How to Elope: Your Ultimate Checklist

Now that you have decided you want to elope for your big day, you’re wondering how to elope. The planning process can seem overwhelming at first since the possibilities are endless. Don’t worry though because that’s where I come in!

Planning for a traditional wedding is totally different from planning an elopement, so now you’re left wondering the steps you need to take to have the most stress-free and true-to-you elopement experience. This guide is here to help you in that process and arm you with all of the information I give to my eloping couples.

I’m holding nothing back here because I truly care about you. We are going to cover all of the steps for how to elope – no matter the vision you have. We’re going to cover it all. Are you ready to put your heart and mind at ease with clear, actionable steps? Keep reading!

BUT BEFORE WE START TALKING ABOUT HOW TO ELOPE…

You have to stop and dream.

Have a date night with your lover and dream up your most perfect wedding day. This is the stage in the planning process that logistics don’t matter – let yourself dream. Imagine where you envision saying your vows, the season, who is with you, the experience you want to have, any activities you want to do, the decorations you want surrounding you, and the overall feel you want for your day.

For over 20 elopement ideas and activities, check out this blog here: Elopement Ideas for your Elopement Timeline

So you’ve dreamt up your perfect day, and now you’re wondering what’s next… how do you actually put all of those visions into motion? Well, let me tell you how in 6 simple steps.

Man and woman embracing in a field next to the mountains on their elopement day.

HOW TO ELOPE: YOUR 6 STEP PLANNING CHECKLIST

After dreaming up your perfect day, now it’s time to start nailing down the details! Eloping is not always a linear process. Every situation and couple is unique, so some of these steps might come before the others for you. In general, this is a good step-by-step process on how to elope!

1. PICK YOUR DATE

You’ll want to think about seasons and weather when you first start deciding on a date. If you want a snowy wonderland for your day, then in most states you’ll want to choose a date in late fall, winter, or early spring. If you want luscious wildflowers and greenery then you are going to want a date in the late summer or early fall. This step can be done before or after choosing your location. However, many outdoor places do require a permit and you will need to have a date chosen to lock down the location. So keep that in mind!

Husband and wife sharing vows in Breckenridge, Colorado during their elopement.

2. CHOOSE A LOCATION

Think about places that mean something to you as a couple. Did you first say “I love you” in Rocky Mountain National Park? Consider having a mountain elopement. Was your first vacation in Hawaii? Head to the islands for your elopement! Your location doesn’t HAVE to have a special significance to you as a couple though. Eloping is unique in that you can do whatever your heart desires as a couple and you don’t have to justify it to anyone. Are you just dreaming of romantic, whimsical photos in the forests of Oregon? I would be too! Finding the perfect location and narrowing down your options can be really hard. If you are open to many places or you’re just simply unsure, a huge step in my elopement planning is helping you find your dream spot for your ceremony, portraits, and more. I love finding the secret, hidden gems around the world so don’t hesitate to reach out and start planning your elopement with me!

Man and woman eloping in the great sand dunes of Colorado

3. HIRE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER AND OTHER VENDORS

I may be a little biased, but this is one of the most important steps of your planning checklist. You want to find a photographer and wedding vendors that match your vibe as a couple and are going to capture your love and story in every little moment of the day. Many times couples are choosing a destination for their elopement, so it’s hard to know where to find vendors that are trustworthy. When we work together, I will give you all of my vendor recommendations no matter where you want your elopement to be.

If you want to start finding the best-of-the-best, you can check out Rocky Mountain Bride and Wandering Weddings. You are going to be spending one of the most precious days of your life with your elopement vendors. Don’t feel rushed during this step – take your time, do your research, and find the perfect fit.

Man and woman sharing embrace after their elopement in Glacier National Park, Montana.

4. PLAN OUT THE DETAILS

This is one of the biggest steps in the process. This is when you’ll be determining the logistics and all of the details that mean the most to you. In this step, you’ll figure out how to make your dreams a reality! What time of day do you want your ceremony? Who do you want to invite? How will you be staying in your chosen location? When are you wanting to fly in? What outfits are you and your lover wearing? Do you want to do any activities on the day of? When do you need to snag your marriage license? While no detail is too small, don’t fret about the small stuff.

Gorgeous arch in the woods for a small elopement.

5. CRAFT YOUR TIMELINE

Outdoor elopements are a little unique in that you aren’t going to have a strict timeline down to the minute, but having an outline of how you want the day to flow is essential. Lean on your elopement photographer and planner to help you plan out the flow of the day in order to capture the details that are most important to you. You won’t have a camera pointed in your face for the entire day, so lastly, one of the biggest things I recommend would be to factor in some time to just take in the moments as they come.

Couple gazing into each others eyes after eloping in the mountains

6. HAVE THE BEST ELOPEMENT EVER

Last but not least, have the best day ever! I always recommend to my couples having a plan B, because you never know what you’re going to get when it comes to being outdoors.

Couple walking through wild flowers after their elopement.

At the end of the day, your elopement should be all about you two as a couple. Plan your elopement in a way that feels true to you. Now that you know more about how to elope, I hope this 6 step checklist helps put your mind at ease to know where to start when planning your elopement. Once you reach step 3 and are looking for a photographer, I would be honored to talk with you about your love and your elopement!

Learn more about the elopement packages I offer and inquire to see if we would be a good fit!

xx, Claire

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  1. Terri says:

    Beaaaaautiful! Great things to think about…

  2. Stacy says:

    Such an important resource for couples looking to plan their elopement and I love how simple it is to follow along. I also love the images so much!

  3. Karen Agurto says:

    What an important guide as I’m just starting to plan my own intimate wedding!!

  4. Ann Marie says:

    Love this setup and that you included them dreaming big for those wonderful ideas that can come when a couple let’s themselves really go for it and make it truly them!! (Which are some of the most amazing days ever!) Beautiful photos and wonderful information – love it!

  5. This is a great guide for couples to follow! Choosing a location can take some time because there are so many amazing locations around the US and around the world.

  6. I love that you started off general in the process and progressively got granular. Selecting vendors in a location that’s different from where you’re getting married can lead to tricky situations.

    Great post!

  7. Kate Hampson says:

    Such a helpful post! Also i’m drooling over your images