The best part about making the brave choice to elope is you get to dream up a completely custom wedding experience! While elopements are often more cost effective than a traditional wedding, they do come with just a bit of planning as well. That’s where this adventure elopement checklist comes in. If this is already overwhelming you, then I’d suggest you look into hiring a planner or photographer that specializes in planning elopements.
Click on the image below to download your PDF elopement checklist!
Keep in mind this elopement checklist is meant to be a complete guide. I wanted to include every possible thing an eloping couple may need throughout the planning process. Feel free to cross off items and make your own custom elopement checklist using the downloadable PDF at the bottom of this post!
Before you dive into this checklist, sit down with your partner and a glass of wine or cup of coffee and really think through your elopement day. Think about your favorite things to do together, then plan an epic wedding ceremony around those adventures! Now let’s dive in.
Start by imagining your elopement ceremony. Ask yourself these questions:
What is the weather like? Describe it in detail.
Do you hear waves crashing on the beach and feel warm wind on your skin, or is it snowing? Do you see yourself on top of a mountain? This will give you an idea of where to start when it comes to picking the best location for your elopement.
Do you imagine guests at your elopement ceremony?
Is it just the two of you, or do you imagine a couple close friends or family members standing by your side? It’s suggested to keep your guest list for elopements under 15 – 20 people.
Other Resources for Adventures & Elopements:
The Epic Elopement Checklist
The link to download this elopement checklist as a PDF is at the very bottom of the page!
Don’t forget so you can refer back to it at a later date.
1.) Set Your Budget
This is always a great starting point when it comes to planning your elopement. What’s a realistic budget for you? Just throw a total number out there. How high above that budget would you be willing to go? The great thing about eloping is there are so many places where you can elope for free! Keep in mind many locations do require permits (and always make sure to do your homework), but even a $200 permit is much cheaper than a $10k wedding venue. In most cases your elopement photographer is going to be your biggest expense when it comes to planning the budget for your elopement or small wedding.
- Write down a number for your entire elopement budget
- Break down your budget for eloping into these 7 categories: Travel, Accommodations, Wedding Attire & Accessories, Fees: Venue Permits & Marriage Licenses, Wedding Vendors, Post-Elopement Celebration, Food
Let’s talk about the actual logistics of your elopement day. I’d like to let you in on a fun fact; It is still an elopement even if you’re bringing guests! Keep your guest list minimal to avoid additional stress and planning. Be mindful when selecting the day for your elopement ceremony, as weekdays or sunrise often tend to work better to avoid crowds. This can be important if you are planning to elope in an epic popular elopement destination such as Yosemite National Park or Glacier National Park. If you selected a photographer that specializes in planning elopements (like me), then they can help you find the perfect place to say your vows! If you’re wanting to research on your own, check out my favorite resources such as AllTrails and Google Earth Pro to find the perfect location.
- Confirm the number of guests (if any – I suggest to keep it under 15)
- Select a date for your elopement ceremony
- Select the perfect location for your elopement
- Check for permits – If eloping in a national or state park a permit is almost always required. Check by validating online or calling the park to confirm requirements for elopement/wedding permits.
3.) Travel & Accommodations
If your elopement is close to home and you don’t plan on booking special accommodations, you may be able to skip this step entirely. If you do end up traveling to a different city, state, or even country for your elopement make sure to stay as close to your ceremony location as possible to alleviate stress and allow more time for photos. Spend some time thinking about your favorite types of food to enjoy together, then make a list of ideal restaurants or breweries near your lodging so you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to eat.
- Book flights (plus travel insurance, baggage fees)
- Confirm mode(s) of transportation (how will you get to your elopement location, By bus, train, taxi, or do you need a rental car, etc)
- Book your lodging
- Make a list of nearby restaurants and places to eat that you may like
4.) Wedding Attire & Accessories
Of course we would never forget about the elopement wedding dress or suit! These details can really help bring the mood of your entire elopement day. Do you want a bridal hat? What about jewelry? Are you more of a bohemian bride or a simple bride? If you are planning an adventurous elopement, be sure to find a comfortable pair of hiking boots. Do not wait to break them in right before your trip or you will regret it!
- Find your elopement wedding dress/suit/whatever you’d like to say your vows in
- Don’t forget about your shoes! Buy shoes that are comfortable and easy to move in. A lot of brides opt for hiking boots if they plan to hike for their adventurous elopement
- Bridal accessories can be easy to miss. Little things like jewelry, watches, or meaningful items you’d like photos of
- The wedding rings (Qalo has an amazing selection of silicone bands)
5.) Get Legal – Your Marriage License
In some states within the US (Colorado, Pennsylvania, and a few others), you are able to self-solemnize. Also known as a self-uniting marriage. This is where a couple gets married without the assistance of an officiant. Research the laws where you plan to sign your marriage license and say your vows to check for any restrictions or requirements. If you are planning a destination elopement, it may be easier to get the legal paperwork out of the way before visiting your destination. Keep important docs at hand, do it the right way, don’t stress, and don’t let red tape stop you!
- Research the laws where you want to complete your legal paperwork. Every state/country is different.
- Check to see if you need an appointment to pick up your marriage license, or if there is a waiting period that may be required before you can sign it.
- Confirm if a witness or officiant (or both) are required
- Bring along all the required documentation (your local county clerk can confirm what’s required, birth certificate, drivers license, etc)
6.) Hire Your Elopement Vendors
Who you choose to be there for your wedding day is a big deal. As I mentioned earlier in the article, elopement photographers and videographers will often account for the biggest part of your budget. You don’t need all these vendors to have the perfect elopement day, bring along whoever you need to! If you’ve hired me as your elopement photographer then you will receive a list of preferred vendors that are local to your elopement location.
- Elopement photographer
- Hair & makeup artist
- Musician/DJ to play at your ceremony or celebration
7.) Elopement Ceremony
If you don’t have an officiant you may be thinking what the heck should I do for my elopement ceremony script? Whatever you want! You can write your own ceremony script, or don’t use one at all. Some couples just read vows to each other, then have a first kiss and celebrate. It can be as simple or as in depth as you want it to be. Don’t be afraid to make your own traditions or use parts of a traditional wedding that mean something to you.
8.) What To Do After Eloping
This is a category to help you brainstorm how you should spend your time after your elopement ceremony. How should you celebrate becoming newlyweds? I would suggest eating your absolute favorite meal, and pairing it with your favorite drink. Then spend the rest of the day doing whatever makes you happy. Maybe that’s hiking down a mountain, playing yard games at a brewery, or going on a badass helicopter ride.
- Enjoy a chef catered meal
- Dance around the campfire at your AirBNB
- Backpack together, build a campfire, lay under the stars
- Go out to dinner with your new spouse and friends/family
- Take a tropical vacation with all the money you just saved from eloping!
9.) Elopement Announcements
You did it! You eloped and had the stress free wedding of your dreams. Now it’s time to share all the love with your family and friends who weren’t able to make it. Hiring the perfect elopement photographer is so important (even more so than a traditional wedding), as they may be the only person there to tell the story of how you got married. Why not use those images on an official elopement announcement? Your loved ones will be thrilled to have a little piece of that day.
- If you want to share some love with all the friends and family who couldn’t make it, consider ordering elopement announcements (use my code PaigeWeber to get 30% off your stationery order at Basic Invite)
- Share the news online, in person or by phone
Click on the image below to download your PDF elopement checklist!
Don’t forget to save this adventure elopement checklist to your Pinterest Board for planning!
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