Everything you need to know about planning an elopement

HOW TO Plan your elopement in 2025?

Welcome to your guide for planning an elopement in 2025! If you're here, you're likely dreaming of a wedding day that's meaningful and honors your love. I found a few step by step guides over the internet, but I felt like my approach was different so I wanted to make a new one.

I'm Jaakko, an elopement and intimate wedding photographer with over a decade of experience capturing love stories in Europe. Having photographed over 200 intimate weddings and elopements, I've seen what elements elevate elopements to a different level. I believe your elopement should be deeply personal, free from the constraints of tradition, and full of meaningful moments.

Elopement planning can seem daunting, but this guide is here to make it simple. I'll cover everything from visualizing your dream day to handling logistics and finding the perfect location. Whether you're dreaming of saying your vows under the northern lights, on a secluded mountaintop, or by a cabin near the lake, I've got you covered.

Why I Wrote this step-by-step guide for Elopement planning?

If you feel like you don't know how to start planning your elopement, look no further - I'm here to help. 

Posted on June 6th, 2024.

Second, ask yourself: What was your best vacation together? Was it an all-inclusive resort or a road trip? Do you want to hang out in a famous city with other tourists, or do you want to escape to the mountains together? 

Do you want to elope overseas? Do you hate the hot climate or love the cold? Honestly, I always recommend that people elope in nature, far away from other people, because it’s the best place to be present for each other. City hall elopement might be the most convenient choice, but should eloping be convenient?

1) Visualize Your Elopement

How to start planning your elopement

Third, ditch the rules and think on a grand scale. Think about jumping into the ocean, helicopter rides, snowboarding, northern lights, kayaking in the nightless night, or hiking in the mountains. What would be your dream trip together?  The best elopement locations might be the ones you don't know yet.

Third, allow yourself to dream big

First, talk with your spouse and visualize your elopement experience together. I'm going to say it one more time: Do it together. This way, you're in the same boat from the beginning, and you don't need to make sure if your spouse is down to eloping. If you wondering what are the most important reasons to elope, check out this blog post.

First, Visualize together

Second, Ask yourself these questions

In my experience, the total costs of overseas elopement range roughly between $10,000 and $70,000. You don't need everything on the list, but I wanted to add things you probably don't think about when planning to elope. In general, I recommend splurging on the most important things to you and forgetting the things that don't resonate with you.

Planning and Coordination
Travel and Accommodation
  • Transportation (flights, rental car, parking, tolls, insurance)
  • Lodging
  • Travel Insurance
  • Passport/Visa Fees

Styling and Attire
  • Hair & Makeup Artist (some do it by themselves)
  • Dress/Tux Rentals or Purchases
  • Florist

Ceremony Essentials
  • Officiant (not necessary if you do choose a symbolic ceremony)
  • Permits & Fees (no permits or fees in most EU countries)
  • Vow Booklets
  • Wedding Rings

Capturing the Moments
  • Photographer
  • Videographer

Atmosphere and Experience
  • Décor
  • Musicians
  • Cake, Food & Drinks
  • Special Activities

2) Estimate the elopement costs

How much does it cost to elope?

Next: time of the year

I get it. It can be super hard to decide whether to elope just between the two of you or have an intimate micro-wedding in a beautiful destination. Some folks say elopement isn't elopement if you invite some people, but hey, you do you!

If you ask me, what makes "elopement" elopement isn't how much time you spend with your spouse; it's how you spend it. And if planning the whole thing starts to feel stressful - you're probably planning a wedding more than an elopement. 

3) Choose Between Elopement and Micro-Wedding

Micro wedding vs elopement

I've photographed elopements where only close friends are present, sometimes only the parents, but I've also documented beautiful elopements where a group of friends and both parents attend.

If you decide to invite guests, reserve at least a day for you two so you can have an adventure together without anyone else (okay, maybe me). 

How do you truly want to be there? Who gives you positive energy? Is there someone who takes it away? Will your elopement experience be different if you decide to invite guests?

4) If you said yes to micro-wedding, make your guest list

I completely understand that sometimes you can't elope in the "ideal elopement season," but don't worry! There are hidden gems that are super beautiful and secluded even at shoulder seasons. Contact me and let's get your wedding planning started!

I suggest having your elopement on a weekday because fewer people are exploring nature, which means more seclusion for you. Also, booking a boat trip to a lovely island or getting a table from the restaurant on weekdays is usually easier.

5) Pick the time of the year that suits you the best

Listen. When we got married on a certain Saturday near our home, my wife went to work on Monday. You DON'T want to do this.

Whether you're eloping or having a micro wedding, make it an adventure. Can you be at the location for a week? Or are you hoping to spend two or three weeks and change location?

Anyway, plan at least a full day for you in a way that you can be together and explore. If you're living in the same city you're eloping, you most likely won't get the same feeling of freedom and carefree because it's easier to go back home. Remember, there's a reason people spend their holidays as far as possible. 

What to Avoid and How to Feel Carefree on your elopement

Combining honeymoon and elopement

6) Decide The Length of your trip

Reduced Stress

Legal weddings often come with a host of bureaucratic hurdles, especially when getting married abroad. By separating the legalities from your ceremony, you can focus on what truly matters – celebrating your love in a way that feels right for you.

Intimacy and Vulnerability

You can be more open and vulnerable. It’s just you, your partner, and your love story. This intimacy often results in more genuine, heartfelt moments that you’ll cherish forever.

And even if you legalize your marriage in your home country, your anniversary can be whatever you choose. Sign your marriage license at home, then celebrate your once-in-a-lifetime elopement in your dream destination.

WHat Other Benefits are with Symbolic CeremoNies?

In some countries, getting legally married is more straightforward than in others. Sometimes, a symbolic ceremony is more practical or even mandatory for foreigners. I wholeheartedly recommend you have a symbolic ceremony because you don't need to stress about the legal part, and it's so much easier.

What is the biggest perk of a symbolic elopement ceremony?

You can have your elopement wherever you want! Think about a mountaintop in the middle of the nightless night or your secluded cabin next to a stunning lake. You can customize your ceremony to include just the two of you and your vows or bring in someone special (a hired officiant, a friend, or a family member) to make the moment unique. 

Symbolic ceremony vs legal marriage at the destination

7) Decide how to handle the legal part of your marriage

The best elopement locations might be the ones you don't know yet. I love being able to suggest countries and locations for elopements based on my own experiences and research. I try my best to listen to every couple I talk with and genuinely understand what they seek.

For example, many couples dreaming of eloping overseas only know Iceland and Italy, but there are so many hidden gems that I'm sure you haven't heard of yet. If you're interested, check out my favorite locations here.

8) Choose a location for your elopement

This is a HUGE part of your elopement; don't underestimate it. Honestly, if you pick the right photographer (hello!), they can help you find a location you love, recommend places to stay, and plan the whole thing. 

Do you absolutely need an elopement planner? The short answer is no. You can totally plan your elopement with your photographer and plan out the details yourself. It's still good to know that sometimes restaurants have private chefs and people who can make you a private dinner, so you could ask for that kind of service if you don't want to have a planner.

On the other hand, planners can help you with paperwork if you're eloping in a non-English-speaking country or if you're looking for more exclusive things like a lovely candlelight dinner outside with beautiful decorations.

9) Find your photographer

Why choosing the right photographer is important

If you want to do some searching yourself, download the Sun Seeker app for your phone and Google Earth Pro to your computer. Sun Seeker lets you virtually see how the angle of the light changes throughout the day, and Google Earth Pro lets you virtually see sunrise and sunset so you know when to be at the right time. 

On top of this, I would recommend using the All Trails, Komoot, and Fatmap apps to find paths that are less traveled. There are also specific apps for certain counties that only locals use, but I save you from the nerdy stuff this time.

How to Find Your Ceremony Location Without a Photographer?

I think your photographer should choose your ceremony location. Hear me out. Experienced elopement photographers know their $#!+. They know how the light changes throughout the day and can estimate the best place considering the weather, seclusion, your hiking ability, and your wishes. 

For example, after recommending a location and lodging for my couples, I scout the area and choose multiple options for the ceremony. One might be close to their cabin (or inside it) if the weather is stormy, one might be perfect if it's sunny so you can see further away, and one might be better if the clouds are low.

If there are guests, I try my best to estimate how fit and able they are to hike so everyone can get safely to the ceremony spot. When I get to the location, I'll visit all those places personally and let the couple choose the one they love the most. This way, there are no surprises, and I can estimate hiking time and conditions.

Why should you let your photographer choose the ceremony location?

How Do I Help Couples to Find Ceremony Locations?

10) Choose Your ceremony location

I've had couples who had their own dried flowers and did their makeup and hair by themselves. I've had a bride who especially learned how to do her makeup just for the elopement, and it turned out beautifully! But if DIY isn't your jam, you could consider these vendors:

Hair & makeup
Wedding cake
Private chef

11) Choose Other Vendors

One crucial lesson from my travels is to avoid flying in the day before an important event. Arrive at your wedding location as early as your schedule allows. If there's a time difference, give yourself a few days to adjust—it makes a world of difference.

Arriving early at your destination is beneficial because it allows you to relax and become familiar with the area. It also allows you to take care of important tasks without feeling rushed. This way, you can fully relax and enjoy your special day.

TIP 3: Arrive TO YOUR LOCATION at least a few days before Your Ceremony

When planning your elopement, picking where you'll stay is just as exciting as choosing your ceremony spot. This is where you'll wake up on your wedding day and return to after your beautiful ceremony.

Consider your lodging as a key part of your wedding experience. Think outside the box and explore unique rentals like charming Airbnbs, cozy cabins in the woods, treehouses, yurts, glass igloos, or any place that matches your aesthetic and vibe. Choose somewhere you will love and enjoy spending time together, making it an integral part of your unforgettable day.

Also, it is good to know that sometimes your cabin can serve as a backup location for the ceremony and portraits.

I recommend booking your accommodation 9 to 12 months before your elopement so you can make sure you have plenty of options. 


Your elopement is the perfect occasion to cash your travel points in for an unforgettable journey! Imagine gliding through the clouds in business or first class, turning your travel into an experience of luxury and comfort.

If you're new to the world of travel rewards, now’s the time to dive in! Check out the top travel rewards sites to start planning your dream getaway. Turn your special day into a spectacular adventure while making the most of those hard-earned points.


Sometimes, snagging a flight sale can be smarter than using points. Set up flight alerts from your local airport to watch deals for specific routes or destinations you're interested in. Use explore or map functions on these sites to uncover the best flight bargains and make your elopement travel both affordable and memorable.




Booking your elopement lodging and travel

Some activities require minimal planning, while others need advance booking or a professional guide. Try to ensure you have enough time to fully enjoy these experiences without feeling rushed.

From easy, relaxing activities like riding bikes or relaxing in a hot tub to more adventurous activities like Via Ferrata or ice climbing, there are multiple options when you keep your mind open! These are some of the most popular activities:

Exploring in Nature:

  • From a quick 2-kilometer stroll to a challenging 2-day trek, hiking adds a touch of adventure to your elopement. Whether you prefer a gentle walk through the woods or a tough climb, there are countless trails to explore. I'm excited to guide you to the perfect spot!

Activities for your elopement day(s)

13) Choose your activities

Helicopter & Plane Rides:

  • You can reach breathtaking, private locations by helicopter or plane. Imagine being dropped off on a mountain, glacier, or remote island. This is the ultimate way to experience diverse landscapes without hiking or driving. For a truly magical experience, consider a hot air balloon ride to see the world from above. I can also help you book one!

4x4 Road Trips:

  • Dreaming of a secluded spot accessible only by rugged roads? Rent a jeep or hire a driver to reach those remote locations effortlessly. 

This option is ideal for adventure lovers who want to experience diverse landscapes throughout their days. Start with a road trip to a new destination, taking breaks for short hikes and stunning viewpoints.

On your third day, dive into exciting activities such as a helicopter ride into the wilderness, island-hopping on a sailboat, or off-roading in the desert. There's also plenty of space for spontaneous moments, so you can unwind and enjoy the breathtaking scenery at your own pace.

15:00 – Meet at your cabin for dinner
17:00 – Head to ferry
18:00 – Arrive to a secluded island
19:00 – Exploring the island while taking portraits along the way 
22:00 – Head back to the ferry
22:30 – Arrive on the mainland.

11:00 – Morning swim and brunch at the local village 
14:00 – Afternoon break
16:30 – Dinner at your cabin
18:00 – Listening to music & getting ready at the cabin 
19:30 – First look & portraits at the cabin
21:00 – Head to trailhead (30min drive)
22:00 – Begin hiking, taking portraits along the way
22:30 – Arrive at the mountaintop for the ceremony
23:30 – Ceremony and champagne poppin'
00:30 – Hike back to the trailhead, taking portraits along the way 
01:00 – Arrive at the trailhead, head to the cabin (30min drive)

18:00 – Meet at the helicopter pad
18:30 – Helicopter takes off to the first location
19:00 – Land at location one for exploration and portraits
20:00 – Take off to the second location
20:30 – Land at location two for exploration and portraits 
21:30 – Take off for the return trip

Here is an example schedule for a three-day, 2-person elopement without guests:

From how to make the day more meaningful to backup plans, planning your elopement day with your photographer can change it completely (in a good way, of course)

Most experienced photographers can help you plan your day around the best lighting conditions, whether it’s the golden hour at sunset or the soft morning light.

But if you ask me, I will always say the most important element in your elopement day is your own experience.

Benefits of planning your elopement with your photographer

14) Plan your day(s) with your photographer

Woah, it's time to pack your bags! Remember, the most important thing is to be emotionally present and enjoy your trip as a couple. This is the trip you'll tell to future generations. Let's do this!

15) Prepare for your trip and have fun!

It's time to have fun, plannign is done!

fun facts & deep thoughts

how i shoot

my work

get to know me

Hi, I'm Jaakko. Adventurer, outdoor-enthusiast, husband, father, in love with the wild nature. I shoot elopements for people who want to honour their love through a meaningful experience and memories that last for a lifetime.

If you’re like me, a big wedding isn’t for you. Not if you really think about it. And I want you to be brave enough to say no to it. Because I wish my wife and I had been. And I'll be there to capture it all.


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Do you have questions, ideas, inquiries? Excited about eloping and want to get started planning? Want me to capture your elopement elsewhere in the world?
Drop me a line, and let's chat. I cannot wait to hear from you!

Dreaming to elope? Let's Make it Happen!

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Talk soon,