Eight Elopement Essentials

As you plan your elopement wedding, you’re probably aware that you won’t need all of the many and varied services that a traditional wedding requires. However, you may be wondering: which services are absolutely required? Are there elopement essentials that you shouldn’t do without? Elopement weddings, by their very nature, are simple and lower-cost. But “lower-cost” doesn’t have to mean “lower quality” or “lower class” by any means! Below, we’ve outlined the services you should line up before your elopement. If you want some of the extras, that’s up to you. Remember that it’s your wedding ceremony – so don’t let vendors, family members, or friends pressure you into hiring service providers that you can do without. Regardless, to have a memorable elopement wedding, make sure you include these eight elopement essentials…

  1. Officiant or Minister – You simply can’t get married without a legally registered priest, rabbi, minister, judge or other clerical or official individual who has state-sanctioned permission to perform marriages. Once you have secured your marriage license, you’ll still need to “solemnize” your marriage; that is, formalize your union and make it legal in the eyes of the state (as well as within your spiritual context).
    This happens when the actual marriage ceremony takes place. Contrary to what movies and popular culture dictate, you’re not married just because you have the “piece of paper”! You’ll need to retain the services of a wedding officiant, either on your own or via an all-inclusive elopement wedding package from the lodging you book or other type of wedding venue.
  2. Marriage License – Yes, you’ll need the official document from the state where you’ll be getting married. Marriage licenses usually cost about $50 to $100, and the fees not only vary by state but usually by counties within a given state. Both of you will be required to appear at a clerk’s or recorder’s office to apply for your license in person, and provide identification in the form of driver’s licenses or passports as well as Social Security cards. Most states have a “waiting period” where you won’t be able to receive your marriage license for up to 72 hours after you apply for it. Previously married persons will likely be required to produce a divorce decree.
  3. Venue – You can’t get married without the right wedding venue, which is just as important as the officiant (and the two of you). Unlike so-called “big” weddings which usually require run-of-the-mill banquet halls, however, your elopement wedding will allow for endless flexibility where a wedding venue is concerned. You don’t need to rent a large hall and/or catering services, which all start to feel the same to your guests after they’ve attended a handful of weddings anyway. Concerned about whether or not you can exchange vows in a traditional house of worship? No problem with an elopement! Pick a popular state or national park as your outdoor “cathedral” instead! Or choose to book an all-inclusive elopement package with a non-denominational wedding chapel.
  4. Photographer – Don’t get married without a photography pro. Now, you could toss a relative or friend a couple of bucks and encourage them to take photos of the most important day of your life, but…this might be a job for someone who’s experienced, frankly. We’re not saying that you have to spend many hundreds of dollars for a name-brand shutterbug, however. Shop around! There are thousands of very good wedding photographers out there who will charge much less to “shoot” your elopement wedding vs. what they’ll charge to record a “big” wedding. For one thing, your elopement ceremony will be shorter, simpler, and have fewer complications for the photographer. The elopement ceremony itself and requisite “before and after” ceremony photo ops should only require about an hour or two of a photographer’s time. If you’re like many eloping couples, you might decide to get married on a weekday during the fall or winter when many wedding pros are idle or have fewer bookings. This should allow you to easily find discounted photography rates. In the meantime, allow that friend or relative to thoroughly enjoy your elopement wedding without worrying over whether they’re getting decent pics.
  5. Witnesses – You may wish to plan an elopement that is as minimalistic as possible. So, you probably don’t want guests. This is fine, but be aware that many states require at least one witness to be present at the ceremony who is not the officiant. Many all-inclusive elopement packages will provide a witness or two if they are required. Be sure to check if witnesses must be present at your elopement wedding. If so, they will be required to sign documentation which officially states that they were present at your ceremony and that they have the legal status to act as witnesses (thus, your six-year-old niece will likely not be eligible for witness duties).
  6. Transportation – You don’t need to hire an over-the-top SUV stretch limo to take you from your hotel to the wedding venue. In fact, if you’ve opted for an all-inclusive wedding package, transportation may well be provided, or you can be married on the grounds of the lodging where you and your new spouse will be staying. Otherwise, make sure you line up your ride in advance. Many resort towns have taxi companies that offer “black car” services (not quite limos, but nicer than taxicabs) where you can ride to and from your honeymoon suite and the venue in style, without breaking the bank. You can always rent a luxury sedan and line up a friend or relative to drive you around before and after the ceremony. Or, consider smartphone-based ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft! These services now offer premium rides in the forms of late-model SUVs or luxury sedans in many metro areas. You could also try to negotiate discounted rates with independent limo operators if your elopement will take place on a weekday or during the off-season (don’t count on this, as limo owners tend to be somewhat rigid, but worth a try). Do a little homework in advance. If you are planning a destination wedding at a beach or national park, for example, try to book your lodging as close to where you’ll exchange vows as possible. If you have to spend a little more to stay at an inn at an ideal location, the added expense may well be offset by the savings incurred from not having to hire a ride.
  7. Lodging – After the wedding comes the honeymoon! You did think about this, right? Of course you did. So it’s only natural that you’ve started shopping for lodging options where elopement weddings are a specialty. If you haven’t, though, check out our Elopement Vendors Directory. Many inns that specialize in catering to eloping couples provide all-inclusive wedding packages. Contact the lodgings in the area where you wish to get married, and find out what elopement packages, if any, they offer and at what cost. If you’re thinking about tying the knot in “elopement hotspots” like Gatlinburg, Tennessee or the Grand Canyon, check out our maps of these areas which show locations for various public and private wedding venues.
  8. Fine Dining – The two of you are finally married! What do you do now? Why, commemorate the occasion, of course! (Yes, we know, we know…the honeymoon comes later!) The best way to celebrate your nuptials is to share a fine meal with your closest friends and family – likely all of the folks who attended your elopement wedding – at a restaurant near the wedding venue and/or your hotel. While traditional weddings require the aforementioned banquet halls and somewhat generic meal choices, your elopement wedding is anything but generic. And that means the post-wedding meal shouldn’t be, either. So splurge a little! After all, you saved thousands of dollars by skipping a lot of the somewhat nonsensical trappings that traditional weddings call for by eloping. So, treat yourselves and those closest to you to a fine dining experience that compliments the uniqueness of your wedding ceremony and your new union.

Don’t go crazy like a typical “bridezilla” and book an army of wedding planners, DJs, florists, or invitation calligraphers to create a huge mountain of expenses that will only become burdensome for you and your new spouse. Instead, focus on getting quality help with the eight elopement essentials listed here, and your new lives together will be off to a blessed and debt-free beginning!