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How to Elope & Where to Start

You are considering eloping and we are so stoked for you!

We want this experience to be a fun stress-free day for you. In order to start planning your elopement there are several factors that will impact when and where you choose to get married. Your priority will determine the order of the next three steps.

Pick a date/time of year

A date/time of year might be important to you. For example, “I’ve always wanted to get married during peak fall in New England” or “I really want to get married on 2/22/22.” Some people want to get married as soon as possible and have no preference as to “wedding season.” The beauty of eloping means that you have the flexibility of choosing where you want to elope which leads into the next point. 

Location

If location is your priority, your elopement date may be season dependent. This one goes hand-in-hand with the date/time of year. For example, “I want to get married in Grand Teton National Park in the mountains, but I don’t want to hike in the snow” This would restrict your “time of year” to be June through September.

Location allows you to decide the landscape that surrounds you as you say “I do.” Location also allows you to get married in months that traditionally are not “wedding months,” such as getting married in Big Bend in February when the temperature is mild and there are fewer people around. 

Photographer/Videographer

If you have a specific photographer in mind, contact them to figure out their availability. Another thing to consider would be travel for your photographer. Perhaps you love a California photographer, but you are eloping in Maine. Are you willing to pay for the travel fees, lodging, car rental, and other expenses for that photographer?  

Once you figure out your priority regarding the date, location, and photographer, you can figure out how to proceed. 

how to start planning to elope

Once you figure out your priority regarding the date/time of year, location, photographer/vendor in the order of priority you can figure out how to proceed. We are elopement photographers & guides who are passionate about helping you plan you most epic day!

Budget

There are multiple ways to view budgeting for an elopement. While they are far less expensive than traditional weddings, elopements can still cost a significant amount of money depending on what you are looking for. We like to categorize these into two categories. 

  1. Vendors
    1. Photographer
    2. Videographer
    3. Dress
    4. Cake/florals
    5. Officiant
  2. Experience Costs
    1. Flights
    2. Car Rental
    3. Lodging
    4. Food
    5. Location based adventures (sunset sailboat ride, horseback riding, atving, etc.)

If you are looking to decrease overall costs of eloping you can consider several options that influence the total cost of the elopement. 

Examples include:

  • Eloping closer to home. 
  • Finding a more budget friendly photographer/videographer (um hello Rendezvous)
  • Getting a dress from Lulus or other online bridal rental dress shops.
  • Camping

Eloping closer to home does not mean going to the courthouse, although it can if that is what you want. We’re talking more along the lines of choosing to elope in the North East if that’s where you’re from rather than flying across the country to elope in Yosemite because it’s what you’ve seen other people do. Obviously if you want to fly across the country to get married we are all for it, just know it is not your only option for eloping.

There are so many GORGEOUS spots in the North East (that not many people know about because the internet hasn’t discovered them yet).

Eloping locally allows you to save money on flights, car rentals, and overall travel costs. The average cost of eloping can absolutely vary depending on what you want. While you can elope for literally no cost, we find that many people spend about $5,000-$15,000 for their elopement between vendors & experience costs. 

https://gretchenhope.photography a combined 10 years of photography experience between Gretchen’s wedding photography business and Robert’s landscape and adventure photography. This means we value ourselves as artists, photographers, and adventurers. Over the years we’ve found that someone will always be willing to do it cheaper and that you truly get what you pay for. 

How to tell your family

Don’t elope and post a sneak peek to your social media passive aggressively the next day. 

While that may be fine for some families, others may feel excluded or hurt that you have decided to elope. While their feelings are valid, there is a better approach to communicating your intentions. 

It is important to communicate with your partner about your day and who you want to be there. It is possible to find a way to invite your nearest and dearest and also get the privacy and elopement of your dreams. If you have a big family and some would be hurt if they were not invited then it is probably best to invite no one to avoid the drama. If you want to invite your family or if friends are more family to you that is totally fine!

When I (Gretchen) was planning my wedding, my mom had a whole long list of families that “needed to be invited so as not to offend”. I tried arguing but that failed so I invited 350 people to our destination wedding in Jackson Hole. We had a total of 80 people including the bridal party show up & none of the extended family members. All this to say, you do not have to invite anyone, no one has rights to your day. This is the day you get to marry your best friend and we want it to be as stress-free and drama-free as possible. 

Here are a few examples of what you can say:

“We did not have the time, resources, or mental energy to plan a big wedding. Eloping was our best bet to make this day one we will never forget.”

“We are so excited to start our marriage in the wilderness and exactly how we wanted it”

“We did not want to deal with covid or mandates potentially impacting our day, this was a simpler option that we are so excited about”

Make it personal and communicate your feelings in a gracious way. Remember this day is one that your family has also been looking forward to. While we do not recommend burning bridges and always advocate for showing respect to your family and friends. This is on one else’s day but your own. It is okay to do exactly what the two of you want even if those around you have opinions otherwise. 

Our best suggestion for this option is figuring out who you truly want to be there. Total them all up because that number may determine whether you have an elopement or a micro-wedding.

If you haven’t yet: Book your Photographer

Essentially once you figure out these additional steps, if you haven’t at this point it would be a good idea to book a photographer. Some elopement photographers aka Rendezvous offer guides and local vendor recommendations to make this day as easy and stress free as we can! We truly want you to have the wedding of your dreams in whatever capacity that means. That being said, we offer multiple packages to fit the needs of our clients, from simple 4-5 hour days to multi-day adventures. We want you to feel that your money is being well spent on what you truly want for this day!

Book an Officiant

Sometimes your photographer will know a local officiant, if not the certification online is straightforward and you can have someone meaningful marry you both!

Address the Legal Requirements

This is dependent on the state but many places require a marriage license from the county you are eloping in. These are simple to obtain, you just have to go and get it.

I’ll never forget this day. Vincent and I (Gretchen) got married in Jackson Hole, we has a traditional wedding but it was on a Monday because of the Rodeo (I know, sounds crazy) anyways Vincent was supposed to fly in Thursday so we could go pick up our license on Friday for our wedding Monday. Well his flights got canceled twice in Denver Thursday night, he spent the night in the airport and then ended up running into his dad the next day at the same airport on his way to our wedding so they rented a car. They got to Jackson at 6 and the county clerk’s office closed at 5pm.

So there we were, at 8am on Monday morning the day of our wedding getting our license. It was crazy but kind of fun to go on this little adventure the morning of, we got coffee together and just mentally prepared for the day which was so fun. 

Book your Accommodations

We are talking about flights, rental cars, lodging, etc for you and your guests. If you plan on eloping during peak season near national parks we recommend booking in advance because these parks are usually in small towns which cannot always accommodate a large influx of tourism depending on the time of year. 

Choose your wedding attire

We recommend this after you’ve decided on a location because then you have the ability to make sure your attire fits with the vibes but also that way you can figure out if you’ll need to hike in your dress, what other adventures the day may contain, etc. 

Buy Your Rings

This is up to you, if you want to forgo the rings you can do that as well! Just don’t forget to pack them and stow them in a secure place!

Elope

Wait and dream and get ready for an epic adventure!! We cannot wait!

Closing

Alright that’s our tips on how to elope & where to start, we hope that answers some questions you may have about eloping! We are excited for you and are cheering you on all the way!! Please reach out if you have any questions, we’d be happy to help! We hope this post has helped you in your planning. Eloping should be a fun stress-free day for you.

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