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DC Wedding and Elopement Expert

Starlene Joyner Burns, Premier Wedding Officiant & Professional Photog


I’m often called for advise because many couples get stuck on what to do and where to begin planning their elopement or wedding.  So I tell them the same thing I’m sharing with you.  Everything starts with PLANNING!

There are two kinds of elopements; simple and stylish.  I’m going to talk about the stylish one first.


Stylish Elopement

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1.  Establish A Budget

This is my first recommendation.  An elopement is more than just the officiant and couple.  So consider the overall cost of the elopement, not just the officiant’s fee and gas.  A realistic budget can range from $1,200 – $6,000, because a stylish elopement can be a wedding and honeymoon roll up into one.


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2.  Just Us

Decide if it will be just the two of you or if you will allow a few friends and relatives to tag along.


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3.  Attire

What will you wear? If you already have your attire (clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories), great.  If not, add that cost to the budget.


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4.  Where will you Stay?

The best time to stay in DC is over the weekend.  Friday and Saturday are the days hotel rates in DC drop.  However, wedding rates increase.


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5.  Where will the elopement take place?

Location is important (indoors / outdoors).  Some couples will opt for a historic place that has meaning to them.  Others might pick a picturesque waterfront view, an art gallery for a colorful backdrop, an inn, or hotel where they’re staying.  If your elopement is outside (at the harbor, garden, etc); you will need a rain plan.


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6.  Transportation

How will you travel?  Add that cost to your overall budget.


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7.  Cake, Food & Entertainment

DC is loaded with wonderful places to wine and dine.  The question is, how much of your budget will you allocate to having a good time.


8.  Personal Stylist

Getting hooked up with a great hairstyle and makeup is advisable, especially if you want to get some really awesome photos.

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9.  Photography

Who you hire to document your special day fee will vary according to experience and reputation.  If you only want a few photos, finding a photographer willing to commit to a 1 hour shoot might be challenging.  Most of them want to book 2 hours or more.

A photographer’s fee can range from $900 – $3000 for an elopement shoot.  And how you dress will determine the value of your images (not image quality).  And if you want some fun shots, think creatively.   Each photographers style will be different.  I like elegant photoshoots.  Other photographers may like quirky ones.


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10.  Marriage License

You will have to secure a marriage license in the district, county, or state where your ceremony will take place.


dc wedding officiant 11.  Officiant

Discuss if you and your partner are having a civil, spiritual, religious ceremony.  Some ministers are flexible and offer a variety of choices, while some are inflexible.  So find one that fits your needs.

12.  Meditation & Massage

Eloping does not reduce all stress?  So don’t believe the hype.  People can become nervous and anxious by any life altering event, and external stresses from family and friends can still have an impact.  Add time to meditate, walk the dog, exercise, get a massage, or whatever you do to relax.

Planning an elopement is planning a wedding.  It’s just a wedding on a much smaller scale without witnesses.

13.  Hire A Wedding Planner

A wedding planner can make eloping a lot easier (especially for those travelling from out of town).  But you still need to do a lot of the work yourself.   If you want a package that’s all inclusive, you might want to check out a few inns that offer all inclusive packages.

The only problem I have seen with getting married at an inn, is the residents can come and go, while the ceremony is taking place.  Hotels offer more privacy and room options and can help you create a package that works for you.



Simple Elopement

A simple elopement is an extemporaneous “let’s get married today” decision.  This type of elopement is the only one, in my opinion, that has the least amount of stress, if any.

simple elopement

1.  Where

Couples will opt for a state or district that don’t require witnesses and where they can marry the same day.

2.  Attire

Couple’s attire can range from casual to funky chic.

3.  Photography

Most couples opting for a simple elopement may only invest in 1 hour of a photographers time, while others will snap a few selfies with their smartphone.

4.  Where will you stay?

Couples often stay in their home or drive back home the same day.

5.  Transportation

Foot, Car, bus, cab, Uber

6.  Marriage License

Same as above

7.  Officiant

Finding an officiant for a simple elopement is a lot easier.  Most couples only requirement is availability and fee.

8.  Celebration

Some couples will enjoy a great meal after the ceremony, while others will go about their day as usual.

For more information on elopement packages visit our DC Elopement page.

If you have any suggestions for this post, please share.  I will be happy to make any necessary revisions.

Wedding Officiant:  Rev. Starlene Joyner Burns

Venues:  Various Locations in the DMV

Photography credit: Starlene Joyner Burns, Startum Images (all rights reserve images: 1 – 9, 12)

Photography credits: Photographers Unknown (marriage license #10, officiant #11)

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