Congratulations on your engagement! Are you thinking about doing a Virginia elopement? Saving yourself the time, energy, and money of a big wedding? Let’s talk!! I’ve compiled a few things to keep in mind as you consider eloping in Virginia. Check out these tips below, and then let’s get to planning!
Picking your wedding date is a true personal preference. The most significant factor should be the weather. Virginia has mild, wet winters and warm, sticky summers. Like, really warm. Plus, summer is the most popular season for tourists, so you may want to consider that popular spots like beaches and parks will be bustling, and accommodations will be way more expensive.
It’s not to say you can’t elope in the middle of summer, but in addition to crowds, you may want to think about sweat and humidity, too. Spring and fall are moderate and lovely. While popular with tourists for various reasons, it’s certainly nothing compared to the summer.
Once you’ve narrowed down a season, take a look at the calendar for an ideal date. Keep in mind that without considering the ease of travel for dozens, if not hundreds, of guests, you may save some good money by picking a weekday date. Plus, popular spots where we may want to take photos will likely be less crowded.
There are so many beautiful places to elope in Virginia. I could write a whole blog just on spots that are perfect for eloping. Whether you dream of a quiet ceremony on a beach with ocean waves crashing on the shore, high in the mountains looking down on a valley, or somewhere with an urban city vibe, Virginia has the spot for you. Here are some locations I recommend you look into based on the aesthetic you’re looking for:
Coastal/Beach: Virginia Beach, York River State Park, Fort Monroe
Mountains: Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Mountains
Botanical Gardens: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens (Richmond), Norfolk Botanical Gardens (Norfolk)
Urban: Richmond, Virginia Beach Vibe District
Getting a Virginia marriage license is pretty simple! You’ll need to collect the proper paperwork (your certified birth certificate, valid photo ID, and any previous divorce decrees.) You’ll also need to provide the full names of both your parents and your partner’s parents, but no blood test is required.
Then, head to a circuit court clerk’s office! A marriage license comes with a $30 fee. Some courts accept credit and debit cards, but not all, and the ones that do are notorious for having problems with card readers, so to keep things moving, plan on paying in cash.
Then, once you receive approval for a marriage license, you’ll receive the paperwork then and there with no waiting period! You can use your marriage license immediately, even that same day, and it’s good for up to 60 days. That being said, don’t apply for one too early in your planning process – you don’t want it to expire before you can use it!
Once you’re ready to get married, you can have an officiant perform the marriage for you in your chosen location, or you can get legally married at a courthouse. Something important to note: Virginia is one of the few states that very rarely recognize online ordinations, so if you plan on having a friend or loved one officiate your wedding for you, be sure they are authorized as a “civil celebrant” through the state.
One of the best parts about an elopement is that it can be whatever you want it to be – attire included! Don’t let a small elopement stop you from wearing exactly what you want. If you have always dreamed of an elegant gown with a train, then go for it!
Or if a more casual outfit feels right to you, that’s totally fine, too. Take the season into consideration when you are planning your wedding day outfit, too. Think about layers, so you can stay warm without sacrificing your fashion if it’s chilly!
Also, think about your shoes. You may want to avoid wearing stilettos if we are hiking into the mountains for some rustic nature shots.
With the exception of your marriage license ($30), your elopement is flexible to fit your budget. Here are some things that may affect your budget when eloping:
Hiring an officiant – are you asking a friend to perform the ceremony for you? Or are you planning to ask a religious officiant? In that case, a donation to their affiliated church or synagogue may be required. You can also hire a secular officiant or opt for a courthouse wedding, which can cost you $75+.
Hair and Makeup – hair and makeup for one person is a lot cheaper than hair and makeup for an entire bridal party but is also not necessary. If you want to feel extra glamorous on your wedding day, I totally encourage you to invest in a hair and makeup artist, but there’s also nothing wrong with doing it yourself or asking a friend or family member to help! If you plan to hire a professional, you can anticipate spending between $200 and $400, depending on your desired services.
Florals – Even with an intimate elopement, a beautiful bouquet can be a lovely bridal touch. Of course, you can also splurge for more florals to decorate an epic ceremony backdrop, centerpieces for a dinner table, and any other touches to help personalize your wedding day. Even if you choose to carry a bouquet, you can save money by arranging them yourself with flowers from a local grocery store. Probably one of the most flexible items in your budget, you can spend anywhere from $25 – $1000+ on elopement florals.
Attire: Go as big or as small as you want for your wedding day attire. Thrifting an outfit or finding a budget-friendly ensemble online is always an option. Of course, it’s still your wedding day, so if you want to splurge on the gown of your dreams, go for it!! And don’t forget about your partner’s outfit, too! You can spend as little as $50 and up to…well…the sky’s the limit!
A Celebratory Meal: There’s no better way to celebrate your new marriage than by sharing a good meal with the love of your life. This can be as simple as eating somewhere with emotional significance, like your favorite restaurant, or splurging on a gourmet, luxury meal. Depending on what you order and who you invite to dine with you, this can cost anywhere from $50 – $500+.
Photographer – Chances are you’ll want to capture every moment of your elopement and take portraits of you and your partner that you’ll treasure for a lifetime. A professional photographer is one of the best elopement investments you can make. I know I’m a little biased, but believe me – photographs are one of the best ways to remember every moment of a blissful, perfect day. Let’s talk pricing! Reach out, and we’ll get the ball rolling!
Accommodations and Travel – Are you planning to elope somewhere away from home? Don’t forget to plan for accommodations and travel! Whether driving from out of town, flying across the country, or taking a romantic train ride, be sure to account for your travel. Need accommodations? Are you staying in an Airbnb or splurging for a luxury hotel? The cost is totally up to you and what you plan to do!
I’ve spent over a decade capturing the magic of each unique relationship I’ve had the privilege to photograph. I would be honored to do the same for you and your partner. As your engagement photographer, I will help you create an incredible elopement timeline to ensure you have an entire album of photos to treasure for the rest of your lives. I’ll make sure we get to where we need to be on time but still allow plenty of room for fun and spontaneity. Together, we’ll make sure that your elopement, while intimate, is still an adventure and one that you’ll never forget.
Are you feeling inspired? Ready to plan the Virginia elopement of your dreams? Reach out, and let’s get this party started!
I’m happy to discuss everything I know about Virginia elopements and make any recommendations you may need. Now let’s get you married!
AS A PHOTOGRAPHER
TAKEN THROUGHOUT MY CAREER
AS A VIRGINIA WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
OVER THE AMAZING YEARS