The term “Elopement” has become extremely popular since covid. What is an elopement? Why do people do it? What are some of the best places to elope and how do you even pack for it? These are only some of the many questions that come up when you mention the term elopement! I’m Heidi and I’m a destination wedding and elopement photographer based in Minnesota. I am passionate about elopements and documenting love stories all over the world! I’ve created this post to help answer some of these questions. So let’s dive right in!

Sedona Elopement couple walking across Devil's bridge in Arizona.

What is an Elopement?

The actual definition of an elopement is to run away to get married secretly, especially without parental consent. Today, that’s not what eloping is! I mean, I guess it still can be… But eloping has become so much more than the scandalous couple running off to Vegas to get hitched! It’s a way for couples to escape the traditional large wedding and all the pressure to please that comes with it! Eloping is making this extremely special day about the two of you and doing something that you both absolutely love doing together! For some that might look like traveling to a beautiful place, taking a helicopter ride to the top of a mountain and exchanging vows. For others, it may look completely different! Like going to the courthouse with one or two witnesses and having a nice meal together afterwards.

Why Choose Eloping?

Elopement couple sitting on a cliff at the top of Angel's Landing in Zion National Park in Utah

There are many reasons why couples are choosing to elope instead of doing the traditional wedding. It’s less expensive for one. The average cost of a traditional wedding in the US, according to The Knot, is $30k. You get to explore beautiful places together. It’s less stressful than a traditional wedding. The two of you get to do exactly what you want on this special day without having to please others. Celebrate this day in a way that is unique to you- you can do anything you want! Literally anything- The sky is the limit!

Elopement Packages

There are many different elopement packages all ranging from $1k for a quick hour elopement at the courthouse to $30K for all inclusive wedding and honeymoon packages to choose from anywhere in the world! If you’re wondering what you two should do for your elopement, ask yourselves this question- What is our absolute favorite activity to do and what is the absolute most beautiful view we’ve ever seen or would like to see? Combine these two things and there will most definitely be an elopement package for you! For more personalized elopement packages reach out to Heidi Straus Photography HERE!

Best Elopement Location Ideas

Here are some breathtaking elopement location ideas!

Mountain Top Elopement:

Glacier National Park Elopement couple at the top of Logan's Pass

Exchange vows at the summit of a mountain, with panoramic views creating a stunning backdrop for photos. Some places to consider with beautiful Mountain views:

  • Glacier National Park in Montana
  • Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado
  • Italian Dolomites in Italy
  • Yosemite in California
  • Mount Reiner in Washington
  • Hatchers Pass in Alaska
  • Derryveagh Mountains in Ireland
  • Swiss Alps in Switzerland
  • Banff National Park in Canada 
  • Lion’s Head, South Africa

Beach Elopements

Elopement couple walking on the beach at the Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

Elope on a secluded beach as the sun sets, providing a romantic and colorful setting. Here are some of the most beautiful beach spots to elope:

  • Big Sur, California
  • Sunset Cliffs, California
  • Mauii, Hawaii
  • Key West, Florida
  • Bora Bora Island, French Polynesia
  • The Bahamas, Caribbean
  • Maurices, East Africa
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Cala Biriola, Golfo di Orosei, Sardinia, Italy

Desert Oasis Elopement

Elopement Couple kissing during sunset at the Grand Canyon in Arizona

Choose a desert location with a natural oasis or striking rock formations for a unique and dramatic setting. Here are some beautiful desert locations to consider:

Elopement Activity Ideas

Elopement couple taking a helicopter ride to a scenic mountain in the Black Hills National Forrest

One thing that’s really great about eloping is that you get to create a timeline and add activities that you both would like to do! I highly recommend adding some fun activities into your day! This makes the day that much more special and fun! Here are some awesome elopement activity ideas to consider:

  • Scenic Hike – For the adventurous couple, a hike to a secluded spot or a breathtaking viewpoint is the perfect elopement activity
  • Intimate Picnic– A luxury picnic with gourmet foods and champagne at a scenic location is an intimate way to enjoy each other’s company
  • Write a letter – What better way to evoke those emotions in such a glorious setting than to write each other a letter and read it
  • Rent a boat– Adding an activity on the water is always romantic and beautiful! Consider Kayaking or Canoeing on a scenic lake
  • Helicopter Ride – If hiking doesn’t seem like the right fit for you, but you still want to get to the top of a scenic mountain or peak, then this is a great elopement activity to add
  • Hot Air Ballooning – Enjoying the views from above
  • Safari Adventure – Go on a safari and enjoy seeing the most magnificent animals in the bushes of South Africa
  • Jeep Tour – Rent a Jeep or 4×4 vehicle to enjoy some fun roads together with some beautiful scenery
  • Champagne Spray – A champagne spray is such a fun way to celebrate and it makes for awesome photos
  • Wine Tasting – Go wine tasting in the rolling hills of a vineyard
  • Horseback Riding – Explore the landscape on horseback, which can be especially romantic on a beach or through rolling hills
  • Stargazing Night – If you’re in a remote location, spend the evening stargazing and enjoying the solitude together.

How to Include Family in Your Elopement

Grand Canyon Elopement Couple walking on a cliff during sunset

Many couples really want to elope but they feel guilty for excluding their loved ones! This is totally understandable since your friends and family are all super excited for you guys! So here are different ways to include your loved ones when eloping!

Invite Them

Now, this one is obvious, but the most straight forward way to include your friends and family would be to invite them! Many people might decline as they can’t all fly out to your epic destination and stay for 2+ days etc. But you can still invite them if you want! You can send out an invite that includes different options for places to stay at, activities to do and more!

Make Your Elopement into a Weekend Experience

Rent out an Air BnB for your closest friends and family and enjoy some fun activities together on Friday and Saturday. Then on Sunday, the two of you go off alone together to have your intimate ceremony and vow exchange. This is a great way to include the whole gang to have some fun together while still having a “just us” moment!

Have a “Send Off” Dinner

This is a fun way to spend time with your loved ones before you leave! Have a dinner or brunch where people can wish you well for your travels!

Hire a Photographer & Videographer and Have a Watch Party

Hiring a photographer and videographer to document your beautiful day is already something I recommend doing. Imagine how fun it would be to have a watch party after your elopement where everyone can come together to watch your elopement video or have a slide show with photos to relive this amazing day with you guys!

Include Friends and Family in the Preparation and Excitement

Invite your gal pals, mom and grandma’s to go dress shopping with you! Include them in some of the preparation like having a spa day to get your hair and nails done. Go out for drinks and chat all about the fun activities you guys are going to do on your elopement day! There are many ways to make your closest loved ones feel involved!

Have a Post Elopement Reception/Celebration

Just because you’re having an intimate elopement for the two of you doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun get together afterwards! Rent out an event space or have a barbecue at someones place to celebrate! Do something that feels like you!

Legal Requirements when Eloping

Elopement couple standing on a cliff at Big Sur in California

Every single State in the US has different legal requirements and every country has different laws when eloping. Your photographer should be able to help you with these! Here’s how to keep it legal if you decide to elope:

Do You Need a Marriage License to Elope?

Marriage licenses are required in each state in the US. Keep in mind that each state has different requirements and waiting periods when applying for a marriage license. The cost of a marriage license varies from state to state but the average cost is $100 to $200.

Do You Need an Officiant to Elope?

Yes, you need an officiant to elope. An officiant is the person who marries you. Depending on your state, many different types of individuals are authorized to perform weddings, including your photographer if they are ordained! 😉

Will You Need Witnesses When Eloping?

Witness requirements vary state to state. Some states require that you have at least one witness present at your ceremony. Other states require at least two witnesses. Some states, like Florida, do not require any witnesses. Marriage licenses often have instructions printed on them or have instructions attached separately that explain what is required, or who is required to sign, and where.

What to Pack for Your Elopement

Canoe elopement couple in Italy

Packing for your elopement will depend on the location and activities you’ve planned, but here’s a general checklist:

Important Documents

  • Marriage license
  • Passports/Visas (for international travel)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Any reservations and confirmations


  • Wedding attire (dress, suit, shoes, and accessories) – Pro tip, pack a light wearing, comfortable wedding dress instead of a ballgown dress. This will definitely make activities ,such as hiking, easier!
  • Comfortable clothing for other activities (Swimming clothes, hiking clothes, hats etc)
  • Layered clothing for varying weather conditions
  • Comfortable shoes for walking or hiking

Wedding Flat-Lay Details

  • Wedding rings
  • Written Vows
  • Veil
  • perfume
  • Other details that has significance to your elopement spot and enhances your detail shots, such as a map of the hiking trail, post stamps, compass, sea shell (if at the ocean), ribbon, ring box etc

Ceremony Essentials

  • Bouquet and/or boutonniere
  • A small Bluetooth speaker for music

Beauty and Grooming

  • Hair styling tools and products
  • Makeup and remover
  • Grooming kit for touch-ups
  • Fragrance

Personal Items

  • Toiletries and personal hygiene products
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent (for outdoor locations)
  • First-aid kit including blister plasters if hiking is involved
  • Snacks and water bottles

Remember to check the weather forecast and any local advice for your elopement destination to make sure you’re fully prepared. Your photographer should be able to help you with all of these!

I hope you found this post super helpful! If you’re still looking for a professional wedding photographer to document your epic elopement adventure, please reach out to Heidi Straus Photography HERE! I am SO excited to hear from you!

Destination Wedding and Elopement Photographer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota

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