Whether you’ve always dreamed of keeping your wedding celebration small or you’ve had to alter your plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these tips for eloping are sure to make planning your intimate day a bit easier. Small weddings have always been around but have been steadily growing in popularity, and will likely continue to do so. They are significantly less expensive and less stressful to plan, but can still be incredibly meaningful and stylish. One of our favorite Pittsburgh wedding photographers – Angie Candell – specializes in documenting elopements and often helps her couples sort through the particulars of planning their elopement ceremony and celebration. We enlisted her help and she shared these expert tips for planning a Pittsburgh elopement that is easy yet memorable!
1.) Ask for a self-uniting license.
You don’t actually need an officiant to make it official in Pennsylvania! There’s something called a self-uniting marriage license that is 100% legal in this state, and you only need two witnesses to sign it. Pennsylvania does NOT acknowledge online ordination for officiants. However, if you’re having a self-uniting ceremony, that part doesn’t even matter. When you go to get your license, let them know that you want the self-uniting license and certificate, and not the traditional marriage license.
2.) Keep your family in the loop.
Your wedding day is about YOU. End of story. However, with that said, you absolutely want to keep your friends and family in the loop about what’s going on. Even if you’re not including them in the day, there are still so many ways to include them in the process, such as:
- asking them to go dress shopping with you
- doing a first look with your parents in your outfit before you elope
- inviting them be a witness that signs your marriage certificate
- asking them to be your “officiant”
- inviting them to play special music during the elopement
- FaceTiming them during the ceremony
- throwing an after party and inviting them to the celebration
Weddings can cause a lot of stress, and people can get their feelings hurt easily, especially if they’re not invited. Reassure your loved ones that you’re not trying to snub them and that you plan on sharing all your photos and memories with them afterwards!
3.) Decide on a budget.
Whether or not you’re eloping for financial reasons, you’ll still want to come up with a budget for your day. Elopements are ridiculously inexpensive compared to “traditional” weddings, but you definitely want to prioritize what’s most important to you. Consider expenses like travel costs, photography, attire, food, and any other special touches that you might want.
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop, look into having your ceremony at a bed and breakfast, where you can have the ceremony, celebratory meal, and honeymoon all in one fell swoop!
There are also tons of other ways to cut costs, including:
- DIY-ing some pretty floral arrangements
- Having a mini dessert as your wedding cake
- Asking a friend to play special music for your ceremony (or just using Spotify on your phone!)
- Having a romantic picnic as your first meal, rather than going out to a fancy restaurant
4.) Find a location.
You can pretty much elope ANYWHERE; you don’t necessarily need a traditional venue. For a day that is meaningful, find a location that is special to YOU, rather than choosing a venue simply because it’s popular. Remember – the day is about YOU, not anyone else’s expectations.
Some ideas are traditional venues, parks, private residences, a restaurant, bed and breakfasts, and even an AirBnB. In any situation, make sure that you have the proper permits and/or permission to use the space for an elopement!
There are TONS of amazing locations within a couple hours radius of Pittsburgh. Whether you want a beach, mountains, city views, rustic cabins, or something in between, you’ll find it! Some of my favorite locations include Ohiopyle State Park, Century Inn 1794, Mellon Park, and Hyeholde Restaurant. Head here for even more great Pittsburgh elopement locations!
5.) Create a timeline.
Elopements are way less stressful than a big wedding. Despite this, you should still map out a timeline for your day, even if it’s just a simple one. Here’s an example:
8 a.m.: Wake up and have a special breakfast/brunch together as a couple.
10 a.m.: Hair and makeup
10:30 a.m.: Photographer arrives for getting ready photos and detail shots.
Make sure to have your gown, veil, invitation suite, and any accessories ready for the photographer. These may seem insignificant but all these sweet little details will help tell the story of your day.
11:30 a.m.: Get dressed.
12 p.m.: First look
12:15 p.m.: Photos at the hotel
12:30 p.m.: Head to the courthouse/venue for the ceremony.
1:30 p.m.: Ceremony
Elopement ceremonies tend to be short and sweet – usually no longer than a half an hour!
2 p.m.: Photos at the courthouse/venue
3 p.m.: Drive to local state park.
3:30 p.m.: Arrive at local state park for a catered picnic-style lunch.
Photographer will take a few photos of the two of you and then will scout out some amazing locations in the meantime!
4:30 p.m.: Travel with the photographer to the different locations for photos.
This could be via hiking or by car, so be prepared!
7 p.m.: Head back to venue.
8 p.m.: Dinner and reception with close friends and family
Elopement receptions don’t have to follow the traditional timeline that a normal wedding reception does. Pick and choose what you want to do! Want to cut a cake? Go for it! Don’t want to have a first dance? That’s cool! It’s your day…enjoy it.
6.) Hire amazing wedding professionals.
Once you’re decided on an elopement, hiring the right Pittsburgh wedding vendors should honestly be the first thing that you do. These will be the people who will make your day unforgettable. Some vendors you will want to research and hire can include:
- Photographer – An expert elopement photographer will not only capture your day, but will most likely also help you PLAN IT!
- Hair and makeup artists – You want to look and feel your best on your wedding day. Whether you’re hiking somewhere for your ceremony or dancing the night away, your hair and makeup artists will make sure you look flawless.
- Caterer – There are tons of options for catering if you’re eloping. You can have a whimsical picnic in the park, make reservations at an upscale restaurant, or even celebrate with catered delivery at your home!
7.) Consider having an after-party.
If you still want to celebrate with your friends and family post-elopement, holding an after-party or micro-wedding reception would be perfect for you!
Send out “We Eloped” invitations to your guests, show off all your beautiful elopement photos, and have fun dancing the night away and toasting to your union!
Are you eloping? If so, comment below and tell us why or share a helpful tip for another couple who is eloping too! If you’ve already said I do, share your elopement photos on social media and tag @burghbrides and use #burghbrides so we can see your special day!