How To Plan a Destination Elopement

5 Tips on How to Plan a Destination Elopement

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What’s an elopement?

Traditionally an elopement has been a spur-of-the-moment decision to get married in secrecy. It can incorporate the two of you or an intimate group of close friends and family. It’s an authentic celebration that focuses specifically on the two of you – your priorities, your relationship, your union. Without all the bells and whistles of a full-blown wedding, more couples are choosing to elope and carefully plan ahead. You can plan your elopement wherever you wish and however, you want it to be. But here are my few tips to make sure you don’t forget the essentials.

How to Plan a Destination Elopement?
1. Make it legal

The most important part of a wedding or an elopement will always be the ceremony. What happens when you decide to elope abroad or in a different State? You need to make your wedding legal wherever it is, make sure to get the documentation for it. 

You have two options here, either you legally get married where you live or get hitched in the location you’ve picked. If you’re planning an elopement in the USA. Remember that each state will have its own laws about marriage. You’ll need to get a marriage license first and then get your marriage certificate back after your ceremony. You’ll probably need a witness or two to make it legal. To make things easier go directly on the government website of the State you’ve picked and check it out.

If you do not want to deal with the paperwork (which is what Tim and I did) you can legally get married where you live, and go to the courthouse. Then you can plan your elopement in your dream destination, still, hire an officiant if you wish and exchange your vows then. Either you decide to do the paperwork before or after, this will only be your decision.

For NYC City Hall weddings here is where to find all the information. Click here!

If you’re wondering if getting married first and then elope will take the magic away it won’t. Exchanging vows on your elopement is the most beautiful part of this process. You can pour all your love and heart into each other and make this your perfect moment.

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2. Research the rules on the locations you’ve chosen

Yes, you can elope pretty much wherever you want. While some places won’t require a permit some will. Either because you’re gathering a few amounts of guests or photography permits.

Eloping in National Parks or State Parks became very popular, before jumping on buying your flights and booking everything else, make sure to check on the National Park’s website what are the rules for a wedding or elopement. For example, Tim and I were able to elope in Yosemite. Check our elopement here! I filled up a form with the National Park directly that specified where the ceremony in the park will be and what time. Once I filled this up I bought a photography permit for my photographer in order for us to be able to capture our elopement.

As a photographer, I also photographed an elopement in Joshua Tree (Check it out here) and needed a photography permit as well. Each place is different and asks for different pieces of information. Make sure you check these rules out and respect the location you’ve picked.

When it comes to NYC. If you elope at City Hall and then decide to do portraits around the city, no permits will be needed. But if you do decide to have your ceremony outside with an officiant. You can check what the permits require you to do via this website for Dumbo and here for Central Park! These are the most popular places I photograph ceremonies.

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3. Find your wedding vendors

While yes eloping sound slike you don’t have to plan too much and you can avoid all the wedding planning. You can still incorporate some of that into your elopement. Honestly, I highly recommend hiring a florist, a makeup artist, and hairstylist if you can.

A few more details you can incorporate into your elopement day are, a cute picnic area for you to pop some champagne, eat a beautiful meal or have some cake! You can also decide to go celebrate in one restaurant nearby or just go out for drinks! Whatever you decide to do there are always more things you can have on your elopement day.

I personally had a bouquet and flowers for our ceremony location. Our florist also prepared us with a beautiful table, witch cake and champagne for us to celebrate after our ceremony. The beauty of eloping is that whatever idea you have or the vision you have for your marriage can happen. There are no limits. As your photographer, I’ll make sure to help you find the perfect team for you to have everything you need. My job isn’t only to snap some pretty images but to guide you through the elopement process.

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4. Hire a photographer

Don’t forget to freeze the memories! The photos will help you share your story with your family and friends. Make sure to hire someone who you vibe with. If you decide to elope just the two of you or have a regular wedding. The photographer will be the only vendor that follows you all day long and will be by your side to snap those precious moments. On the elopement day, it’s probably just you and your photographer. Make sure you hire the right person it will make the whole experience a million times better! 

As your photographer, I always make sure to check in with you and help you find the right team. I build you up a customized timeline and itinerary for your day. I’ll do my research and go location scouting if needed. And I’ll make sure you’re having the best time.

5. Plan your travel and itinerary 

Alright let’s say you now have booked and bought everything you needed. It’s time to start planning your trip!

If you’ve decided to fly all the way to the USA or your favorite country, the least you can do is plan a vacation out of your elopement. To me when you decide to have a destination elopement, you can get married and have your honeymoon all at once! That’s the best part!

Either you plan to stay in an Airbnb, a hotel, or a campsite. Make sure you’re having the best time. Plan what are the things to do in the location you’re traveling to. Go try all the amazing food and experience the place. Here are a few tips that I always used when I was traveling full time:

  • Put an alert on your phone and emails for flight deals. I usually use Google Flights. It’s my favorite search engine for flights because once you open up the calendar it gives you all the prices per dates. Before I book the best deal I make sure to double-check on Skyscanner or kayaks.  Once you found the perfect deals hop on the airline’s website to book your flights!
  • Be flexible on the dates. Plan more than just one or two days. If your photographer is as flexible as you are. Make sure you can switch days if needed in case of crazy weather conditions. also being flexible on your stay will help you get the best deals!
  • Check if the country or location you picked is high or low season. If you want to have as much privacy as possible make sure you elope when it’s low season. For example, flying back to France in the summer for me is outrageous expensive!! Flights can double or triple!
  • Elope on a weekday! You’ll have more chances to book your dream photographer and dream team on a weekday than a weekend. Wedding vendors tend to book up far in advance while elopements are usually last minutes.
  • Traveling with a wedding dress. Most airlines will allow you to have your carry on and have a suit bag. Because lots of people travel for work I recommend you to pack your wedding dress in a suit bag and carry it on the plane with you. This is what I did for my elopement and at least I didn’t have to worry about it being in my checked luggage.

That’s it for now I hope this helps you a lot more to understand How to Plan a Destination Wedding!! Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions!!

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