The Ultimate Free Guide on How to Have an Elopement in 2024

Planning an elopement can be an exciting and intimate process. Getting that pen and paper out and making lists, graphs, and charts is way too much fun! Or is that just me? Anyway, let's take a look at what you need to do to prepare yourselves.

In this guide, you'll find all the right steps and gain insider knowledge, tips and tricks to plan your dream elopement.

Your head is probably spinning with sporadic thoughts and ideas.

Last updated: March 13, 2024

Ok, so hold up- let's organize our thoughts here.

First off, what is eloping?

The short version: Eloping is an intimate form of getting married, generally with just the two of you, but perhaps you want to invite a few people along. If you have more than 10 people, I think you've got yourself an intimate wedding instead, which is also a beautiful way to get married!

Who can elope?

Anyone! If you are looking for something different from a big party where you feel like some circus act being paraded around to impress your parent's colleagues and family you see every other year, do consider this form of marriage.

I had an intimate wedding, and honestly was just too shy to say my vows in front of everyone, so I just didn't. And after learning about eloping, my world opened up! So don't be like me; iykyk, eloping is a wonderful option for the introverts of the world. Bonus- you spend a lot less money overall, and since you might have done it abroad, the honeymoon starts immediately after!

Where and when should I elope?

Completely up to you. Everywhere in the world is different, and since I'm European based, I can give you advice on this from my side of the world. But basically, you can elope whenever you want, wherever you want. That is; if you don't need to get legally eloped in that moment. For people coming over here from abroad, I recommend signing all the paperwork back home, and doing everything here symbolically. It saves a lot of headaches!

Why do people elope instead of having a regular wedding?

Everyone's reasons are a bit different. but here are the most common ones:
  • One or both partners are introverts and don't like being around too many people
  • You don't like getting too emotional in front of other people while reading vows
  • You want to feel a connection with nature and take a break from people
  • You want to feel more intimately connected to each other, and spend those moments fully embracing your togetherness
  • An elopement can be more budget-friendly, whereas a big (or small) wedding costs a lot more money. Money you could spend on each other instead, or on travelling or your future home
  • Eloping is a lot less stressful, a bigger wedding seems like way too much planning
  • Learn more about why to have a non-traditional wedding

How can I elope?

The simple answer; you just do it! The "how" is what this article is all about, so keep reading to find all the information you need. Perhaps you really do what to "just do it", but I'm sure most of you want to incorporate certain aspects, like a wedding dress/suit, special location, maybe some flowers, etc. But long story short, there is no one-way to elope, you do it however suits you as a couple.

Step 1: Make sure eloping is for you

Step 2: Brainstorm and create inspiration board

Before contacting any vendors or choosing a date, you should first do some quality brainstorming. Do this however you do it best; create a Pinterest board, collect magazine cut-outs, an Excel spreadsheet...whatever you do, find a way to organize your thoughts. This will really help you with choosing all the important details of your day, and in how your vendors can help you. Feel free to send me any questions you have about eloping here.

Step 3: Choose your location

This can be a hard one, because there are so many beautiful places out there. First think if you want to elope in your province/state, country, or completely out of town. Let's list some pro's and con's of each way:

  • Adventure awaits!
  • It might seem more tough to plan, but your planner and photographer will actually help you with this MORE, knowing you're from out of town
  • You can start your honeymoon immediately after
  • You get to experience a new place, or a place you and your loved one find dear to your heart
  • Less family/friend pressures, you can invite as few people as you want

The next thing to think about for location is: what do you want as your backdrop? Mountains, trees, glacial lakes? Bustling city? Medieval church? Tropical beach? What is it the two of you love the most, or what can you compromise on? There are so many couples out there where one is a mountain person and the other lives for the sun and the ocean. You can, perhaps, agree to do your elopement in once place, and your honeymoon in another. And I've just found the perfect location for you... Italy! We've got everything over here, so it's the perfect elopement spot. If you're interested in eloping in the Italian Dolomites, you can check out my blog post on that here. Otherwise, feel free to ask me any questions you have about eloping here, or check out the top 10 places to elope in Europe!

Con's of eloping far away:

Pro's of eloping close to home:

Con's of eloping close to home:

Pro's of eloping far away:

  • What cons?!
  • Just kidding. Because of the flight and accommodation, it will cost more than eloping at home
  • If you forget something at home...there's no turning back

  • You will save money
  • Easy to get to your location
  • No need to pack for a big trip

  • There could be more pressure from friends and family to invite everyone
  • You're most-likely still going to have to pack now for your honeymoon, if you're having one
  • Not much adventure (though, maybe you don't want adventure)

Step 4: Hire vendors for your elopement and pick a date together

Before you've even chosen a date, it's important to first chat with some vendors. Photographers or planners can get booked up over a year in advance; some people even book two years ahead! Before hiring anyone, I highly recommend chatting with potential planners and/or photographers. We are the first two vendors to get booked, and therefore are less likely to be available the longer you wait. 

This is also why you should chat with us before choosing a date. Just let us know around when you were looking, then you have flexibility to take a date that we are still free. Then, once you know what date you can hire your dream planner and/or photographer, you can start booking your flights, accommodation, and other vendors around that. If you want video for your special day as well, it is also important to think about that early on as well. Your photographers and planner will be able to give you recommendations on videographers.
  • Photographer (well, hello there!)
  • Planner
  • Venue/Accommodation 
  • Videographer
  • Hair and makeup artist
  • Florist
  • If you are renting a dress or suit, rental shops
  • Stationary designer (vow cards/booklets, "We Eloped" cards, invitations if you're having a few guests)
  • Baker for a cake/special dessert
  • Private chef if you are having a very special intimate dinner with a view somewhere
  • Vehicle rental shop if you are renting a special car, Vespa, or motorcycle

Every elopement is unique and you can hire all the vendors on this list, or almost none. There are other vendors you can hire as well, I'm sure, it all depends on what kind of day you want to have. With this list, you will have at least the basics to help you get started.

Once you've ticked photographer/planner off your checklist, you can start thinking about who else you want to hire for your elopement. This is really up to you; you can make it as much or as little like a "traditional" wedding as you want.

Here is your full elopement vendor checklist:

Step 5: Renting/buying your outfits and accessories

How you get your outfit is up to you; but I will strongly suggest buying second hand. There are so many wedding dresses out there that get used only for one day, so why not give them a second life? That way, you also don't have to worry as much if it gets a little dirty ;) Here you can read another useful resource on how to pick your perfect dress for an adventurous elopement.

Try looking at Facebook marketplace, Vinted, Poshmark, and second-hand dress/suit shops. Where I'm from originally (Vancouver, BC), we have a ton of second-hand wedding dress shops. They are really fun to have a look through and you can find some beautiful gowns! Perhaps they need a little altering, but it will be cheaper than buying new, so why not give it a go?

If you can't find something you like second-hand, and are having trouble finding new even, look at Etsy. There are lots of designers making beautiful dresses for your measurements. Or, if you want to try and shop ethically, this great article from Good On You shares some dress shops and rates them on how ethical they are based on the facts that they know about the brands. 

Don't forget your jewelry, shoes, cuff links, whatever else you need. These can also be bought second-hand, or even be your "something borrowed" from friends or family. Perhaps you even have items you want to use with emotional value, such as a necklace from your grandmother that she gave you when you were a child. What you wear is really up to you!

Step 6: Figure out laws and paperwork

Being someone who shoots mainly in northern Italy with clients that usually come from abroad, the best advice I can give you is to get married legally at home. Sort out all the paperwork wherever you're from, it will save you a lot of headaches

That being said, it is definitely possible to get married abroad legally. Every country (and every municipality within that country) has different laws, so I can't answer specific questions here. 

I can tell you a bit about the Dolomites, though; and it is possible to legally get married in the Italian Dolomites. You need to submit the paperwork a few months ahead of time, you have to get married at the city/town hall (in some municipalities you can request to be married at a place of your choosing), and the ceremony will be in Italian or German. You will need a certified translator if you don't speak either of those. LGTBQ+ marriages are not yet recognized, sadly, but I do hope this changes in the near future.

And as for permits, I know Canada and America have a lot of permit-only locations. Here in Europe, there aren't so many. Most places you are still free to shoot (for better or worse, as certain places are really overrun by tourists now). But anyway, at least that's one less thing you will have to worry about over here!

Step 7: Have a plan B

Often when people are planning an elopement, it's outdoors. It's best to have a plan A and B, even C if you wish, just in case the weather is truly awful.

Here in the Dolomites, even if the weather isn't looking great, it can still look really beautiful. Though we are known to have quite a lot of sun for a mountainous region, the moody clouds do come out here and there, which often creates depth to your photos. If you hire a photographer who knows what (s)he's doing. you have nothing to worry about.

If it's pouring rain or there are thunderstorms, that's another thing. Nobody wants to get soaked or hit by lighting, so it's time to pull out that plan B. Make sure you've discussed this with all the vendors you've hired, especially your photographer, videographer, and/or planner. If you're not too sure what to do for your plan B, chat with them and they will be able to help you figure something out.
  1. Create an inspiration board to help you figure out the kind of elopement you want to have
  2. Choose your perfect location (will it be close to home or abroad?)
  3. Hire your vendors and choose a date (photographer, planner, videographer, hair and makeup, florist, etc)
  4. Invite a few people you really want to be there, or set up a plan for a video call if it's what you want
  5. Get all of your travel arrangements in order
  6. Find your perfect outfits + details, don't forget to look at second-hand options
  7. Figure out local laws/paperwork, if necessary
  8. Make a plan B with your photographer
  9. Send out "We're Eloping" cards, or have prepared "We Eloped!" cards
  10. Check this elopement checklist
  11. Have the best time ever

Step 8: Your elopement to-do list (in short)

If you are ready to take the leap into the extraordinary and want to have the elopement of your dreams, I'd love to hear all about it and capture your story with my photography.

Step 9: Elope with Shawna Rae

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