Small wedding celebrations are becoming increasingly popular, not just for people running off to elope in Vegas but for couples of all ages, financial statuses, and life paths. If you're planning to elope or have a micro wedding in Virginia, this blog post is the perfect resource for you. Learn why small weddings are here to stay and the important details you need to know when eloping in Virginia.

The Benefits of Eloping

Newlywed couple does an Elopement Cheers at Baldface Mountain Overlook in Virginia
Photo Credit: Kara Leigh Creative

Maybe you started planning a big wedding and quickly realized it was a party for everyone but you. Or you started adding up the cost of a big wedding and were like – “this is a downpayment on a house.” Or maybe you just always dreamed of having an experience for your wedding day rather than an event. 

However you arrived at the conclusion that a small wedding was for you, just know that your day is not any less important or special than someone planning a big wedding. In fact, there are some serious benefits of eloping. 

Benefit 1: No Set Plans

You get to plan a day that perfectly reflects you and your love story. Big weddings typically follow templates. You do A, then B, then C. You invite everyone you know and maybe some people you don’t know, but your parents do. After the wedding you have a reception centered around dancing. And that’s totally fine! Those can be incredible celebrations. 

But for a lot of couples, that template doesn’t fit. Maybe you’re a little more introverted and the idea of being the center of attention for 150 people does not fill you with joy. Or maybe you would rather have a five course dinner party than a big dance party. Or maybe you would rather have a once-in-a-lifetime experience like a hot air balloon ride or helicopter ride. 

Eloping allows you to throw out the wedding “script” and craft a day that feels completely, authentically you rather than simply defaulting to what everyone else does. 

Benefit 2: Saving Money

The thing that will drive up costs the most quickly for your wedding is how many people you have. The more guests there are, the bigger the venue you need, the more food you need, the more entertainment and chairs and tables and decor you need etc. etc. etc. But keeping it small doesn’t mean “cheap.” Often keeping it small means you can pivot from having a very generic affair for 150 to a boutique affair for 15. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in 2022 was $30,000. Dollar for dollar, if you take that same budget and spend it on a small group, it goes a LOT farther. And honestly, you don’t remotely need $30,000 to have an absolutely unforgettably unique small wedding. 

Benefit 3: Less Stress

Planning a big wedding is – a lot. And it can be epic. But it can also be super stressful. Pairing down your guestlist or pivoting to a simple day filled with only the things and people you truly want to be there, often means less stress in the weeks and months leading up to your wedding day. Honestly, if you are second guessing why are we even doing this?? Then eloping might be right for you. 

The Basics of Eloping in Virginia

Newlyweds after elopement at Humpback Rocks off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Photo Credit: Kara Leigh Creative

Legally, it’s pretty simple to elope in Virginia. Virginia is a no wait state. So once you decide to get married, just go to the courthouse, get your marriage license (you both have to be there), and locate a legally-recognized officiant. No witnesses necessary. No need to wait, you can get married on the same day, if you’d like. But your marriage license does expire after 60 days if you don’t use it before then. 

How to Choose the Perfect Elopement Venue

Elopement setup for Quirk Hotel Rooftop in Charlottesville
Photo Credit: Kara Leigh Creative

Most of my couples elope in Shenandoah National Park or off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. But Virginia is home to 41 state parks and two national forests. Additionally, a whole wealth of venues have cropped up in the last few years that are either exclusively geared toward micro weddings or offer micro wedding/elopement packages. 

Vacation rentals like VRBO or Airbnb are also really popular for smaller groups. Just keep in mind that Airbnb banned events in 2020 and has not reinstituted that feature, so if you are using Airbnb for your elopement, make sure your elopement is family-only or “dinner-focused” rather than “party-focused.” 

When looking for a venue consider: 

  • If it’s a public space, how many other people will be around? Shenandoah National Park, for example, is becoming a very popular elopement destination. So, I highly recommend weekday elopements there whenever possible. Additionally, choosing sunrise over sunset will maximize your possibility for getting a spot to yourself. There are also low times and high times in the park. October and November are two of the busiest months in the park. Meanwhile September is a great time to visit. People with school-aged children are focused on back-to-school and people who are coming in to see the leaf changes aren’t there yet. 
  • If you’re looking for privacy in a natural public space, consider a state park or natural area over Shenandoah. Places like Grayson Highlands State Park and Hungry Mother State Park are incredibly beautiful but don’t have the volume of visitors you see at a national park. 
  • Many venues that offer micro wedding packages only have them Monday-Thursday. If you find a venue you absolutely love, ask! They might be able to create one for you.
  • If you are looking for a vacation rental to host your micro wedding, take off dates when searching. You might find exactly the venue you are looking for if you can be flexible with when you get married. 

Five Places in Virginia to Consider for Your Elopement

Two newlywed women overlook the Franklin Cliffs at Shenandoah National Park
Photo Credit: Kara Leigh Creative

#1 Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is the top destination for eloping in Virginia – with good reason. It’s incredibly beautiful and easy to access cities like Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, and Staunton for vendors and after-ceremony celebrations. 

#2 Grayson Highlands 

Truly this place is magical. There isn’t the volume of large Airbnbs/VRBOs near Grayson Highlands like there is near Shenandoah, but for a two-person elopement or very small wedding, it’s perfect. You have epic vistas, mountain ponies, and beautiful meadows. 

#3 Charlottesville

Home to almost countless vineyards, breweries, great restaurants, Mountain views, and breathtaking vacation rentals, Charlottesville is a great place to use as a home base for a destination elopement. 

#4 Roanoke

Get married on the Blue Ridge Parkway, hike up to McAfee’s Knob, or book a small wedding venue. Roanoke is a beautiful jumping-off point for small weddings in southwestern Virginia

#5 Richmond

Whether you want to get married in a garden at Maymont or Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, elope on Belle Isle, or rent a unique venue like the Historic Polegreen Church, Richmond is the perfect place for an urban elopement. 

How to Make Your Elopement Special

Blackrock Summit Wedding Elopement at Sunset
Photo Credit: Kara Leigh Creative

Honestly the possibilities are endless. But here is an exercise I ask my couples to do that helps them identify what actually matters to them. Take the word “wedding” or “elopement” out of it. If you were going to celebrate you and your partner – what would a perfect day look like? Who would be there? What would you do? What would you eat? How you spend your time? Make a date night out of it and just brainstorm together! Once you have a loose vision for your day, you know what to focus on. But if you need help getting started here are a few ideas:

  • Hire a private chef and have a beautifully catered backyard dinner under string lights
  • Wake up before dawn and hike up to an overlook for incredible sunrise portraits 
  • Go on a hot air balloon or private plane ride 
  • Book a weekend at one of Virginia’s five star resorts and be pampered all weekend 
  • Plan a weekend of activities: do a horseback riding tour of a vineyard, go skiing, rent a pontoon boat and enjoy a lake weekend, go on a river float


With so many options for elopements, you can create a wedding day that is unique and perfect for you. Eloping in Virginia provides you with a gorgeous backdrop and lots of options. Now you have all the information you need to ensure your elopement is perfect for your dream day.

Kara Ardron runs Kara Leigh Creative, a wedding photography and videography company that focuses on intimate wedding and elopement photography. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Roanoke with her two kids, two dogs, and college sweetheart.