Vancouver Wedding Photographer Tomasz Wagner

How to Plan an Elopement


How to Plan an Elopement

As an elopement photographer, I’m noticing a shift away from large weddings to couples diving into how to plan an elopement. Not surprisingly, these intimate celebrations are becoming a popular way to get married, especially during a pandemic when small is key. The following is a a simple guide on how to plan an elopement with special attention to eloping in Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Last updated: February 2, 2021

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. 1. Set an intention: why elope?
  2. 2. Choose a location and date
  3. 3. Book vendors that add value
  4. 4. Buy rings and get your outfits tailored
  5. 5. Obtain a marriage license
  6. 6. Sort out your witnesses
  7. 7. Prepare an elopement timeline
  8. 8. Make dinner reservations
  9. How to Plan an Elopement: The Checklist
  10. Common Questions about Eloping



blurry photo of wedding couple during elopement at pacific spirit park in vancouver



1. Set an intention: why elope?

We both always knew that a big wedding wasn’t for us. We’re not very traditional. It’s hard to explain but doing something just for ourselves felt right.

Soon after we got engaged, we started thinking about when to have the wedding, where to have the ceremony, who to invite, whether we’d have dancing or cake or flowers.

But we kept coming back to wanting something simple and memorable. And for us.

There are heaps of reasons for choosing to elope, whether it’s to keep things easy-going and private, happier on the budget front, or unique to what your relationship is all about. But ultimately, elopements are a unique opportunity to celebrate your commitment to each other in marriage while also crafting an unforgettable experience. They tend not to follow a formula about how a wedding should look and feel like, and are the perfect option for those wanting something that feels like “you”—whether it’s a simple commitment made in a secret venue in the city, an outdoor adventure, or something else entirely.

Whatever the reasons, know that an elopement is ultimately about the two of you and where your hearts will take you. And there’s a lot of freedom in that.



2. Choose a location and date

Where do you like spending most of your time together? Hiking in old growth forests? Paddling on a lake? Soaking up brutalist architecture and enjoying delicious eats in the heart of the city?

Think about the kind of setting you love and what you’re willing to do to get there. You may need to plan supplies for a sunrise hike. Or maybe you’re the type to start your day with a coffee before getting dressed and heading into the city via taxi. If you decide to hire an elopement photographer, they’ll help you figure out locations and logistics such as whether you might require a permit to shoot or get married there.

The lovely thing about elopements is their flexibility. If having a specific wedding officiant, photographer, or friends/witnesses at your elopement is a priority for you, simply check in with them about their availability. Your vendors will often recommend eloping on a weekday when they’re not already booked up with larger weddings on the weekends and places like beaches and forest trails tend to be much quieter.



3. Book vendors that add value

Elopements allow you to focus on the details that matter the most to you. Once you’ve decided what those are, do a bit of research: Do these vendors offer a style I love and values I vibe with? Are they available on the tentative date I’ve set? Is their service and expertise something I want to budget for? Invest in and trust the ones you’ve asked to be a part of your elopement plans and they’ll give it their all.

a) Wedding Commissioner or Officiant: Young Hip & Married / Christian Sawka

In British Columbia, you’ll need a wedding commissioner or officiant to get legally married. They’ll walk you through the legal aspects of your ceremony, offer options for writing up something special or personalizing vows, and perform a legal wedding ceremony. They’ll also advise you to obtain a marriage license.

b) Vancouver Florists: The Wild Bunch / Celsia Floral

c) Photographers and the stories they tell: Elopement Photography

Great photos have the power to spark great memories and pull others into that time and place. Think of your photographs as not only for you but also for the family and friends in your life. They may not have been a part of your elopement plans but there’s no reason they can’t share in the magic via photographs that capture how things felt. If you plan on booking an elopement photographer, find one whose personality and work you connect with.



4. Buy rings and get your outfits tailored

If you need to get anything resized, custom made, or adjusted to fit just right, make sure you provide your vendors with some time. Contact your ring designer, bridal shop, tailor or seamstress in advance to see what their timelines are like to avoid disappointment.



5. Obtain a marriage license

This can be obtained via an insurance agency, notary public, London Drugs, or Service BC locations.



6. Sort out your witnesses

You typically need at least two and I’m happy to be one of them.



7. Prepare an elopement timeline

Every elopement I’ve been a part of has been planned to prioritize what matters the most to a couple. I’ve documented the simple details of having a tea in the morning together to running around in the desert at dusk. Typically, couples hire me because they want several hours to a full day of coverage to have their elopement captured in a creative and sincere way. Crafting an experience makes for the best photographs and I’m here to help figure out a timeline that gets you excited for your elopement. If you’re looking for more than the cut and dry photos of your ceremony and a handful of portraits, get in touch.

Sample Full Day Elopement Timeline

Get ready together
Have a first look
Head over to ceremony location
Portraits in Location #1
Enjoy a lunch break
Exchange gifts and read cards
Get dressed and take more portraits in Location #2 at sunset
Head into town for dinner



8. Make dinner reservations

If you’re eloping in Vancouver, I have heaps of recommendations. Alternatively, order take out and have some of your favourite eats in the comfort of your home / AirBnB / hotel.



How to Plan an Elopement: The Checklist

how to plan an elopement checklist 1. Set an intention
2. Choose a location and date
3. Book vendors that add value
4. Buy rings and get your outfits tailored
5. Obtain a marriage license
6. Sort out your witnesses
7. Prepare an elopement timeline
8. Make dinner reservations



Common Questions About Eloping


What is an elopement?

Elopements are a unique opportunity to celebrate your commitment to each other in marriage while also crafting an unforgettable experience. They tend not to follow a formula about how a wedding should look and feel like, and are the perfect option for those wanting something that feels like “you”—whether it’s a simple commitment made in a secret venue in the city, an outdoor adventure, or something else entirely. Ultimately, it’s about just the two of you and where your hearts will take you.

What are your elopement packages?

My rates start at $1,750 for Vancouver based elopements.

For all other locations, including local destinations in BC, my rates start at $3,500 not including travel.

How much coverage is best for an elopement?

It depends on your priorities. I believe that great stories come from great memories and experiences, which an “half day” (4 hours) or “all day” (8 hours) elopement can provide. I’m normally with my couples from when they get ready up until dinner because they want the full story of their elopement captured—and not just the cut and dry photos of them at their ceremony with a handful of portraits afterwards. Because they’ve intentionally decided not to involve family and friends in their elopement, capturing the larger scope of what happened and how it felt is especially important to allowing everyone back home to feel like they were transported into the moment.

How should I share the news with my family & friends?

It could be as simple as calling up your parents first and posting a photo or five on your social media for everyone else. You could also plan a small dinner party at your favourite local restaurant, your family’s backyard, or your apartment building’s shared amenities room or rooftop.




lesbian couple getting married indoors during elopement in marfa




Thinking about eloping in Vancouver or elsewhere? I’d love to hear from you.


TW





    Elopement Inquiry Form

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    Elopement Date * (is this date flexible?)

    Elopement Location * (is this location flexible?)

    Tell me a bit about yourselves and the elopement you're envisioning *

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    bride holding bouquet while walking away in pacific spirit park
    couple elopes at pacific spirit park during covid

    Elopement Planning Guide by Tomasz Wagner
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