You can plan your elopement in SO many different ways. The great thing about eloping is the freedom to get married exactly the way you want to, and in the place you want to. When you elope, you are relieved of the pressure of performing certain traditions for the sake of family and friends. Eloping is intimate, relatively easy, and can be full of adventure or very straightforward.
1. You may go to the county courthouse or city hall and have an official preside over your wedding
2. You may hire an independent wedding officiant to preside over your marriage ceremony in the location of your choice (this could be a judge, justice, clergy member/religious leader, magistrate or “Marriage Commissioner”)
3. Any individual over the age of 18 may legally preside over your ceremony if they take the steps to get ordained by a religious organization. I have been ordained by American Marriage Ministries and can legally sign as your officiant on your marriage license (but I generally encourage couples to think about hiring or bringing someone who can craft a meaningful ceremony in addition to signing!)
Some couples decide to legally marry each other at the county courthouse and then later exchange vows in a meaningful, symbolic ceremony in their dream location. This could make sense for couples who are traveling internationally for their elopement, or who prefer the simplicity of having fewer people present during their symbolic ceremony. This could also make sense for couples going deep into the backcountry for their elopement ceremony, such as on an overnight trek.
If you plan to hold your legal ceremony outside the county courthouse, I’d recommend hiring an independent officiant who can craft a beautiful, custom ceremony for you. They will take care of the paperwork and submit your marriage license back to the county clerk within a few days of your ceremony. You will find my recommendations for officiants near the end of this post!
In order to be legally married you will need to secure a marriage license. There are different types of marriage licenses available depending on your state.
In California, you can either get a Public Marriage License or a Confidential Marriage License.
A Public Marriage License is the most common type of marriage license. This license enables you to hold your official wedding ceremony outside the county where you applied for the license. It requires 1-2 witnesses and an officiant who is authorized to preside over a wedding. As your photographer, I am happy to sign as a witness.
A Confidential Marriage License does not require a witness in addition to an officiant. However, you must hold your wedding ceremony within the same county that you applied for the license. The difference between this license and a public license is that your records cannot be accessed by members of the public without permission.
- You must have 10 or fewer people present, including vendors and children
- You must not block or hinder any park visitor’s access to a site or trail
- You must not require seating
- You must not have any music (acoustic or amplified) or any other amplified sound
- You must not have any decorations other than “one single hand-held bouquet”
- Your elopement must occur during regular day-use hours (sunrise-sunset)
- You must not not have any other vendors besides an officiant, a planner and one photographer
- You must not serve food or drink
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.