For some couples, the prospect of elopement can seem like a massive undertaking. There’s certainly a lot of misconceptions when it comes to just what an elopement entails. In this “How to Elope Guide” I want to provide you with some help to overcome these hurdles.
It’s common to wonder if an elopement is right for you, or what you can or cannot do in an elopement.
This guide will demystify your fears and set the record straight. I want couples feeling happy and confident with their decision to have an elopement, and there’s no better way to accomplish this than informing them.
Here’s everything you need to know on how to get eloped!
How to Elope Guide
It all starts here.
Part of the appeal of having an elopement is that you’re not bound to the traditional expectations of holding your ceremony at your family church or local hotel or similar venue.
You’re free to pretty much tie the knot wherever your heart desires.
Think of an elopement as a wedding and honeymoon in one, and you can see why the practice is becoming more and more popular.
Having the option to fully control every aspect of your ceremony and truly make it your own, in every way, this is something that a traditional wedding can’t really offer.
It’s also worth mentioning here that a location can largely dictate what kind of elopement you want to have.
Looking for a tropical getaway and an elopement ceremony on the beach? Someone where in the mountains? A gorgeous historical park like the kind found in New Orleans?
Do some research into the kind of ceremony you want and then plan your location accordingly.
Intimate or Inclusive?
The next major step in planning an elopement is deciding the size and style of it.
Do you want your ceremony to be nearly as complex as a wedding, with dozens of guests, full catering, and tons of decorations?
Or are you looking for something far more intimate, perhaps only you, your significant other, and a magical week together for just the two of you to share?
Something in between?
The size of an elopement largely dictates what you can and cannot do, as well as where you can hold the actual ceremony, what kinds of catering and planning expenses you incur, as well as the overall “feel.”
Part of the appeal of elopements are the ability to have a much more intimate, simplified experience compared to the average wedding. Less people you hardly know, less expenses, less stuff to think about, less stress, less drama.
Elopements tend to focus on the couple, not just traditions. This is why small, intimate elopements are so popular.
The small size of most elopements enables you to save money on accommodations and catering, which gives you the ability to book really nice hotels and spend more money on fun and enriching experiences rather than suits and flowers.
On the other hand, if you have an extended family that really wants to see you get married but you just can’t fathom going the traditional route, there’s nothing wrong with packing your entire family and holding your ceremony halfway across the country.
You just have to plan for it first!
Plan Your Budget!
The least fun part of any wedding, but the good news is, elopements certainly simplify the process quite a bit.
In fact, compared to most weddings, you’re going to be cutting out a lot of the fat and saving a ton of money.
There’s just certain things that don’t really come up in an elopement. You’re not going to be decking out a wedding hall for 60 people, buying expensive catering, hundreds of floral displays, balloons, confetti, decorations, table settings, and all the other little things that make planning a wedding a financial nightmare most of the time.
When planning your elopement budget, you want to focus on three main things:
- Your marriage license (typically very cheap)
- Your travel expenses
- Your accommodations
Once you have these three points down, you can kind of play around with your budget a bit and add or subtract as you like. The next most important thing you should splurge a bit on is either an elopement package, elopement planner or elopement photographer, or all if you’re lucky.
You should also take your time looking for airfare and hotel deals. Don’t make snap decisions, you can save a lot of money if you just take your time, plan your destination, and hunt for deals.
Every penny you save in the travel and accommodations, you can spend having the time of your life once you finally tie the knot!
The Legal Side of Things
Of course, the marriage license aspect of an elopement is important too. This is why you have to decide where you want to get married before most of the rest of your planning, because the laws on marriage licenses differ from state to state and at times even from county to county in those states.
The majority of the time, there is a slight waiting period after you sign a marriage certificate application, that can range from 24 hours to about 72 hours. There is also always a clerical fee attached to the process of filing a marriage license application.
Please do your homework in this area. The last thing you want is have your ceremony bungled because you mistimed the waiting period or worse yet, decided to get married during a federal holiday!
If you’re interested in getting eloped in New Orleans, we’ve already written an extensive guide that covers everything you could ever need to know about getting a marriage license there along with professional and experienced officiants who will help with all the legalities required.
There are also a few other legal matters to research before taking the leap and spending money, such as the regulations a park might have for the size of certain groups, park or beach permits for parties or gatherings, and other such minor hurdles.
Usually these legal issues are very easily taken care of, but they can be a headache if you wait until the last minute or even worse, forget about them completely.
Don’t wait. Once you and your significant other decide on where to get eloped, do your research and even call the local government if you have to in order to get all the info you need to have a great elopement ceremony.
Hire a Planner or Winging It?
This is a big one. You may be inclined to pick a destination, research how to get a marriage license, think up all adventures you want to go on and events you want to attend after the ceremony, and then just dive in.
The truth is, you would benefit massively from an elopement planner.
More than likely, you’re going to be getting eloped in a city or area you are unfamiliar with, or just have very little experience in planning extensive events. Things can get overwhelming fast.
There’s a lot to do, for example, in a city like New Orleans. Do you know the real hot spots? The best parks for romantic elopement photography? How to score the best hotel rates and where to look for them? How to capture the authentic New Orleans experience as an out-of-towner?
How do you cram a lot of fun into a limited time without it being overwhelming or a hassle? Or without missing out?
That’s where elopement planners come in.
I love my job, it gives me an opportunity to work with amazing couples and help them have the best elopement possible by taking much of the burden of planning the actual ceremony off their shoulders.
Booking hotels, providing officiants, the best places for photoshoots and structuring their day so it’s not congested yet maximizes their time, while also saving them money. This is the bread and butter of what an elopement planner does and in a city like New Orleans with so much to see and do, it’s almost a necessity.
If you are planning for an extremely simple elopement, with barely any guests and barebones sightseeing and events, you can probably pull it off yourself. But for anything more complex, an elopement planner will take a ton of weight off your shoulders and just make sure everything goes off without a hitch.