Everything You Need to Know About Eloping

Tying the knot in a traditional fashion isn’t for everyone.

Illustration by Jianan Liu/Good Illustration

COVID-era celebrations have shown that two-person affairs can be as magical as large-scale ones. Ready to plan an elopement that’s 100 percent you? Read on for tips from Kay Northrup, a Rhode Island– and Boston-based planner and self-proclaimed elopement fairy.

Find a Sweet Spot

Northrup says an elopement locale should check two boxes: privacy and significance. “You need something that connects you with that place. It’s going to mean something to you 10 years from now. That heightens the emotions,” she explains. Think: your go-to beach or the place you first met.

Two of Northrup’s dream locations? A favorite national or state park (especially in the morning when crowds are thin) or, for adventurous types, thousands of feet in the air on a skydiving expedition. “You get married in the plane, then jump out and have a little Bachelor-style picnic on the grass at the landing pad area.”

Hire an All-Star Officiant

One way to keep the numbers down: Have one of your vendors serve as your officiant. “You can get a two-for-one deal,” says Northrup, who—like many elopement photographers, videographers, and planners—is ordained. You can also hire a justice of the peace to officiate your ceremony or call upon a close friend to do the honors. “There is a lot to say about having someone who actually knows you officiate your elopement because it can be much more personal,” the planner explains. “And it’s really easy to go online and get ordained from the Universal Life Church.”

Make It Official

Movies make it seem easy to take a spur-of-the-moment jaunt to the courthouse, but that’s not exactly the case. There are a few legal requirements you’ll need to meet to make sure the ceremony goes smoothly and your union is valid. First, you’ll need to get a marriage license through the Registry Department at Boston’s City Hall by filling out an application, providing valid forms of identification, and paying a $50 fee. There’s also a three-day waiting period before your license becomes active. Finally, if you’re hoping to elope in a public place, such as a state park, you’ll likely need to get a special-use or special-event permit ahead of time, too.

Celebrate the Moment Your Way

Northrup’s biggest advice for elopement day? “Do something you love” to mark the occasion, she says. If you’re foodies, that might mean treating yourselves to a high-end private dinner after your ceremony. If commemorating the day is most important to you, plan a photo shoot in your wedding attire at favorite spots across the city. “I think weddings have forced us into this box where it’s like, you get married, then you mingle, then you eat, then you do speeches, then you dance,” Northrup says. “The beauty of eloping is that no one’s going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do.”

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