Here is your simple step-by-step guide on how to elope! I have broken down the key steps needed to plan and execute a memorable elopement, and I’ve also included some links in which you will find some helpful information.
Eloping seems like an easier answer when overwhelmed with the idea of having a big white wedding. Although this is a simpler and more intimate alternative, there are still plans that have to be made and the time it will take to research what is best for you and your future spouse. I’m hoping that this step-by-step blog post will help you better organize this special event. My information applies to any location; however, the links and sources are all Ontario based.
First of all, having a clear vision will help determine some of the steps that you will need to take when planning. You should both sit down with your favourite inspirational sources (Pinterest, Instagram, Google…) and create a folder with your key inspiration images. You’ll only need to do this for about 20 minutes, and my advice is to set a timer, so you don’t waste too much time. It’s easy to get distracted! Now be sure to not only include images that you love or that are pretty but include images that really reflect the vision of your wedding. Also, try and keep some variety. Include images that show decor, dress, suit, location, venue, details, etc.
Once your timer goes off, you’re done! Switch phones/devices and see what the other is thinking. Doing this will give you a general sense of the things you both want and areas of middle ground between you. For example, collages of your mutual top 10-15 images can work well for this (I’d recommend these phone apps; Photo Collage – Collageable, or Unfold) or you can just save the top pictures into one folder.
Pro Tip: When you’re done your mood boarding, each of you should make a list of the top 5 things you want from your elopement. 1-Must have all the way to 5-Would love if doable but can live without.
For example; 1. Awesome photographer 2. Lakefront for ceremony 3. Videographer for ceremony 4. Campfire in cozy matching outfits at the end of the day 5. Unique, eclectic, funky & non-traditional details (hair accessories, letters to each other, tie, boutonniere) that we can have forever as keepsakes.
Below is one of my own mood boards for an example:
I used this for a styled shoot once (I made this using Photoshop which isn’t necessary if you are doing one yourself. Your mood board doesn’t have to look anything like this, it just needs to capture the vibe and essence!)
Formal Legal Steps.
Most of you will probably fall under the civil category for this but there are legal online resources for religious ceremonies as well: https://data.ontario.ca/dataset/registered-religious-officials
First, you’ll need a marriage licence first. It’s easy enough to get online through the Gov of Ontario, but there are some important things to note.
To make it official you’ll still have to apply for a marriage licence. Once it’s filled out, bring it into your local municipal office and be sure to bring ID. When you receive the licence, you have 90 days to file it (aka, get married) before it expires – you should apply two-three months before your ceremony, to be safe.
After the wedding, you will need to get a marriage certificate. The licence and marriage must be filed and done before you can do that.
You can find all the information here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/getting-married
Keep in mind, this is on the Ontario Gov website, so if you’re in another province I would look under those province’s marriage sources. Please keep in mind that things may change from the time I post this blog.
For information on changing your last name after the previous two points are complete, you can refer to this source.
Date, Time & Location.
Some couples pick a date that is significant in their relationship, a date they both love, a date that is convenient, or that works with schedules, and sometimes the date is picked based on venue/location availability.
It’s important to plan the timing of all. To do this, consider things like lighting conditions. Do you want a ceremony at sunset or a ceremony first, followed by sunset pictures? Maybe you want to do a sunrise ceremony. Considering things like this ahead of time can help you narrow down what time of day you want to book for a venue or start your ceremony. (You can also ask your photographer for their recommendations if you’re really stuck!)
If you’re stumped on location think of these types of things… What kind of setting excites you? Do we want to be close to home or are we willing to travel? Indoors or outdoors? Close your eyes and imagine the most perfect day for the two of you, what’s in the background?
Once you have the vision you can Google search the area/location and other keywords to find specific spots. Words like field, prairie, mountains, hills, lakes, etc. can be helpful, so include them in your location search. For example ”Northern Ontario Farm Elopement”.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to location. Hotel, Airbnb, friend’s cabins/cottages, rent a cabin, a campsite, a park near your house… There are so many options!
Pro Tip #1: Google your dream location using keywords and the area you want to be in and then scroll through Google images. I have found it to be just as useful as general Google searches.
Pro Tip #2: Make sure that your venue can accommodate both the ceremony and reception/dinner, if that’s your plan. The reason for that is if it can only accommodate one of those, you’ll need to plan for a second venue, time to and from the locations and mode of transportation.
While doing all of this, you can also refer back to that beautiful vision board you made. Your mood board will guide the venue because each location has an atmosphere that will either match or clash with your vision. The whole purpose of the vision board is to guide you when you’re at a loss, so use it!!
Photographer & Videographer
Most couples don’t hire a videographer but it’s a great option if you have the budget! Your family and friends don’t get to enjoy this special moment with you, therefore, having a video for your family of your vows and other special moments to enjoy can be really special for them and greatly appreciated!
Personally, my clients find me through Instagram but there are many resources out there to help you find the perfect photographer. (Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, referrals, wedding sources like The Knot or Junebug Weddings online…)
The two things I recommend clients to look for are the jive and the style. Make sure you jive well with your photographer. You should feel comfortable and relaxed when around them. Secondly, make sure the style matches the theme/mood/vibe you are hoping for. Refer back to your mood board. There is most likely a strong theme with the images, find a photographer that you feel emulates that.
The exact same applies to videographers.
Finally the 5th step! Details are the stage in the process where you get to be extra creative and bring even more of your vision to life. Some elopers go for the less is more motto, while others plan a fully decorated event. You do what you’re comfortable with and what you want!
Some things to consider getting are:
- Make-Up artist
- Hair artist
- Wedding outfits (Including details like hair accessories, jewellery, tie, tie clip, pocket, belts, shoes)
- Wedding rings
- Bouquet & boutonniere
- Other ceremony details (alter decor like candles, flowers, linen, arch)
- Other reception/dinner details (alter decor like candles, flowers, linen, arch…) If you are having a reception/dinner with family and friends after you elope you’ll have to consider & budget this one a little more than if it’s just the two of you!
- Music! Don’t forget you’ll want music during your ceremony, dinner and perhaps during other parts of the day. Create your perfect playlist!
- If applicable reception/dinner décor: plates, water glasses, wine glasses, chargers, centrepieces
- Cake! If you want a cake to celebrate then go ahead and order that cake! You can also opt for pie, doughnuts, cupcakes, smores, macarons, ice cream, cheesecake, churros… Ok, now I’m just thinking about dessert!
Some of these things will be determined by the style of elopement you choose to have. Be sure to double-check your vision board and ask some married friends for advice! Better to be thorough during your planning process so you can really enjoy your special day.
There you have my 5 steps on how to elope. I hope you found this useful.
I am working on some other Eloping resources so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter here, so you get them once they’re released!
Comment below with your questions and any other tips for those looking for elopement advice!