How to Plan an Elopement Wedding That You Love

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If you’re here then I am guessing you are planning an elopement wedding, right

Elopements are so much fun and have so much to offer, simply because they are all about celebrating the love and joy between you as a couple in a way that makes only you two happy – forget everyone elses opinion! You may have the most exciting vision in your head, but without proper processes and organisation, it may not go as smoothly as you’d like.

So, as an editorial wedding photographer who loves joining couples on their adventures, I am going to tell you how to plan an elopement wedding that you love!

A groom stands behind his bride, snuggling into her neck after their Palm Springs elopement wedding

Everything you need to know to plan your unique Elopement

Choose an Elopement Location and a Date

If you want to know how to make an elopement special to you, then first up you need to choose an elopement location! 

When you imagine your dream location, do you envision yourself on a mountaintop with a view that stretches for miles? Or perhaps on a walk through the pine trees? Perhaps you’ve stood on the shore of an alpine lake, nestled against the base of a towering peak? A cliff-side beach or sand dunes? 

The right location may even have several different types of terrain, but deciding which view is most important to you should be the first step in planning your elopement. And, as an elopement photographer I have some suggestions up my sleeve!

*As soon as you have a chosen location, confirm a date.

Palm Springs, CA

Palm Springs has so much to offer, whether you’re looking for desert scenery, iconic windmills, sand dunes, hot springs, or stylish hotels.

There are also many great hot spots nearby, such as Mt. San Jacinto (where you can ride the Aerial Tram or go hiking), Joshua Tree National Park (which I will go into more), Pioneertown, and many more!

Check out my Palm Springs Elopement Guide!

Joshua Tree, CA

A Joshua Tree elopement is completely surreal, with massive rock formations and stunning desert landscapes. The vast national park transports you to a landscape unlike any you’ve ever seen before the moment you arrive.

The Joshua Trees, as the name suggests, greet you with spikey branches topped with what appear to be mini palm trees. Don’t be fooled by the arid landscape; Joshua Tree National Park is home to over 750 plant species, 52 mammal species, and at least 250 bird species. 

Needless to say, your elopement will include a lot of sightseeing!

Check out my Joshua Tree Elopement Guide!

Calculate the Costs

To plan an elopement wedding, it is important to know how much you both want to spend on your elopement! 

So, here are all of your major expenses to get you started. You probably won’t need to budget for every single thing, so prioritize the ones that are most important to you.

  • Photographer 
  • Transportation (flights, rental car, parking, tolls, insurance, etc.)
  • Airbnb or a hotel room
  • Other suppliers like makeup, florist, food, etc
  • Officiant
  • Vow booklets
  • Wedding rings
  • Permits and fees for marriage license
  • Permits and fees for national or state parks
  • Additional details such as stationery, invitations, thank you cards
  • Food, snacks, drinks
  • Dress(es) and/or Tux Rentals/Purchases

Make a Guest List or Skip This!

Create a rough list of the people you want to invite – if any. Maybe you want your parents there to celebrate with you!

Consider how you intend to invite your guests. What about formal invitations? Email? What about word of mouth? Perhaps you want something more personal and would like stationery that is tailored to your personality and elopement theme.

Whatever it is you choose, it is good to know if you are having guests and who right from the start.

a couple walks hand in hand after their elopement wedding ceremony

Pick Your Ceremony Location

Now comes the exciting part: picking your ceremony location! Remember how I asked you to imagine your elopement day in step one? Now it is time to envision the ceremony.

What’s the weather like? What is the environment like around you? Is there any vegetation? Lakes? Tall mountains or tall structures? Is it sunny and warm, or is it snowing? Is it at dawn or dusk? On the beach in the middle of the day? Once you’ve determined your vision, begin looking online for areas that may have all of those characteristics.

To plan an elopement wedding that you love, understand whether it is an appropriate location for your ceremony – is it a busy tourist area? If so consider eloping at a less busy period or super early in the morning to avoid the crowds! What’s the weather like? Consider the time of year.

Hire an Elopement Photographer

You can start looking into photographers once you’ve narrowed down a general location or a vision for your elopement location!

The first vendor you’ll want to hire is almost always your photographer because how else are you going to remember every fun moment, the emotions, and details clearly?

The personality of your photographer is even more critical for an elopement – with the right companion, you’ll spend a lot of time planning your dream elopement day with them – well with me anyway, I love getting involved in all the fun with my couples! 

On your elopement day, you’ll be with them for the majority of the day so you’ll want them to feel like a friend and someone you feel comfortable with. Don’t worry, as your elopement photographer I will almost be invisible – I will sit back and capture all of the important moments – you’ll hardly notice I am there and I will be your biggest cheerleader!

Choose Your Other Vendors

Your other elopement wedding vendors will make up the rest of your vision. Here are some to consider:

  • Florist 
  • Caterer / Private Chef
  • Musician 
  • Makeup Artist
  • Hair Stylist
  • Decor Rentals

You may not even feel the need for extra suppliers – do what works for you!

Research How to Get a Marriage License 

Every state/country is different when it comes to the laws. When it comes to researching the laws and requirements before making any official booking plans or reservations, it is critical that you plan your elopement far in advance.

Book Accommodation and Travel

Planning an elopement wedding means booking accommodation and I advise that you stay somewhere close to your ceremony location.

There are so many choices and it all depends on your preference and what vibe you are going for! You could book a modern a-frame cabin in the woods, or something with stunning views and large windows? May be you want to camp in a tipi tent? 

There are many unique AirBNBs and short-term rentals available, but start looking 8 months to a year in advance as places can book up quickly depending on the time of year and location – especially if its a hot spot!

Plan Your Elopement Timeline 

Everyone’s elopement timeline looks different, of course. But, here are some things to consider adding to your timeline to ensure you don’t miss anything important!

  • Getting ready – note the time you have to get ready and if you have hired an MUA and hair stylist, note down the time they will be with you. As well as this, as an elopement photographer I like to take photos of this process, so note it down.
  • First Look – if you chose to get ready separately then you may have considered a first look, slot this into your timeline in a dreamy spot!
  • Photos with family and friends – if you have decided to invite a few close family and friends we can schedule in some time to capture some photos.
  • Ceremony – if you are hiking to your ceremony spot, consider the time it will take you to get there, as this may take some extra time. 
  • Celebration – however you choose to celebrate – star gazing, a few drinks and music, a campfire, slot it in to your timeline.
a groom kisses a bride's hand in front of a stucco wall during their Palm Springs elopement wedding


The best tip I can give you to plan an elopement that you love is to simply have lots of fun! You have been eager to start planning this day for a long time, right? So make the most of it.

If you are organized and follow this guide, you’ll be sure to have a smooth elopement planning process. And remember why you are eloping with your partner in crime and the fact you are creating a day that you both will never forget – full of fun!

Plan Your Elopement Wedding With Ease 

Now you know how to plan an elopement wedding that you love – go away with your partner, follow this guide, and listen to each other’s ideas for a unique elopement wedding that you’ll never forget, or regret!
If you are ready to inquire about your elopement wedding photography, get in touch with me. I’d love to chat.

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