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Elyssa Explains

February 4, 2021

North Carolina Elopements

North Carolina elopement tips and FAQs

Everything you need to know about North Carolina elopements and small weddings

Hi! I’ve been loving all the small weddings and North Carolina elopements we’ve had in the last year or so. I know a lot of it was spurred by COVID, but I do think smaller weddings (and elopements) are going to be a trend that sticks around for a little bit. (I wrote about COVID and wedding photography here, if you’re interested.)

So!! Because I think these small weddings and elopements are going to continue to be popular, I wanted to put together a helpful post with some things for you to consider. Keep in mind, I’m a photographer based in Raleigh, so that’s the frame of reference I have when giving advice. If you want even more advice on planning your North Carolina elopement or small wedding, I definitely encourage you to check out ElopeNC for a lot more great info.

So now: North Carolina Elopement (/small wedding) FAQs:


This is such a personal question, but I saw so many people asking it this year. I obviously can’t answer this for you, but I can list some pros and cons that I see for elopements/small weddings:


  • Extra emotional and meaningful because you’re focused on one another the entire time
  • You can truly personalize the ceremony (you can do this at a big wedding too, but you might be more hesitant to include deeply personal vows to one another if 100+ people are watching)
  • Less planning stress
  • Less family / interpersonal relationship stress
  • You can generally make an elopement happen a lot sooner than a wedding
  • More time for epic and amazing portraits!!!
  • Saves money


  • Hurting people you’re close to by not including them. I’m sure this would not be your intention, but you definitely need to be prepared for someone (or multiple someones) you love to be upset.
  • On that same token: Fewer people to celebrate with. Big weddings can be really fun and celebratory. Tiny ones are too, it’s just a different level.
  • No wild and crazy dance floor – you could still have an intimate first dance, but you probably won’t hire a DJ or a band for your elopement
  • Missing out on any wedding traditions you do actually like – speeches, parent dances, the Wobble? 
  • No photos with friends and family who weren’t included

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO ELOPE (as in, to actually get married)?

The first thing you need to know when you’re planning a North Carolina elopement is what it takes to actually get married. You can read everything you ever wanted to know at the NC Courts website here, but the basics are that you need a marriage license, a legitimate officiant, and two witnesses. 

That website is very helpful with explaining the license part of things, but I want to take this time to shout out some of my favorite officiants: Magical Weddings by Carly, Weddings by Heidi, NC Secular Weddings, Triangle Custom Ceremonies, and Ann McKenzie. All of them are amazing and happily serve every couple in love. 

The witness part of things just means you need two other people present (besides the person you’re marrying and the officiant). And these two people will sign your licence. This could be your friends or family, random strangers at the courthouse on the same day as your appointment, or even your friendly photographer (my assistant & I have definitely served as witnesses before). 

Durham elopement inspiration at an AirBNB


Whenever. Literally whenever. That’s sort of the amazing thing about elopements – you don’t have to plan anything if you don’t want to. And there’s no such thing as too short notice. You just have to make sure you have your marriage license first. But seriously, I’ve literally photographed elopements for couples the day after they first call me. They got the license, called me, and said hey we’re getting married tomorrow, are you available? Easy as that.

That said, if photography (or an amazing officiant) is important to you, or if you are planning on having a handful of guests, having a bit more than 1 day’s notice is probably good.


Day of the week: weekdays are awesome for elopements!! Photographers & officiants are less likely to be booked if you’re looking with short notice, locations are less likely to be crowded. (if you want a courthouse ceremony, it will have to be a weekday). Now, that doesn’t mean you absolutely should not elope on a Saturday or Sunday, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Time of day: If you’re inside the whole time, whenever! If you’re planning an outdoor elopement, you will want to think about what time to set the ceremony and any photos. The prettiest light is going to be in the hour or two before sunset or the hour or two after sunrise. The sun is lowest in the sky so you have nice directional light, and the closer you are to sunrise or sunset, the warmer the color of the daylight is (this is why these times are called golden hour). Planning to have your time with your photographer end shortly after sunset will mean that you have your ceremony in gorgeous daylight, then have portraits in golden hour light plus some time with any lovely sunset colors and some awesome after-dark dramatic images. 

Tips for North Carolina elopements and small weddings


For my small wedding and elopement couples, I typically suggest between 2 and 5 hours, depending on a few factors:

  • How long you want your ceremony to be
  • Where your ceremony is going to be compared to where you might want to do portraits
  • Whether you plan on including specific things after the ceremony: a celebratory dinner together, a cake to share, a bottle of champagne to pop, a different outfit to change into etc. 
  • Whether or not you’re having some guests and want time for group photos together and/or candid shots of everyone hanging out and celebrating after the ceremony
  • Whether you might want getting ready photos. Most couples don’t really think about this part of the day when they’re planning an elopement, but getting ready photos on an elopement day can be really lovely to look back on, especially if the two of you are getting ready together.  Having a photographer document everything from getting ready through the ceremony to the end of the day helps make the whole day feel like more of a celebration and will help you remember all the special in-between moments of the day you committed yourselves to one another. 

North Carolina Elopement FAQs and tips


North Carolina is the best state (just saying) because we have so many great options, from the mountains (Asheville, Boone, Blowing Rock, Brevard) to the beach (Wilmington, Emerald Isle, the OBX) to everything in between (like where we live in Raleigh).

Once you know the general location (narrowed down to a city or region), I suggest looking at local parks and gardens, but also boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and even wedding venues. Just because you aren’t planning a traditional wedding doesn’t mean you can’t get married at a traditional venue. 

Definitely ask your photographer for location suggestions too. Once I get to know a couple a little bit, it’s easier to help them identify the type of location that would be best suited for their elopement.

FAQs about small weddings and elopements


Bring your pets!!! Elopements make it far easier to incorporate the furry family members.

But that’s all I’ve really got. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re planning a North Carolina elopement!!! I truly think elopements and small weddings are so wonderful and would love to capture yours! 

We believe that love is bright and colorful, and your wedding photographs should be bright and colorful too.

Kivus & Camera are Raleigh Wedding photographers who create bold, colorful, magical memories of your wedding day with beautiful, artistic portraits AND enthusiastic, genuine moments. Your unique love story deserves to be told through unforgettable, breath-taking photographs that stand out from the crowd. Kivus & Camera love creating that magic. After all, as past bride Courtney says, we’re photography sorcerers.

And though we call ourselves Raleigh wedding photographers, we definitely photograph Durham weddings, Chapel Hill weddings, Cary weddings, etc. We’re all over the Triangle area, and we’re happy to head to the beach or mountains and even to places outside of North Carolina! Just let us know where your love story is headed.

Want to know more? Check out more of our images or learn more about our nerdy selves or just send us a note! Can’t wait to hear from you.