I’ve had countless couples come to me with plans to ditch the big, traditional wedding and elope somewhere epic instead! If the wedding planning process is making you go crazy… you’re in the right place. For couples who either want to scrap their wedding plans or just decide to say “Fuck it!” and elope, here’s a guide on how to plan a rad elopement in 6 months or less!
How to elope in 6 months or less: Set Your Budget + Priorities
When planning a last-minute elopement, your budget and priorities should directly go hand in hand. Are you prioritizing traveling to an epic location? Or planning an elaborate elopement in your home state? Or keeping things extra simple with a backyard ceremony to spend $$$ on your honeymoon?? These are important things to figure out before you start making any final decisions about your elopement.
Once you’ve got your priorities locked and loaded, it’s time to set your overall budget and allocate funds to each aspect of your elopement. You will most likely need to budget for…
- Your elopement location, whether that’s a national park permit, Airbnb booking, or small venue reservation
- Your elopement attire/accessories
- Your elopement vendors such as a photographer, videographer, florist, etc
PRO TIP: Create an elopement fund for your friends and fam to donate to instead of having a registry! This will allow your people to still feel a part of your wedding, and you get to decrease costs. Win-win!!
How to elope in 6 months or less: Decide on Your Elopement Location
As I have already mentioned, your location will depend on what your elopement-day priorities are. When eloping in 6 months or less, your location options might be a bit more limited as some spots book up fast! Here are some of my FAV elopement locations in the U.S.:
New Hampshire is actually one of the best places to elope on the East Coast. I mean, the variety of scenery is enough for any outdoorsy couple to want to tie the knot here. You’ve got beaches, mountains, waterfalls, national forests, and MORE.
If you’re an adventurous couple (AKA my kind of couple), then you’ll love all of the activities that NH has to offer for after your elopement. There are tons of historical landmarks to visit in this state, anddddd a vibrant nightlife scene if you’re into that. If you’re interested in eloping in New Hampshire, check out the full guide!
“Jamie, I’ve NEVER thought about eloping in Iowa” well, today is the day you do! Iowa is one of the most underrated elopement locations in the U.S., I promise. And I’m not just saying that because Mark (my husband) and I eloped here and it was everything we could have dreamed of and more! Especially if you’re eloping at a venue, Iowa has some pretty freakin’ cool ones. Check out this blog for examples AND a list of my favorite Iowa-based vendors!
Anywhere in New England
A coastal elopement in Maine, an adventure elopement at Acadia National Park, a hipster elopement at Ithaca Farmers Market… there’s a reason I’m based in both Iowa and New England. I can’t get enough!! And before you ask… yes, I have a blog post with a few of my favorite venues in NE.
UGH! The mountains! The lakes! The wildflowers!! Colorado is an adventure-lover’s dream elopement location. And you can self-solemnize there, which means you don’t even need an officiant! It can just be you, your human, and me taking rad photos of you in the most beautiful locations you’ve ever seen. Check out this blog to determine when you should set your Colorado elopement date!
Two words: Ski. Elopement. Andrea and Austin eloped in South Dakota and it was EPIC. They started their morning slowly, drinking coffee and taking photos in their Airbnb before getting dressed in their ski gear and heading to the hills! It was the best day ever.
Andddd if you’re feeling wild and crazy (or just want a rad elopement location AND honeymoon spot all in one, baby), then here are two of my favorite international destination for elopements:
Tropical Tulum destination elopement, anyone?? I have an entire Tulum elopement guide that gives you step-by-step instructions on how to plan the most epic day ever. The tropical vibes, the epic beaches, the warm weather… *sigh* take me back.
My FAV couple (jk, all of my couples are my favorite) Bailey and Derek got married in Hawaii and invited their closest friends and family to attend. Now, I didn’t ONLY say yes to photographing their Hawaii elopement because of the Jurassic Park mountain ranges, but it was a big factor. Nonetheless, I had to include this location because I’m itching to see another one of my couples have the Hawaiian elopement of their dreams.
How to elope in 6 months or less: Book Your Travel & Accommodations
Since your elopement is 6 months (or less) out, I recommend booking your travel and accommodations ASAP!! Check flights to your elopement destination regularly to snag the best deals, and use a travel credit card for points, if possible. Don’t skimp out on the travel insurance for your flights JUST IN CASE any last-minute changes come up out of the blue.
As for accommodations, Airbnbs are one of the few travel options that might be cheaper the closer you get to your desired date since hosts want to get their places booked. Do some research and favorite some of the best options near your elopement location and check prices regularly, then book when you feel comfortable! If you have friends and/or family members near your elopement location (and staying with them would be a positive experience), ask if they want to host you to save some $$$.
How to elope in 6 months or less: Book Your Necessary Elopement Vendors
Booking vendors can be a grueling process no matter how long you have to plan your wedding, but I’m here to help! Personally, I try to make space for last-minute elopements because I know my couples and a lot of you decide to ditch the traditional wedding in the middle of planning. Not all vendors are like this, though! Try browsing both local and travel vendors to see what their availability is. When inquiring with them, be sure to emphasize that you’re eloping in 6 months or less so they can get back to you with accurate information!
How to elope in 6 months or less: Check for Permits & Local Regulations
If you’re eloping at a national park, state park, or any other outdoor location, it’s super important to check and see if you need a permit! I know, I know, PAPERWORK. This is something I can totally help with as your elopement photographer – in fact, I have a wholleeee blog post about this topic. Along with permits, you’ve got to research local marriage laws to ensure you know how to get a marriage license in the stay/county you’re eloping in.
How to elope in 6 months or less: Plan Your Elopement Ceremony
This part is much more fun than the paperwork! What are we thinkin’?? Personalized vows? Sunrise or sunset? Hiking to your ceremony location or holding it in the backyard of your Airbnb? The world is your oyster! My only requirement is that you plan an intentional ceremony that’s true to you and your love story. Think about what would be the most fun and enjoyable for you and your partner, minus the traditional expectations!
Your ceremony plans will drastically impact your photography timeline, which is why this is such an important step. If you need some ideas or want me to collaborate with you to make sure you have your dream ceremony AND your dream photos, let’s do it!!
Keep in mind: Decide if you’re having any kind of floral setup for your ceremony in advance so you can communicate that with your florist!! If that’s a yes, then you’ll need to decide on a color scheme, too.
How to elope in 6 months or less: Plan Your Elopement Celebration
OBVIOUSLY we have to celebrate your elopement, but YOU tell ME how that’s going down. You can literally do whatever the heck you want… think big and imagine your perfect day as a couple! Are we going to a local pub or winery? Having an epic champagne pop after your vows? If you’re staying local to your hometown, are we going to hang out with your people after to celebrate? Are we going on an epic adventure? Think about it and let me know!
How to elope in 6 months or less: Plan Your Adventure Days
Okay… who says your elopement has to be limited to just one day?! We can plan Adventure Days that encompass whatever your heart desires. We can do local stuff, you and your partner can wander around your destination, or we can go hiking, kayaking, helicopter riding, etc. IT’S ALL UP TO YOU! And the options are endless. Just know that I’m an advocate for you soaking up all the newlywed bliss during your elopement weekend and you deserve photos to commemorate every second of that time.
How to elope in 6 months or less: Notify Your Family & Friends
Ahhhh, possibly one of the most stressful tasks of planning a last-minute elopement. If you have friends or family members who will get offended that you’re not including them, that can kinda put a damper on your excitement. BUT! There are still ways you can make them feel included if that’s something you want to do. Let’s talk about it!
First off, you can announce your elopement in a few different ways. You can send out elopement announcements prior to your ceremony with a registry/fund, you can wait until AFTER your elopement to send “We eloped!” cards, or you can surprise your people by having them over to view your photo gallery. If you choose to go the surprise route but feel like you just can’t hide it from EVERYONE, you can always tell your inner circle (if they’re good at keeping secrets).
If you know that you want to still celebrate with your family and friends… you can do that, too! You can plan an elopement celebration (similar to a reception but without all the stress) back home so you can spend intentional time with your people in relation to your getting married. Boom, everyone wins!
How to elope in 6 months or less: Finalize the Details & Prepare for Your Trip
WOO! By this time, your elopement is coming up quick! Finalize all your details, double-check your flights, and MAKE LISTS! This is the one day you do not want to forget anything, especially if you’re traveling. Before you leave, do whatever you need to do to relax and destress so you can be mindful and present the entire time. After that, get ready to marry the love of your life!
So… you need an elopement photographer, right?
Hiiii! That’s me! I’m Jamie, a small wedding and elopement photographer based in Iowa and always ready to travel. No matter where you’re planning your elopement, I wanna photograph it! If you’re ready to do this thing, you can visit my contact form and get in touch with me there. While you wait at the edge of your seat for my reply (which won’t take very long), be sure to read all the juicy blog posts I’ve linked in this article.