What is Eloping?

Wedding Ideas and Planning Tips from Industry Professionals here at Ybarra Events

Wedding planners are more than just event planners. We're designers, problem-solvers, coordinators, budgeteers, part-time therapists, and friends to the couples and families who are entrusting us to help them with their events. Since we're on friendly terms now, here are some tips and tricks to the trade of navigating wedding planning! 

What is Eloping and why do couples do it?

updated: 01/30/2021

Eloping, in the past, has been defined as running away and secretly getting married, without your loved ones' knowledge. It was considered a bit risqué, slipping out in the cloak of darkness, with the one your heart pines for, but your family disapproves of. Over the years eloping has evolved into a romantic destination wedding, sometimes just the wedding couple, or sometimes a very intimate gathering to enjoy the sweet wedding ceremony. Typically, there's a simple wedding ceremony, which is not followed by a traditional wedding reception with dinner and dancing. Some couples do choose to enjoy a smaller luncheon or dinner with their loved ones that witnessed the ceremony after they've exchanged vows. 

Planning an elopement sounds like it would be relatively stress-free, but that is not necessarily the case. Although it is a smaller event, there are still a lot of moving parts that need to be organized to pull the elopement together. The best way to keep the elopement a stress-free experience, is to hire the professionals! To try to make your lives easier, I have put together a step-by-step process of what it takes to plan an elopement.

Why Some Couples Elope

Not every person loves the idea of the big extravagant wedding. For some, the thought of being the center of attention is panic attack inducing. Or perhaps you and your partner are the super spontaneous and always looking for an unconventional adventure! Eloping can also be a great option for those trying to save money for a house or want to join your elopement with your honeymoon in an exotic location. Recently, many newly engaged couples are interested in eloping as a safe and Covid friendly way to enjoy their wedding day. There are endless reasons to consider eloping and all of them are valid!

How to Elope

1. Check the Law

Do you need a license and how long will it take to obtain? Do you need an appointment at City Hall? Can this be accomplished virtually? Do you want a professional Officiant, or do you have a friend that is ordained? Are witnesses required? If you do need witnesses, can they be virtual? Or do they need to attend the elopement in person? (Check out virtual weddings info!)

These are a few questions that you will need to get answered in order to ensure your elopement is legal and you don't run into difficulties later. I recommend checking out your courthouse info online and filling out information prior to your in person visit to collect your marriage license. It will cut down on your wait time. 

2. Booking Vendors and Travel Details

Talk about the type of backdrop you would like for your elopement. Would you like to exchange vows out in front of a waterfall surrounded by forest? Does Wine Country, with it's sprawling vineyards and rich foody culture appeal to you? Think about the location you would like to travel to for your elopement. Once you have a relative location, you can start booking your vendors, plane tickets, hotel room, car reservations, etc. 

Vendors you'll want to consider:

  • Venue
  • Officiant
  • Florist
  • Music
  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Professional Livestreamer 
  • Cake/Dessert
  • Catering
  • Rentals
  • Beauty Artist

3. Plan the Ceremony

There are no rules for your elopement. You still get to tailor it to fit your style, choosing flowers, attire, music, etc. Of course, if you don't want to make any decisions, that is an option as well! All you do need, is the paperwork, Officiant, and possibly witnesses. Do you want to wear the formal wedding garb? Do you want to exchange rings? Do you want flowers? Do you want to write your own vows? Would you like to livestream your vow exchange, for family and friends that can't join you in person? Technically, it's all optional. Think about what you want the ceremony to look and feel like, and plan accordingly!

4. Post-Elopement Plans

Even if your elopement is just the two of you, enjoy a nice dinner after. You can simply go out to dinner, or you can hire a caterer to prepare a lovely meal, in a romantic setting. If you invite a few family members and friends to join in your merriment, plan a special evening with some beautiful music and delicious food. You can even order a centerpiece and dinnerware for your table, elevating the experience. 

5. Send Those Announcements

Woohoo! You are officially married! Now that you’ve tied the knot, there are a lot of people that would love to know about it. You may be itching to scream it from the rooftops yourself! Send out a formal announcement to all your family and friends! Maybe even post a formal announcement in the local paper. You could even send them a picture from your elopement day!

Elopement Etiquette

Be Prepared for Reactions

Possibly the most difficult part of eloping is the fear that your friends and family will be disappointed they were not a part of your Wedding Day. It may be the case that not everyone supports your decision. That is hard, but it is your choice, and if eloping feels right for you, stick to your preference. In order to alleviate the awkwardness, I recommend notifying parents and other immediate family members or close friends before the elopement date. Consider taking an extra thoughtful step and including your closet loved ones in the day somehow, whether you invite them to watch you exchange vows in person, or livestreamed, or possibly letting them help you pick the location and flower colors. They'll be happy to contribute and share the day with you in any small way they can. 

Hire Professionals

Even though you're having a simple elopement, treat yourself to a special day. Often, elopements are planned last minute, sometimes months, weeks, or days before they take place. You may even wake up and think, "Let's do this!" and run down to City Hall! Still hire professionals. Hire a string trio, get a cutting cake, carry a bouquet... it is a special day, so treat it as such! 

Don't Forget to Make it Legal

Unless you're just celebrating your relationship and it's milestones, symbolically exchanging vows, you'll need to jump through a few legal hoops. Every Country and County or State have their own regulations.  Check with your local ordinances to ensure your nuptials are legal. 


While you're checking legalities, you may find that you need a witness, or in some cases, two witnesses. Check in with your close family and friends to see who is available to travel on a whim with you to watch you exchange vows. 

Send an Announcement

Sometimes, couples don't realise they want to elope until after announcing their engagement. Family and Friends may be wondering when they will be receiving your Save-the-Date for your big traditional wedding. After your elopement, make sure to send announcements. You don't want to leave people hanging and risk them feeling left out. 

Remember it's a Special Day! 

Just because you're eloping, it doesn't mean it's not worth celebrating! Treat it like the special day it is! Splurge on the flowers, the lovely attire, the music, the photographer. It's a significant day! Enjoy it to it's fullest!

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About the Author: 

Tara Ybarra, Co-Owner and Event Planner for Ybarra Events, has been in the Wedding Industry for over 20 years. From Photographer, to Wedding Cake Artist, to Florist, to Officiant, and now Wedding Planner, her accumilated experience, paired with her College Courses in Event Planning, have given her the experience she has today. Blogging gives her an opportunity to share that knowledge with her readers. 

Ybarra Events is located in California’s spectacular Napa Valley. Ybarra Events are the pièce de résistance of wedding planners. Run by the dynamic duo of Tara and James Ybarra, they help couples organize, design, and plan their nuptials at some of the most fabulous and luxurious wedding venues in Napa, Sonoma, San Francisco, and Beyond. Chat with them today to start planning the wine-country wedding of your dreams.

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