How to Elope

One of my biggest joys in life is being able to tell people that eloping is not just running off to Vegas to get married by an Elvis impersonator. The meaning has now evolved into something I am quite proud of. Eloping is typically a small wedding that foregoes normal traditions, it's about celebrating what is most important to you, where you can leave behind the expectations of society. The couples I photograph generally want to celebrate with only each other (and sometimes only a few of their closest) & use it as an opportunity to do so in an incredible destination, it's a powerful declaration of their love, in the way they truly want it. Everyone should be allowed the breathing room to decide if eloping is what they want.

1. Location

So you want to elope, but where will it be? Pick a location that is either sentimental & close to your heart or somewhere you have dreamed about going. Picking a location early on is essential as it will impact almost every other area of our planning, including vendors, budget and logistics.

I know people who have chosen to elope in a country or area because they want to honour memories of passed family members, or it's a place that holds history for their family line. This is incredibly special & holds so much more value than a random venue. Go with your heart and find something that holds a special place to say 'I do.'

Alternatively, eloping in another country or state to where you live is the perfect opportunity to travel to a destination of your dreams. You can then plan to stay for a few weeks and explore! Also remember, instead of spending thousands of dollars on a wedding venue, you are spending it on a trip of a lifetime. Many people who elope abroad pick incredible national parks like Yosemite or Joshua Tree, so instead you'll just be paying a permit fee to use park land. Part of making this process easier is picking a planner local to the area you want to elope, they will have a lot more knowledge and can help you incredibly. I'll touch base further down on vendor recommendations for eloping.

2. Budget

Some people elope to save money and others elope and pay even more than the traditional wedding. It's all about the 'why' you are eloping. You can have a lavish elopement set with ceremony backdrop and a private dinner or you can have a minimalistic elopement where you hike to the top of a mountain, it's your dream to bring to life.

Many people who elope may spend just as much as they would on a traditional wedding, but instead of it being on things they might not personally care about (eg. fancy venue, invitations...) it's invested into the few things that are going to make their day memorable. You have to know what your main priorities are and put down a budget of how much you are willing to spend on them. Once you have a budget you can have a defined plan to reach out to vendors that suit.

Just remember, generally vendors who charge cheaper have less experience & might not give you the quality you expect. Do your research and know that if you are wanting to save money in a certain area you may have to settle. That's why it's important to define your priorities, so you can set healthy expectations to know what you will get with what you pay.

3. Vendors

What kind of services will you need on your day & what will you DIY? This relates back to your budget, so it's good to review what vendors you need at the same time as you review your budget. Here is a list of vendors you may need!

• Celebrant

• Venue/Permit

• Hair & Makeup

• Photography + Videography

• Florals

• Food/Drink

• Travel & Accomodation

• Planner

• Rings

My number one recommendation for a must have vendor (other than photography) would be a planner, especially if you are doing an out of state/international wedding. Believe it or not your elopement doesn't need to bring you to stressful tears. Planners will know the area, know legal requirements and will even help you find other vendors from that area to bring together your dream elopement. It is an investment that you will never regret.

Elopement couple reading vows on Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain Elopement

4. Paperwork

Our favourite word everrrrrr (not). This is a pretty crucial step - officiating your marriage. There are a few ways you can go about this for your elopement.

This takes a bit more thought if you elope out of your state/country. Each area will have its own set of rules and you'll need to follow them if you want to be offical. Cool fact - in California & Colorado you can even be self-solemnise your own marriage. If you have a local planner or officiant it will make the process a lot smoother so definitely recommend this if you want to obtain your marriage certificate abroad!

Sometimes if the process seems a little long winded or just too stressful you can always take the alternative route. Many couples can get all the nitty gritty paperwork done in their home country & then symbolise their marriage through vows and their elopement ceremony. You do not need your paper work to be done at the same time for it to be meaningful, just do what is best for you two.

5. Let's Save some money

While saving money sounds appealing, don't do it at the risk of important aspects to your day. You're eloping anyways to not have to feed 100+ wedding guests! That is money you can put towards things that really matter to you.

1. Set a budget.

I don't mean a random number! Do a bit of research and get an idea of what things tend to cost, then set a budget off those facts.

2. Pick your top priority vendors.

If there are a few vendors you want to prioritise, tell yourself you'll pay whatever their prices, and allocate the rest of your budget to the rest. This helps you to really put value into the services you want & then you can choose to DIY or go cheaper on other aspects that don't mean so much to you!

I just want to highlight again, pay for what you value. A huge one is photography, one of the only aspects of your day that keeps giving! When the day is over, they'll be tangible memories you can print and keep forever! If you try to find someone to squeeze into a tight budget, don't expect to get incredible photos like one from a seasoned pro who charges full rates. The reality is most of the time you'll get what you pay for! I say this because I care so much about your memories. You won't even remember how much you paid in 30+ years, but you'll remember your day because of your photos.

3. Make sure to fly in a few days before, and fly out a few days after.

This especially applies if you are officiating your marriage overseas you may need to do paper work. This helps you get your bearings, helps you get over jet lag and overall takes the pressure off you to squeeze the most amazing time of your life into a few days. Take your time and enjoy every moment.

I hope something on this page has helped you with your elopement planning! I'm so excited for you as you go on this journey - Love Mel x

Learn about eloping in Australia!