Updated: May 31, 2022
Now planning an event of any size can feel like a daunting task. There are so many moving parts that all come together to make it all possible. These steps are a general guideline for how to plan your elopement. Just like every couple is different so is every elopement. So some parts of each step may not be necessary to you or you may find yourself working through step 4 before step 3. Wherever you're at I hope these steps can help to get your plans started. As always if you need any help or just have questions I'm here for you and happy to help 😊
So let's get into the planning process. First off CONGRATS 🎉 you've found your person and have decided to commit yourselves to each other in what is still considered the nontraditional way, and that's pretty bad ass! So take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back. One of the coolest things about having an intimate wedding or elopement is the freedom you have to make your wedding day a true reflection of who you are as a couple and do all the awesome things that you like to do. So that brings us to Step 1.
Step 1 - Let yourself dream
Let yourself dream up your perfect day. Don’t worry about figuring out any details or logistics yet. Think of what your day could look like. Think of what you and your partner like to do together. Don't let anything hold you back here, let yourself dream big! We can sort out the details and logistics in the next step.
Exercise to get you inspired:
Take a minute with your partner, both of you close your eyes and picture your wedding day. Maybe you're holding hands on a mountaintop, or you're at the beach enjoying the sunshine, or maybe out doing one of your favorite activities. Take a couple minutes to picture it.
Next grab a piece of paper and a writing utensil, set a timer for 10 minutes (the time crunch helps to get you inspired 😉) then write down everything you pictured and any other ideas that may have popped into your head.
Then take sometime with your partner and go over all the ideas you both had.
Step 2 - Decide Who, Where, & How Long
These are the big decisions that will most affect your day. Who, Where, & How Long.
Who do you want to be there? Just the two of you or would you like your closest friends & family?
Where do you want to go? Somewhere with amazing mountain views, beautiful beaches, or your favorite city?
Have you always wanted to travel somewhere? How long of a trip would you like to have?
This is usually the point where I suggest reaching out to a planner or a photographer/planner (like me 😉). Their expert advice will help to guide you with some of these decisions. Let's say you always dreamed of getting married at an awesome snow capped mountain and with a little bit of googling you fell in love with the look of Mount Rainier. You and your fiancé usually have time off in February so you figured that would be the best time to plan for. But after reaching out to a photographer/planner you found out how unaccessible the park will be, how much snow there will be, avalanche danger, so you decided to move your date to the summer. You can of course do all the research yourself to figure this out, but save yourself some time and reach out, take all the expert help you can get 😊
Step 3 - Figure Out the Details
The next step can feel the most daunting. This is where you figure out all the details that come together to make your day awesome. So finding your lodging, figuring out what activities you would like to do, any gear you may need, any vendors needed to help make your day come together, and what wedding attire you would like to wear.
Don't let yourself get overwhelmed here, take it one step at a time to sort through it all. I suggest figuring out what activities you would like to do first (hiking, kayaking, visiting a brewery, stargazing, etc). This will help to determine some of your other details. I always suggest trying to keep your lodging within an hour of your ceremony location and any of the activities you want to do. When you're out in the back country it can take quite a bit longer to get around and you don't want to have to spend half of your day driving. Also depending on the activity making sure you have the proper attire and gear is super important.
As a casual reminder vendors are not just for traditional weddings ✌️ Some vendors you may want to consider for your day:
Officiant (unless you're eloping in a self solemnizing state or plan to do the legal stuff another day)
Hair & Make Up Artist
Check with your photographer/planner! Many photographers/planners (myself included) include vendor recommendations. Save yourself some time 😊
Step 4 - Create your Timeline
After you have all your details figured out now you can start to plan a timeline for your intimate wedding or elopement day to make sure you can include all the experiences you would like to have.
Now I personally help craft the day of timeline for all of my couples. I send out a questionnaire months before that helps me create a timeline that is laid back, flexible, and ensures you can have a fun filled day with some awesome photos to look back and relive the story of your wedding day. After I craft a timeline I set up a time to go over everything with my couple to make sure they're stoked about it and make any changes we may need. Now that's just my methodology, the photographers or planners may do things differently.
Things to think about when creating a timeline:
Decide on sunrise or sunset (or both 😉) from a photography stand point these are the prettiest times to take portraits. The lighting is just **chef's kiss** amazing. Because the sun is closer to the horizon line there is less harsh lighting that can create awkward shadows. You may have heard of the term golden hour, when the sun is at a certain level it makes everything look golden and is ideal for photos.
Don't forget to include drive time. If you're getting married out in the mountains many of the roads are winding and can take awhile to get around. So if you are going to multiple locations keep that in mind.
If you are planning a hiking elopement plan for hiking time. Depending on the difficulty of navigating the trail it can take a substantial amount of time to get to the location you were hoping for. It is usually safe to estimate 30-45 minutes per mile. If you're stopping along the way for portraits think of it as taking more like 45-60 minutes per mile.
Keep in mind you don't have to wear your wedding attire all day. Now if you just love your wedding attire and want to wear it the whole time that's awesome! But if there's certain activities you want to do that wouldn't be fun in a dress or suit, you don't have to stay dressed up. It's your day, do what you want.
Don't think of it as an all day photoshoot! Now this will vary from photographer to photographer, but since I'm the one writing this post I'll tell you my methods. Now if I had a full day elopement we would not be doing formal, posed portraits for 10 hours. One of the coolest things about eloping is creating a day to do all the awesome things that you want. I prefer to take a candid photojournalist style where you are enjoying your day with your partner and I am there to be a friend who is capturing the moments as they happen to tell the story of your day. For my couples we do plan some portion of their day that is more focused on portraits (usually around sunrise or sunset) then the rest of the day is just letting them enjoy themselves.
Step 5 - Have a freaking awesome day
My favorite step ❤️ All your hard work and planning has led you to having the most amazing day with your partner. All you have to do is pack for your trip, communicate with your guests (if you have any), then get ready to have a freaking amazing day! Relax, enjoy the moment, & marry your best friend.
I hope these 5 steps have made you feel a bit more confident in planning your intimate wedding or elopement. If you have any questions or need any help just reach out!
Ready to start planning? Check out my free elopement planning checklist!