Couple kissing by an alpine lake on their elopement day.

How to Plan An Elopement (The Best Step-by-Step Guide)

how to plan an elopement

When you plan an elopement, you’re making an intentional decision to put your love story first.

As an elopement photographer, I make it my mission to help all my couples plan the elopement of thier dreams! Whatever the reason is that you’re considering or choosing to elope, just know that it is a super special decision that deserves to be equally as celebrated as a big wedding. And figuring out how to plan an elopement is the first step in your journey to the best day ever!

While eloping requires a lot less logistical planning, there are definitely still a handful of things that need to be planned + considered after you decide that eloping is how you want to get married!

Now, planning your elopement shouldn’t be complicated! So, I am here to help with a step-by-step guide on how to plan the perfect elopement for you!

Steps On How To Plan Your Elopement

One of the main reasons couples choose to elope is because they don’t want to have to deal with all of the planning that goes into having a big celebration with 200+ guests. For some people, planning is an exciting and fun step to completely customize one of the most important days of their lives. For others, planning is dreadful and they don’t even know where to begin.

As an expert in elopement photography, I know all of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to planning the elopement day of your dreams.

how to plan an elopement

1. Decide where you want to elope and when

The first step in planning your elopement is deciding where and when you want to say your I do’s. There are so many amazing places all over the world so it can be intimidating to even make this first decision.

A good place to start when researching where to have your elopement is deciding the landscape you are hoping for. Whether it be on a beach in San Diego, the jungle in Costa Rica, or the breathtaking San Juan Mountains of Colorado, you can start to narrow down your decision of where you want to go by choosing a specific landscape and then go from there.

Side Note: It’s good to keep in mind the weather throughout the time of year in the location you are hoping for. It’s important to understand what each season brings so that you can pick the most ideal time of year to get married in. Want a snowy elopement? Plan during the winter months. Want a hot beach elopement? Summer months will be your friend! Imagine yourself surrounded by snowfall on your wedding day? Winter is probably going to be the best choice!

Doing the research and taking into consideration regular weather patterns for the location you are dreaming of will make a huge difference with how your photos turn out. As an elopement photographer, this is something I specialize in and love helping my couples with.

elopement photographer

2. Find a photographer who is knowledgable about your desired elopement location

The next step is something that can take a ton of stress off of your plate! Finding an elopement photographer is one of the most (if not the most) important steps when planning your elopement day.

Most elopement photographers are extremely knowledgeable in a multitude of areas and are willing to do a lot of research for you. It’s important to ask questions when you’re inquiring with photographers to see what exactly comes with your elopement photography packages.

Finding a photographer that knows all the best “hidden spots”, what permits are enforced, follows leave no trace principles, etc. This can make your elopement planning experience a lot easier! This step also goes for videographers as well. So if you are considering a photographer and videographer, try to choose them at the same time.

elopement photographer

3. Research permit requirements for your elopement location

As mentioned above, a lot of places around the US and around the world require a permit to have an elopement. While having a photographer could really help with this, you always want to do your own research as well.

This is an important step to making sure that you are not being surprised by any hidden fees or rules for the location that you are wanting to get married in. These rules and fees are in place in order to protect the landscapes and nature for future generations.

It’s usually very easy to find the rules regarding the locations you are interested in. By typing in a simple google search like: (location) wedding permits or (location) photography permits, you should be able to find exactly what you’re looking for.

elopement photographer

4. Find other local vendors for your elopement day

This step is great because you get to choose awesome vendors to help make your elopement day vision come true! The list below is the order of vendors to consider hiring for your elopement.




Hair + Makeup

Live Musician

Food Truck/Restaurant

Planner (There are planners who specialize in small weddings and elopements)

*Side Notes*

Some places, like Colorado for example, do not require an officiant. In scenarios like that, it would be a personal choice if you and your partner want to have an officiant or not. If you are unfamiliar with that Colorado law, you can read more about that here.

I always, always, recommend having real florals on your elopement day. From a photography perspective it makes photos look so much more stunning! For more on why you should use real florals on your elopement day + methods for how to best preserve you bouquet check out the link here.

Hair + makeup is something you can definitely do on our own if you’re trying to cut corners, but why not sit back, relax + have someone else make you look fabulous!

I’ve had several couples hire a guitarist, violinist, or some sort of musician to add a special element to their elopement. This is such a fun way to incorporate music and make the moment just a little sweeter.

If you are doing an all-day adventurous elopement, chances are you are going to be hungry at the end of the day. Most of my couples have some sort of dinner arranged after the full day of adventuring. Whether they meet up with friends or family at a restaurant, or hire a food truck to come to their airbnb, it adds a little element of fun to the evening.

how to plan an elopement

5. Plan a timeline for your elopement day

This step is SUPER easy if you have the right photographer. If you’ve chosen multiple locations to visit on your wedding day, it’s important to know exactly how long it’ll take to get to each spot you may be interested in. Your timeline may end up being longer than you think if you’re including several locations, activities, and more.

Examples of different locations to have planned for you elopement day would be:

first look spot

ceremony location

friends/family portrait location (if applicable)

several portrait locations

any locations you want that have fun activities

dinner location

Timeline planning is included in all of my elopement packages. I believe that it is something that is super important when hiring the right photographer. Having an elopement day that runs as smoothly as possible, while getting stellar images, is the ultimate goal. But also you want to make sure you never feel rushed, and are having the best experience possible on your wedding day. Having a photographer who knows how to advantage of the perfect times of day for lighting, traffic in popular areas, etc. it really important.

Your timeline is really something that can make or break your day. Make sure you choose to work with someone who can make these dreams come true!

how to plan an elopement

6. Tell friends and family the great news!

Now, this step could be interchangeable with the last step! Whether that be before your elopement (or after) your family + friends are going to want to celebrate with you! This is an awesome adventure you are about to take, and it should be treated as a big deal. Sending out elopement announcements is a great way to let everyone know that you are tying the knot in your own adventurous way! and are two of my favorite websites for ordering things like this. There are also a lot of really cool small businesses on Etsy who can create a customized announcement as well.

elopement photographer

7. Do the dang thing!

Now that you’ve planned your dream elopement, it’s time to do the dang thing! With the help of your photographer and your wonderful planning skills, you’ll be full equipped to marry your best friend.

Following this step-by-step guide is a guaranteed way to help you plan everything along the way of your journey, and I could not be more excited for you! If you’re wanting more information about how to work with me, reach out on the button below!

how to plan an elopement