How to plan an Elopement

Planning an Elopement Wedding

Here is the step-by-step to planning an Elopement Wedding. I know first hand, planning weddings by themselves are overwhelming, time-consuming, and costly. I planned our destination wedding originally in Maui, Hawaii, but then had to cancel it because of COVID-19. Jake and I decided to wait until things calmed down and when we could safely travel again. Fast-forward a year later; we were ready to start planning our wedding again. This time around, I did not want to go through with all the planning. I was over it. So, I asked Jake if he would be interested in doing a small elopement wedding in Malibu, CA. He said yes! I was excited because I didn’t have to plan this huge big ol’ wedding! However, there were several things that I did need to plan to make sure we had the best and memorable elopement.

The Ultimate Elopement Checklist:

1. Find the perfect spot (State/City) you want to elope

This is the first important step because once you identify where you want to elope, planning the rest becomes easy. Once you identify the location, the next step is to identify if you want to do the ceremony indoors or outdoors. If you do indoors, I recommend looking on Airbnb for a nice plan with big windows with beautiful views. If you want to elope outside, maybe find an Airbnb known for the property and the beautiful views. Or, if you’re like us, you want to elope in a public area, like at the beach!

We picked Malibu but then researched the different beaches to find the one that had the best views. We fell in love with El Matador Beach. It’s more than a beach. It has these beautiful rocks in the water and has the best lighting and sunsets. We have never been, so it was a lot of researching on Instagram and Google to see the beauty of this place. Then one day before our elopement, we visited the area during the hours we wanted to do our ceremony and photos to get an idea of how crowded it was and how harsh the light would be.

El Matador Beach Sunset

2. Find a wedding photographer & videographer

This is the second most important step because photographers book out in advance. Do not wait last minute to find the photographer for your wedding/elopement. If you also want your elopement filmed, I recommend asking the photographer you book with for a recommendation. If they don’t have anyone to recommend, I would start looking for a Wedding Videographer. The best place to look for photographers or videographers is to search on Instagram. The keywords to search for are Wedding Photographer and the area you want to elope. Then browse their portfolio and see if their photos match what you are looking for.

3. Find a bridal hair and makeup artist

This is an important step if you want someone to professionally do your hair and makeup if you’re not a pro or want to do it yourself. I found my hairstylist and makeup artist on Instagram. The keywords to search for are Bridal Hair and Makeup and the area you want to elope. Depending on the area you want to elope in, you may need to search for a nearby city. Another plan is to check on Google and Facebook using the same keywords.

4. Find a Florist and have a vision board ready for what type of flowers/designs you want made

The keywords to search for are Wedding Florist. Also, figure out if you want a boutonnière for the groom or just a bouquet for yourself.

I wanted both a bouquet and a boutonnière for the photos, but we ordered flowers to send to my mom and Jake’s Mom as part of our wedding ceremony. We purchased the flowers a week before the wedding; that way, they would deliver to them on the wedding day. We bought the flowers through FTD. We got the Rosé All Day Bouquet and wrote a cute message that said something like this: Dear “Mom’s Name,” Thank you for raising a special, strong, caring etc. woman/man. Please accept these flowers as a gesture of my love for your daughter/son on our wedding day. Love, Jake or Tracey. We saw the flowers my mom got after we got back from our honeymoon, and they were very beautiful. They were delivered in mint condition too.

5. Buy an elopement wedding dress & suit for the Groom

I highly recommend wedding dress shopping anywhere 6-8 months in advance. Finding the perfect elopement wedding dress is the hardest – well, for me anyway. I browsed online for months to find dresses I loved but was hesitant to purchase any because some were made-to-order and not eligible for returns. I purchased a few dresses from and didn’t love the fit or how they looked in person. The colors were more muted online than in person. I ended up falling in love with a dress (the Megan Gown) from Grace Loves Lace and decided it was the one (even though I didn’t try it on). I was too late to have it custom-made to fit me, so I purchased a Ready To Wear one and had it shipped. It then took me a while to find the right person to alter it. Because of the pandemic, I found out that many places went out of business near me in Cleveland, or they took away their wedding alteration tools – who knew. At last, I was able to find someone who was able to alter the dress for me, and it fit perfectly on the day of the wedding. There is something about wearing a wedding dress – you instantly feel special.

For Jake, we went to Indochino near us, and he was measured for a suit. We went in a light grey suit, and it took about 3 weeks for it to be made and delivered. At this point, we also figured out our wedding colors. Aka, what color tie we wanted. Our goal was to have the color of the tie to match the flowers, so we went with a light pink tie.

Malibu Elopement

6. Determine what time you want to have the elopement ceremony

Do you want to have a sunrise wedding, or have the wedding midday, or right before sunset? Do you want to get photographs? If so, I recommend scheduling with your photographer to do a mini shoot before the ceremony and afterwards. We wanted a sunset wedding so that we could get beautiful sunset photos after the ceremony. It was magical in every way for us, but one thing we didn’t realize was how long it takes to get ready for the ceremony and how late it would be by the time we were ready for dinner. So be prepared to order food on the fly, and make changes for dinner.

7. Make reservations at a restaurant for dinner after the elopement

Research the areas you want to have dinner at least 1-2 months in advance. Some places book quickly for reservations, especially if you have more than 6-8 people attending and the area. We had 10 people in the CA area who wanted to witness our elopement, so when I tried to make reservations after the ceremony, all the places I called a month prior had no more reservations! It was crazy. We literally couldn’t get reservations in advance, so we decided to show up at a restaurant and wait for a table. We lucked out by the time we got there; they had a party cancel. 🙂

8. Order cupcakes or a cake and bring a bottle of champagne for a quick celebration

This is totally optional, but we really wanted to celebrate and toast our marriage after the ceremony. About 2 weeks before the elopement, I googled “bakeries in LA” and looked at all the options, the ratings, and their galleries. I found Magnolia Bakery and really liked their flower designs the most. We order 1 dozen cupcakes, with a mixture of chocolate cupcakes with white frosting and vanilla cupcakes with light pink frosting, which matched the color of our flowers. We even had two cupcakes customized with our initials and our wedding date.

For the champagne, I purchased these cute champagne flutes from Amazon. These flutes were super cute and worked out perfectly. We also saved them for future uses too. Finally, the day before our ceremony, we went to Trader Joe’s and purchased a bottle of Opaline Sparkling Pinot Noir Brut Rose, and it was the perfect Bubbly!

The Checklist Download

Obviously, there were other steps to planning our big day, but the above steps were the most important.

After planning a destination wedding, then canceling it to plan an elopement, I thought it would be super helpful to share my Ultimate Elopement Checklist on all the steps. This checklist is easy to follow and super helpful on how to plan an elopement! Be sure to check it out! 🙂 xx Tracey


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