There is a common flash of thought when you say the words “we’re eloping…”
It’s the idea that you’re sneaking off to the courthouse with your partner, signing that license with little celebration and then breaking the news later to your loved ones.
Or, you’re taking it a step further and ditching the courthouse for a favorite beautiful spot outdoors — but it’s still a secret, hidden thing that you’re doing without the knowledge or support of anyone else. Is that elopement fact? Or, elopement fiction?!?
Have you ever thought that you can have an adventure elopement that totally busts up those myths (and more!)?
You wake up for a slow wedding morning with your partner. Make coffee or tea, admire the view outside your cabin windows (or hotel, Airbnb, etc.), and sit down to write out your vows. You help zip & button each other into your elopement attire, enjoy a call with your family back home, and then head on your way up that favorite trail of yours.
No hurry, no hustle. No one waiting, no one pushing you to mind the clock as you walk and laugh and enjoy the journey.
Maybe you swap out your hiking shoes at the top of the trail (or maybe you get married in them, in all their dusty, “out there doin’ it” glory!). You share your private vows without worry of judgment. Working your way back to the cabin, you have a campfire afterward, and stargaze with your love…
This is just one example of what an adventure elopement can be! Swap out that mountain trail for the beach or a favorite national forest waterfall… Picture yourself secluded with your partner or with an intimate group of your closest loved ones.
Misconceptions about what a wedding or elopement “should” look like will make you doubt that fantasy in your head about what your ideal day is!
Sometimes even looking at what others have done for their own elopements can shape the way you imagine yours…
Let’s throw all that away, and start at the root of the thing — the love you share with your partner, and what makes you special. And from there, you can create an adventure elopement just right for you that’s not limited by myths… Read on to get started!
You can have guests! But hey, going it alone is cool too.
Eloping doesn’t have to be lonely! Guest count might be dictated by your location. National Parks, for example, often place limits on specific ceremony sites to preserve the natural ecosystems of the park. But having an adventure elopement doesn’t imply that you have to do it with just you two! Bring your favorite crew! If you can’t imagine getting married without them there in some capacity, then they should be there. ?
On the flip side, don’t cave to the pressures of a traditional wedding with obligation-prompted invitations, as we’re told that an invite that never gets sent out means that you’ve somehow wronged those people. (To be clear, not inviting someone to your wedding is not a slight against them!)
If the thought of being stared at while you exchange deeply personal vows with your partner gives you the heebies, then make it private! There are several states where self-solemnizing is legal, or you can consider a private vow exchange and more official ceremony rites in front of your guests later in the adventure.
It’s not hard to get “legally married” when you do an adventure elopement!
Speaking of the legal way to have an adventure elopement — what is the deal with officiants?? Many may try to tell you that it’s hard to find an officiant to marry you if you do an adventure elopement. I disagree!
Unlike that traditional wedding, you don’t have to schlep in a hired officiant to perform a ceremony. And, unlike a traditional “courthouse” elopement, it doesn’t have to be done in an awkward group session led by a judge, or in an impersonal individual exchange in the judge’s chamber.
There are several options for legalizing your marriage that are waaaaaay cooler that allow you to still have held a ceremony that’s fully legal and government-recognized.
Some states allow self-solemnization. This is basically a ceremony that doesn’t require a third party to be present (for example, the officiant or other witnesses). You can marry yourselves! The states that allow this are:
- Washington, DC
Some of these states still have other requirements. In California, for example, you can forego the ordained officiant, but you still need two witness signatures on your marriage license. Self-solemnizing is one way to have your adventure elopement in a fully private setting, and can save you the cost and logistical challenges of hiring an officiant.
In the states that don’t allow self-solemnization, you still have other options! I am ordained, and can marry you in all but a couple US states! You can also ask someone you love and trust to become ordained in order to perform your ceremony. The process is quicker and easier than you think!
Lastly, if you still want a formal ceremony, but, not looking for someone you know to lead it, there are some awesome, inclusive officiants you can hire who specialize in servicing adventure elopements (wahoo!).
Your adventure elopement doesn’t have to be done on short notice.
Again, this doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t spontaneously tie the knot! Getting married that way can be exhilarating, and I say you go for it if it feels right!
You also don’t have to sacrifice a year’s worth of your evenings and weekends to plan a full-blown party (ummmmm…no thank you). Elopements often exist right in that sweet spot, where you can plan ahead and still keep things low-key.
I book elopements up to 16 months in advance — this is great if you want a primo fall date or a funky date marker like 2/22/22. I’ve also planned and photographed a family-inclusive destination elopement from idea to execution in just under 3 weeks, so go with the flow!
Flexibility is key with an adventure elopement, and with a quicker timeline one especially! A good adventure elopement photographer (many of us who also serve as an adventure leaning version of a wedding planner!) will help you know good ceremony spots where special use/wedding permits are easier & quicker to get, and will come ready with ideas on where to find adventure-ready wedding garments, fast and beautiful florals, and other things you might want for your experience.
In short? Even if you can’t imagine how it would all come together, ASK! If you don’t reach out and have that conversation on your timing and vision, you’ll never know what’s possible! ?
Eloping doesn’t mean you don’t value your wedding!
On average, elopements already fall way under the average cost of a traditional wedding. Between the two, however, some of your costs will be fixed. For example: the price tag of wedding rings, what you choose for your attire, having a photographer. But you can save or re-prioritize spending with an adventure elopement because you’re ditching the cost of a venue, food and drink for everyone there, any decor you put up, and wedding favors for your guests.
What does that difference look like?
In 2021, the average cost of a wedding was $22,500. Add in a honeymoon on top of that traditional wedding, and the cost goes even higher. On the other hand, the average cost to elope is between $6,000-$15,000.
Technically, technically, you might still pay for a “venue” at your elopement. Again, this depends on where you hold the ceremony. But even if you’re paying for a special permit in order to exchange your vows somewhere rad, paying between $50-$200-ish for that permit is going to save you TONS compared to the few grand+ you’d drop in cash for a traditional venue.
BUT, let me say this… No matter what others may “tell” you, while your elopement overall cost may be less than a traditional wedding, it does NOT mean you don’t value your wedding.
It simply means that you (like most couples who chose an adventure elopement) choose to invest in a wedding that ruthlessly prioritizes meaning and experiences. You are celebrating your stories together as a couple, and while lower costs may happen naturally, you’re not just looking to have a budget wedding & cut costs.
So, your adventure elopement core costs are less (usually)! What can you do about your honeymoon with those savings?!?
Lots of couples choose an adventure elopement because they value experiences, not things. SO…. If you plan a destination elopement, you can roll your honeymoon up with it by bookending your actual ceremony! Add time before, after, or both to adventure, celebrate, whatever your heart desires.
This saves you time and energy, as you don’t have to plan two separate trips, worry about the time off work, yada yada (that’s the shorthand for all the other excuses people say about why they never did their honeymoon!?) You can coordinate booking travel just one time, which also saves you money, and this ensures you get the honeymoon that you deserve!
Don’t be that couple that says “we never quite got around to our honeymoon.” You can (and should!) DO the dang thing!! ??
Lastly, eloping does not have to be done in secret.
Maybe you already figured this one out based on the way I’ve been talking about your adventure elopement — inviting guests, having a celebration, the whole nine yards!
But it’s worth saying again, because this connotation that elopements have to be secretive is a sticky one. You CAN have your family/friends there with you on the day, and it IS possible to find locations for the family part of the adventure that meet everyone’s mobility needs! Or you can send your whole crew fun announcement cards before (or after!) you elope in “just us two” style, and share all your photos and stories with them afterwards.
If you’re really worried about the feelings your family might have about eloping, I have a blog post here with some tips for how to break the news to everyone.
Your wedding day is yours, and the story of your elopement should be told in a way that honors you and your partner. Whether you do choose to elope in secret, tell everyone beforehand, have a handful of guests, do it alone — this is your love story!! Tell it in the way that feels most authentic to you. ❤️