Thinking about eloping in North Carolina but aren't sure how to go about doing it?
You came to the right place. I've complied a list of all the important information you need to know about how to elope in NC so you don't have to spend hours searching the Google. You're welcome. But for real, if you aren't sure exactly what steps you need to take in order to get married within North Carolina, this guide should answer most of your questions. It covers everything from legalities to locations!
If you have any additional questions about how to elope in North Carolina, don't hesitate to reach out - all of my North Carolina elopement photography packages include help with finding the perfect location, vendors, permits and even a customized timeline to make sure you get the most out of your elopement day!
So without further ado - here's your guide to eloping in North Carolina:
Get your North Carolina marriage license
If you wish to elope in North Carolina, whether you live here or live in another state, you will need to obtain your marriage license from a Register of Deeds office prior to your wedding day.
- Both parties must be at least 18 years old (unless they have written parental consent) and will need to apply in-person at a County Register of Deeds Office. Some counties allow you to start the application online.
- Same-sex marriages are allowed
- You will both need a valid I.D. or birth certificate as well as proof of your SSN if you were issued one (W2 form or another official document with your SSN on it)
- Marriage licenses received in NC are valid in any county, but must be returned to the one from which it was obtained.
- Your marriage license is valid immediately and for up to 60 days after you obtain it.
- The marriage license will need to be returned to the Registry of Deeds it was obtained from within 10 days of being signed (many officiants will do this for you, but you can also turn it in yourself)
- The average cost of a NC marriage license is $60, but exact amounts and payment methods may vary by county (some only accept cash).
- Marriages may be performed by an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, a magistrate, or a federally- or state-recognized Indian Nation or tribe. Marriages performed by those ordained online are not currently recognized by the state of NC.
- In addition to your officiate, you need two witnesses to sign your marriage certificate.
I will note that if there is a particular person you want to "officiate" your wedding but they haven't been legally ordained, you can always have a pastor/judge/etc. sign and turn in your marriage license prior to your ceremony and get the legal stuff out of the way and have whoever the heck you want "officiate" your actual ceremony - nobody will know the difference. This also applies if you don't want anyone present but the two of you and a photographer, you can get the paperwork done at a different time as long as you turn it in within 10 days of it being signed. Learn more about NC marriage laws.
Choose where you want to elope
Questions to ask yourself when considering your elopement location include -
- How many people will be in attendance?
- Do I want a particular type of scenery (waterfall, mountains, etc.)?
- What kind of accessibility do I need (easy access or is hiking ok)?
- Do we want complete privacy or is it ok if there are other people around?
- Is there a particular place that has meaning to us?
- What is our budget?
- Do I have time to obtain the proper permits? (Some places may need anywhere from 14-90 days notice to approve a wedding permit)
Answering these questions may help you narrow down your list of potential locations (because North Carolina has sooo many good ones). I've compiled a brief list of a few of my favorite locations but feel free to reach out if you want my full list or need help finding the absolute perfect location for your North Carolina elopement.
- Lake Glenville (great for small groups and very budget friendly)
- The Swag (A little more luxury but great if you want to invite a few friends/family or are worried about rain)
- Olivette (Can rent for 1 hour for your ceremony and then visit nearby outdoor areas for more adventurous photos)
- A private home from Yonder (They have many different properties each with it's own benefits)
- NC Arboretum (great place to get ready and have the ceremony, then you could go explore a nearby trail for more photos and have a reception in Asheville later if you like)
- Linville Gorge (ideal for an all day adventure elopement)
- Anywhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway (Also great for full day adventure elopements or elopements with less than 15 people)
Check out my full guide on elopement locations for a more in-depth look into some of these incredible spots.
Choose your North Carolina elopement vendors
Choosing the right vendors is essential to having a seamless wedding day. Many vendors (such as myself) even specialize in elopements! Every elopement will have different needs, but these are a few vendors couples often choose to include on their elopement day -
- Photographer - I highly recommend hiring a photographer (like myself) who specializes in elopements as they can often help with planning your elopement as well
- Florist (for bouquets and/or boutonnieres)
- Cake or other dessert
- Hair & makeup artist
- Caterer, private chef, etc. (many private chefs will come to you and cook a meal for you!)
- Dress / Tux
Again, every elopement is different and you may not need all of these things, or you may need things not listed, but these are a good place to start if you're feeling a little overwhelmed about what vendors you should include.
Create your elopement timeline
Even though you may not be doing the traditional wedding thing, it doesn't mean you don't get to do the same amount of celebrating - it's still your wedding day and it should be celebrated to the fullest! This will look different for each individual couple, but you really shouldn't limit yourself to 1-2 hours. I recommend a minimum of 4-6 but highly encourage 8 or more to make the most out of your elopement day and not feel rushed/stressed about fitting everything into a certain amount of time. Need ideas for how to spend that time on your elopement day? I've created a few sample timelines -
- 2-day elopement timeline (1st day w/ family & friends, 2nd day with just you and your person)
- 12 hour adventure elopement timeline
- 10 hour elopement timeline
- 8 hour city elopement timeline
- 6 hour sunrise elopement timeline
These are just a few examples to give you ideas, but you can do whatever the heck you want on your wedding day - that's part of the fun of choosing to elope! It's your wedding day and it should be focused on what you and your person want to do. If you want to invite family and/or friends, then invite family and/or friends! There are plenty of ways to incorporate them into your special day without having a traditional wedding. If you don't want to invite anybody - that's ok too! You can still spend a full day of celebrating with just you and the human that you love! Hopefully, this is your only wedding, so make it a day to remember!
Have additional questions about eloping in North Carolina?
If you have any more questions or are feeling a little overwhelmed with the elopement planning process, don't hesitate to reach out! I'm not your average photographer - I'm here to help you with every step of planning your special day from finding the perfect location to creating a customized timeline. I'd love to talk with you about planning your dream day! All of my packages for elopement photography include complimentary location scouting, personalized vendor recommendations, a customized timeline for your day and of course a super fun person to document the whole thing!
Find out more about how it works or click the button below to contact me!