A Guide to Eloping in VA:
Virginia Elopement Packages, Locations + Planning Tips
If you’re here it probably means you’re interested in eloping and considering tying the knot in Virginia. You’re doing what feels right and making your own traditions – I’m so excited for you two!
My goal is to help make the whole elopement process easy and stress-free. This guide is everything you need to know about eloping in Virginia, including when to elope, the best places to elope in Virginia, marriage license information, Virginia elopement packages, a step-by-step elopement planning checklist, and more.
*An important note- In this guide and throughout my website I’ll often use the terms elopement and intimate wedding interchangeably. But, the amount of guests that push an elopement towards a small/intimate wedding differs depending on who you ask. I consider any event less than about 40ish people an intimate wedding but any wedding that has 15 or less participants (including the couple) I call an elopement. However, I don’t charge more for intimate weddings vs. elopements so I often use the words interchangeably.
So Why Should We Elope in VA?
I’m so glad you asked! Here on the East Coast, eloping isn’t quite as popular yet as it is in some of the states out West. But after growing up in Virginia, moving away, and then making my way back home after 7 years, I have been having a whole lot of fun exploring my home state. And let me tell you- the entire rest of the country is really sleeping on Virginia’s beauty!
There are seriously so many amazing spots and hidden gems that would make incredible places to get married. You can tie the knot anywhere in the state and there’s somewhere perfect for any type of couple. Whether you want to have an adventure in the mountains, relax on the beach, enjoy lake life, explore a winery, or experience city life, there’s a place for you in Virginia (+ you can even do a couple of these in the same day too!).
It’s easy to get a marriage license, and there’s no waiting period. That means that you could get your license and say your “I do’s” on the same day if you wanted.
You can make it a romantic getaway – after you’ve tied the knot, there is always plenty more to see and explore. You could be here for weeks and not even scratch the surface of what all this state has to offer.
After all, Virginia is for Lovers!
What is an Elopement?
If you’re thinking “sounds fun but what exactly is an elopement?” don’t worry because lots of people ask the same thing. Over the years, the colloquial definition of an elopement has changed. Gone are the days when an elopement only meant running away to Vegas on a whim to get married without your family knowing. Now, elopements aren’t surrounded by secrecy or shame. And, they don’t have to be just two people. Some couples do just want the day to themselves. Others make it a small wedding and invite their closest friends or family to celebrate with them. But, having an elopement certainly doesn’t make your wedding day any less special than a traditional wedding.
If anything, it could be even MORE special because your elopement has the opportunity to be more personalized to you as a couple. Intimate weddings + elopements are just stripped down versions of traditional weddings without the room for stress, expectations, or the extra fluff that can make it all seem like more of a production. Basically…
An elopement is an intentionally meaningful and personalized wedding day focused on the love between the two of you and what YOU want to do.
So let’s get to it!
How to Elope in Virginia – Step by Step
Although planning an elopement is definitely easier than planning a big traditional wedding because there are less moving parts, less vendors and less details to coordinate, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start- after all, there isn’t a rulebook for eloping.
I don’t recommend going with an all inclusive elopement package because the companies that coordinate those don’t usually allow you to have a full day experience nor do they let you choose your own vendors or your own wedding day activities. There is no such thing as a cookie cutter elopement. Your relationship is special and your elopement should be customized to who you are as a couple so that it’s YOUR version of the best day ever!
And although technically you could just go to the courthouse, get your marriage license, have someone pronounce you married, and go on with your day as normal, you and your wedding day deserve so much more. You deserve an incredible experience that’s fun and laid-back, yet intentional and meaningful. Let’s walk through the steps of how to make that day a reality so that the planning process is stress-free and exciting!
1. Imagine What Your Day Could Look Like
Start by thinking about when you are the most happy together. Is it trying new restaurants downtown, game night with your group of friends, or going on a hike and enjoying the outdoors? What are some of the best days you two have had together? What did those days have in common?
This exercise can give you a general idea of how many guests you’d want by your side, what season of the year you’d want to celebrate in, and what activities you might want to do on your wedding day.
List of Activity Ideas For Your Elopement Day
- Jump in the water at the beach
- Charter a boat to enjoy the view or go fishing
- Helicopter ride adventure
- Enjoy a multiple course meal prepared by a private chef
- Kayak or tube down a river
- Backyard games with your closest friends
- Drinks at your favorite rooftop restaurant
- Take a dip in a natural swimming hole or waterfall
- Breakfast picnic
- Bottle your own signature wine
But the list doesn’t stop there- anything you love doing together can be part of your wedding day
Elopements can come in many forms. Scroll to see some examples of completely different (+ completely fun) types of experiences to get your ideas flowing:
A chic courthouse or city hall, downtown elopement where you meet up with your friends in the evening for bowling and drinks
An adventurous sunrise hiking elopement in the mountains where after you’ve said your vows and hiked back, you get to go back to your cozy cabin and relax in a jacuzzi
An intimate garden-party wedding in your backyard or at an AirBnb surrounded by the people that matter most
A laid-back elopement on the beach with guests where you all roast s’mores and tell stories around the campfire after the sun goes down
2. Book your photographer
When to Book Your Elopement Photographer
Reaching out to a photographer can happen at any stage in the process but it will be best if you contact them early. As soon as you book, they’ll be by your side to help you through the rest of the process. If you’re having your intimate wedding at a traditional venue, reach out to book your photographer after you’ve solidified a date. But if you have a flexible schedule, a photographer can help you choose the best date for the location you’re interested in getting married in. Or if you need a specific date, your photographer can also help you choose a location that might be best suited for the season or day of the week you’ll be tying the knot.
Make Sure They’re a Good Fit
Of course you’ll want to make sure you connect with their work and editing style, but you’ll also want to choose someone whose personality you mesh with. Besides your partner, your photographer is who you’ll be spending the most time with on the day of your wedding. I personally like to hop on a phone call with the couples who are interested in booking to get a feel for the vision of their day and to make sure that we’re a great fit for each other.
Choose a Local or Someone Who Specializes in Elopements (or Both!)
A local will be knowledgeable of the area – from the best suggestions of where to have your ceremony, to recommendations for other local vendors, and even to anticipating holiday traffic patterns or winter road closures (I’m looking at you two, Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and Blue Ridge Parkway). Specialized elopement photographers will take that assistance even further by helping you navigate permit requirements for your location, coming up with back-up plans, sharing packing lists, and even crafting a day-of timeline so you can just focus on enjoying the day.
3.Choose a location
Think about what activities you want to do on your wedding day and choose a location that makes it possible. You can choose one from the list below or ask your photographer for their recommendations. I send out a questionnaire to my couples to get a feel for what kind of scenery and vibe they’re looking for. Then I use their answers to suggest locations that would be a great fit for them.
I suggest choosing a place that’s meaningful to the two of you or a place where you can do something that you love together. Maybe it’s where you had one of your first dates. Maybe you’ve been dreaming of renting a beach bungalow or tree house for the weekend and just relaxing. Or if you love exploring new places with one another, choose a beautiful park you’ve never been to for your next adventure!
4. Hire Your Other vendors
Your officiant will be the one to sign your marriage license and officially marry you, so choose an officiant that aligns with your preferences and make sure they are legally legit. Some officiants specialize in presiding over weddings of particular religions, and others do non-religious ceremonies, and still others do some of both.
But no matter which you choose, book an officiant that has been authorized by the Virginia Circuit Court because online ordinations, like those from the Universal Life Church, are not recognized in Virginia. It is possible, however, to have a friend or family member to officiate your wedding, it just requires a longer process to make sure it’s legal. Many couples who either want a friend to officiate or who don’t want an officiant at all decide to keep that part of the process simple by getting legally married in the courthouse on an earlier day. Then they celebrate the start of their marriage on their elopement day!
Here are other other vendors to consider that could help bring your dream elopement to life:
- Hair and/or makeup artist
- Food of some kind- like a caterer, private chef, charcuterie snacks, picnic setup, or restaurant reservations
- Specialized elopement planner
- A bakery for a small cake to cut or treat to share
Even more out there vendor ideas that would make for a great time:
- DJ for your intimate wedding
- Live musician
- Helicopter tour
- Hot air balloon pilot
- Boat Charter
- Another type of tour guide, depending on the activity
5. Plan the Details, Ceremony, and Logistics
Some things to consider are:
Booking Travel + Lodging
This is one of the first things I recommend planning because depending on the location + season of your elopement, Airbnbs, Vrbos, lodges and hotels can book up quickly (particularly for fall in the mountains or the beach in the summer), sometimes even a year in advance.
What You’re Going to Wear
Choosing what to wear could mean going to your local bridal shop to pick out a dress, shopping online for a suit, or visiting the sporting goods store for a comfy pair of hiking boots to break in before the big day. If you’re eloping outside, consider the weather when choosing your fabrics – think light fabrics like linens and chiffon for warm summer days, or long sleeve dresses or cute coats, and wool and tweed suits for chillier times.
And don’t forget the details – accessories are a great way to show your personality! Veils, cufflinks, jewelry, pocket squares, ties, shoes, hair combs, laces, socks, bouquet charms, and wedding rings are all things you can pick out specifically for your elopement day to make it extra personalized and special.
Crafting Your Elopement Timeline
When you’re planning what you want to do on your wedding day, make sure to add some buffer time in between locations or activities. Things usually take a little longer than you’d expect. So to keep things stress free, leave a little room to be spontaneous so that you can really enjoy the moment together without feeling rushed to have to move on.
Apply for Permits
If you’re planning on eloping in the outdoors in Virginia, odds are you’ll need to apply for a permit. A few parks and beaches in Virginia don’t require a permit to get married, but most do. Most parks and natural areas also have rules for where you can and cannot have a ceremony, how many guests you can have, what their policy on florals is and more. You’d hate to get a ticket from a ranger or be asked to leave in the middle of your ceremony because you don’t have the proper documents. Plus permit fees go towards keeping our parks cared for and they’re still far cheaper than paying for a typical wedding venue!
Just visit the official website of whichever location you’re planning to get married in – sometimes the permit requirements and application are straightforward and other times you’ll just need to call the office to get the information you need.
Permits are often something your photographer can guide you through, but check out this article to learn more about permits for your Virginia elopement.
Think About What Traditions You May Want to Incorporate Into Your Ceremony
You can make it personalized to you as a couple. And keep in mind, there’s no tradition that is absolutely required, choose the ones that feel right to you and forget the rest.
Here are some ideas to consider:
- A land acknowledgment
- Handfasting ceremony
- Saying personalized vows
- A Unity Candle (where fires are allowed and safe)
- Walking together down the aisle or having both parents walk with you
- A Unity Sand Ceremony
- A ring warming ceremony
- Including your children
- Including your pets
- Planting a tree together
- Incorporate a spiritual or religious moment or a cultural tradition
- Having someone read a passage or poem
- Seal a wedding capsule to open on an anniversary
- Tie an actual knot
- Take a shot
6. GET YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE
Pick a day about a month or so before your wedding to head to the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office to pick up your marriage license. It’s a $30 fee and once you’ve gotten it, it’s valid for 60 days before it expires. The whole marriage license application process can take as little as 20 minutes if the office isn’t busy, but check the local county clerk website to make sure you’ve got all the right documents and information before you go so it’ll be smooth sailing when you get there. Now you’re ready to get married- In Virginia, there is no required waiting period after you get your marriage license, you can elope that same day!
Check out this article for more information about getting your Virginia Marriage license, who can legally officiate your wedding, changing your name and more.
7. Get Married- Do the Dang Thing and Celebrate!
Relax, have fun and savor every moment of this meaningful, perfect-for-you day that you’ve created!
Best Places to Elope in Virginia
From beautiful sandy beaches, to dramatic waterfalls, lively cities, lush forests, and stunning mountain views, Virginia certainly has something for everyone. But are you wondering exactly where you could elope in VA? Start with this list of some of my favorite spots.
* A note about permits- All of the parks protected by the US National Park system and all Virginia State Parks will require a permit for your elopement. Some of the other spots on this list do as well, just check their website or give them a call to see how soon you should apply as it varies from location to location.
Great Falls Park
Great Falls is a park located in Northern Virginia only 15 miles from DC and is managed by the US National Park Service. It’s home to the Great Falls of the Potomac, where the Potomac River crashes it’s way through the rocks creating powerful waterfalls, rapids, and a dramatic gorge with jagged cliffs. The park has a network of trails perfect for couples wanting an elopement with waterfall or forest views.
A note about crowds: Because this park is so close to the Nation’s Capital, it is a very popular tourist destination. On some weekends or days with great weather, the line to get into the park can be over an hour long. For an elopement, I’d definitely suggest an early morning weekday ceremony (the park opens at 7am daily).
Weather: After a rainstorm, the river can rise very quickly, sometimes completely covering up the rocks in the gorge. For the most dramatic views of the gorge, consider having your elopement in the drier months.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is one of the most beautiful spots in Virginia. It’s a perfect place if you want an elopement that involves waterfalls, mountain vistas, forests, meadows, spotting wildlife or all of the above! At only 2 hours from DC and Richmond and 3.5 hours from Hampton Roads, an adventure in the mountains is never far away.
The park also is a great place to stay for your elopement with lots of campsites if you want to be close to nature, or cabins and lodges if you’d prefer a little more comfort. A tip → The closest Airbnbs or hotels in nearby towns are at least 45 minutes away from most of the park’s main areas, so accommodations inside the park book up quickly.
You can choose to hike on one of the many trails (there are over 500 miles of trails in the park) or you can also have an elopement here that doesn’t require any hiking but still gets great views by overlook-hopping along Skyline drive. Skyline Drive is the main road that runs through the entire length of the park and there are over 70 overlooks, many of which would be perfect for an intimate ceremony.
Check out this blog post to learn more about planning your Shenandoah National Park wedding or elopement.
* A special-use permit is required for events with 16 or more participants, including your partner, guests, and any vendors joining you. Due to the high volume of visitors that come to Shenandoah to see the autumn leaves, weekend weddings taking place at overlooks in the months of October and November must be finished by 10am.
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile stretch of scenic highway that connects Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park down in Cherokee, NC. Although there are many amazing hikes, both short and long, that would be great for a more adventurous elopement, quite a few spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway don’t require much walking so it’s a good option for elopements with guests. Some locations along the parkway can even accommodate up to 25 people.
* No Blue Ridge Parkway elopement permits are issued for the month of october, federal holidays, or federal holiday weekends and no real flowers (dried or live) are allowed.
One of the Many Beaches in Virginia Beach
First Landing State Park
First Landing is probably my favorite spot in Virginia Beach for elopements. The Spanish moss, forests, marshes, and sandy beaches make this location look like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. There are over 19 miles of trails to explore and each one looks a little different than the last! Say your vows on the beach and find a secluded spot for a romantic picnic in the woods with a water view. You can even build a campfire, stargaze and spend the night tent-camping or rent one of their cabins. Then you’d also get to wake up on your first full day as a married couple to a stunning East Coast sunrise!
First Landing State Park also has a picnic shelter and Trail Center you can reserve if you’re having a small wedding or if you want a backup location in case of inclement weather.
*At First Landing, permits are always required (even just for photos and no ceremony). Beach ceremonies can only be conducted on the Chesapeake Bay Beachfront. But, you can still go to the 64th Street Entrance or other locations for photos, a hike, a first look, or a little picnic. No events are allowed Memorial Day weekend, 4th of July weekend, or Labor Day weekend. From May to the end of September, no beach ceremonies can start before 5 pm on the weekends and only two wedding permits are approved per day. So, while their office suggests applying for your permit 30 days in advance, sooner is always better.
Learn more about planning a First Landing State Park wedding or elopement here.
If you want to get married on the Virginia Beach oceanfront, but don’t want to deal with the crowds you’ll find down by the boardwalk, check out Sandbridge. Sandbridge Beach is attached to a residential neighborhood so the beach is a good fit for a couple looking to have a more private beachfront ceremony.
*A beach wedding permit is not required for any simple ceremonies so long as they don’t require a set-up (like chairs or an archway).
Back Bay Wildlife Refuge
Keep moving south along the coast and you get to the beautiful and even more secluded Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. This piece of land was created as a safe haven for migratory birds, but it could also serve as a location for your elopement or intimate wedding. You’ll be surrounded by wetlands, dunes, beaches, and hardwood forests. This beach is also a popular spot for kayakers if you want to explore the wetlands in your wedding attire!
This natural area is also the gateway to False Cape State Park if you’re interested in even more trails or camping options. Be sure to bring sunscreen and bug repellent, especially in the summer months.
*permits required for weddings and to have professional photos taken at this location even if you have your ceremony elsewhere. When planning your elopement, be aware that the refuge will be closed for some days in October for trail maintenance. You can check with the office for specific dates as they can change.
The Eastern Shore
If you’re looking to get away from the busy Virginia Beach area, cross over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for some more unique beach elopement options.
Chincoteague Island and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
This natural area is home to over 14,000 acres of beaches, maritime forests, marshes and dunes. Your elopement day could start by watching the sunrise and saying your vows on one of the island’s pristine beaches. Then check out the lighthouse and stop by one of the many seafood restaurants on the island for a fresh-caught lunch before heading back to your resort hotel or rental.
If you want to watch the famous, wild ponies swim from Assateague Island over to Chincoteague and back again while you’re visiting for your elopement, plan for the last week in July. But book your accommodations early as over 40,000 people can regularly come out to see them too.
Kiptopeke State Park
If you’re looking for something a little more visually stunning than a basic beach, try one next to a dramatic cliffside! Kiptopeke State Park is also a great place for birdwatching, kayaking, fishing, camping or swimming. And if you go when it’s not a warm summer day, you might even get the whole beach to yourself.
If you’d find joy in exploring a quaint fishing town and eating fresh seafood, Tangier Island is the perfect overnight getaway for your beach elopement. The only way to get there is by ferry (May- September) or by little plane. But once you get there, the whole island is only 3 miles long by 1.5 miles wide so you can rent a golf cart, bike, or walk to explore the whole island in a day. Rent a kayak to explore the water trails around the tidal marsh, say your vows on the beach, have a picnic or lunch at one of the two restaurants on the island, walk up and down Main Street, look at the old homes, and watch the sunset before heading to bed at your cozy BnB.
But bad news, scientists say that due to climate change and rising sea levels, Tangier Island will be almost underwater and will have to be abandoned within 25 years – so visit while you can!
Sky Meadows State Park
Sky Meadows State Park would be the perfect spot for a couple that wants mountain views and sprawling meadows to explore but would prefer a little more privacy for their elopement. This smaller park is far less crowded than the nearby Shenandoah National Park. But Sky Meadows still has over 20 miles of hiking trails if you want something more adventurous. Or, the beautiful meadows that surround the historic farm and visitor center are easily accessible from the parking lot. Regardless of how far you walk, 10/10 would recommend this park for a romantic sunset picnic!
While Norfolk, VA isn’t home to many large natural areas or parks, there are still tons of public and privately owned locations that are perfect for elopements.
Downtown in the Freemason District
If interested in an elopement but want more of a city vibe, consider Downtown Norfolk. You get more of that typical city look in the heart of downtown, but if you’re looking for something more quaint, with water views, historic homes and cute cobblestone streets, look no further than the Freemason District. And if you’re having guests at your elopement, take a look at Four Eleven York Inn and Restaurant – it’s my favorite venue in Hampton Roads for intimate weddings.
Hermitage Museum + Gardens
While this venue is typically used for big weddings, they also offer options for couples just wanting a ceremony and to take portraits in the beautiful gardens on their property. Then, you could head somewhere else for the rest of your celebration. But this is a great option if you prefer the look of gardens over wilderness, or if an elopement in a park would be too physically challenging. The hermitage gardens are mostly easy to walk on stones or flat grass/ground.
* You can call their office for more information about ceremony only options as they aren’t listed out on their website
The Botanical Gardens isn’t just your typical garden, they have different areas with natural-looking forests, beautiful lake views, wildflower meadows, and manicured flower gardens so you can get a ton of different options all in one location. Although they charge to have ceremonies there, a small elopement costs $750 which is still far less than any other typical venue fee that you might have at a big wedding. This location is also good for couples who can’t walk far but still want an outdoor elopement because the garden staff can drive you and your photographer around to different locations on a golf cart. And, many of the areas of the gardens are wheelchair accessible.
You can also consider places that offer packages for small weddings and events like the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Naro art house theater, and even the Virginia Zoo!
Belle Isle is an nature-covered island with wooded paths and biking trails nestled in the heart of Richmond and is part of the larger James River Park System. It is a popular location for students, families, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. It’s a beautiful spot, perfect for a picnic, rock-hopping, sunbathing, or sticking your feet in the water when the river is not super strong. It’s also a great spot for an elopement, particularly in the early spring or fall, when it’s not so busy. And if you explore a little, there are lots of little areas where you could find some privacy to say your vows. To get here, take the suspended pedestrian footbridge under the Lee Bridge, and make sure to look behind you too- you’ll get a good view of the city!
The Virginia House
This is a gorgeous wedding venue that offers special packages for eloping couples compared to their price for a large wedding. This English Tutor manor house is actually part of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture and includes 8 acres of gardens around the mansion with various spots that would be perfect for an intimate ceremony and garden party reception.
Maymont would be a great Richmond venue for a couple looking to invite a few guests to an outdoor ceremony then head to another spot for the reception/dinner. While this venue is only rentable for an elopement ceremony, there are lots of locations in the over 100 acres of gardens for you to say your vows and explore while you’re taking a few portraits.
* For events on Monday-Thursday the price for the ceremony site is $250. On Fridays, it’s $500. Grounds and gardens open at 10am daily.
For that city vibe, pick your favorite spot downtown and see if you’d be able to make it work! There are many places in the city where you can get married without permission or if it’s your favorite restaurant or bar, just call and ask if they’d be open to it. What about the park you got engaged in, where you had your first date, in front of your favorite mural, or in your own backyard?
For other recommendations in and around the Richmond area, you might also consider Libby Hill Park, The Quirk Hotel, Pocahontas State Park, or the Historic Polegreen Church.
Grayson Highlands State Park
Grayson Highlands is by far my favorite Virginia State Park and it is definitely the most underrated gem when it comes to elopements. The park sits in Mouth of Wilson, VA, in the western part of the state and close to the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee. It’s about a 6.5 hour drive from DC and Hampton Roads or 2 hours from Roanoke. But because it’s a bit of a drive from the majority of VA’s population, it draws less crowds than parks like Shenandoah or First Landing.
Grayson Highlands State Park is home to a beautiful Scotland-like alpine terrain, panoramic mountain views, cascading waterfalls, thirteen different hiking trails, dense forests, rushing creeks, and majestic wild ponies that roam the park. You can go from saying your vows at the base of a waterfall to having a picnic on top of a mountain all in less than an hour!
The park is 45 minutes from Damascus, VA also known as Trail Town USA, where seven nationally known trails meet, including the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Creeper Trail. Or if you’re more into climbing, the Grayson Highlands State Park is known to be the best bouldering site in Virginia. The park is also the gateway to start your hike summiting Virginia’s highest mountain, Mt. Rodgers.
But keep in mind, because you are high in the mountains here, the weather can be unpredictable and change quickly and the park is also known to be quite windy, so just plan ahead accordingly.
When to Elope in Virginia
What season is best for a Virginia elopement?
Weather is definitely something you’ll want to consider when planning your elopement, especially if you want any part of the day to be outdoors. Virginia is lucky enough to get all four seasons (and sometimes they happen all in a day!). My favorite seasons for Virginia elopements are in the spring and fall.
The summer in Virginia can get quite hot and humid. Especially if you’re getting married in the months of July or August, I’d recommend eloping at sunrise, somewhere you can take a refreshing dip in the water, or consider choosing somewhere with mountain views. That’s because the temperature in the mountains of Virginia can be upwards of 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding areas. Take a look below at the difference between Virginia Beach and the mountains of Shenandoah National Park.
But this fact is also important to remember if you plan to elope in spring, fall, or winter too because even if the Tidewater/Chesapeake Bay area isn’t super cold, in the mountains you’ll want to bundle up and plan for chillier weather. And in the cooler months when ice and snow is a possibility, you’ll also want to consider the possibility of road closures when choosing your elopement location. Surprisingly however, winter is a good season for beach elopements. You’ll likely have it almost completely to yourself and because Virginia winters can be relatively mild near the water, you can still spend the majority of your day outside if you want.
Another thing to consider when choosing the season to elope is the traffic. The beaches, particularly in Virginia Beach are tourist destinations in the summer (and holiday weekends) whereas the changing color of fall leaves in the mountains brings hundreds of thousands of visitors per month.
Reasons to think about a weekday wedding
- You can avoid some crowds and increased traffic in parks and popular destinations
- Wedding vendors generally have more availability on weekdays
- If you’re wanting a venue, some venues are more affordable on weekdays
- If guests are traveling for your elopement, you can have more quality time with them after the wedding because they may have the weekend off too
- Or, you can make it a mini vacation for just the two of you and still have time before you return back to work
- Airfare, hotels, Ubers and car rentals are often cheaper on weekdays
- You can choose a date with special meaning- like an anniversary or birthday
Of course, you can have an amazing weekend elopement, but if you are visiting a popular park just be prepared to share the space with more people.
What time of day should we elope?
Sunrise and sunset are the best times to elope. That isn’t to say that if you have a mid-day ceremony you won’t have an amazing experience and get stunning images – because you WILL, but if photos are high on your list of priorities for you, the light at sunrise and sunset can’t be beat.
Photographers call the light right after sunrise and right before sunset “golden hour” and it really is beautiful. The sun’s warm rays at these times are soft and flattering compared to the middle of the day when the sun is directly above and can cast shadows on faces. But besides being the ideal light for photos, here are some more reasons to consider building your elopement day timeline around sunrise or sunset.
Benefits of a Sunrise or Morning-Centric Elopement Experience
- Popular locations and hikes are far less crowded or even empty
- On the East Coast, sunrises on the beach are epic because the sun comes up right over the water
- If you’re thinking of a summer elopement, temperatures at sunrise are cooler than later in the day
- You get any butterflies and nerves out of the way by doing your ceremony in the morning and then you get to spend the rest of the day as a married couple
- In the mountains you can get alpenglow, a phenomenon where the mountains turn pink or orange due to the direct sunlight coming across the horizon. Also, if it rains, it’s usually in the middle of the day
- It’s an inspiring and meaningful way to start your day together – a beautiful start to forever!
Benefits of a Sunset or Evening-Centric Elopement Experience
- You get more sleep – particularly if you plan on hiring hair or makeup, a sunrise or midday ceremony could mean a very early start
- If you’re thinking of a winter elopement, temperatures won’t be as cold
- Depending on the location, it can be less crowded than at midday as other people leave to go home
- You might get to enjoy a sky full of stars if you stay out past sunset
- Saying your vows at sunset would be a super romantic finish to a great day!
Extra Elopement Tips
Think about your guest list before you get into the thick of planning your elopement.
The smaller your guest list, the more flexibility you have with locations. Permits are easier to get approved and venues are cheaper with a smaller guest list too. And the logistics of an elopement (like guests’ lodging, transportation, food) with fewer guests are just easier to plan. My tip → Don’t start with a big list and try to narrow it down- I recommend making a list from scratch of the people you absolutely could not imagine getting married without and start from there.
Go with the flow and keep an open mind.
Regardless of if your elopement is downtown, in the mountains, or on the beach, it’s going to be an incredible adventure. As amazing as your Plan A is, it’s also important to have a Plan B or C that you’re also super stoked about. Consider what you’d do in the case of unpredictable weather, road closures, traffic and more. You may want to think about changing the timeline or using a backup location. Just be prepared to think of your elopement day as an amazing adventure no matter what life throws at you!
How Much Does It Cost to Elope in Virginia
In Virginia you can be legally married for the low price of $105- $30 for the marriage license and up to $75 for someone at the courthouse to perform the ceremony (although in some cities it’s even cheaper). But, you and your wedding day deserve more than just a quick 15 minute ceremony. In this guide we’ve talked about how you can make something more of the day by including vendors and choosing to do activities that are special to the two of you.
Even if you’re not having a 100+ person event, weddings are pricey. In 2019, the average price of a wedding in Virginia was a whopping $33,000!
Good news is, an elopement can be way less than that. But even though elopements are generally cheaper than a big wedding, you’ll still have to budget for your vendors, travel, and fun activities. Start by making a list of the things you imagine including in your elopement experience. This list might include:
A Photographer- $2500+
See my pricing
Marriage License- $30
Most of my couples opt to hire an officiant for a personalized ceremony but you could save by having a courthouse marriage commissioner make it legal a few days prior and then say your vows and celebrate on your actual elopement day.
Hair and Makeup for One Person- $200-$400
Many of my couples (particularly those eloping at sunrise) save by doing it on their own or having a family or friend help out.
Florals- $250- $1000+
This figure can have a big range depending on how many flowers you want. For example, you can get just a single bouquet, a few flower arrangements for a dinner table, an epic ceremony backdrop, or more.
Permits $0- $150
Some places in Virginia don’t require a permit to get married. Most parks, even state parks, do require one though. But depending on the location, the price can be as low as $25.
A Good Meal $75- $400+
There’s a wide range here depending on what kind of meal you want for your celebration. A breakfast charcuterie board after a sunrise elopement or a dinner for two at your favorite restaurant would be less expensive options. Or if you don’t mind spending a little more for luxury, consider hiring a caterer or private chef to come to your Airbnb and serve you and your guests there.
Your Wedding Attire and Other Details
This is another category that can have a wide budget. Thrifting, wearing a dress from a family member, getting a suit tailored that you already have, checking out Etsy, Lulus, or ASOS and shopping the sale rack are all great ways to save.
Accommodations and Travel
If you’re getting married at a local park and getting ready at your own home, the price of your accommodations and travel would be only the few cents in gas it took you to get to your ceremony spot. On the other end, if you’re flying in from out of state, renting a venue for your intimate wedding, and/or paying for accommodations for your guests, it could be as much as a few thousand dollars. It really depends on the couple! But a good way to save is by having your elopement on a weekday, and if you’re inviting guests, splitting the cost of lodging between everyone staying there.
Each couple’s priorities are different. Start by deciding on your must-haves – the things you can’t imagine your day without. And you’re the only one who gets to decide what budget is right for you!
Virginia Elopement Packages
I don’t have any cookie cutter or copy and paste packages with set activities or location requirements. That’s because you deserve a wedding day that’s perfectly customized to you as a couple and because your elopement can be anything you dream it to be!
I understand that while planning an elopement is easier than planning a big wedding, starting with such a blank canvas can be daunting. That’s why, when you hire me as your photographer, you get more than just the photos, I’ll guide you through the planning process too. You deserve a fun, stress-free wedding day, and that should include planning it too.
Pricing and What’s included in each Virginia Elopement Package
3+ hours of photography coverage makes sure that you have the whole story of your day captured. When the day of your elopement arrives, I can be there from when you start getting ready all the way until the end when you’re dancing under the stars. So, when you look back at your photos, you’ll remember all the special moments in between.
Access to All My Planning Resources
Including my 40+ page digital Elopement Planning Guide, questionnaires, packing lists and unlimited consultations
Personalized Vendor Recommendations
I’ll send over a list of vendors that can help bring your vision to life based on your specific elopement location
Location Suggestions and Permit Assistance
A list of specific locations and/or trails will be coming your way based on what you’ve told me about yourselves and your dream elopement in your questionnaire. Then, I’ll walk you through the permit process for that particular location to make things easy-peasy.
A Handcrafted Day-of Timeline
A schedule that makes the most of our time together so that you have a day that’s relaxed, allows room for spontaneity, and includes all of the traditions or activities that are important to you on your wedding day.
Your fully edited online gallery within 8 weeks
The simple-to-use gallery makes it easy to relive your day over and over, share elopement day with family and friends, and download and print your images.
Full day coverage (6+ hours): Starting at $3700, Up to three hours: $2500
Ready for an incredible elopement?
Contact me by filling out the form below and I’ll be emailing back within 48 hours to set up your no- obligation phone call so we can talk about creating your dream elopement!