7 ELOPEMENT PLANNING TIPS

February 25, 2021

We know couples are afraid to elope for fear of uncertainty, that’s why we put together this list of 7 elopement planning tips to help direct you in the right way. When you hear the word “elopement”, what does it make you feel? Does it bring a sense of freedom and peace? Of adventure, excitement, intimacy, and authenticity? Or do you feel a sense of anxiousness and uncertainty? Worried you’ll be trying to hunt down any information you can find so you can try and piece together the most important day of your life?

We know there’s a lot to figure out when you’re trying to plan the biggest day of your life! But, you don’t have to do this alone! We’re here to help get you started on the path towards your perfect elopement experience.

Elopement Planning Tip #1

Don’t settle on a photographer. Find the PERFECT photographer for you.

First on our list of 7 elopement planning tips is to research photographers that you connect with. Remember, this day is all about celebrating and documenting your union to each other. Your photographer will be with you all day so, be sure that you find someone whose company you will enjoy. Also, make sure you feel inspired by their photos and what they say on their website.

Finding your perfect elopement photographer is the most important decision of your elopement besides the decision to elope itself!

The job of a photographer is a bit different with elopements than at a traditional wedding. Yes, of course your photographer will take photos of you two on the day itself but, with elopements, your photographer will also act as your planner, location researcher, and guide.

They will be helping you plan your elopement from start to finish with you. Because of this, make sure that they…

  1. Listen to you with regards to your vision
  2. Get to know who you two are
  3. Understand the reasons you’ve decided to elope

TIP: You can hire your photographer at the beginning stages of planning and they can help you with selecting locations and permit acquisition

Elopement Planning Tip #2

Eloping = Wedding

This point is not so much an elopement planning tip as much as it’s establishing truth. There seems to be a misconception out there that elopements aren’t real weddings. That somehow, just because a couple isn’t putting together some big party, they’re doing something less thoughtful or intentional.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

The stereotype surrounding elopements often make it seem like it’s a last minute decision that’s just thrown together but, from our experience, our couples typically book with us anywhere from 6 – 18 months in advance.

If you are interested, read our blog http://www.sarahandbrentphotography.com/blog/why-couples-elope

You may be wondering why we bring this up? Well when people have this idea, they often only think of their elopement as the moment when they are saying their “I Do’s.” But remember an elopement is a whole day just like a wedding is a whole day.

Don’t think that by only getting photos for an hour that you’ll be able to capture the entire story of your day.

Here’s an example timeline of an elopement we recently did in Yosemite:

5:50am: leave BnB for Glaciers Point

7:05 – 7:35am: First Look

7:14am – SUNRISE

7:30am: Guests Arrive

7:35 – 7:45am: Prep for procession

7:45 – 8:15am: Ceremony

8:15 – 8:25am: Champagne Toast

8:25 – 8:40am: Family Portraits

8:40am: Family Released/Drive to the valley

9:30am: Arrive at El Capitan Meadow

9:30 – 10:00am: Picnic with some candid shots

10:00 – 10:10am: Touch up/freshen up (if needed)

10:15 – 11:00am: Romantics in El Capitan

11:00 – 11:15am: Drive to Yosemite Valley Chapel

11:20 – 12:20pm: Worship songs & Romantics around the Chapel

12:30pm: Break for mid day

4:40pm: Drive to Taft Point OR Sentinel Dome (roughly the same distance)

5:30pm: Hike to destination

5:45pm – 6:15pm: Sunset Photos

6:10pm – SUNSET

6:15 – 6:30pm: Hike Back

6:30pm: Drive to Ahwahnee

7:30pm: Arrive at Ahwahnee

7:30pm: Dinner

9:00pm: Goodbyes & retire to room

Be sure to tell the entire story of the day! Sometimes your family won’t be there so, having photos of the entire day will help you guys share the experience with them.

Elopement Planning Tip #3

Plan around either a date OR a location.

What’s the difference? Why does it matter? This is one of those tips that people won’t tell you when you’re planning your elopement that is actually extremely important to decide.

Great question!

If you’re wanting to elope then location and date go hand in hand. What do we mean by this? Since elopements most often happen in the great outdoors, the weather will play a HUGE role in the outcome of the elopement experience.

We’ll give you an example to consider:

Let’s say you want to elope in February since it’s your dating anniversary but, you also want to elope in Mt. Rainier. Sounds good right? Well, not so fast… It’s definitely not impossible but, February is still winter time, and often times in the winter, mountainous areas have limited accessibility due to road closures. This might mean that the place you had in your hearts might not be able to happen.

This means that you’ll have to decide is the date more important or is the location more important? Talk with each other and see what will work best for you two!

Elopement Planning Tip #4

Location, location, location!

This probably doesn’t need to be stated but, the location you decide on will set the tone for the entire experience.

You guys will have life long memories of where you got ready, had your first look, said your vows, etc… So do not limit yourselves when thinking about locations!

If you don’t know where exactly you want to elope, remember to utilize your resources. Your photographer can help provide suggestions. There are no right or wrong here. Really consider what speaks to your soul. To help get you started, here are some questions to ask yourselves:

  1. Do we want to go somewhere we’ve been before that may have some significance to us or do we want to go to a bucket list destination?
  2. Will it be just us two or do we want to include some close friends or family? Is it easy for them to travel?
  3. How accessible do we need/want our location to be? Do we want it to be something you can drive up to or are we wanting to hike “off the beaten path” to find that perfect spot?
  4. Which topography do we usually gravitate towards? Mountains, Forest, Lakes/Rivers, Oceans, Desert, etc…
  5. What type of climate are you looking for? Warm, sunny, snow, overcast, etc…

There are many more things to consider when selecting your location but, hopefully this will get the ball rolling!

Elopement Planning Tip #5

Flexibility is the key to stability” – John Wooden

If you’ve not been told yet, let us be the first to say, things might change or play out differently than you originally planned; and that’s OK!!!

It’s kind of the nature of the beast. Eloping outdoors is incredible due to the stunning backdrops and the feelings that are evoked when you’re standing across from each other, saying vows for the rest of your lives, all the while in a place you’ve dreamt of.

With that said, being outdoors means possibly dealing with uncontrollable factors i.e. weather and accessibility. Depending on the location and time of year, it’s not unheard of that you could run into unexpected rain or something similar. It’s more important to have a plan B, C, D, & E than it is to plan out plan A to the nth degree! This is one of the most important elopement planning tips we can give you.

Understand that no matter what this is the day that you are committing to each other. It will be perfect no matter what! By accepting the plausibility that things might shift day of you’ll be able to take in the day as it comes with a lot less stress.

Elopement Planning Tip #6

Legal mumbo jumbo

Now, all of these elopement planning tips we’ve talked about so far have been great but, there’s still one issue. You need to get legally married! How does that work?

Well long story short, it can be a bit complicated…

To make things simple, there are basically two main options when it comes to signing your marriage license:

  1. Sign the papers day of
  2. Sign the papers either before or after the elopement

If you’re interested in signing the certificate on the elopement day itself you’ll need to do research on the rules and regulations at the location in which you’re getting married. To make matters more complicated, each state and/or country has rules that make it possible or not to get legally married on the day.

Ask your photographer for help in this category and we’ll be happy to help!

TIP: We usually recommend to take care of the paperwork prior to the elopement/travel. That way you can get the legality taken care of in a quick and easy way since it’ll be easier in most cases to get married at your place of residence.

Elopement Planning Tip #7

Remember there is no rule book when it comes to eloping.

Our final elopement planning tip is to remember that you are allowed to do anything you’d like to do on your day. Who says that just because you aren’t having a big traditional wedding that you can’t do some of the same things?

Eloping does mean that you’re “throwing away the rule book” so to speak but, that doesn’t mean that certain key moments from a wedding can’t be included in yours. Let us reassure you that your elopement IS your wedding day. If you want a first look, have a first look. If you want to have a father daughter dance, let’s do it.

On the other hand, your elopement could look completely unique and different to that of big wedding. Your perfect day could include a hike, a nap, wine tasting, sailing, going on a guided tour to see amazing sites, etc… Skies the limit.

By focusing your entire day on what you’d like to do versus checking off the list of to do’s you’re able to truly craft a day that is absolutely 100% about you two.

Wrapping It Up

We hope our list of 7 elopement planning tips was useful to you. Photographing multiple elopements through the years has taught us a lot and we hope to have imparted some insight to you.

We truly hope your day is an unique and as wonderful as you are.

If you’re interested in learning more, or would like to start the planning process officially, we are happy to talk through more ideas with you and help you plan your day!

Sarah & Brent

SARAH AND BRENT ARE A HUSBAND AND WIFE TEAM BASED OUT OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WHO SPECIALIZE IN PLAYFUL, INTIMATE, FREE SPIRITED PORTRAITS FOR THE WILD AT HEART. THEY HAVE SHOT ALL THROUGHOUT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AND PLAN TO TACKLE THE GLOBE ONE LOVE STORY AT A TIME. WHEN THEY'RE NOT BEHIND THE LENS YOU CAN FIND THEM AT LOCAL COFFEE SHOPS, DISNEYLAND, OR HOME HANGING OUT WITH THEIR CATS.   

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Sarah & Brent

SARAH AND BRENT ARE A HUSBAND AND WIFE TEAM BASED OUT OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WHO SPECIALIZE IN PLAYFUL, INTIMATE, FREE SPIRITED PORTRAITS FOR THE WILD AT HEART. THEY HAVE SHOT ALL THROUGHOUT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AND PLAN TO TACKLE THE GLOBE ONE LOVE STORY AT A TIME. WHEN THEY'RE NOT BEHIND THE LENS YOU CAN FIND THEM AT LOCAL COFFEE SHOPS, DISNEYLAND, OR HOME HANGING OUT WITH THEIR CATS.   

Meet Us

See our pricing

  1. […] that are exactly 100% you. If you don’t know where to start, be sure to check out our blog 7 Things You Must Know When Planning Your Elopement to get you started on the right […]

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Sarah and Brent are a husband and wife team based out of southern California who specialize in playful, intimate, free spirited portraits for the wild at heart. They have shot all throughout southern California and plan to tackle the globe one love story at a time. When they're not behind the lens you can find them at local coffee shops, Disneyland, or home hanging out with their cats.