How To Elope

May 20, 2020

The Ultimate Eloping Guide

Planning how to elope can sometimes seem a little daunting if you don’t know where to start. But fear not! I got you. Dreaming up and planning your perfect day should give you little butterflies and not stress knots. So I’m here to help you take those first steps (and maybe relieve a little stress) on how to elope!   

Alonzo and Bethany snuggle close after saying their vows at their mountain top elopement.

Dream Big

First sit down with your honey and start dreaming. Think about all the things that could make your elopement day totally YOU. Start to take into consideration your favorite seasons, what kind of weather you both love the most, places that you both hold special, favorite trails you’ve hiked, favorite places you’ve been etc. To help get those brain wheels turning and dreaming think about some of these questions. Have fun with it! Don’t be afraid to dream big! 

-What type of weather is your favorite?

-Would you wanna rock a sleeveless dress or maybe some shorts? Or have you always wanted to wear an epic fur coat? 

-Would you want to travel for your elopement or stick closer to home?

-Do you guys have a place that you’ve always dreamed of visiting?

-Would you rather spend the day at the beach, mountains or desert?

-Would you want to hike during your day? Or would you rather kick back with a drink somewhere? 

-What do the two of you love doing most in your free time? 

-Do the two of you love doing activities together? Ie. snowboarding, climbing, kayaking, etc.? 

Tyler helps Haylee climb over rocks after eloping in Mammoth Lakes.


The next thing that you might want to take into consideration when planning to elope is the budget. The two of you will want to figure out what you are willing to spend. Just to help put things into perspective for you, the average cost of an elopement in 2020 is between $7,000 to $15,000 with large scale weddings averaging at $29,000-$34,000 (not including honeymoon). If you are slightly surprised that elopements can cost more than you realized, here are a few things to take into consideration: travel, location, wedding attire, food, florals excursions and photographer. 


First, you have to think about travel, will you be having an out of country elopement? If so then the cost will obviously be much higher due to travel expenses alone (think about flight, food, hotel, rental etc.). If you are deciding to stay local then that cost will be much lower.


Another thing to think about when your planning to elope is attire. How much would you be willing to spend on a wedding dress or suit? Would you rather thrift it, buy it second hand or buy it brand new? 

Florals and Food

Also, are you wanting florals at your elopement? Florals can cost much more than you may realize depending on what you are wanting. Which can range from just a bouquet to an entire arbor covered in the most beautiful flowers. Food is also a factor. From hiring a private chef to dinning at your favorite restaurant to packing a picnic with the best wine and cheese around. Each one of those options will have different price points.


Another thing to take into consideration is excursions. From renting kayaks to renting a helicopter to hiring a climbing guide or exploring ice caves, these things may add on to your budget. So make sure you do your research and see just how much may cost you. You could also plan an epic hike which would definitely be on the lower end of the budget. Side note: I use All Trails to find some epic places, it’s a great free resource!


And lastly but in my opinion the most important; a photographer. I’m not just saying this because I am an elopement photographer but having someone there to capture the entirety of your wedding day is so important. This is YOUR day, a day that you should never forget, your elopement day. Your wedding day, no matter how small or big or untraditional it is, is still your wedding day and it deserves to be captured. When it comes to choosing a photographer it may be difficult, but speaking as a friend and not a photographer, they are WORTH THE MONEY.

The average price of a quality elopement photographer can range from $3,000-$12,000. Depending on where you’re eloping and how much coverage you want. But word to the wise here, I suggest finding someone whose work you like most and that you feel connected with and comfortable talking to. This is vital for your day because if you don’t have a good connection with your photographer it can have a bigger impact on your day than you could imagine. I also highly recommend finding a photographer who helps with your planning/details for the day (including helping you find the most epic locations) and bonus points if they have their travel rolled into their pricing. Now, I know that many people are on a budget in life (hey, budgets are awesome) but when it comes to finding an elopement photographer, it may feel like they are taking up a majority of your budget, but trust me when I say it is well worth it to spend extra in that category.

Speaking to you now as a photographer, I know that it is my heart’s desire to help you and work with you to create the most epic elopement day that reflects you and your partner perfectly. I’m not just a photographer and your elopement day is not an all day photoshoot and if you want to hear more about that then I would be more than happy to chat 😉 

Tyler holds Haylee's wedding dress as the cross a creek on their Mammoth Lakes adventure elopement.


Now down to the nitty gritty: Legalities. Woo! Honestly, there isn’t much to this when planning how to elope. Depending on where you are getting married things can vary a little. There are a couple of different ways that you can go about doing this. You can get your marriage license before your elopement and bring it with you to sign the day of your elopement to make everything officially official. Or you can take care of the marriage license before or after you get back from your epic adventure. What is most important is that the two of you make the commitment to each other. Make sure that you have an officiant! Whether that is a close friend or family member, make sure you have someone there to officiate everything. Side note, there are some states, such as Colorado, where you can self solemnize aka be your own witnesses and officiant. That’s pretty epic, but make sure you do your research and figure out if that is possible with the state you are in. Also, fun fact about Colorado, along with self solemnization, your dog can be a witness to your marriage. Yes, you heard me right, your dog.


Another thing to take into consideration is location permits. There are many epic places to elope, especially right here in California, but a vast majority of locations require you to have a permit to get married. And sometimes an additional permit to have photographs taken there. So when you are on the hunt for your location keep that in mind as you may have to do some extra research/time to get a permit! 

Nathan hugs Alyssa from behind after they eloped in Clovis.

Research and Book!

Once you have determined your budget and have dreamed big, it’s time to start doing some research. Start looking for vendors in the area that you want to elope in. But you can also look for vendors that travel to those areas as well. Research the excursions that you want to go on and look for accommodations. Pro tip: I highly suggest looking for a photographer at the beginning of your planning! A lot of times photographers get booked out 6 months+ in advance and depending on who you decide to go with they can help with a lot of the planning process! 

So if you haven’t already, grab your boo, your favorite drink and start dreaming!! And don’t forget, I’m still here to answer any questions that you might have. I am happy to help with creating your dream day!

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