How To Elope

I get these questions all the time. How do we elope? How much does it cost to elope? etc. The answers to these questions are so hard because there is no set way of how to elope. So I guess that is my answer, it can be whatever you want or cost as much or as little as you want! I know very informative, but don’t worry I will give you some starting points below.

There are so many things to consider when eloping, but don’t let it be stressful. Once you decide to elope, a weight will be lifted off your shoulders. I am not saying big weddings are bad, but for some people it is just not the way for them. So if that is you, your first step is to officially make the decision and tell your loved ones. Let me tell you, that can be the scariest part about eloping, telling your friends and family!

Here is a quick list of what you should think about when eloping that we will go over.

  • Marriage License
  • Budget
  • How many people do you want attending?
  • Where do you want to do it?
  • What kind of vendors do you want?
bride and groom standing in front of a motorcycle

Marriage License

Though it may seem obvious, look into what is required for a marriage license where you are eloping. In the US, some states require a waiting period for residents, but same day for out of state couples. Some will require different paperwork such as just a drivers license or a social security card too. Some may even require an appointment vs allowing walk ins.

This is one thing we did not look into when we eloped. We drove to Sedona the day before our elopement and were lucky to be able to walk in and get our marriage license that day without extensive paperwork. Over the past two years of marriage I have learned that not all states are like that! So we were lucky, but I would suggest doing some research and planning ahead. Don’t be like us, because it won’t always work out.

groom kissing brides forhead in a red rock canyon


Your budget is probably one of the first things you will think about and may be one of the reasons you are deciding to elope. If you have a strict or smaller budget you CAN stick to it I promise. When planning your elopement you can include as little or as much as you want. Seriously. If something is not important to you and you are going over budget, consider cutting that out.

If you need to do some digging first to see what services cost to determine your budget, that is fine too. There is a wide range of prices for most wedding related products and services. If you are a bride and want a pretty dress, but don’t want to spend thousands, there are alternatives! Check out these 15 Lulus Wedding Dresses Under $300 to get started with budget dress shopping.

Budget plays a factor is the rest of the topics, so tips for sticking to your budget will come up throughout this article.

bride and groom walking through the rio grande river in Albuquerque


To have guests, or to not have guests? Some people have a couple close friends or family members attend and that is totally fine. An elopement does not just mean the two of you run off in secret and get married in Vegas.

When thinking about inviting guests, know that most states in the US do require 1-2 witnesses. This can be anyone though. If you have a photographer they most likely will be okay with being one. If you are going to a location with hikers, you can always ask a stranger to sign as a witness. You can also have a friend or family member come along to witness too. I had my sister come along as a witness and our photographer was our other one.

Most states in the US also require an officiant. Colorado is the only state I know of that does not require witnesses or an officiant. An officiant does have to be someone who is ordained. You can hire someone local to do it, or have a friend or family member get ordained online for you. That is what we did! Another option for an officiant, if you don’t want either of those, is to have a commitment ceremony instead. Technically you will get married legally first by going to the courthouse and have all your papers signed. Then you will go out and say your vows and whatever else you want to do somewhere else.

I told you, there are so many options when it comes to eloping! You can do anything you want. If you are inviting guests make sure to be respectful of land you are on and don’t bring 20 people to an area that is meant for only 5. On the other hand, if you want to do a hike but are inviting someone who would struggle with it, consider having your ceremony at an easier spot and going on the hike after.

bride and groom holing each other on the Sandia Mountain foothills in Albuquerque


Deciding on a location can be tough! Only because there are so many places to consider. Do you want to stay in your state? Country? Or travel over seas? This is something that can play a huge factor in budget.

Traveling over seas will obviously cost more. You also need to make sure you look into the laws of eloping in a different country, it may not be allowed there. But again, you could always do the legal part back home before or after.

If you are traveling out of state that costs a little bit to. Make sure you factor in your flight or driving expenses and where you will be staying. If you decide to elope in a national park, you may be required to get a special use and/or photography permit. If you hire a photographer they will most likely know how to look into this to guide you.

When deciding on a location you can consider a place that is special to the two of you, or even pick a place you have never been! You have complete control over where you want to elope. Some areas may be best during a certain time of year, so make sure you know about what the weather conditions are like at the time you want to elope.

how to elope - bride holding bouquet in the desert
Bouquet by Floral Fetish ABQ


When choosing what vendors you do an do not want to include, I always recommend deciding what three areas are most important for the two of you. To get started, here is a list of typical wedding vendor categories:

  • Photographer
  • Florist
  • Dress/Suit
  • Cake
  • Videographer
  • Planner
  • HMUA
  • Location/Venue
  • Decorations/Rentals
  • Invitations/Announcements

Obviously some of these generally cost more than others. If you pick your top three that you just cannot elope without, it will be easier to start planning. Some vendors will be more tight with a date, such as a photographer or location. So if you just HAVE to have a certain photographer, then reach out to them to find a date that works for all of you. If a certain location is a must, check to see how long you need to get a permit (if you need one) and when the best time of year would be for good weather and avoiding crowds.

how to elope - camping elopement in Abiquiu NM

The question of How To Elope is such a silly one! I really hope these tips helped you start planning your elopement and maybe answered that question for you. I would love to hear about your elopement or your plans for your elopement below.

Happy planning!

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