Your Texas Elopement or Micro Wedding is yours to craft however you want, and I’m not talking about the color of some napkins. The big, traditional wedding is a great fit for some, but not for you. For some of us, the idea of standing in the spotlight can be nausea-inducing. Add onto that the stress of trying to please everyone else on your own wedding day and things can quickly get out of hand.
Here is where choosing to elope in Texas can change everything. But wait- isn’t an elopement what people do when they’re running away to get married in secret against the wishes of their families? For some couples, sure. For you? It can look like whatever you want it to. Elopements are all about authentic experiences between you, your partner, and those closest to you. It can be just you and your partner, or you can have guests there to witness. There is no right or wrong way to elope.
Eloping gives you a lot of freedom on how to structure your day, but that can bring with it some decision paralysis. And who in Texas doesn’t love their freedom?!! If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably scoured the internet looking for the perfect elopement checklist or guide to tell you everything you need to do in one neat, tidy article. While there is a handful of “ultimate elopement checklists” out there, each one seems to say something different and none of them cover everything. So you keep searching, your browser overloaded with 67 open tabs until you’re exhausted and just don’t care anymore. I mean, aren’t elopements supposed to be easier than a full-blown 300 person wedding? So why does it feel so overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s take a deep breath and get back to the basics. By understanding from the beginning what it is you want, you can streamline the rest of the process. Grab a notepad and be ready to answer some questions in the following sections so you can hone in on your ultimate vision for the day.
Close your eyes for a moment, I mean after you read this sentence. Throw out all the preconceived notions of what a wedding is “supposed” to look like. Imagine the world was ending tomorrow and you and your partner only had this one day to do all the things you ever wanted to do together.
You can get married just the two of you or have guests present. This isn’t an all-or-nothing decision. Choosing your guest list can be a little tricky, but ultimately, this day is about the two of you. This is one of those moments when the cliché “Good Vibes Only” comes into play. Negative energy can ruin your wedding day and you want to avoid that at all costs. Some things to consider when deciding who to have, if anyone, at your ceremony:
If you’re the type who doesn’t do well talking in front of people, you can opt to have your ceremony between just the two of you and host a celebration dinner with everyone immediately afterward or on a separate day. Some have chosen to do the ceremony with just them (or with immediate family or best friends only), and live-stream it to a private Facebook group or Zoom call for everyone else.
Obviously, if there are those who you absolutely cannot go through this day without, make sure they’re there. Leave the energy-sucking zombies at home. Sure, you might get some guilt-tripping, but even if you invite them, they’ll still find a way to steal the show or guilt you for something else, so might as well not let them ruin this day. You can deal with it some other time.
Once you know the general number of people you plan on inviting, it’s much easier to choose your ceremony location spot. Do you want more of an experience like hiking up to the top of an endless canyon and saying your vows as the sun rises up behind you, illuminating the sky in a stunning array of pastel pinks and purples? Or maybe you picture a cozy little cabin in the woods, surrounded by family with beer and barbecue cooking in the back. You can be as elaborate or no-fuss as you’d like.
To help you decide, ask yourselves:
Wedding venues are often the best year-round option for someone who is worried about the weather, plans on having more than just a couple of guests, or wants everything all in one, easy-to-access location. Many venues will have tables and chairs on-site or may even offer completely all-inclusive packages with food, staffing, and more. This is typically your most expensive option but can require the least amount of effort, especially if they are all-inclusive.
This is the most obvious choice for someone who wants a true experience and has the bonus of being the most cost-effective. Many choose to elope this way to celebrate a favorite trip they’ve taken with their partner in the past, crossing an epic location off their bucket list or as a way of combining their wedding and honeymoon. Adventure elopements in Texas are ideal for those who just want to explore and feel the peace of the outdoors. If you’re going to have guests, pay attention to accessibility (you may be totally comfortable hiking for miles to your ceremony spot, but Grandpa Joe probably won’t) as well as logistics like parking (unless you’re going to provide transportation) and stuff like bathrooms, temperature, and inclement weather. Most adventure elopement photographers shoot rain or shine, hot or cold, so make sure you know what to expect and whether or not you’re going to enjoy traversing through nature in wedding attire in the rain.
Some state parks and pretty much all national parks require some sort of “Special-Use Permit” to host your ceremony on site. If you plan on getting married at one of these locations, make sure you have submitted your application well in advance of your desired date. Also, keep in mind alternative locations you would like just in case something happens and you aren’t able to get your first choice, but your elopement photographer should already have those planned out.
There are tons of super cool rental homes online. Treehouses, glamping tents, epic waterfront cabins, etc. You can check VRBO and Airbnb for homes that allow parties and host your ceremony and reception there! Or do a hybrid and have your ceremony at a national park and reception at the Airbnb afterward. Family property is also a great place to host your wedding if you have it available to you.
*Note: generally, most people hire their photographer either right before or right after this step. If you have no earthly idea where to go, or just have a general idea like mountains or on the water, a good photographer will be able to help you with this step and should have plenty of locations in mind to help bring your vision to life. Not every photographer is great at catering to adventure elopements or knowing the rules and regulations, so pick someone who knows what they’re doing and talking about. It can turn bad fast if they don’t know the area.
If you choose a Texas location and you need to fly, SkipLagged.com is a great option to find flights for less. Let’s say you need a flight from Atlanta to DFW airport. If there’s a cheaper flight going from Atlanta to Denver, with a layover in DFW, you simply get off at DFW and never make the connecting flight. Often, it’s cheaper than getting a direct ticket to your destination.
Sometimes, it’s more cost-effective (and fun) to rent a cool vehicle and have a road trip with your partner. My all-time favorite rental car company is Sixt Car Rental. Not only do they have the best prices, but you can also rent anything from a Jeep Wrangler to a Mercedes-Benz. Their customer service is top-notch and I’ve always had the cleanest, like-new vehicles every time. They have locations in 16 states in the US, including Texas. Check their website to see if they have one near you.
If you truly want to go all-out, there is Enterprise Exotics. They operate in 24 states in the US, including Texas, and have everything you’ve ever dreamed of driving. I once rented an Aston Martine DB9 convertible from them for a trip to Vegas. It doesn’t get any cooler than this.
HomeToGo is a great site to look at all the vacation rental homes across multiple sites like VRBO and Airbnb simultaneously. If you’re wanting to go the hotel route, you can often get the best rates by calling the hotel directly instead of using third-party sites, as these sites charge commission fees to the hotel, which sometimes gets passed on to you.
Which vendors to hire for your elopement or micro-wedding is very subjective.
Generally speaking, most people at least hire a photographer, if no one else. Since these intimate weddings have fewer guests or none at all, you absolutely want to have stunning photos as a keepsake for your future family to look back on for generations to come. It is by far the best investment you can make. A few elopement photographers are also ordained and can legally sign off on your marriage certificate for those “just us” type ceremonies, just like us. If you’re wanting a more traditional ceremony or plan to have guests witness, make sure you hire an officiant to stand there and speak while the photographer is doing their thing, and we know a perfect person who can speak English and Spanish!
Videography is another huge one that many people choosing to elope want to have since many people aren’t there to witness the day. You can get a full video of the day from start to finish, or highlight reels are also becoming increasingly popular. Think of it as a movie trailer of your wedding day adventure.
Like we mentioned earlier, you can either hire an officiant to coordinate the ceremony or you can choose to simply speak your vows to each other and have your photographer sign off on the marriage license afterward (make sure they’re ordained!).
When it comes to eloping in Texas, hiring a local hair and makeup artist is still one of the best ways to pamper yourself on your micro-wedding day (plus two fewer things on your plate). That said, some people choose to do it themselves or have a friend or family member do it to cut down on the budget. We happen to know great hair and make-up artists in many towns to help with our clients and different locations.
A beautiful bouquet is a style staple for any wedding, no matter the size. The benefit of doing an elopement or micro-wedding is just how much money you save on florals by only having one bouquet. If you’re doing a true Texas hiking elopement, many people mount these to the back of their day pack with cute little “just married” signs. Most couples choose to have a bouquet, but it is not required. This is another easy way to cut back on your budget. I’ve seen people get flowers from Trader Joe’s or pick wildflowers from their yard.
This can be as extravagant as hiring a private chef to come and cook a meal for just the two of you at your Airbnb, hiring a caterer, or even doing a potluck. Roast hot dogs over a fire or grab some Taco Bell on the way! Camping stove and a cast iron skillet with some sizzling bacon and eggs? Sign us up!
For dessert, you can find some pretty awesome mini-cakes for two, have cupcakes, donuts, cookies, S’MORES… I mean the list goes on. The options are endless and you can get as creative with it as you’d like.
Hiring a planner or day-of coordinator is typically not necessary for an elopement or micro-wedding. However, for the super busy or easily stressed, especially if you’re going for a more traditionally structured day, hiring a planner will take a big chunk off your plate. Many experienced elopement photographers include planning services in their packages at no extra cost, so make sure to ask!
The good news is you can skip the cringy garter toss ritual and do something EPIC. Couples have done things like sleigh rides, skydiving, horseback riding, off-roading Jeep tours, kayaking, etc… When thinking about what to do, consider any bucket-list items you’ve always wanted to do and incorporate one or more of them!
Do you have strong family or religious traditions that you hold close to your heart? There are some super creative ways to symbolize your union, such as:
This is an area of your budget that can easily get out of hand. Make sure you’re keeping in mind your top 3 wedding priorities. If this is on it, by all means, go all out. But if this is an area you’d like to save some money on, websites like Lulu’s, Etsy and Azazie are great places to find dresses anywhere from $50 up to under $1000. For suits and tuxes, Menguin offers free online try-on for rentals.
Do you want just a quick ceremony and immediately head off to your honeymoon, or would you like a reception afterward? This is where hiring an experienced photographer will change your life. Elopement photographers typically build timeline planning into their services and have the experience to back it up. If you’re doing a Texas adventure elopement with lots of hiking, you’ll want someone who knows all the secret spots as well as how long it’ll take to get there, because Texas desert and heat are not for someone who doesn’t know the areas. If you’re going for a more carefree, go-with-the-flow adventure day, you probably won’t have a strictly structured timeline. Instead, you’ll have a start time with some target spots you’re looking to hit along the trail and then head back to basecamp after for some chow.
Don’t forget this step! You’ll get your marriage license from the state you are having the ceremony in, not the state you live in. So if you live in California and elope in Texas, you’ll have to get your marriage license in Texas.
Pay close attention to the waiting period. In Texas, there is a 72-hour waiting period from the time when you obtain the license to when your ceremony can take place (this is waived for active-duty military).
Also make sure you don’t get it too far in advance, as they will be void after a certain amount of time. In Texas, you must have your ceremony within 90 days from issuance- no exceptions.
HECK YES! It’s time! You get to marry the love of your freakin life. If you need more help planning your super epic adventure wedding (or ya know, finding your dream photographer), let us know! We’ve got 24 years of combined experience behind our lenses, know literally all the coolest spots across Texas to get married, are fully ordained, and have rentals for your day like giant tents and even bridal gowns that you can click here to see! Happy adventuring from Brit, Ellie + Rachel at Texas Adventure Elopements!