How To Elope

Mar 30, 2024 | Eloping, marriage, Wedding

A national survey of over 1,000 respondents demonstrated that 62% of them were considering eloping. Not only that but Gen-Zers are changing the wedding industry and making things much smaller than the traditional 200 person wedding. All things are pointing to smaller weddings and even elopement. 

So, if you’re one of the 62% majority considering tying the knot in a way that’s intimate, personal, and budget-friendly, then elopement might be for you. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about eloping, from planning your special day to navigating the legal aspects and celebrating afterward.


What does it mean to elope? 

“To elope” technically means to run away and secretly get married. However, even Webster’s Dictionary agrees that the term is changing to mean something more along the lines of having a very small destination wedding or just a wedding with the bride and groom. 

Nowadays, eloping isn’t just about running off to Vegas to get married; it’s a deliberate choice made by couples seeking something more intimate and personal than a traditional wedding. It’s about stripping away the external pressures and expectations, focusing solely on each other, and celebrating love in its purest form. Whether it’s a spontaneous decision or a carefully planned escape, eloping allows couples to break away from tradition and create a wedding day that truly reflects their personalities and priorities. 


My personal elopement story 

I rarely share personal stories on this blog of my life, but this one is super relevant as a person who has eloped themselves. And I eloped the real, traditional way–in secret at City Hall. My husband and I got married in 2017 on a Monday afternoon at 2:00 PM at a courthouse in downtown Chicago. Afterward, we booked a few days at the Ritz Carlton, got massages, ate really fancy, overpriced food, and ordered unlimited room service. (Hey– don’t judge us; we just saved ourselves at least $30,000 on a wedding, and we wanted to splurge a little!). 

The grand total cost? I’ll break it down for you: 

  • Wedding ceremony: $10
  • Ritz Carlton stay: $1,000
  • Food: $600 
  • Grand total: $1,610

Seven years later (still happily married) I am so glad that we eloped and saved money on a wedding. Money that was instead well spent on traveling, good food, saving for retirement, and our brand-new bundle of joy.


Benefits of Eloping

Let’s talk about some of the reasons people are eloping these days. There are several benefits, including the cost, the flexibility, the intimacy of it all, and of course, the stress-free nature of an elopement. 


Depending on your definition of “eloping” (whether it’s a small destination wedding or just you and your boo running off to Town Hall), eloping is often significantly more affordable than hosting a traditional wedding. The cost to elope in Los Angeles, California, is $35 with a “Town Hall” wedding (a.k.a., a civil ceremony). Now, if you’re looking for a little more in your elopement, say a destination elopement, you could be looking at a couple thousand, depending on where you go. 


Let’s face it–eloping is flexible. Eloping gives you the freedom to tailor every aspect of your wedding day to reflect your wants and needs, and not your guests. Whether you want to exchange vows in a courthouse at 9:00 AM on a Tuesday, fly to Vegas and hit the chapels, or run off to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, it’s all in your hands. No party bus planning, no hotel blocks, no invites. Flexible!


Eloping is just downright romantic. One of the primary reasons to elope, outside of cost and flexibility, is to experience a deeply intimate and private ceremony. Without the distractions of a large crowd, family drama, and all the other stressors that come with a big wedding, you can focus entirely on each other and the commitment you’re making.


Go ahead and Google “Wedding stress” and see what comes up…  Spoiler alert: It’s hundreds upon hundreds of articles, Reddit threads, and blogs on the stress that comes from planning a wedding. There are even medical articles on how to handle wedding stress. If planning a wedding is going to cause you physical and mental stress to the point where you are seeking medical advice, eloping may be a good option for you. Eloping is much less stressful because the level of planning is so much lower than with a traditional wedding. 


Planning Your Elopement

Now, let’s get to the fun part. Planning your elopement. And guess what? This part should be relatively stress-free compared to traditional wedding planning. 

Choosing the location

The first step in planning your elopement is selecting the perfect location. You can choose something as simple as your local City Hall, a remote island off of Greece, or an Elvis chapel in Vegas. It’s your call! Here are some elopement location ideas we’ve thought of for you to get your brain juices flowing: 

  • Las Vegas (duh)
  • Hawaii (for obvious reasons)
  • Aspen (winter wonderland wedding, anyone?) 
  • Napa Valley (for the wine lovers)
  • Amelia Island (calm beach vibes)

Obtaining the necessary legal documents

Before eloping, be sure to research the legal requirements for getting married in your chosen location. This may include obtaining a marriage license and fulfilling any residency or waiting period requirements.

Selecting vendors

While elopements are often simpler affairs than traditional weddings, you may still want to enlist the help of certain vendors, such as a photographer, officiant, and florist. Choose professionals who understand your vision (or can help you create a vision). Here are some different vendors you might consider hiring (yes, even for an elopement): 

  • Photographer
  • Videographer 
  • Hair & Makeup for the bride
  • Wedding Officiant
  • Florist 
  • Caterer (for elopements with guests) 
  • Transportation (limo/bus)
  • Wedding cake 

Creating a timeline

Even though eloping is less formal than a traditional wedding, it’s still important to create a timeline for your day to ensure everything runs smoothly. Consider factors like travel time, ceremony duration, and any post-ceremony activities you have planned. Here is a sample elopement wedding timeline: 

8:00 AM: Wake up and have a laid-back breakfast together.

9:00 AM: Get ready for the ceremony. This includes hair, makeup, and getting dressed in your wedding attire.

10:00 AM: Meet with your photographer for pre-ceremony photos at a scenic location or within your accommodation.

11:00 AM: Final preparations and last-minute touch-ups before heading to the ceremony venue.

12:00 PM: Arrive at the ceremony location. 

12:15 PM: Exchange vows and rings in an intimate ceremony officiated by a wedding officiant.

12:45 PM: Take post-ceremony photos with your photographer, capturing the joy and intimacy of the moment.

1:30 PM: Enjoy lunch together, either prepared by yourselves or arranged by a caterer.

2:30 PM: Relax at the hotel, take a walk, or pop some champagne–Choose your own adventure.

6:00 PM: Return to your hotel for an intimate dinner for two.

7:30 PM: Toast to your new life together with a glass of fine wine.

9:00 PM: Reflect on your day and relish in the memories created during your elopement.

Planning post-elopement celebrations

While eloping is often a private affair, you may still want to celebrate with family and friends afterward. Consider hosting a casual reception or gathering to share your joy with loved ones who couldn’t be there on your special day. Remember, you don’t have to have your elopement post-wedding celebrations on the same day or even in the same week! You could have a celebration the following year with your friends and family if you want to!


Dealing with Family and Friends

If you’re worried about how your family and friends will react to your decision to elope, remember that communication is key. Be honest and open about your reasons for choosing to elope, and reassure them that your love and commitment remain unchanged. And while some loved ones may be supportive of your decision to elope, others may have mixed feelings. Be prepared for a range of reactions, and try to approach any negativity with understanding and empathy.


Legal aspects of eloping

Elopement isn’t governed by any unique set of laws. It simply refers to a particular way of getting married. Legally, there’s nothing distinctive about eloping. The standard procedures remain the same as they would for a traditional 200-person wedding. You still need a marriage license, need to conduct a wedding ceremony, and must adhere to your state’s regulations regarding marriage, including any waiting periods or prerequisite requirements such as pre-marriage counseling.

Eloping is the easiest way to get married!

Eloping offers couples a unique opportunity to celebrate their love in a way that’s intimate, personal, and meaningful. Whether you choose to exchange vows in a secluded forest or on a sun-drenched beach, the most important thing is that your wedding day reflects who you are as a couple. So go ahead, embrace the freedom and spontaneity of eloping, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to elope

Let’s dive into some more questions about all things elopement.

Q: Is eloping legally binding?

A: Yes, eloping is just as legally binding as a traditional wedding ceremony. As long as you fulfill all the legal requirements and obtain a marriage license, your elopement will be recognized as a valid marriage.


Q: Can we still have a reception after eloping?

A: Absolutely! Many couples choose to host a reception or celebration after eloping to share their joy with family and friends. Whether it’s a casual backyard barbecue or a formal dinner party, the choice is yours.


Q: How do we announce our elopement to family and friends?

A: There’s no right or wrong way to announce your elopement, but you may want to consider sending out formal announcements or making personal phone calls to share the news. Be sure to express your excitement and gratitude for their love and support.


Q: What if our families are disappointed that we eloped?

A: It’s natural for some family members to feel disappointed or surprised by your decision to elope, but ultimately, it’s important to prioritize what feels right for you as a couple. Be honest and open about your reasons for eloping, and reassure your loved ones that your commitment to each other remains unchanged.


Q: How can we ensure our elopement is unique and memorable?

A: The key to a unique and memorable elopement is to focus on what’s most meaningful to you as a couple. And speaking from personal experience, it’s really hard to mess this one up– it’s your wedding day! You will never forget it as long as you are with your soulmate.

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