Staying organized is important when planning your elopement. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the details for a big event, but it doesn't have to be! With an elopement checklist, you'll have everything you need at your fingertips and will be able to plan more efficiently. In this blog post, I'm going to go through what items are included in an elopement checklist so that you can feel prepared to plan your day without stress. Because NOBODY wants stress on their wedding day!
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to planning your elopement is that it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Include all the details and activities for your elopement or keep it simple! Either way, I made the perfect elopement planning checklist just for couples like YOU.
If you still aren't sure if eloping is for you, check out the 10 most common reasons couples elope blog. There are a ton of different reasons couples choose to elope. You don't need any other reason than because you want to. That is 100% valid. But if some of these other reasons resonate with you that it might make you feel better about your decision! You can also hear me talk about this a lot on my instagram as well as on IGTV.
THE BEST ELOPEMENT CHECKLIST
Table of Contents
- Why you should trust me
- Using the checklist
- Logistics of planning your elopement
- Creating a budget
- Decide where you want to elope
- Latourell Falls in the Columbia River Gorge
- Neskowin Ghost Beach
- God's Thumb in Lincoln City, Oregon
- Sand Dunes Adventure Elopement
- Cape Kiwanda Oregon Coast
- El Dorado Canyon
- Blue Pool Oregon Adventure Elopement
- Baker Beach in San Francisco
- Book your travel
- Select your outfits
- Marriage license
- Elopement details
- Personal Touches
- What to do after your elopement
- Download the checklist
- Free elopement planning resources
Why should you trust me?
Because I’ve been there. I know exactly what it’s like to get engaged and think you have to have this huge wedding but not want to. I know what it feels like to slowly remove people from your guest list and decide you don’t want to do that garter toss or dollar dance.
After planning my own intimate wedding and photographing so many adoring couples, I’ve seen it all. It gets easier after the first big decision. And if you’re confident about eloping, everyone else will be too. I hope that these blog posts can make you feel confident in your decision to elope. Let you know that you are NOT alone. I'm always here for you if you ever need to vent or chat!
Using the Elopement Planning Checklist
This elopement checklist will act as your one-stop shop for everything you need to plan the big day! It's a great way to organize yourself! If you just need a refresher, read through these tips and use them as needed. If you need something a little more in-depth, download the elopement checklist and check off each item as you complete it! And because we're extra fancy over here, you can even pin the checklist directly to your elopement board on Pinterest! Come back to it later or send it to other engaged friends! Perty neat.
My ultimate elopement checklist even guides through what you should do AFTER you've signed your marriage license. Just because you're officially hitched doesn't mean everything is done. Whether you choose to formally send out an elopement announcement or host a bigger party later, this checklist will help. Use the whole thing or only the bits you need. Either way, it will help you stay cool, calm, and collected throughout the process.
How to plan the perfect elopement: THE LOGISTICS
Like with anything amazing, it takes some work to get there. You'll want to sit down with your partner and discuss what you both would love for your elopement day. From there, chat about the budget. Figure out the activities and details that are the MOST important to you and craft your budget around that! Trust me, starting with the most important things will help you realize all those others you don't need and aren't really important to you. It's amazing how quickly you stop caring about napkin colors when you start planning the moments you care about most.
The perfect elopement comes down to two things.
- What is you and your partner's dream for your day?
- What is your budget?
Seriously, that's it. Staying true to your dream for your adventure elopement is how you create the PERFECT elopement. Your elopement day doesn't have to look like anyone else's elopement day. You don't even have to take into consideration your friends and family if you don't want to! Though, I have found my couple's family and friends to be much more accepting and excited about their elopements than they originally expected! I'll talk about it a bit later in this blog, but if you want to have an intimate elopement with just the two of you and celebrate with your family later, you totally can.
CREATING AN ELOPEMENT BUDGET
Just because you create a budget doesn't mean it has to look like anyone else's. The goal of the budget is just to help you stay on track with planning your elopement. It will remind you to keep those special things in mind instead of getting bogged down with the little things. Heck, you'll probably even find new stuff along the way of planning!
Your budget needs will depend heavily on what you plan to do. Any travel you want to include for your wedding will increase your budget a lot more than if you plan to say in your home town. It's okay to decide on a certain budget at the beginning of planning and then tweak it along the way. I don't recommend nickel and diming every single purchase. However, it's also really important to remember those tiny things do add up. Bobby pins, boob tape, socks, mascara, etc. are all things you might need for your day but may not think about as part of your budget.
The elopement planning checklist will help you stay organized while planning your big day, but it's more important to make sure you're following the guidelines that are most important to YOU. With a little organization and preparation on your part, eloping can be the best decision you've ever made.
Head over to this blog for a complete breakdown of elopement costs and how they compare to traditional weddings. Then you can use the elopement calculator to estimate how much your elopement will be!
Some questions to ask yourself to get the ball rolling:
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO ELOPE?
This can be as general or specific as you want. For example, maybe you just know you want to stay on the west coast. Or perhaps you know you definitely want to elope in Oregon. (Which, I totally recommend. You can check out my Oregon elopement packages here). You'll also want to start thinking about what kind of scenery you would like. Mountains, rivers, forests, waterfalls, cityscapes, etc are all options. As an elopement photographer, I usually help my couples decide what would be best for them. Most of my couples have an idea of what they want but nothing specific. It can be hard to find those hidden secrets if you aren't local, which is where I come in!
Check out these amazing elopement locations to get your ideas flowing:
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
Do you want a super chill day or would you rather have an adventurous trip? Are you going to have breakfast together or visit a local coffee shop? Climb a mountain or sit under a waterfall? Discussing the activities you might want to do is a great start and will help you see what you might need to budget for. My favorite tip for this is to imagine you were both celebrating your birthdays on the same day. You wanted to do everything you loved on this single day. What would that be?
IS THERE A TIME OF YEAR YOU LIKE BEST?
Once you book your photographer, they will be able to help you decide which season is best for the location you pick. The season can really change how you'll experience your day! The PNW can feel completely different in the summer versus the winter. You'll want to be able to plan accordingly.
DO YOU WANT GUESTS OR NAH?
Having an elopement doesn't mean you CAN'T invite anybody along- you totally CAN! The number is completely up to you. Generally speaking, an elopement has 10 or less people. Anything more than that is really more of a small or intimate wedding. If you don't want any guests at all and would rather it just be the two of you, that's okay too! Sometimes, those are the most romantic weddings I photograph.
HIRE AN ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER
Your elopement photographer is going to be your best friend when it comes to planning your wedding day. We have all the experience, local knowledge, and tips to help you have the best day that you can. Most of my couples reach out to me when they've started thinking about eloping but don't really know what else to do. Eloping is still such a new concept in the wedding industry that sometimes you just need that extra little help. I love helping couples make their visions come to life. You really can have the day exactly how you want it to be!
Once you hire your elopement photographer, aka your planning guru, support, and friend, you'll be able to really plan out the details. One of the main things I help my couples with is their location scouting. Finding the perfect place to say your vows is a passion of mine. I know this place is going to be special to you for the rest of your life. I don't take that responsibility lightly!
THE NEXT STEPS
BOOKING TRAVEL FOR YOUR ELOPEMENT
Travel is often one of the biggest cost factors (and stressors) of planning an elopement. Of course, it really depends on how far you're going from home but I never recommend waiting until the last minute to start looking into travel. Often you can find so many deals by starting early when looking into flights, hotels, or airbnb's. If you're staying somewhere popular but want a really cute airbnb, you'll want to book that as soon as possible!
International flights can sometimes be confusing to book and I wouldn't recommend going through some small random site you find that gives you $800 off. If that falls through you won't want to be scrambling a month before you're supposed to be in Italy! Don't forget to include any bus fares, boat rides, ATV's, or helicopters that you plan to take in your travel budget. Even cabbie fares can add up QUICKLY.
HOW TO BOOK TRAVEL FOR YOUR ELOPEMENT
- Start with your flights first. These will determine what days you can actually be in the location you want to go to so they hold precidence over everything else.
- Any lodging you're staying at. Even if you don't get to stay at your first choice, there are hundreds of airbnbs, hotels, and experiences you can book for the dates you'll be having your elopement. But having a place to sleep is important and you'll want to know where your "base camp" is when planning all other activities. Pro tip: this will also be important for your photographer so they can help you plan an accurate timeline!
- Any cars, bikes, boats you may need. Depending on where you're eloping like the inner city or middle of nowhere mountains, will determine any other transportation you'll need for getting around. If you're staying in the city this might not be as important to book right away but if you're staying in remote Alaska and there is only one ATV company, you'll want to make sure they're booked for your wedding ahead of time.
SELECTING YOUR ELOPEMENT OUTFITS
I know it might seem a little weird to start planning what you're going to wear to your elopement so early BUT if you're planning on shopping through a traditional bridal shop or having something custom made, you'll need to give them plenty of time. Rushing around to get your gown or suit tailored to you a week before your ceremony is NOT FUN, trust me.
Contrary to popular belief, you CAN wear a big fancy dress on your elopement even if you're hiking and it's going to get dirty. The only thing you need to consider is your comfort! If it sounds crazy to you to spend a couple thousand on a gown you're going to cover in mud then there are a TON of places you can look into for less expensive dresses or more "hiker-friendly" outfits. In my elopement guide that I send to all of my new couples, I give a list of some amazing companies that create sustainable wedding outfits.
Wedding suits and tuxes can add up quickly, depending on how many pieces you want. My husband got his entire wedding outfit (boxers and all) from ASOS for less than $200. We had the jacket tailored to fit him a bit better but other than that, it was really simple! You don't have to buy from a fancy suit shop if you don't want to. You've got options!
Selecting your footwear should be all about comfort. It astounds me how many people will buy the most uncomfortable shoe they've ever owned for their wedding day. Whether you're hiking or not for your elopement, you will likely still be doing quite a bit of walking. I recommend either your favorite comfortable shoes or a good boot to keep your feet safe and comfortable. If you're on the beach, I highly recommend you go barefoot for at least a little while because those pictures are always so amazing. Here in Oregon, the sand is rarely ever too hot to step on!
All the extra things like jewelry, pocket squares, cuff links, shawls, hats, or undergarments will depend on the season and your personal style. Most of my couples tend to keep it pretty simple when it comes to the extra bits because they are far more focused on the experience of the day. I only wore a necklace for my wedding day and I made it from an old blue stone my grandmother had gifted me. It was perfect!
PURCHASE YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE
The rules and regulations for getting your marriage license will depend on which state and which county you are getting married in. This is the only legal part of your ceremony so you won't want to forget it! Depending on where you want to get married, it might be easier to sign the legal stuff in your home state and then do the ceremony somewhere else. For example, if you're getting married internationally that can often be a headache to figure out the license there and would cause more of a headache! Either way, both experienes are still wonderful and your elopement is no less valid, even if you've already done the legal stuff.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND ABOUT GETTING YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE
- What is the waiting period?
- How much does it cost?
- Do I need an officiant?
- How many witnesses do I need?
- How do I submit the license after I'm married?
Every state is going to be different and I highly recommend looking into the county's laws way before your wedding day. Some places might require a waiting period from the time you order the license to get to pick it up. In the county in Massachusetts where my husband and I got married you had to apply in person, wait three days, and then go back and pick up the license. We were having a destination ceremony so this meant we had to be there a full week before our wedding to make it to their open office hours! In Las Vegas, there isn't a waiting period at all and only takes about 30 minutes to get the marriage license. Here in Oregon, there is also a 3 day waiting period but you can apply online ahead of time to make it easier.
Generally speaking, purchasing the license is going to be anywhere from $60-$120 depending on where you get married. It's not a lot, but you'll still want to keep it in mind in your budget. You'll likely also need an officiant and at least one witness, unless you're getting married in a state where you can self solemnize, like Colorado! I always help my couples with these logistics, especially if they want to elope with just the two of them.
Another thing you'll want to make sure you ask the clerk is how to submit the license afterward. Does it have to be in person or can you mail it? I would also clarify if there's anything else you need to bring with you (like social security cards, birth certificates, divorce papers, or name change documents) to pick it up or submit. It's best to check all of the boxes before they come up so you're never surprised!
YOUR ELOPEMENT DETAILS
Just a few other small details to plan and then you'll be having your amazing elopement day before you know it! These items are still really important but don't change the logistics of your day like what we've already discussed. BUT these items are often what hold the real meaning or symbolize your wedding day so its important to still make sure you have them ready to go. The little details are generally much more personal and depend on who you both are as a couple. While blogs and pinterest are great places to get inspiration the ultimate decision will come down to the two of you.
WRITE YOUR WEDDING VOWS
Most of my eloping couples choose to write their own vows. They've already chosen to have a more intimate wedding day so writing their own vows seems like the natural next step. Vows can be scary to write though! I already wrote a guide on How To Write Your Wedding Vows that includes tips for writing (from a creative writing major), ideas to think about, and real examples of the vows my husband and I wrote to each other with audio clips!
FIND YOUR WEDDING RINGS
There are so many amazing options out there for rings! You can shop at a traditional store, browse Etsy, find another local artist, or create your own! I designed my own wedding ring with a local shop and based it around the diamonds from my mom's wedding ring. It was really cool! If you want something different or don't like the process around diamonds, look into another stone or lab-grown diamonds.
YOUR ELOPEMENT FLORALS
If you want to have a bouquet, boutonniere, or any other florals I recommend finding and booking your florist in advance, especially if you're getting married in peak season. If you're getting married in a national park you may not be able to bring in any outside florals so you should consider silk flowers or something else. Another great option if you don't want to have live flowers is to look into a dried bouquet. It sounds weird, I know but they are so gorgeous!
Don't forget to think about what you'll want to do with your flowers after your elopement. Do you plan to press them or dry them? Donate to the local retirement community? Send them to an artist to have them printed on a silk robe? I pressed my wedding bouquet and framed it between glass. You can see how I pressed my own bouquet in this blog.
PERSONAL TOUCHES FOR YOUR ELOPEMENT
Don't forget about any other personal touches you want to include at your elopement. These can be love letters to your partner, a special handkerchief around your bouquet, personal vow books, a veil, or any unity ceremonies. All of these are completely optional. Customizing your elopement day can be one of the best parts of planning because you'll be including everything you and your partner love the most.
WHAT TO DO AFTER YOUR ELOPEMENT
Now that all of the celebrating is over, there are a few more things left to do! If you decided to keep your elopement secret, you'll probably need to come up with a great way to announce it to everyone. You'll need to file your marriage license and start alllllll of the official paperwork that comes with joining two households and if you're changing your name!
HOW TO ANNOUNCE YOUR ELOPEMENT
This could be as simple or as creative as you want it to be! I've seen couples announce their elopement online, by sending a postcard with one of their amazing elopement photos, or hosting a celebration party aftwards. I think the most important thing to consider here is how you announce it. Many people, especially more old school family members might not understand why you chose to elope or what it means to have a personal elopement. Preparing ahead of time what you plan to say if you get those tough questions will help you keep your cool and have the best phrases already ready. It's compeletely okay to choose an elopement over a traditional wedding and you shouldn't let anyone make you feel bad about that! I recommend brushing up on what an elopement is so you can remember all the amazing reasons you decided to do it.
I've found that couples who decide to plan a celebration after their elopement to announce to friends and family have more fun at this party than they would have at a reception. Seperating these two events can sometimes be just the solution you needed to actually be able to enjoy them.
THE LEGAL STUFF
There are a lot of different institutions to inform of your wedding or name change like banks, doctors, rental agreements, or cell phone carriers. Making a list of these ahead of time will save you the worry later of forgetting something. Some places are much easier to update than others. Obviously getting a new drivers license or passport if you change your name will take more time than updating your socials. You might be surprised at how difficult it is at the least expected places. For example, our electric company still has me under my maiden name because they made it so stupid hard to change the name that I just...didn't!
DO YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR NAME?
No, absolutely not!
My husband and I chose to create a new last name for us. It felt like the best decision for us because we hated the tradition that came with taking his name and losing mine. I never do something if it doesn't make sense for me so this was no different! You can read more about why we changed our last name on my blog!
That's A LOT of information! I know might feel overwhelming to take in but I made it into an amazing checklist just for you! This 47 page checklist details out everything you need to keep in mind for your elopement day and helps you stay on track. If you're still feeling overwhelmed or want to make sure you have a photographer who can help with all of your questions and guide you through the process, I would love to chat! You can fill out my contact form HERE.
The Ultimate Elopement Planning Checklist
First, you have to sit back and enjoy the dreaming stage. The dreaming stage is where you talk about all those crazy ideas you have and see what you really want to do, what seems actually doable and explore them. Pinterest is a great place for this! Once you've got everything you want listed out you can start to see the theme of your elopement and narrow it down from there. Start big so you can end up with a concise but beautiful elopement ceremony.
You can get your own elopement planning checklist here:
Elopement Planning Resources
Once you've downloaded the checklist, head over to these blogs to get some more juicy information about planning your elopement. I've used my experience as an elopement photographer, wedding planner, and bride myself to create these resources. My goal is to actually help you. I don't just regurgitate the same old crap. I learned and used these tips myself and it made my wedding day SO MUCH BETTER.
Check out these blogs to help you with all your planning needs and ideas!
Black Salt Photography is an elopement photographer and intimate wedding photographer based in Portland, Oregon. Photographing in the surrounding PNW areas and traveling often for destination love stories. Specializing in intimate candids and editorial portraits to craft a one-of-a-kind wedding day for every couple. Her moody photography style plays with natural light and shadow, laced with raw emotional moments, to create an authentic narrative experience. She photographs you as you so you'll love your photos authentically.
"Destiny definitely stood out amongst other photographers because we absolutely loved how involved she was from the very beginning. She really wants to get to know you- which makes for really intimate photos! She asks tons of questions, which is awesome because you feel like you know her before even meeting her! And once you finally do, she is so so sweet!!! Destiny is so great at communicating and being really involved in every detail! She captured every emotion and detail perfectly, whenever I look at our wedding pictures, it brings back every feeling on our special day. TEARS!"
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