Elopement Checklist for Your Adventure Wedding This Year
Deciding to elope doesn’t necessarily have to mean going to the courthouse. This elopement checklist is for you if you’re planning to elope at a national park or another one of our favorite elopement destinations. Luckily for you, we’ll keep things simple and straight to the point, including some important logistics and questions you and your partner should consider as you plan your elopement together.
Easy Elopement Checklist:
Our stress-free checklist will help you make sure you have everything you need. Use the link below to jump to the section you’re interested in learning more about.
- Decide Your Budget
- Pick a Destination
- Decide When You’re Going to Elope
- Choose Your Vendors
- Are You Bringing Any Family/Friends?
- Double Check Your Location’s Permits & LNT Guidelines
- Arrange For Travel and Accommodations
- Apply For Your Marriage License
- Plan Your Ceremony
- Decide What You’re Going to Wear
- Plan on What to Pack
- Plan a Post Elopement Party
- Announce Your Elopement
Decide Your Budget
A lot of the couples we feature on our blog decided to elope for the cost of it. You can save a lot of money if you decide to elope because it’s more affordable than planning a big, traditional wedding with 150+ people. You can, of course, plan an extravagant elopement too. We have seen couples spend $15,000+ based on their elopement destination, attire, activities, and decorations.
Here are some top questions to consider for your elopement budget:
- Are you going to elope within the US or outside of the state? Some couples decide to elope out of state and combine their wedding adventure and honeymoon together.
- Are you thinking about including multiple elopement vendors? A lot of couples invest in a photographer/videographer and then DIY a lot of other details.
- Will you be inviting any guests?
- What does your vision look like? Consider what you envision your elopement to look like and account for these additional costs.
Pick a Destination
Where are you planning to say “I do”? Think about locations that either hold a special meaning to you both or places on your bucket list you have been meaning to visit. Now is the perfect time to scratch that location off on one of the most memorable days of your life.
Here are some questions to consider when picking an elopement location:
- How popular is your dream elopement destination? Depending on how popular your location is will determine how far in advance you should prepare for travel, accommodations, and other reservations like permits and city hall appointments.
- Are you planning a full-day elopement, half-day, or multi-day adventure at this elopement location?
- Are you planning a commitment ceremony or having a legit wedding ceremony? If you’re planning a wedding ceremony, then make sure you go over the location’s marriage license rules and application process.
Decide When You’re Going to Elope
The beauty of elopements is you can literally elope anytime you want, especially if you’re planning an elopement just the two of you.
Here are some questions you should consider before deciding when to elope:
- What is your ideal weather for your wedding day? Even though mother nature is unpredictable, having an idea of the weather you are comfortable with will help you decide what season to plan your adventure together, along with the activities that you can do during that season.
- Do you want a sunrise or sunset elopement? For a lot of locations, planning a sunrise or sunset adventure can help reduce the crowds, especially if you pick a date that is part of your destination’s busy season.
- Are you OK with eloping during the week? Weekday elopements are by far less crowded.
- Are you OK with your location potentially changing? If you’re planning your wedding anywhere outdoors, especially on a mountain or somewhere in a national park, then you have to be prepared for your location to potentially change. We have seen couples who had to go to their plan b or c because of fires, winds, rain, and road closures…
Choose Your Vendors
We recommend investing in elopement vendors who have experience in the location you want to elope to, especially photographers and videographers.
Here are some questions to consider before choosing your vendors:
- Do they have hourly or elopement package prices?
- Are you able to see some example galleries of elopements in the general area you’re interested in?
- Do they have any experience documenting the type of adventure you want to go on?
Other vendors to consider:
- Wedding planners
- Makeup/Hair Artist
Are You Bringing Any Family/Friends?
Just because you’re eloping, does not mean you NEED to elope just the two of you. In fact, think about eloping as a way of getting married the way you want to, in a much more intimate way. We have seen couples include just their immediate family and we have even seen couples elope with their best friends or just their pets.
Here are some questions to think about when it comes to bringing family/friends:
- Can everyone physically get to your ceremony location? Some family or friends (even pets) may have some restrictions when it comes to getting to more adventurous locations.
- Are your guests going to spend the whole adventure with you? If some of your guests do have an issue with accessibility, then you can always pick a more accessible location for your ceremony and go on an adventure before or after the ceremony! You can also plan a multi-day adventure.
Double Check Your Location’s Permits & LNT Guidelines
LNT and permits are huge when it comes to planning an adventure wedding, especially at a National Park. We recommend making sure the vendors you have selected are well-versed in all the permits and regulations that you need at your elopement location.
Here are some questions to consider when planning your elopement:
- What are the restrictions on floral arrangements at my desired location?
- Are there any restrictions on arches, structures, or other decor at my elopement location?
- Am I allowed to bring my dog with me?
- Is there a limit on the number of guests I can bring with me to this ceremony location?
- Am I allowed to elope just anywhere in the area, or am I restricted to certain areas?
- How far in advance do I need to apply for my permit?
- Do I need a permit if I just want to take wedding portraits and not have a ceremony?
We have plenty of information for most national parks when it comes to permits and regulations, but keep in mind these can change at any time. Please make sure to follow up with the destination’s website for the most up-to-date permit information.
Arrange For Travel and Accommodations
Once you have decided where you want to elope, then you have to plan the logistics of your travel and accommodations. This can be as simple or as complicated as you want. The more people you invite to your elopement adventure, then the more you need to consider, especially if you want everyone close to each other.
Here are some questions to consider for your travel and accommodation:
- Are you going to book an Airbnb/rental property or a more standard hotel/resort?
- If you are inviting guests to your adventure, do you want them to stay with you or near you?
- How far is your elopement ceremony location from your accommodation?
- Do you need a rental vehicle to drive around?
Apply For Your Marriage License
The requirements and regulations surrounding your marriage license application really depend on the city, state, and country you have decided to plan your wedding adventure. The good news is you can always plan a commitment ceremony instead and do all the legal paperwork before your adventure begins.
If you do decide to apply for your marriage license where you’re eloping, then consider these questions:
- Do you need an appointment for your marriage license?
- Is there a waiting period? Some states require up to a week between when you file for a license, and in other states, you can get married right away.
- Do you need witnesses? Most states do require witnesses, but some states have different requirements. We have seen couples use pawprints as witness signatures!
- Do you need an officiant? Most states do require an officiant, but in some states, you can actually self-solemnize, which means you can marry yourselves!
- What other legal requirements are needed? Most states in the US are straightforward, but this gets to be an important question to ask when you’re planning an out-of-state marriage.
Plan Your Ceremony
When it comes to your elopement ceremony, you can really do whatever you want. Just because you’re not planning a traditional wedding, does not mean you can’t include traditions that are special to you and your partner. We love it when couples incorporate their culture and traditions into their ceremony. You can give it a twist of you own.
Here are some things to consider when planning your ceremony:
- Do you want to include a symbolic ceremony feature such as a hand-fasting ceremony?
- Are you writing your own vows?
- Are you going to incorporate your culture/family traditions in any way?
- If you have family/friends joining, do you want them to say a couple of words before the ceremony ends?
- Is there anything unique and personal you want to include during your ceremony?
Decide What You’re Going to Wear
Once you have all that information checked off your elopement list, then you’ll want to pick your wedding attire. From flowy elopement dresses to more casual short wedding dresses. You can wear whatever you want on your wedding day.
Here are some questions to think about when it comes to your wedding attire:
- Do you want to wear white or stay traditional? You can wear any color wedding dress you want, so don’t feel like you NEED to wear white.
- Do you want to have multiple outfit changes? Some couples bring their more traditional wedding outfits packed with them and adventure in more comfortable hiking gear.
- Are you going to rent, buy, or buy used? There are still some companies that will rent a wedding dress to you. You can also look on websites for used wedding dress options to save a little bit more money.
Plan on What to Pack
One of the most important things on your checklist is to deciding on what you need to pack for your wedding day adventure. This is especially important if you’re planning a longer hike. We recommend teaming up with your elopement vendor to make sure you have everything you need before your big day.
Here are some things to consider when planning what to pack:
- Do you need to pack extra clothes?
- How are you getting ready? Some couples just get changed out in the open, use a nearby bathroom, or RV, or even bring a small popup tent!
- Do you have enough water and food packed? Make sure to ask about any restrictions when it comes to specific snacks you’re packing.
- Are you packing any layers if you’re eloping during the colder months? The mountains can even get a little chilly during summer evenings. Packing layers is important and even a small umbrella or rain jacket in case it rains.
- Do you need any bear spray, bug spray, or emergency kit? Some couples will need to bring lanterns, flashlights, or headlights if planning a sunrise or sunset adventure. Having an emergency kit is always recommended, but ask your photographer to double-check what you really need.
- Cell service is not very reliable, how are you communicating and getting around? Bringing a map or having a plan B with your elopement photographer is key to not getting lost and staying safe.
- Are you bringing comfortable shoes? This is especially important if you’re hiking. Wearing hiking shoes under your wedding dress is actually one of our favorite looks!
Plan a Post Elopement Party
So you’re elopement is 90% planned. Are you going to plan a post elopement party? You can plan this party right after your adventure or at a different date, but this is a great way to invite more people to make them feel like they are part of the adventure.
Here are some things to consider for your post elopement party:
- Are you going to keep things casual or fancy?
- Will you plan this party at an actual venue or at home?
- What type of food do you want to have?
- Do you want your photographer to have some photos/footage ready prior to your party? Communicate this with them!
Announce Your Elopement
It’s time to announce your elopement! If you’re not planning on having a party, then you can always send out elopement announcements, so your family and friends can join in on celebrating your new marriage.
- Will you add a registry? Create a cash gift wedding registry today for your future adventures!