Documenting all love stories near or far

Shelby Jane

August 25, 2022

The Ultimate Checklist for Planning Your Elopement

FILED IN: Elopement

When you first start to plan out your elopement it can feel pretty daunting. What should it look like? Who should we have there? What do we want to do? What kind of legal requirements do we need to take care of? Planning out an elopement should be fun & exciting, not stressful & overwhelming, which is why I put this checklist together to guide you through the process!


The very first part of your checklist when planning your elopement will be the daydreaming phase.  You & your partner just began the process of dreaming of what is possible for your elopement day, & really, the sky’s the limit. What do you envision your day looking like? What sort of activities do you want to include on your day? Do you want to hike to a beautiful secluded beach on the California coast? Or head to an intimate Airbnb in upstate New York? Really talk about what you want your elopement to look like with your partner & don’t be afraid to dream & be open about those dreams! Remember your elopement can be anything you want it to be. Once you’ve got a rough idea of what your day will look like it’s time to get some more concrete information set.

The Four W’s 

The four W’s are your who, what, when, & where. These questions will help guide you toward a more concrete idea of what your elopement will look like. These questions are a crucial part of your planning checklist. Who do you want at your wedding? Believe it or not, an elopement can have up to 20 people present! So decide on if you just want the two of you there or if you want some of your favorite people with you as well. Next, is what, what do you want to do on your day? Do you want to hike a mountain? Head to the beach for an elopement by the ocean? Travel somewhere new & explore? Or keep things low-key & celebrate at your favorite restaurant? There’s no wrong answer here, whatever you’re wanting to do you can!

Next, when do you want to have your elopement? Think about this both in terms of what season you want to have it & how far out you plan to have it. If you plan on having a more elaborate elopement or something that involves more travel & prep plan it for a little farther out so you don’t stress yourselves out & overwork yourselves before your day. When it comes to what season you hope to elope during that goes hand in hand with where you hope to elope. If you plan to travel for your elopement look into what different seasons are like there if you are unfamiliar. Once you have your answers to the four W’s you can move on to the next phase of your planning checklist which is when things really start to come together for your elopement!

Apply for Permits

Next on your checklist for planning your elopement is to start applying for any permits you may need to make your day happen. Certain locations require a permit to have a wedding service on site and/or require a permit for professional photography. Once you have decided on your location for your elopement start doing your research on exactly what they require to make your elopement happen. These requirements vary greatly depending on the location so doing your research is crucial! The last thing you want is to get everything else in order for your day & realize that you’re unable to have your ceremony as planned due to missing permits. As your photographer, I am more than happy to assist you with this if you are struggling with finding the correct info.

Decide on Your Vendors

Your elopement day can include anything you want it to, & this goes for the different kinds of vendors you want as well. There are so many possibilities when it comes to the different vendors you can have as part of your elopement day. Most importantly you’ll need a photographer to capture all the moments & memories from your day! After that you’ll need to look into the marriage requirements where you plan to get married to see if you need an officiant and/or witnesses for your ceremony. Plan out things like food, hair & makeup & whether you’ll need vendors to provide these services or not.

Lastly you’ll have to plan out your elopement attire & this depends heavily on where & when you plan to elope & what your day will include. If you plan to elope atop a mountain you’ll need some hiking gear & a little different attire than if you were to elope on a sandy beach! Plan & pack accordingly & purchase the correct gear to set yourselves up for having the best elopement day possible.

Iron Out the Legalities

Next on your planning checklist it’s time to get all the legalities of your elopement in order. Every state has their own requirements when it comes to things like self solemnization, number of witnesses required, & whether or not there’s a waiting period once you get your marriage license. Once you know where you plan on eloping look into what the requirements are in the respective state & county so that you can get that process started as necessary. An alternative if you’d rather not worry about the legalities on your elopement day, or if you live somewhere with more loose requirements is to take care of the legalities beforehand. Make your marriage official early & then focus on the experience of your elopement the day of!

Finalize the Plan

We’re getting close to the end of your planning checklist for your elopement, now that all the other pieces are in place it’s time to finalize your plan! Iron out all the details & start to get your elopement day timeline in place. I recommend relying on your photographer for some timeline assistance as they will have a ton of experience under their belt when it comes to elopement days. They know what works & how to fit in the things you want into your day realistically without you feeling overwhelmed.

Make sure as your elopement day approaches that everything is set & where you need it to be. Your vendors are booked & on the same page, your bags are packed with everything you need, check weather & trail conditions if necessary for your location. Your photographer will be keeping an eye on things like this as well as checking in with you leading up to your elopement to help ensure that everything is in place for your big day!

There is so much that goes into an elopement, this planning checklist should help to keep you on track as you plan out your day though & set you up for success! If you’re looking for more info I have a guide that goes even more in depth on things like location research, bookings, & a timeline leading up to the elopement day which you can view here. And if you’re looking for a photographer for your elopement head to my contact page here so we can start planning together! I include elopement planning in all my elopement packages to make it as easy & stress free as possible for you!