Image by Sammie Chaffin

You're ready to create the ultimate experience. Now the question is...how?

HOW TO ELOPE

An Elopement is when the reeled in on a couple's story, to fully focus on what is true to their relationship. Elopements are intentionally small and intimate so a true authentic experience can be created. This no longer means running off to Vegas ( unless you want to). It's not some cliché thing. Elopements are by far one of the most beautiful ways two people can celebrate their love for one another. 

colorado elopement photograper travels to medora for an elopement.jpg

One of the best things about elopements, is that there are no rules. You get to do what you want, when you want and how you want. While that seems absolutely amazing, that can also open up a lot of questions. How exactly does one even go about creating an experience like that? No need to worry, I got you covered. First let's go over some commonly asked questions about elopements:

HOW TO ELOPE

Q & A

Can we invite guests?

First and foremost, this is your wedding day. Your magical day, in which you get decide who comes and who doesn't. Typically the elopements I cover, do not have more than 20 guests, but there is no firm rule. Remember this is your day. Whether you want it to be just the two of you or have your closest friends and family. 

How does the ceremony work?

However you want it to! That's the beauty of elopements; there are no rules. Walk down an aisle or don't. Be spontaneous! Say your vows when you feel called to because the location seemed right. Create a new tradition. However you both want to express your love and commitment for each other is what we will do. 

Is Eloping Legal?

Yes absolutely. Just because it is not a traditional wedding, doesn't mean it is not a legal marriage. The important thing to keep in mind, is that for it to be legal, you do have to follow the rules and guidelines of the county and state that you are getting married in. 

Now let's be clear on something. Your elopement day, the day you both express your vows to one another, does not have to be the day you complete all the legal paper work. In fact, many couples that elope save that for another day, so they can marry by their own terms, the way they want to. 

FACT: YOUR WEDDING DAY IS THE DAY YOU CHOOSE TO SAY YOUR VOWS AND COMMIT YOUR LIVES TO EACH OTHER – THE GOVERNMENT DOESN’T GET TO CHOOSE THAT.

 

The paperwork, the license, the officiants, the witnesses—all of that can come later (or before) your unique, intentional ceremony.

Do we need an officiant?

That really comes down to two things; if you want one and your local laws. Just keep in mind this; the day you marry does not have to be the same day you legally marry. One is just paperwork, the other is a deeper commitment. 

Not all states are the same, so it will really be up to your local state's laws. Some states will require you to have an officiant in order to be considered legally married. Other states require a person appointed by the court, like a judge. A few states will allow you to self-solemnize (my personal favorite and will touch on more in a minute).

Now the idea of bringing on another person, especially one they do not know, can be uncomfortable to some couples. This is why I am fully ordained. I can help with this process and be involved as little or much as you prefer. 

What is self-solemnization? 

A self solemnized ceremony is when a couple marries each other. It's this incredible law that recognizes these type of ceremonies as legal. It basically gives you and your partner the power to marry each other. Pretty awesome right?

Unfortunately only a few states recognize this law. 

Colorado

Wisconson

Pennsylvania 

Washington D.C.

You will still have to file your marriage license with the state but you get to sign it as your own officiants! 

HOW TO ELOPE

An Elopement Planning Checklist

1.

Pick a Date

If you're not ready to fully nail down an exact date, that's ok. It's mostly important to know what time of year you are wanting to get married in. The time of year will really impact the location for your elopement. 

2.

Choose a Location

Once you know the time of year you want to get married in, we can really start exploring locations. If you are wanting snow, then there are going to be locations better suited for that. The same goes for it you are wanting warm summer weather or rich fall colors. 

You can find more information on locations in my guide for finding the best elopement locations. 

3.

Hire a Photographer

When it comes to elopements, not very many vendors are needed. Typically photographers are one of the few if only vendor needed for an elopement. The sooner you book a photographer the better. 

If you don't have an exact date in mind, this makes booking so much easier. There's more flexibility to match up schedules. If you have your heart set on a particular date, that's okay too, just make sure to book a photographer sooner than later. 

4.

Contact Vendors

Now there's nothing saying you need to have all the vendors typically used with weddings. Flowers aren't your thing? No worries. Not feeling the cake scene? No problem either. 

If you do feel like you would want some vendors, the best time to contact them is after you have an official date and location set. If you are traveling for an elopement, local vendors will be the best option. Don't worry if you don't know who to contact or where to even start. All of my elopement packages come with elopement planning guidance. You can find out more about that here

Image by zelle duda

5.

Get to Know the Local Laws

Many couples choose to elope in national and state parks. These are of course cheaper than a wedding venue, but keep in mind that they are not free. Many parks require permits. Not to worry though, I will guide you through all of that. 

Another thing to consider is if you want to be legally married on your wedding day. If you do, then you will need to ensure that the timing for all paperwork is done accordingly. 

Denver elopement photographer captures intimate moment between couple.jpg

6.

Plan Your Attire 

There are no rules for elopement attire. Whatever you are most comfortable in, be it a dress, suit, romper, hiking outfit. Get fun and creative! 

Some couples purchase all of their attire, some rent. If you would like to rent a dress, there are many great vendors that specialize in elopement attire. 

7.

All the Details

This is always a fun step. It's time to make this process even more personalized. What items speak your truth? What would you like to be included on your special day? 

Things to think about would be jewelry, shoes, letters, notes from families and friends. 

8.

Have a Backup Plan

We always hope for the best but no one can control nature. Sometimes the weather just gets in the way. It's important to have a backup plan that you would still feel good about. 

Bringing an umbrella or even shouting "I freaking love you" in the pouring rain are still options! As we plan we can discuss back up plan options. If you would like to read more about outdoor ceremonies, you can find some tips and tricks here.

HOW DOES ELOPING WITH YOU WORK?

First and foremost, I am your elopement photographer & guide. For this entire experience to be truly authentic you deserve the best. That means having someone more than just showing up and taking some pictures. I am here to guide every step of the way and be one of your biggest cheerleaders. 

Here is a little preview of my Elopement Planning Guide: 

Phase 1: Dream

All the best plans come from random brain storming. Take a few moments each day and write down anything and everything to comes to mind. Don't worry if it's practical or not. When all the random thoughts and ideas are compiled, we then will be able to pull out consistent themes and details. 

One tip I give my couples is to imagine a day when you two could do absolutely anything. Where would it be? What would you do? What sounds, tastes and smells come to mind?

Phase 2: Research

Now that you have a general idea of what you want for your elopement, it's now time to gather all the information needed so we can determine what's possible and what's not. 

The main goal is create your vision as best as possible. The best things to go for are things that will make this as relaxed as possible. During this phase so important questions to answer are: 

How accessible is your location? What steps will be involved in reaching the location (i.e. 4x4 vehicle, hiking gear, etc)? Will any permits be needed?

What will the weather be like that time of year? What items will you need to prepare?

What activities would you like to do?

What are the local marriage laws?

If this phase seems overwhelming, don't worry. As an elopement photographer & guide, this is typically the phase I help with the most. 

Phase 3: Start Booking

Your vision is becoming a reality! You now have a more clear idea of what is important to you and the research to make it happen. Yes! Now it's time to start booking so things starting falling in place. Don't stress out on having every single detail planned. There's still time for that. Let's focus on the main points. 

If you haven't already, make that date and location official. Then book any needed vendors, lodging and travel details (passports, plane tickets, etc). Now take a week or so off and just celebrate this season of life! 

Phase 4: Finalize Details

It's the final count down and things are starting to get really exciting! Here are a few key things that happen during this phase:

Gather all attire & accessories needed

Plan any fun activities for your elopement day/weekend

Build your timeline

Plan your ceremony

Phase 5: It's your elopement day!

Congratulations you made! All your hard work has been worth it. Now all that's left is for you to enjoy this incredible day. 

CONGRATULATIONS!

You now know how to elope. Now it's time to plan your ultimate elopement experience. 

I shared a lot of information on here. Take some time to let it all sink in. When you're ready, contact me so we can begin planning! 

Elopements are such an incredible gift. Be proud for putting your relationship first. You deserve this! 

Image by Jakob Owens