Overwhelmed? Here’s How to Elope

“My fiancé and I are halfway through planning a large wedding, and it just doesn’t feel like us.”


“I feel like I’m planning a family reunion rather than a celebration of my marriage. Seating charts and rehearsal dinners and plus-ones are wearing on me. I don’t even feel excited anymore. I’m tired.
Why is this so complicated?”


“We just want to be surrounded by only a few people who love us dearly and dedicate our love in a way that feels
authentic and meaningful.”


If you’re anything like these couples, you are finding yourselves feeling stressed and burned out from planning what is supposed to be the happiest day of your lives.  No one wants that.

If you’re adventurous and free-spirited, the solution for you may be simple.


Just elope.


Many brides would love to ditch the 500-page wedding planner and opt for a dreamy elopement, but it can feel unrealistic in some ways.  Dear friend, your wedding doesn’t have to be {and should never be} a complicated mess.  If you are seriously thinking about eloping with the love of your life, here are 10 steps you can take to make it happen.


1. Make sure both of you are on the same page.

Eloping is a choice for both of you to make together; don’t do it with doubts, and don’t plan on regrets.


2. Define what eloping means to you.

While the term “elopement” used to mean running away in secret, the definition has changed quite a bit. It’s now very common to invite your parents, siblings, and one or two close friends to partake in the ceremony with you; especially if you are going away to a breathtaking location. Elopements often get confused with Destination Weddings for this reason; but typically, if you have under 10-15 guests and are planning on a date within the next 6 months or so, it counts. {Destination Weddings are better described as traditional weddings in those places you’ve always dreamed of; which still includes many months of planning and larger invitation lists.} So if “eloping” means you still want your immediate families there, make sure you include them.


3. After choosing which family members & friends to tell, have a plan in place on how to tell everyone else.

Elopements have a history of causing a bit of a fuss after the news breaks. Since both of you are all in, it will be easy to field the onslaught of responses to your Facebook Relationship updates with a little bit of forethought. Send out some beautiful announcement cards after the ceremony, or write a heart-felt letter to the ones who didn’t get to be there. Some couples opt to throw a very casual reception when they return home for more of their family and friends; if that sounds like you, send the date on your “We Eloped!” announcements. No matter what you choose to do, just be thoughtful and don’t worry too much– you’re being true to yourselves, and if your hearts are in the right place, that’s all that matters.


4. Agree on a budget.

The decision to elope will save you time and energy, protect you from worlds of stress, and inevitably will go easier on your finances than a traditional wedding. That does not mean your elopement needs to be cheaply done, or feel like a “budget wedding.” With your newfound freedom, you get to carefully choose your priorities in the fashion that will make you both happiest. Discuss how much you are willing to allot for travel and vendors, and prioritize which vendors you want to be the best of the best. Your elopement can very easily feel more luxurious than a large wedding… especially without the insane bar tab.


5. Choose where (and when).

As part of their magic, elopements can take place almost anywhere. Courthouses, museums, fields, mountains, old warehouses, boats, islands— and those are just the usual places. Use your imagination, and choose a location that will mean a lot to both of you. Then decide on a date. Keep in mind that a weekday elopement is always easier to schedule with vendors on short notice. One important thing to note: many parks and public places will require a permit for the ceremony, photography, or both. These are generally inexpensive and easy to attain, so be sure to check into the rules of the location {or venue}.


6. Choose the style & design.

Your elopement will be purposefully small, and it should be everything you’ve always dreamed of. Decide on your wedding colors, a theme, or an overall vibe. {The location can sometimes play into this.} Put some thought into the design of the ceremony, too; including the vows, readings, and any traditional rituals you would like to include. Fabulous dinner plans for your close circle of guests, or for just the two of you, can serve as the most intimate reception. Or, opt to do a cocktail hour instead.


7. Find the vendors who can create your vision.

Once you know where you’re going to elope and the look you’re going for, you can begin choosing the vendors who will bring everything to life for you. Here’s a quick list of who you might look for:

○ Accessory Designer

○ Bridal Designer {If you don’t have a dress yet, you will be best served by finding a designer near you and getting it fitted before you go.}

○ Calligrapher

○ Cake Designer {A wedding cake for two is indeed a thing.}

○ Florist

○ Makeup and Hair Artist

○ Officiant

○ Planner

○ Photographer

○ Special Services {i.e Rentals, Decor, Set-ups}

○ Videographer

Now, don’t stress about choosing every one of the vendors listed above; it all comes down to what’s most important to you as a couple. Remember that.


8. Plan the logistics.

If you’re opting for a destination abroad, don’t forget to check your passports, immunization requirements + suggestions, and review the details of the foreign currency. Use resources like Hopper, SkyScanner, and Kayak to find the best deals and bundles on your travel & accommodations. {Pro tip: If you plan to elope in Europe,  you have to check out WOW air.}


9. Get the paperwork in order.

Above all else, be certain of the marriage laws where you are going to elope. Consult government websites, make sure you’re aware of deadlines and requirements, and find out what you will need to show to get your license. In most cases, this will include your birth certificates and identification cards at minimum. Some locations are very strict, so be in the know before you go.


10. Remember that your marriage should be more beautiful than your wedding.

At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters is the love that you two of you share. In that light, how you make your vows to each other is just the beginning. Relax, collect memories, look for the wild, unexpected moments that take away breath, and remind yourselves to live for today.

Looking for more? Here are some of my favorite resources for planning an elopement:

10 Tips to Plan the Perfect Elopement: InStyle

Elopement Inspiration: Fly Away Bride

How a City Hall Elopement Can Be Stunning and Intimate: Wedding Sparrow


Finally, if you are dying to elope but just can’t quite break away, consider setting a firm guest list limit and plan an intimate wedding instead. Or, up the fun and plan a Surprise Wedding.

All my love,



Hailey Amber is a fine art film wedding photographer based in Madison, Wisconsin. She loves nothing more than to capture weddings, anniversaries, and engagements for hopelessly-in-love couples with bold dreams and hearts for adventure. You can find her chasing light at home in the Midwest (usually in Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago) and in destinations abroad.