The Ultimate Guide to a Downtown Charleston Elopement: Romantic, Simple, and Unforgettable


With a blend of romantic history, picturesque settings, and intimate charm, the Holy City is perfect for a Downtown Charleston Elopement. As a Charleston wedding photographer, I’ve had the privilege of capturing many beautiful moments of elopement in this historic city. In this guide, I’ll share essential tips and insights for planning your Downtown Charleston elopement.

Why Choose Downtown Charleston for Your Elopement

Downtown Charleston is the heart of the city’s rich history and culture, offering endless stunning backdrops for your special day. From the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter to the panoramic waterfront views at The Battery, the city’s old-world charm creates a beautiful setting for an intimate wedding ceremony.

Steps to Elope in Downtown Charleston

Choose the Perfect Spot: Downtown Charleston is filled with enchanting locations. Whether it’s the intimate gardens of a historic home or the iconic backdrop of Broad street, select a spot that resonates with your love story.

Legalities and Logistics: Ensure you have all the necessary legal documents for an elopement in Charleston. South Carolina requires a 24-hour waiting period after obtaining your marriage license, so plan accordingly. 

Expanded Legalities and Logistics for a Charleston Elopement

To legally elope in Downtown Charleston, obtaining a marriage license from the Charleston County Courthouse is a crucial step. Here’s a detailed guide to help you navigate the process:

Application Process: Both partners must apply in person at the Charleston County Probate Court’s Marriage License Division. The application process involves completing a form and presenting valid identification such as a driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate.

Fees and Payments: As of my last knowledge, there is a fee for obtaining a marriage license in Charleston County. From the Charleston Country website, the fee as of now is $70. Be prepared to make the payment at the time of application, usually via cash, check, or credit card.

Waiting Period: South Carolina law requires a 24-hour waiting period after applying before the marriage license can be issued. Plan your elopement timeline accordingly, allowing at least one full business day between applying for and receiving your license.

Expiration and Usage: Once issued, the marriage license is valid for a specific period, often 6 months. Ensure your elopement takes place within this timeframe, and remember that the license is only valid for weddings conducted within South Carolina.

Officiant Requirements: An officiant authorized to perform weddings in South Carolina must conduct the ceremony. This can be a religious figure, a judge, or another legally recognized official. Post-ceremony, the officiant is responsible for filing the completed license with the county to legalize the marriage.

Witnesses: South Carolina law requires two witnesses at your wedding ceremony. Ensure you have this arranged, whether it’s friends, family, or even kind strangers you meet in Charleston.

Pick-up and Finalization: After the waiting period, you or your designated representative can pick up the marriage license from the courthouse. Post-wedding, ensure your officiant properly completes and returns the license to the courthouse for official recording.

Tips for a Smooth Process

Check Hours and Days of Operation: Verify the operating hours of the Charleston County Probate Court to plan your visit accordingly, especially if you’re traveling to Charleston just before your elopement.

Bring Necessary Documentation: To avoid delays, have all required documents ready. This includes IDs, proof of age, and possibly documentation of the end of previous marriages if applicable.

Plan Ahead: Given the 24-hour waiting period, it’s advisable to apply for your marriage license at least a few days before your intended elopement date to alleviate any stress or time constraints.

By understanding and preparing for these legalities and logistics, you can ensure that your Downtown Charleston elopement goes as smoothly and joyfully as possible, leaving you free to focus on the beauty and excitement of your special day.

Hire a Local Elopement Photographer: As a Charleston wedding photographer, I recommend hiring someone familiar with the area (me, wink wink) who can guide you to the most picturesque and serene spots. I’ll not only capture your moments beautifully but also help navigate the logistics of a Downtown Charleston elopement.

Plan Your Day: Even with elopements, a little planning goes a long way. Decide on the flow of your day, from the ceremony spot to a romantic dinner at one of Charleston’s renowned restaurants. Incorporate elements that make the day uniquely yours.

Consider the Timing: Think about the time of year and the time of day that will provide the setting you desire. Early morning or late afternoon offers soft light and less crowded streets, making it ideal for a more private ceremony and stunning photographs.

Making the Most of Your Elopement

Capture the Essence of Charleston: Utilize the historic and natural beauty of Charleston in your wedding photos. Iconic spots like Rainbow Row, the Pineapple Fountain, and hidden alleyways can add a magical touch to your elopement imagery.

Enjoy the Moment: An elopement is all about the two of you. Savor the intimacy and simplicity of the day, and let your love for each other shine through every detail.

Celebrate Your Way: After the ceremony, celebrate your new beginning with a carriage ride through the city, a gourmet meal, or a sunset cruise along the Charleston harbor.

A Downtown Charleston elopement is an exquisite choice for couples seeking a blend of historical romance, scenic beauty, and intimate celebration. With careful planning and a focus on what truly matters to you as a couple, you can create a memorable day that reflects the depth of your commitment and love. As your Charleston wedding photographer, I am here to capture every tender glance, every soft kiss, and every joyful moment of your beautiful elopement journey in the heart of Charleston.

By keeping these tips in mind, your Downtown Charleston elopement will be an amazing and deeply personal celebration of your love! If you are looking for an elopement photographer in the Charleston area, I would love to chat with you – or take look at some of my other work here.

with love,
Rachel Maloney