Elopements are growing in popularity

but if you're looking to elope, popularity probably isn't a factor.

Wedding days are traditionally supposed to be "the best day of your life", but for many couples the idea of so much production, pomp & circumstance, and ultimately so many people and opinions is simply overwhelming and just doesn't feel like their best day ever. This doesn't even take into consideration the expense of it all, or the environmental impact of large events like weddings.

Eloping is an intimate, personal, and incredibly special way to design your day to feel like your true best day ever.

Whether that involves going to your favorite Philly restaurant or heading out into the great unknown, eloping is the perfect way to celebrate your marriage in true peace, presence, and tranquility.

What is an elopement?

For a long time, elopements carried a lot of stigma as a shameful or secretive alternative to getting married. It has been such a joy to watch this term be reclaimed recently as the romantic, badass, intentional decision it truly is.

Elopements are an intimate, significantly more private way of deciding to get married. Typically, they involve anywhere from 2 - 20 guests (though the guest limit depends on who you ask), and they can take place anywhere. Elopements minimize stress, noise of outside opinions, costs (... sometimes 😉), and guest counts. They allow you to be truly present through such a special experience, with people that you want to be by your side, which is (in my humble opinion) priceless.

Bride and groom eloping in the woods, how to elope in Pennsylvania by Anna Claire photos
adventurous vow books, how to elope in Pennsylvania by Anna Claire photos
bride and groom eloping in a field, how to elope in Pennsylvania by Anna Claire ph

What kind of elopement do you want to have?

It is both a benefit and a challenge that elopements can really look however you want them to. On the one hand, you have the freedom to fully design your day... and on the other hand, the limitless options can be overwhelming! Planning such an important day like this, it's important to make sure you have a strong vision for how you want your celebration to feel. This is going to involve intentional brainstorming - if you're anything like me, this is always a challenge to carve time out for, but is one of the most beneficial ways to have a deep and all-encompassing understanding of your vision.

So, grab your beverage of choice, light a candle, and let's get daydreaming with some guiding questions below:

  • If you could have the perfect day (not thinking about your elopement or wedding at all), what would it look like? (think about your perfect Tuesday afternoon. Teleportation is allowed, there is no budget, and the sky is the limit.)
  • What would you do?
  • What would you see?
  • What would you eat?
  • When would you wake up?
  • Where would you stay?
  • What would you wear?
  • Who else would be there? Would anyone else be there?

Okay. Deep breaths.

Now that we've done some brainstorming, what elements of that perfect day are really achievable, within your budget and any other limitations you might encounter?

Is it possible that we can achieve the whole thing?

Step By Step Guide to Eloping in Pennsylvania

Now that we have at least a good shell of your vision, we can dive into a general overview of some of the logistics.

  1. Choose your time frame & date
  2. Choose your location

(I'm here to help!!)

  • Book your vendors, as needed and applicable

(... hopefully this includes an elopement photographer, and if so - hello!)

  • Apply for Location Permits

(I can guide you through each step of this for your specific location!)

  • Plan for travel (as applicable)
  • Build a personalized timeline together (including weather plans!)

(timelines are my bread & butter - we'll design a day that's perfect for you!)

  • Apply for your Marriage License

(I am also ordained in the state of Pennsylvania - which means I can sign your marriage license!)

  • Have the best day of your life :)
bride and groom walking through a field, how to elope in Pennsylvania by Anna Clai

Choose your Location

There is, by no means, any one-size-fits all answer to your elopement location. This needs to be personalized to you, whether it's finding somewhere special that holds sentimental value for you or your partner, or if it's a new experience that's special to both of you! That can be in the city, or heading out into the Pennsylvania wilderness. Take a look at my blog post on Adventurous Elopement Locations in Pennsylvania!

Apply for Permits

Many elopement locations require a permit, whether they are state parks, national forests, or local parks. Some of these permits may be free, and some may not be (largely depending on where, how many people are involved, and more), but they are entirely worth going through the process of! If the park website doesn't directly have information on weddings or elopements, a quick email to any point of contact through that park will likely be able to point you in the right direction and let you know of any restrictions or rules relating to your celebration.

As your resident Pennsylvania Elopement Guide, I'll be walking with you through the permitting process for your location no matter where you decide to elope!

(Pro tip: I have a whole lot of information on permits for each individual park listed on my Adventurous Pennsylvania Location Guide!)

Obtain your Marriage License

Whether you're eloping or having a large wedding, marriage licensing is a huge part of the process!

Here's a look at the City of Philadelphia website for more information on getting your license.

There are two different options for obtaining your marriage license:

  1. A traditional marriage license requires you have an officiant, which can be anyone legally able to officiate your wedding. You can either have an ordained minister, a judge, or any other form of ordained entity (this includes having a friend or family member get ordained online to perform your wedding ceremony). If finding an officiant is a source of stress, I have plenty of resources and vendor recommendations to send your way to find an officiant that's right for you! I am also ordained in the state of Pennsylvania, so I am legally allowed to sign your marriage license!
  2. Pennsylvania is one of the only states that allows you to have a self-uniting ceremony. This is one of my favorite things about PA. While this form of license stems from Quaker wedding traditions, there are no religious requirements at all to allow you to get married in this way. The cost of this licensure varies by county, but it is typically a small amount more than a regular marriage license. Take a look at Brides magazine for more information on self uniting ceremonies! You can also use this as a tool to have someone near and dear to you unofficially-"officiate" your ceremony without needing to be ordained, and they can also serve as a witness!


In Pennsylvania, you need one witness (typically just your officiant) to sign your traditional marriage license, and two witnesses to sign for a self-uniting ceremony. We can get entirely creative on what it looks like to have your witnesses there for your elopement, whether that means having your two nearest and dearest friends there for a small ceremony and to fill out the paperwork, then sharing your vows privately, or having one officiant, we'll make sure that we plan for your witnesses to be people that make you feel loved, celebrated, and at peace.

Fun fact - I am ordained in the state of pennsylvania and can legally sign your marriage certificate, or serve as a witness!

Activities & Timeline

Pennsylvania is a vast state with lots to do, and one of the perks of eloping is being able to incorporate your favorite activities into your elopement experience! Being able to personalize your day around things you love or love to do together, or accomplish some bucket list experiences is such a special way to bring your dream day to life.

Timelines are a truly individualized experience, and each couple brings something completely unique to the table. I want to make sure that your timeline is organized in a way that is perfect for you, and we'll organize that around your specific activities.

Here are some ideas of exciting things to involve in your celebration:

  • going for a hike or a walk
  • set up a picnic (ideally with some wine and the most epic charcuterie board you can imagine)
  • bring your pets along
  • get ready together
  • go your favorite restaurant or bar (props if it's a brewery, winery, or distillery)
  • build a campfire (and go camping)
  • go skiing or snowboarding
  • enjoy your beverage of choice (whether that's coffee, an old fashioned, or a shot)
  • hiring a private chef
  • a boat ride

Have a Plan B in place (and maybe a Plan C)

Many elopements bank on an outdoor celebration that relies on the weather being beautiful, but reality doesn't always follow our plans. It's incredibly important to have plans in place for inclement weather - this can include an Airbnb that can accommodate you and your guests in the right time frame, a reservation at a restaurant (that knows your plans), or even a hotel room. It's important to make sure that your backup plans are actually viable for your ceremony, which I am here to help you with brainstorming.

Ready to start planning your elopement? Say hello!

Let's dream together.

Please fill out your information in the form below,

and I'll get back to you within 3 business days (maximum)!

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