So you are considering having an elopement in Tennessee....congratulations!
If you need a little help figuring out exactly what steps you need to take in order to make that happen, you came to the right place! This guide goes over all of the legal aspects of eloping in TN, information about when/where to have your elopement, timeline ideas and vendor recommendations -- keep scrolling to read all about how to elope in Tennessee!
Get your Tennessee marriage license
If you wish to elope in Tennessee, whether you live here or live in another state, you will need to obtain your marriage license from a county clerk's office prior to your wedding day. The exact rules/regulations/fees may change from county to county so be sure to check with your specific county clerk but here is an overview of the marriage license process in TN. You view a full list of TN county clerk's office by clicking *here*.
- Both parties must be at least 18 years old (unless they have written parental consent) and will need to apply in-person at the county clerk's office
- 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. You may also need names/addresses of next of kin depending on the county.
- Your marriage license is valid immediately and for up to 30 days after you obtain it
- The marriage license will need to be returned to the county clerk it was obtained from within 3 days of being signed
- The average cost of a TN marriage license is $100 but you may be able to save $60 by completing premarital counseling
- The state of TN does not honor marriages completed by those who have been ordained online
- You do not need witnesses to sign your marriage license, just a legally ordained officiant
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 3 days of it being signed. Learn more about TN Marriage Laws
Pick when you want to get married
Tennessee weather may vary a bit from east to west, but in general, we have a very moderate climate with four distinct seasons. Summer and fall are the peak tourism seasons for Tennessee (except for Gatlinburg/Sevierville - the winter holiday season is crazy busy for them). I have included a brief overview of what each season is like in Tennessee at the bottom of this section. Another thing to think about when picking a date for your elopement is whether or not having it on a weekend is really important to you. Some elopement packages in Tennessee only allow for weekday bookings and if you plan to do it in a public outdoor space, weekends will be significantly more crowded than a weekday.
Seasons in Tennessee:
Spring - In general, spring time in TN is full of blooming wild flowers, lush green trees and moderate temperatures ranging from 50 to 70 degrees. March - May often bring more rain and storms than the rest of the year, so be sure to have a backup plan in the event of bad weather if you choose to elope during the spring.
Summer - Not going to lie, Tennessee summer's can be a bit brutal, but they can also be a wonderful time for an outdoor elopement, especially if you like waterfalls! Summer temperatures average around 83 degrees from June - August with higher levels of humidity making it seem even warmer. If you opt for a summer elopement in Tennessee, consider having a sunrise or sunset elopement to avoid the afternoon heat and storms. You may also want to consider having an elopement close to a body of water so you can jump in and cool off after you say I do!
Fall - There is nothing quite like fall in Tennessee. Temperatures drop again come mid September and you can expect lovely weather until mid November. If you want PEAK Tennessee fall, consider having your elopement towards the end of October/early November as this is often when the trees are the most beautiful. If I had to pick a season to elope in Tennessee, it would definitely be fall.
Winter - If you are thinking about a winter elopement and would like to see some snow, consider the northern region of Tennessee. The Great Smoky Mountains and Roan Mountain are both beautiful during the winter months. January and February are also great months to consider for the most privacy as they are often the least popular months for visits. Across the board, Tennessee winters are rather mild with an average temperature of 40 degrees from December to February. You could still have an outdoor elopement without freezing your butts off. Just remember that in areas like Gatlinburg, you'll want to find somewhere off the beaten path to avoid the holiday crowds if you visit in December.
Pick where you want to get married
Questions to ask yourself when considering your elopement location include -
- How many people will be involved?
- Do I want it to be indoors or outdoors?
- Do I want a particular type of scenery (waterfall, mountains, etc.)
- Am I ok with hiking to the ceremony location?
- Do we want complete privacy or is it ok if we see a few other people?
- Is there a particular place that has meaning to us?
All of these things can help inform your decision on where to have your elopement. If you plan to have friends and family involved, you may want somewhere with a little extra space. If complete privacy is important to you, you may want to consider a less popular outdoor area, use a wedding venue that offers elopement packages, or rent an AirBnB that allows events to ensure the most amount of privacy. To help you get started here are a few of my favorite elopements spots in Tennessee:
- Outdoor trails and state parks (view specific locations here)
- Oak Leaf Cottage (Chattanooga)
- Gardens in the Gorge (Chattanooga)
- Whitestone Inn (Kingston)
- Ijams Nature Center (Knoxville)
- Memphis Botanical Gardens (Memphis)
- Butterfly Hollow (Nashville)
In order to keep this guide at a respectable length, I've only included a few of my favorites. Feel free to contact me for my full location list! I'd also like to note that location scouting is included in all of my elopement photography packages, so if finding the perfect location is a little overwhelming for you, I'd love to help relieve you of that stress.
Pick your elopement vendors
Choosing the right vendors is an excellent start to making the most of your elopement day. Many vendors (such as myself) even specialize in elopements! Every elopement will have different needs, but these are common 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 - I'm personally a huge fan of pie and donuts so that's what I'm doing for my own elopement
- Hair & makeup artist
- Caterer, private chef, etc. - you can still have food be apart of your day! I personally love to see an elopement picnic
- 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 you might need on your elopement day. *I provide all of my elopement clients with personalized vendor recommendations*
Decide what you want to do on your elopement day
It's important to remember that just because you aren't doing the traditional wedding thing, doesn't mean you don't get to have the same amount of celebrating - it's still your wedding day and should 100% be celebrated to the fullest! This will look different for each individual couple, but you can definitely still spend more than 2 hours celebrating your wedding day. Need ideas for how to spend your elopement day? Check out the following example timelines -
- Full-day hiking elopement timeline
- Full-day elopement timeline
- Half-day sunrise hiking elopement timeline
- Split-day elopement timeline
- City elopement timeline
Now remember, these are just examples to give you ideas, 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 the things that you and your person love. 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 your person. Feeling a bit overwhelmed about to do on your elopement day? I provide all of my clients with a customized timeline!
I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to have an elopement in TN!
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 Tennessee elopement 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.