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Eloping: Legal tips for your secret wedding

Elopement used to be thought of as a young couple sneaking away in the night to get married secretly, but now it often is simply getting married with a small, private ceremony. Eloping is becoming increasingly popular as a way to avoid the expense and planning of a large wedding.


Considering elopement?

Ask a lawyer any question or find other legal resources for newlyweds.


How to elope

Provided that you are of legal age, eloping is simple. You just need to apply for a marriage license in the county or city that you plan to get married in. You’ll need to supply the required identification such as a state ID or passport. If you have been married before, you may also need to provide proof of divorce. In some locations, there may be a short waiting period required between when you apply and when you can perform the ceremony. Some couples choose to get married at the courthouse with strangers as their witnesses, others choose to have a private ceremony with only their witnesses and officiant present.

If you plan to get married at the local city hall:

  • Research what wait time is required between applying and the ceremony
  • Ask if you need to make an appointment
  • Find out what the witness requirements are

These questions can usually be answered by visiting your local county clerk-recorder’s website, or by calling their office directly.

Reasons to elope

There are many reasons couples choose to elope. In the past, couples eloped because perhaps their families didn’t support their union or it was a “shotgun” wedding performed in haste to preserve a young woman’s reputation. But today, many couples choose to elope for many other reasons.

Advantages to eloping:

  • Low cost. A traditional wedding often costs thousands of dollars. Many couples would rather spend that money on the honeymoon or perhaps as a down payment on a house rather than on an expensive wedding.
  • Less stress. Planning a wedding can be stressful on its own. Often the expectations of family and friends can add to the stress.
  • Location. Some couples elope so that they can have a wedding away from home without burdening their families with travel expenses.
  • Control. Eloping often gives the couple an opportunity to have a more intimate guest list. A large or highly-anticipated wedding often pressures the couple to invite “everyone.”

After eloping: What to do after you get married

After the ceremony or after you get back from your private destination wedding, you may have a few things to do as next steps. Here are some examples:

  • Submit the paperwork required to obtain your marriage certificate, if required
  • Tell your family and close friends before a formal announcement is made
  • Send out a wedding announcement
  • Consider throwing a reception
  • Apply for a name change, if desired
  • Write a new Will
  • Change insurance beneficiaries, if you want to
  • Write and sign a Prenuptial Agreement if you haven’t already

Eloping is becoming increasingly popular as a way for couples to save money and to avoid the stress of planning a large wedding. To make the day special, many couples plan their outfits, the wedding location, and hire a photographer. Just because you are having a small or private wedding, doesn’t mean you can’t make a few plans to help make the day unique and memorable.

If you have questions about getting married, Rocket Lawyer is here to help. Try us for free today!

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