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PEC Elopement Guide: Locations and Checklist

October 1, 2020

You’re thinking about eloping in Prince Edward County, but you’re wondering how do I go about this? What are the legal requirements of getting married in Ontario? What are the steps I need to take to make this thing official? How do I make my epic Prince Edward County elopement dreams a reality? Consider this Prince Edward County Elopement Guide your go-to source on all things eloping in Prince Edward County (PEC). We’ll talk through the best places to elope, how to get your marriage license and marriage certificate, who can marry you, how many witnesses you’ll need, as well as recommending some of our favourite PEC wedding vendors. 

What is an elopement? 

An elopement in Ontario (and PEC specifically) is two people, in love, wanting to make a commitment to each other in marriage, an officiant, and two witnesses (that can be us!). You can choose this very intimate elopement style, or include a few more people (typically 10 or less) and make it a micro-wedding. You can choose to share a celebration with your extended family and friends before or after your elopement, or not at all. That’s the beauty of an elopement, everything is up to you!

If this sounds like your jam, keep reading for the nitty gritty on how to get this done. For some inspiration check out this Romantic Drake Devonshire Elopement.

Why Elope in Prince Edward County

Prince Edward County is full of sand dune beaches, fields of wildflowers, rocky beaches and more wineries, cideries and microbreweries than you can count. You will find luxury bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels and a mix of other unique properties, sure to fit your style and vision. Our favourite thing about PEC is the mix of incredible talent and down to earth people. As an example, our favourite gourmet fry stand run by Chef Jamie Kennedy is located out in the middle of nowhere on a farm, and you can stand and have an actual conversation with the chef while he creates your meal. Click here for our Top 6 Places for Foodies in PEC.

What are the steps in planning your Prince Edward County Elopement?

Book your PEC Elopement Photographer

First off, get a sense of what style of photography you gravitate toward. Are you looking for a documentary-style with lots of candid shots, or a more posed, traditional style? Have a look through some of the PEC elopement photographers on google, or ask your friends/family for recommendations. Go through each photographers’ website and see if you connect with their content, with their shooting style, and with their personality. Reach out early! PEC photographers often book up to 9-12 months in advance. If you’re considering a midweek wedding (which we discuss more here) you may have more flexibility with your dates. Once you’ve decided on your photographer, you can dive head first into the next step!

Plan your vision

Let’s work together to plan your vision. Are you an early riser or a night owl? Would you prefer to see the sun rise or watch it sink below the horizon. If you’re looking for an epic portrait, we’re planning around the light which will mean we will schedule your ceremony and portraits within the hour after sunrise, or the hour before sunset. Working with your photographer you will ensure your location takes advantage of the soft light at your chosen time of day. 

Choose a location

There are so many beautiful locations in Prince Edward County. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the choices we’ll narrow it down together based on a few criteria (light/access/cost). 

Light/Access

When you consider your location, think about opening times. If you’re hoping to elope at a Provincial Park, for instance Sandbanks Provincial Park, we’ll need to check the opening times and plan around those. In the middle of the summertime Sandbanks doesn’t open until 8am (by which time the sun will be high in the sky and no longer soft and golden). We’ll also want to consider how busy your location is, depending on the time of year. If you’re looking at a winter beach wedding you’ll likely have the beach all to yourself, however schedule your elopement for any time between June – September and you may have to consider other visitors. We love sunrise elopements because even at the height of the summer season you can typically have the beach/ flower field/ vineyard to yourself.

Cost

Do you need a permit to get married at your chosen location? For the most part you are able to get married easily at the following locations without a permit, however as we finalize details of your elopement vision we will cover all associated permits/costs. 

bride and groom on the beach at sunrise with there wind blowing the wedding dress while the bride laughs

Our favourite elopement locations in Prince Edward County

Wellington Rotary Beach

Wellington Rotary Beach is a hugely popular beach on Lake Ontario. Conveniently located in the center of the town of Wellington, Prince Edward County, this beach fills up with visitors throughout the day in the busy season. It is best suited to a sunrise elopement. Imagine saying your vows with the waves of Lake Ontario crashing in the background. You do not need a special permit to elope on Wellington Rotary Beach. There is no fee to visit the beach at sunrise, you can find all the details here. See more images of this beach in our Romantic Elopement at Drake Devonshire post.

Sandbanks Dune Beach, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks Dune Beach is the most iconic beach in Prince Edward County. With sweeping dunes reaching down to the water this beach fills up very quickly during the busy season of June – September. The park marshals restrict entrance once capacity is reached so it would work best as an early morning ceremony site, unless you’re planning for off-season May/October. Keep in mind opening times, you can find those details here.

North Beach Provincial Park

This lesser known Provincial Park has two beach options, one facing Lake Ontario, and one in a protected inlet. It is typically less busy than Sandbanks Dune Beach and Wellington Rotary Beach. North Beach is an excellent option for a sunset elopement early in the busy season (e.g. June), and on weeknights. If you’d like to read more about why you should elope midweek click here. You can find more information about North Beach Provincial Park here.

Little Bluff Conservation Area

With striking rocky cliffs Little Bluff Conservation Area is the most remote option listed here. You have the option of saying your vows up high over the water, or on the rocky beach by the crystal clear lake. Little Bluff is visited mostly by locals until late June, and after August so can be a good option for sunrise or sunset. You can find more information about Little Bluff here.

Lake-On-The-Mountain

This Lake, on the top of the hill (which is mind boggling), is really peaceful and a beautiful spot for a sunrise or sunset elopement. Keep in mind that in high-season you will meet many other visitors midday – evening. You can wander the grounds, then pop over the The Miller House for a celebratory toast. Find more information about Lake-on-The-Mountain here.

Lake-side vacation properties (e.g. along Lake Ontario in Wellington, Lake Consecon, etc)

An insider tip is to carefully consider where you’ll stay in PEC. Many of the incredible accommodations have their own properties which you can use as an elopement site (e.g. the Owner’s Suite balcony at the Drake Devonshire; the deck at The Lakeside Motel; the hundreds of lakeside Airbnbs). Check out this post for some of our favourite accommodations in PEC.

Keep in mind, the majority of our elopement couples have no idea where they’d like to get married before they contact us. These are some of the most popular places to elope in Prince Edward County, if you don’t see a location that fits your vision listed here don’t worry. Learning about you and crafting a unique experience is a big part of our role as your elopement photographer. Be sure to click the button below and contact us, we love to share hidden County gems with our elopement couples. 

What is the best time of year to elope in Prince Edward County?

This comes back to your vision and your priorities. Do you want to be secluded and have the space to yourself, or are you happy to have strangers walking by? Are you hoping for a delicate barely there dress, or happy to incorporate a layer (jean jacket, oversize knit)? High season is PEC is late-June to early-September. During this time you will find that all businesses are open, and are pretty booked up! Early June and late September can make for beautiful weather, and less crowds, especially if you book midweek. 

5 reasons to consider a weekday elopement in Prince Edward County

One of the first things we ask our elopement couples to consider is getting married midweek. Especially if you have your heart set on warm weather we always recommend visiting PEC Monday- Thursday. Here are our top reasons why:

1. Privacy

If you’re planning a sunrise elopement it’s unlikely you’ll meet many other people, irrespective of your location in Prince Edward County. The County does not tend to rise early. However, if you have your heart set on a sunset elopement many of the popular locations will have a steady stream of visitors all weekend long. 

2. Traffic/ Park Capacity

Let’s be honest, driving in the County is no match for gridlock on the 401, however the main thoroughfares into the County (County Roads 62, 33 & 49) build up significant volume Friday – Sunday in June – September. Likewise, once the Provincial Parks reach capacity for the day they stop letting in additional people. This happens earlier and earlier each year, in 2020 there were many weekend days where Sandbanks and Wellington Rotary Beach reached capacity before 11 AM.

3. Easier Reservations

I am going to keep repeating this, because it’s important, you MUST check the opening times of the places you want to visit. We have many restaurants that close on a Tuesday or a Wednesday due to lower visitors, however on the whole it’s easier to make reservations for everything from accommodation to restaurants, to winery tours, midweek. 

4. Vendor Availability

This is always true, but especially so in 2021 due to Covid 19 postponements from 2020, you will have more vendors available for a midweek elopement. Many PEC wedding vendors are booked up to 12 – 18 months in advance. If you book midweek you will have a better chance of working with all the vendors you have your heart set on! Click here for Prince Edward County’s top 5 Florists.

5. Slow down and enjoy your surroundings

Plan for 5- 7 days in the County. We did this for our own wedding (in Ireland in 2013) and we always recommend this to friends, family and our couples. If you budget enough time for your elopement and a mini-moon you’ll be able to experience The County fully and not feel like you have to rush through all the highlights. For instance, arrive on a Monday (fresh from the weekend), Elope on a Tuesday, take time to visit the beaches, the wineries and the local shops on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Make your reservations for restaurants on the weekend while you visit midweek and return home Sunday morning with plenty of time to get organized for the week ahead. 

Prince Edward County Elopement Guide Checklist

Book your photographer.

Start here. Your photographer will be essential in planning the location and timing of your elopement in PEC. Working with a local PEC elopement photographer will help in securing your dream vendor team and ensuring your day runs smoothly. 

Create your vision.

As mentioned above, take some time, just the two of you, to craft your vision for your PEC elopement. What elements of the day are most important to you? Is it the ceremony site/light/privacy, or is it the activities that follow? Will it be just you two, your officiant and two witnesses, or would you like to incorporate a few more people? 

Pick your Prince Edward County location.

Once you’ve created your vision, we will work together to find a location that fits your criteria. We will meet for a coffee/wine in person, or on Facetime to hash out all the details to ensure your epic PEC adventure comes together. 

Book your travel. 

Prince Edward County books up fast, oftentimes 9-12 months in advance. Though you’ll have more latitude if you book midweek you’ll still want to book early to get the location/ accommodation and culinary adventures you are envisioning. This is even more important if you’re hoping to elope on the grounds of your accommodation. 

Book your Prince Edward County wedding vendors. 

An officiant is a legal-must. Most of our couples book hair/make-up artists, florist, and a cafe/restaurant/winery tour as a minimum. This is where working with a local PEC elopement photographer is especially helpful, we can recommend vendors that match your design aesthetic, personality and compliment the whole vibe of your day. 
Check out this post for our top recommended Prince Edward County Wedding Officiants and this one for the Top Florists in PEC.

Plan your ceremony, activities and details. 

We can work with you and your officiant to create a ceremony that represents you as a couple, incorporating activities that are special to your relationship. Your ceremony is the most important aspect of the day. Take some time to brainstorm how you want it to feel, what kind of vows will you have, how long will it be, will you incorporate music or poetry? 

Once you decide (together) an outline for your vows, take the time to write them down in a nice notebook. There’s nothing worse than attempting to read your vows as your single sheet of paper flaps in the wind off Lake Ontario, or to have the blue light from your iphone screen illuminating your face during this sacred moment. 

Apply for and obtain your marriage license. 

In Ontario you must apply for your marriage license ahead of your Prince Edward County Elopement. You can print the forms at home (found here) and fill them out, then bring them to your local City Hall. There is a fee to submit your forms and you are required to get married within 90 days of receiving your marriage license. Your marriage must be performed by a regulated official (click here for a complete list) to be valid in Ontario. Keep in mind the actual signing of the papers with an officiant can happen before, during or after your elopement! This is the beautiful thing about elopements, you can customize the options to fit your dream.

Let’s get you married!

It’s your Prince Edward County elopement day and you are able to be fully present. You have a day of magic ahead of you and you get to experience it fully, knowing all those moments will be captured to preserve, revisit and share with family and friends. 

Marriage certificate. 

Don’t forget this final step! After the marriage license, after the vows, after the signing, submit your paperwork and obtain a marriage certificate. Full details can be found here.

Thank you for reading all the way through the Prince Edward County Elopement Guide! We can’t wait to hear all about your elopement vision, pop over to our contact form and tell us all about it!

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