May 13, 2020
When most people think of eloping, they think of the stereotypical story of two kids whose parents don’t get along so they run off together to get married in Vegas at some strange mock church chapel. Today, elopements are so much more and they have evolved into something truly special where instead of just running off, you’re planning an intimate adventure for your special day.
If you’re currently engaged and torn between a traditional wedding or an elopement, this guide is perfect for you. Elopements are intimate, adventurous, and equally as special and meaningful as a traditional wedding ceremony. If you’re open to a little bit of wild adventure and are thinking the big wedding production isn’t for you, an elopement might be your perfect way to say ‘I do’.
To start, there are tons of things to think about when you’re planning to, or even thinking about eloping. Don’t be overwhelmed. We want to simplify it so it’s easy to navigate planning your elopement ceremony because planning an elopement should not be as stressful as a traditional wedding – isn’t that what we wanted to avoid in the first place?
First, you’ll want to discuss with your significant other on a date and location. Similar to a traditional wedding there are still some bookings and regulations to follow if you want to elope in a special place.
You can choose a vibe that fits both of your personalities to make it seem so much more natural for the two of you. Will you choose an urban elopement and keep it stylish in the city or more or an adventurous elopement near mountains, forests, or beaches? When it comes to elopements, your options are nearly unlimited.
To help get you started, here are a few of my favorite locations. All are local to the Chicago area but offer different vibes and backdrops for your special day.
The stunning North Avenue Beach – perfect for a beach elopement! Or you can go nautical at the Chicago Harbor for a classy elopement by the water. Obviously, the beautiful Chicago River can not be left off this list either. An elopement on the bridge is breathtaking. Then, for those who really want to make a statement, check out the Rooftop terrace for a gorgeous skyline elopement with views you’re never going to forget. And finally, a dramatic elopement not too far off the beaten path is within reach at Mattiessen State Park. Picturesque waterfall, natural settings, and a scene that makes you feel a million miles away from the city without the hike or the hassle.
From these ideas, you’ll already have tons of options one main factor that most couples don’t think of early on is the time of day for your elopement. Sunrise or sunset for your special occasion can change everything about a place. The sunset along the beach or along the Chicago River is stunning and a sunrise elopement at a state park with the warm morning sun glistening off rivers and waterfalls will make it so much more special.
Think deeply about how you want your elopement to feel, look, and be captured.
Speaking of feeling, when it comes to weather and elopements, we all have to be flexible too. If you’re planning to travel (even if it’s just outside the city) you’ll want to plan ahead. Maybe booking an extra day just in case, or packing some extra food or clothes if you’ll be walking to your elopement spot.
As your photographer, I promise to be flexible with your special day for the safety of my couples and for myself. As a team, we can all talk through options together and build in some safety barriers so that if at first we don’t succeed, we’ll have other options to make magic happen together. Thinking ahead and making plans for options B, C, and maybe D is going to increase your chances of having the elopement of your dreams and will be so much less stressful when you know you’ve got it covered.
Once you’ve determined your date, location, and time of day (with some safety options built-in), next comes the fun part: choosing your style and vibe for your elopement ceremony.
There are tons of options but common styles are Edgy + Glam, Rustic + Western, Industrial + Moody, Tropical + Boho, Desert + Wilderness, and so many more. Your personality, taste, and style will help influence your vibe for the elopement you’ve been dreaming of.
First, I would recommend scanning through some of my couples galleries and see if there’s a style or vibe that you’re drawn to. This will help determine which direction you want to take. In addition, my Pinterest is a great resource for couples to look at to gain some inspiration and it will also help me see what’s in your mind of how you want your elopement to look and feel.
Next, you should think about a budget. I know, I know. It’s certainly not the “fun” part of planning anything, but if you’ve chosen to elope, as opposed to a big, traditional wedding, you’re either focused on saving the thousands of dollars spent on the big ceremonies or you’re looking for something truly epic.
Either way – savings or epic elopement – a budget is still necessary and will help you allocate how much you want to spend and where exactly you’d like that money to go. Keep in mind when eloping, you’ll still likely have some travel costs, vendors, attire, decor, and possibly family, so thinking about your budget helps you visualize just how small or big you want to go with your elopement. You get full control over all of the details – the what, where, when, how, and who.
Speaking of how big or small you want your elopement to be, let’s discuss vendors next. Will you have a planner to help with setup and/or teardown of a small scene you’d like? Will you want a backdrop or special decor to help build the scene?
You’ll likely have a photographer (cough, cough 😉 ) and potentially a videographer, an officiant, a florist, a baker, and more. Just because elopements tend to be small, there’s no reason to feel pressured to be cheap or to cut corners. It’s your special day and you can build the intimacy with a beautifully made personalized cake from a local baker. You can still make incredibly touching video footage of your day to preserve forever. Again, you have the control and you can still save money and have incredible details and meaningful additions to your elopement.
My advice is to choose vendors you vibe well with. Someone who understands your situation, your budget, and your personality quirks. Find people who believe in the beauty that elopements are and won’t shame you for being “cheap” or “non-traditional.” There are so many ways you can blend thoughtful and traditional wedding details into a close-knit setting with only a few people. Your imagination is the only limitation!
Finally, let’s make it official. To prepare for an elopement you’ll want to think through and complete all necessary paperwork like marriage licenses and such. I am more than happy to help talk you through this as your date nears because it can be a bit more confusing than people think. Your officiant can also help with any state law requirements and if you’re traveling, they can help determine how soon you’ll need to get your actual license.
In addition, not only will your marriage need to be official, so will all of the places you’re going for your elopement. Just like you’d book a church or wedding venue, you’ll need to research where you plan to have your elopement ceremony and acquire all of the necessary permits and take care of any fees that may be associated with that. I am more than happy to help direct and guide you and your partner toward making sure we are all legally safe and following rules and guidelines when we’re planning for your elopement.
Nothing kills the vibe like armed security kicking you off a rooftop while you’re saying vows, right?
Choosing your outfits for the elopement is one of the best parts of the planning process – a part of the process most women look forward to but occasionally, the men get jazzed about choosing their outfits too if they’re not going to be forced into a starchy tuxedo!
There is an infinite number of directions you can go as a couple when it comes to what you wear. It can be fitting to the theme or something more comfortable. You can go all out on a gown and tux and still be alone in the woods together. The sky’s the limit. My Pinterest board on couples attire has been one of the most helpful resources for couples planning their elopement. My only advice? Wear something that makes you feel like your best self.
Not only can you decide how you want to look on your big day but it will also give some inspiration for any additional details you’ll need. Leather-crafted notebooks for vows to be read from, floral crowns or a handmade Persian rug to walk “down the aisle” on. Maybe hand-crafted cuffs or jewelry to share with each other – there are no limits! Be creative with your elopement style and don’t let any detail go if it’s something you truly want.
Finally, when you’ve really thought through if an elopement is right for you and your significant other, you can share the news – however, you choose to. Maybe it’s as simple as sending out a card where you two are pictured with a “We Eloped” sign! Or maybe it’s a traditional “Save the Date” card that you only send to five people. Either way, we can work together to do what’s right for you and for your vision of how you want to start your life together.
Your elopement is supposed to be special. I am hopeful that this guide helped you see each part of the elopement process a little more clearly to help ease any stress you may have had. If you’re considering an elopement, get in touch and we can talk together. Your wedding, no matter how big or how small, deserves to be special nonetheless. Planning and preparing for everything helps make an elopement less stressful and much more intimate than a traditional wedding. If you have any other questions about eloping, reach out and inquire!
Already made up your mind about eloping, but need a photographer? Let’s talk over coffee sometime (virtual or in-person).