How To Plan An Elopement: 13 Dos & Don’ts You Need To Know

I just love the idea of eloping. The notion of sacking off the guest list, the budget spreadsheet, the logistics, and jetting off for a thrilling adventure (in the Johannesburg bush, along the Cape Town coastline or even further abroad) to say your wedding vows, just the two of you! I mean, what a story for the grandkids! But even if you’re opting for a no-frills wedding, planning your elopement still deserves a little thought. You need to figure out where to do it, what to wear, how to make it special, and what to do afterwards, while handling all the emotions that come with it. And, of course, you’ve got to make a plan for telling your parents and pals. That’s why we’ve put together a little guide on how to elope – the must-dos, and the most definitely don’ts!

1. Do It For the Right Reasons

Eloping can be something of a statement in itself, so if you’re planning to get married without your friends and family by your side, make sure it’s something you really want, and that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Saving money, avoiding fuss, keeping things intimate and personal, or avoiding family drama, are all completely valid reasons to elope – just make sure you’ve thought a lot about your decision, and it’s what you both want.

2. Don’t Feel Bad About It

There can be a lot of guilt associated with elopements so this might be easier said than done, but try not to feel bad about your decision – you don’t have to justify it to anyone. Of course, some friends and family might be initially disappointed with the idea of not sharing your day with you, but once they get over the shock, chances are, they’ll be nothing but chuffed to bits for you. I think the key here is “prepare yourself for the worst but expect the best” is key for this. Hopefully everyone will be rooting for you, but try not to be upset if a couple of people aren’t as excited about your news as you’d hoped.

3. Do Have a Reveal Plan

You might want to throw a big party when you get back, and let all your pals know you’ve eloped, you may want to send out announcement cards, or perhaps you want to quietly tell your nearest and dearest about your good news and leave it at that. However you let people know about your elopement, make a plan.

When it comes to parents, siblings and close friends, it’s important that they hear the news from you, ideally in person, and not through the grapevine or worse, on Facebook! Have a bit of a script ready to go

– as I said, you don’t need to explain yourself, but you both need to be on the same page when it comes to letting friends and family in on your big surprise.

4. Don’t Dismiss the Legalities

Make sure you read up on the legalities of where you’re getting married; how long you need to register in advance, what ID and paperwork you need to bring, and whether the marriage will be valid back home (especially if you’re having your wedding outside South Africa). We all have a romantic notion of an impromptu wedding where you just book your flights and say “I Do”, but sadly, even the most fanciful gestures require some forethought. Oh, and don’t forget to collect your marriage cert before you fly home!

5. Do Think About the Destination

Do you want a chic city elopement in Paris or New York, island vows in the Carribbean or Thailand, or would you prefer to tick a destination off your bucket list and go to New Zealand, South America or Japan? Once you’ve decided where you want to go, and the scenery you want for your elopement, you can start building a plan from there. (Check out OFD’s destination guides for inspiration and advice!) It’s not a bad idea to invest in a local planner who will advise you on the legalities, set you up with a celebrant and any other vendors you might want, and arrange on-the-day transport and dining. They’ll also know some quiet locations for your vows or portrait session, so take advantage of their insider know-how. You don’t want to spend your trip looking for a florist and booking taxis.

6. Don’t Forget To Book a Photographer

We always think booking a photographer is a sound investment for your wedding day, and even moreso if you’re eloping. Take your time deciding which photog to go with and don’t compromise.

Do your research here, and go with a photographer that understands the style of photographs you want of your day. I think of it this way, your wedding is something you can’t redo and will be one of the stories you’ll tell your whole life – so consider flying someone over if you can’t find what you want locally.

Having beautiful pictures of your day to show friends and family will make them feel like they were part it. Plus, you’ll have keepsakes of your vows to keep the memories alive. After all, if you don’t have photographic evidence, did it even happen?

7. Do Make It Special

Just because you don’t have 120 guests to wine, dine and entertain doesn’t mean your elopement shouldn’t be special. Whether it’s writing personalised vows, splashing out on a fancy limousine, eating wedding cake for breakfast, or going to a Michelin star restaurant for dinner, do whatever it is that will make your wedding day feel special and truly memorable. The best thing about eloping is that you can do whatever you want, so make sure you do!

8. Don’t Meet Your Vendors For the First Time At Your Wedding

So this isn’t a strict one, but it’s highly advised! I heard a story where someone at a beach resort was approached by a guy in a suit, who asked to film his wedding on an iPad. Of course, she obliged, but as his bride walked down the aisle, there was a randomer (her!) standing on the sand filming her (she didn’t know her groom had recently arranged a videographer). The couple were meeting the celebrant for the first time at the altar, they had only met the photographer a few minutes before, and the witnesses were a couple they’d befriended at the bar. They were shy people, (probably the reason why they’d decided to elope), but here they were standing in front of a bunch of strangers reciting really sincere and personal vows. Different resorts and planners will do things differently, and maybe you don’t care about such things, but if you want your elopement to feel intimate and romantic,

I suggest trying to meet anyone who’ll be in attendance, ahead of time – even if it’s over Skype.

9. Do Rock Something Gorgeous

It doesn’t have to be white or formal. It doesn’t have to be a dress or a suit. And it certainly doesn’t have to be “wedding appropriate”. But do make sure you wear something special to you on your wedding day, whether it’s a sequin bridal jumpsuit, a little white dress, your granny’s pearl necklace, your favourite Hawaiian shirt – or indeed full formal wedding day attire. Have some fun with your look and make sure you feel incredible on your wedding day, even if you’re only dressing up for yourself, your other half or some fun photo’s.

10 Do Some Flowers For the Photos

You’ll be tempted to go skinny on the bouquet. But even though you’re not doing a bouquet toss,

a bunch of beautiful blooms make all the difference in your wedding photo’s. They’re an excellent accessory and really give that bridal feel no matter what you wear. This is also a fun place to play, whether you’re rocking a flower crown or a plush floral arrangement

11. Don’t Write-Off a Wedding Day Timeline

You might not think you need one – after all, eloping is about throwing out the rule book, right? – but thinking about the structure of your day is the best way to make the most of it. If the ceremony takes 15 minutes, and dinner takes two hours, there’s still a lot of day to fill. Take time with your hair and makeup, have a long breakfast or pre-ceremony lunch, have a couples’ massage, or go all out with your photography session – just make sure there’s a flow to your day so you can keep up the excitement and momentum.

12. Do Expect Some Costs

A lot of couples will plan an elopement to save on the expense of a big wedding, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be costs. Your wedding license, bouquet, outfits, hair, makeup and celebrant will all cost the same, no matter how many guests you have – though,

do ask your planner and photographer if they offer elopement rates, as you may require less of their time on the day.

That said, if you can afford it, it’s no harm splashing out and upgrading to a fancy hotel or a plush suite on your wedding night, treating yourself to a fabulous meal or going all in on the Champagne – what’s the point in eloping if you can’t indulge a little?!

13. Don’t Book a Package Without Looking It Over

Lots of resorts – and some planners – offer dedicated elopement packages. These often include the ceremony, an in-house photographer, local flowers and a romantic dinner, sometimes along with accommodation.

These packages can be handy, and cost effective, especially if you’re not really into the details, but make sure you’re happy with all the elements – especially the photographer!

Photographs and your husband are the only things you’ll be taking away with you – make sure you’re 100% happy before you book.

# elopementphotographer #johhannsburgphotographer #weddingphotographer

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