An Elopement Planning Checklist

Planning a wedding big or small can be overwhelming at first; even if it is just going to be the two of you. For most couples, this is the first time they are doing this, but that is what the professionals are here for. As an elopement photographer, I help my couples as much or as little as they need when planning. Recommending vendors, creating a timeline, recommending certain days and locations, and anything else they need help with; that is what I am here for. An elopement planning checklist is not as easy to find as the ones for big weddings. Most elopements cannot relate to a checklist for a traditional wedding.

husband and wife standing on top of the sandia peak tramway boardwalk

Planning an elopement is different, but it doesn’t have to be hard! I get asked all the time how long it takes to plan an elopement and how much they cost. Both of those answers can vary dramatically! Some of my couples hire me a month in advance, and some a year in advance; one time I was hired 2 weeks in advance. If you and your fiancé are just itching to get married as soon as possible, you can! If you are looking to get married in a popular national park that requires a permit, you may have to wait a while to do so. It all depends on what the couple wants.

The same thing goes for budget. You can include as much or as little as you want for your elopement. If you want a $2000 dress, go for it! If you think more like $200, that is totally doable too. See how budget can really vary? When my husband and I eloped, most of our budget went to our photographers (surprise huh?). Which is what most couples do splurge on more. An elopement photographer helps with everything leading up to the day and delivers priceless photos for you to cherish forever. There are also so many other vendors you have the option of including which determines the final cost of an elopement too.

So let’s get onto the elopement planning checklist you came here for!

bride and groom running together on top of a mountain

The Checklist

Step 1: Get engaged.

Step 2: Make the decision to elope and tell your loved ones.

Step 3a: Find a photographer and choose a location and date with them.

Step 3b: If choosing a location that requires permits, apply asap.

Step 4: Start looking for your attire, sometimes it can take a while to get a dress if you or your partner are wearing one.

(~within 3 months of your date)

Step 5: Decide if you are going to have guests / Start arranging travel plans.

Step 6: Look into requirements for a marriage license for the state. If you need an officiant, book them next.

Step 7: Choose what other vendors you would like to include; start hiring them. (all are optional)

  • Videographer
  • Florist
  • Cake Artist
  • Venue
  • Hair Stylist
  • Makeup Artist
  • Catering / Dinner
  • Transportation

(~within the final month before your date)

Step 8: Finalize a timeline with your photographer for the day.

Step 9: Make arrangements for getting your marriage license.

Step 10: Get married!

husband and wife sittins on a rock on top of the Sandia mountains overlooking Albuquerque

This checklist is specifically for elopements and intimate weddings. If you are planning something larger, timeframes for hiring vendors specifically will need to be more in advance. Keep in mind that these timeframes are a general estimation. As mentioned before, some couples plan it all within a month and that is totally possible and common. The one month and three month suggestions are only if you and your partner have the time and don’t need to do it all at once.

Planning an elopement can be much less stress than planning a large wedding. Though, you still should have some structure to keep the day running smoothly! Following this elopement planning checklist and hiring a great photographer will help with that. Once you are ready to hire other vendors, ask you photographer who they recommend in the area and start reaching out. If you are getting married more last minute, I would suggest choosing a weekday, this way you are more likely to get the vendors you want. Most importantly, do what you want to do on your wedding day!

Happy Planning!

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