Sunset Point, Arizona Elopement - The Elopement Experience
How to plan your elopement
We have all been to a wedding and know exactly what’s going to go down at your friend’s ceremony and reception. The chances are that you haven’t been to an elopement though. Now you’re engaged and thinking a wedding isn’t for you, because you want something deeper with more intimate connection that is just about the two of you. How do you plan this? What should you expect? Where should you elope?? In this blog post I will go through the process of eloping. If you have more questions check out the FAQ page or feel free to reach out directly!
Step one: Making the Choice!
Yay, you’re engaged!!! Did you know you have a choice?? You can have the big fancy wedding OR you can elope!! Choosing to elope is turning away from the obligation thrust upon you from tradition, but this doesn’t mean you have to go with no tradition. Every single elopement is different. When choosing between the two it really comes down to experience and how you want your wedding day to feel. If you want a day with all of your friends and family through the whole process eloping may not be for you. If it excites you to be able to have a day with just you and your partner to share vows and have some time just the two of you then this is perfect. I have seen many couples elope and then hold a formal reception the following day, week or that same evening! Eloping can be personalized by every couple to fit your needs. Making the choice to elope can only be made by you two.
Step two: Hire a Photographer
When you are planning your wedding you are pretty much doing it all unless you have a wedding planner. The first thing you book, if you do not have a planner, is usually your venue. That is not the case for elopements. The first person you need to hire for your elopement is a photographer. Before hiring your photographer it is important to know the date that you want to elope. If you are open to dates then by all means reach out to the photographer before narrowing it down. Depending on your needs and wants I suggest hiring a photographer that will help you with your planning. I personally work with my couples every step of the way so they have the best experience on the day of the elopement. Planning an elopement embodies selecting a location, putting together a some what of a time line, tips on how to pack/prepare for the day and more. When selecting your elopement photographer not only do you need to look at if they help with planning, but if you LOVE their work and connect with them!! Elopements are super intimate and this is the person that you are sharing that day with you want to make sure that you can vibe with them. Photographer’s all of different styles so you also want to look through their portfolio see if you like the colors in their images, the types of images they are capturing and things like that. Looking through their work will also give you a sense of the experience they have with elopements.
Step three: Select a location
Woahhhh, this a BIG one!!! Eloping means you can get married anywhere and I mean ANYWHERE. So when your options are endless how do you select a location?? Selecting a location can be narrowed down by several things. First question to ask yourself, do you want to elope somewhere you have never been before or somewhere you two have already been?? Maybe there is a place that holds a special part of your heart or means something to your relationship. A place like that could be a good option, or maybe you want to elope somewhere totally new or a place you have been wanting to go to forever! For example, I photographed a couple from London that eloped in Iceland with a few family members and adventured around the country for several days. Why did they choose Iceland? It was the first place that they had been to together as a couple outside of their country. They travel a lot and felt like it couldn’t be more perfect.
The next thing to consider is the location’s marriage laws. Some states require witnesses and some do not. In Colorado you can elope without witnesses and without an officiant. So why does this matter when selecting a location to elope?? If you want to keep your day just the two of you this may rule out a few locations if you do not want to do the legal wedding (courthouse) prior to the elopement. Wedding Wire has a great blog post that lays out every state’s requirements for witnesses and officiants, check it out here. If you’re interested in eloping out of the country some simple online research and maybe a phone call or two goes a long way. For example, the ever-giving website, Guide to Iceland, put this information out on how to elope in their country.
Still not sure where to elope? Let’s consider the weather, especially in relation to the date you selected. Let’s say you selected a summer date and you want to elope in the desert. Arizona all of a sudden isn’t looking to hot, lol. Even a lot of Utah will be too toasty for a comfortable elopement day and Joshua Tree is still in the high 90’s for the summer months. If you can handle the heat these locations may still be an option, but if you start looking out of the United States the options get better. During the summer months the Kalahari Desert in Africa is in the 80’s during the day. Let’s say you know for sure you want to elope in the mountains, but not certain where. Places like Yosemite National Park have roads closed to popular elopement locations during the winter months. This past year Lake Tahoe had a record winter and I wouldn’t say it was ideal conditions for an elopement which normally would be beautiful.
Other things to consider are what do you want to do on your elopement day? Do you want to say your vows privately then canoe around a stunning lake surrounded by massive mountain peaks? Then somewhere like Banff National Park may be a good idea. Are you not too worried about being secluded and want to run along a sandy beach together? Then somewhere like Torrey Pines State Park in California or Cannon Beach in Oregon might be perfect. You want the hike of your life with all the magical views to say your vows to your partner then consider Zion National Park or Havasui Falls in the Grand Canyon.
Selecting a location can be a quick choice or it can be a difficult one. As your elopement photographer I am here to help you navigate this choice.
Step four: Pan out the Details
You are pretty much ready to say I do at this point! You have a date, a photographer and a location. What more could you need, right?? Depending on where you choose to elope you will need to hire an officiant, pick your witnesses or do the paperwork prior to your elopement date. Several of my Arizona clients choose to have one of their family members or friends become officiants prior to their wedding so they do not have to hire a stranger to marry them. Some states require only one witness, in that case I do count :)
Like any other wedding you will need to select your attire for the day. You don’t have to wear wedding attire if you do not want to, but I would say most couple’s still do the traditional wear. Just because you are eloping doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the beautiful flowers or yummy cake. Remember, this day is just about you two! So if you want to have a private cooked meal where you are eloping then you will need to hire that out, if you want flowers I highly suggest the eco-friendly florist, the Flower Method. If you want an arch for your vow reading that is totally a possibility too!
If you are traveling to your elopement location make sure you have booked all of your travel needs. I always suggest for my clients traveling to arrive at the very latest early afternoon the day before in case of any travel emergencies.
Step five: Get Married!!!
All the planning has come together and it’s your elopement day!!! What does this day like, what do you do all day?! As I mentioned earlier, every single elopement is different. What they all have in common is the day being all about you and your love. Your elopement day is a day you will remember forever and cherish deeply. It is the day you express your love to your partner in the most meaningful peaceful way. A day to take in the moment surrounded by the great outdoors.
Your elopement day will feel relaxed. It’s just you and your partner. You can get up and have coffee together and take your time getting ready. You can get ready together helping each other with the zippers and ties or in separate rooms/areas to have some alone time and then share a first look. Maybe you want to get ready in private to share those quiet moments together or have me there to document the process. Maybe you get ready at the top of the mountain or on the sides of your rent jeep after off-roading to the secluded desert.
I meet couples either at their campsite or Airbnb and sometimes I meet them at the trial head or location. Often times with elopements we are heading to location at odd hours. Sunrise elopements are not uncommon and depending on your hike this may be a 3am wake up call. Why would someone wake up these early to elope?! One word: privacy. The whole world to yourselves as the sun peaks over the mountain tops is breathe-taking. I mean does it get anymore romantic than that?! I also have a lot of couples that elope at sunset which means hiking back under the stars! The great thing about elopements is you do not have to stay in one place. Maybe you’re doing a few different trails, or maybe your exploring different areas of a region, or maybe your hiking for your vows but then taking a sailboat to an island to relax the rest of the day. The ceremony portion can be done first thing, in the middle of the day or at the end of the day.
What else do you all day besides getting ready and the vow ceremony?! You would be surprised how fast a day can go by! Here are some ideas for you’re elopement day outside of hiking: helicopter ride, camp out roasting marsh mellows under the stars, road trip, go on a horse back ride, have a picnic, hang out in hot spring, bike ride, go off-roading and more! Besides reading vows some sentimental things you can do are read letters to each other, write letters to your family telling them about your elopement, have a champagne toast, share a first dance with a live band on the mountain (if you haven’t seen this it is epic!), meet up with family later. If you’re planning a big day you also have the ability to plan for a little down time in between activities.
Overall, the elopement experience is personal, private and meaningful. It is the most magical way to celebrate your love together. If you choose to elope you can expect to the most freeing wedding day. This day will emotionally tie you to your partner forever. Eloping is truly an experience like no other because it is perfect for just you two. A wedding day without anyone else’s expectations or judgements, a wedding day with no schedule except for what you two want to do, no limitations on time spent together. I can’t really begin to tell you how special each elopement is. I am honored to be alongside my couples assisting them in any way possible during the prep process and then there to capture the magic the day of. I am here help you begin your married life together with a ceremony that best suites your relationship, if you’re ready to elope I would love to chat with you.
Your wedding day is about you and your love. Keep it between the two of you—I’ll just be there to capture it.