Planning an elopement isn’t as strenuous as a traditional big wedding timeline, but that doesn’t mean that the process isn’t demanding and somewhat challenging at times. That’s why I’ve put together this elopement checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything. 

Like traditional weddings, every elopement is different, so your approach may differ depending on your specific requirements. However, some staples hold any elopement checklist together. Here’s everything you need on your elopement checklist!

The Ultimate Elopement Checklist

There are roughly five pillars to an elopement checklist:

  • Legal Requirements
  • Travel & Accommodation
  • Vendors
  • Ceremony Requirements
  • Post-Ceremony 

Let’s get started with the first steps of any type of wedding:

Legal Requirements

Getting married is as much a legal proceeding as it is a celebration. However, it’s important to remember that every place has its own set of documents, procedures, and requirements to acknowledge your marriage as legally binding. 

Groom smiling at the bride and holding up the umbrella as she smiles at the officiant in front of them during their elopement, taken by Nikk Nguyen Photo

The first real step is deciding on the place you’re going to elope. Then, of course, the finer details pertaining to that place can be discussed and figured out beyond these initial steps, but knowing where the elopement will take place is essential for figuring out the legal aspects of your union. 

These requirements are going to require research depending on where you’re planning on getting married. So as you start considering locations for where your elopement will take place, take into consideration the legality:

  • Research federal, state, and county laws to ensure you’re following all the necessary steps to get a marriage license.
  • Some states require a registered officiant, so make sure you’ve got one for your elopement.
  • Some states require a witness, so depending on what your plans were for the guest list, be sure you’ve got a friend, family member, or even your elopement planner ready to fulfill this task.
  • Fill out the paperwork required of you and your partner.
  • If necessary, you’ll need to appear at a clerk's office, which should be done before the elopement. 

Travel and Potential Accommodation Requirements

Where you plan on eloping matters, and it affects multiple aspects of your elopement checklist. Once you’ve sorted out the “where?” and the legal parameters of that destination, it’s time to think about getting there, accommodation, and several other things.

Some couples decide to make their lives super easy with a simple city hall ceremony. Other couples look to go international to exotic or distant places to make it a memorable experience. That’s a choice that only you and your partner can make. 

The Ultimate Elopement Checklist: Couple walking the downtown streets laughing during their elopement shoot.

Here’s what you need to consider when choosing that unique location:

  • Do they actually allow weddings?
  • What are the permit fees and requirements (this is especially important when it comes to national parks and federal/city locations)
  • Capacity
  • Amenities 

When you’ve landed on the decision, it’s time to make a move:

  • Book the venue
  • Buy the plane tickets
  • Book your hotel, guesthouse, or Airbnb
  • Make reservations in and around the area for dinner and activities while you’re in the area

If you’re inviting guests, be sure to make them well aware of where the wedding is happening and where they can stay nearby. Sending a shortlist of accommodation options is always a good idea. 

Vendors

How you approach vendors for an elopement will be fairly different compared to how you approach them for a wedding. You’re not going to need all the traditional vendors that you might need for a traditional wedding, and the vendors you do pick may be guided by what feels the most important to you as you plan.

For an elopement, your main focuses are on:

  • Officiant 
  • Photographer
  • Wedding Planner
  • Caterer
  • Cake Maker

Some of these vendors might be necessary, like an officiant who could be a legal requirement. Others are optional, like the DJ and the caterer. You might be planning on going to a restaurant afterward with the small group you’re with, or maybe you want to pack a picnic or order takeout.

While a photographer isn’t required, it’s highly recommended. You don’t want to have no real photos to look back at of your special day - and if you’re eloping without your loved ones, having amazing photos to show them makes all the difference. While yes, someone can snap some pictures on their phone, it’s just not the same. You want someone who knows what they’re doing. Check out this Mt Bonnell elopement for a taste of what elopement photography can look like!

A wedding planner can be exceptionally helpful, especially if you’re having your elopement in a foreign destination. They’ll know the tricks of the area and how to get the best deals, locations, and special features added to the experience. 

The cake maker can be a tricky one. Where are you having the cake? At the location or at the after party or dinner elsewhere? This will be something you’ll need to figure out beforehand. 

Ceremony Requirements

While this isn’t a traditional wedding, that doesn’t mean you won’t have some of the traditional items that exist at most weddings. 

These things should be on your elopement checklist:

  • Wedding dress
  • Suit
  • Boutonniere 
  • Bouquet 
  • Rings
  • Hair and Makeup
  • Travel to your location
  • Decor

Often, you’ll have a planner around to help you make these decisions and arrangements. They might have expert knowledge of the area and the vendors around, which means they can acquire a majority of these items from locals, far easier than you might be able to, especially if it’s a location with a language barrier. 

It’s also important to note these aren’t requirements. You can do whatever you want when it comes to these types of traditions. If you don’t want to wear a dress, don’t. Nobody is forcing you! This is your day, and how you celebrate it is up to you. 

Post-Ceremony

Two important aspects of the post-ceremony need to be considered when embarking on solving an elopement checklist.

  1. The Reception
  2. The Post-ceremony Formalities
Close-up shot of groom pouring champagne from a bottle into a glass held by the bride, shot by Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen

The Reception

If you’re a small group and still want to have a reception, you’ve got a lot of opportunities to have something small at a local venue. You can book out a small private room or venue to have an intimate gathering with your friends and family.

Otherwise, if it’s an elopement with just the two of you, maybe you and your partner go to a restaurant together or do something fun in the area.

The Ultimate Elopement Checklist: Reception table with a floral arrangement laid on it beside a candle along with a plate with a 'Thank you' wedding card.

The Post-ceremony Formalities

There are some post-ceremony formalities you might want to engage in once you’re back home. Here are some to consider:

  • Elopement announcements
  • A gift registry
  • Thank you cards for gifts, attendance, or both
  • Completing your paperwork for your marriage license
  • A photo album to show friends and family

Conclusion

There you have it! An elopement checklist to get you started on figuring out what you’re going to be doing for your special day. Remember that you can do pretty much whatever you want when it comes to your special day, so focus on what you and your partner want for this moment. 

If you’re planning to elope in Texas, check out my portfolio and get in touch so we can capture your elopement in style! There are a lot of beautiful places in Texas where you can elope, so check out this great state for the wedding destination of your dreams.

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Bride and groom looking at each other and holding hands as they stand back-to-back in the middle of a field; image overlaid with text that reads The Ultimate Elopement Checklist
Bride and groom smiling at each other as the groom places his hands on her waist; image overlaid with text that reads The Ultimate Elopement Checklist

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