How To Elope: An Expert Tells All - Heather Anderson Photography

How To Elope: An Expert Tells All

Jan 11

Guides

Your Elopement Guide + Checklist to Help Your Love Run Wild

Congrats on Being a Badass

Over the years, I’ve helped over a hundred couples elope. I love meeting partners who throw tradition to the wind, and grab hold of what’s important to them. If you’re going to elope, congratulations; you’ve let go of expectations, opinions, and obligations about what you’re “supposed” to do. You’ve allowed yourself to focus entirely on what matters to you. I know that all of this freedom can be a bit overwhelming though.

When there are no longer any rules or “formula” on what your wedding day is supposed to look like, how do you plan it? I created this guide to help you plan your dream elopement in 8 simple steps. My hope is that it helps you embrace the side of you that feels an elopement is right for you. It may even give you ideas you didn’t even know were possible for you big (small) day!

1 | Dream Up Your Best Day

The first step in any great creative process is to dream and brainstorm. When you first start planning your elopement, the best mindset you and your partner can have is one with no boundaries. This part of the process has nothing to do with limits, so forget for a moment about what’s “feasible” and just let yourself dream. You’ll have time to figure out the details later.

I encourage you to make the brainstorming experience a date night. Curl up on the couch with your favorite cocktail, and try to picture it all together. Holding hands for this step is not required, but strongly encouraged ;). Now, ask yourself: Where are you? What do you see? Are you on top of a mountain you’ve just hiked up? Hanging out in a rooftop bar looking out at the city lights? Are you standing between vines tasting wines, or sitting in a kayak on a river? Can you see yourself running hand-in-hand down a sandy beach toward a picnic blanket decked out with your favorite treats? There are no wrong answers. The most important thing is to try to let go of what’s expected, and to avoid shooting down ideas for not being practical (just yet).

2 | Who Are You Inviting?

Once you have an overall vision for what you two want out of your day, it’s time to make the big decisions- like who you are inviting. Many couples don’t even know that they can elope and still invite guests. I’m here to tell you, that’s just plain wrong.

If you know that you want to share your wedding day with a few close friends or family, you can definitely still have an intimate elopement experience. Whether your friends and family are there for just a celebratory meal after a private exchange of vows, or there with you all day, make sure they’re fully on board with your vision. They need to understand your want for a unique celebration that stays authentic to your relationship. 

Maybe you already know you want a “just us”, two-person wedding. Your family and friends can be physically present and involved in your wedding day, even if you don’t necessarily want to have a ceremony with them. You can invite them to help you get ready, or see your first look, or witness your first dance as a married couple. I’ve worked with couples who invite some guests to take formal portraits with them afterwards, and have a celebratory dinner in the evening.

3 | Where are you Going?

There are a ton of factors that will affect your elopement day, but picking your location is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle in determining the experience of your elopement. Your location should be somewhere you feel overwhelmingly happy; somewhere you feel absolutely alive, and where you know you and your partner can focus on each other and truly be in the moment.

When choosing a location, keep in mind the scenery and views. I promise you are going to want stellar shots of your day, so don’t let a distracting background take away from the intimate feel of your wedding. Remember that not all locations are suitable for every season, so you may need a contingency plan or bad weather. And don’t forget about activities! Beyond saying your vows and taking portraits, what else do you want to do on your elopement day(s)? Whether you want to relax in a hammock between the trees, take a helicopter ride, go sailing, kayaking, skiing, paragliding, wine tasting, or stargazing, some locations will lend themselves better to certain activities.

4 | How Long Are You Going For?

Most people decide to go away far away from home for their elopement. How many days is your trip going to be, and are there any additional celebrations you plan to have along the way? If you didn’t know this already, your wedding doesn’t have to all fit into a single day. Many couples choose to spread the joy over multiple days. You may want to consider a multi-day elopement if you want some of your time to be with friends and family and some of it to be just you two.

Make sure the overall trip you are planning includes time for your celebration to extend beyond just one day so that you don’t look back and wish “I we wish we had carved out more time!” In my experience, no one has ever said they wish they had planned a shorter trip, so when in doubt, go for more days rather than less.

2 Day Glamping Elopement in Big Sur

5 | Plan Out The Details

The next step is to plan out all of your details for your day, including booking your travel and lodging, vendors, activities, picking out your wedding day attire, and gathering any other items or gear you may need. I’ll be honest, this step can feel a bit overwhelming and lengthy, and yeah, there’s a lot going on, but what matters most is that you two are planning the day that speaks to you! You don’t have to include anything at your wedding that doesn’t fit into your vision for the day.

Once you DO know what you want your elopement to look like, make sure to book any vendors needed well in advance. This could include a hair and makeup artist, caterers, cake, music, flowers, and an officiant. If you’ve decided on actives to do together, make sure to bring appropriate attire and plan enough time inbetween events so you’re not rushed.

6 | Craft Your Timeline

Once you have all of the details decided on, it’s time to put your vision all together and create a timeline for your elopement that fits everything you want to experience. It’s not about scheduling out every minute of your day, but rather making sure that you have time for everything you want to do, see, and experience together—leaving room for spontaneity and relaxation. While sometimes, people think an elopement is just saying your vows and spending an hour or two taking portraits, it is the day you’re getting married and is so much more than that. Your wedding day is going to be the day you remember every year on your anniversary for the rest of your life together, and everything that happened that day from sun up to sun down is a part of your experience.

7 | Get Ready to Go

Now the planning is done and you just need to gather everything you need, pack for your trip, make sure you communicate with your guests (if you have any), and get ready to have an amazing day! The getting ready portion of the day is one of my favorite times of the day to document! During these moments, the excitement is high and things are starting to feel so real. It’s helpful to have all of these details ready and laid out in advance. We recommend doing this the day before so you have one less thing on your mind day-of. When it’s time to get ready, this can be a great time to give your partner any special gifts. Or you may even decide to get ready together!

8 | Have the Best Day Ever

You did it! Your day is here. Relax, soak in every moment and be fully present with your partner. Enjoy the incredible experience you created together as you say your vows and commit your lives to each other. Remember, your day might not go exactly according to plan, but that’s half the adventure! Be present, be you, and let your authentic emotions soar. Relax, breathe, and don’t stress about anything, photos included. Soak in every moment and enjoy your intentional, meaningful, perfect-for-you day together. 

Still have more questions about eloping? Don’t hesitate to reach out. Book a call with me though my site here.

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