This is a doozy guys. How to plan your dream elopement is probably the hardest thing to find resources on. However, unlike a wedding planning experience, there is no standard, one-size-fits-all checklist, no cut and dry way to do things. Otherwise all elopements would generally look the same right? And where’s the fun in that?!
What you can do, when figuring out how to plan your elopement, is refer to this list, that acts as a loose checklist, a skeleton, if you will, for all things elopement planning. This guide should help those tough questions nagging you, and those “where do I go from here” moments.
Choosing your Location
How to plan your dream elopement has to start with your dream location. Your location is a big question. When you’re not worrying about traditional venues, and who can travel and how to stay on budget, the world is literally at your disposal! So, break it down, one step at a time.
- First, decide if you want to stay domestic, or go abroad. Click here for a full list of our favorite elopement locations around the world.
- Second, start narrowing it down based on the country or state you choose. Click here for a full list of our favorite elopement spots in Washington.
- Do some research on that area, and find out what strikes you the most as YOUR spot.
- Find out the accessibility of your location. THIS is really important. Once you find your spot, you have to know how accessible that place is. Will it be a hike? Will it be open/hard to get to, depending on the time of year I chose? How close is the nearest town for lodging? For Washington State we find that in a lot of cases, even if the town is close by, it could still be an hour drive just to the trailhead.
- Have a back-up location nearby. And then just go with it! Elopements aren’t on a strict timeline like a wedding is. You can be slightly flexible. Sometimes the weather really affects the location you chose, and you need to revert to plan b. Shift into your adventure mind-set to avoid any stress of potential plan changes!
How Long will my elopement be?
This is the most common question, and the most common misconception about elopements. Most people who are beginning their planning think an elopement is just a quick ceremony, a few pictures, and just like that, it’s over. WRONG! You guys, your elopement is your WEDDING DAY! And it should be treated as such. A couple hours just doesn’t cut it. For years to come you’re going to want to remember what you did that day. How you made that day special.
So your next question is probably: what do I do with an eight hour elopement day? Well, like we said before, this is your wedding day, and therefore you should treat it like it is. So we try to encourage our couples to plan out their dream day from beginning to end.
A hiking elopement usually takes up the majority of the day, as do most hikes with rewarding views. Allotting for hiking time, and driving time is important. Your ceremony may be short, however, if you’re adventuring somewhere beautiful, you want to maximize your time by spending more time on your portraits. You may want some getting ready photos, or some photos of a champagne pop, or your celebratory dinner after. Your day should be captured, from beginning to end.
Here are a few examples of an elopement day timeline:
Full Day Elopement Coverage
2:30 AM: Meet up at trailhead and begin hike up
5:00 AM: Arrive at ceremony location and begin getting ready
5:30 AM: Ceremony begins
6 AM: Celebrate ceremony, sign license, photos with guests, and pop some champagne!
6:15 AM: Portraits at elopement spot and surrounding areas
7:45 AM: Begin hiking down. Taking hiking photos along the way
10:15 AM: Arrive back at trailhead, head back to vacation house to clean up
11:30 AM: Head to post-elopement brunch with guests.
1-3 PM: Back to vacation house for cake cutting, and post-elopement celebration!
Four Hour Elopement Day Coverage
5:00: Photographer arrives at vacation house to start getting ready photos
6:30: Arrive at Gold Creek Pond
6:45/7: Gold Creek Pond ceremony begins
7:30: Woohoo!! We’re married! Sign the marriage license and photos with guests
7:45: Guests make their way back to vacation house. Bride and Groom stay for sunset portraits
9 PM: Last light and head back to vacation house
Who do I invite to my elopement day?
This question has a pretty cut and dry answer… whoever YOU want. It’s really important to keep your elopement as authentic and “you-centered” as possible, and that means majorly cutting down your guest list.
Sit down with you partner and talk about your vision for your day. Who do you see? Some couples stick to just the two of them, an officiant and their photographer. Some couples bring along immediate family or close friends.
Keep in mind when planning an adventure elopement, that considering who is capable of the adventure elements is really important. If some older family members want to come along but can’t make the hike, then you can get creative.
Here are some ways to get creative with your guest list:
- Get married at your amazing Airbnb and do your adventure hike for portraits
- Get married at the courthouse another time, where your relatives can be there, and then do an adventure elopement “vow reading”.
- Plan your adventure elopement without your guests, and have a celebratory reception at another time.
- Have your adventure elopement, then have family and friends meet you at your favorite brewery/winery/Italian restaurant after for cake cutting and celebrating.
What do I add to my elopement day?
When you plan your dream elopement, in stead of waking up, and having a normal day up until your elopement, why not add some adventure elements? Get creative, and plan the day that YOU want to have. If you’re doing a sunset elopement, maybe go out to a nice brunch, and visit a farmers market to find your bouquet? If you’re an adrenaline junkie, maybe add in a helicopter ride, or ATV tour.
Here are some ideas:
- Brunch at your favorite spot or a new spot
- Pick out your own bouquet at a farmers market
- ATV or Jeep tour to your elopement spot
- helicopter ride to your elopement spot
- Sunrise/Sunset picnic at your vacation house
Where do I stay for my elopement?
Today there are so many creative options for lodging while traveling. Some people plan their trips around unique lodging around the world! Feel free to get creative when you plan your dream elopement with an amazing place to stay.
Hotels are great! We love ourselves a great hotel experience. However, maybe an Airbnb experience is closer to your vision, a chance to spread out. Decide if you want everyone to stay together, or if you want your own place. Remember to look up directions from nearby towns to your elopement spot, to make sure that it is a reasonable driving distance.
Here are some of our favorite lodging options in Washington!
Kalaloch Lodge (Olympic National Park/ Washington Coast)
Olympic Lodge (Olympic National Park/ Forks)
Sun Mountain Lodge (North Cascades National Park/ Winthrop)
Salish Lodge (Snoqulamie Pass)
Paradise Lodge (Mount Rainier)
This Beautiful Airbnb in Port Angeles right next to Hurricane ridge!
This A-Frame cabin right by Mount Rainier National Park!
This adorable cabin by North Cascades National Park
This beautiful house in Snoqualmie Pass
Heart O’ The Hills Campground offers access to Hurricane Ridge. How fun would a camping elopement be?!
Glamping by the Columbia River Gorge
A glamping experience in Monroe
This amazing tent in Leavenworth
This glamping spot on Whidbey Island
This Treehouse wedding venue
This Farm stay by the North Cascades
Ross Lake Floating Cabins