Elopement Planning 101: building your vendor team

Mar 8, 2021

Elopement Resources


Welcome to Elopement Planning 101: a series where we’ll dive into how to plan your elopement with 8 key steps and considerations.

Each of these blog posts is also a podcast episode. You can listen to The Elopement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play.

Elopement Planning 101: building your elopement vendor team

Building a solid team of vendors is one of the key pieces of your elopement planning process, and when done correctly, will eliminate a ton of stress.

Alright! Let’s gooooooo! I’ve got a couple of housekeeping notes before we get into today’s post. Most of the time, “primary” vendors (vendors who are booked before others, typically) have other preferred vendors that they’re happy to refer you to – which is incredibly helpful in getting started if you choose to book your vendors all on your own. Personally, I offer the booking of a few select vendors within my services, and they’re the people I know will take care of my clients like I do. Referrals are always a great place to start, regardless.

If you’re looking to find additional vendors on your own, though, we have to talk about something else before you do. And that is…the “B” word…and by B word I mean, BUDGET. A lot of times, folks will come to vendors with a set number in their head of what they’re “willing” to spend, based off of arbitrary things they’ve read, seen, or a vendor their sister/best friend hired 5 years ago. Sometimes, it’s in line with industry averages, but often times it’s not. So before we get into this, I want to remind everyone that the folks who are in the wedding industry are usually self employed, run their businesses on their own entirely, and have costs associated with running that business beyond what most people think of. The reason it’s important for us to touch on this, is because it’s easy to say “that’s too expensive” when you’ve already set a “budget” in your mind — but when you take a step back, remember the unknown costs associated with each vendor’s business, and see them as the individuals they are, you can have a better grasp on the costs associated with their services. And ultimately – you’re looking to hire an expert for something you can’t (or don’t want to) do.

Additionally, there are some things you should just straight up avoid when you’re on the hunt for a vendor in any of the categories we’ll be going over. We (vendors!) see Facebook posts all the time asking for referrals for vendors who “don’t cost an arm and a leg!” Or are “budget friendly” — And I’m going to be really frank with you: that is the most annoying and offensive approach someone could take. It’s subjective, for one — I have no idea what dollar amount an arm and a leg costs, or what budget friendly means if you don’t tell me your budget. Secondly, it’s hurtful for the reasons we just discussed: these are people with businesses, run entirely on their own. It’s insulting to insinuate that if they’re outside of your budget, they’re not worth it. So! If there is an exact budget you’re looking to stay within, there’s nothing wrong with saying so. But also know, that until you dig in and start sending emails, it’s hard to say if your budget is in line with industry standards.

One last point on this topic before we get into the nitty gritty: 9 times out of 10: you get what you pay for. Every vendor can attest that they have lost clients to other vendors who may charge less than they do. That’s just the way it goes because some people prefer designer handbags while others are cool with the same purse they bought at TJ max 3 years ago.

At the end of the day: if you vibe with who you hire, have taken the time to get to know them (and them, you!), and you like their work — you’re probably in good hands. Ultimately, I will always recommend shopping for vendors based on more than your budget.

Cooper & Kate | Elopement | Finals | 010.jpg

The top 5 vendors most people book: 

Hair & Makeup Artist
…and about 50% of my clients hire a Videographer

There are others to consider, but know that for the most part, folks will choose these 5 primarily. 

When searching for vendors, it’s a great idea to make a list of priorities, inspiration (we love Pinterest) and check out their review sites on Google, the Knot, Wedding Wire, etc. Additionally, there are blogs like Wandering Weddings, as I mentioned above for vendor resources, and most areas have local blogs of that scale. I’m a member of Tahoe Unveiled, which is another amazing resource for finding vendors locally! They have a very curated list of vendors for each category and are so supportive. 

Here are the things to consider with each of the top 5 vendors couples book for their elopements.



  • What’s their editing style, and do you like it? Be sure to ask to see full galleries to see what a whole day edited looks like!

  • Posing: candid or more rigid? Classic or carefree?

  • Can they help with locations, timeline? This is where working with an elopement specialist can be helpful! In my experience, most traditional wedding photographers don’t consistently create timelines for their clients, as a great deal of them have a wedding planner or coordinator. Timelines are the guideline which we follow on the day of, and super important to setting the stage for a successful and stress free day.

  • Blogs about hiring a traditional wedding photographer will tell you to ask the following questions, but they’re less applicable to elopements: do you have a second shooter, how many images do we get?

blake & wills | 001.jpg


  • Have they worked with your photographer before? This isn’t a deal breaker, but it is beneficial to the day if your vendors have a good rapport already. Everyone has a different approach to creating content from a wedding day, which is why it can be a bonus to hire people who work together often.

  • What’s their style? Ask to see a full wedding video. Make sure their sound quality is good – that is a huuuuuge piece to not overlook.

  • What deliverables will you get with the quote you’re given? — ie, full video, highlight video, ceremony video, etc

Kelly & Adam | Elopement | Finals | 131.jpg


  • Is it a custom ceremony or a standard scripted one?

  • Do you want to write your own vows, and do they offer any guidance there?

  • Are you looking for a specific denomination? 

  • If you’re NOT looking to hire an officiant but want to make sure you have an amazing ceremony, you can always reach out to officiants you think you’d vibe with and hire them for a coaching session with your chosen officiant. We’ll dive into this on our episode with Meredith, but this is a great thing to remember. 

  • Can they work in the state you’re getting married?



Hair & makeup:

  • Ask to see past work!

  • Check tagged photos on instagram.

  • Do you want a trial, if so how much is that? 

  • Is there a travel fee, or minimum? Sometimes, HMUAs will have a minimum cost for weddings – which again, is why it can be super helpful to work with elopement specific vendors.  

rachel & alex sneak peeks 052.jpg


  • Send your inspo and ask if the flowers you want will be in season

  • Understand offseason stems are expensive & might be a little bit more effort to get!

  • Can they deliver your florals the day of, or do you need to coordinate pickup?

Your vendors on your elopement day are ultimately the people who will guide you into this next season of your life. They should be fun to spend time with, understand the energy you’d like to maintain on the day of, be willing to help (nothing irks me more than when people say “that’s not my job!” – not because they should bend over backwards to do what they weren’t hired for, but because a can-do spirit is “I’m not able to do this, but how can I help you find the person who can?!” and that will give you so much peace throughout your experience. Find your people, and everything will fall into place just about perfectly.


Don’t forget to check out the full Elopement Planning 101 series on the podcast, and head to the blog for more elopements, tips, and resources. Still in need of a photographer or help planning your elopement in Lake Tahoe? Reach out!

Ruthanne is an Elopement Photographer & Expert based in Lake Tahoe, California. She specializes in elopements inspired by the beautify and elegance of the High Sierra mountains, but you can find her all over the west at any time. She lives in Truckee, California where she was born & raised, with her husband Demetri & Australian Shepherd, Sasha. 


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