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*Updated December 15th 2023
Yay, you’re eloping!!! This elopement checklist has you covered!
Welcome to my ultimate elopement checklist!!! I’m so excited for you; choosing to elope is honestly one of the best decisions you could ever make! Planning your dream elopement is such an exciting process; you literally get to create the most awesome day of your lives so far!
How to plan the most amazing elopement!
Ok, so it’s on like Donkey Kong! There’s no point doing things by halves, it’s time to go all in and create the most incredible elopement experience for the two of you. According to Google, the average wedding in America costs $35,000, what could you do with even half that budget??? You guys could have the trip of a lifetime and create memories that you’ll never want to forget!
It’s time to dream and think about the what, the where, the who, the how, and the when? What would you both love to do? Where in the world would you want to travel? Who if anyone will you bring with you? How will you make this happen? When will you elope?
I’ve helped so many couples plan their dream destination elopements here in Ireland and here in this elopement checklist are a few of the things that I know you’ll need to consider along the way. Here is the elopement checklist to beat all checklists!!!
The Elopement Checklist that you NEED to see!
- Decide where in the world you want to elope!!!
- Get a rough idea of when you want to elope.
- Pick an elopement photographer in the area or one that will travel to meet you, book them.
- Confirm dates, book flights & get relevant visas.
- Decide if you’re bringing any guests & invite them.
- Get your elopement dress & outfits ordered.
- Book other elopement vendors & accommodation.
- Plan your dream elopement day timeline filled with activities that you both love.
- Buy rings
- Get weather & terrain-appropriate footwear & accessories.
- Plan special activities in the country you’re traveling to.
- Buy essential items for your elopement day.
- Buy essential travel items to make the journey more pleasant.
- Prepare your vows
- Plan your ceremony
- Book a great rental car
1. Decide where in the world you want to elope!
Point number 1 on this elopement checklist is just so exciting! Wow, you can literally pick anywhere in the world! Where will you choose??? What sort of place do you want? Do you want a fairytale setting with ancient castles? Do you want epic snow-capped mountains? Would you prefer exotic beaches? What really gets you both excited?
I would recommend Ireland as the best place to elope in the world! Europe has some other epic options like Scotland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands, click HERE to check out the best places to elope in Europe.
2. Get a rough idea of when you want to elope.
You don’t want to be super specific right now just pick a few months that work well for you both. You want to be able to consult a local expert (usually the photographer) about the best time of year to elope in certain locations. Do you want a Summer elopement or Winter elopement? Do you want to travel in the peak tourist season? Does the place you’re traveling to have any public holidays that you might not be aware of?
3. Pick an elopement photographer in the area or one that will travel to meet you, book them.
There are so many advantages to picking an elopement photographer who is based or shoots regularly in the location you’re traveling to. If they are local they will know the best locations, best and worst times of year to be there, local vendors, and a host of other vital things that someone who has never been there before could possibly know. Obviously, you want a photographer whose work you love too so if there is no one local that fits then you either want a photographer who has been there before or one who is accustomed to traveling & location scouting. It would be a shame to travel halfway across the world and miss out on epic locations because the photographer your hire doesn’t know the area.
If you do choose a local elopement expert then this could save you a lot of planning because they should be able to guide you on vendors, accommodation, and activities in the area. Some elopement photographers like myself offer planning assistance as part of their elopement packages which takes a lot of the hassle out of the process.
4. Confirm dates, book flights & get relevant visas
Once you’ve chosen an elopement photographer, you can work out a date that works. It’s time to book flights and do the essential travel stuff. So do you need a visa, is your passport up to date, do you need to bring a driver’s license? Do you need a travel visa for the country you’re eloping in?
5. Decide if you’re bringing any guests & invite them.
When you elope, it’s really about having the most amazing experience together. If you both want to elope alone, that’s cool. If you want your parents there, that’s cool too. Do you want a handful of loved ones present? That’s also totally fine! The important thing is to plan a day that makes you both smile from ear to ear. You’ve said no to the big wedding, to tradition and people-pleasing, don’t crumble now. Once you’ve decided what you want, you’ll need to let people know ASAP if they need to book time off work and book travel, etc.
6. Get your elopement dress & outfits ordered.
The sooner you do this, the better, really, as some dresses can take a while to be ready. If you need help choosing a dress that is right for your elopement location and weather, make sure to check out my elopement dress guide.
7. Book other elopement vendors & accommodation
Ok, it’s time to pick the perfect florist, get hair and makeup, book a celebrant, find a videographer, and all the other services you might want to help create your perfect elopement day. Also, you need to book where you’re going to stay. I recommend that my couples get a cute Airbnb close to where they’ll be having their elopement ceremony. If you can get one with nice bright rooms, it’ll make for better prep photos.
8. Plan your dream elopement day timeline filled with activities you love.
This is such an important part of this elopement checklist; timelines are really vital to creating an amazing elopement. This is your chance to plan a day that you both will love. Do you want to go rock climbing, have a helicopter ride through the local mountains, take a swim in the ocean, go hiking, or just have a chilled morning before your ceremony? You can do whatever you like!
Booking a great elopement photographer will mean you’ll get help to do this. I help all my couples plan their elopement day timeline so that things are timed best with the light. If you can plan things around the best light, you’ll end up with way better photos & video.
9. Buy rings
If you plan to exchange rings as part of your elopement ceremony, then you need to buy them, you may need to even order them earlier than this if you’re having a custom design or something special done.
10. Get weather & terrain appropriate footwear & accessories.
Depending on where in the world you elope, you’re going to need to consider what sort of footwear is going to serve you best. Here in Ireland, most brides wear hiking boots, if you’re going somewhere icy, you may need something more extreme, like snow grips. If you’re heading somewhere more exotic, like Santorini, then you may not need anything, depending on whether you plan to hike or not.
If you’re heading somewhere cooler, then you may need more things to keep warm. I’ve given a lot of detail on that stuff in my winter elopement guide, but you may want to consider getting thermal underwear, nude-color leggings, a long-sleeved elopement dress that could be a good idea and a warm shawl.
Whatever you go for in the footwear department, just make sure that you don’t mind them being in a lot of, if not all, of your photos, so maybe avoid those fluorescent hiking boots.
11. Plan special activities in the country you’re traveling to for your elopement.
This point on this elopement checklist is more about your overall trip rather than just the elopement. Your elopement experience can be so much more than just the day you get married. Why not plan the trip of a lifetime filled with the most amazing activities? Most of the couples I help elope here in Ireland go for multiday coverage because there are just so many epic places to explore here.
Take some time to look up day trips, special experiences & things that you might not usually do. Do you want to scuba dive or skydive? Do you want to stay in the most luxurious 5-star castle? Are there any Michelin-star restaurants that you could treat yourselves to? Do you want to dive into the local history? Seriously, go all out and plan the most incredible trip!
If you are coming to Northern Ireland, make sure to check out my top 25 things to see and do here!
12. Buy essential items for your elopement day.
What will you need on your elopement? Cute vow books? A hip flask with your favorite whiskey? A sweet gift for each other? Champagne to pop after the ceremony? A Polaroid camera to take a few shots of each other during the morning? A special bottle of red wine to share once you’re back from your adventures? A little forethought can really add special elements to your day.
13. Buy essential travel items to make the journey more pleasant.
Not the most exciting point on an elopement checklist but still, these things will make your trip more enjoyable. International phone cards so you can get data, you never know you might want to facetime some loved ones to let them know you’re married. Get the right power adaptors for the plug sockets so that you can charge your devices. A great travel pillow will make the long-haul flight to Europe much nicer. Maybe you want to update your travel luggage?
14. Prepare your vows
Maybe one of the most important elements of this elopement checklist is this one. Your vows may only be a few minutes of this elopement, but they’re kind of the most vital piece of the jigsaw. Everyone will have their own way of doing this, but one thing is for sure: it’s not going to hurt to get an early start. One great idea is to carry a little notepad with you in the months leading up to your elopement, and when a flash of inspiration hits you, write it down. How many times have you had an awesome idea, not written it down, and then an hour later you have no what that great thought was? Carrying the notepad will allow you to capture every great little thought and idea you have. When it comes to actually writing out the vows, you’ll have tonnes of material ready to go. Trust me, your future husband/wife will totally appreciate your vows when they get to hear them.
15. Plan your ceremony
What do you want your dream elopement ceremony to be like? Do you want a celebrant to marry you? A family member or friend to conduct the ceremony or will you just do vows on your own? Do you want music? Will there be religious elements? If you want some tips, check out my elopement ceremony ideas blog post.
16. Book a great rental car
This elopement checklist is about you having the most amazing elopement experience together; part of that is making sure that your trip is unreal. So you love exploring, so why not do it in style? Get a great rental car, maybe a 4×4, so that you can get out there and have an adventure together. Having the freedom to go where you choose will make your trip so much more exciting! When you’ve found the right kind of car for your elopement trip, choose the upgraded version; you deserve it! How awesome will it feel to have an incredible car for your whole trip???
Here are a few extra tips that I tell all my couples who are traveling from the USA to Ireland for their elopement.
- Pay the additional cost to get an automatic. Yes I know you can drive a stick shift but when you’re driving on the other side of the road you don’t want to be thinking about changing gears.
- Choose the level of car you want and then upgrade it at least 2 price levels. You’re going to do a lot of driving on your road trip around Ireland (I’ll be giving you my 14-day Ireland road trip guide once you’ve booked in, YAY!). You should get a car that you enjoy & that is spacious. This will be the trip of a lifetime so you want to enjoy every part of it, even the driving!
The Ultimate Elopement Planning Checklist
So there was my ultimate elopement checklist! I hope that your elopement planning journey is smooth and that you guys have the most incredible elopement experience together. If you’re thinking of eloping in Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, or somewhere else epic in Europe, I’d LOVE to help you plan the most amazing elopement!
Elopement Planning Resources
As well as my ultimate elopement checklist, there are heaps of elopement planning resources here, so stick around and check them out. I’ve got three links below that you’ll hopefully find super helpful.