Are you planning a short-notice, small wedding or elopement?

Many couples don’t want to wait. They are planning to get married in the very near future, eloping, or rushing a small ceremony with their photographer, some close friends, and family but dispensing with or postponing the reception party. 

View WPJA photo stories from smaller weddings - WedElope | Choose love, not fear!

Essential Elopement Vendor - The Photographer

March 21, 2020
Megan Hannah, of Vermont, is a wedding photographer for -

Photo by: Megan Hannah, Vermont, United States

So your wedding is just around the corner and you’ve decided to elope, either because you want to do this on a budget, avoid a large wedding party, or simply to enjoy the day together with minimal distractions and as little stress as possible. They say 'all you need is love', but where exactly can you afford to trim the fat, so to speak? You want simplicity, but you also want to be properly married and, surely, to remember this occasion. Who, then, could be more important than your photographer?

ceremony at laussane

Photo by: Ufuk Sarisen, Istanbul, Turkey

BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU CUT CORNERS

First things first, from a legal standpoint you might need a government-approved officiant for your wedding, depending on where you are getting married. Without an officiant recognized by the local government in which you’re to be married, your wedding may not really be legal. However, finding a local officiant might be easier (and cheaper) than you’d think. A popular option (in some areas) for couples these days is to ask a friend or family member to officiate their wedding.

Don’t know anyone who’s ordained? No problem. You’d be surprised by how easy it is to become ordained and legally qualified to perform wedding ceremonies from the comfort of your own home, and for free no less! Many resources exist online offering ordination services you can direct your friends and family to with no experience required.

Wedding Photographer Tara Theilen of Nevada, United States

Photo by: Tara Theilen, Nevada, United States

While few things in life actually work out this way, to become a legal wedding officiant all you really need to do is ask. The process is relatively simple, though it varies slightly by website and location. Most frequently, though, the applicant simply needs to fill out a short questionnaire. In some cases, they may be required to perform a bit of light reading or take a brief online class. Some sites might charge a small fee for this process, but many offer these extra materials for free.

Before you get too excited about asking your best friend to officiate your wedding though, there are just a few things to keep in mind. It would be a good idea to check in with the local government first to see what their exact requirements are, as some places require a religious officiant. However, there are often ways to work around this caveat, with a non-denominational officiant for instance, so just check in with the office that distributes marriage licenses (which you can likely find on your local government website) to learn what the exact requirements are.

Photo by: Chris Werner

DON'T PASS ON YOUR MEMORIES

Now that you feel confident in securing a legal officiant for your elopement, you might be thinking there’s no one else you need around. But aren’t you forgetting your photographer? You might believe in the moment that a photographer is unnecessary, that you could pass on having one, but what could make you think that?

A documentary-style photographic record of the day is a must, and your photographer is the preserver of your memories. Beyond that, your documentary photographer is capable of capturing scenes and moments that the couple might miss out on during the ceremony.

What’s more, there is actually one more person you’re obligated to have present at your small elopement: the official Witness. In order for your marriage to be legal, your marriage license must be signed not only by the officiant, but by an official Witness as well.

Wedding Photographer Drew Burdick of California, United States

Photo by: Drew Bird, California, United States

The founder of the WPJA has personal experience with this exact situation, having served as both photographer and Witness himself: “A couple contacted me for a mid-week elopement shoot in Rhode Island, USA. I photographed them getting ready, their intimate ceremony followed by some portraits, and the cool part is that I was the only one there and had to sign the marriage certificate as their official Witness.”

Wedding Photographer Douglas Despres of California, United States

Photo by: Douglas Despres, California, United States

So maybe you’re eloping to have a small, intimate, close-knit ceremony for just the two of you to share, or perhaps you wanted to avoid some awkward family encounters. Either way, in addition to capturing this precious day, your photographer might be able to dual function as your official Witness as well, thereby still preserving the intimacy of your day while both ensuring a legal union and enjoying beautiful photographs of this day for years to come.