The Ultimate How to Elope Guide

Elopements now carry a different meaning than they once did. THANK GOODNESS!! Having a traditional wedding where you have to pick out table linens and worry about centerpieces isn’t for everyone and for those who desire to get married in a different way you have an alternative option. But, would you even know How to Elope?!

Elopements are all about crafting a day that truly reflects the two of you! There are no rules to eloping so however the two of you want to celebrate and spend your day you can do it! You can take a helicopter ride to an epic remote location, you can hike or not hike, you can take a boat ride, you can stroll through a forest. If you can dream it up you can do it!

Would you even know where to start or how to elope to plan your dream day? I totally get that you might have no idea, but don’t worry, I got you! After helping many couples plan their dream elopement day I’ve put together this list on How to Elope so you can know where to begin to get the ball rolling for your epic day!

How to Elope–Planning Your elopement

I wanted to touch on a little something before diving into these steps on how to elope. When starting to plan your elopement don’t forget that this is your wedding day. This is the day that you will look back on and celebrate for the rest of your life! I believe that you deserve to have the day of your dreams and that you should have your day documented from beginning to end. You deserve to have more than just a few hours of celebrating. Why not make it the most epic adventure you two have been on?! There are no rules to eloping so if you can dream it up you can do it!

What’s the best day that the two of you could create from start to finish? That’s the day that you deserve to have and you deserve to have it documented and captured so that you can share it with your friends and family back home and look back on your gorgeous images and remember it like it was yesterday. It’s all about creating a memorable and epic experience that’s all about the two of you! To dive a little more into this check out What Does Eloping Mean?

Okay! Now keep scrolling for the guide on how to elope!!how to elope guide for couples eloping

How to Elope

1. Dream Up the most incredible elopement day

First things first! It’s time to sit down and dream up the most incredible day that you two could possibly imagine! Don’t think about logistics yet. If you could create the most epic day, what would you want to do? Take a helicopter ride? A seaplane? Go hiking? Camping? Kayaking? Take a boat ride? Jump off a cliff? Skydiving? Skiing? Snowboarding? Jeeping? Ride an ATV?

Where would you be? Alaska? The PNW? New Zealand? Europe? Local? A national park?

What does the scenery look like? Is it snowing? Is the sun shining? Is it moody and overcast? Are there mountains? A lake? Waterfall? The beach?

Is it just the two of you or do you have a few of your closest family members with you? 

There are just a few questions to get the wheels in your brain turning!! As I said, don’t think about the logistics. If you could do whatever you want what would that look like?! Make a date night of it and sit down together and take some time to dream up your elopement day!

2. Come Up with a Rough Budget for your elopement

While some people think couples choose to elope to save money that really isn’t the case–for the most part! The thing about elopements is that you can be very intentional about where you spend your money! You have more freedom and have the ability to spend your money on what really matters to the two of you since you don’t have to pay for a wedding for a whole crowd of people.

Coming up with a budget correlates to what is most important to the two of you! Is it getting married in that epic location you’ve always dreamed of going to? Is it hiring a photographer you really love and connect with? It is getting that dream elopement dress? Consider everything that truly matters to you. Elopements allow you to spend your money on exactly what you want to create the day of your dreams! As a side note, when I mentioned budget don’t think that that doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible with where you decide to spend your money.

Here are a few things to take into consideration when planning your budget:

  • Photography/Videography
  • Officiant
  • Elopement Attire
  • Location permits and fees
  • Hair and makeup
  • Rings
  • Marriage License
  • Decor and florals
  • Food and beverages
  • Travel costs

Of course, you definitely don’t have to include all of these into your elopement day! For example, only about half of the couples I work with decide to have an officiant on their elopement day and opt to have a symbolic ceremony on their elopement day and get all the legal stuff done in their hometown. Couples that choose to do this usually don’t want to have to go to a county clerk’s office during their elopement trip and to those couples the day they say their vows to one another is the day they get married and not the day paperwork was filed!

As I mentioned earlier take some time and decide what is most important to the two of you! Sit down, leave all the logistics behind, and dream up what would be the ultimate experience you would like to have on your elopement day. When you start to create a vision in your mind of what you’re looking for, your priorities will start to get clear!bride and groom walking up stairs to their elopement location

3. Pick Your Dream Elopement Location

Now, this is one of the best parts about eloping!! I totally understand that this part might be slightly overwhelming since there are so many incredible locations all around the world. Picking out your location definitely correlates to your budget and how much you want to spend on travel! Again, what’s most important to you?!

When deciding on a location–when I say location you don’t have to pick a specific spot to say your vows! It could be a general area like the PNW, a certain country or state!–think about the type of scenery you want. Do you want mountains? A forest? An open meadow? Definitely take into consideration the time of year you want to elope and the type of weather you want to have on your day as that can heavily influence the location you choose!

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when picking out a location:

  • Are you an outdoorsy couple?
  • Do you love to travel?
  • What activities do you want to do on your day?
  • What type of weather do I want on my elopement day?
  • What’s my favorite type of scenery/landscape?
  • Do we want to stay domestic or elope internationally?

Here a few articles for inspiration to get your mind running with ideas!

Best Places to Elope in Montana

Complete Guide for Eloping in Washington State

Best Places to Elope in Utah

Best Places to Elope in Oregon

Eloping in Ireland: The Ultimate Guide

10 Best Places to Elope in the PNW

4. Pick Out Your Photographer to Capture Your Elopement

Most of the couples I work with tend to contact me around this spot when they have a general vision for their elopement day, but now need help to pull it all together. It’s such a blast when couples come to me with a general location in mind and sort of know what they want because I love to help them take that general and fuzzy vision and make it clear as day for them and help them craft their ultimate elopement day!

Once you have a photographer who can help plan your elopement you’ll start to be able to nail out everything you need for your elopement to pull your plan together! If you don’t have a photographer who helps with all the planning then I would suggest hiring a planner local to where you’re eloping to help you with all the logistics.

ultimate how to elope guide for couples

5. Pick the rest of your vendors and plan out the details for your elopement!

The next part of how to elope is to get in touch with the people who can complete your elopement! After you hire your elopement photographer you’ll, again, if they help with the planning, they’ll probably be able to recommend any additional vendors that you’re looking for.

A few other vendors that you might consider would be a florist, hair and makeup artist, videographer, and maybe an officiant depending on where you get married and if you want your elopement to be symbolical or not.

Now, an important thing to think about is this: You decided to elope because you two desire to have a wedding day that’s more intimate and focused on the two of you, right? Every vendor you add that will be present throughout your day will change the vibe of your elopement. I’ve seen some vendors try to make the day more about them than the couple and it just breaks my heart, because as an elopement photographer my whole focus is on the couple and allowing them to enjoy their day. So, when deciding on vendors think of who will add to your day and not take away!

Also, just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean that you can personalize your experience with details or certain activities! If you two have always dreamed of taking a helicopter ride, book a helicopter tour to an epic location for you to say your vows. If you love skateboarding, take along skateboards and plan out a time to ride!

This is your day and you can include whatever you want into your day!bride and groom on their elopement day running down the road through the mountains

6. Make your marriage legal

Don’t forget to hit the county clerk’s office to get the paperwork done! If you are getting married in another country or even state I highly recommend that you get married legally in your hometown and then have your elopement day be symbolical and be the day that you say your vows to each other and commit your lives together. By doing this you will save a lot of hassle and keep your elopement day as stress-free as it can be!

If you live in the U.S. and get married in another state that is, of course, much easier to be legally married on your actual day. It all comes down to what you decide to do on your elopement day and if you want an officiant to tag along or not! It totally depends on your situation and what you want so this is usually something I go over with my couples and help them decide what’s best for them on a case to case basis!

If you decide to get married legally on your day don’t forget to send in your signed certificate to the office you got it from! You can usually mail it in or walk in and give it to them. If you have an officiant sometimes they will send it in for you, but be sure to have that conversation with your officiant! It can take up to 6-8 weeks to receive your official marriage license so if you need to get is sooner for a particular reason I would suggest to go do it in person and let them know!bride and groom learning how to elope

How to Elope

7. Get your Elopement attire!

How fun picking out your attire can be!! For the bride, I highly recommend picking out a dress that is flowy and allows you to move with ease. During your elopement, you’re usually more active–walking around a lot, exploring your scenery, and maybe even hiking. So, something that is comfortable for you is definitely key! As for the groom, you can wear a suit, nice pants with button-down and suspenders, etc.

You can get creative with your outfits to add some personal touches to your day! I’ve seen some fun touches such as jewelry, socks, and fun ties. Most of the brides and grooms I’ve worked with will wear hiking/outdoor boots so that your feet will be comfy all day long! If you opt for a winter elopement then you’ll have to take some extra precautions to stay warm such as wool leggings, wool socks, a winter jacket to stay warm, possibly a cute jacket if you wish to switch off for a few pictures and some ear muffs.

When picking out your attire consider where you’re eloping and how easy or not easy it would be to travel with it! Some materials travel much better than others like polyester, spandex, knit fabrics and tencel are all great fabrics for traveling and won’t wrinkle! You could easily fold or roll a dress made from this material while traveling or hiking on your day.

how to elope and enjoy your wedding day

8. Share the News with friends and family

This can always be a touchy subject for some people. It totally depends on the relationship you have with your closest friends and family, but it would probably be a good idea to tell them you’re eloping beforehand. I have written up a couple of articles that provide some more tips and insight!

5 Tips for Announcing Your Elopement

Eloping with Family: How to Keep Family Involved in Your Elopement

However, one thing I want to distinguish is that if you WANT to have your parents or your closest friends with you on your day then do it! The amount of people you choose to celebrate with you on your day doesn’t define what an elopement is. An elopement all comes down to the intention you have on your day! So, as long as you want the focus to remain on the two of you and have an intimate and adventurous day take those who really matter to you along if that’s something you desire!

WHOO!! That was a lot of information, but I hope this has helped to give you an idea of how to elope and given you some insight on where to begin with planning your adventurous elopement! If you’re searching for an elopement photographer I would love to chat with you! You can contact me >HERE< and in the meantime, you can check out these other related articles.

How to Write Wedding Vows for Your Elopement

10 Tips for Planning an Adventure Elopement

Elopement Ceremony Ideas & Traditions

How to Make Your Elopement Special

Elopement Checklist

ultimate how to elope guide for couples planning an elopement

comments +
  1. Maya says:

    Love these tips for couples planning their elopement. This blog is such a great resource!

  2. Flora Gibson says:

    What a great guide to eloping ! I love your beautiful work and great suggestions.

  3. Kat says:

    So many great tips! I also love all the helpful articles you link to based on location!

  4. heather huie says:

    This is such a helpful article for couples

  5. Katy Homan says:

    Wow – such a detailed and useful guide to planning an elopement! And so many beautiful images to act as elopement inspiration!

  6. Cara says:

    Woah! This guide is freekin epic. So many couples are going to be raving about this how to elope guide!

  7. Wow! You really covered a lot of bases. Especially helpful to cover those important but less fun subjects like letting the family know and making it officially legal.

  8. This is SO helpful for couples planning to elope!

  9. Traci says:

    This is such a great resource

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Courtney made the process SO easy! She does more than just photograph your day. She cares about you having the BEST elopement experience possible! I'll never be able to thank Courtney enough for making our dream day happen!

Contact me about your Elopement!

You probably have a million thoughts running through your head making you a bit overwhelmed.

How does this work? What can I do during my elopement? How do I choose my location? Is the ceremony legal? Can I elope with family?

One of the reasons you're probably eloping is because you want to have a stress-free day, but with so much uncertainty on how to plan an elopement how is it even possible?!

No need to stress, you're in the right place! This is where I come in and do the heavy lifting for you.

I'm Courtney, and I specialize in documenting adventurous elopements for couples who love the outdoors, but role is so much more than just an elopement photographer.

I'm here to guide you through every single step of planning your elopement and to give you a clear path tossing that stress out the window!

So, if you're ready to have a unique elopement experience that's actually focused on you, then let's friggin' do this!!

You know you want to elope,

and you know you want it to be meaningful and adventurous, but where do you start?!

trusted by & seen in

Courtney has a very warm and bubbly personality that shows through her work! She made my husband and I feel SO comfortable throughout the whole day.

We were very confused on how to start planning our adventure and she was there to answer a lot of our questions in the beginning and honestly with a very short time frame! We planned and got married in 6 weeks, because we knew we really wanted her there for our day and that is what she had available! It was a challenge well accepted for all three of us.

Our day was perfect. She captured our true essence of love and laughter and each photo shows it. There weren't very many set up photos unless we asked for them. She just gets you in the moment!

You can absolutely tell that Courtney loves what she does and wants your day to be perfect. She listens to you and really tries to understand you as a couple first and then uses that within her photography skills.

If you are looking for an adventure/elopement photographer I would highly suggest Courtney Lynn. We will be looking at and reliving our elopement forever thanks to her amazing photos. You won't be disappointed!

Amber & Ryan

Courtney was so helpful during the whole process! She helped put together a wonderful day!  She really wanted to make sure our wedding was just right for us. She made our elopement perfectly formulated for us, and I can't think of a more beautiful day!

One of our concerns going into an elopement was wanting to have pictures that let us remember the entire day. Courtney was there from start to finish and captured the whole day! Because of her outstanding work, we can share it with our loved ones, and they can experience the event almost as if they were there. We also really appreciated that she captured genuine moments between us instead of making it a photoshoot.

It felt like we were hanging out with a friend, and we think that helped us enjoy our day to the fullest.
If your dream wedding is an adventurous elopement day, I couldn't recommend Courtney more. She went above and beyond and was such a joy to work with throughout this whole experience.

She made us feel at ease and relaxed. Some wedding photographers are all about capturing posed moments that can be really awkward; that's NOT Courtney's style at all. Not only was she down to do whatever we wanted and go on little side adventures, but she made us feel comfortable.

She captured our true personalities and who we are as a couple! When looking at our gallery, our love for each other and our personalities can be seen in each image! She is extremely talented and did a phenomenal job of capturing the beauty of our wedding location. If you hire her, you will not regret it!

Sadye & Matthew

We are SO happy we decided to go with Courtney for our wedding photos! Originally we were supposed to elope in Italy, and she helped a TON with planning things like travel and what our day was going to look like.

Then the pandemic hit and we realized we probably weren't going to be able to go to Italy. So, we decided to change locations to Glacier!

She made it super easy and stress free, and helped plan what our new day in Glacier was going to look like!

Courtney was super easy to spend the entire day with, very friendly and fun to talk to! Even though our day didn't go exactly how we planned due to the weather, we all just went with the flow of it and it still turned out to be an amazing day!

If you're in doubt, just hire her!! You won't regret it one bit and you will get so many incredible photos to look back on your day!!

robbie & Aryton

When my now husband and I started planning our elopement, we were confused to the max. We didn’t know where to start or how to go about planning anything. We knew we wanted to get married in Ireland, but had too many options on exactly where. After doing some research of elopements, I was scrolling on Pinterest and came across some BEAUTIFUL photos taken by Courtney!

Courtney  made the process so easy! She is organized, professional, sweet, and so so funny!! Courtney does more than just photograph your day, she cares about you having the BEST day! She helped us plan EVERYTHING! Even down to the little details, like what type of shoes to wear! She helped us narrow down where, giving us her informative opinions on each of our options! She gave us cool ideas that we could incorporate into our special day. No idea was too big! When the day came, we had the absolute best time exploring and getting married! After we exchanged our vows, we went to celebrate at a local pub (Courtney’s idea ;) ). It was a blast!!

Our elopement was an absolute DREAM COME TRUE! I will never be able to thank Courtney enough for making it happen. So for anyone on the fence, swaying back and forth about whether or not work with Courtney on your big day, SWAY NO MORE! You’ve found your person!! My day couldn’t have been any better and my pictures are beautiful and capture the fun we had!!! I can’t wait to work with her again!

Taylor & andrew

"Planning for our day and the day itself would have been completely different without Courtney. We only knew that we wanted to share our vows in the Tuscan countryside and have beautiful photos, and Courtney planned the perfect agenda for that to happen.

She coordinated our timing around sunset, and not only were the photos breathtaking, but the actual evening was too. I remember looking out over the vineyards as the sun set, the view becoming more and more stunning by the minute. There were no moments that felt forced or posed, every shot was comfortable and fun and full of love.

Courtney is such a sweet, kind, fun person and we truly enjoyed spending the day with her. Courtney helped us to turn our dreams into reality, and we hardly had to do a thing. She allowed us to be in control of our day but gently took all of our wants and needs into consideration while making everything happen. Lastly, our pictures are just magical. Courtney is an incredibly talented photographer, and I feel so lucky that we were able to work with her. I would recommend her over and over again to anyone eloping."

Ellie & Zac

"Let. Me. Tell. You. It's not the technical aspects of photography that are the most difficult. It's the human aspect. Remembering that as a Photographer, you may be behind the lens but you are still a human, in front of other humans, in some of the most raw and intimate of moments.

Courtney balances both of these necessities (but rarities) with poise, great direction, and an overall kind calmness that just makes you breathe a sigh of relief. If you've come across Courtney's page and see what you like already, BOOK HER NOW. Don't spend another second looking for another Photographer that doesn't bring anywhere near the amazing light and spirit that this girl brings right here. Thank you again Courtney for allowing my husband and I to marry each other all over again! The images are stunning and I can't wait to blow them up and hang them in our home."

Shannon & Brandon

"Working with Courtney was an extremely easy experience, seamless, positive and obviously fun. My wife and I went on our honeymoon and wanted to surprise her with a surprise honeymoon adventure session.

Courtney worked with me to make that dream gift for my wife a reality. Meeting and posing for a photographer for the first time can be intimidating, but with Courtney it was anything but that.

Courtney is extremely positive and helpful and made us feel very comfortable in front of the camera. She played some of our favorite songs and before we knew we were just having fun and she was catching them every second. Perhaps the best part of our session was that Courtney knew all the characteristic and peaceful places of where we were, which made our photos even more extraordinary.

She kept the focus on my wife and me. When we shared our images with friends and relatives, everyone complimented on Courtney's aesthetics and the emotion she was able to capture. I can't thank Courtney enough for exceeding all our expectations with this photo shoot!!"


"Pick her -- she's the best! Courtney is amazing! Seriously! If you're thinking about eloping you should snatch her up to capture your day. She makes the entire experience fun and relaxed plus the pictures just blew us away. I will never forget our magical time in Venice and I'm obsessed with the gorgeous photos Courtney took of us. She's so so good!"

Jami & Tim

Courtney is not only a talented photographer, but she makes you feel so comfortable even though being in front of the camera can be nerve-wracking! She did such an amazing job with our day and if I had to pick my favorite photo it would take FOREVER, because I love so many! Definitely consider her if you want adventurous and beautiful photos coupled with an amazing experience!

walker & mac

Don't take it from me,
Take it from my past couples!

You’re in the right place!

I’m here to guide you through EVERY. SINGLE. STEP.

Let’s toss that’s confusion out the window and focus on how you want to get married!

Let me relieve those feelings of being lost, save you time, tell the story of your day and let’s get started creating a day that you’ll never forget!

So, if you know you want to elope,
but feel unsure on where to start, 

contact me & let's get starting creating your dream elopement!

...and you want an amazing storyteller to document your day


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date & location*

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Let's freaking do this!!