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The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Maryland Elopement

Remember when weddings were small, intimate, and focused on celebrating love instead of impressing people you haven't talked to since high school? I've got nothing against a big, bougie wedding, but sometimes you want to keep the circle tight. So ditch the stress of planning for everybody and focus on planning your dream ceremony for just the two of you. Dive into this comprehensive guide to planning your elopement ceremony in Maryland. We make it easy and straightforward so you can spend your energy being in love.

A motion blur black and white photo of a man swinging his wife around after their elopement

What does it mean to elope?

Once upon a time, eloping was a shameful thing to do (or a whimsical, free-spirited one depending on what side you're on). It used to mean you and your partner ran away to have a secret wedding because your loved ones simply didn't understand how deep your love was. In modern times, especially post-COVID, eloping has a much more neutral vibe. Eloping these days is about having an intimate ceremony, usually with just two people, the officiant, and maybe a witness. Sometimes It can mean just a really small ceremony with only your closest friends and family. In either case, it's usually not a secret, nor is it a shame. It's just what's best for you two!


picture of two black people holding hands and showcasing wedding ring after elopement

Why do people choose to elope?

There are a ton of reasons a couple may decide to elope instead of having a traditional wedding:

  • Cost - Weddings are expensive, and a couple may prefer to save money for a more luxurious honeymoon or something practical like a down payment on a home.

  • Intimacy - Having a small ceremony allows you to focus on your spouse-to-be, not on entertaining guests

  • Stress - Elopements require way less planning than a large wedding, sometimes none at all! You bypass all the stress that can sometimes overwhelm the joy of your wedding day

  • Freedom - Eloping gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. You can climb a mountain, go on a cruise, or even just jauntily skip to the courthouse to seal your nuptials. You don't have to worry about accommodating guests or coordinating vendors.

  • No Drama - At least not on your wedding day. You don't have to worry about Uncle so-and-so getting too drunk and fighting your new brother-in-law, no weird speeches that make everyone cringe a little, and no competing with that one girl who wore a white dress for some reason.

photo of young black couple walking barefoot on the beach while wearing elopement attire and holding hands

How to Elope in Maryland in 10 Easy Steps

Eloping should be a carefree, fun, and passion-filled experience. Just because you're diy-ing it doesn't mean it has to get complicated and fussy. We've outlined the 10 essential steps to planning your Maryland elopement so you can have the ceremony without the stress.


Step One: Define a Budget

Before you do anything or call anyone, sit down with your partner and make a clear budget for your elopement. No matter how simple your ceremony is, you want to make sure you know how much you're willing to spend ahead of time. That way you'll have a guideline as you compare vendors and locations.


Step Two: Choose Your Location

Where do you really want to get married? This is your opportunity to think about what's truly authentic to you. You want to decide on a location first because a popular place may have limited availability, so you'll want to stay flexible. Be imaginative, be adventurous, and do something memorable. Even if that is just going to the courthouse, do it with everything you've got and really mean it.


Step Three: Lock in Your Date

Once you've decided on a location, it's time to choose a date. This will be your wedding anniversary for years to come, so it will always be a special day no matter what you choose. You might think about choosing a date that has special significance to both of you. Also, be sure to consider the weather if you're planning to be outdoors and if there will be other major events that might interrupt your ceremony.


Step Four: Find an Officiant

In Maryland, you'll need an ordained minister to perform your marriage. Thankfully, it's not too difficult to find one. One of the easiest places to find an officiant for your elopement (and a ton of other vendors) is the Maryland Wedding Vendors Network Group on Facebook. Just request to join the group and search for officiants! Make sure to look at recommendations and reviews from other people too. Your officiant isn't just performing a legality, they're part of the ceremony too! And you want to work with someone that aligns with your values and your personality as a couple.


Step Four: Pick Your Vendors

Think about the things you want to pay someone else to handle on the day of your elopement - makeup, hair, catering (if you're having a reception), a hotel if your chosen location is far from home, all kinds of things! Maybe your ceremony is just going to the courthouse and coming home to snuggle - that's amazing! Even then, you might think about splurging on a trip to the hair salon to treat yourself!


Step Five: Apply for a Marriage License

You can obtain a marriage license from the county clerk's office in the county where you plan to get married. Both you and your partner will need to be present and bring proper identification. There is a small fee to apply for a marriage license in Maryland (it varies by county. The good news: you don't need a witness with you, it can just be you and your partner.


Step Six: Refine Your Ceremony

Now it's time to really hone in on your plan for the ceremony. Here are some things to consider as you finalize the details of how the elopement will actually go:

  • Will you invite any guests? Are they allowed to bring children?

  • What time of day do you want to have the ceremony?

  • Will you both write your own vows?

  • Are there any cultural practices or family traditions you want to incorporate into the ceremony?

Of course, not all of these considerations will apply to you! So don't stress yourself out thinking you have to have every question answered. Take your time and make sure the elopement is what you both want, not what you feel like you're "supposed" to have.


Step Seven: Send Out Invitations

If you've decided to invite friends or family to your elopement, make sure to get those invitations out as soon as possible! This will give them time to plan. If you want to keep the ceremony just between the two of you, go ahead and skip this step!


Step Eight: Choose Your Outfits

When it comings to deciding what to wear when you elope, feel free to be as creative or as traditional as you want to be. Want to wear a big, white, floofy dress? Go for it! Want to wear neon green hammer pants? It's all you baby! Whatever fits the vibe that you want to create, your time to create it is now. Here are some of my favorite places to get unique gowns:


Step Nine: Finalize Logistics

Make sure everybody knows when and where they need to be. This could be as simple as making sure your fiance is clear on the plan and following up with your officiant. You may have opted for additional vendors who need to know where to meet you.


Step Ten: Enjoy Your Day!

It's finally here! Take time to relax, breathe, and remember that the only thing that matters is this loving commitment you're both about to make. No matter how much goes wrong or right, this day is special and good.


black and white photo of young couple eloping and holding each other closely with the woman's back to the camera

Where should we elope in Maryland?

Looking for that magical place to seal your vows in Maryland? This state is absolutely beautiful, and there are countless locations to elope, but here are my favorites:


This quiet, cozy park in the state's capital is a hidden gem. I take all my couples here for elopement photos because it has a stunning little rocky beach with perfect sunset views. It's never very busy, so you can have a quiet, intimate ceremony with no interruption. I recommend going toward the end of the day to catch the sunset.


Brookside Gardens - Silver Spring, MD

This botanical garden is quietly tucked away in the suburbs of Silver Spring, and while you may not have heard of it till now, it is truly a Maryland treasure. It has gorgeous outdoor landscapes, including a lakehouse, rose garden, and expansive fields.


Big Barn 1810 - Sandy Spring, MD

Want to have a quick ceremony and a long photoshoot? Big Barn 1810 is a historic farmhouse in Sandy Spring that features expansive floor plans for epic photos. If you bought a high-drama dress that you want to show off in editorial photos with the love of your life, this is the place to do it.


1840s Plaza - Baltimore, MD

1840s Plaza in Baltimore is the place to go if you want a retro urban vibe for your elopement. It has multiple rooms and themes to suit your needs.


When should we elope?


young black couple after a beach elopement. both holding hands and walking into the water barefoot while looking into each other's eyes

Your most burning questions about eloping answered:

Do I need a wedding planner for my elopement?

Not at all! There are wedding planners that specialize in elopements and offer unique packages, but it's totally up to you to decide. The nice thing about eloping is that you don't really need a planner at all, but if you want some specialized expertise (especially when it comes to choosing locations or finding vendors), a wedding planner may be helpful for you.


How much does it cost to elope?

Your elopement could be as inexpensive as the cost of gas and the marriage license (less than $100 total), or it could touch the low thousands if you're considering a venue and catering for some guests.


How do I announce my elopement to my friends and family?

There's no one way to do this, and it can be difficult if your friends and family are expecting a big celebration. If you expect that your loved ones will not be supportive of your decision to elope, you'll have to decide what boundaries you need to set in order to protect your mental health (and the joy of your marriage). Outside of that, consider something sentimental like handwritten cards or a special handmade gift for the people you want to share this moment with.


Can I have guests at my elopement ceremony?

Absolutely! Look, the elopement police will not come and shut your ceremony down just because you invited a few people (but the real police may do so if you're on private property without a permit...)


What should I wear to my elopement?

Whatever. You. Want. Elopements are so special because they really buck the norm and allow you the freedom to do whatever your heart desires. If you and your husband want to get married in black-tie snuggies, that's an option!


young couple dancing on a brick walkway right after they eloped wearing summer casual attire

Need a photographer for your elopement?

So forward of us, right? But we don't beat around the bush, and we suspect you don't either. You want to skip to the good part, and we want to help you make a memory of that good part that lasts for generations. Elopement photography is our passion - we just love love. Our favorite couples are the ones who forget we're even there because they're so lost in each other's eyes. That's how we end up with photos that look like scenes from a surprisingly well-produced lifetime movie. Want to feel like a scene in a movie that makes you believe in love again? Check out our couples sessions and gives us call.

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Hi there, I'm Chloe

Black woman photographer, mom to an applesauce-obsessed toddler, and cheerleader for every woman who's decided to love herself unconditionally.

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