Why have an elopement in Georgia?
If the big wedding thing isn’t for you and you are thinking about eloping but have no idea where to start? Don’t worry! I am here to help you do exactly that. I feel like there isn’t a great guide on the internet to help you plan your own Georgia elopement so I decided to make one. But also, let’s face it, there aren’t a ton of places to elope in Georgia to begin but there are some stunning locations that serve as a perfect backdrop for this!
So let’s grab a glass of wine or a bottle and dive straight into it. Keep in mind though that this is not a one size fits all but it’s a start. You don’t have to do everything that’s in this guide, just modify it to your own needs.
**Before we get started, if you plan to elope outside please be mindful of leave no trace policies and don’t overlook it. This is very important and it helps our preserve our ecosystem. If you have more questions about leave no trace, you can read it here.
And now, for the scheduled programming… I mean the guide.
When you imagine what elopement would be like, you may picture two lovers jetting off to the courthouse or a couple hand in hand on the beach exchanging their vows to one another. Eloping requires far less planning and logistics than an actual wedding but that’s doesn’t mean that the couple aren’t still putting in the preparation and coordination for an elopement style ceremony.
Whether you have already made up your mind about eloping or if you are still in the early stages of wedding day-dreaming, this step by step guide will help you figure out exactly how to elope.
1. Imagine your Georgia elopement day and decide on a vibe.
The first step to to figuring out how to elope is what you want your elopement to look or feel like. What would your wedding day look like? If you are not sure then start by writing down your favorite things to do together. What do you imagine around you? If you could eat anything, what would it be? How do you want it to feel? Romantic, emotional, adventurous, fun? Do you want it to be warm or do you like a little bit crispness in the air or are you totally a snow person? Is anyone else there besides your photographer and maybe an officiant?
Next, each of you start by writing down at least three things that are important to you to have when it comes to your wedding day. Besides getting married, what are the other things do you care more about? Do you care most about epic photos, flowers, having family there, video to tell the story of your day? Once you have those, share them with each other and prioritize or do all of them.
2. Determine an elopement budget:
Budget is probably the least favorite topic to talk about even if you are not planning a wedding but it is definitely the most important. Sit down with your soon to be spouse and discuss how much you want to spend on your wedding in total.
Once you have that figure out, start researching how much everything costs and then build a list of your estimated expenses in order of priority and see how it aligns with your budget. Making and sticking with your budget will save you from going totally insane in the long run.
** Need a little extra help with this? Here is a post we have written with EVERYTHING you need to know about wedding budget and it includes a free spreadsheet.
3. Make your Georgia elopement guest list:
If you are having an intimate wedding instead of eloping just the two of you and have decided to have family and/or friends there, then this is your next step. If not, then you can skip this step.
Start by making a rough draft of 20 of the closest people to you that you would want to be celebrating with. Next, think about how you want to invite them? Do you want to do formal invitation or evites? Or maybe you would prefer personaziled stationary designed to match your style and vibe of your elopement?
Here are some wedding planning websites that can help you manage your Invitations and RSVPs.
ii. https://www.zola.com/wedding-planning/paper Not only does zola help you automate your invitation process but it will also provide printing options for you to print your invites.
v. https://guestboard.co/event-type/wedding/ This one doesn’t just do invites & RSVPs but you can also put your schedules and timelines for your guests to see and they can post messages on there as well kind of like a facebook for wedding.
What to put on your Save the Dates.
Once you have your Georgia elopement location and date picked, you can either send your guests the save the dates or personally contact them to let them know about your wedding day.
**Pro Tip: If you are planning on going the printed route, make sure to have a copy and hand it to your photographer. Every little thing really helps tell a story of your elopement.
If you are not planning for a small intimate wedding and it will just be the two of you secretly eloping, then you might consider sending some cute announcements after to tell your family about your “We eloped” moment!
If you are up for it, you can even put together a document with all the info and hand it to your guests that can help answer any questions they may have about your upcoming elopement. Here are some questions that you can help them answer..
- What to wear?
- Directions to your Ceremony Location
- Reception location (if you are having one)
- Things to eat nearby
- Hotel recommendations
- Suggested mode of transpotation
- Nearest Airport
- Schedule or the timeline for your wedding day or days leading up to it or after.
4. Pick your date & location for your Georgia Elopement:
If you haven’t already picked a date yet, then I suggest choosing a weekday because depending on where you plan to get married and if it is a State Park, it can be very crowded on weekends. And because it is not a private property, you can’t ask anyone to not walk in the background and stop them from being in your photos or interrupting in any way.
Locations is a huge one as it will set the tone for the ceremony. Go back to Step 1 and remember where we had written down where you imaged your elopement to be taking place? Let’s take another look at that list. Do you want to tie the knot at a place that’s important to you and your partner or would you rather find a place that is simply beautiful? What is the landscape around you? What time of the day, sunrise or sunset? Are there trees, lakes, mountains or buildings? A State park or a beach? Will the trip to get to your ceremony location be part of the adventure, like hiking to the top of a canyon or a remote mountain peak? Once you have some of these answers, you can research online and find places that meet these base requirements and make a list.
If you want to do a little more research on the locations but can’t go scout them personally, then my suggestion is to download the desktop version of Google Earth. This is a great tool to explore places. You can view the exact moment & place the sun will rise and set and fall across landscapes. This is very helpful because lighting plays an important role in your photos plus you can calculate the exact timing for best lighting during sunrise and sunset. There is also a nifty little app called Alltrails which apparently not a lot of people know about which can help you guide through the trails and help you look for some of them that you didn’t even know existed.
5. Decide where you need vendors:
The next step is to figure out where you might need some help. You’ll likely want someone to document your wedding, which is where I come in. Hiring a specialized elopement photographer is super important so that they can help you navigate the stresses of elopement planning. A lot of elopement photographers also help with the planning & timeline building so you may not need a planner. You will also need other vendors like officiant, hair & makeup & flowers if you are thinking of having some! If you are having a reception or a party afterwards, don’t forget about the caterer or a restaurant where you can have your after-party.
6. Get a Marriage License & get legal:
Every state has different laws about legal marriages and granting marriage licenses. If you are getting married in a different state than where you live, be sure to research ahead of time, what you would need to do in order to obtain a marriage certificate and license. There may be certain documents that you will need to send beforehand or bring with you.
7. Check for additional permits:
If you are getting married outside or in a National Park, you would likely require a special permit for wedding as well as photography. I highly suggest researching your ceremony location, so you aren’t surprised by any rangers. In addition, you can also ask National Park rangers questions about photo locations and how to get away from the crowds. Typically, your elopement photographer will guide you on any restrictions or additional fees, but it’s always best to call a park ranger and find out for yourself.
8. Find your outfit:
Let’s go back to number 4 and figure out what we decided on a location as well as the date. Depending on the place and season, you can pick an outfit that works best. For eg., if you are getting married somewhere that requires hiking & plan to wear the dress, you will need one that gives you freedom to move. Will your dress be packed or will you be wearing it? Will you (groom) be opting for a full on tux or go with something semi formal? Depending on the season, you may need layers on top of your outfit to keep you warmer. Get all kinds of elopement outfit advice here on my “how to find your perfect elopement outfit” post.
9. Book your travel & accommodation:
Are you traveling from out of the state? Do you need a place to stay? I suggest you book that in advance, especially if you are planning on doing this during busy time. Even if you are not traveling from out of state, it’s a good idea to book an airbnb for the day of somewhere close by. This way you can stay there the night before, wake up in the morning, spend time together, have your photographer (AKA me) come there & take some getting ready photos before your ceremony. And you won’t have to drive to and from your home to your location especially if it’s a bit further away.
10. Plan your Elopement timeline:
Depending on what you want to do on the day of, you timeline might look different than the next couple. Here is a rough draft to help you get started. These are some of the common things you would include whether you are getting married in Georgia or somewhere else. If you have picked me as your photographer, you won’t need to worry. I will take care of this part for you. Check out my elopement timeline planning post if you need help with it.
- 11 AM: Getting ready
- 2 PM: First look
- 3 PM: Formal Family Photos
- 4 PM: ceremony
- 7 PM: celebration
11. Plan your after activities:
What are you planning on doing after your ceremony? Are you thinking of just going to a restaurant and have dinner? Are you thinking of booking some activities for you guys to do? The possibilities are endless. You may want to keep this in mind before to start to plan your timeline so you have time at the end of the day to do your preferred activity. Check this out for advice on what to do after your elopement.
12. Prepare for your Elopement Day:
Your big day is FINALLY here! Don’t forget to bring all your details (rings, vow books, stationary and anything meaningful) that need to be photographed to your getting ready place.
13. Here are some places to have your elopement within Georgia :
1. Cloudland Canyon:
Looking for a park with mountains, falls, and creeks? Cloudland Canyon State Park is the place for you. It’s located in Rising Fawn and is about two hours from Atlanta & 45 minutes from Chattanooga. There are no permits required to elope at Cloudland Canyon.
Pro tip: Cloudland canyon has the most adorable little yurts. You can rent for getting ready photos or even spend a couple days after your elopement & explore the park.
2. Arabia Mountain:
This is beautiful landscape that consists of exposed granite rocks and pine & oak forests. Arabia Mountain is located about 30 minutes from Atlanta and is a perfect spot for an elopement no matter the season. Some areas in the park do require a permit so be sure to reach out to them beforehand.
Pro tip: For the easiest hike, park at the Aware wildlife center. Practice Leave No Trace at all times & stay on the gray parts as the park consists of extremely rare plant species.
3. North Georgia:
There are stunning places with mountain views in North Georgia that you can also use for your elopement.
4. Toccoa Falls:
Toccoa Falls is a great Georgia elopement location for people who don’t want to hike a million miles and is the tallest waterfall in the state. It is located in Toccoa, GA – 1.5 hours from Atlanta and a little over an hour from Athens. There is a $500 fee to have your wedding here.
Pro tip: Don’t go super close to sunset as it gets dark under the falls super fast. The falls are accessed through the gift shop and closes at sharp 5 PM now. Because it’s located on a college campus, here are some things you should consider before having your elopement there.
5. Downtown Atlanta:
Dreaming of an urban Georgia elopement? Consider a rooftop in downtown Atlanta or the Historic Dekalb Courthouse.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to take beautiful pictures at various spots through town.
6. Driftwood Beach:
Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island is a perfect Georgia elopement spot for people who are looking for beach vibes but want something that isn’t too populated. It’s covered in gorgeous driftwood trees and provides a landscape that otherworldly and beautiful.
Pro Tip: Make sure NOT to forget bug spray ESPECIALLY in summer because the gnats will not leave you alone lol
7. Providence Canyon:
Also known as the Grand Canyon of the South, you wouldn’t need to travel out west if you wanted that kind of a vibe. There are tons of quiet nooks in this canyon that can give you a very intimate setting for an elopement. The soil consists of pink, orange and red hues and will remind you of Utah and Arizona desserts. Providence Canyon is located in Lumpkin, GA and is two hours from Atlanta and four hours from Savannah. Permits are not required for elopement at this time but I would recommend reaching out to the Georgia State park service and confirming it with them.
Pro tip: Make sure to have hiking shoes and water especially while climbing back up as it is a very steep way back to the top. Weekends are super busy as it is open to public.
I hope this post helps you in planning your very elopement whether it is in Georgia or anywhere else and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you need a photographer for your elopement, let’s chat!