elopement planning checklist

Need an elopement checklist for 2024? I have you covered. This elopement checklist is going to go over the major steps of not only what you need to do, but also when is a good time to get these things done. Some elopements are easier to plan than others, so this is simply on average timeline that is safe and effective for most couples!

If you want a detailed description of how to elope, you can read my thorough guide here. I’m an elopement photographer who helps couples plan their wedding days from start to finish. This is the process I use to plan their elopements for them!

Six Months to a Year Out

Set an Elopement Budget

This is an important step when planning any event. Make sure you consider flights, lodging, vendors, and everything you’d like to include that is important to you. Most couples spend $5000-$25,000 on their elopements. 

Decide on Your Elopement Date

Even if you have a range of dates, or want to settle on a final one. This will help you figure out what National Parks, National Forests, or hikes are accessible this time of year. It’ll also help you secure your vendors since every vendor will need a date for their contract

Choose a General Location

Get an idea of where you might want to elope. Do you want a destination in another country? Maybe one of the states in the Pacific Northwest? Just getting a general idea, or a few different location options in mind, will help you start the planning process.

Many elopement photographers can help you find an exact location for your elopement day. I personally help my couples by sending them a personalized list of options based on what they’re looking for! So it’s okay to start with just a few options in mind.

Book Your Elopement Photographer

This part of the planning process should be done early. It’s okay if you don’t know your plans or exact location. These are all things that your elopement photographer should be able to help you with. Since there aren’t really “wedding planners” in our industry, we often help couples with some of the planning. 

Some elopement photographers help more than others. I help my clients find exact locations, get permits, find vendors, make a timeline, and more. So depending on who you hire, this will greatly help you with your planning process

Decide on Guest Count (If Any)

Figure out how many guests you’d like to invite. Now that you have an idea of where you’re eloping, and a photographer, it’s time to settle on the number of guests. This will effect what locations you can have a ceremony and how your day will look. So decide early on if possible!

Decide on Exact Elopement Locations

Once you have a guest count and a photographer, you should be ready to decide on exact locations. Again, I send a list of locations to my clients, and they normally pick 1-3 locations to include in their day from there.

Alternatively, if you don’t have the help of an elopement photographer, now is the time to do research. Figure out what places allow the number of guests your bringing, what your permit will allow in the way of time, decor, etc, and then deep dive into finding beautiful locations that you and your partner would love. 

Start booking your vendors

There are lots of couples who hire very few vendors. This will simply depend on what you want for the day and who can make it possible for you. With that being said, I’m just including some of the most considered vendors in this elopement checklist.

But remember, there are vendors who can do very specific things such as set up a luxury picnic reception, private chefs for a dinner, and more. 

  • Officiant (if you aren’t having a friend or family member do it)
  • Florist
  • Videographer
  • Caterer/Private Chef
  • Hair and make-up artist
  • Cake Baker

Book Lodging

Once you finalize your location, it’s time to figure out where you’ll be staying, even if local. There’s a few things to consider when deciding on lodging. Will you host an intimate reception here? If so, make sure the host of the rental is okay with it. Also consider getting ready photos and make sure there’s some decent natural lighting. 

Lastly, consider how far it is from your elopement location and how much time you’ll spend driving two and from. Lodging is an important aspect for an elopement, which is why I also help my couples with this step. But keep these things in mind, and you can absolutely do it yourself as well. 

Buy Your Flights!

Buying your flights in advance is helpful because you can make sure you get those early bird deals! You also don’t want to wait until the plane is crowded and get stuck having to sit next to a stranger instead of your partner.

Next, make sure all of your travel documents are up to date if you’re flying or going international.

Reserve a vehicle to get around in

Decide on travel arrangements to your elopement ceremony location and other possible locations included in your day. I always think it’s best to rent a car. If you’re driving to any trails or on any forest roads, make sure to read about them and check the conditions.

Some roads requires high clearance or four wheel drive, that is something you’ll need to consider when reserving your vehicle. If you don’t want to deal with that, you can also hire a shuttle service. Wether it’s for just you, or if it’ll include guests as well!

Research Marriage License and Permit Info

To get a marriage license, you need to get it through the county you’re eloping in. That’s an important thing to find out in advance as you’ll have to travel to the county clerks office and pick it up in person. There’s also a three day waiting period for marriage licenses. Consider making that work with your travel schedule, or pay to waive the fee. 

Find out the permits you need for your locations, and the information you’ll need to apply for them. Both of these steps are things that I do for my couples, as it can be a little confusing if you haven’t done it before. 

Start shopping For Your wedding attire

Now is the time to get your wedding attire! You can go to local bridal shops or shop online. My favorite place for wedding dresses is lulu’s. This is because a lot of my clients spend their day outside, and the dresses do get dirty. These dresses are gorgeous and don’t break the bank. 

Engagement Session

If you want engagement photos, this is a perfect time to get them! Not only will you get to announce that you’re getting married and eloping, but you’ll be able to get comfortable in front of the camera. I think it’s a great choice to get to know your photographer this way so you can feel totally relaxed on your wedding day, knowing that photos won’t be stressful and that you’ve done them before. 

Four Months Out

Organize and plan your ceremony

This would be a good time to decide on who is officiating, and what you want that to look like. A friend or family member can officiate. There’s also some states where you don’t need an officiant at all. This is also a good time to start writing your vows, and figure out how long your ceremony will last. 

Plan Out Additional Elopement Activities 

The best part about elopement is that they are wedding days that are super personalized to you and your partner. That can mean having a non-traditional wedding where you celebrate in unique ways. Check out my list of ideas for activities you could include in your elopement!

Couples include things like hikes, bonfires, intimate dinners, picnics, sightseeing, and SO much more. 

Create Day-Of Elopement Timeline

This is one of the most important steps in elopement planning checklist. It brings together your location, guests, ceremony, celebration, and anything else you want to do. It’s also how you inform your guests of what the day will look like, as well as vendors. 

Make sure to include drive times and buffer times to ensure your day goes as planned and is relaxed. This is something I do for my eloping couples as it’s a crucial step and there’s a lot of things to consider. Including best lighting times for portraits, time for breaks, time for food and hydration, directions, addresses, as well as the amount of time you should leave for each event. 

Finalize Travel and Lodging for Your Elopement

You have your elopement timeline which was one of the biggest steps on the elopement planning checklist. Now it’s time to finalize your travel and lodging. Make sure everything you booked so far looks good, and reserve anything you need if you haven’t already.

Purchase additional elopement attire and “extras” such as:

  • Vow book.
  • Gifts for one another.
  • “just married” signs.
  • Any elopement decor you might want to include.

Purchase gear you may need

  • Backpacks
  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Some cozy layers
  • Head lamps
  • Lanterns
  • Hand warmers

Not all elopements need these things, and some might require more. Check with your elopement photographer to see if they can provide you with what you might need based on your plans for the day and the weather in the location. I send all of my couples customized gear lists that is included with their elopement timeline. 

Share Elopement Timeline with Guests and Vendors

That elopement timeline should be good to go! Share it with your vendors and confirm their start and end times. Share it with guests to let them know where to be, and when.

elopement planning checklist

Two Months Out

Order Your Marriage Licenses!

Remember, they’re only good in most places for three months, so don’t get them too far in advance.

If you’re eloping outdoors, develop an indoor “plan b” in case of bad weather

This could be as simple as renting some even tents for your location. It always depends on your plans. Having a plan b that you love is a good choice in case there’s bad weather on your elopement day. This is a critical part of the elopement planning checklist that I wouldn’t skip.

Even if you love rain and snow, some roads become not accessible. This is another step that I help my eloping couples plan. 

Purchase any extra hair or make-up supplies

If you’re planning on doing your hair and make up yourself, don’t forget to buy everything you need! If you’re not doing it yourself but want to be able to touch it up, you can reach out to your stylist and ask what you can buy to do touch ups throughout the day.

Schedule any final fittings for your dress and tux

Make sure everything is looking and feeling good! Alterations can sometimes take longer than you’d think. Especially prior to the busy season of weddings. Do this in advance!

Do a styling trial run with your hair and makeup artist

This is only if your vendor offers it, and if they’re in state. If you’re able to do a styling run, it’s worth it to make sure you’re happy with how everything looks. 

Check-in with all of your invited guests and make them aware of your plans for the day

Make sure everyone you invited is planning on coming, and has also booked their own flights and accommodations. Make sure they’ve read over the timeline. Check in with any guests that are apart of the ceremony and make sure they’re good to go.

Triple Check That Timeline

As your day gets closer, just triple check to make sure everything is looking and feeling good!

elopement planning checklist

One Week Out

Time to pack!

  • rings
  • vows
  • momentos
  • gifts you bought for each other
  • accessories
  • jewelry
  • shoes
  • hiking gear
  • layers

Pick up your marriage licenses

Go to the county clerk that you applied for your marriage license through and pick up your documents!

Check In


  • vendors, guests, forest ranger, (anyone who is involved in making the dream happen) for peace of mind.

  • Make sure all of your vendors have been paid, and consider grabbing cash if you need to tip any of them

  • Look into whether one more time and determine if you’re going to need your back up location

After Your Elopement

At this point, you should have had one of the greatest days and experiences of your life. That’s all for the elopement checklist, but here’s some other things to consider for after your elopement

  • Ask your photographer for some sneak peek images!

  • Announce that you eloped! There are so many cool ways to do this, check out these beautiful announcement cards on Etsy.

  • Plan a celebration with any extra friends and family you’d like to involve!

  • Write awesome reviews for all of your vendors that helped make your amazing day happen.

  • Write thank you cards to anyone who contributed to your day, sent gifts, etc.

Don't forget your free elopement planning checklist


You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

I'm Emilee

I'm an elopement photographer who specializes in planning, crafting, and documenting untraditional weddings. I believe a wedding day should be filled with traditions that resonate with you. I'm here from start to finish to make that happen. Want to chat about your plans? Click below to set up a free consultation! 

You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Intimate weddings