How to Elope

Last week I wrote about the many reasons couples may choose to elope. Elopement is no longer a secret or undesirable choice. In fact, there are many good reasons to get married without guests. So, if you’ve decided to elope, how exactly do you accomplish this?

Eloping at Harmony Gardens (photo: Garth Woods)

First and foremost: where ever you are going, find out the marriage license requirements. Remember in the U.S. it is each state that control marriage, so you need a license issued by the state in which the wedding is taking place. You don’t have to be a resident of that state, simply obtain the license there. This is even more important for same-sex couples, as only 19 states currently have marriage equality (and we do in PA).

These details are important, for example, here in Pennsylvania there is a three-day waiting period from the time the license is issued, until it can be used. This can be waived by petitioning the court, usually done for cases of military deployment. So before taking another step, learn what you need legally. Then, gather all your legal documents together before going there.

Many resorts specialize in this and can be very helpful, as well as a few good on-line sites for elopement, especially ‘

Obviously you need someone to officiate your marriage. I perform elopements very often at my garden wedding site, or other locations, and I’m glad to help in any way. It can be a little daunting finding the right location for the ceremony and an officiant who will go there, but it can be done! There are the on-line resources, of course, and also most courts have a list of local officiants they can give you.

If you’re thinking you would just like to go somewhere beautiful, like a park, or by a river or waterfall, think it through. What will you do if it rains? If you are staying at a hotel, ask if you can use some space there. Will your officiant be put off by rain? I’ve officiated under an umbrella and in the snow, and I have a rain back-up plan at my place.

What’s your style? I have had elopements with brides in gorgeous wedding gowns. There is no reason why you can’t have the dress. In fact, you can have it all – the gown, the flowers, the rings, the romance and the ‘I do’s’ – just without the guests! Some couples think that elopement is the most romantic way to tie-the-knot. Imagine the couples massages, the honeymoon suite, all the extras you can splurge on, since you’re not paying for a big wedding.

A romantic moment at Harmony Gardens. (photo: Garth Woods)

On the other hand, with an elopement, anything goes – so anything from jeans to dress clothing is fine. You can forgo a lot: the fancy clothes, flowers, favors, invitations, the list goes on and on, but one thing you should consider having is a professional photographer. You may want to show your loved ones and future generations a photo of your wedding day! What a story you have created, but sure to have the photographic evidence to back it up.

Are you doing this in secret, or simply doing a ‘get away’ and getting married? If you are keeping the big news from family and friends, let them afterwards as soon as possible.  Call those closest to you. This is not a piece of news for email or text. Then, if you wish, plan a party, or send an announcement out – use those great photos!

Remember, just because you are eloping, doesn’t mean it’s not important. Be prepared to answers lots of questions and maybe even a few accusations after the fact. But if avoiding the drama, planning and expense of a big wedding is your goal, then go ahead and take the leap of faith that is marriage with the leap of elopement.


Thank you Garth Woods for the beautiful photos.

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A great way to announce your elopement! photo by me.

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