| December 20, 2021

The Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist | 2021

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The Ultimate

FREE elopement planning guide

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All three of us photographers here at Adventure Instead have eloped ourselves. Being on the other side of the elopement planning and photography process (i.e. being the BRIDE) was crazy enlightening and eye-opening.

We think a lot of folks have the idea that eloping is sort of “copping out” of taking the time to plan a big wedding. While yes, you don’t have the stress and pressure and financial obligation to 100+ people when you elope, that doesn’t mean that planning it is easy. It’s not easy to figure out where to have the most perfect day with your partner and how to make it as intentional, meaningful, and unforgettable as possible. While big weddings have a pretty set format and structure that you can add your own personalization to…there isn’t a template on what an elopement day should look like. The freedom of being able to do whatever you want, can be incredibly overwhelming.

One of the biggest things we noticed while planning our own elopements is that there were hardly any good resources out there to help couples plan their elopement days. A quick google search will reveal hundreds of great “wedding planning guides”, but hardly anything really useful about how to plan an elopement.

So, all three of us (Maddie, Amber, & Tori), have been working SUPER hard on creating the most comprehensive incredible “Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist”— it’s a 30+ page PDF, jam-packed full of info based on a collective 10+ years of experience planning and photographing over 150 elopements (including our own), and we are BEYOND STOKED to share it!!!


Bride and groom pet their dog in the mountains on their wedding day.

We found that elopement planning is not a linear process with clear, consecutive steps. It happens in stages. As with climbing most mountains, there are many ways to the top — but if you feel lost you can download and follow this guide.

Read on below for a little peek into some of the information provided in our Ultimate Planning Guide & Checklist...

1: Dream up & Brainstorm your perfect elopement

All the best plans start with a quality brainstorming session.

One of the best things about eloping is that you can truly go to the most awe-inspiring places in the world to say your vows. The goal of the dreaming and brainstorming stage is to form an overall vision for your day including a general are of the world and time of year you would like to elope.

The best way to dream and brainstorm is to sit down with your partner, some place comfortable and imagine your perfect elopement day from start to finish. Try doing it on your favorite date night, or cuddled up at home with your favorite beverage.

This stage isn’t about getting bogged down in details, what’s possible or not, or what’s realistic. It’s okay to keep your ideas vague. Have fun imagining all the possibilities.

For additional help and a list of things you should consider during this dreaming and brainstorming time — download our free Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist!

However fuzzy your vision of what your day looks like, it’s a great place to start! At some point during Stage 1 or Stage 2 is when most couples choose to contact us as elopement photographers and guides. We love helping couples turn their “fuzzy” vision into a concrete plan with our extensive travel knowledge, location suggestions, and planning tools!

Bride and groom embrace while getting ready for their wedding day.

2: Research & Logistics

Once you’ve come up with the overall vision for your day, Stage 2 is all about digging deep into research and figuring out what’s feasible.

Your goal with this research is to make your adventure elopement vision a reality in the best way possible. This will allow you to start finalizing details.

Just like with Stage 1, we suggest creating a relaxed and fun environment to enjoy this process. Sit on your patio or couch with your laptops or phones — or go hang out in the travel book section of a bookstore after a coffee date and enjoy.

Two brides smile at each other in a helicopter on their wedding day.

Some important logistics to consider when planning are:

  • What are the local marriage laws and requirements around your desired location?
  • How accessible is your site? Do you need a permit to have a ceremony or photos taken there?
  • What is the weather like? What time of year is best and how do you need to prepare?
  • What kind of activities do you want to do? Do you want to do some sort of celebratory meal/drink?

If you’ve had trouble with this stage or feel like you’ve gotten stuck — don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s worth getting the right support to make your dream elopement day possible — it only comes around once, and you deserve to say your vows in the incredible way that you imagine. For more information and other important logistics, you should consider when planning your elopement day, download our free Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist!

As elopement photographers and guides — Stage 2 is where we tend to help couples the MOST with their elopement planning process. We absolutely love helping make your vision come to life.

3: Make Some Choices & Start Booking

Now that you’ve decided what is important to you and you’ve dug deep into research, it’s time to make some choices and start booking things!

The goal of this stage isn’t to finalize every single detail — but to get the most important things into place so you can fill in the details from there (Stage 4.)

Bride and groom embrace on an outside deck in front of their tent.

A great starting point is to pick your date and spot.

Consider what dates hold meaning for the two of you, Does your date work with your dream lodging or location? Does it work for anyone joining you? Don’t forget to check for holidays and special events that may also affect your chosen elopement location. For picking your spot, decide on the general area that you want to have your ceremony. The exact spot where you stand to say your vows can still be spontaneous and decided on your day — just be sure about the general area so you can confidently book lodging and transportation.

Once you’ve nailed down your date, location, and booked lodging, the hardest and most pressing parts of your planning process are complete. Take a break to celebrate, tell your family and friends (if you want to), and start getting excited that you’re one step closer to your dream elopement day!

4: Finalize Details & Get Ready

You are in the final stages of your elopement planning process and it’s getting exciting!

Stage 4 is all about filling in the details now that you have the main parts of your plan set into place.

There’s a lot of things to keep track of in this stage — so we’ve formatted it like a checklist! We suggest breaking up the many decisions into bite-size pieces. You can set due dates in your calendar, or keep a running to-do list.

Download our FREE Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist so you can continue to plan your dream elopement and check items off as you go along!

Two brides walk near a helicopter on their wedding day.

A couple of things to think about in this stage:

  • Gathering and purchasing your attire and accessories.
  • Booking your vendors.
  • Planning and booking any fun activities you’re doing on your day.
  • Building your timeline and planning your ceremony for your day.

The day before your elopement, make sure to relax, take it easy, and go to bed early. You have an important day ahead of you!

A charcuterie board with food on a table next to a bride and groom.

5: Have the Best Elopement Day!

You made it! All of your hard work brainstorming, researching, and planning is done. All that’s left is to enjoy the heck out of your elopement day!

Be present with your partner and let your emotions fly. Make sure you soak in every moment and enjoy the time spent together. Enjoy your relaxed timeline and don’t worry about how you look. Don’t stress — if you have a great experience together, great photos will follow.

A couple stand on top of the mountains on their wedding day.

When you return home, tell your friends and family! Have a party, barbecue, dinner, or reception surrounded by your loved ones. Consider ordering an album from your photographer so you can view the whole story of your day and relive the memories. Display your printed photos around your home to remind you of your perfect day.

A bride and groom embrace on their wedding day.

There is nothing better than the feeling of ditching the big wedding stress and making the brave choice to have a wedding day that truly honors and reflects your amazing relationship. We hope this guide sheds light on planning your elopement and brings you one step closer to your dream day.

Download the full FREE Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist filled with SO much more information to help your plan your perfect elopement experience!

If you need any help along the way, we (Maddie, Amber, & Tori) would love to help.

The Ultimate

FREE elopement planning guide

Fill out the form and download your guide today

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
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Maddie Mae

Elopement Photographer

& Planning Consultant

Three photographers

About us

Adventure Instead

Your Elopement Photographers & Planning Consultants. We are Maddie Mae, Amber, and Tori. We're your photographers, your elopement consultants, your cheerleaders, and your go-to adventure buddy on the day you say your vows.

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