How To Plan An Elopement On a Time Crunch

Whether you need to plan your elopement in 2 months or 10 months, this guide is for you! Planning an elopement can seem like a daunting process, especially because you are probably the first person in your family (or even your life!) to have decided to elope instead of having a big, traditional wedding. Eloping doesn’t need to be stressful, and you don’t need a lot of time to plan one. Whether you’ve always planned on eloping, or if your big wedding was cancelled due to COVID, I’m here to help you with planning your elopement on a time crunch. I’ll be discussing all of my tips and tricks, and the steps you need to take to build your dream elopement day while on a time crunch.

bride and groom at their forest elopement in olympic national park

Find an Elopement Photographer Who Can Help You

Finding a helpful elopement photographer can MAKE or BREAK your elopement experience. Trust me, not all photographers who photograph elopements are created equally. When you are on your search for your photographer, I highly recommend you picking one that specializes in elopements. When you choose a photographer who specializes in elopements, you are getting so much more than photography services. Their packages may include timeline building, location scouting, and local vendor recommendations. When you are planning an elopement on a time crunch, this is crucial!

Book Your Free Elopement Consultation

Choose an Elopement Location & Apply for Permits

After finding a photographer, the next most important aspect of your elopement day is finding the perfect location. This can be super easy if you book an elopement photographer who includes location scouting in their packages. Whether that is the case or not, you still need to narrow down your location options. If you’re looking for the easiest option, you may want to consider eloping in your home state. This would save you time and money when it comes to booking other accommodations. Every state has it’s hidden gem, so don’t worry if you don’t think that you live in an elopement hotspot! I like to look on hiking apps like Alltrails to find beautiful elopement locations.

Once you find a spot, make sure that you apply for any necessary permits! If you want to get married out of state then it is important to consider a few other things: how accessible and easy to book a location is.

I already have a whole blog post about choosing an elopement location which is a super helpful resource so definitely go check that out! Other things to consider when choosing a location while on a time crunch include the permit process (if there is one) and how long it can take. Most national parks and state parks require special use permits for weddings, and it can take 4 to 8 weeks for the permits to process. This means that as soon as you find a location you are interested in that you need to apply for a permit ASAP. 

If you have a national park that you are dying to get married at, then all you have to is look on the NPS.gov website for what the park requires for permits. It typically includes sending in an application and a non-refundable application and permit fee. If you’re looking to expedite the process you can call the park’s special use permit office to speak to a ranger directly.

Want to avoid permits? I would suggest renting out an Airbnb and use the private land for your elopement. Check for Airbnbs in your desired area-you’d probably be surprised at how cool some Airbnbs are!

Want some help finding the perfect elopement location for you? Contact me here!

Bride and groom with their family at their elopement in the red rocks of sedona, arizona

Book Your Vendors & Accommodations, and Figure Out the Legalities

You’ve found an elopement location! The hardest part is over. Now it’s time to book flights, hotels/airbnbs, car rentals, and all of your wedding vendors. Luckily with eloping the list of wedding vendors is drastically smaller than a traditional wedding. Here are the vendors that you may consider hiring for your elopement: photographer, videographer, officiant, florist, hair/makeup services, rentals, and catering. You can choose to make your elopement as minimal or as extravagant as you want!

If you’ve chosen to elope out of state then you may be wondering how you are going to find all of those vendors. I would recommend asking your elopement photographer for their suggestions (like I do for all of my clients!!), looking up location specific hashtags on instagram (ex. #denverofficiant #yosemiteflorist), and looking for vendors on google. Reach out to the ones that you are interested in as soon as possible since you are on a time crunch.

Worried about finding an officiant out of state that will still make your ceremony special? I’d suggest finding one that has reviews on their Google Business, The Knot, or the Facebook page. Reviews are everything when it comes to finding the perfect vendors for your elopement experience. Want to avoid this all together? Have one of your friends officiate your wedding! It’s super easy to become an officiant on UniversalLifeChurch.com.

Let’s talk about the actually legalities of your wedding day! Once you decide on an elopement location you need to see what their process is for marriage licenses. Some states require applications to be submitted in person, while some allow for them to be submitted through the mail. This is different for every state and county, so make sure you are aware. Some states may require a waiting period so check on that as well.

Want to avoid the stress of getting legally married out of state? Go to your local courthouse! Believe it or not, this is what the majority of my elopement couples choose to do! You can still have an officiant at your elopement, but the only thing you won’t do is sign a paper afterwards! This is a great option, especially if you are on a really short timeframe.

Create Your Timeline

Now it’s time for the fun stuff- planning your actual elopement experience! I always recommend to first dream of what your perfect wedding adventure would look like. Think about how the day would begin, who you want to be involved, and what sort of activities you want to include. Make sure that you include plenty of time for everything so you can soak up all of that wedding bliss. Maybe you want to add a fun activity like a picnic, a hike, or maybe even a jeep adventure! The possibilities for your day are endless. Make sure you have a backup plan in case of weather or location closures!

bride and groom at their elopement in Joshua tree national park

Get Married!!

All the hard work and stress is over, and it’s time for your epic wedding adventure! Have the BEST DAY EVER!


Other Helpful Tips!

>>Arrive at your wedding destination a minimum of two days before your elopement day. This will help you feel more organized and less rushed. Plus, you will get to enjoy your elopement destination even longer!

>>Make a packing list before your elopement to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything. Here are some of the easiest things to forget: your vows, hiking shoes, perfume, wedding accessories, extra layers, your marriage license, and your favorite makeup!

>>Make an itinerary for your elopement weekend. This helps you stay organized, as well as any guests and vendors involved. When I make itineraries for my couples I like to include all important day of contacts (both partners & all vendors), addresses for locations, driving/travel times in between locations, as well as a timeline. This may seem like way too much work, but I promise that it is so nice to have on the day of!


Just breathe. You can still plan an amazing elopement experience even while being on a time crunch. Just follow these steps and check out my other free elopement planning resources to ensure that you aren’t forgetting anything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help during this process. Eloping can seem like a daunting process, but it doesn’t need to be. Take it all one step at a time.

Your wedding adventure is going to be GREAT!

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