As elopements grow in popularity, the possibilities have grown, too. Sure, there are still simple courthouse ceremonies and spontaneous Vegas-style vows, but you don’t need to be married by an Elvis impersonator or settle for City Hall to tie the knot.


In fact, you can have a stress-free celebration without sacrificing any of what you’ve dreamed for your big day. Feeling like shouting your love from the top of a mountain? Fantasizing about sprinting into the ocean, wedding dress and all? Figured out you can have a really special day without paying for a hundred meals? 


If you’re thinking about eloping in 2021 but don’t know where to start, here are Cabana’s 5 tips for pulling off a perfect elopement.


1. Keep it personal

If you’re thinking of eloping, it’s probably because there are aspects of the traditional wedding ceremony that don’t fit you and your fiancé. Couples elope for all kinds of reasons, from budget considerations to avoiding family drama to just not wanting to wait any longer (especially for couples who already planned their big day once in 2020).


The most important thing is to do what feels right for you as a couple, whether that’s a true elopement, a micro-wedding, or waiting until you can have your big day as you’ve always imagined it. You can take in all of the advice friends, family, and wedding industry experts have to offer, but it’s up to you and your partner to follow your hearts and create the day that’s meaningful to you.

Read about Kenia and Kyle choosing the North Cascades for their elopement.

2. Prioritize

There may have been a time when eloping meant giving up on the beauty of a big wedding, but those days are gone. You won’t have everything a big wedding has, but you can have the pieces that are most important to you.


Love fancy floral arrangements? Order one! Want the white dress? Go for it –– It’ll make for amazing photos. Wishing your parents or best friends could be a part of your day? There’s plenty of room in the great outdoors, why not?


When it comes to planning an elopement, there are no set rules, and there’s plenty of flexibility. You probably can’t bring a DJ to the top of Yosemite, but you can at least download a first dance song! If there’s something you’re sad to be missing, you can get creative and find a way to add it in. 

Cabana Curated: Our Romance Playlist

Wedding photos in Joshua Tree (Photo Credit: Allison Heine)

3. Pick a place

Where do you go to get married when you can go anywhere? Only you and your fiancé can answer that question, but we can help start your brainstorming process.


First, go back to what you prioritized. If you’re aiming for a micro-wedding with a few guests, you might want to stay more local. If it’s just you and your partner, consider using your elopement as the start of your honeymoon, and a lifetime of adventure, by going somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. If you’re sentimental, take the opportunity to return to a setting that’s significant to you, like the place you met or your first date. 


As with any outdoor event, you’ll want to consider the season. If the destination is public land, think about how crowded it might be or what permits are required for entry. If you have a vision for the backdrop but not a specific location in mind, choose a photographer from the area and they’ll probably be full of ideas. If you’re taking a Cabana, add Concierge to your booking for assistance with everything from mapping out your route to finding the most scenic viewpoints.

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Take a road trip for your honeymoon! (Photo Credit: @natyaholic)


4. Find your photographer

Did you know that beyond the wide world of wedding photographers, there are actual elopement photographers, too? The choices are endless, and the styles range from traditional wedding photos to epic drone shots. 


As with all wedding vendors, it’s about finding the photographer that fits you and your elopement dreams. The aesthetic, the photographer’s values, and the photographer’s location are all great things to consider. 


If you’re starting your adventure in a new place, choosing a photographer from the area can minimize your planning and stress. If you aren’t having any guests, the photographer will be one of the only people there for your ceremony, so choosing someone you get along with can be much more important than at a large wedding. If you want to capture your special day in a specific style, try choosing a photographer (or videographer) that sees your vision.


There are so many talented photographers out there, but here are a few to start inspiring you:

  • Mo Davis (@modavisphotography) has an intimate, glamorous, and super unique style.
  • Henry Tieu (@henrysdiary) is a Seattle-based elopement photographer who balances beautiful backdrops with the beauty of love.
  • Heather K Purdy (@heatherkpurdy) specializes in Big Sur elopements and has a talent for capturing the many feelings of the big day.
  • Lexi (@lexi_nickplusdanee) is a Seattle-based elopement photographer whose photos you may have seen before. She captured Kenia and Kyle’s beautiful elopement in a Cabana last year.
Find a photographer that captures moments like this. (Photo Credit: @lexi_nickplusdanee)


5. Stop planning

Once you settle on the main things, stop worrying! One of the biggest reasons to elope instead of host a huge wedding is to minimize stress and focus on what really matters. Don’t worry about things out of your control and don’t try to control too many things. Enjoy time with your significant other that doesn’t revolve around rearranging a seating chart or making sure the DJ doesn’t play “Cha Cha Slide.”


The most important part is you’ll be spending the special day with the person you love. You’ll be in a beautiful place and you’ll have beautiful photos to remember it. You’ll be surprised how well things turn out when you stop caring how well things will turn out. 


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