Imagine a wedding day free from rules and expectations – just you guys celebrating the love you have for each other without the constant opinions. Sounds like the ultimate dream, huh? I will be the first to tell you it was everything and more (cause I did it). Looking back now I still can’t believe that I did do it but here we are and I’m here to give my two cents.
Eloping is such a beautiful way to get married the way you want to. No strings attached. Doing it simply because you want to, making the day everything you’ve always dreamed it could be. If you are clueless about the world of eloping; an elopement is simply a small celebration of you and your partner tying the knot, doing whatever you want, wherever you want, with whomever you want (i.e. a small group of your nearest and dearest, or just the two of you). That could be saying your vows while scaling a mountain, going to your dream destination, or even just committing yourselves to one another in your backyard.
When I say it can be whatever you want, I mean it. There are no rules to this. I think most couples can put themselves in a box and that they are tied down to certain rules. Rest assured you can do it all, cut some of it out, and just simply do whatever you want.
My husband and I recently eloped in Big Sur, and it was honestly the best decision we have ever made. It was a hard decision for sure, but looking back now, we would 100% do it again. We decided a big, traditional wedding wasn’t for us and took a sharp turn in the opposite direction (even ditched my whole wedding Pinterest board) – it was incredible. The experience was everything and more. If I could relive it 10x over, I would. Sidenote: Hire a videographer because although photographs are important, having a video gives a whole other feel. Shout out to all my videographers out there.
If you’re thinking of doing the same, how exciting is that!!! Most of my couples when they choose to elope are anxious, nervous, excited, hesitant, etc. I am here to let you know that, that is way more normal than you think. Take a deep breath and buckle up because we are about to step into planning a day you will never forget.
So, without a further of a do…
You can elope anywhere – literally. This is one of the coolest things about the elopement experience, but I recommend choosing a place where you can really envision yourself saying I do. Or go for a place with a personal connection to you both, as this can add another layer of meaning to your day and it truly does speak.
I was so in love with the idea of an elopement in Yosemite – until I remembered my husband and I just aren’t the hiking type – imagining us in hiking boots with those little backpacks saying “we eloped” made me laugh. Just was not our vibe. I saw it on Pinterest and immediately thought, “Yep- that’s the place” when it was nowhere close. Take Pinterest photos with a grain of salt and choose the location that FITS. Once we decided on a place that was meaningful to us, it was the biggest game-changer. Looking back on our wedding photos/video, it all just felt so much more emotionally authentic than Yosemite would’ve been by a landslide.
Wherever you decide to elope, I’ll be there, passport and camera in hand! As a destination elopement photographer, I love exploring new locations with my couples and planning incredible experiences that you’ll never forget.
I may be based on the East Coast as a Virginia elopement photographer, but I’m always excited to travel and be a part of your elopement. So if you’re looking for an Oregon elopement photographer, or Hawaii, or Italy…I know someone who can help. First things first, start jotting down locations that speak to you as a pair and once we nail that down, onward we go.
After you’ve found the best location ever, forget about hotels; it’s all about Airbnbs. Find somewhere with amazing natural lighting where you can both get ready, relax and have fun – think large windows, skylights, and modern decor. Pro tip: Dark cabins with orange(y) lighting can cause unwanted warmth in skin tones that can be difficult to remove, so look out for properties with a large amount of natural light in order to get the BEST images possible.
Feel free to shoot Airbnb links to your photographer and they can absolutely direct you in the best way. Alternatively, if you’ve got your heart set on somewhere rustic, let your photographer know and they can plan ahead, either by capitalizing on the lighting to create dark, moody images, or if this isn’t your style, they can bring along a flash and adjust the white balance, or even shoot the indoor pictures in black and white. At the end of the day, whatever you want goes but having that proactive communication with your photographer/videographer is the key.
The next step – find an officiant for the big day. This person will play such a vital role in your wedding, so really make sure it’s someone you can connect with and enjoy being around. My husband and I had no idea how to get an officiant and were actually kind of intimidated by it.
Holy, was it easy. We just used handy dandy Google and Brian popped right up as a Big Sur officiant.
Our officiant Brian Borgia in the Big Sur was super knowledgeable on the legal side of things, like permits, which was so helpful too. Most charge around $200–$500 for this service, but it can really vary. Use Google and start looking at some officiant in the area! You can also use someone you already know or a pastor or yours if they are able!
It’s completely up to you as to whether you invite family or close friends to your elopement. There is no wrong way to go about it. My husband and I eloped with just us, which was so romantic, relaxed, and carefree – I didn’t have to micromanage anything! We said our private vows once our photographer/videographer left (we didn’t want to have them photographed or videoed, as we preferred to be in the moment 100%). Also – we are not so fond of our voices on video haha cringe! A lot of people ask whether we video streamed our ceremony for our families – we did not. Having it solely just us was hard to finally decide because you do have feelings of being selfish etc. Those feelings are so real. You do love your family but it is your love. Period.
The people-pleaser in me felt the need to do the colors my sisters wanted, the big wedding my mom wanted, etc. It didn’t sit well with me and I just wasn’t happy. When we decided to elope, some of my family members weren’t particularly pleased. I’m thankful to say that in our case, our family came around in the end and are now so, so happy for us. I know that other couples may have a tougher time than we did, trust me that you just have to get through that initial ‘meh’ feeling and know that it’s normal. At the end of the day, it’s your marriage and you need to do what feels right for you! Easier said than done for sure.
When it came down to it we decided to elope in Big Sur where we had an emotional connection, and while I did miss having my mom there, we were really delighted with how things went and my family was very supportive of our choice (eventually, haha). Eloping is a big give-and-take situation. If you want it to be just you two then you might give up mom zipping up your dress. If you want your sisters there, you might give up having a private morning with your soon-to-be husband. Nothing is wrong but there is a lot of giving and taking. Go into choosing to elope with that give and take mindset. If you feel sad with a con- that doesn’t mean you are making a bad decision. Remember that.
It’s so important to connect with your photographer! Finding an elopement photographer isn’t just about gorgeous photos (although that’s a biggie, of course). You’ll spend a big chunk of your day with your elopement photographer, so find someone who you click with on a personal level.
I recommend getting on a facetime or phone call with them to see what the vibe is like. You can tell a lot in a 15-minute phone conversation – it’s not everyone’s first choice to talk on the phone, but it really helps to establish a connection and avoid any big surprises on the day.
Some things to ask:
Hiring a photographer is probably going to be one of the first vendors you start looking at. I urge you to not book out of simply amazing work. Connect, connect, connect. This will make a dream of a difference in your photos and your overall experience. Next Vendors you will start looking for.
Here are some of my favorite vendors to check out:
Bonus: https://www.pasheybella.com/ (love them for Jewelry)
Here’s something awesome: You can still treasure all of those tiny, beautiful details, even if you don’t have a big wedding.
Ring boxes, perfume, custom hangers, wedding stationery – you can bring all of those things to your Airbnb and customize your space however you like. And maybe you don’t have wedding invites, for example, but you can certainly print up wedding announcements! My husband and I had stationary done by Lindsey, Owner of Truth Papers and she did amazing. We just wanted something simple to send out to family but also use as a keepsake for the stationary.
Pro Tip: Have your stationery designer make one solely for the two of you that says “We Eloped” instead of “We’re Eloping” for the photographer! ALSO- if you choose to do fun stamps like we did, one will not suffice. You will need multiple to have enough postage. We most definitely did not know this and ended up having to put rabbit stamps on all of them at the post office. Kinda funny but learn from us!
All of these little additions make for great flat lays and keepsakes after you get married. So even if you’re ditching the big wedding, you can still have it all (plus some). I personally am a very extra person. I packed frames with prints of my husband and I to hang all over our Airbnb. They made such cute additions to the space to make it feel a bit more homey and less airbnb(y).
You can certainly still have all the details of a bigger wedding turned smaller! It is very easy to put yourself in a box and tell yourself you can’t do it all without the big wedding. Nope, not true. Buy it all girlfriend.
I love that elopements can be both a wedding and a honeymoon! What a power duo!
You’ll save tons of money, as you’re already in your dream destination – simply add on a few days or a week. We stayed for just under and week and had our honeymoon in Carmel by the Sea. Such an amazing area. If you ever get to visit, do it! We recommend Roys at Pebble Beach.
It was so fun to wind down in the same city/surrounding area we previously got eloped at. The little Inn we stayed at did these little picnic baskets so we went back to the same location we eloped and had a picnic. Win, win. It was so perfect and we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we got married at a wedding venue. Just something to think about!
OK, time for logistics! I get asked plenty of questions about eloping, so here are some of the most common elopement FAQs to think about. And if you have more, I am one message on Instagram or a email away (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I hear this so often – I want to elope but don’t want to upset my parents. I totally understand, but please know this isn’t selfish. Your love should be celebrated in your own way, and there are plenty of ways to include family in other areas, like asking them to write you letters to read on the day or throwing a big party once you get back.
My husband and I sent our mom’s little ‘Mom of The Bride’, ‘Mom of The Groom’ candles to light during our ceremony time. My husband and I sent our mom’s little ‘Mom of The Bride’, ‘Mom of The Groom’ candles to light during our ceremony time. They loved this idea and it made them feel special! Here are the candles if you want to check them out.
I knew that once I told family members my husband and I were planning to elope that I would second guess myself. So before I told a single soul – we booked everything and got super excited (Flights, Photographer and Airbnb being the big ones). Once we told our family, no matter their opinions, I knew that there would be no going back, which gave us all the confidence we needed! And spoiler- yes I did second guess myself once I told my family. So normal.
Good news! An elopement is definitely simpler to plan than a wedding, but you do still need to stay organized. My husband and I started a spreadsheet to budget and track everything (flights, car rentals, marriage licenses, etc.) and it worked really well for us. It was nice to see everything laid out in an organized fashion and wasn’t as overwhelming.
So how do you start planning an elopement? Start by brainstorming all of your ideas and getting them out on paper. Remember, location first. Take it a step at a time. After that, the organization is key to tracking everything. It felt like a lot to me in the beginning and I was really overwhelmed but once you start booking things in, it all goes by really quickly. Focus on the big things first: Location, Photographer, Videographer, MUA, and Flights first.
Once you book your photographer, they can be very helpful with the planning process. I know for me, I like to be IN IT with you. Always a good idea to ask your photographer first especially if they specialize in elopements. They have your back.
As long as you abide by the marriage requirements within the state of your elopement, then yes, it’s legally binding. However, you don’t need to make your marriage legal if you don’t want to – I have couples who are already married and just want to do a fun elopement/vow renewal. How fun is that? Again- no rules. Once you book your officiant, they are very helpful as well with what exact papers/steps you need to take. Brian, linked above, was phenomenal. He told us exactly what we needed to do and it went just about perfectly.
This may vary depending on where you elope, but in most states, yes – you’ll need at least one/two witnesses. Be sure to do a quick Google search to ensure you know the witness requirements.
Witnesses do include your photographer and you could find literally anyone nearby. A literal hiker counts. Anyone to sign off on your official papers. For my husband and I, our videographer was our designated witness and signed off on the legal papers our officiant had. Boom, done. No stress.
This part is pretty straightforward: you’ll generally need your state identification or passport and your marriage license paperwork. If you’ve been legally married before, you may also need to prove that your previous marriage has been dissolved.
Another awesome thing about eloping is that you can set your own budget. A low-key weekend away and a quiet sunrise beach ceremony? Or going all out with a chalet and private chef in Vancouver? You can spend as much or as little as you want, but budgeting at least $5,000 is a good benchmark.
Full transparency, Cameron and I budgeted around $10,000 with our honeymoon included. We stayed right around that number and got to do everything on our list. From a private sailboat to dinners etc.
I encourage you to make a Honeymoon list of all the fun things you want to do plus the cost of it all. Enjoy planning it all out first, then budget. Elopements are so great for the main reason of giving more wiggle room to the honeymoon stuff. Don’t make it a burden but something super enjoyable. Hop on the internet and start planning it all. If you need more recommendations around Caramel By the Sea area, you know who to call.
Timelines are always the dreaded part of planning but for good reason. You might have zero clue how much time goes where. For getting ready photos, private vows, ceremony time, the best time of day for your bridals or the quick coffee run we want to make mid-day. A timeline has rules to an extent. The photographer you choose should guide you on the best times for it all.
Within all my packages I include my Timeline Guidance services to help you curate the best timeline possible for your day. We simply fill out a quick questionnaire and I take it from there. Your timeline can be anything and everything you want it to be. Elopements typically range from 5-to 6 hours but they can be much longer. It all depends on what you want to be covered and where we are going. Your photographer is your best friend and rest assured will help your format the best timeline possible for your day. My husband and I’s timeline went like this (just an example and yours could look completely different).
3:50 PM Photographer Arrives
4:00 PM Details
4:30 PM Cameron’s Getting Ready Photos
4:40 PM Reads Stephanie’s Letter
4:45 PM Stephanie’s Getting Ready Photos
5:00 PM Reads Camerons Letter
5:15 PM Facetimes Family
5:30 PM Travel to Big Sur (30 MINUTES TRAVEL TIME)
6:30 PM Ceremony
6:50 PM Bridals
7:45 PM Vendors Depart following Private Vows
Our elopement was so us and I can’t wait for you to plan something just as special. As you’ve read, elopements are no longer something that are viewed negatively but are in fact commonplace and celebrated as one of the most authentic ways to commemorate the love that you’ve built.
I would be honored to be Your Elopement Photographer and I can’t wait to dream up this day with you and make it all that you have pictured. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Let’s do it all plus some.