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5 Tips for a Stress-Free Elopement

Elopement in Shenandoah National Park

How to Make Sure Your Elopement is Stress-Free and the Best Day Ever

So you and your partner have decided to elope. Congrats! I am so excited for you! Elopements and micro-weddings over the past few years have reminded us what weddings are all about. Your wedding day should be about the love you share rather than the pomp and glam of a major party. (Hey no shade on large weddings–I love them, but they’re not for everyone!)

That being said, you may find yourself more uncertain planning an elopement. Perhaps you’re thinking, “It seems so simple, yet what details may I be missing?” Well let me help you out, friend. Here I’ve listed five tips for a stress-free elopement. I hope this helps you better think through your nuptial plans. And afterward, if you’re looking for a photographer, fill out my contact form here. I’d love to hear all about what you’re dreaming up for your day!

1. Plan for inclement weather…or embrace it

If you’re choosing to elope somewhere outdoors, such as a state or national park, you will need to be prepared for all kinds of weather: rain, snow, storms, even hail! I’ve seen it all when traveling. Most traditional wedding venues have an indoor backup, but you may not have this option in your elopement location. You will need to decide a few things in advance. If the weather is bad, do you change the location? Change the date? If it’s just a little drizzle, do you embrace the wetness and hold the ceremony anyway? This all may depend on what kind weather you’re experiencing and also safety. For example, some locations you must hike to are slippery and unsafe in heavy rain.

I also recommend researching the typical weather patterns for the location you want to elope before you commit to a day. You may be surprised to find out that Utah can still be pretty cold in April, or that Glacier Point doesn’t open in Yosemite until May. Obviously you can’t know the weather for sure on any given day, but a little research can save you some big headaches later on.

Bride and groom hold an umbrella in the rain

2. Make a Day of It!

When some couples think “elopement” they picture a quick little ceremony and a few portraits afterward–one to two hours tops. While you could keep it minimal, why not make a day of it? I mean it’s your wedding for crying out loud! Traditional weddings often involve a short ceremony too, but the difference is that they celebrate afterward with the large reception. You can totally celebrate on your elopement day in your own unique way!

Here are a few ideas to make your elopement a full-day celebration:

  • Pamper yourself while getting ready (mimosas in your AirBnB, cooking breakfast together)
  • Go on a hike together (to the ceremony spot, or afterward)
  • Have a picnic together
  • Cozy up by the fire at your AirBnB
  • Small party or dinner with friends or immediate family after the ceremony
  • Cut a small cake
  • Kayak, paddle boat, paddleboard on a lake
  • S’mores by a fire
  • Visit a local brewery or winery
  • Watch the sunset

Read about Rosemary & Matt’s Micro-Wedding at the Mast Farm Inn in Boone, NC

3. Check for Permits and Fees

Many national and state parks require permits and fees to host a legal wedding ceremony. You can usually call or go to a park’s website for the latest information. Whenever I work with a client, I check the location site to see if there are any required permits or fees. If you are working with a planner, they will typically do this too. However, it’s always a good idea to check for yourself.

Bryce Canyon National Park

4. Decide Where the Legal Ceremony Will Take Place

On the note of permits and fees, some locations only charge if the true legal marriage is happening there, or if there is any set-up involved (chairs, centerpiece, etc.) Some couples choose to get legally married beforehand and just travel to a location to exchange private vows and take portraits. Often this option does not require any permits, though it is always good to check!

I do want to point out that permit fees for elopements are typically much less expensive than a venue rental would be for a traditional wedding. The permit fees aren’t truly a barrier for most couples. If you cannot afford it yourself, try asking a family member to contribute towards the fee as their wedding gift to you.

Bride on Topsail Island, NC beach at sunrise

5. Don’t Feel Pressure to Invite Everyone

You may have friends and family members that question why you’re eloping. They may even express a bit of disappointment that they cannot attend. However, your marriage isn’t about them, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to invite anyone in particular. Some people choose to FaceTime or host a Facebook live so that other guests can view the ceremony, but even this isn’t necessary. You will find that many people will think that choosing to elope is awesome, but some won’t. That’s life. Even if you had a traditional wedding, there are still people who find something to nitpick about. Unfortunately you can’t please everyone. You need to choose something that will be special to you and your partner. That is what ultimately matters!

Shenandoah Elopement at sunrise

The Photographer Behind the Lens

I'm Megan, a wedding photographer based in Raleigh, NC who is obsessed with telling love stories through the art of photography. I'd love the chance to tell your unique love story, too!

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