I'm SO glad you're here! I'm a Colorado-based photographer who left her heart in Wisconsin and has a passion for human connection. If you're ready to be yourself, and maybe even get a little silly, I'll bring my Midwestern charm and work ethic, and we can share an adventure you'll never forget!
When it comes to elopement planning, there are far fewer details to worry about than a traditional wedding day. But there are still a few things you’ll need to figure out, from location and accommodations to attire and actually making your marriage legal. So what do you need for a little big day? Each piece is equally important, and I’ve put together this checklist to help you through it all.
Let’s Start with the Location
Choose a place that is meaningful. It could be where your partner proposed, your first vacation destination, or a location that’s been on your bucket list for years.
Use your favorite season as a guide. Because you’ll likely be out in nature (and not booked at a venue a year or so in advance), choose a date when you’ll feel comfortable outside. If you want to get married in the mountains but hate cold weather, opt for a summer wedding. If you love the idea of a desert adventure but don’t want to break a sweat, choose a fall or winter date when temperatures are cooler. When doing your research on seasons in specific regions, be sure to look at average temperatures, rainfall averages, and so on. While you can’t guarantee the weather on your elopement day, you’ll have a better chance of getting ideal weather if you plan ahead.
Research the best time to visit. Beyond making sure you’ll have nice weather, you’ll want to check things like peak seasons and local holidays. If you’re going to a remote location, crowds might not be much of a concern, but local holidays–especially in smaller towns or villages—could make it harder to find accommodations, food, and so on. If you’re going to a place that’s guaranteed to have lots of adventure-loving tourists, we recommend looking into a date in the shoulder season so you’ll have a better chance of securing the location—and the tourist-free photos—you want.
Have a vow exchange spot in mind. I recommend having at least one spot for your vow exchange scoped out so you and your photographer know what to expect.
The Guest List
Decide the guest list right away. Chances are, if you’re eloping–especially in an adventure elopement–you won’t be inviting many guests. But, if you’re looking for a way to have your nearest and dearest with you without taking away from the intimate elopement feel, simply give each guest a role.
Ask your best friend to be your officiant, your close friend to be your hair and makeup stylist, or your mom to be your coordinator for the day. This way, you can have the people you love around you without needing to also make space for vendors. Or, if you have some vendors in mind you love, ask them in advance. They’ll feel honored to help with such an intimate and meaningful day.
Travel & Accommodations
Buy or coordinate transportation. Think about whether or not your destination is close enough to drive to or if you need to book flights.
Book lodging. Book a hotel or Airbnb for your pre- and post-elopement stay if you feel like turning your special day into a romantic getaway with you and your new partner for life.
Hire a wedding photographer who specializes in elopements. When researching photographers and videographers, make sure to read their website. Look at galleries, watch their films, scroll through their Instagram and Pinterest accounts, and read client reviews. This will help you select a team that not only matches your vision but has experience shooting elopements.
In fact, if you are looking to have an all-in-one wedding planner and photographer/videographer, see how knowledgeable your vendors are and if they could give you all the information that a planner would provide. If not, then a wedding planner or day-of coordinator could be an advantageous decision to make the day smooth!
Look into any other vendors you mightwant. Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the beautiful details of a larger wedding. Whether you want a florist to create your bouquet, a cake baker, or musicians to play at the ceremony, the choice is up to you and your partner!
Make It Official
Get your marriage license. It’s crucial that you get your marriage license within the specified window of time for your wedding location.
Determine whether or not you need a witness. Marriage laws vary by state and by country, so do your research to determine whether you need a witness or two before you jet off to tie the knot.
Ensure your officiant is legally authorized to perform the ceremony. By law, officiants must be authorized to perform wedding ceremonies. Be sure that yours is!
Collect all other legal documents you might need. Depending on your destination, you may need legal documents such as birth certificates, affidavits, blood tests, visas, etc. In the state of Colorado, you can self-solemnize, which means you don’t even need an officiant – just you and your partner and a pen.
Plan a sweetheart celebration or a post-elopement party. Even if you’re planning on having a reception later on with friends and family, take the time to plan a quiet celebration as newlyweds.
Call your parents, closest family, and friends. If you’re not hosting a party, call your closest family and friends and tell them right away. Although they may be upset at first, they’re ultimately going to be so happy for you.
Send announcements to share the good news with everyone else. Don’t forget to announce to your friends, loved ones, and colleagues that you’ve eloped! It might sound silly, but it’s actually an easy thing to forget.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? We just covered a lot of to-dos. Don’t worry, you’ve got this! Save this checklist to work as you’re planning. Then look through these elopement photos from Twin Lakes, Colorado. They prove less is more, and that temporary stress will be worth it!
Sarah Arnold Photography is a Colorado-based photographer who specializes in couples, families, and portraits. Whether you're ready to book or have more questions, I am so glad you're here!