What is an elopement? How do you elope? Where do we start?
This year has been tough on couples who are planning weddings, and as a wedding photographer who has been doing this for a long time, I’ve started to see a shift in the way couples are thinking about celebrating their nuptials. Elopements and “micro weddings” have seen a huge surge in popularity lately due to COVID, and if you’re reading this post, you may be considering one yourself.
So what is an elopement? Simply put, an elopement is different than a traditional wedding day — an elopement is a whole day created just for you two. Exploring a new or favorite place together, reading your vows privately, where the focus is really on you, celebrating your relationship and your commitment to each other while creating a pretty unique and memorable experience. It can be as simple or as creative as you want, and it can be anywhere. Your home city, or an unexplored location. Whatever is special and will be meaningful for you and your partner.
This handy guide will help you become an elopement pro — From planning out your day to knowing the legalities of marriage in certain states and how to obtain your license depending on where you decide to elope, to what states have more relaxed rules, options for lodging and even… hiring your elopement photographer.
Let’s start with the official part.. the officiant!
Surprise! There is no right way to get married. If you’ve read anything else on my website you’ll know by now that I don’t like wedding day “rules”, but when it comes to the legal part of your elopement or intimate wedding… well, there are a few rules you should know about and should plan for.
Your wedding ceremony is your ceremony, and deciding on who (if anyone) should officiate it and officially marry you can really make all the difference. Most states, including Oklahoma, require an ordained minister to perform the marriage ceremony, and often additional witnesses are required.
There are several states however that don’t require witnesses present or a minister to marry you, and that offer some form of self-uniting marriage.
What is a self-uniting ceremony?
A self-uniting marriage is one in which you are married without the presence of a third-party officiant. There are a few states that allow a variance of this type of ceremony, they are Wisconsin, Colorado, The District of Columbia, California, Maine, and Nevada.
Each of these states have different “forms” of a self-solemnizing ceremony; some require religious reasons, like Maine, and some do not. The states where it’s “easiest” to self-marry are Colorado, D.C, and Pennsylvania. Self-solemnizing ceremonies in these states are recognized nationwide, without additional paperwork to complete besides your marriage license. For details on how your marriage ceremony might differ from state to state, you can read more here, or you can always call the county clerk’s office where you plan to be married. They want you to be married the right way; they’ll answer your questions and can be incredibly helpful!
Always make sure to give yourself additional time in advance to pick up your license and make sure you know how to fill it out correctly!
What are the advantages of a self-uniting ceremony?
There are many reasons you might want to be married in a self-uniting ceremony, and a lot of them are just personal preference. Privacy for one: reading your vows alone or with only a few people might be more comfortable for you than to a large audience. Adventure might be another reason: Colorado offers an incredibly scenic backdrop to your “I-dos”, and hiking to your wedding destination might fit your style more.
Okay so now we know the rules… how do we plan our elopement?
What exactly constitutes an “elopement”? To me, an elopement is a day created just for you two. Exploring a new or favorite place together, where the focus is really on you, celebrating your relationship and your commitment to each other and creating a unique and memorable experience. It can be as simple or as creative as you want. Creating a perfect day is the fun part! You can do whatever you want! And whether you plan to get married in a state that offers self-solemnization, or any other state, this is where you can really plan your day to fit you two, what you enjoy doing, and where you enjoy being together.
If you’re looking for ideas on activities for your elopement, or even a sample elopement timeline, check out my blog post loaded with elopement activity ideas here!
Elopements can happen anywhere that’s special to you, although “adventure” elopements have become pretty popular. Hiking through the forests, mountains, or going to the desert are all awesome, but don’t let that limit your imagination. AirBnB’s and vacation rentals offer a new way to elope or plan a destination affair and they open up so many possibilities to plan a unique day and stay in an awesome location.
National parks and state parks are another great option if you’re looking for privacy and scenic views, and often the permits to be married there are between $50-$150, making them an incredible bargain versus a traditional wedding venue. Each park usually has a time frame of when you can get your permits — for example, Yosemite allows you to schedule permits 1 year – 21 days before your wedding. Regardless, it’s smart to plan with plenty of time in advance to ensure you get the right permits, etc. Some parks also have designated areas for weddings and they can book out up to a year in advance!
If you’re planning an elopement in Oklahoma, my amazing home state, check out my post here all about the most scenic spots in Oklahoma to plan your perfect elopement or intimate wedding.
What do we need for our elopement?
Like I mentioned earlier, there are no “rules” for your day, it should be totally unique to you, so you should bring whatever is special to you! But in any case, here are some of the important things you might need when planning your elopement:
- Marriage License
-Self-Solemnizing states: always double-check the rules for witnesses.
-Other states: You will need an officiant and witnesses, the number of witnesses dependent on the state. Check with your county clerk’s office.
- Your place to stay
AirBnB, Vacation home, hotel, make sure you have a place to get relax and get ready before you say “I-do”!
This can be as casual or as dressy as you want! To save some cash, make sure to check out alternative retailers for your wedding garb, like vintage shops, Modcloth, Rent the Runway, etc.
If you’re planning your ceremony in a national or state park, make sure you get the proper permits!
- Your spirit of adventure
I can’t stress this one enough! Even the best-planned day can go off-trail. Make sure you’re in the mindset to go with the flow and to remember that this day is all about marrying and celebrating with someone you love.
Last, but not least, you might need a photographer! One that’s up for wherever your plans take you, and is along for the ride documenting your day, totally your way.
If you’re searching for your elopement photographer, have questions, or want to get started planning your unique day right away, get in touch here and let’s chat!