The ultimate guide to planning an elopement: How to create a day you will love forever

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The ultimate guide to planning an elopement: How to create a day you will love forever

Packed with how-to tips, this helpful guide shares how to plan a gorgeous classic elopement or intimate wedding

If you are looking for guidance on how to plan an elopement or the intimate wedding of your dreams, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for everything you need to consider to create a day you will love forever. It’s time to get excited, because there is so much personalization that can go into a wedding day like this. Keep reading to get inspired!

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An Elopement versus intimate wedding

Now more than ever, couples are looking for ways to share vows and celebrate their love story through an elopement or intimate wedding. So what’s the difference between the two options? Think of an elopement as you, your officiant, your wedding photographers, and your closest family and friends only. On the other hand, an intimate wedding is basically a traditional wedding with a much smaller guest list (eg. only your closest family and friends with few to no extras!).

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Your love can’t be held down

We’ve always been in love with the idea of making the main thing the main thing: You get to marry your best friend. Sometimes a more intimate wedding allows you to enjoy your day even more. But let’s just confirm something: an elopement or intimate wedding can still be gorgeous, classic, and timeless (in addition to being intimate)! It no longer means you get a quick ceremony with no celebration or events on your day. Welcome to the new standard for elopements… and we have all the details in this guide!

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The starting point: Modern elopements are not like your mom’s

Couple embraces after their first look on the bridge at Ukraina Country Club

Elopements and intimate wedding days don’t mean that you get it done and move on. And the heart behind modern elopements are not about sneaking away and keeping your family out of the loop, either. What modern elopements are: they allow you to make your wedding day, no matter how small or intimate, personal and an experience you will always treasure. 

It’s time to let go of your mom or grandma’s vision of elopements, which consisted of quick vows at the courthouse in a nice semi-casual dress with no photos to prove it happened. The new standard for elopements and intimate weddings is that you have all of the permission to slow down. Pause when you want to, and create a day filled with adventure and all of your favourite things to celebrate the day you share your life vows together.

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How to make your elopement extra special

The following are 4 simple things you will want to consider in order to make your elopement or intimate wedding day truly meaningful.

Choose an epic location that inspires you

We have great news! Having an elopement or intimate wedding means that you now have even more freedom in choosing a location you adore. Read: The old way was to have a backyard barbecue. New way: pick a place that means a lot to you! Whether you want a really adventurous location like a mountain side, a beach, or the classic architecture found in the downtown core, pick a backdrop that truly inspires you and makes you feel alive and inspired.

When you’re having an intimate wedding or an elopement, the season you choose will also determine a lot of factors. If you have hiking involved to get to your location, a fall date is perfect so you don’t break a sweat! If you love the romance of a winter wedding, the downtown core is a gorgeous option.

In a nutshell: Make your location meaningful. You now have permission to let your brainstorming soar and think beyond your parents’ backyard or a public park!

Here’s a list of some of our favourite location ideas:

London Ontario Elopement Locations

  • Meadowlily Woods Trails in the Summerside area of London has many amazing spots to set up an intimate ceremony. We are crazy for this one willow tree there, and can’t think of a more romantic spot for vows!
  • Rent the grounds of a gorgeous estate like Elsie Perrin for a few hours
  • We adore Sydenham Ridge and the pine forest (and there famous big tree!) for a romantic outdoor ceremony
  • Find a modern light-filled Airbnb with a beautiful property that’s perfect for portraits
  • Pick a beautiful conservation area
  • Have your celebration at a private cottage
  • Transform a boring private property into a gorgeous backdrop with the help of industry pros
  • Choose a greenhouse like Civic Gardens or rent another local greenhouse as a perfect rain-proof option where you get to be surrounded by greenery and lots of natural light
  • Rent a downtown rooftop or Boler Mountain for a beautiful city view!
  • Get married at city hall and explore the downtown core
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Toronto, Niagara, and other locations

  • Rent a gorgeous Airbnb that backs onto a lake or has a great view. Some of them offer an hourly rate! It’s private and a fun getaway for you and your closest friends and family.
  • Pick a quaint town like Niagara-on-the-Lake to explore together
  • Chose the Scarborough Bluffs Beach
  • Select a smaller more private beach. There are some near Grand Bend and St. Jo’s is a great option. St. Jo’s has some great stretches of beach with varied landscaping like larger rocks and forestry.
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2. Enjoy the perks of a smaller wedding

Having an elopement or intimate wedding means that you get the opportunity to pick a weekday wedding date! And when it comes to getting the wedding photographer that you love, trust me, they will be less willing to give up a prime weekend wedding date. A Monday-Thursday wedding allows them to offer smaller package prices, gets their calendar filled up, and gets you the talent you really want to hire. WIN-WIN!

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3. Think about where you’ll share your vows

Having an elopement or intimate wedding does not mean it’s less personal. It means you have even more freedom than before to make it very personal. Spend some time thinking about what backdrop you want for your vows. Make it special and unique. See if your photographer can visit your chosen location in advance; they can help you pick a place with beautiful framing for your vows!

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4. Be ready for adventure

We love spending the day with our couples to capture the beautiful adventure that unfolds and document it all. We’ll help you make an itinerary that includes all of the beautiful and special touches and places that mean something to the two of you.

From bringing along our stereo to play your favourite songs as the soundtrack for your portraits, to documenting the two of you grabbing take-out from your favourite restaurant and sharing your first meal as husband and wife, climbing your favourite mountain together or taking a wedding walk through the downtown core of the city where you first met. We capture it all because it means something to you and always will.

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Your guest list your way

People will understand if they are not included on the guest lists of an intimate wedding or elopement day. Have as many or as few guests as you want! If they don’t understand your vision for your day, don’t take it on as something you need to fix. It’s not personal, and your wedding is about your vision, not theirs. Plus, sizes of group gatherings tend to be a lot smaller these days, which makes it even easier to not invite everyone including you mom’s second aunt!

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Include all of the personal touches

When you forgo the traditional model of a wedding day, you have more financial freedom to create your dream day. You also have the opportunity to infuse all of the special touches that you love. And when you factor in all of the savings from a typical wedding day, it’s easier to add in these personal touch points that will make your day feel even more special.

Our favourite elements to incorporate into an elopement

PRINTED THINGS

  • A complete stationary suite to celebrate your day including a schedule that memorializes your days events, a map showing where you went, and an invite and menu of your first meal as husband and wife
  • Invest in custom vow books that can be shared and read
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ACCESSORIES

  • Bring along bottle of champagne for a toast!
  • Get an antique rug to stand on for your exchange of vows 
  • Make sure to include a bouquet and boutonniere, it’s such a great touch to your portraits and is a very basic accessory that goes a long way in your photos!
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EXPERIENCES

  • Take a helicopter ride to the top of a gorgeous view with one of our favourite officiants Jeff Maeck from Maeck Weddings
  • Have your friends and family set up a table and get a decorator to create your first wedding meal on the beach or in a vineyard or the woods
  • Rent a VW Kombi for the day like the one from The Long Weekend bus company
  • Incorporate any unique things that the two of you love… pack all the fun experiences into your day that you love to do together!
  • Include your fur baby! Finding a way to include your dog, cat, (or any sweet furry child!) in your celebration is such a sweet memory!
  • If you have children, let’s find ways to include them in an unforgettable day of adventure!
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ADD-ONS

  • Add on a videographer so that all of your family and friends can relive the highlight reel of your dream day, feeling like they were with you and celebrating in your joy! We have some personal favourites we love to work with, including Threefold Studios!
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We really hope you’re starting to get really inspired and can see just how special a small wedding or elopement can be!

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Now add in Really Good Wedding Food

If you are anything like us, food means a lot to you. Craft and gourmet foods just make life so much better. So if you are as passionate as us, include that in your wedding day. Eat your favourite foods from your favourite restaurants or an amazing caterer or a food truck. Again, it’s time to realize that you get to totally think outside the box with this, and make it exactly what you want to be.

Some of our favourite ideas for Cambridge and London Ontario wedding catering includes:

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Other ideas to consider:

  • Your favourite restaurant
  • A poutine bar
  • A gorgeous charcuterie spread
  • A buffet of all of your favourite things on one table!
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Your elopement photographer. One or two?

We find that one photographer is perfect for intimate weddings. You typically want two photographers when you have a traditional wedding because of so many more moments and interactions to capture. Having an intimate wedding, you can easily get away with one photographer to capture it all. For us, Dylan would be the lead shooter, and I (Sandra), would help you leading up to your big day! Our elopement and intimate wedding coverage starts at 6 hours because we take a storytelling approach; we want to tell the full story of your amazing day!

We truly believe photos are even more important when you have an elopement or smaller wedding. Not everyone will get to physically witness your vows, and that’s the job of your wedding photographer. You want an amazing wedding photographer that can document the entire experience so you (and they!) can relive it through your photos.

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If you forego a traditional wedding…

When it comes to your wedding photos, the main thing that would be missing in capturing your elopement day would be your reception. That’s why so many eloping couples are excited to have their wedding celebration reception at a later date. Food brings people together and is how humans connect and celebrate since the start of time! Having a celebration later gives you the best of both worlds: party with your friends down the road and get photos of all the people that mean the most to you.

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Why you will never regret doing an elopement (or intimate wedding day)

There are so many reasons why elopements and intimate wedding days are something you will never regret.

Benefits of an elopement or intimate wedding

YOUR BUDGET

  • Take the money that you saved, and invest it into your home together (We are Dave Ramsey buffs and he would be proud!)
  • It doesn’t have to look and feel cheap. Investing in the special details that you truly love goes a long way in elevating the experience of your day and also creating images that you will love. Incorporating a decorator, real florals, and a gorgeous gown is totally appropriate! It’s your wedding day and it should look and feel really special
  • When you have a weekday celebration, you get to save more money, and although not all guests will attend, the ones that really love and support you will always find a way to be there
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PERSONALIZATION

  • You can literally design your day exactly as you want to be, and make it an incredibly meaningful and personal day of adventure together
  • Your schedule does not revolve around the traditional elements of the wedding day, like your ceremony and reception. Instead, you can create as much or as little structure as you would like your day to have
  • If you want your day to feel more (or less) traditional, you can incorporate elements that give that feel
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THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

  • If you want to have a big party afterwards, you can! Invite all of your favourite people to a restaurant or rent a venue for a future celebration at a TBD date
  • You don’t have the pressure of doing anything or inviting anyone you don’t want to do. Make it what you want it to be.
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YOU CAN STILL HAVE BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS

  • Still get gorgeous candid, timeless, and classic photos and a wedding album. Your love story is something special that deserves a celebration and to be tangibly printed. 
  • As photographers who are heavily focussed on experience, we create and craft a timeline that incorporate everything you love and know how to maximize your coverage so you get more photos to treasure
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Get Elopement Planning help

We adore working with wedding planners because it means that our brides don’t have to feel overwhelmed, or stressed. And we are big believers that the only job a couple should have on their wedding day is to soak it all in, be the VIPs, and be present to every single moment. One of our favourite London Ontario wedding planners, Kassia Tjia from Kassia Tjia Events, specializes in classic, elegant and authentic wedding celebrations and helps couples plan elopements as well.

Kassia’s Tjia’s number one piece of advice to engaged couples is to “build on the love that the two of you share, and keep that love close to your herts as you plan your elopement details… an elopement focusses solely on the two of you as a couple—think about what makes you perfect together and create a gorgeous celebration that is all for you!”. Even if you are just looking for day-of planning, or someone to coordinate your itinerary and all of the personal touches, having a planner is a guaranteed way to enjoy your day from start to end, and ensure your day is really special (no matter how small).

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Traditional versus non-traditional moments

You can incorporate so many of the same traditional moments, or none of them. You can still do an emotional first look, your vows, your first kiss, you’re getting ready photos, your first meal as husband and wife, and your close family portraits if your families are there.

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A summary of Elopement Options

Your wedding day is all about your vision and elopements provide the ultimate flexibility. Here are some of the options that our brides have considered. Determine which one you like best and the pros and cons for your specific situation. Get creative to create a celebration that allows the ones you love to cheer you on!

  • A) Go all out and make it an elopement only
  • B) Have an elopement now and a big reception celebrating with your favourite people at a later date
  • C) Have an elopement now and an intimate celebration at a later date
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Lovers in a Dangerous Time

I’ve always connected with and loved the Barenaked Ladies song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”. Honestly, some days the chorus is on repeat in my head as I think about all of our beautiful couples and their wedding plans! And seriously friends, the romance factor on getting married during any kind of dangerous time will be a fantastic story to share with your kids and grandkids. Plus, how amazing is it that your love story won’t be stopped? That alone makes elopements or an intimate wedding really, really meaningful.

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Keep reading

If you want to read more about what to do when your wedding needs to be rescheduled, you can click here. Or, get more inspiration and ideas by clicking on our other free wedding planning resources! We also have a handy list of our favourite London Ontario engagement locations if you are looking for a perfect spot to celebrate your engagement!

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Looking for an elopement or intimate wedding photographer to tell the story of your big day?

We offer special elopement pricing for weddings that run between Monday and Thursday. We specialize in photographing classic and adventurous elopement days and would love to chat and help you with some ideas! Our belief is that elopements and intimate weddings are just as special as traditional wedding days. If you are looking for a wedding photographer that loves candids and a timeless classic feel as much as you, let’s connect!

@DYLANANDSANDRA

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