How to Elope

A marriage certificate and two silver wedding bands

Knowing how to elope can help couples have a private wedding getaway without stressing over details. Eloping is not for everyone, however, and deciding to elope should be something a couple considers very carefully as they make their nuptial plans.

Is Eloping for Us?

The first question a couple needs to consider is whether or not eloping is suitable for them. Once a couple has exchanged vows - whether it is in an ornate church, on a pristine beach, or in a distant location - they can't decide to go back and do it over again if they made the wrong decision. Vow renewal ceremonies and anniversary celebrations are wonderful events, but they can't replace that first moment of becoming husband and wife.

These questions can help a couple decide if eloping is right for them:

  1. Is our budget right for eloping? While a simple, inexpensive elopement package can be very affordable, an exotic ceremony in a far away place can be much more expensive.
  2. Will our family accept an elopement? Eloping is not always acceptable to conservative family members or those who've always dreamed of taking part in the wedding festivities.
  3. Will we miss the big celebration of a traditional wedding? Couples who elope rarely have bridal showers, bachelor parties, and elaborate wedding receptions, but if you prefer to celebrate in private, eloping may be best for you.
  4. Can we pull off an elopement? If the wedding plans are well underway or your schedule is too busy to get away for a day or two, you may not be able to have a stress-free elopement.

Once a couple has decided that eloping is right for them, they need to plan it carefully to ensure it is as memorable as any wedding celebration.

Steps for How to Elope

Eloping requires more than just obtaining a marriage license. While every elopement can be customized for the couple's preferences, the basic steps include:

  • Choosing a Location: Isolated beaches, Las Vegas wedding chapels, cruise ships, local courthouses, and even exotic foreign countries are all suitable places to elope. Couples should carefully consider where they want to wed when they are planning to elope.
  • Investigate the Location. Once the destination is decided, the couple needs to learn as much as possible about wedding requirements for their elopement. Issues to consider include:
    • Cost: How much are wedding fees? How much will travel to the destination cost?
    • Residency: Is there a minimum residency requirement for a legal marriage? Are waivers available?
    • Legal Requirements: What documents must be presented for a legal marriage? Are witnesses required? Is a blood test necessary?
  • Plan the Elopement. Planning how to elope may be as simple as making basic travel arrangements or it may involve more details such as finding an appropriate wedding dress, arranging tuxedo rental, contacting a photographer, or ordering a simple wedding bouquet. Many popular eloping destinations have wedding packages available and can assist with these and other details.
  • Plan the Announcement. A true elopement is generally done in private, without informing even close family members or friends until after the couple is officially married. Knowing how to share the happy news - via wedding announcements, a phone call, or a personal visit - is a key part of a successful elopement. Printed announcements, for example, may need to be ordered in advance so they are ready as soon as the couple is married.

After You've Eloped

After you've eloped, there are three key wedding items that need to be attended to: gift registries, announcements, and post-nuptial celebrations. While not every couple chooses to pursue each item, knowing how to do so tastefully is a significant part of eloping with dignity.


Even couples who elope may want to register for gifts, but it is important to realize that no gifts are required if guests have not been invited to the wedding ceremony, even if a later reception is planned. Many guests, however, may still want to offer wedding gifts, and having a modest registry can provide guidelines for the couple's wishes. Couples should not, however, mention wedding gift registries in any announcements and they should not create multiple registries in the hopes of receiving many gifts.

Image of a couple eloping in Hawaii


Wedding announcements should be sent as soon as possible after a couple has returned from their elopement. Couples should consider, however, that printed announcements may be a surprise or even a shock to close family members or friends who have been expecting a more elaborate wedding. These individuals should always be told about the elopement personally to avoid bruised feelings and misunderstandings.

Post-Nuptial Celebrations

Many couples arrange reception-like parties several weeks or months after they've eloped so they can celebrate their marriage with family members and friends. This is perfectly acceptable, but care should be taken so that everyone realizes when the wedding really took place. Many of the reception festivities - wedding toasts, a nice meal, cutting a wedding cake, dancing, etc. - are the same, but elopement receptions are generally more casual celebrations. You can use casual post wedding party wording to help guests recognize the relaxed nature of the event.

Eloping Alternatives

If a couple is interested in eloping but doesn't think it is quite right for them, they can investigate planning a destination wedding instead. While usually smaller than a traditional wedding, a destination wedding is more elaborate than eloping and may be a good compromise between the two types of celebrations. Alternatively, couples could also consider a smaller scale celebration at home and opt for a more exotic honeymoon instead of eloping altogether.

Knowing how to elope properly can help couples plan this type of private, memorable wedding. While eloping does not have all the bells and whistles of a traditional wedding, it can be a joyous and elegant way for a couple to exchange vows and begin their happily ever after.


Was this page useful?
Related & Popular
How to Elope