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Shelly Pate

How to Elope in Washington, DC

Couple embraces under tidal basin cherry blossoms

There’s a lot of buzz right now in the wedding world about “Adventure Elopements” and what exactly they are. Couples see these fantastic photos taken in remote mountainsides and they think there’s no way that they can afford that.

The truth is, an adventure elopement can be done anywhere you live! If you are local to the DC Metro Area or its your destination wedding location, here are my best tips for how to elope in Washington, DC!

Self-Officiate Your Elopement

Bride recites vows at washington DC elopement

One of the best things about a Washington, DC elopement is that you can marry yourself. A self-uniting marriage is where the couple can get married without the presence of a third party officiant.

You don’t need anything but your love, and whatever else you desire to make your elopement day special. Such as an elopement photographer ; ).

Washington, DC is in addition to only nine states that offer self-uniting marriages. Only one of you needs to sign the marriage certificate. Getting to sign the license is special because generally only the officiant signs and in most states that is not the couple.

I’ve photographed couples who’ve had a few friends join them for getting ready in the morning but they kept it just them for the ceremony. Besides some simple but gorgeous florals the ceremony was just the couple and me!

Apply for a Marriage License

Bride and groom kiss holding marriage license at elopement

To get legally elope in Washington, DC on your own you will need to apply for your marriage license. In this amazing and diverse city, you can literally get married anywhere you wish completely on your own.

Due to COVID-19, the Washington, DC Marriage Bureau is processing marriage applications remotely. Until further notice, they will not be processing them in person. Details on how to apply can be found here.

You will be required to show proof of age for both of you through one of the following documents: US valid driver’s license, government-issued non-driver’s ID, or passport. The online marriage license application can be found by clicking here and you can self-officiate by selecting “self-officiant.”

All else that is needed in filling out a marriage application is the application fee ($35) plus $10.00 ($45 total) for printing the Certificate of Marriage. It can take up to five business days for processing before your marriage license is issued. Once it is issued, it does not expire.

The Marriage Bureau is open from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM EST on weekdays and located in the Moultrie Courthouse, JM 690 (500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Room 4485) and can be reached at (202) 879-4840. If you have more questions about this process, I’m happy to help!

Choose a Location That’s Meaningful to YOU

Bride and groom hold hands at washington dc war memorial

With marriage license in hand, you two are set to get married. All that’s left is to choose a location! Rather than standing in long lines to do an elopement at the courthouse, you can instead have a heartfelt, intimate ceremony with just the two of you at the elopement location of your choice.

Weddings should be a celebration of your love and should reflect what you want on your wedding day. If you ultimately decide to get married in your own own backyard. Go for it! As long as it is a location that is meaningful to you!

Whether it’s beneath a beautiful ivy-covered tree in your own backyard, at your favorite coffee shop, or in a nearby forest, be sure to do your ceremony your own way!

Become man and wife, take your first dance in your backyard, and then sign your marriage license by firelight with a champagne toast. Simple. Perfect. Beautiful.

As you have been pouring your love into each other, extend that outpouring to the details of your elopement day: decorating and designing it as a personal reflection of the two of you!

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