Guide to Eloping in Austin, Central Texas

Austin, Texas Elopement Guide

9/15/22

Welcome to your Austin, Texas elopement guide! Austin is a popular place to get engaged and married. I work with LOTS of couples who know almost nothing about Austin before choosing it as a destination for their elopement. I think that’s because Austin puts out a good energy, and that comes across even over the internet. 😊 Also, there are roughly one million wedding venues here. (I’m barely exaggerating)

If you get married in a city you aren’t very familiar with, you’ll need to choose vendors who can act as your guide. You’ll lean heavily on them for advice and recommendations.

If you live in Austin, maybe you haven’t considered how or where you could elope. Or, you may have a location in mind, but you’re not sure about the logistics.

This is your guide to planning your ATX elopement. Let’s dig in! πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡

  1. Imagine your experience, get to know Austin
  2. Choose your vendors + date
  3. Create a timeline, plan the details
  4. Plan other activities

What is an elopement? I define an elopement as an intimate wedding ceremony with 0-10 guests. But what’s the more exciting definition? It’s a FREAKIN AWESOME, totally personalized, fun way to get married. It’s allllll about YOU and the experience you create.

So, let’s start with Step 1…

Step 1: Imagine Your Elopement Experience

Large, traditional weddings have been done the same way for a loooooong time. Even if you personalize the small things, the big steps are always the same. Book a venue, make a guest list, send save the dates…etc.

While planning an elopement, you’ll spend much more time thinking, dreaming, and crafting the day from the ground up. Throw the rule book out the window. ✌️

Wedding Venue, Airbnb-Style Rental, or Natural Location?

When considering locations, these are the main 3 categories available in Central Texas:

  1. Wedding Venues
  2. Airbnb-Style Rentals
  3. Natural Locations (like state parks)

There are pros and cons to each, so ask yourselves these questions to determine your priorities:

  • How private do we want our elopement to be? (Venues are totally private, whiles parks don’t guarantee privacy.)
  • Do we imagine getting married indoors or outdoors?
  • Would we like to spend the night on the same property?

Wedding Venues

Even though it may feel traditional (the word many couples try to avoid 😬) , there are benefits to a wedding venue:

  • A venue will know how to handle your wedding-specific requests.
  • There’s likely two rooms dedicated to getting ready or hanging out before the ceremony.
  • There will be obvious, photo-worthy areas on the property.

If you want to lower the cost of renting a venue, the key is to choose a venue that offers hourly rentals instead of full day access to the venue (scroll to the end to read my venue recs!)

Airbnb-Style Rentals

Some of the most beautiful views of the hill country are privately owned. Scroll through Airbnb or Peerspace, and you’ll be blown away by the options. 🀯

These homes and private properties are sometimes as expensive as wedding venues, but it’s worth looking into!

Double check the rules of the rental company and the specific property. For example, Airbnb doesn’t allow parties, but depending on the property owner, you may be able to elope at an Airbnb. Also, if you find a home on Airbnb, check to see if they have their own website or a way to contact them directly.

Austin, Texas Elopement Guide

Natural Outdoor Locations

I personally loooooove elopements in nature. There’s nothing more freeing than saying your vows while watching the sun rise over the hills. Getting married outdoors speaks to the adventurous spirit of many couples. It gets back to the true purpose and appeal of eloping. It’s all about you. It’s simple and peaceful.

There are several stunning state parks around Austin. They each offer a unique landscape and experience. And don’t worry! Most of these locations require little hiking, but you should be prepared to get some dirt on your dress.

Public parks do present their own challenges, but with the right planning, it’s totally doable. Work with your planner/photographer to decide the best time of day to avoid crowds and find good lighting. Do your research on the necessary reservations or permits that should be secured.

The bottom of this blog includes a list of my favorite natural areas for elopements.

Downtown Austin, Texas Elopement

Regions of Austin

This is where your local vendors can step in! If you’ve never been to Austin, it’s hard to know where to get married, where to stay, and what to do while you’re here. Let’s break down the main regions of Austin where you’ll find elopement locations.

  • Hill Country – This is a huge part of what makes Austin and Central Texas special. If you want photos that feature Austin’s landscape, look in the hill country! The hills begin on the west side of Austin, west of the Mopac highway. This part of town, along with the suburbs of Westlake, Driftwood, and Dripping Springs are all pretty. Beyond that is Fredericksburg, Wimberley, Blanco, and Canyon Lake. This region is where you’ll find vineyards.
  • Downtown – Austin has such a cool downtown! It’s a large city, but it’s small enough to get your bearings. It’s a walkable downtown, and there are plenty of Lyfts available at all times. You’ll find most elopement locations at hotels along the river and along South Congress Avenue, a historic and now trendy area just south of the river. Many hotels have a cool, mid-century, vintage style. Eloping downtown requires some extra thought and planning. You’ll be in public and around people most of the time, so it’s not the best area for couples who want a private experience.
  • East Austin – When you hear people say “Keep Austin Weird”, they’re talking about East Austin! Look for locations east of I-35, and between the river and 51st Street. You’ll find quirky and eclectic vibes, hole in the wall gems, and old homes turned into unique restaurants and event venues.

Most other areas of Texas feature endless barn venues, but in Austin, you’ll find a variety of different styles. (Sorry, Texas. You know it’s true. There are A LOT of barns.)

Unless you plan to stay downtown the whole time, I recommend renting a car or arranging to have your own car available. Most locations and recommendations on this blog require a car.

Canyon Lake Elopement. Guide to eloping in Central Texas

Step 2: Choose Your Vendors… in this order!

First, choose a venue and photographer, and book them around the same time. Contact your photographer and be sure they’re a good fit BEFORE you officially book a venue and finalize your date.

Pause for a sec to read that sentence again.πŸ‘† It’s important.

Photographers tend to book larger weddings 9-16 months in advance, and elopements tend to happen more quickly. If you finalize your date before talking to your dream photographer, they may not be available.

Consider getting married on a weekday! Your vendors will have more availability, and public locations will be less crowded.

After your venue and photographer, book vendors in this order:

  • Planner – I always recommend hiring a planner for larger weddings, but it’s optional for elopements. If you’ll have guests, multiple locations, vendors to coordinate, or permits to acquire, than having a planner is a great idea. If you don’t hire a planner, your photographer will act as your planner, so BE SURE to choose someone who knows the area well, can make recommendations, and can make a timeline for you.
  • Officiant – Choose an officiant or company that has experience with small elopements.
  • Hair & Makeup – You could go into a salon, but it’s a more personal experience to have a H&M artist come to you. If you’re paying for your ceremony location hourly, I don’t recommend doing H&M at that location, unless you’re willing to pay for an extra 2+ hours.
  • Florist – Even if all you need is one bouquet, it’s nice to work with a florist.
Austin, Texas Elopement Guide

Step 3: Plan Your Timeline + The Details

Even for small weddings and elopements, I always make a timeline! I want to be sure everyone’s on the same page. What time should hair & makeup end? How much time do you need to drive between locations? How much downtime and alone time do you want to have?

The more details you determine early on, the more smooth your day will go! Even though we’ll spend months thinking about the small things, on your elopement day, you shouldn’t ever need to worry about the timeline. Leave that to your photographer/planner. Your only job is to enjoy yourselves.

Do you have a specific, creative idea? Talk with your photographer about it! They may present you with ideas too. That’s the great thing about elopements. There’s room for personalization and creativity!

Austin, Texas Elopement Guide

Step 4: Plan More Activities!

After you’ve planned most of your elopement day, think about activities you can do on the other days you’re in town. Make a list of things you’d like to do and restaurants you’d like to visit. Make reservations, and don’t wing it!

Fun ideas:

  • kayak on Lady Bird Lake
  • rent a vintage boat on Lady Bird Lake
  • hike at Pedernales Falls, McKinney Falls, Enchanted Rock, Hamilton Pool, or Blue Hole (Wimberley)
  • get a day pass at a fancy hotel pool
  • spend the night at Horseshoe Bay Resort
  • spend the night at Commodore Perry Estate
  • treat yourselves to a spa day or ride horses at Miraval
  • tour wineries in the hill country
  • have a nice dinner at Lamberts, Uchi, Hestia, Juliet, or Dai Due

For couples who live in Austin, try to take a few days off from work, and make it a fun stay-cashion. I KNOW there are places on your ATX bucket list you haven’t check off yet.

Book a hotel or Airbnb that’s near your elopement location.

This is also a good time to double check the legal requirements to get married in Austin. Based on my latest research, you’ll need a marriage license that is between 3-90 days old. You don’t need a witness to sign your marriage license, but you do need an ordained officiant to sign.

Horseshoe Bay Resort. Austin, Texas Elopement Guide

Vendor Recommendations

Wedding Venues

State Parks and Natural Locations

These areas are public, but require advanced reservations and sometimes permits to get married there.

  • Pedernales Falls State Park – in the morning
  • McKinney Falls State Park – in the morning
  • Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Lake Travis – lots of small parks
  • Enchanted Rock (Fredericksburg)
  • Landa Park (New Braunfels)

As a side note – I don’t recommend getting married at Mount Bonnell or the 360 Overlook. You’ll probably see them mentioned online, but these are some of the most popular tourist spots in town. They get extremely crowded on most days with nice weather.

Downtown + Urban Locations

Photographer

  • Lauren Garrison Photography (Hi! πŸ‘‹ I’m the one writing this)

Officiants

Florists

Austin Elopement Venues. Austin, Texas Elopement Guide

Of course, there’s more that goes into planning an elopement, but this should get you started! Your vendors will take over from here. And by the way, I’d love to be one of them! I’m an Austin based wedding, elopement, and proposal photographer. I’ve been photographing weddings for over 10 years. Every day, I work with couples, helping them get to know Austin and plan an experience just for them.

Austin, Texas Elopement Guide – Photographer's Advice

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