Are you and your partner daydreaming about eloping? With all the pressure and expense a big event entails, we are seeing that many couples are opting for a small elopement instead. While elopements can be lots of fun and spontaneous, there are a few details that need to be taken care of before you can get hitched. As experts in the field of eloping (we hosted over 30 elopements in our gardens last year!) we have all the details you need to take care. Check out the Colonial Gardens Elopement Planning Guide below!
Pick a Location
This will be one of the main limitations on your elopement plans. Remember, an elopement day is all about you two! First, start by deciding on a few places where you would like to get married as well as a few dates you have in mind. Then you will want to check to see if those locations are available. The other factor to be aware of is the cost of the venue. Churches can charge up to $1000 to use their spaces. And the cute gazebo in the park look may look adorable, but you will need to call the city to see if you can use the space. You don’t want to receive a fine for trespassing!
Some cities have small wedding chapels set aside specifically for elopements and small weddings, so definitely check for those. And of course, you can always call a small bed and breakfast in the area, like us! Some B&Bs have elopement packages or will rent out their grounds. You can click here to take a peek at our elopement packages!
If you’re looking for something more exotic, consider a destination elopement! With no guests, there is no need to worry about distance, transportation, or lodging for them. Destination weddings and elopements are more and more common and we’re loving the trend!
Get your Marriage License
The next step on your elopement planning guide is getting the marriage license. You will need to obtain a marriage license in the state in which you plan to get married. So if you decide to elope in Las Vegas, you both will need to appear in-person at a courthouse in Nevada to get your license.
*Be aware! While some states allow you to receive your license same day, others require a waiting period or a blood test. Click here to check out the requirements of each state.
In Virginia, there is no waiting period or blood test required. The license can be obtained same day while you wait!
This makes Virginia is a great state in which to elope!
In Virginia, the signed license will have to be returned to the courthouse from which it was issued within 5 business days in order to be valid. If not returned, the license will be void you will have to get married all over again!
Find an Officiate
The next thing you will need to find is someone to marry you. For this, there are a few options.
- Get married by a clerk in the courthouse. This is done by someone behind glass reading a stale script with lots of, often disgruntled, strangers sitting with you in the waiting area. This option will get you married fast, but there isn’t a lot of romance. Also know that there is an additional fee for this option.
- Get married by a pastor or an ordained family friend. Be aware, some pastors may not marry you if you haven’t been counseled by them or if they don’t know you. They may also not perform same-sex marriages.
- Get married by a court appointed officiate in a location of your choosing. This is what we recommend and do with our elopement couples. The officiate we use is Mrs. Eunice Fenwick. She is absolutely a delight to work with and puts all of our couples at ease. She is flexible with adjusting the ceremony to add-in vows, unity candles, and musicians. If you’re planning to get married in the Williamsburg, Virginia area, we highly recommend her services! Click here to get Eunice Fenwick’s contact information!
Don’t Forget to Take Pictures!
Pictures! Since it’s just going to be the two of you, you will want to have lots a great picture memories to share with family and friends (and have for yourselves!). This is a great opportunity to have a photoshoot that you can enjoy yourselves and have some fun. Consider spending some of the money you saved on the wedding on a professional photographer for the day. You wont be sorry!
Other things to consider…
Do you have a place to stay? Find a local hotel to put a finishing touch to your special day. Expert Tip: Tell the front desk you are coming from getting married. Often times, they will leave a complimentary special gift in your room!
Are you inviting anyone along? Elopements are typically just for the two of you, but sometimes it’s nice to have a few people there to share in the celebration. Keep it small!