Are you thinking about eloping in the Washington DC area, but don’t know where to begin? Elopements are becoming popular here in the DMV for lots of different reasons; the cost of a wedding being top of that list! Couples are living together for many years before getting married and would rather skip the fuss and make it official on their own terms. Also, DC is growing into its “coolness” as a city and couples want to travel here to get married in the national capital style and who can blame them!?

Whatever your reason, if you are thinking about eloping, stick with us! We have advice from Washington DC area wedding planner Claire, from Claire Duran Weddings & Events, about planning an elopement in Washington DC, Maryland and/or Virginia. (Be sure you check out the art deco inspired modern elopement that we featured yesterday from Claire – it is stunning!) If you are thinking about eloping or are in the middle of planning an elopement, what are the little things that you need to know before tying the knot without all the fuss? Take it away, Claire…


 Photo Credit: Clarence Chan Photography from this modern elopement in DC

I am very excited about sharing a few thoughts about eloping in the Washington DC area. Before we get started, let me say that this advice is not specifically about whether eloping is the right thing for you. I always recommend putting quite a bit of thought into eloping before making the final decision. Today’s advice is for couples who have already decided to elope or are strongly considering it and interested in the planning process.

The next thing I want to say is that eloping does not have to be boring just because it is small. You may prefer to have an intimate moment, but even when it’s simpler than a traditional wedding, you can still make your elopement fun, memorable and special. Here are seven things to think about when eloping in the Washington DC area:

The License + Officiant

In this area people move easily between DC, VA and MD and thus it’s easy to forget that we are constantly crossing jurisdictions. I suggest that you think first of the specific place where you would like to get married. This is very important because the marriage license requirements vary per location. You need to take time to research the specific requirements in your wedding location. Your wedding location is where you are having your wedding ceremony, not where you reside, if they are different. Making this decision as early as possible will also allow you to book an officiant who is authorized to perform wedding ceremonies in your location of choice. Or, if you are asking a relative or friend to officiate your wedding, knowing the location will allow them to complete the process and pay the fee to become a licensed officiant in the city in question (if it applies). In case of the latter, consider that it may take a few days for a judge to approve the license, so don’t leave the invitation for officiating for the last minute.

Rushed Elopements

The DMV is not Las Vegas; there are a few constraints for people doing rushed elopements. For example, in Washington, DC you will need to provide the name of the officiant on the marriage application, so this is something that must be sorted out ahead of time. Moreover, while there is no waiting period in Washington, DC or Virginia, in Maryland, you must get your marriage license at least 48 hours in advance of your ceremony. Also, in DC if you are having a courthouse wedding, the wait time could be over 6 weeks!

Photo + Video

Since you most likely won’t have an audience, I strongly suggest hiring a good photographer, and if possible even a videographer. In other words: document, document, document! You will want to remember the moment. In addition, this way your family, friends and even your kids will have an opportunity to enjoy visual material to accompany your stories of the day, and feel as if they were part of it.

Make It Feel Special

Put effort into your elopement and consider splurging on something. Matching a tie to your bouquet? Getting your hair and makeup professionally done? Hiring a musician to play your favorite song during the ceremony? Getting a “We Eloped” customized sign with your initials and date? It is still your wedding day and all of these little details will allow you to make your elopement feel special. Moreover, you are already saving a lot by eloping (considering the alternative), so splurging on one or a few items can be more justifiable.

Share It

Consider sharing the moment with your immediate family and closest friends. While people define elopement in different ways, I would still define a small wedding of 20 people or less that is kept secret to only the invitees as an elopement. Not only could this make the moment even more meaningful for you, but also it avoids later regrets (from you) or hurt feelings (from them).

Make It Known

Think about how you want to spread the word about your marriage. While you do not need to justify your decision to elope, your friends and family will want to know that you’ve eloped. Expect that many people might feel sad in not sharing that day with you. Don’t add more to these feelings by announcing it on social media first. What about a phone call or at least a nice, personalized e-mail?

Party, Party

Consider having a post-elopement party. This would be the perfect moment to do something more low key than what a wedding would have been, but still get to celebrate with your loved ones. Maybe a backyard BBQ or a Sunday brunch? You could also turn this event into a wedding watching party if you had that video made, or a slide show of your photos. Your friends and family will rejoice with you, no doubt!


Thank you so much, Claire, for sharing this DMV wedding elopement advice with us. Be sure to check out the modern art deco elopement from Claire that we featured yesterday. If you are looking for more help with your elopement or a wedding planner in the Washington DC area, be sure to check out Claire Duran Weddings & Events.

In the meantime, be sure to check out all of the other DC area wedding advice that we have put together for you or look through our list of the best Washington DC area wedding vendors!

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