An elopement ceremony doesn’t take much planning. Still, there are a few things to consider so your simple and romantic wedding celebration stays that way.
Be selective in your choice of a location. You’ve chosen to have an intimate wedding that’s all about you. Whether it’s near of far, make sure the place where you choose to exchange your vows is feels right to you. Consider a beautiful outdoor setting (of course, you can’t beat the beach or the mountains, but seek out a place that offers you some amount of privacy and seclusion unless you’re into a whole beach full of strangers applauding as you kiss!) your home or backyard, the place where you first met, where he proposed, a quaint neighborhood park or anyplace with a breathtaking view. How about a winter mountain wedding on snowshoes? We’ve done those!
Don’t assume your venue will be free. Just because it’s a public park doesn’t mean there is no permit (and a fee!). Some parks require a permit even for a couple-only elopement. Check the requirements of the site before you find your intimate elopement interrupted by a ticket-wielding park ranger! (Tip: if you’re getting hitched in a place that you’re not familiar with, then consider investing in some professional location scouting.)
Likewise, be selective about your timing. When does your chosen locale have its most temperate weather? What time of day do those thunderstorms tend to roll in? Want a sunrise or sunset wedding? Be sure to check local timing of these events or you might be getting married in the dark. Other things to consider in regards to time of day and possible glitches: rush hour traffic, local events like ball games or festivals, temporary road closures. And if you’re flying to your elopement wedding location, don’t plan to be married on the same day that you fly into town. Assume the plane will be delayed and arrive a day early
If you’ve chosen an outdoor location, have a backup plan, or be sure your officiant is willing to perform your elopement ceremony in all kinds of weather (we are!). If you’re not up for a rainy, windy or cold environment to exchange your vows, then have a Plan B in place. Ideas include the parlor of a B&B, a private home, your hotel room, a park gazebo, even an airport chapel (yes–most large airports have them!)
Remember, it’s not over until the paperwork is signed. Just because your vows are to be short ‘n sweet doesn’t mean there isn’t legal paperwork to contend with. Check the marriage license requirements in the area where you plan to elope. Do you have to be a resident of the state? Is there a waiting period to get the license after you apply? What documentation do you need to obtain a license? What are the days and hours of the government office where you must go to get your license and is an appointment necessary? Most of these offices are only open Monday through Friday during business hours, so you can’t fly in on a Saturday and be legally married on Sunday.
Consider a photographer. Small doesn’t mean forgettable. You’ll probably want some mementos of the day in pictures. If springing for a professional photographer is not in your budget, then ask your officiant if he or she can bring along a friend or family member talented amateur to snap some photos of you and your ceremony with your camera or theirs. Expect to pay a fee for this, but it will be considerably less than hiring a pro. And if they are using your camera, be sure your batteries are charged and your memory card has adequate room for your elopement photos.
Bring cash for impromptu romance opportunities (buying flowers from a street vendor, a spur of the moment carriage ride, tipping the passer by who just happens to pull out his guitar and serenade you (it happens!)
Have a post-ceremony plan. Even if you’re going very low key and informal, you’ll want some sort of post-ceremony celebration. Champagne shared on the beach, a quiet picnic, a romantic dinner at an out of the way restaurant, a night at a posh hotel, or tickets to a ball game, theater or concert. Having nothing to do after you say “I do” is anti-climatic!