It’d be easy to pigeonhole Philadelphia as a cheesesteak town filled with overeager sports fans, but if you’re looking to elope on the East Coast, don’t sleep on the City of Brotherly Love. For one thing, its long history as a hub of manufacturing means the place is crawling with those authentically hip, industrial-chic venues (a barrel factory! A yarn-dyeing factory!) that are cool without even trying. Plus, it’s home to the “World’s Largest Outdoor Art Gallery” in the form of more than 3,800 murals—hello, photo ops! Of course, America’s Birthplace of Independence is packed with historic monuments and structures—Independence Hall, the First Bank, the Betsy Ross House—and it’s just as full of incredible restaurants, street festivals, and nightlife. From the world-class Reading Terminal Market food hall to the bevy of James Beard Award-nominated restaurants, it’s made a name for itself as a foodie town. But the best reason to elope here? You can marry yourselves. (Yes, really.) More on that below.
Best Time of Year to Visit
May - October
While Philadelphia’s snow-covered streets are certainly magical during the winter, the city really comes alive in the spring and summer, when the rooftop bars reopen, street festivals crop up on the reg, and it feels like every restaurant has suddenly turned into a sidewalk café. When the city’s in bloom, there’s nothing nicer than visiting the Shofuso Japanese House and Gardens, biking past the cherry blossom trees on the banks of Schuylkill River, or sitting under the flowering magnolias in Rittenhouse Square. While things do heat up in July and August, the city’s proximity to two rivers makes it easy to catch a breeze. And when the weather is just a bit crisper and the leaves turn golden, there’s no better place to be than strolling every cobblestone alley in the city.
Pro tip: May in Philadelphia is lovely, but if you’re planning your visit for the first weekend that month, you’ll likely overlap with the Broad Street Run, a 40,000-person 10-mile jaunt that runs smack down the center of the city (read: lots of roads closed). Given that Philly is the Birthplace of Independence, it takes July 4th pretty seriously—which is great if you love fireworks, not so great if you like navigating the city without getting stuck behind a parade. And while you may be tempted to time your wedding to a convenient long weekend like Labor Day, here’s your head’s up that Made In America—a giant, two-day music festival—takes over the parkway and causes quite the traffic ruckus.
It’s not often you come across an elopement photographer who melds a documentary-style approach with fine art techniques, but Daniela Monzi, founder of Gemini Sun Creative, can’t help but do just that. Daniela honed her passion for photography at the San Francisco Art Institute before moving east to Philadelphia, where she specializes in intimate wedding and elopement photography. With a portfolio ranging from dreamy cabin elopements to gorgeous city skyline views, Daniela brings her skilled background to capture these treasured moments with the kind of passion and candid playfulness that elopements deserve.
Gemini Sun Creative offers multiple intimate wedding and elopement packages to accommodate varying needs and budgets, with custom payment plan options on all services.
The idea for Truehart Wedding Chapel was born years ago when owner Nikki Kiah’s was planning her own wedding. She couldn’t find a venue for less than $30k, and the only option for an intimate wedding was to head to the courthouse for a justice of the peace ceremony. When the pandemic hit in 2020 and the only option was to go small—due to the ban on large gatherings—her idea took shape, and she opened Truehart Wedding Chapel.
As a minister, Nikki officiates the ceremonies, with offerings ranging from true quickie elopements, like her “Philly Justice of the Peace Special,” to intimate ceremonies for up to 20 seated guests. Regardless of the size, she strives to take the same amount of time, care, and preparation in planning that you’d receive at a much larger venue. Plus, every couple receives a complimentary champagne toast. Cheers!
This hidden gem tucked inside a rehabbed rowhome in Philadelphia’s Washington Square West neighborhood is intimate by design. Owner Monica Welsh designed the space to cater to couples who want smaller, more affordable affairs, without sacrificing style. Choose from two primary elopement packages ranging from $2,195-$3,295, depending on much time you’d like and your number of guests (max is 24). Both packages offer an arch, wedding suite, and champagne toast.
An over-100-year-old church got a second life when a Philadelphia entrepreneur decided to transform the stone, Gothic Revival-style building into a chic boutique hotel. Today, the Deacon is an eight-bedroom hotel-slash-event space that mixes preserved architectural features such as stained-glass windows with modern, Bauhaus-inspired decor, and it can be rented out for a night’s stay or intimate gatherings. If it’s just the two of you, book a room and fill out an event inquiry form to start planning your ceremony on the property. Alternatively, you can book the entire hotel for $1,800 and host up to 18 guests. As a bonus, the hotel is located a short walk from Rittenhouse Square, 1700 Addison Street, and Delancey Street— all of which serve as dreamy outdoor photoscapes.
If you love a woodsy, rustic wedding and don’t mind venturing outside the city, point your car in the direction of the Poconos, and don’t stop until you hit Promise Ridge in Stroud Township. There, celebrant Alisa Tongg has created The Living Wall—a swoon-worthy, lush green wall surrounded by trees and twinkle lights—where you can say your vows as a couple or with up to 20 friends to witness. You bring the photographer and bouquet and depending on your guest list and day of the week, Tongg charges between $1,500 and $2,750 for your ceremony, 90 minutes of party time, and the filing of your marriage license. After, you have the option to take the celebration elsewhere or to book a sit-down, family-style dinner right there at the pavilion at Promise Ridge.
Located in one of Philly’s hippest, most rapidly transforming neighborhoods, Lokal Fishtown is a boutique apartment hotel with “invisible service”—e.g., an iPad replaces the concierge, and all communication with hotel staff is done via text or email. Each apartment is outfitted with modern, Apartment Therapy-Esque decor and furnishings, each with its own unique footprint. For your elopement, you’ll need to buy out the hotel for the night—it sleeps 16, tops—and pay an event fee. If the weather’s nice, host your ceremony outdoors in the property’s gravel courtyard (located off the Garden Jawn room). Say “I do” surrounded by greenery, host a small sit-down dinner under the pergola, then celebrate your new marriage with cake and Champagne under the stars. After, you can spend the night in the studio apartment, or go hit up some of the neighborhood’s best nightlife—grab a drink at Suraya, one of the best restaurants in the city; visit Frankford Hall’s boisterous beer garden; or opt for some of the best pizza in America at Pizzeria Beddia. Pro tip: You’re going to want to get your wedding cake from Fishtown’s Cake Life Bake Shop, which is fully Beyoncé-approved.
For a super-simple elopement, head to this brick-lined, loft-style wedding chapel in Philadelphia’s East Falls neighborhood. The space can hold up to 50 guests, but you can also opt for the very basic, very literal “Make It Legal” service—$100 to get your marriage license signed. For something a little more personal, they’ve got a variety of packages ranging from $200 to $800, based on your guest list, with the option to add on a Champagne or sparkling cider toast at the end. Located near the Schuylkill River banks, you’re not far from waterfront portraits or pictures on the East Falls Bridge.
In order to secure a marriage license, you’ll both need to be present for the application process in Room 413 in Philadelphia’s City Hall. Once there, you’ll present the Marriage License Bureau with two forms of identification—one photo ID and one official document showing your social security number. If either of you has been married previously, you’ll also need to supply the death certificate or divorce decree from your former spouse.
Once the marriage license application is complete, you’ll need to wait three days for it to be issued and then it must be used within the next 60 days. The good news is that the license can be used in any county in Pennsylvania.
And now for the fun part. While a traditional marriage license in Philadelphia will cost you $90 and require you be married by an ordained minister, rabbi, or judge, Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that allows for self-uniting or Quaker weddings. For an additional $10 fee, you can apply for a Quaker license with a self-uniting certificate, which states your intentions to get married. (You can find examples of the wording online.) Once you’ve secured your self-uniting license, you can officiate your vows and ceremony yourselves—no minister needed. For more information on marriage laws in Philadelphia, visit the Register of Wills website.