What is Eloping? A Guide on How to Elope.
With a huge rise in eloping over the last couple of years, more and more couples are entertaining the idea of eloping as a better-suited option when it comes to their wedding plans. Not only does eloping often feel like a better fit, but planning an elopement often comes with less to think about, the ability to plan within a smaller budget, and over all, much less stress. As an intimate wedding and elopement photographer here in Calgary, there has even been instances of one of my own couples deciding to turn to planning an elopement in lieu of the more elaborate wedding plans they were initially considering.
If planning an elopement has been on your mind lately, but you’re still not sure what it fully entails, or how to plan one, then I wanted to use this post as an opportunity to breakdown some of that information for you, as well as give you some helpful firsthand guidance from someone who has attended and photographed a multitude of local and mountain elopements over the last eight years.
What is eloping, and why is everyone talking about it?
Eloping—although traditionally meaning to run away and get married without anyone else knowing your plans—has since grown into an umbrella term of what an intimate marriage celebration can look like if planning a large scale traditional wedding isn’t the path that you’re wanting to take. I’ve attended and photographed elopements where just my couple, their officiant, myself, and one other witness was present, as well as attended and photographed elopements where all of the closest family members were also present alongside of my couples. The beautiful and encouraging thing about planning an elopement is that there are no rules to how it’s planned, who is in attendance, or where it takes place; all that is important is that your elopement is curated and followed through with on your own terms.
So you’re ready to elope, but where do you even begin?
The first step in planning an elopement, is deciding that this is the path you are both wanting to take, as well as explaining to yourselves and each other, why this choice feels the best for you.
When it comes to planning a marriage celebration—elopement or otherwise—the most important step in ensuring that what you’re envisioning comes into fruition, is feeling strong and supported in the choices that you’ve made. Weddings are one area of life can cause often bring up and out other people’s unsolicited advice and opinions, so feeling confident in whatever planning decisions you’ve made is a great step in following the trajectory that best supports your plans and desires for your celebration.
A great second step when it comes to planning your elopement is to begin to collect visual elements and inspiration that fit your thoughts thus far. Pinterest is a good place to begin if you are starting without any particular vision or direction in mind; I’ve actually worked to curate a few inspiration galleries from the past weddings and elopements that I’ve photographed over the years that would be a great way to get the ideas flowing; especially if you’ve been thinking about a mountain or Alberta elopement.
Don’t quite have a vision?
If the idea of starting from scratch with visualizing seems daunting, I would encourage you to both to sit down together and re-analyze your reasons for wanting to elope in the first place: why is eloping right for you? Why is it the choice you made for your marriage celebration? Start with those initial questions and then from there, branch out into what other elements for your elopement are most important for you. Is it the photography? Is having no one but yourselves and your witnesses there most important, or do you want to include certain loved ones? Is the location your one non-negotiable? Or are there certain outfits that you just can’t imagine eloping without? Whatever the case may be, your answers to these questions are what is going to help steer your planning direction.
Download the elopement-planning checklist!
Planning a celebration--no matter how big or small--can be overwhelming, which is why I’ve curated an elopement-specific planning checklist that should help in ensuring that you’ve got your bases covered.
The bigger decisions.
After you’ve decided on the structure of your elopement, and whether or not you’re going to have guests or if you’re following through with a more traditional elopement approach, the next choices that should be made are the bigger ones; a few of these bigger decisions include (but aren’t limited to):
Location - where do you want to elope?
Do you want to stay local, or do you envision travelling elsewhere? If you’re local to Alberta or Canada, there are endless incredible elopement choices, from mountains, to plains, to badlands, and everything in between - any of which I would love to share my favourite recommendations. If you’re travelling from the U.S to elope, there are also a few great places within Alberta and BC that offer complete elopement packages (such as Emerald Lake Lodge), otherwise even if you’d rather handle most of the decisions yourself, travelling to Canada for your elopement is a decision that could actually end up saving you money, due to the difference in the Canadian and American dollar. One thing to keep in mind when it comes to opting for an all-inclusive service like that offered at Emerald Lake Lodge, is that because of the convenience and placement of well-known destination locations, there is a high chance of those locations swarming with thousands of tourists on any given day of the year. If privacy is important to your experience, I would encourage you to utilize someone local - such as your photographer - to help guide your location decisions so that crowds and popular destinations can be avoided.
When? - Time of year is another important factor to consider and decide on once you begin your plans. Depending on where you’re planning on eloping, there are certain times of that year that might be less fickle with it’s weather, as well as other factors that you might need to take into consideration. If you’re very particular on your location, date, or photographer, you might need to inquire and plan all three decisions simultaneously based on availability; otherwise if there is one of the three that you are non-negotiable about, you can use that as your definitive choice, and then base your other two factors around your one non-negotiable.
The great thing about seeking out and hiring a photographer that is local to the area that you’ve decided for your elopement, is that they should be familiar with the area and therefore would be another great resource for you when it comes to making planning decisions such as location, vendor recommendations, places to shoot, local gems, and so much more. With only living 45 minutes from the Canadian rocky mountains myself, I’ve spent more time exploring and shooting in the rockies than I have anywheres else, and would love nothing more than to share some of my favourite (tourist-free!) elopement spots.
Planner or no planner? -
Depending on where you’re doing most of your planning from - local or otherwise - the decision to hire a planner might be something that you want to consider. Again, having someone on the ground who is familiar with the area and industry, would be a good way to have someone knowledgeable in your corner that is supportive of your decisions, as well as has your best interest at heart throughout it all.
Once you’ve solidified a few of the bigger decisions, you can now begin to formulate the rest of your plans and visions. Decisions such as outfits, florals, transportation, lodging, officiant, timeline, makeup and hair, music, etc can often be made a little further into the planning process. The important thing to remember throughout this process is that you’re staying true to your non-negotiables and taking care of those decisions first. If having a certain meal or caterer be a part of your day is important to you, try and reach out to them first to ensure their availability. Same goes with any other choice that you’re making; decide on what’s most important to you both, and start with those decisions and work you way out from there. Again, if you’re simply not sure, or aren’t feeling particularly strong one way or the other, working with someone that you trust—like your photographer whose been a part of many elopements of all shapes and sizes—is often a great way to get input and guidance on decisions that you’re unsure of.
3 Tips and Reminders when it comes to planning your elopement
Let’s take a few minutes to refresh on a few of the things that we’ve covered in the post.
Once you decide that an elopement is for you, work at uncovering your reasons for the choice that you’ve made so that you feel comfortable expressing your choices if any of your loved ones are curious or question your decision.
The more confident you feel in your reasoning, the easier it will be to convey your emotions to others.
Download the elopement planning checklist so that you can physically see the to-dos that you’ll have to plan and take care of throughout this process.
Decide on your bigger decisions - such as location, date, photographer, planner or no planner - and work your way out from there.
At the end of the day…
No matter how you decide to plan your elopement, the most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to do so; what matters the most is the your choices are reflective on you and your partner’s feelings and wants. Every decision that you have made throughout your life - both as individuals, as well as a couple - has led you to this very moment, and that alone deserves to be celebrated in a way that is most reflective of who you both are and the relationship that you share.
If you haven’t done so yet, I would encourage you to take a second and download my mini planning checklist; if nothing else, it should begin to alleviate some of the stresses and overwhelm that planning a marriage celebration can tend to bring to the surface. I’d also love to strongly invite you to reach out if you’re wanting to get started planning your own elopement, but just need a bit more guidance on where and how to begin; I’ve photographed so many incredible elopements for local couples, as well have aided to guide and do some of the footwork for couples outside of Canada who needed help choosing a space outdoors that felt right for their own elopement, as well as seek out some trusted recommendations for other local vendors to be a part of their day.