Thinking of having a Pennsylvania elopement? Over the past several years, we’ve seen more couples choose to elope in PA, taking advantage of its unique beauty and hidden spaces that allow you to have an incredibly unique, beautiful, and memorable wedding experience on a smaller scale.
Elopements in Pennsylvania range wildly from self-uniting marriages in the woods to days that look a lot more similar to traditional wedding days, taking place at micro-wedding venues and including a number of wedding vendors to help bring a bride’s dreams to reality.
In this post, we’re going to show you what your dream elopement can look like in PA, and give you tips for making it come to life along the way.
What is an elopement?
Before we can really talk about having an elopement in Pennsylvania, it’s important that you understand what an elopement actually is.
A few decades ago, elopements were just seen as wedding alternatives that were not as valuable as the traditional wedding experience. In more recent years, they’ve become incredibly popular (in large part thanks to social media), and more couples are seeing them as a preferred version of a wedding day that just makes sense for them.
Today, elopements take on many forms – but at the core it is an experience that is more intimate, involves smaller groups of guests (usually up to ~25 – but it varies depending on the place), and can really take place anywhere, at any time. But most importantly, they really bring back the center focus to what this day is all about – you as a couple getting married!
Start by identifying what kind of elopement experience you want to have
Our favorite thing about elopements is that couples who choose to get married in this way, instead of in a big traditional wedding, can still have a day that is unique and memorable.
Key questions to think about when planning an elopement:
- Where would you like to elope?
- Who do you want to be a part of your elopement day?
- Do you want a quick event, or something that lasts all day?
Your answers to these questions will already help you start to narrow down what kind of experience you will be able to have with your Pennsylvania elopement.
If you’re just wanting to elope as a couple, or with a few friends/family for your ceremony, you will have a ton of options ranging from wedding venues to state parks (and more).
If you’re wanting more people along for the ride, and maybe even a reception gathering, you will want to consider event spaces or even a backyard to host everyone more comfortably.
Self-Uniting Elopement vs. Officiated Elopement
In Pennsylvania, couples have the option of marrying themselves in a self-uniting marriage ceremony (also known as a “Quaker marriage”). This is actually a unique characteristic of getting married in PA, as it’s one of only a handful of states in the USA that allows this!
In our experience, couples who choose to do a self-uniting elopement will choose scenic backdrops to read their vows and exchange rings in a simple ceremony that is truly touching and beautiful.
Of course, having an officiated ceremony is also an option that will suit couples looking for that more traditional experience. Whether choosing a church pastor, or a certified marriage celebrant, you can work with an officiant to put together a ceremony that makes sense for the experience you want to have.
What can an elopement look like in Pennsylvania?
Because you can elope in so many different ways, we want to share some stories of elopement wedding days and how you can really shape them to look exactly like you want.
Elopement Story #1 – Full Day Adventure Elopement
One of our favorite versions of an elopement day takes couples with a passion for nature, adventure, and each other and creates a curated experience that begins with getting ready photos (at home, an AirBNB, or similar), then sees us traveling to an awesome hiking spot right here in Pennsylvania for an epic ceremony and portraits, then adding something special like a picnic lunch, and returning somewhere for a small get together whether with family & friends, or keeping it low-key and just having it be the two of you to celebrate.
There are so many ways that couples can shape an adventurous elopement day to be filled with intention and memorable moments that allow for the time to really soak every second of the day in together.
Elopement Story #2 – Micro Wedding at Promise Ridge
One of the most popular elopement destinations in Pennsylvania is a hidden gem in the Poconos known as Promise Ridge. This is a stunning venue space that supports small wedding ceremonies and receptions for upwards of ~25 guests.
Having a wedding here (or at a venue similar to it) offers you an experience very similar to the big traditional weddings, just on a smaller scale and, honestly, a little more love in our experience as the owner is wildly passionate with couples having beautiful and memorable experiences at her property.
Elopement Story #3 – Backyard Patio Ceremony & Portraits
Some couples choose to elope at home, a place that is really special and comfortable for them.
One couple we worked with during 2020 used their backyard patio space, set up a fun little ceremony spot, and had their parents & an officiant there in person (while friends & family elsewhere tuned in through Zoom). Afterwards, we went and explored the city they lived in for some portraits.
Elopement Story #4 – Self-Uniting Ceremony at a Waterfall in PA
One other version of an elopement that we’ve been seeing more and more is a simplified version of the “full day adventure elopement” we already talked about.
Couples wanting a really streamlined day choose a location to say their vows together in a sweet little ceremony, then will hike around for some “just married” portraits together. No frills, just a sweet and simple event.
Where can you elope in Pennsylvania?
Elopements can really be held anywhere in PA, but where you choose will ultimately depend on what you’re envisioning and the number of guests you’ll want to have in attendance. Below are a list of some ideas:
5 Places to Elope in PA
Some of the most popular locations for adventurous elopements in Pennsylvania are county, state, and federal parks. From easy and popular hiking trails like the Hawk Falls trail in Hickory Run State Park, to longer and more scenic opportunities like the Ricketts Glen State Park waterfall trail, there are a ton of options depending on the backdrop you’re looking to have.
Elopement & Micro-Wedding Venues
Due to increased popularity in smaller weddings, there are a number of beautiful venues where you can host your mini-wedding. These event spaces are really great if you’re looking for some extra amenities, and wanting to host a bunch of guests as well.
Some great micro-wedding venues we love include:
We’ve also seen a number of bigger wedding venues begin to offer packages for smaller events. Some of those spaces include:
Some AirBNB rentals make for excellent “getting ready” locations for virtually any elopement day. In some cases, AirBNBs are also available to host small wedding events – which make these locations really fun for couples wanting to have a really different and unique wedding space.
We do just want to note, it’s important before booking an AirBNB to confirm with the owner that what you are planning will be permitted on their property. In our experience, some owners are happy to have the event at their places (some even highly encourage it!), while others are more particular.
Private Businesses (boutique hotels, restaurants, B&B’s, etc.)
There are a ton of places that are not “traditional” wedding venues, that may still offer opportunities to host events like elopements and micro-weddings.
As one example, you could consider reaching out to your favorite restaurant if it holds that extra special place in your hearts.
A couple of places closer to where we live include:
Getting married in your backyard (or that of a family member/friend) is another popular option. First of all, it’s likely very convenient for your guests. But, it can also allow you to put together a really sweet DIY wedding without having to have much consideration for timing and event space restrictions.
Need more suggestions for where to elope in PA? Check out our full article: Top 10 Best Places to Elope in PA to learn more!
Frequently Asked Questions about Eloping in Pennsylvania
What are some popular places to elope in PA? Pennsylvania is a pretty large state, and you can find couples eloping all over. Philadelphia, the Poconos, Lancaster, Hershey, Pittsburgh and other locations around the state are all popular depending on what you are looking for.
If you’re looking for a really curated experience at a small wedding venue, looking around the Poconos will offer you with some of the more unique experiences (in our opinion).
If you’re looking to have an experience at a less traditional location, then the sky is truly the limit!
What does eloping in PA cost? Elopements can cost as much or as little as you want them too. Generally speaking, elopements do cost less than traditional big weddings, which cost an average of $31,000 in Pennsylvania based on The Knot’s Real Wedding Study. The great thing about the lower cost is that it can free you up to spend more towards the things that are really important to you for your day.
How do we get a marriage license in PA? In Pennsylvania, it’s often easiest to get a marriage license from your local courthouse (you’ll want to search “[Your City] Court of Orphans” to get started).
Typically, there will be a small fee (usually around $80 dollars or so) to file the paperwork, and you and your fiancé will need to be there to file and sign paperwork together. They will typically make you wait a few days until you can pick up your license, but once you have it in hand you can get married anywhere in PA within 60 days. It’s super simple!
How many guests can we have at our elopement? Elopements range from just the couple to upwards of 25 people. The number of guests usually really depends on the location you’re looking to host your elopement (some will have restrictions, others will not).
Planning a Pennsylvania elopement? This is a beautiful state that is filled with so much potential to let you create an extra special wedding day of your dreams.
As photographers and elopement planners, we help curate especially unique experiences for couples wanting to get married and have their day documented in beautiful photos they can look back on for years to come with their friends & family.
To learn more about what we offer, be sure to reach out!