Maybe you’ve been planning a wedding and you’re over it? Perhaps you never wanted a wedding, and this is where you always wanted to be? I don’t know, maybe you just don’t want to spend years and tens of thousands of dollars planning one single day, in the hope that it is perfect (spoiler alert, it never is)? All of a sudden, planning an elopement in a short period of time sounds pretty intriguing, but perhaps, unattainable, right?
So then, how do you do it? How do you cut out all the stress, all the bullshit, all the drama? Unfortunately social media, mass media and Hollywood have you convinced that planning a wedding is a slow process, an expensive process, a difficult process. They created the notion of the ‘bridezilla’. Planning an elopement however is nothing like this. So let me show you how to avoid all that rubbish, and plan an elopement in under 90 days! Follow these steps, in order and thank me later.
90 days out | Choose your vibe
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What the fuck does this even mean? I mean, could I start this article in a more vague way?
Yes, I could, but I didn’t, so let me explain. Choosing your vibe basically means ‘how do you want your elopement to be?’.
Do you want an epic elopement in a cave in New Zealand, or do you want to elope in your living room or backyard with your dog as the only guest in attendance?
Ive got more information on choosing the right vibe for your elopement here. By deciding this right up front, you will change the path and journey you take on planning your elopement. Crazy epic elopement, more planning required. Lowkey backyard elopement, less work required. Is one better than the other? No, it’s whatever resonates most genuinely with you and your partner.
TLDR – 90 days out, sit down and think about what you want your elopement to actually be. This might take a week, don’t rush it.
80 days out | Choose your ideal date
This is not choosing your actual date, it’s an ideal date or period you would like to elope. Planning an elopement is far simpler than a wedding, and as a result, you get flexibility.
With weddings, you have to approach vendors with a date already booked. If they’re unavailable, too bad, you miss out.
With an elopement you can approach vendors with a ‘rough date’, get availabilities, and then settle on a date that suits you and your preferred team of vendors. So think about when you want to elope. Summer? Or do you want a winter elopement?
Are you down on a week day, or does it have to be a weekend (pro tip, choosing a week day will make your life far easier, vendors more available, bring price down, and give you more intimacy and less public onlookers if you elope in public).
TLDR – About 80 days out, sit down and think about what season or month you would like to elope, get a rough idea of a date range and settle on it.
75 days out | Inform your people
If you’re doing a traditional elopement (for in depth descriptions on the difference between traditional and modern elopements), go ahead and skip right past this, it won’t concern you.
If you’re planning a modern elopement, that is one where you are having some guests, this is where you will want to notify them.
I would send out a ‘save the date’ kind of (it won’t have the exact date on it yet), letting them know of your plans to elope in about 2.5 months.
If you haven’t already, prepare for the backlash, parents in particular might not understand, and might be disappointed other family and friends won’t be there. Stand strong, explain that this is a day to celebrate your love, your way. They’ll get it eventually.
TLDR – If you’re having a modern elopement, you will want to notify those who will be invited about 75 days out.
75 days out | Searching photographers
Ok, this is where it gets tricky. Planning an elopement is a walk in the park until now. Picking the right elopement photographer can be a downright nightmare. Here’s 12 questions to ask any photographer before booking them.
The nuts and bolts of it however is that you need to ensure they share your vision. A lot of wedding photographers want to get into elopements because they find them ‘trendy’, and great for ‘instagram’. Problem is, they have quite traditional values and beliefs about marriage, so probably won’t vibe with your ideas about what would make your day perfect.
There is a lot more to it, much more than just choosing someone who takes pretty pictures too. At this point you are creating a shortlist, maybe 3 photographers long. These would be people who you think share your vision and beliefs, have amazing portfolios, and specialise in elopements.
TLDR – Start putting together a shortlist of about 3 elopement photographers about 2.5 months out. Make sure they fit the criteria and share your vision & beliefs.
70 days out | Interview & book photographer
The fun part. You’ve got your list of about 3 elopement photographers who totally fit your criteria, so let’s go.
Planning an elopement will become much easier once you have a photographer by the way. We do a lot more than take photos, we help schedule and design the day with you, so this is the peak of the curve, it’s all downhill from here.
The steps here are simple. Get them on a zoom call (or meet in person if possible) and just chat with them. There is no structure, it’s not a job interview. If you feel like you’re talking to a mate, thats a brilliant start. If you feel like you’re talking to a stranger, that is a red flag.
You can ask anything you want from run sheets, plans, ideas or pricing packages. I like to say, “You will know within 5 minutes if this is the photographer for you”, because it will just feel like a no brainer. Get off the call, and book them in!
TLDR – Get on a zoom (or face to face) call with these photographers and ensure there is a personality match, you vibe well and their information/pricing meets your criteria. Book them in & let them know potential locations.
60 days out | Find your celebrant
This is a super important move to make at the 60 day mark. The celebrant does a lot of things, but one of them is absolutely critical!
They lodge your NoIM, also known as your Notice of Intended Marriage. Basically, in 30 days, any marriage between you two will be considered legally binding. I always recommend searching for the celebrant 60 days out because it will take you a week to find the right one, allowing 50 days notice to lodge the NoIM, just in case.
I have a pretty awesome list of my favourite celebrants who actually love elopements (way more fun for them), so check that out here. Also, your photographer will know plenty of amazing elopement celebrants who they recommend. Trust in the photographer you have booked, they’ll guide you in the right direction.
It’s really important that the celebrant in question matches with the personality and vision you want for the day, just like your photographer had to, so take that into account when selecting.
TLDR – Pick your celebrant 60 days out, so they can lodge your NoIM so you can legally be married.
45 days out | Location & Plan
You’ve spent nearly 2 months now carefully planning an elopement, and it’s about to pay off. Think back to when you came up with your vibe, the style of your elopement. When you did this you would have had some locations in mind, right? Was it mountains, coastal, forest, or even an at home elopement? Whatever your answer, here’s what to do.
Contact your photographer, and let them know (you will have already given them ideal locations when you booked them) you want to settle on a location. By now they would have given some thought to your ideas, and come up with a bunch of ideal locations Between the three of you, settle on the ideal one. Any other things you want to do, visit a cafe, whisky bar, or head home post ceremony to play monopoly, let them know now.
Now it’s onto planning the timeline (more of a ‘game plan’) of your elopement. You have a date, a location (or locations), and an idea of the daylight hours. Your photographer will be able to design a simple game plan to make sure the day runs smoothly, no one is stressed, and you get absolutely everything you wanted. Simple.
TLDR – Speak to your photographer, settle on a location (or locations) and create a game plan for how your day will flow.
45 days out | Find other vendors
I want to preface this one by saying, you can find your vendors at any time. The more you want a specific vendor, the earlier you should contact them. However, if you aren’t too fussed on your other vendors, finding them on 45 days notice will make them super excited, and ensure there are no issues with them pulling out along the way.
Again, go back to your vibe, your style. Did you want a dress, a suit? Were you keen on florals and getting hair and makeup done? If yes, start searching, again you can check out my list here for the best vendors I know and trust. As soon as you find a few you love, send out your enquiry, and don’t wait. Pull the trigger once you hear from one that is free. The longer you wait, and the more you analyse, the worse the stress becomes.
Do not send out 10 enquiries to 10 florists for example, it’ll cause you a headache. Find the one you want the most, and hit them up. being a midweek elopement (most elopements are midweek), you’ll find that 80-90% of vendors you contact will be free and keen.
TLDR – Send out enquiries for any other vendors you deem necessary if you haven’t already. Don’t wait, book them in as soon as you hear from them.
And that’s how simple planning an elopement can be
Sure, if you want to plan an elopement over a year, you can, it’s totally up to you. Your elopement will probably be a lot more lavish, and that’s amazing if that is what you want, I’m here for it. But the point of this post is to show that planning an elopement in under 90 days is possible. In fact, it is more than possible, it’s pretty easy.
So what do you do with that final 45 days? Nothing. Enjoy life. Enjoy the cruise into the elopement. You don’t want to be stuck planning an elopement only days out from the ceremony. If you find yourself here, you’ve avoided none of the stress of a traditional wedding sadly. So getting things planned out in advance, leaving buffer room for things to potentially go wrong is the name of the game.
Do you need to follow the order I’ve set out when planning an elopement? Fuck no. You can totally do whatever you want. You can actually compress this and do it all in 30 days (the minimum legal wait time to get married). If you want to find your florist first, and find your photographer last, you totally can. This article is just my best advice, based on what I’ve seen during my time in this industry.
If you want to plan an elopement, in under 90 days (or not), hit me up. You can contact me here and we can start discussing everything and get the bay rolling.