bride and grrom kissing on the cliff at Yosemite National park in California

The Ultimate Elopement Planning Checklist – How to plan an elopement?

May 20, 2020

bride and groom standing on the cliff at Yosemite National Park in California

Check you this Yosemite National Park elopement →

The biggest question people planning an elopement is “how to plan an elopement”.Even though elopements are not as big as weddings and may not require as much planning, there are still some parts that need to be considered because you don’t want to forget anything.

To help make your planning as stress-free as possible, we have compiled a this ultimate elopement checklist for you so that you won’t get too overwhelmed about where to start. No matter if you have tons of details on your elopement day or if you only want a few, do what matters the most to you and make your elopement special. Simply work your way through the list and see what matters to the two of you.

bride and groom holding hands and walking down the mountain after their elopement in max patch on blue ridge parkway north carolina



First things first you need to figure out all the basics before we move forward.

  • What is your budget? Setting your budget first will help you determine how much money you need to allot to other things such as vendors, travel etc. 
  • What month or date do you wanna get married? Do you imagine getting married in snow or surrounded by tons of greenery? Figuring this out will help you tremendously to nail down the month you want to elope in. 
  • Where do you want to elope? Again figuring out what kind of nature and landscape you want to elope in will help you picking a destination. This can be anything. A place that’s special to both of you or some place you have always wanted to go. 
  • Will there be guests? You can invite close friends and family members. Just be sure that if you plan on having an adventurous elopement, hiking may be an issue with other people. 
  • Are you going to be hiring vendors?
  • What activities do you see yourselves including? Are you hoping to go hiking or canoeing on a lake? Do you want to take a drive on a mountain pass road and enjoy the sights?! Do you want to elope in your backyard and have pizza? Anything you want to do for your elopement day, you can totally do them! 
bride and groom hugging after their elopement at Garden of the Gods


Once you have set your budget, it will give you a better idea to pick the location if you want to get married at home or abroad. Research costs in different locations, factoring in every last detail such as travel, accommodation and vendors.

  • If you are eloping in a destination, make sure to plan for that early to get the best deals on airfares and hotels. 
  • If you are thinking of going the courthouse route, do your research. Every courthouse is different. Go to the website for your city/county’s Clerk’s Office and see what all you would need and issues you would need to be aware of such as 

Popular city hall location can book up in advance so you may need to make your appointment early on. 

There are some locations don’t take appointments. You can just walk in, “sign up” and they will take you to a big courtroom at your designated time. 

Most of the courthouses will take you to a “group wedding” thing by default unless you make provisions to have a solo ceremony beforehand. 

Certain states require two separate appointments—one for your marriage license and (within 90 days of that) another for your ceremony.

Often times couples that get married at city halls aren’t allowed to say their own vows.

Some City hall locations have a limit on the number of guests you are allowed to bring including witnesses. 

groom picking up the bride and twirling her at their elopement at Arabia Mountain in Georgia

Check out this Arabia Mountain Elopement →



If you are traveling out of state or out of country for your elopement, you are going to need to make the travel plans in advance. If you are traveling international, make sure you don’t forget to add up any extra fees for bus, train or taxi that you may need to take. Of course you are going to wait until you have a specific location picked out to so that you can decide on the best flights and airbnbs/hotels and other travel plans. 

  • Make your travel arrangements. Book flights, bus or train that you would need to get to your destinations 
  • Make arrangements for accommodations whether it’s an Airbnb or a Hotel or a Resort.
  • Get a car rental. (This is optional, you can even Uber or use public transport)


  • One thing we recommend not compromising on is your photographer. It isn’t mandatory but you are going to want epic photos from your elopement. An experienced photographer can really help your tie your vision together and turn your dream elopement into reality. Ask if the photographer has elopement packages. 
  • This is optional but you can get an elopement planner if your photographer doesn’t help with the planning. 
  • This is also optional but think about whether or not you want flowers for your elopement. You don’t have to go all out if you don’t want to, you can just get a bouquet and a boutonnière. If you are hiring a professional florist, be sure to book them in advance. If you don’t want to do that, you also have the option to just swing by a flower shop and pick up some. 
  • Other vendors that you may want to include but may not have thought about. 



Caterer or Dj if you planning an after party.

groom hugging bride from the back at their elopement in Sequoia National Park California


This should be a priority in any elopement planning checklist. Legal requirements for marriage is different for different states & countries. Once you have decided where to want to elope, you can start the process of getting legal. If you’re getting married stateside, be sure to research U.S. marriage laws.

There may be some additional things you may have to take care of if you are getting married out of state but if you would like to avoid the hassle altogether, you can get married legally at your local county clerk’s office and then have a symbolical ceremony and vow exchange at your destination. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when figuring out the local process for your elopement planning: 

  • Do you need an appointment in order to pick up your marriage license? 
  • What’s the waiting period? You have to wait a certain about to time in some states after you get your license until you get married. 
  • Do you need an officiant & witnesses? Most places require you have an officiant and two witnesses for your legal ceremony, but certain states like Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Wisconsin allow you to self-solemnize your marriage meaning you don’t need an officiant to marry you. In Montana, anybody can marry the two of you.
  • Are there any other legal issues you might run into? Just in case, keep birth certificates, divorce papers from previous marriages, and other important docs on hand. Even if you elope abroad, you’ll need to get your license beforehand.
  • What are the requirements for an officiant? You have to book your own officiant or ask someone close to you that you trust, to be your officiant if you aren’t using a courthouse.
Bride and groom hugging and bride's veil flowing taken on a mountain top elopement in north carolina


Don’t forget your rings. You don’t have to spend a ton of money if you don’t want. You can even opt for silicone rings or buy some inexpensive ones on Etsy.


Just because you are eloping, doesn’t mean you can’t add fun details to your elopement day. Adding things like vow books, veil and other accessories can add a personal touch to your day! 

  • Pick your outfit: You can wear literally whatever you like. The most important thing to consider is that you will be comfortable especially if you will hiking or climbing to your location. That might be a flow dress instead of a fitted one or a wearing a suit with a stretchy material instead of a tux. Whatever you decide to wear, make sure you and your partner coordinate. It might look weird if you are in an extravagant gown and you boo is dressed in casual. Here is a post I wrote about everything you need to know about elopement outfits. 
  • Be sure to plan your outfits around you hiking. If you are doing an adventure elopement, you may want to pick a dress that gives you the freedom to move freely or you might want to consider changing when you get to your final spot. 
  • Factor any travel into your outfit choices. If you’re flying, choose fabrics that won’t easily wrinkle when packed—or at least make sure your hotel has an iron you can use.
  • Figure out if you are going to get your hair and makeup done. Most salons provide a walk in service as long as you are going for a minimal look. But if you are going for the whole bridal experience, it’s best to call ahead of time and make an appointment. Or you can do your own.
bride and groom hugging taken during an elopement at Lake Dillon in Colorado


Just because you eloped, doesn’t mean it’s less of a deal than an actual wedding. 

  • Celebrate accordingly. Go to the bar, have some dinner together or go dancing. You just got married, you can do whatever you want. 
  • If your family was included in the elopement, have a small dinner party at your favorite restaurant with them. 
  • Send out elopement announcements. Tell your friends and family and first and then send out some cute “we just eloped” announcements about your new relationship status. 

This is your elopement day, and you can celebrate it however you wish. After all this is what elopement is all about.

Here is a handy list, that you can pin or print for your convenience. There are some things on there that are optional that may or may not apply to you, feel free to ignore the one that isn’t pertaining to your elopement!

Xoxo,          Ruzin

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