Eloping: The Dos and Don’ts and other Frequently Asked Questions

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If you’re thinking about eloping but still have some questions I’m here to help! It can be tricky navigating this chapter of being engaged. And you might be sitting here with 8,000 decisions in front of you to make. the process of planning a wedding even a small one might seem overwhelming and just doesn’t resonate with you at all. And that’s completely FINE and rest assured you’re not the only one. Hundreds of couples elope every year and you would be hard pressed to find one that regrets it. So, here are some dos and don’ts of eloping and some other frequently asked questions to help you do what’s best for you!

What is eloping?

Eloping was originally a term used a long time ago for people that would secretly get married without parental consent. However, now it means so much more. Eloping can mean something a little different for every couple but the general consensus is two people getting married and foregoing a big traditional wedding.

An elopement is a very personal, intimate, and romantic experience that couples can choose to spend just by themselves, with a few family and friends, just their pets or kids. At it’s core it’s a “just us” experience. It’s centered on what matters most to you as a couple and what you want your wedding day to look like.

Why elope?

There are countless reasons why couples decide to elope. It could be anything from avoiding family drama to wanting to save money. Both of which are fairly common. Some of the other most common reasons why couples decide to elope are valuing experiences over things, there’s often less stress and anxiety, avoiding being the “center of attention,” and they want more intimacy and intention on their wedding day.

Eloping in California

Eloping Etiquette

There’s always etiquette with everything that you do. And to be clear there will always maybe one or few people who judge your decisions or make you second guess. But, to be perfectly honest your wedding day is about YOU. And literally no one else. So, though following these dos and don’ts may be nice for some. They are not at all required and you have permission to do whatever you damn well please.

Do: Prepare Yourself for Family and Close Friends’ Reactions

You’ll get comments no matter what you do whether it’s have a big wedding or a small one, a destination wedding or you make the jump and elope. People will comment and judge that’s just a given unfortunately. So, do what you want! Just know that you should prepare yourself for possibly a little negativity. Like seriously people LOVE weddings and why shouldn’t they…. they get to attend a party for free. But, if having a wedding feels like too much for you and you’ve decided to elope prepare yourself to have possibly some tough conversations.

You know your family and friends best. So, you’ll probably already know who’s going to be supportive and in your corner and who’s feeling might get hurt. Just remember that your wedding is for you and as long as you and your partner are happy that’s what matters most. Find comfort in that decision throughout the whole process and don’t lose sight of it.

Don’t: Forget to Take Care of All the Legal Details

There are many different ways to elope. Whether that be at your local city hall, the top of a mountain, or just in your backyard be sure to research and file all the correct paperwork. It very common for couples to have more of a commitment ceremony or promise ceremony when eloping in a different country or just somewhere that they don’t call home. And that’s totally fine too! If choosing to elope in a different state be sure to make yourself aware of any legalities such as having a witness(es) and or officiant. Make google your best friend and take care of all those details whether they be before or after your elopement.

Do: Hire a Planner, Photographer, and Videographer

Planning a wedding of any size can be stressful so planning an elopement even for just you and your partner can be stressful too! Do yourself a favor and hire a planner to help with all those details and coordination it’s a lifesaver in the end. I’m super biased but believe everyone should have photos of their wedding no matter how big or small. Get your memories captured so you can relive them for years to come. And if you have the budget get the videographer. You won’t regret it!

Do: Choose if You Want Guests or Witnesses

You can elope with just you and your partner or you can add a few friends and family into the mix. If you choose to invite other people you can ask them to also be your witnesses for your marriage license which is a bonus. But, if you only want you two in the U.S. there are a handful of states where you can self-solemnize meaning that you don’t need any witnesses and you can marry yourself.

Do: Send a Marriage Announcement

This one is really up to you but similar to a save the date you can send a marriage or elopement announcement to friends and family. Maybe you wanted to have the day just to you two but a reception after, this is a great way to send that invitation and get it on people’s radars.

Don’t: Downplay Your Elopement

Elopements are weddings and they are just as important, monumental, and beautiful. Don’t downplay the way you are choosing to get married. Just because it may not be traditional or endorsed by friend’s and family. This is a day to celebrate you and your partner, your love, and the journey you both are continuing on. That is important and AMAZING so don’t downplay it even for a minute.

Eloping in Joshua Tree

Eloping Frequently Asked Questions

How should we decide if we want to elope?

Ultimately you just have to do what’s right for you and your partner. Either you’ll be on the same page or you won’t and that’s ok. Marriage and relationship are all about compromise. So, maybe you wanted a just us elopement but your partner has always seen a wedding for themselves find that middle ground.

Often times I hear couples talk about why eloping might be for them and it really comes down to what feels right. Between the planning and decision making to the budget and being a host to loads of people. You know yourself better than anyone. So, think about how a wedding would feel in your body and how an elopement would feel and then have that honest conversation and make the decision together.

How do we decide on the place, date, or any other details?

Maybe there’s always been a place you’ve been dying to visit. Or maybe there’s a location that you both hold close to your heart. Or maybe you want a few friends and family there so you want a place that’s accessible but still has adventure. Bottomline ask yourself what you want from this experience. And then decide on a specific terrain or weather that you’re looking for. Once you’ve decided that make a list of places. And then based on that list think about the seasons at that location and go from there.

This is way easier said than done but, don’t be afraid to get on Pinterest and Instagram for some inspiration. Trust me the options are endless and you’ll be able to quickly decide what your looking for when you start searching.

Eloping in Lake Tahoe

Is it actually cheaper to elope?

I would say that 80% of the time it’s cheaper but that truly depends on your budget and where/how your eloping. I would say a good majority of the time eloping cuts your wedding costs at least in half. Which in this economy is a huge deal. If you’re interested in a more full on break down check out this blog post.

We’re already planning a wedding is it too late to decide to elope?

Absolutely not! It’s never too late. If you already hired vendors and booked a venue you, you can see if your photographer, videographer, florist and or officiant can change their services. You may lose some money on the venue side of things but I know plenty of couples that have pulled the ole switch-or-roo and none of them have regretted a thing. Do what is going to make you and your partner happy that’s what matter most.

What’s the different between micro wedding, intimate wedding, elopement, and destination wedding?

Such a good question and a little bit of a toughy. I feel like the definition varies from person to person.

What I would say though is a micro wedding and intimate wedding are one in the same you’re inviting 5-30ish people to your wedding give or take. An elopement more traditionally means it’s just you two or maybe like 2-10ish other people that are there. And a destination wedding is a more traditional wedding that’s held other in a different country.

I would say the biggest difference between a micro wedding, intimate wedding, and an elopement versus a destination wedding is that the first three have a more intentional guest list. While a destination may not as much. Typically couples chose a destination wedding to weed out their guest list. Which means they invite everyone that they normally would if the wedding was being held more locally but now since everyone has to travel for the wedding, more guests would opt not to attend. This leads to an overall smaller wedding and kind of leads to a more intimate wedding experience.

How do we start the planning process for eloping?

The simplest answer is to just start. Often times when you have so many decisions in front of you the hardest part can be to start. So whatever starting looks like for you just do that! Starting with the bigger decisions always helps first – like locations, photographer, flowers etc. I will say that the most basic place to start with with the place and season or date. That way you can begin doing more research on vendors and reaching out and setting up consultations. Once you begin booking and making some leeway you can begin to get more granular and making those smaller decisions.

Eloping in Big Sur, California

Final Thoughts on Eloping

Take a second and get a pulse check.

How are you feeling? Are you think eloping might be something for you? Is this something you want to bring up to your partner? Are you thinking you have a wedding half planned that you now need to cancel?

I personally know when it’s my time to get married eloping is the only way I want to get married. It’s fully resonated with me since I learned about it when I first became a photographer. And now 3+ years later it still is the only thing that feels right to me. Don’t get me wrong I’m worried about all the same things you probably are telling me mom, siblings, and friends. And even though I feel like I’ve been preparing them for it for years. That doesn’t make it any easier.

Eloping is such a personal choice so don’t be afraid to ruffle some feathers and do what’s best for YOU!

Hi I'm Torez, a die-hard romantic and San Francisco-based wedding photographer with years of experience capturing love stories against the backdrop of our charming city. From intimate City Hall ceremonies to epic coastal elopements, I've seen and photographed it all. I know the ins and outs of navigating wedding planning in San Francisco like the back of my hand - from selecting the perfect location that aligns with your love story, to creating the dreamiest wedding timeline that lets you enjoy your day to the fullest. And guess what? I'm sharing all of that expertise right here with you.

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