Elopements are freaking amazinggggggggg! We really don’t think we can ever preach it enough! So many of our past couples have come to us with regrets about not eloping or having an elopement that did not fulfill their dreams AFTER their wedding or elopement planning process. So first off: if you’re reading this and thinking about eloping, make that leap! It can be cliche to say but you really will know if eloping is the best choice for you and your partner!
Well okay… that’s all fine and dandy! You’ve decided to elope! Now how the hell do you go about planning your dream elopement?! You’re in luck! As wedding and elopement photographers who have been around the block, we’re gonna let you in on FIVE easy steps to jumpstart your elopement planning process! Don’t worry ’bout it, sweetheart! We gotchu!
A quick note before we jump into all the details: it’s important to remember that just like two wedding days are not alike, the planning process does NOT look the same either! Every planning process goes at a different pace or in a different order and you should make sure that you’re following the beat to your own drum as you jump into the planning process! These are only suggestions that we have found to be helpful in the past!
Now for many elopement (and wedding) couples, getting married can have quite the sticker shock. That sticker shock can lead to you going straight into that flight-or-fight mode and it can make the whole planning process unbearable. One easy way to mitigate that panicky feeling is to set aside some time to really go over your budget!
When we say calculate your budget, we’re not talking about immediately throwing out your maximum amount and trying to figure how everything will fit into that. Start by doing some general research into different vendors and gauging prices. If you have a relative or a friend, that has previously eloped, begin by asking them what they spent on their elopement. Once you have a feel for what industry pricing is, you can sit down and figure out more specifics to your budget.
Consider building a priority list that factors in you and your partner’s top priorities for your elopement. If you guys are the ultimate foodies and food plays an active role in your relationship, perhaps set aside a considerable amount for catering. If both of you (or one of you) feels extremely passionate about having their day documented through photo or video, consider widening your budget for elopement photography services (Don’t be afraid to hit us up!)
The good thing about budgets are that they aren’t concrete! You can go back and change things around if you want, you can shift your minimum and maximum as needed, and they can help you feel more prepared for your big day!
A great way to keep your budget organized is by using a handy, dandy spreadsheet! Use this helpful spreadsheet template from Where to Elope to keep all the details in order! Additionally, this resource has some great information about how an elopement can save you money in comparison to a traditional wedding!
As your working through your budget, one thing to consider is where you want to have your elopement! Not only can the location of your elopement have emotional significance to you and your partner but some locations are more expensive to elope in than others. Figuring out your location can be one of the most fun parts of planning your elopement so don’t let the hassle ruin your experience!
To begin, sit down with your partner and talk about where you envision your elopement. Is it on the beaches of St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands where you vacationed a few years back? Will you elope in the Catskill Mountains of New York where you can tackle a new adventure together? Is it closer to home on the North Shore in Lutsen where you can mediate that unfamiliarity of exploring somewhere new by keeping home close to the heart?
Narrow it down to around 3-4 locations and list them in order of preference. If you research one location and find that the price would be WAY too far out of your budget, move on to the next location. You want to choose a location that serves a purpose for you as a couple while still meeting those technical parameters (eg. budget, time, etc.) of your elopement day.
One helpful tip that we have is that if you are in talks with a photographer (or multiple photographers), consult with them to see if they have any experience shooting at a specific location. Use them as a resource to bounce ideas off of and gather information! This is a great way to begin forming a relationship with photographers and getting a feel on how your energies mix and match!
You may be reading this and thinking to yourself, “Aren’t we already figuring out the logistics of our elopement?” And right you would be to say that but, of course, there are some other logistics you should consider for your elopement! One thing to figure out is how long you want your elopement to be.
For most, you think of a wedding day as a one-and-done occasion that is all wrapped up in one day. But the good news is that you have complete control over how long your elopement celebration lasts! It’s not entirely uncommon for couples to have multi-day celebrations for their elopement! On the first day, they could hike around the mountains and make their way to the perfect ceremony spot. On the second day, they can have a grand reception where they celebrate with those they love. (Pro tip: You can elope in a special location and have an intimate ceremony there and come back home to have a traditional reception with all your loved ones!).
It’s important to consider this because if you choose to elope in an unfamiliar location, you’re going to want to factor in some time to explore and adventure! And it’s up to you if you want your photographer to come along and capture those adventures for you! But it’s important to consider how long your elopement will be to factor in travel costs.
Along with figuring out the logistics of your elopement, it is SOOOOO important to decide who is coming along for your elopement. Most of the elopement couples we have encountered have chosen to elope because they don’t want a big, traditional wedding with a big crowd. But you don’t necessarily have to be alone either!
For many couples, it’s important to them to have their close loved ones as a part of your day. But in that process, many can forget that whole point of your elopement is that you two are getting married! As hard as it can be to reckon with, it’s not about your mom or your best friend. So if you really want it to be just you, your partner, your officiant, and your photographer, you are free to do so!
Additionally, it’s crucial to consider this fairly early on in your planning process. Destination weddings and elopements can be expensive for your loved ones to participate in so allowing those close people in your life adequate time to plan for their participation (eg. travel costs, time off of work, etc.) is very important.
Like we mentioned in Step #3, a great way that we have seen couples compromise their intimate elopement with that traditional wedding is to have a separate reception. We have shot many couples who have opted to follow this model and every one of them has come back with nothing but good things to say. You get the best of both worlds: you can have that special adventure with your partner while still celebrating with those that you love. And in reality, a lot of people attend weddings for the celebration part so this is a great way to keep the elopement part for you and your partner and the celebration for everyone else.
With all of those little details squared away, you can begin deep diving into vendor hunting! Your vendors are there to support you every step of the way for your elopement so it’s crucial to make sure you energetically align with your vendors!
We may be biased a little (okay maybe a LOT) but we really think that connecting with a photographer is the most important step when it comes to vendor hunting. As we mentioned before, your photographer is going to be a great resource for information and planning. And in reality, you spend the most of your elopement day with your photographer out of anyone so the relationship you have with them is very important.
If you’re looking for a few things to look out for when hiring an elopement photographer, our main piece of advice is to make sure that you feel heard by your photographer. If you’re photographer puts a damper on your dream elopement or dims that light, consider finding someone who will embrace your vision and carry that out to fruition.
Another big vendor that you will want to prioritize in your vendor hunt is your officiant! Many people choose to hire an officiant and they can be super awesome people to connect with! Similar to your photographer, you want to choose someone who will elevate your elopement and cater your ceremony to your personal relationship!
Alright! If you’ve made it to this point, give yourself a pat on the back! You’re five steps closer to your dream elopement! *cue a round of applause*
We know it’s not an easy task to tackle but we’re confident that if you stay true to your intentions and keep a positive mindset, your dream elopement will unfold exactly how you want it to. Don’t let planning your elopement become the headache that puts a damper on the whole thing! Let it be another point where you can rejoice with your partner over the fact that you’re getting married!
If you’re on the hunt for some elopement photographers who are going to help you craft the elopement you have always wanted, you’re in luck! We love to travel and we love serving amazing couples like yourselves even more! Reach out to us HERE and let’s get to chatting!
Wanna to read about an amazing elopement we had the honor of shooting in St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, head on over HERE to read about how the magic unfolded!
As always, stay rad! Happy planning! xoxo