Eloping might be easier, but there are still plans to make.
Perhaps you and your fiancé are the super spontaneous types always looking for an unconventional adventure. Maybe you're trying to save money for a new life together, and just realized your next vacation could easily pull double duty as your nuptials as well. Whatever your perfectly justified reason, figuring out how to elope can quickly make the process feel more like a scary unknown task than a romantic escape. If planning your elopement is giving you those stress sweats you were trying to avoid, we're here to help!
In an effort to try & condense the planning into something that won’t have you running to the door screaming, here’s your guide & checklist: meticulously crafted after years of marrying eloping couples.
Three Ways Eloping Happens ~
It seems like when a lot of people imagine eloping, they imagine sneaking off to city hall, finding the judge, and getting married in five minutes or less after filling out a piece of paperwork. And sure, that’s definitely one way to do it—but that’s not the only way (it’s also not even necessarily that easy, since a lot of times it includes waiting in long lines and scheduled appointments for courthouse weddings).
1. THE SURPRISE! WE ELOPED KIND:
Yes, this can be the two of you, alone, at city hall, but it doesn’t have to be. A secret elopement may be far more inspiring for some – the ultimate romance of sneaking off into the night to get married. Whatever you do, give yourselves plenty of time to take in the fact that you just got married before you make any kind of public announcement. Enjoy that feeling – it’s amazing! The last thing you need is to be overwhelmed with questions or even worse – any negativity that might damper your bliss! The vast majority of people will be so excited to hear your news, thrilled that you followed your heart, (envious even!), but how you handle the announcement is key.
Couples are sometimes totally confused on the protocol of a courthouse wedding. Would we exchange rings? Could I wear a wedding dress? Would it feel like a real wedding? Obviously yes, you can exchange rings. Yes, a courthouse elopement is still a real wedding—it’s your wedding after all! Your wedding is still your wedding no matter how it happens. When it comes to the dress, you can wear a wedding dress, jeans or anything else (except maybe your pj's).
2. THE TWO OF YOU & AN OFFICIANT KIND:
If you and your partner want to truly elope (just the two of you) but aren’t interested in the courthouse route… why not pick a romantic location and go for it? Think next to the lake, standing on a cliff, riding in a romantic horse draw carriage, or somewhere in the middle of a city that you love. You’ll need an officiant to legally close the deal, but that’s just about it.
3. THE NEARLY – ELOPEMENT YOU INVITE YOUR FAMILY TO:
This is what you call it when you pick a location and date ahead of time, and invite your family and friends to see you get married. This can happen at a courthouse, on a cliff overlooking the river, next to a waterfall, or wherever else you want it to.
The Pragmatic Side to Eloping:
Now that you’ve decided how you’re eloping, you need to make sure you know what you need to pull it off. It turns out there’s a little more to this game than showing up and doing it.
A Mini-Checklist for Eloping:
Every state and country has its own marriage license laws, so you’ll want to find out what yours are before signing any contracts or booking your flight. Also, not all countries look at love the same way: they may not recognize a civil ceremony or hold prejudices regarding your religion or sexual orientation. You will need to obey THEIR LAW OF THE LAND.
Generally, if your elopement will involve a license, you need to know four things:
1. What is the wait time between getting your license and the wedding?
2. Do you need an appointment at city hall?
3. What are the witness requirements, and who can serve as your witness?
4. What documents do you need?
Rings, Vows, and More: What do you need to keep in mind when eloping?
If you’re not a big planner, one of the fun sides to eloping is that there is so much you don’t have to think about. One reason couples elope is that the idea of trying to figure out how to feed 150 people with various diets and dietary considerations can be overwhelming.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you necessarily want to opt out of everything:
1. Rings: Do you want them? Do you not? If you do, make sure you order them in plenty of time (and don’t leave them at home!). (If you do just run out & grab a cheap substitute set for the ceremony)
2. Vows: You don’t have to have your own vows, but you can. Decide ahead of time if self-written vows are going to be part of your elopement. Civil ceremonies are usually pretty short, but you can usually bring your own vows if you have them.
3. Travel Plans: If you’re eloping somewhere that isn’t local, make sure you make arrangements ahead of time. Treat yourself, it’s your wedding!
4. Clothing: Sure, you don’t have to go big or necessarily bridal/groom-ish, but you can if you want to. Figure out what you want to wear (and don’t let eloping be an excuse not to get the dress you actually want!).
5. Photography: I absolutely recommend hiring a professional photographer the day you’re eloping. You’ll find that a lot of photographers offer hourly rates. The one thing you might really miss having down the road are photos from the day you got married. It’s visual proof it really happened.
Tip: Ask someone to snap a picture of you with your iPhone so you can post it on social media. It’ll take a while for your wedding photos to come in.
6. Flowers: Do you want to carry a bouquet or wear a boutonniere? There’s no reason you can’t do both. Flowers add to the photos but they also make a bride feel like a bride.
7. Hair and Makeup: There’s no reason you can’t have your look professionally done—and there’s no reason that a little mascara and lip balm won’t be perfect. You do you!
8. Celebrate: If you want to have a party after, go for it! If dinner and drinks together sounds more your speed, do that. Some couples jump out of a plane, but that’s not for most.
9. Announcements: Shocking your closest family and friends with a Facebook update is a big impersonal no-no! Write in advance, a list of people you should tell in person, and perhaps those who would at least appreciate a phone call. Break the news gently, but stand firm as a couple on your decision to elope.
Sure, you’re not sending out save the dates, but you might want to send out wedding announcements after the fact with one of those professional photos on it?
And there you go! A perfectly sensible elopement checklist on how to plan-ish your elopement. Done. Now go start planning your elopement!
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