re looking for! I can’t wait to help you plan the perfect elopement.