I'm Tori, a portrait and wedding photographer based in central New Jersey. Thank you for visiting my little corner of the internet; I'm so happy you're here. Come check out the full galleries from recent weddings and portrait sessions, behind the scenes, personal posts, helpful tips and more. Please feel free to take a look, and let me know if there is anything special you'd love to see in a future post. I hope to hear from you soon!
If you’re feeling like you want to boil your wedding day down to the basics and core of what it’s all about – your marriage – then an intimate micro-wedding or elopement might be right for you! After capturing so many gorgeous days, from big wedding days with 250+ guests and all the bells and whistles down to the sweetest, intimate settings with 25 or fewer close friends and family, what I’ve learned is that you truly just have to choose what feels right to you. There’s no correct answer, there’s no right or wrong or better and best here. Whatever your gut tells you, run with it. You’ll never regret a wedding day you planned genuinely for you two!
Although it can simply be signing papers at city hall, an elopement is still such an intimate and special day full of meaning and emotion. It also doesn’t have to mean running off to a small chapel in Vegas either if that’s not your vibe. Your elopement can truly be whatever kind of day you make it out to be and that’s what I hope this post shows you! If you want something more adventurous, outdoorsy, go for it! My personal favorite?! Picking a beautiful outdoor location that you two love, like a gorgeous hike, down by the beach or lake, or simply heading out to your backyard! But you know me, I’m all about the adventure and being out in nature!
The first thing I always tell my couples is to take some time with your partner and simply write out your priorities for your wedding day. Compare what matters most to you both and start piecing together your day from there!
I hope this little elopement and intimate-wedding guide helps you navigate and plan a wildly exciting day!
Although we’re minimizing details and the big production, there is still a lot of opportunity to dig into some fun details that will truly show off your personality and unique touches! I don’t want it to overwhelm you though, as I know that’s what going small is trying to avoid!
First, we have to set some criteria for when this big adventure is going to take place! You can choose your date a few ways!
Consider the season and time of year you want for your day. If you love lush greenery and fields of flowers, choosing the fall or winter may not be the best time of year for that vision. Aim for spring or summer for those lively colors! If you love warm colors, leaves on the ground, cozy blankets and all those fall-feels, late September-November is the perfect time and still totally doable for an outdoor event! All about those cozy holiday vibes? Maybe an urban winter elopement inside a unique venue like Vaux Studio would be so magical for your day! Even though choosing the right season might sound obvious, a lot of times people choose a season that doesn’t quite work with the vibe they are dreaming of!
You may need permits or there may be regulations for wedding-related events in certain areas, so just make sure to do some research and make those calls before getting your heart set on anything. Adventurous elopements aren’t always as straightforward as picking a date with a venue. Sometimes you need some special assistance to make it all happen! Your date may also be determined by the time of year that state or national parks are open to the public for events.
Most importantly, think about the time of day and lighting at your location! Photography is extra magical when we have super dreamy light to work with, so choosing a time like sunrise or sunset can give that glowing effect to your photos! The light at high noon may cast harsh shadows through the trees or onto your faces, so I always recommend times of day where the light is softest! Also keep in mind WHERE the sun rises and sets in relation to your location. It’s always a good idea to scout out your spot at those times to see where you prefer to stand so the light is soft, even, and glowing around you.
Thinking overall about how you want your elopement or intimate wedding to FEEL will help you narrow down location and time of year!
Elopements are great because they offer a lot more flexibility, but that also means you should always be prepared for changes. Booking your stay nearby for 2 or 3 days instead of just 1 may allow us more options if your day is calling for storms. The nice part about elopements is that you’ve already chosen nontraditional, so getting married with a light rainfall at sunrise could be that extra bit of magic you never expected! Embracing what your day gives you will make the adventure just that much more memorable.
Don’t worry, as your photographer, I’ll help you plan everything from timelines (and back up plans) to locations and any suggestions or ideas I can help with in between! I’ve got you!
Even when we’re planning a smaller event, it’s still super important to have a general timeline. Although it’s more casual, if you want a quick ceremony and plan to grab dinner after, there’s still a bunch of the day left to fill! Consider having a relaxing, long morning with a good breakfast together, factoring in time for hair and makeup, and then spending extra time after the ceremony for photos and cake. Everything will play into the timeline of your elopement or micro-wedding day, which we will work on together!
The really fun part in all of this is how much control you have over the vibe and style of your day! Digging into your personalities, quirks, favorite things, and everything that just makes you two who you are will help feed into the style! You can go totally boho, vintage, edgy, urban, beachy, tropical, desert, indie, glam, rustic, chic, wild, quirky, or earthy to name a few! Keep dreaming up some more until you find something that feels like you!
These are the people who are going to help you see your vision through! Although we’re talking smaller scale, it doesn’t mean you can’t hire a planner to make it epic! A planner can help take care of details like setting up your ceremony decor and tearing it down as you set off for sunset photos. They can help coordinate when your champagne and cake will arrive, guide your family where to stand or sit, and even just help you dream up and source the gorgeous decor you’re envisioning!
Aside from a planner, you will *hopefully* have a photographer (I’ve got you!) to capture it all and an officiant to make it happen! Truly you could stop there if you wanted, but here are a few other vendors you may want to consider!
Yep, even with an intimate wedding, you can totally spruce it up with a gorgeous custom cake for 2 or desserts and sweets that you love if you’re not a cake type of couple! If you’re having your family hang out for a bit, you can order some food from a restaurant or catering service. Even more simply, you can just have some snacks and drinks out to munch on as everyone mingles!
This is your special day and you can include or remove anything you want! Vendors love to get creative and craft a perfectly unique day for you – just make sure they have some experience with elopements and intimate weddings so you know they can deliver what you’re dreaming of!
Your connection with your vendors is so important, especially the ones who will be there with you through every minute, like photography, videography and planners. Your vendors should feel like friends who truly care about you, your story, and your day! You don’t want to be surrounded by strangers on the biggest day of your lives! Find vendors who celebrate the exciting approach you’re choosing and who will uplift, support, and guide you through every decision.
Remember I mentioned making a list of priorities? Budget is typically up there, especially when choosing to go smaller for your wedding! Budgets are the less sexy part of all of this, but it’s good to have a plan in place so you know how to execute your day! Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you have to have a very small budget, some couples want to ball out but just do it in a super unique way. Either way, this budget will help you determine where you want to focus your funds when it comes to choosing vendors, travel costs, permits, guests, gifts, snacks/food/cake, attire, decor, and any other little details that come up along the way!
There is still some paperwork regardless of how you get married to actually make it legal and official! You’ll have to look into state marriage laws, marriage licenses, and permits. Your officiant may also be able to guide you through the necessary requirements. Keep in mind, some of this paperwork takes time to get, so if you’re traveling somewhere new or just not sure when you need to get started, earlier is always better! Know what you need to bring, from IDs to paperwork and a safe place to store it all while you’re adventuring.
Along with your marriage license, you may need to look into any permits necessary to get married at the location you want! Although it’s a little different from booking a full venue, there may be some fees and papers to sign to make it happen! Sometimes this can be done online, other times you or your photographer will have to call to obtain the necessary information. I don’t want any risk of getting stopped or asked to leave your location AS you’re getting married! Let’s make it legal!
What you wear for your elopement can truly be one of those jaw-droppers that makes your intimate day stand out and feel so YOU. There are no rules here, so run with your wild heart and choose something unique! Have a theme for your elopement like boho chic, western desert, or modern abstract art? Allow your overall elopement vibe to play into what you two wear!
There are so many options from a more laid back look like a flowy dress with boho-inspired embroidery detailing and a cuffed-up-sleeve button down with suspenders all the way to a more formal and classic wedding gown and neatly put together tux! No matter what, know that the look you choose CAN work even if we’re out adventuring in nature, so don’t let that stop you from picking a look you truly love!
All those little details aren’t just for bigger wedding days! You can totally incorporate some awesome details like a hat to pair with your dress, fun boots, handmade vow books, invitations, ring boxes, floral crowns, ceremony backdrop decor, a mini picnic party for two, etc. Just because we’re going smaller doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself!
Want a little cake to celebrate after you say “I do”?! Get a mini cake and a cute vintage table stand for it! Popping champagne? Let’s freaking do it. Want to wear your fave hat? Let’s ask your florist to spice it up with a flower crown around the brim. Down to have a dance party? We’ll bring a speaker and a cute rug as your dance floor. Details are such a special way to show off your love and personalities, so no need to forego anything you want to incorporate!
Even if it’s just the two of you, make sure to plan a little celebration after your ceremony and portraits are finished. Will you be heading to a nice restaurant for dinner, spending the weekend at a cozy bed and breakfast, or heading out on your next adventure? Maybe just heading to your fave ice cream place will feel like YOU. I always recommend at least grabbing some food and drinks together, you deserve to celebrate and you’ll probably be hungry anyway!
It’s up to you if you’ll be inviting a few close guests or keeping it intimate with just you two! Either way, you may need to notify people that you’re eloping or that you eloped! Stationery and custom cards can be such a fun way to share the news! Consider sending a physical card to friends and family instead of just sharing photos online. It’s a special little touch to show the people in your lives that you are thinking of them as you celebrate this exciting time! I can totally help you come up with and design the best way to spread the news!
You may also want to tell people by planning a bigger celebration. Some couples want to get married privately but still celebrate at a later date with a bigger blow out party! Keep that option in mind if you’re feeling like you want the best of both worlds! You can totally plan an event to celebrate your marriage that doesn’t feel as structured as throwing a full-scale wedding!
I always say “as long as you’re doing your day your way, I know we’ll get along well!” because people who run with what’s true to them are my kind of people! This day will be special regardless of what you choose. You’re marrying your person and that’s all that truly matters. This elopement and micro-wedding planning guide is simply here as suggestions and starting points to kick off the fun process of designing your perfect day! I hope it eliminates some stress about HOW to make it all come together, and please know, if you choose to hire me, I will help you along the way with everything! I’ll be here to bounce ideas off of and recommend vendors, best times of day to shoot, and help with scouting locations for your intimate elopement celebration!
I’m always here to chat more and I want to hear all about what you’re daydreaming of for your big day! I’m so excited for you two to tie the knot in a way that feels so genuine and exciting to you. Let’s chat over some coffee and plan this wild adventure!