Elopement Planning Resources

The Insiders Guide How To Elope Made Easy

infographic: how to elope in 5 easy steps image of lightbulb and step 1 imagine your ideal wedding day. Step 2 decide if vendors can help you graphic of camera, step 3 set budget graphic if dollar bill, step 4 decided where, when, learn how to make it legal graphic of mountains and law scales, step 5 decided what to bring and wear graphic of dress and ring and celebrate again logo

Welcome to your insider’s guide on how to elope. If the thought of being stuck indoors on your wedding day sounds absolutely horrific to you, then you’ve come to the right place!

I get it, friend: traditional weddings aren’t your thing.

But first, let me say how proud I am of you for making the very hard decision to make your wedding day about you and not your guest list.

You are paving the way for other couples to choose a wedding that fits them, not their families or guests.

You’re choosing not to be weighed down by obligations from others or traditions you personally don’t hold dear. So cheers to you, for choosing to elope.

I wanted to elope. When I was planning my own wedding, I had this crazy idea to take the local tram up to the top of the mountain, exchange my vows and snowboard down the aisle.

Sounds like every adventure lover’s dream, right?

Well, I told my mom and her reply was, “but grandma would freeze.”

I immediately shut that dream down and continued to plan my church wedding with a reception full of people I didn’t know or hadn’t spoken to in years. 

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

photo of emmy standing barefoot on a mountain top

So, I say again: thank you, friend, for being braver than I was and choosing to elope!

Hey, I’m Emmy, one of the Oregon and Colorado Elopement Photographers here at Celebrate Again.

I’ve been a wedding and elopement photographer for 10 years now and you could say that a decade of experience and wanting marriages to begin with the couples’ experience has led me to where I am today.

I’m so excited to bring my years of experience to help you know how to elope easily, starting your marriage off with an epic personalized experience instead of playing host.

How To Elope A Step By Step Guide

What I love the most about eloping is it’s easy. Can I tell you a secret? It can also be so grand too. I’ve created this How to Elope step by step guide for you to take the stress out of your elopement planning and realize that in the end, the joy is that you’re marrying each other! So let’s stay focused on that and keep celebrating – it’s what we’re all about too – (if you haven’t noticed).

Step 1 How to Elope: Imagine Your Wedding

Can you just go to your imagination with me for a minute? I’m a firm believer that the best things in life are already within us. That deep within our souls is the beauty we hold and it’s that that I want your wedding day to reflect – a perfect combination of you two joining together in a lifelong commitment. 

Take a moment with your partner to both sit and imagine. Write your answers down and share your thoughts on what the most idyllic wedding scenario would look like for you. Hint: it won’t be exact, but by combining both of your visions, you’ll find the most amazing experience is awaiting you.

Start with Where: Imagine The Best Place You Could Ever Be

Close your eyes, imagine the best places you’ve ever been or dreamed of going. What did it look like? Where there trees, moss, snow, the ocean, mountains, wildflowers, wildlife? What were your surroundings like?

Imagine The Textures

Imagine the textures you’d feel most comfortable in, what you’d be wearing, what the ground would be like that you walk on. What shoes are you wearing? Are you holding flowers or surrounded by them as you exchange your vows or over a meal?

couple barefoot in an alpine lake with girl being lifted up by guy and kicking her feet out

Imagine The Tastes & Smells

What does your meal taste like? Is it breakfast, lunch or dinner? What are you drinking? Is there dessert? Keep dreaming about a full day experience.

Keep your eyes closed and imagine what things smell like? Is there fresh rain sprinkling around you, the smell of fresh grass, pine trees, salt water or river water?

Imagine The Sounds

Are there familiar voices around? Do you hear the trees rustling, a river gurgling or the ocean waves crashing? Is your best friend laughing and cheering you on in the background or your grandma’s whisper in your ear that you look beautiful?

Use your visions to craft your ideal wedding day

Write down your imaginary experiences. Talk together about what you experienced. Listen to your partner. Reflect on how some of these pieces match together or how you could compromise to have these pieces come from both of you. What visions and experiences feel like both of you and your story together?

Let this vision casting propel you to the next easy steps on how to elope.

Step 2 Choosing Vendors To Help Guide Your vision

Will hiring vendors be useful to help you execute your visions? Some of our favorite vendors to include on elopement days are:

Florists 

If you imagined flowers surrounding you but your environment was more of a dessert setting, a talented florist may be a great choice. Florists can help create a bouquet for you and/or a boutonniere for your partner. They could also create an arch or piece for your ceremony or decor for any chairs if you have chairs and guests. Florists could also create arrangements for your celebration meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner. Let your vision casting guide you!

bride holding silk flowers
Private chef catering a pie and some flowers on a table

Caterer or private chef

Did the food you imagined as a part of your wedding day include a specific meal? Is this something you’d want privately or dining at a restaurant, just the two of you or reserving a private room? Many private chefs can come to you for an intimate meal, or even put together a to-go picnic for you. 

If you envisioned a rental house with a small party after with your close family and friends, were their tables set out? A caterer may be more equipped to help guide you in this area.

Stylist

Did you imagine lush designs with beautiful objects and furniture out in the wild, like a romantic living room setting on the beach or mountain top with just the two of you having a picnic? A stylist may be a great help to you in choosing your attire and multiple outfits for your day to craft an unforgettable scene.

stylized elopement details
Brittany and Emmy, Colorado and oregon elopement photographers in a beautiful location

Elopement Photographer

Was there a moment in your vision casting that made you think of a specific place at a certain time of day, but you wouldn’t know where to begin to bring all those elements together at once? Oregon and Colorado elopement photographers and guides like us can help you narrow down locations, understand what type of weather to expect, and at what time the light will be ideal for that area. We can also help you navigate procuring the right permits to get married in that place, as well as making sure you have the proper documentation for your wedding day!

Check out our elopement packages!

Elopement Videographer

Do you want a full play-by-play of your day? Videographers can be a great addition to your elopement vendors to have your day fully documented to experience it again like a tastefully crafted short film, starring you! 

Hair and Makeup Artist

How did your hair feel in your vision? Was it something you could replicate yourself or did you imagine having a stress free day? Hiring a hair and makeup artist can help take the stress of trying to find a tutorial on how to DIY your dream hairstyle.

Check out our vendor guide if you decide Colorado is your elopement location!

Step 3 Set your budget

I know this is kinda boring after all that daydreaming, but before you let reality slip from you, it’s a good idea to keep a budget in mind for your travel expenses, any decor, vendors you’ll hire, guests you’ll cater to, marriage license costs and location permits. If you have no idea where to start, here’s a helpful breakdown of how much an elopement costs.

couple in a mountain area ho lying hands eloping

Luxury Elopements

  • Marriage License $30
  • Location Permit – $250
  • Luxury 3 Night Stay – $1500+
  • Photographer – $7000
  • Meal – $300
  • Flowers for you, dinner and ceremony – $1000
  • Hair and Makeup – $250
  • Wedding Dress – $4000
  • Suit – $1000
  • Stylist to plan out your outfits, ceremony and romantic outdoor dinner – $1500

Total Cost estimate for a Luxury Elopement: $17,330 + your travel expenses

couple in affordable wedding clothes

Affordable Elopements

  • Marriage License $30
  • Location Permit – $250
  • Affordable 3 Night Stay – $400
  • Photographer – $3000
  • Meal – $200
  • Flowers – $200
  • Hair and Makeup – $250
  • Green Wedding Dress – $800
  • Suit Rental – $200

Total cost estimate for an Affordable Elopement: $5,330 + your travel expenses

After your vision is cast and you have an idea of what vendors you want to hire, and what your budget will be, now is the time to figure out the When, Where and How to make it all come together! 

Where To Elope

Are you going to travel internationally? Is it in the northern or southern hemisphere? 

Are you wanting to take a road trip or fly within your country? How long do you want to travel?

Do you want to include any adventurous activities like hiking, canoe ridessnowmobiling, rock climbing or swimming your wedding day?

 

When you did your vision casting, what did the areas look like? Was there desertous tall mountains that took your breath away as you looked out into the landscape? Colorado may be your spot! Check out our Colorado Elopement Locations guide to see if it fits your vision!

 

the oregon coast elopement spot

Do you imagine a luscious landscape with greenery every which way, the ocean rushing at your feet, trees off in the distance and sweeping hills in the background? The Oregon coast may be your fit!

If you envisioned an intimate backyard setting someplace magical, look into VRBO or TurnKey rentals to host your intimate party after your wedding ceremony. Make sure to check with the hosts that you can have a reception gathering in their space, and make sure to mention your guest count, as this may make a huge difference in them agreeing to host you!

When To Elope

Using your vision casting, what time of year would you like to elope in? If you envisioned wild flowers, consider spring or early summer if you’re looking at mountainous locations. If you’re thinking of a winter wonderland, plan on the dead of winter. 

 

While we can’t ever guarantee what weather will be like in a given place or on a given day, what we’ll do is use your vision casting as a guide to research where you’d like to go and how to plan for ideal weather in that place during the specified time of year.

 

Bonus: I have a Best Places To Elope guide written by 20 adventure elopement photographers to help you get inspiration and know these weather details!

How to make it legal

You’ll need a marriage license of course! But obtaining one and filling it out properly depends on where you plan to get married.

Eloping in Colorado

 If you’re eloping in Colorado, you can marry yourselves. Just head to a local marriage license office (some can be obtained online), have your ID and checkbook ready, and you’re all set to go exchange your vows and sign your license.  

Eloping Elsewhere

If you get married elsewhere you may need to hire an officiant, or in some cases your photographer or videographer may be an ordained minister and can legally marry you. Secret of the trade: anyone can get ordained by The Universal Church so you’re best friend could marry you too!

In other states outside of Colorado, you may also need two witnesses over the age of 18. This could be your photographer and videographer, or we’ve even had couples ask a random person hiking by to sign too! Your officiant or photographer can help you navigate this, but most of this information is just a quick Google search away!

Finding The Right Info

To find the marriage license information, just Google the local county of where you want to get married and follow their instructions. 

Some couples legally get married in a courthouse the day or two before the elopement, then have a wedding ceremony and celebration separate from the legal portion. The beauty of elopements is that you can do things how you want!

Step 5 What To Wear and Bring

Ok, so you know where you want to get married, you’re following your vision for what your day will look like, who’s going to be there and how you want it all to feel. Now it’s time to figure out what to wear and bring!

Dress 

Head back to your vision to think about the textures of the day and colors. It’s good to think about how to easily move around and have flexibility in a dress while also feeling fabulous. You’ll want to consider that if you’re hiking at all or adding in any adventures on your wedding day. There are so many amazing options for dresses nowadays. 

 

bride in convertible dress without bottom skirt and leggings on instead in the winter

I particularly fell in love with this two piece dress that allowed our bride who went snowmobiling to feel fabulous while wearing ski pants to stay warm then slip on a fairytale skirt for her ceremony and photos. 

You could also wear a nontraditional color or even a jumpsuit if you want! It’s your wedding, so you decide what you want to wear!

bride in convertible dress in the winter

Lulus has some wonderful deals on more elopement style wedding dresses too!

If you want to go with something handmade or secondhand to be more environmentally friendly, check out Etsy for all the beautiful options they have!

Suit

If your partner wants to wear a suit you could rent one or buy one or even find one secondhand! I’ve also had grooms wear a nice button-up shirt and slacks too. You decide what you want to wear!

Rings

Don’t forget the wedding rings – well, unless you can convince a tattoo artist to ink rings on you, though I hear it is a very tough place on the body to get tattooed and not all artists are willing to do so. 

Etsy is our favorite place to find unique handmade rings!

Vows

Hand write your vows or get a vow book for your wedding day! Again, Etsy is the go to place for this…of course! We love having your vows hand written because then you can keep them and hang them up in your home as a sweet reminder of the commitment you made to each other. They are also beautiful legacy keepsakes. 

 

 

 

Flowers

Did your wedding day vision include flowers? You can work with a florist to create your dream flower arrangements or even go as simple as arranging one yourself from a local grocery store. Just make sure to do your research about what flowers are safe for where you’re going. Talk to your local ranger when you get your ceremony permit if your florist isn’t sure or you’re making your own. Some flowers can be harmful to sensitive environments like in Rocky Mountain National Park.

My current love is silk flowers that are safe for all environments and don’t wilt in the summer heat. Check out our vendor guide for our favorite silk florist in Denver, Colorado, or head to Etsy to find some amazing artists!

Other Fun Ideas

Pack a picnic. This can be so romantic and can easily be done with a little bit of planning!

Bring your swimsuit and plan to go for a dip on your wedding day! We’re a big fan of bare feet and dipping or splashing in the water on wedding days around here. It’s such a beautiful way to relax and play on your wedding day!

couple swimming on elopement day

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More fun ideas:

Have family and friends who cannot attend write you a letter to read on your wedding day.

Fun signs announcing your new last name or wedding date.

Blanket to sit on or keep you warm if you’re at high altitudes with that crazy alpine wind or on the northern coast. 

Rug to get ready. I love this idea to get ready outside on either side of a car with rugs underneath you. It’s so romantic and intimate. I do of course recommend having your hair and makeup done beforehand, but it can be cute to get dressed outside on a rug too!

What not to bring

Confetti: while it could look really cool, you do need to plan to pick up every little piece if you’re outside. This stuff is very bad for the environment, wildlife, even plant life. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to clean all that up after my wedding day! If you absolutely love this idea you could bring a small carpet to catch it all but make sure you’re laying a carpet down on a rock or sand and not crushing the greenery.

Step 6 Share or Celebrate Again

What to do after you elope? Now it’s time to share with your family and friends who weren’t there!

While we’re fans of the elopement experience and a party after, you could also do a few other things instead.

Send them your online gallery

With most photographers, you’ll get an online gallery after your wedding day to share. 

 

Send Out An Announcement Card

Traditional weddings will send out a Save the Date or invitations and while you could do those for elopements, it may be fun to send out a “we got married” announcement card too! 

 

couple celebrating their anniversary

Celebrate Again

For your wedding anniversary, join our Celebrate Again movement to have an elopement wedding experience again for your wedding anniversary. Have it documented by us. Keep the joy of celebration going throughout your marriage, rekindling your love, reconnecting and remembering the beautiful story you’re living together is worth celebrating in grand beautiful ways often, not just once in a lifetime. 

 

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Final Thoughts

Want more ideas? Visit our free resources page or  What is an Elopement? for some elopement etiquette. 

More Resources

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infographic: how to elope in 5 easy steps image of lightbulb and step 1 imagine your ideal wedding day. Step 2 decide if vendors can help you graphic of camera, step 3 set budget graphic if dollar bill, step 4 decided where, when, learn how to make it legal graphic of mountains and law scales, step 5 decided what to bring and wear graphic of dress and ring and celebrate again logo

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