Elopement Tips & Advice


How To Tell Your Parents You Are Eloping Without The Drama

In this blog, we offer useful tips on how to tell your parents you are eloping without the drama. Eloping in 2020 is very different from when your parents grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. In the past, couples would elope to run away or hide their marriage. These days couples are eloping for different reasons. Some being they want their wedding to truly be about the two of them. Others choose to elope for an intimate experience.

Family formals are quick and easy when you elope.

Always Be Transparent

If you know you have always wanted to elope share this with your parents from the get-go.

  • Express your wants and desires for your wedding day.
  • Hiding them will only create more challenges with family.
  • Be open to the questions that will be asked. Answer them truthfully.
  • Remember this is your wedding day. You are not making excuses for your decisions just educating those who care about you.

Tell Your Parents Face to Face

Telling your parents in person is very important. Even if it is difficult or awkward.

Allowing them to see your excitement and your vision face to face will help them understand your decision to elope.

If there is a distance problem be sure to use Facetime or set up a Zoom meeting.

It was a perfect fall day in Orange County for an elopement.

Let Them Know Your Reasons Why

Let your family and friends know your decision to elope isn’t about excluding them. Keep them informed so they understand your decision to elope.

  • We don’t want to wait to plan a big wedding.
  • We are dreaming of a truly intimate ceremony.
  • We want to start planning our future together now.
  • We don’t want the stress or financial burden of a large wedding.
  • We are looking for a unique experience on our wedding day.
A romantic kiss at Shark Beach.

Share Your Elopement Plans

Sharing the details you are planning helps show family and close friends your excitement. It keeps them involved and helps them feel included.

Have a party before or after elopement with family and friends who won’t be there in person.

Share How You Will Include Them

Keep these in mind:

– Your parents might not walk you down the aisle in the traditional way. Be sure to let them know what to expect from the ceremony.

– Let them know the roll they will be playing in the ceremony.

– Ask family and friends who won’t be there to share a letter about you and your partner to read during the ceremony.

– Share photos of the day with family.

On this gorgeous fall day in Laguna Beach this family has become one. Congratulations!

Announce Your Elopement With Family and Friends

Announce your plans to elope at an engagement party. This will help get your friends and family used to the idea that you are not interested in a traditional wedding and reception.

– Send an elopement announcement to family and friends.

– Follow up the announcement by sharing photos of your elopement.

-Print a large portrait from your elopement to display at a reception party.

De-bunk Old Elopement Myths

Explain to your parents elopements are not the same as they were in the 50’s & 60’s. Let them know:

  • It’s not about a secret wedding.
  • There is no shame in eloping.
  • You are not running away secretly.
  • It is not because you are an outcast or embarrassed.
  • And you are not eloping because you hate your family and friends.
After the ceremony we headed over to Mission San Juan Capistrano for a bride and groom portrait session.

Educate your parents on what an elopement means in 2020

Eloping is about having an intentional intimate experience.

It means choosing what’s right for you and your partner over what family and friends expect.

You don’t want the focus to be about a party, the guests’ experience, the decor, entertainment, etc You can still elope with your friends and family.

It can be bold to elope. It is not traditional.

It is about an exciting, intimate, personal, decision.

5 Steps For Getting Married At The Old Orange County Courthouse

UPDATE as of June 12, 2020

The Old Orange County Courthouse is currently under construction. This means we can only take photos in front of the courthouse.

Due to Covid-19, only one person can go in with the couple.

Face coverings are strictly enforced. You cannot enter the building without a mask.

All marriage licenses and ceremonies are by appointment only. No walk-ins accepted at this time.

Photos can still be taken inside but they are limited to the foyer and staircase. The second floor is closed off.

At this time we recommend setting aside 20-30 minutes before or after your ceremony for a beautiful photo session. We have all the best locations to take you to. All within walking distance to the courthouse.

Midweek elopements at the historic Old ORange Counry Courthouse are perfect for romantic portraits.

1. Choose Your Date

Your first step is to decide on the date you want to elope.

  • The courthouse is open Monday-Friday from 8 am -4 pm 
  • Walk-in reservations are currently unavailable.
  • Complete Your Application and Make an Appointment online.
  • Up to date info can be found here.
  • To request a marriage license and appointment online Link here
  • You can book your ceremony for up to 6 months in advance.
  • If you want to get married on a Saturday you are in luck. The courthouse is open 1 Saturday a month. Check the schedule for current dates.

Read more here on how to avoid the busy times.

Moments before the couple has their private civil ceremony at the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana.

3. What You Need To Bring

There are 2 really important things you need to bring to get married.

  1. Both parties have to be at the courthouse in person.
  2. Valid I.D
  • Valid I.D. Be sure to bring a valid form of government-issued photo I.D.
  • A current driver’s license or a passport.
  • Your I.D. must be shown to the Orange County Clerk-Recorder’s office to apply for your marriage license.
  • Both individuals have to show their I.D.

3. Don’t Forget A Witness

Important* The court WILL NOT provide a witness for you. 

  • Witness. Don’t forget your witness.
  • You must bring a witness to sign the marriage license and be present at the ceremony.
  • This can be any person you choose.
  • Even the photographer you hire can be your witness.

4. Know The Fees

There are 2 fees that will need to paid in person at the courthouse.

  1. Marriage license The current fee is $61 for a public marriage license or $66 for a confidential marriage license.
  2. The ceremony fee This fee is $28
  3. Acceptable forms of payment: Cash, personal check, cashiers check, and most major credit cards. Be sure to always check the website for up to date fees.

5. Civil Ceremony

All marriage ceremonies will be performed at the service desk/counter. Ceremony rooms are not available at this time. 

  • The ceremony is 5 minutes long. No joke.
  • A civil non-sectarian ceremony will be performed by a Deputy Commissioner of Marriage.
  • Civil ceremonies are available by appointment only. Walk-ins will not be accommodated. Book your ceremony appointment here.
After the civil ceremony, we take photos of the newlyweds in the room where the wedding is performed.

7 Elopement Ideas To Make Your Small Wedding Special

Your wedding day should reflect the things you and your partner love and cherish. In this blog post, we give you 7 elopement ideas to make your small wedding special. Planning your wedding doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can use these ideas as a starting point or incorporate all of them.

couple elopement portrait on beach at catalina island
Catalina Island is perfect for a destination elopement.

1. Dress Well

  • Bridal Gown: Wear a special dress. It doesn’t have to be a traditional white gown.
  • This is your opportunity to wear what you love and feel special in.
  • Treat yourself to a new dress. This will help make your elopement feel special.
  • The best part about choosing the perfect bridal gown is you can spend as much or as little as you desire.
  • Groom Attire: It’s also your partner’s special day.
  • A tuxedo might not be your thing, but wearing a nice suit or new outfit to fit the occasion will put a smile on your bride’s face.
  • Look dapper on your big day.
old orange county wedding
Portraits taken in the historic Old Orange County Courthouse.

2. Hair And Makeup

Hair and makeup: Be sure to pamper yourself. Look your best for your big day, no matter how small your guest list is.

  • Hire a professional stylist and MUA.
  • Schedule ahead of time.
  • Arrange for the stylist to come to you.
  • Allow plenty of time so you can relax and enjoy the experience.

3. Hire a Photographer

Photographer: The best way to preserve every moment is to hire a professional photographer.

  • Beautiful portraits can be used to share with family and friends who won’t be there.
  • Hire a professional photographer to document the ceremony.
  • Include some time for a romantic portrait session. Choose a location after the ceremony for these photos.
  • Photos can be used for announcing your marriage, save the date for a reception.
  • Don’t forget to preserve your memories forever. Get prints made to put up in your home.
This moment was captured just after their civil ceremony at the Laguna Hills Civic Center.

4. Guest List

Wedding Guests: The beautiful thing about eloping is that extended family and friends won’t expect to be invited to your elopement.

  • Invite only close family or friends to attend your union.
  • Most couples invite 5-15 guests. But all you really need is the officiant and one witness.
  • When deciding on the guestlist invite parents, siblings, and one or two close friends.
  • There is plenty of time to celebrate with all the important people in your life with a reception at a later date.
  • Your elopement is about you and your partner. Keep in mind, some people might get offended but the ones who truly care about you will support your decision to elope.
couple registering before their civil ceremony at the old orange county courthouse
So happy for B & S on their elopement. A beautiful civil ceremony at the Old Orange County Courthouse. This place is so cool. Love the history here.

5. Celebratory Meal

Celebrate with a meal: After your ceremony, invite guests to lunch or dinner to continue the celebration.

  • Pre-arrange reservations at your favorite local restaurant.
  • Connect with family & friends over a special meal.
  • This is a great opportunity to incorporate some traditional wedding customs.
  • A champagne toast, speeches, and enjoying some cake.

6. Surprise

Plan a few surprises: Surprise your partner before, during, or after the ceremony.

  • Treat your guests to a surprise that makes your wedding a memorable experience.
  • Without all the moving parts of a large wedding, there will be plenty of time to do something really special for your partner.
The bride was so happy when her groom surprised her with a visit from their fur babe before the ceremony.

7. Spend The Night Away

Hotel or Airbnb: Spend your wedding night at a special hotel or Airbnb.

  • This is a perfect way to relax and reflect on the day.
  • Wake up and treat yourselves to a brunch or room service.
  • Get a massage. Make it a couples spa day.
  • A staycation is perfect for your elopement.
sunset photo over pacific ocean at terranea resort
Treat yourselves to a luxury stay at Terranea Resort

Top 5 Southern California Elopement Locations

While you do need a permit to photograph here it is easy to arrange with some advance notice.

1. Historic Courthouse

  • Old Orange County Courthouse
  • Famous for its art deco staircase and ornate design.
  • This historic landmark courthouse is located in the heart of Orange County.
  • Weddings can take place in 3 different rooms. The large courtroom can be reserved for a fee. The other two smaller rooms will be appointed to you based on the time and size of the group.
  • Walk-in appointments are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Book your appointment online to reserve a time.
  • One Saturday a month is available for civil ceremonies.
The Old Courthouse in Santa Ana was restored to its original condition. Making for unique civil ceremonies and elopements.

2. Laguna Hills Civic Center

  • Laguna Hills Civic Center is located in South Orange County.
  • Choose from 3 ceremony sites. Inside in the ceremony room, outdoors in front of the water fountain, on the beautifully manicured lawn.
  • This beautiful Spanish style building is a perfect backdrop for portraits.
  • During Covid-19 there are special rules implemented. See the guidelines here.
Laguna Hills Civic Center

3. Laguna Beach

  • Laguna Beach is a small coastal city in Orange County.
  • It’s known for its many art galleries, coves, and beaches.
  • Luxury oceanfront hotel
  • Choose from one of the many parks overlooking the pacific ocean
  • Some parks require a permit.

4. Escape to Catalina Island

  • Catalina Island is located 26 miles from Los Angeles.
  • It is just a one-hour boat ride away.
  • The Mediterranean landscape of Catalina will make you feel like you have escaped to a Greek Island.
  • Catalina Island is perfect for a destination elopement.
  • Ceremonies can be held on the main side of Avalon.
  • Descanso Beach
  • Little Harbor Overlook
After a fun jeep ride around the Island, we finally made it Little Harbor Overlook where Al-X performed the ceremony.

5. Palm Springs

  • Palm Springs is just a 90-minute drive from Los Angeles or Orange County.
  • City Hall Exchange vows in this modern mid-century building. Continue your celebration with a stay at one of Palm Springs’ many boutique hotels. A perfect oasis getaway.
Palm Springs Elopement photo
Elopement session of a couple in palm springs photo with the windmills. Just a 90 min. drive from Los Angeles and Orange County and couples who elope can be in this open space for epic photos.