A Step-by-Step Guide to: Eloping

Whether you’re seriously considering eloping for your upcoming wedding or in the early stages of wedding daydreaming, we’ll walk you through the steps to figure out exactly how to elope.

The word “elope” has had a complicated origin.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story of young couples throughout history running off to be wed in secret in lieu of their parents approval. You know, the Romeo and Juliet story. And you might assume that this is still what eloping refers to today. But this is the 21st century and SO. MUCH. HAS. CHANGED!

𝘼𝙣 𝙚𝙡𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙤 𝙢𝙪𝙘𝙝 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙣 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙠 𝙞𝙩 𝙞𝙨.

Today, the meaning of an elopement has evolved to be synonymous with “an intimate destination ceremony” with no or very few guests (Elopement + guests = Micro Wedding)

It’s a non-traditional, intimate, and intentional way to get married, where the focus is on the couple’s experience as opposed to the guest experience.

And a modern elopement wedding can still incorporate the style, luxury, and intimacy that makes a wedding special (Hint: a smaller headcount means you can splurge on the elements you've been swooning over!)

So where do you start? Well, that's a good question and everyone's planning journey will be different. But to help give you a kick-start, I've compiled this simple to follow guide with The 6 Steps to Planning Your Modern Elopement.

Let's dive in!

6 Steps to Planning Your Modern Elopement

Step #1: Find Your Vibe

The first thing to do when you decide to elope is to find your vibe- your vision for how you want the day to go (Pinterest is great for this!). Once you have this narrowed down, you can search out locations and a date, and find one that fits. Having a clear vision will also help you and your planner, to curate the rest.

Elopement themes we're loving in 2021: Autumn in the desert, romantic Tuscan, Fields and Florals, Enchanting Woodland.

Step #2: Know Your Numbers

We all know the budget is probably the least favorite of all the wedding planning steps, but it is definitely the most important. But the good news is, and probably one of the reasons you're considering eloping is... it tends to be much more cost effective when you ditch the guest list. But it doesn't have to. Instead, you could reallocate the money that would have gone to catering and move it to say, florals. Or a grand destination. Or even that designer dress you've been lusting after.

Regardless of how you plan to spend your money, you need to know how much you have to spend. Then you can move on to the next step and figure out where to spend it.

Keep in mind you will need to set aside part of the budget for legal fees, travel and vendor tips.

Step #3: Pick Your Vendors with Purpose

Once you've determined your elopement budget, it's time to start the FUN PART! Decide where you want to hire vendors. We suggest Photography/Videography and Florals as must haves, but you may also want to consider: an elopement planner, a baker, an officiant (if you don't plan on using a friend), and a hair and makeup artist.

And remember, you don't want to be meeting your vendors for the first time at your ceremony. When you're planning a destination elopement, it may not be practical (or even possible in the midst of COVID-19) to meet up in person, but at least try to schedule a Zoom call. That way you can discuss your vision and any pre-wedding-day details.

Step #4: Get Your Legal Ducks in a Row

Regardless of how you plan to tie the knot, there is always legal paperwork that you need before and after you say I do, and they may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Before the wedding:

The Marriage License: Every couple who intends to marry, must apply for a marriage license. In addition to the bride and groom, the marriage license needs to be signed by the wedding officiant and sent in to be registered. Each state will have its own requirements so be sure to check with your state and county or the state/county you'll be married in.

Most states require you to apply for your marriage license at the town or county clerk’s office where the ceremony will be taking place.

What you'll need to bring with you

  • Driver’s licenses or passports (government-issued photo ID)

  • Birth certificates

  • Social Security number

  • Divorce decree if you were previously married and are divorced

  • Death decree if you were previously married and are widowed

  • Parental consent if you are underage

After the wedding:

Make sure your officiant sends in the proper paperwork within the required time to register your marriage certificate. If you plan on changing your name, you will also have to visit your local courthouse and then the DDS for more information. Companies like NewlyNamed can help make this process easier.

Step #5: Dress Accordingly

The Outfit:

It doesn't have to be white, formal, or even a suit/dress, but you do want to make sure you wear something SHOW STOPPING! Try to coordinate with your spouse-to-be and make sure your textures and colors represent your personality as well as compliment the surrounding location. If you're having trouble coming up with something on your own, an appointment to a bridal shop or consulting with a wedding planner is a great resource. Keep in mind the climate, natural surroundings and the functionality you want from your outfit (you don't want to be wearing long sleeves or a wool blazer in the desert in May).

And if you're looking to save even more while still having the red carpet look, consider renting your outfit.

Hair + Makeup:

For the full luxury experience, consider hiring a hair and makeup artist to accompany you on your big day. Make sure they are comfortable with travel and will bring their own setup.

Step #6: Share the Good News!

You did it! Mozel Tov! Now you get to share the good news with your friends and family. Here are some tips to letting your loved ones know that you got hitched!

  1. Choose a printed announcement. It's the classic way to go and there's something about a physical card that makes people feel special. Plus you'll get the added benefit of giving your address to everyone's address book

  2. Choose your stationer. The good thing about stationary is that they don't have to be local for you to support small business and individual artists. Companies like Minted provide a platform for individual artists to display their work and have eco-options like 100% recycled paper. (clients of Aster + Birch Weddings receive 25% off all Minted wedding products and free custom design work!) Or choose a bespoke stationer like our friend Sakshi at Inquisited Paper + Designs. She designs the most beautiful custom stationary on handmade paper with non-toxic dyes.

  3. Pick your Tone: Whether formal or friendly, pick a tone that expresses how excited you are that you're married. Showing people how happy you are will help set the tone for how they should react.

  4. Consider inviting them to a reception. This could be as simple as a dinner at a local restaurant or brunch at your parents' house. That way they still have a chance to celebrate with and congratulate you in person. And no, you don't have to extend this invitation to everyone. Your closest friends and family will be just fine.

  5. Post it! In the age of social media, we're pretty sure you're already way ahead of us on this one. But posting to social media with your couple's hashtag is a great idea. You can even encourage people to post any pictures of you and your fiancé with the same hashtag for a trip down memory lane.


Well there you have it. 6 Steps to planning your modern elopement. Obviously this isn't everything, and everyone's plans will be different, but this should give you a good place to start. So if you’ve been dreaming of escaping hand-in-hand to exchange vows with your soul mate, why not do it? Go to the mountains, a park, the forest.. the possibilities are endless. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about you two.