Eloping in Wisconsin isn’t always top of mind when it comes to dreaming up a location, but it’s home to a million hidden gems! The beautiful bluffs, rivers, lakeshores, and forests make the Badger state the perfect spot to say your I do’s. I was born and raised (for most of my life anyway) right here in Eau Claire, and Vhan has come to love this state as if he was too. Through all of our travels, we always come right back home so happy to live where we do. There’s something really magical about Wisco and we can’t stop exploring it.
If you’ve been thinking of eloping we’ll share everything you need to know to have the elopement of your dreams right here in Wisconsin! From legalities and locations, to what to wear, we’ve got you covered! Nothing we’ll go over here is completely exhaustive so if you’ve still got questions don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to talk about your day!
Okay, I know you’ve probably thought eloping requires a last-minute flight to Vegas with a cameo from Elvis or an impromptu trip to the courthouse. Eloping has evolved into a truly intentional and beautiful way to celebrate your wedding day exactly the way you want it. Traditional weddings have more of a set formula to the day and eloping throws rules and restrictions out the window to allow you to commemorate your love story in exactly your own way.
Eloping in Wisconsin could truly just be the two of you (check out the self-solemnization info here), or you could go for more of the micro-wedding route and be surrounded by your closest family and friends. Maybe you’d rather rock chacos than heels, a picnic at sunset instead of a formal sit-down dinner, or private vows on a favorite trail instead of reciting them in front of hundreds of eyes.
If that resonates with you, planning an elopement or micro-wedding could be perfect!
You’re doing it – eloping in Wisconsin the way YOU want with the love of your life. Now all the exciting planning begins. From choosing the perfect windswept dress or comfortable suit to the beautiful location where you will say, “I do.” But what about the legalities? Or self-solemnization?
What is self solemnization?
Most states require that you have an officiant and two witnesses at your elopement. If you choose self-solemnization, you can get married alone in the most romantic and intimate way. How incredible is that?
There is no stress of a big, grand wedding where you have to entertain guests and all eyes on you. Can you picture it? Instead, you make your commitment to each other under a beautiful waterfall or on a mountaintop overlooking a lake.
Self-solemnization, or self-unity marriage, means you can marry whenever and wherever you want without a third-party officiant. Keep in mind that you have to sign a form acknowledging that the state won’t guarantee your marriage will get recognized by all states.
Start by applying for your marriage license:
A marriage license in Wisconsin costs between $50-$120, depending on the county you submit your application. There is also a waiting period of 5 days for your license, although you can pay a waiver fee to receive it sooner.
On the day of your elopement in Wisconsin, both you and your love will have to fill out the officiant section on the license. You will also be liable for filing the license within three days of your ceremony to the county clerk’s office.
You may choose to have your elopement with just the two of you or bring a friend or two to join. They can even sign as witnesses or have me, your elopement photographer, sign too. Whichever way you choose to elope, I am here for you!
Having a few loved ones with you is not uncommon. The best part is that kids can sign as a witness in the state of Wisconsin. They love feeling like an adult and doing something grown-up. Some have the same adventurous spirit as you and will want to join you on this journey!
Your elopement in Wisconsin will be everything you have been dreaming of! Whether you have an officiant or choose self-solemnization, expect an intimate and unforgettable ceremony.
Remember, it is only about you and your love – nothing else matters!
Do you dream of hiking to a favorite spot for your ceremony? Finding an officiant open to making the journey with you is super important. If your ceremony location is a trek, you’ll want to find an officiant who’s up for it!
If you’re struggling to find an officiant, consider asking a loved one! The process to become an officiant is super simple and affordable through various organizations. The officiant should register with an organization that is recognized in Wisconsin, like Universal Life Church. Unlike some other states, your officiant won’t need to register with any government office after applying.
An option we have for our own eloping couples is having us officiate! We’re both licensed to perform your ceremony, and are totally familiar with the process.
Wisconsin native? You’ll want to get your marriage license in the county you reside in. It can be used for ceremonies anywhere in the state. Non-Wisconsin resident? You’ll get your marriage license from the county you’ll be getting married in. The fee for your marriage license varies by county, and you’ll be able to get it after the 5 day waiting period and will be valid for 30 days. You want to get your wisconsin marriage license between 30 days out from your wedding and 6 days out. Make sure you have two adult witnesses (Vhan and I volunteer!), and you’ll be good to go!
The biggest factors when it comes to avoiding crowds during your elopement will be the day of the week, the season we’re in, and the time of day. Opting for a weekday ceremony over a weekend can help drastically lower the number of people out and about, and in addition, it can help lower costs.
A summer weekend might be swamped, but having a sunrise ceremony can add the perfect level of privacy. Many Wisconsin state parks are super open when it comes to locations for elopements consisting of only a handful of people. Always double-check what areas are allowed when it comes to your ceremony or vow exchange. If possible, check out your location at the time you’re hoping to elope prior to the big day to get a good idea of the crowds. If you can’t, your photographer will be able to share a ton of insight!
Wisconsin’s DNR makes finding their permit information super easy. On their site (here) they share that if you’re planning something very small (think just the two of you, witnesses, officiant, and photographers) you can virtually elope in any public place in most Wisconsin state parks. If you’re planning on having more people in your elopement or micro-wedding, you’ll want to search through their reservable facilities. Fees vary for parks, so you’ll want to reach out to the property manager for the park to get your specific permit information. When we work with couples on their elopements, we’re always happy to take this off their plate. We reach out to the parks and collect all of the permit info for them.
When it comes to planning an elopement the amount of options you have is ENORMOUS! When there isn’t a formula for your day and you can truly do anything, the decisions can be overwhelming. Not to fear, we’re in your corner to walk you through the planning process!
Pour your favorite drinks, grab some take out and settle in. Turn planning into a date night! Is there something you two love that you hope to incorporate? Is there a location close to your heart, or that you’ve been dying to visit? Do you want to be in the heart of a favorite city or somewhere quiet and secluded? When you imagine your wedding day, is it just the two of you, or are you surrounded by your closest family and friends? Make notes as you dream up what your elopement could look like, and how all of these elements could come to life.
Your photographer is going to have so much great info to share with you! If you’re not sure about your timeline for the day, or you’re struggling to land on a location they have all the knowledge to help! Finding a photographer is such an asset to your planning process! Another reason to start looking for a photographer early in your process-they book up early! If you’re hoping for a weekend date especially in prime wedding season, you’ll want to get in touch as early as you can.
If you haven’t already, decide where you’ll be getting married. We love to help our couples find the perfect spot! If you’re not sure, your photographer should have some great suggestions on where to elope in Wisconsin based on what you’re looking for! Here are some things to think about when you pick a spot. When you’re planning an outdoor vow exchange you’ll want to think about what seasons you enjoy being outdoors. Don’t forget to look into the permit process for your location!
It can be easy for your guest list to continue to grow, and you want to be sure that your guest list matches your vision for the day! If you’re dreaming of something with just the two of you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! If you want guests included in your elopement or micro-wedding talk over with your partner how many you’d feel comfortable inviting.
Start booking your flights and accomodations. If you do need to fly into the state, give yourself some wiggle room on dates. Don’t try to fly in the night before, especially if you’re planning a winter or spring wedding where the weather might be a little tricky. Give yourself time to enjoy the experience together. The last thing you want is feeling rushed and stressed while prepping for your elopement.
When you choose your lodging, plan out how far it’ll be from the spot you hope to have your vow exchange. The closer the better, however also pick a space that you’ll love to see in photos! In other words, lots of windows and natural light and a space that speaks to you will make photos in your accommodation rock.
Just because your eloping doesn’t mean you can’t have some killer florals or a beautiful cake! Therefore, reach out to local vendors for your elopement who can build a beautiful day just for the two of you. We’re always happy to share recommendations with our couples, but if you’re exploring options on your own wedding directories are a good starting point to source vendors. Want some awesome tips for picking the perfect elopement florals? We’ve got you covered with our how-to, picking the perfect elopement florals.
What are you hoping to include on your wedding day? Now is a perfect time to reach out to your photographer and get some input! They can totally help you plan on when to do that sunset sail you’re dreaming of for perfect portraits or when to plan that romantic picnic on the beach. If you’re hoping to just enjoy the day without any solid plans, that’s totally okay too! Some of our favorite elopements have been where the couple had a loose idea and incorporated things like a vow reading when it felt right.
If you’re a Wisconsin resident, look up the county clerk for the county you reside in. Plan on getting your marriage license 30 days before your elopement at most, and 6 days at the latest to account for the five-day waiting period. After getting your license, you’ll have 30 days to be wed. At this point, you should be good to go when it comes to your location permit (depending on the location!).
This is coming from someone that loves to pack the day of her flights (don’t worry Vhan has assumed the role of packing for me to kill that habit). You don’t want to forget anything on your elopement day! Double-check for your license, IDs, wedding attire and don’t forget shoes, socks, rings, jewelry, ties, etc. You don’t want to scramble last minute to find something you’ll need. Make a checklist ahead of time and pack a few days early.
It’s here! Time to celebrate and enjoy this day you’ve been dreaming of together! Focus on each other, and even if not everything goes to plan remember that more than anything else it’s about the two of you being together. Remember to take mental pictures, and soak in your elopement day.
One of our favorite parts of being elopement photographers is getting to explore our home state! Wisconsin is teeming with incredible locations right under our noses. While some of the locations here will require a permit to have an elopement or micro wedding, some only require the cost of entrance, and others free to explore.
This list is not exhaustive by any means, but it does give a little insight into our favorite outdoor options in our state! If you’re not sure where you want to go, an elopement photographer familiar with the area is an awesome resource! Not only will they be able to give tons of insight when it comes to locations, but they’ll also be able to tell you when you should shoot to get married. Experts in the area (we’re raising our hands here!) can help you find permit information, the best spots for portraits, Leave No Trace practices, and so much more.
Having trouble finding an elopement location? One of our favorite parts of our job is helping narrow in on the perfect backdrop for your nuptials. Share what you’re hoping to find and they can help dig up those hidden spots off the beaten path you’ve been dreaming of! If none of these locations speak to you reach out and let’s talk about your day.
Growing up in Wisconsin means a deep love for our landscapes. Wisconsin boasts so many incredible landscapes to explore! If you’re searching for the best spot for your adventure elopement out here in the midwest, we’ve got you covered! Here are just a few of our favorite parks to consider. Above all, finding those hidden gems for our own couples somewhere off the beaten path in or around these areas is one of the best parts of our job.
Okay, if we could have a wedding day do-over we’d be eloping at a lakehouse right here in Wisconsin. We would want to turn our elopement into a weekend of our favorite things with our families coming together under one roof. Eloping in the privacy of an Airbnb or resort makes that possible! If you’re considering eloping in rental always double-check their rules and regulations when it comes to events. Even if you’re not eloping, check out some of these favorites to find an awesome spot to come back to after saying your I do’s.
If you’re planning on having a small group of people with you when you elope, you can opt for one of the incredible Wisconsin venues that offer elopement packages or caters to small groups!
As a good rule of thumb for elopement wear something that makes you feel awesome, and you can move around in easily. You might feel weird in a fitting popping a squat and testing your range of motion, but I PROMISE you’ll be thankful you did!
If you’re planning a more adventurous elopement you’ll want to opt for a dress you can move around in. When you try on dresses, try different styles and move A TON! Lunges, twirls, bending, the works- you’ll definitely want a dress that feels awesome on. If something is feeling even a bit annoying when you’re trying it on you’ll want to go in another direction. You don’t want to feel limited when it comes to moving around on your elopement day or exhausted from wearing a dress that just doesn’t feel great.
A-line dresses are some of our favorites when it comes to choosing a dress, but you can find comfortable dresses in virtually every style. Just don’t forget to move around when trying on options!
Are you having a city elopement? You can definitely rock a more structured dress than if you were planning on going on a hike on your wedding day. Still, sit, wiggle, twirl- you’ll still want to be comfortable regardless of the setting!
Comfortable suits often get overlooked when we talk about what to wear for an elopement. You’ll want to move around, try a lunge, lifting your legs, and sitting down. If you’re exploring the great outdoors on your wedding day you’ll want to move around freely without a restrictive suit. Wisconsin is known for frigid winters, so you’ll want warmer fabric (think wool) and layers. For a warm summer elopement, thinner wool like linen, or cotton are great options for a more breathable suit fabric.
A city elopement or outdoor elopement where you won’t be walking long distances can still be a great time to bust out a cute heel. If you’re planning a longer hike or will be standing on uneven terrain definitely opt for a more comfortable shoe (or bring some to change into!). We love incorporating movement into our photos, so being able to move freely is HUGE when it comes to creating epic images. If you feel like your shoes are going to limit you, it’s better to go a different route.
You’ll want to try on your shoes and move around in them. Do they have good traction? Are they pinching anywhere? You want something comfortable with some good grip when you’re walking. The last thing you want on your wedding day is slipping and sliding all day in your dress shoes.
Pro tip: When getting your suit or dress tailored, wear the shoes you plan to wear on your elopement day! This way you’ll know your suit or dress is properly tailored.
If you’re choosing to order your fits online, make sure you’re super familiar with the return or exchange policy. You don’t want to be stuck with something that feels all wrong when it arrives. For suits, we love The Black Tux and have had awesome experiences with their customer service! For dresses, BHLDN always has an incredible selection and consistently runs sales.
One of the biggest questions we get asked is how do you announce to your family and friends that you’ve eloped! If you’re not planning on having close family and friends along for your elopement and haven’t told them that you’re you’ll be marrying in private, call your nearest and dearest! Even if they’re surprised at first, in the end, they will be so happy you two are married!
Share the awesome news that you’ve tied the knot with the rest of your friends, family, and colleagues through mailed announcements, or posts! One of our favorite things is sending our couples a sneak peek gallery from their elopement to use on announcements and social media posts 2 days after their wedding! That way you have an epic image to go along with your epic news!
Just because you’ve eloped doesn’t mean the party has to stop! Plan a reception in the future (even for later that day!) to celebrate with your loved ones. Plan a backyard barbeque where you can dance the night away. with brews and your besties and invite them on your elopement announcement!
Your elopement day deserves to be remembered. You’ve crafted a day around you and your story and all of these little elements you’ve chosen should be preserved. The focus isn’t on anything but you two, so on an elopement day, we’re less focused on a laundry list of formal photos and more focused on documenting your connection and experience. Your photos are filled with all of those genuine moments you had, and you won’t want those memories to fade.
When you choose an elopement photographer you want to choose someone who can capture the day the way you want to remember it. They should be people who you trust to document you and preserve those memories for a lifetime. Elopement photographers uniquely also are a treasure trove of information when it comes to planning your elopement. Finding someone familiar with the area is so important!
Lastly, you’ll want someone you vibe with. We feel so honored that we get to capture these stories for a living, and we take getting to know our couples seriously. No strangers behind the camera, just a couple of dorky humans who want you to have a little door back to this day. When we show up to a wedding or elopement, we’re 100% there for you! If you’re not sold on a photographer shoot them a message! They should be totally down for a Facetime or coffee date to get to know each other better.
We are so stoked you’re planning your dream elopement! Capturing these moments for our couples is such an honor, and we would. When we work with an eloping couple here in Wisconsin, we want to help make their vision come to life. Planning an elopement is so incredible, but we know you probably have lots of questions! Whatever questions you have, we’re right in your corner. We’d love to hear your story, and see if we’d be a good fit. Click here to get in touch!