While big weddings can be beautiful (and a lot of fun), they’re certainly not for everyone. Elopements are a romantic, intimate way for couples to celebrate the adventure they’re taking together without spending too much money or getting too caught up in the planning process.

Though growing in popularity, elopements are still a bit of a mystery to many. How do you plan one? Do you have to keep it a secret? And most importantly, how do you know if it’s right for you? We’re here to help you answer some of those difficult questions.

Be confident in your decision.

“Know that eloping is right for you, whether it be because of sticky family situations or just not loving the limelight,” says Lori Stephenson, Owner of LOLA Event Productions.

If you’re questioning your decision in any way, it’s time to do some soul searching and maybe even ask for advice from those closest to you. Ask yourself questions:

  • Why are we eloping?
  • How will we feel after we elope?
  • Will we have the same sense of satisfaction we would with a larger wedding?
  • Is there anyone we’d regret not being there?

These questions will help you delve a little deeper and solidify your decision.

INLINE MeghanRolfePhotography 1080x720 Lorena&Carlo Photo Credit // Meghan Rolfe Photography

Consider your options (and your budget).

One of the biggest mistakes couples tend to make is assuming that an elopement requires no effort (or money). If you want to capture photos, eat a nice meal, and look good while doing it, then photographers, hairstylists, and rentals are all important pieces to consider when creating your wedding budget. Make sure not to overlook non-negotiables, such as officiants and marriage documents.

The experts at Simply Eloped advise choosing vendors with intention. This means thinking of how you want to feel that day and selecting vendors based on qualities or adjectives that fit with your overall vision. This helps reduce some of the overwhelm that comes with narrowing down vendors and makes sure the couple stays true to themselves throughout the process.

Figure out the legalities of your destination (and maybe invest in a local planner).

While some couples opt for simply going to the courthouse, others are invested in a more “adventurous” elopement, often leading them overseas or in the remote wilderness. As these types of ceremonies grow in popularity, the logistics get more and more complex.

Local planners are often a wise investment, given that they not only are well aware of the laws and logistics but can also help reduce the stress levels associated with planning something in an entirely different country. A planner can serve as your point person to help you stick to a schedule and move things along smoothly.

Just make sure—no matter where or how you get married—not to overlook the legal side of things. If you’re eloping overseas, look into what’s required for securing your marriage license in advance.

Don’t forget about photos.

Because elopements are incredibly intimate and there isn’t a large crowd to please, couples often overlook photography. But don’t think just because there aren’t a lot of people that there won’t be a lot of meaningful moments to document.

“Still get a photographer,” Stephenson says. “Even though you aren’t having a big reception, you will still want to capture the love and magic of your wedding day!”

According to the experts at Adventure Instead, photographers often make up 50-80% of the elopement budget, so it’s important to factor them in early on.

INLINE IbayPhotography 1080x720 Kayla&Lamont Photo Credit // Ibay Photography

Keep your loved ones looped in.

Don’t let your desire to be spontaneous hurt those that matter most to you. Even if you’re planning to keep your elopement a secret (at least for a little while), make sure that you clue everyone in around the same time so there are no hard feelings. It’s never fun to feel like the last one to know.

Also, remember that eloping doesn’t have to mean no one is invited. If there are a handful of individuals you want present on your big day, factor them into the plan early on.

Consider a reception.

Many couples choose to throw a party after-the-fact to celebrate with their family and close friends. This not only makes the event feel more “official,” but also makes sure no one feels left out. There are also generally fewer expectations surrounding elopement parties than traditional wedding receptions, which tends to keep stress levels at ease (and budgets intact).

As with the elopement itself, it’s important to ask yourself why you want a reception, if at all. If one of the main reasons for eloping was to save money, then throwing a large party may defeat the purpose.

Do keep in mind that by skipping the celebration altogether you may be sacrificing other benefits (such as wedding gifts) that wouldn’t otherwise cross your mind.