Our Top 20 Elopement Planning Tips + What Not to Forget

September 9, 2022

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Elopement planning is hard work – we get it. We’ve photographed & filmed COUNTLESS elopements (literally, too many for us to count), and worked with tons of different types of people. So trust us when we say we’ve seen every possibility under the stars when it comes to eloping: what could go wrong, what couples regret, and what couples LOVED about their elopement days. Which is why we wanted to compile a list of our top 20 best elopement planning tips to make sure your elopement turns out exactly how you dream it!!

From getting engaged and trying to figure out where the heck to start planning, to realizing how much work it’s going to take to plan your elopement, to the big day arriving and finally getting to celebrate, it’s a looong journey. There are plenty of things that could easily slip right through the cracks while you plan your big day – you might forget to book accommodations, get your permits, download maps in case you don’t have service, or even write your damn vows! 

We hope that this list of our best, simplest elopement planning tips helps you feel confident moving forward planning the elopement of your dreams, and ensures that you don’t forget anything important. Let us know which tip is your favorite when you inquire with us about elopement photography & videography!

P.S. Make sure you read all the way through to the end of the list of elopement planning tips for a few more of our favorite elopement planning resources, including a full step-by-step guide to how to plan your elopement, and even a giant list of 60 (yes, sixty!) elopement ideas to make your day unique!

Our Top 20 Elopement Planning Tips

1. Make a vacation or honeymoon out of it

If you’ve been planning your dream elopement in a location you LOVE, why not make the most out of your time and honeymoon there, too?

Or, if you want to honeymoon somewhere else (whether that be immediately after your elopement or at a later time), spend some extra time at your destination & make a vacation out of your elopement!

We’re allll about quality time and escaping the stressors of daily life – work, kids, friends, you name it. So when you have the chance to escape for a little longer, by all means: take it!

Use your elopement as an excuse to plan a longer vacation by adding a few days on either end to spend meaningful time together, exploring more of the area. Or, extend your trip after your elopement and have your honeymoon in the same place. Take advantage of the plane tickets you bought or the road trip you’re planning, and ask your friend to pet-sit your fur babies back home for a little while longer! 😉

Bonus Tip: Have a honeymoon fund instead of a typical wedding registry.

Instead of asking your guests (if you have any) for items, ask for them to donate to an overall honeymoon fund, or to a specific experience you’d like to have on your honeymoon (such as a scuba diving tour)! 

2. Choose a location that makes you happy

When it comes time to choose your elopement location, don’t just choose that pretty place you saw on Instagram a while back or somewhere close by for the sake of convenience (unless that’s what you want – then freaking go for it!).

Instead, be intentional about choosing a location that makes you both happy, somewhere that’s meaningful to your relationship (e.g. where you went on your first trip together), or somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit with each other!

Keep in mind: Weather, permits, crowds, travel, potential road/trail closures, ease of access for your guests, nearby accommodations, etc. 

3. Keep it simple

Consider this your permission to keep your elopement simple if you want it to be. You don’t need all the extra bells & whistles to have an incredible, special elopement (such as flowers, a ceremony arch, a fancy dinner, etc.). You don’t even need an official wedding venue if you plan your elopement accordingly – instead, find a beautiful park, book an Airbnb where you can spend the evening afterward, and find a yummy local restaurant for dinner!

You’re fully allowed to make your elopement as simple or as intricate as you’d like – whatever would be most truly authentic & meaningful to you. 

4. Prioritize photo & video in your budget

If you’re eloping, we’ll assume that you maybe don’t care as much about some of the “traditional” aspects of weddings, such as a DJ, a caterer for a large group of guests, or a big wedding venue. If that’s the case, then you can budget more for photo & video, since you know you’ll want to show off your elopement to all your friends and fam back home, and you won’t be spending as much on other traditional items + services.

We can’t say it enough: photos are the only part of your elopement that will last after the day is done. Yes, you’ll have the memories – but even those will fade after time. So it’s important to hire a photographer & videographer that you love and trust to capture the essence of your day authentically and beautifully, to help those special memories live on forever!

If you’re on the hunt for an adventure elopement photo + video team, we’d love to help out 😉 Learn more about us here, and see examples of our elopement work on our website to get a feel for what we offer!

5. Don’t feel bad about eloping

This is a big one that a lot of couples may struggle with: feeling bad about eloping. You might feel some sort of guilt around the fact that you’re eloping in private or without most of your loved ones, especially if you’re close to your friends & fam, and they may expect to be invited.

But we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to feel bad about eloping and being a little (or a lot) selfish with your elopement! This marriage is between you and your partner, and hopefully, your loved ones will understand that in the long run, even if they’re hurt at first.

If they feel left out, and if you want to somehow incorporate your favorite people into your elopement, there are plenty of ways to include family in your elopement! Take a look at some of our fave elopement ideas with family here for some ways you can involve them in your big day.

6. Make sure your location is scoped out ahead of time

It’s super important to make sure that either you, your photographer, or a friend/family member scopes out your elopement locations ahead of time. This ensures that you know exactly where you’ll be going on your elopement day, can plan it all out in advance, can be aware of what could potentially go wrong, are able to save exact pins on your maps, and overall just feel confident about finding your locations when the day arrives!

7. Double check for necessary permits & reservations

Please (pretty please) make sure you get your necessary permits & passes for the locations you’ll be visiting – and then double check again that you have what you need! 

If you’re having your ceremony or taking any elopement photos in a national park, visit the National Park Service website to find the park-specific permits you’ll need.

For state parks, go to Google & look up the park for specific permit instructions.

If you need an all-in-one website to help you figure out what details you’ll need to plan for + passes/permits/reservations you’ll need, rec.gov is a great resource that should have everything you need!

8. Download offline maps + trails

Once you or somebody else has scouted your locations, download all the maps you’ll need for offline use. You can do this through Google Maps by finding a location, clicking the three dots in the top right corner, and clicking “Download Offline Maps.” Then, you’ll select an area that you want to download maps for – make sure you download maps for any + all roads you may need to drive on, and any routes to nearby gas stations, restaurants, rest stops, etc!

Be sure to also download trail maps if you’ll be going on any trails, to ensure you have trail instructions in case you don’t have service or can’t figure out where trail signs are directing you. You can download offline trail maps & info through the AllTrails app!

9. Create + download a Spotify playlist for the drive

While we’re on the topic of downloading things for offline use in case you’re, you know, out in the middle of the mountains with zero cell service, don’t forget about music! Create + download a road trip Spotify playlist to listen to on the drive to/between your elopement locations so you can have some great jams playin’ while you head to your destination. 

10. Include room in your timeline for unexpected delays

No matter how well you plan out your elopement, something will go wrong – it’s inevitable! Somebody will be late, the weather won’t cooperate, a trail will be closed. Orrrr all of the above. But you just gotta roll with the punches, and that’s why it’s super important to include plenty of room in your elopement timeline for unexpected delays.

You never know what could happen, and the last thing we want is for you to plan a super tightly-packed, strict timeline with zero room for error – then when something goes wrong, you panic and the day becomes a mess! 

When you’re planning your timeline, leave plenty of room to be flexible right from the get go. That way, you’ll be prepared and nothing can stop you from having the best day, even if something goes “wrong” that you couldn’t plan for in advance!

11. Make multiple backup plans

On that note, it’s crucial to make a backup plan – in fact, make a couple of backup plans, if you can! Especially if you’ll be eloping in the great outdoors with little to no cell service, unpredictable weather conditions, and potential road or trail closures. Have backup routes, trails, and locations in place ahead of time so that you can adapt to any circumstance that may come up on the big day!

12. Get up early

We can’t recommend eloping at sunrise enough – especially if you’re eloping somewhere fairly tourist-y, and want to avoid crowds. Most tourists visit national & state parks during the day or at sunset, especially the more popular spots that are easy to access. So if you want to avoid crowds (and have an incredible start to your day), get up early and say your vows at sunrise – it’s a truly magical experience watching the sun come up, too!

13. Elope on a weekday

Another great way to avoid major crowds is to elope on a weekday! Have your ceremony on a weekday instead of a weekend, at sunrise, at a lesser-known or more secluded spot, and you’ll be set.

14. Plan out your meals according to what you enjoy

Food is one of the most fun parts of planning your elopement, and is so underrated, in our opinion – you can do whatever the hell you want, especially if you won’t be feeding any guests (or at least, not 200 guests like you would be at a traditional wedding)! Plan out your meals, snacks, desserts, & drinks to fit what you both will actually enjoy eating. 

Make it super fancy if that’s your vibe, have a lil’ private cocktail hour, or keep it casual – whatever floats your boat. Traditional weddings usually have, well, “meh” food. . . so why not level up your meal by, say, getting Dole whip after your Hawaii elopement or having a fun cocktail at a local pub after your ceremony in Telluride?

15. Incorporate an adventure (or two!) into your day

One surefire way to make sure your elopement is totally authentic to you & your partner, and that you’ll remember it forever, is to incorporate some sort of fun adventure into it! Brainstorm activities you love doing together, or that you’ve always wanted to do together (e.g. skydiving, horseback riding, dog sledding, etc.) and do itttt. Make sure it’s something neat to remember forever and that you both love to do; something that will add an amazing memory to your day!

16. Have a first look

Yes, you can totally have a first look at your elopement if you don’t want to wait to see each other until you meet at the altar! Or a fun alternative, if you want to spend as much time together as possible, is to actually get ready together instead of separately.

17. Have a first dance

And yes, you can also totally still have a first dance at your elopement. Bring a speaker, choose a song (or a few!), and find a romantic location for a private first dance. Ali + Phil chose to have their first dance to a John Legend song by the water,after their Telluride elopement, and it was so freaking special!

18. Write your own vows

Say byeee to old-fashioned vows that you repeat from your officiant, and hello to personalized vows that you write on your own! If you want to make your ceremony extra special and meaningful, take the time to each write your own vows to each other, rather than following the traditional “repeat-after-me” route.

19. Be intentional with your guest list

Decide if you really want your family & friends at your elopement, or if you just feel like they should be there because of the traditional expectations surrounding guest lists, or because of your own guilt. Be super intentional about who you invite if you do decide to have guests, and make sure you truly want them present & aren’t just inviting them out of pressure or obligation!

20. Include your pets

Finally, there are so many ways to include your pets in your elopement! The last of our elopement planning tips is that if your location allows pets, bring them along with ya. And if you can’t bring them or don’t want to, then you can bring a photo of them to carry around with you, have their paw print in your vow books or on your marriage certificate, or get a custom cake topper made of them. There are so many fun ways to include your four-legged BFF’s in your special day!

We hope that these 20 elopement planning tips help you to plan the best day of your lives in a way that feels authentic to you + that you’re over the moon excited about! Below, we’ve included some more elopement resources that you’ll love if you enjoyed this article, and if you’re on the hunt for a photo + video duo to tell the story of your big day, we’d be honored to be considered 😉

More Elopement Planning Tips & Resources You’ll Love:

60 Unique Elopement Ideas for Your Dream Elopement Day

How to Plan An Elopement in 2022-2023: The Ultimate Guide

10 Best Things to Do After Getting Engaged (And What Not to Do)