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3 Important Things to Consider When Planning an Elopement

Congrats, friend, you’re freakin’ engaged!! And since you’re here, you’re probably considering eloping 😉 Eloping used to mean running away and getting hitched in a courthouse without telling anyone. If that’s what you want, go right ahead! But elopements can be more complicated than that. Depending on location, vendors, or just the overall stress of planning an elopement.

how to plan an elopement

Don’t fear! My blog is full of unconventional wedding advice, and if you know me, I’m the first person to tell you to do what YOU want, not what tradition says you need to do. This guide is 100% focused on helping you plan the elopement of your DREAMS.

There are a lot of details that can fall through the cracks, like, will you do a first look? What do you want to pack for your detail shots? Do you want a second shooter? These details are all important, but there are 3 big things I personally think you should consider at the beginning stages of elopement planning that can be easy to forget!

3 Things to Consider When Planning Your Elopement

1. Permits, Passes, & Fees

Many elopements happen in a National Park because DUH – there’s nothing more romantic than sealing the deal in the great outdoors. But even if you’re just looking to elope in a beautiful park or other outdoor location, it’s still important to research if the area has any permit requirements. It’s not as simple as showing up and saying “I do!”

planning an elopement

Look into the parking fees or restrictions and consider if it might be wise to carpool with your officiant, photographer, or family members. Some places have a guest limit or parking restrictions, or rules about what you’re allowed to bring with you. For example, most National Parks won’t let you bring chairs, confetti, arches, or anything other than yourselves.

If you’re lookin’ for some jaw-dropping scenery to enjoy while you say your vows, you can’t go wrong with choosing basically any National Park and hopping on a plane. It’s super important to get married in these locations legally so we can keep these spots beautiful for future couples and safe for the wildlife!

how to plan an elopement

Be sure to apply for permits as far in advance as possible and follow the rules carefully. If you want to apply for a permit for your National Park elopement, start on their website or go to the website of the park you’re interested in!

If you don’t already have a National Park Service pass, you can purchase an annual pass here, or just pay for the day once you arrive. Also, if you want to avoid the entrance fee, there are certain days where park entrance is free; however, these days are usually more crowded!

2. Crowds

Most people elope because they value privacy and want to prioritize an intimate experience over crowds. If that’s you, then here are some tips to avoid crowds during your National Park elopement!

When you’re scouting for a place to elope in the park, I’m sure you’re looking for a beautiful view. The most popular places are usually crowded! So if you’re going during busy season or on a weekend, find a more hidden location to avoid crowds! Even if the more secluded spot requires more hiking, it’s all going to be a memorable part of your elopement experience – and will be soooo worth it for those views you’ll get.

Summer and spring will be more crowded at locations that get cold and snowy in the winter. Sunset is also a super popular time to visit parks because we allllll love that golden glow. Try going at sunrise – there’s literally no better way to start your day than marrying your best friend! Then you two would have the whole day to celebrate your new marriage together.

And again, be sure to think about parking. Many locations have limited parking spots! So, eloping on a weekday instead of a weekend might be a good way to avoid crowds and ensure you can park where you want!

planning an elopement

3. Including Others

Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you have to do it alone! (Unless you want to, of course – then do it!) There are plenty of ways to have a unique, intimate elopement while still celebrating with your closest friends and family.

If your ceremony is private, you can still get ready in the morning with your best friends. While you prepare to elope, celebrate your last single morning, capture some cute getting ready pics, and get pampered!

how to plan an elopement

Depending on the location restrictions, and most importantly, what YOU want, you can invite some of your closest loved ones to your elopement. There’s no strict definition of how many guests constitute an elopement vs. a microwedding, so I say just consider your priorities and go from there!

If you do want a private elopement ceremony, you could always plan a reception or party later on. Maybe plan a reception later in the day after your honeymoon! Or even on your first anniversary to celebrate a year of marriage!

No matter when you do it, you could still include the traditions that matter to you. Have first dances, toasts, gifts, dinner, the white dress, anything you want!!

If your loved ones aren’t able to be with you, or if you want a super private elopement, there are still ways to include them. Have your loved ones send letters for you to open on your elopement day! Or they can send you videos of congratulations for you two to watch together before/after your ceremony. 

estes park wedding

If you’re planning to celebrate at a later time, whether that be a big or small celebration, hire a videographer to film your elopement day so you can show it to your family later on. At the very least, you two will love to look back at your special day!

If you’re planning to celebrate big (I know a lot of COVID couples ended up eloping, then celebrating later on) then check out my guide on how to plan a reception timeline

Good luck planning your elopement! And if you’re in need of a photographer, I’ll save you some time: YES I do travel, and YES I’d love to meet you! Do I need my flip-flops or hiking boots? 😉 Let’s chat!