It is safe to say that everyone who has ever planned a wedding has had a moment where they thought, “Why don’t we just elope?” This is a natural (and tempting) thought, because as delightful as weddings can be, they can also be a lot of work.
Depending on the size and complexity of your wedding, the planning of it can become a second job that swallows your weekends whole. While some couples greatly enjoy planning their big day, others may be more on the fence about it.
The definition of elopement has changed over the years, and it has lost many of its negative connotations. It used to mean that a young man or woman would spontaneously run away in secret to marry their lover, usually without parental or societal consent. Nowadays, an elopement can refer to a wide range of events. It can be a quick trip to the courthouse or it can be an intimate event that incorporates some traditional wedding customs (the cake, bouquet, etc.). When you choose to elope you can alert your best friends, parents, and a few other loved ones that you will very soon be in a certain location at a certain time, and that you will be getting married if they wish to attend! If you are thinking about eloping but you need the extra push (or more reasons to convince your partner!), then take the following into consideration:
In 2012, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was around $27,000. The median income was $45,000. This means that many people will have to work for more than six months to pay for their wedding—and nothing else. 70% of couples pay with savings, but 30% are putting their expenditures on credit cards. Though a large wedding for family and friends is a great way to begin your marriage, going into debt because of that wedding is not.
If you are a discount queen and you relish the challenge of getting what you want for less, a traditional wedding may be for you! But be warned, most couples set a budget for their wedding but end up spending 32% more than they planned. If you were to elope, however, the costs are vastly reduced. Even small, deluxe “elopement packages” at luxury resorts come in far beneath the $27,000 price tag. Courthouse weddings in many states cost less than $100 dollars! The best thing you can do when planning your wedding is to stop, take a deep breath, and sit down with your fiancé to work out the financials. Be honest with yourselves and with each other. If you want to purchase a home and have a big wedding, you may have to decide which is more important to you as a couple. Using logic rather than emotion will generally guarantee that you will not regret your wedding later on.
If you can host the wedding of your dreams without it affecting your financial future, then get to planning! If you can’t quite afford a traditional wedding but you are set on having one, try to shave costs where you can, such as choosing a buffet instead of sit down service, getting married during the slow season, renting your dress, negotiating with vendors, and choosing less expensive groomsmen and bridesmaids gifts..
If anything over $500 dollars is out of the question (thanks to student loans, soaring rent prices, or anything else life has thrown your way) consider grabbing your fiancé and hitting the courthouse—at the end of the day you’ll still be marrying the love of your life!
Okay ladies, let’s admit it. When wedding details go awry we can feel the inner bridezilla waiting to burst out and wreak havoc on the wedding party. Oftentimes this happens because brides take on way too many wedding responsibilities. Our bodies are designed to deal with the stress that comes along with daily activities—stress can even be a good thing! It keeps us alert, focused, and can occasionally boost performance in the workplace. An overload of stress, however, can lead to physical, mental, and emotional consequences. If you find yourself hyperventilating when you can’t pin down your venue, or if your blood pressure spikes every time you try and figure out a seating arrangement that won’t result in World War 3… you might want to elope.
There are two obvious solutions. The first is to hire a wedding planner. This isn’t a possibility for some due to their high fees and occasionally conflicting tastes. The second it to elope. You might literally feel the stress fall off of your shoulders when you make this decision.
3. Go Green
If environmental responsibility is a value that you and your fiancé hold dear, eloping is an amazing option. Weddings have the potential to create a large amount of waste, mainly from paper products, food, water, and electricity. The largest factor, however, is the amount of carbon emissions created by the travel it takes for all of the guests to arrive. Whether they arrive by car, plane, or train, the damage is done. If you try to live a green lifestyle and the thought of this makes you cringe, elopement is the way to go. Throw on your vintage dress, jump in your electric car, and exchange your ethical origin rings in the location of your choice. If you love nature and you think that floral arrangements should stay planted in the ground, grab an officiant and say your vows in your favorite outdoor location! Outdoor weddings can be an ideal way to incorporate your love of nature.
Traditional weddings can be green too! If you want more information on how to have a green wedding, check out our Green Weddings blog.
When you and your partner come from different religious or cultural backgrounds, there can be some potential for friction between families as you decide which cultural and religious traditions to incorporate in your special day. Many families easily compromise to create a service with a blend of traditions, but, if you think that there could be problems or friction that would affect your enjoyment of your wedding day, you might want to consider eloping. This can be a controversial decision, however, so weigh the pros and cons of each option with your fiancé. Include your families in the discussion by expressing your concerns, and letting them know that you would like to celebrate with each family— separately—later on. There is always the possibility that families will come together peaceably if it means they get to attend your wedding!
Similarly, if there are any guests that you have to invite but you are afraid might cause issues (that one second cousin who always gets falling down drunk, gives horrifically embarrassing speeches, and shows up with three friends in tow—we all know that person) you can avoid inviting them if you can tell them that your wedding will be a “very intimate affair,” or that you are requesting that only immediate family members act as witnesses. Though eloping for the sake of peacemaking may cause some hurt feelings, you can always let them know that you aren’t singling anyone out, and that your elopement is a personal decision.
Choosing to elope means that you are focusing on the marriage that is taking place rather than the party. That isn’t to say that there aren’t great reasons for having said party! Traditional weddings bring two families together so that you can thank them for their support and allow them to share in your happiness.
With a large event, however, there is the potential that your focus will be taken away from your partner and put on other details, such as whether the food is being served properly, if the DJ is late, or if your scheming nephews are about to get you kicked out of your venue. Some brides and grooms don’t even get a chance to sit down and eat the meal they have so painstakingly chosen!
Eloping results in a very intimate, private moment that is untouched by the concerns of a rollicking event. You don’t have to prepare gifts for the guests and the wedding party, and you don’t see the $75 dinners that are left unfinished. A beautiful ceremony can be forgotten when a reception goes downhill. Leaving the focus on the ceremony allows the celebration of your romance to truly take center stage!
6. Destination Options
Speaking of romance, if you and your fiancé met in Paris and there is no other place you can imagine getting married, elope there! You can hop on a plane and say “I do!” in front of the Arc de Triomphe or the gardens of Versailles, and finish off the day with a café and croissant. Your wedding and honeymoon can be all rolled into one! Eloping opens up a world of possibilities, literally.
If you don’t mind a few friends and family members tagging along (and they don’t mind the extra travel costs) it is a great opportunity to make lifelong memories. Your wedding pictures can include you dressed to the nines with Stonehenge in the background, dipping your feet into the hot springs in Greenland, or kayaking on Australia’s Gold Coast. This is a great way to make your wedding truly stand out from a traditional event, and give you a story to talk about for years to come.
Many wedding venues are offering elopement packages, which are pre-planned, coordinated by a professional planner, and outfitted for 2-25 people. If you want the ease and lowered cost of an elopement but the presence of a few of your nearest and dearest, you might want to consider these quasi-elopements. These packages often include venue, bouquets, boutonnieres, seating, an officiant, champagne, cake, spa treatments, one or two night lodging for the couple, and a wedding coordinator to oversee everything. Many venues offer extras such as ceremony photography, restaurant reservations, or gourmet breakfasts… all you have to do is click an extra box or let them know! These packages generally utilize the venue’s resources, so you lose the stress of working with outside vendors. You can think of this option as the ultimate romantic weekend getaway, briefly interrupted by your closest family and friends showing up to see you get married! No stress or responsibility involved.
These packages are great for the couple that wants to elope but absolutely have to invite a few select people under threat of disownment. Some may argue that elopement packages are just small weddings, not true elopements, but when you choose this option all you have to do is show up, dress up, and get married!
Choosing to elope should be a joint decision, and it should never be done as a last resort or because you feel like you have to. It is a big choice, and it is not always an easy one. Make your elopement work for you. A popular option is to have a ceremony just for you and your fiancé and have a reception a couple of days later. You can also bring a friend along who is great with a camera and send out photos or videos to everyone you would have invited. You could also invite a few family and friends to stand as witnesses and then celebrate at your favorite restaurant or bar.
If you choose to elope and regret it later, don’t forget that you can always plan a vow renewal ceremony that fulfills the experiences you may feel are missing. Waiting to have a large event until you are financially secure might even lead to a more enjoyable wedding! Instead of celebrating the birth of your marriage, you could celebrate that your love hasn’t changed over the course of five, ten, or twenty years—which is truly a cause to celebrate.
If you are interested in hearing the other side of the coin, check out our blog, “The Benefits of a Traditional Wedding.”
Still, they want the day to be special. This is particularly true in an era when wedding blogs and Facebook photos have made nuptials a public spectacle. Why shell out for another rubber chicken dinner for Aunt Beatrice from Tuscaloosa, when what really matters are the luscious photos capturing the style and pageantry, which can be “liked” and “pinned” by users of social media sites?
It is a way to have your wedding cake and eat it, too.
“It was almost like a glorified photo shoot for the two of us,” said Ms. Provost, who lives with her husband in San Antonio. “We got to spend the whole day together, just the two of us, which almost made it more meaningful. There wasn’t a distant cousin or mother or girlfriend there adding stress.”
The impulse to avoid stress is often the starting point. A year ago, Celia Tombalakian, a global marketing director for a medical devices company in New York, found herself mired in planning for a traditional ceremony at the University Club with her fiancé, David Shafer, a 37-year-old plastic surgeon.
“The details kept snowballing,” Ms. Tombalakian, 40, said. “Finally we thought: Why are we buying into this? We have been sucked into the machine. Let’s just do our own thing.”
They decided to run off to Las Vegas — in high style.
“I didn’t want it to be a drive-through, Britney Spears kind of thing,” Ms. Tombalakian said. “How do you get the best of both worlds?”
The answer: arrange an elopement with all the production values of a fairy-tale wedding. The couple hired a wedding planner, Andrea Eppolito, who booked them a corner suite of the Cosmopolitan hotel, with a wraparound balcony overlooking the Bellagio Fountains. She found the location, a private garden located on a nearby lake, hired Your Beauty Call — a company that provides hairstyling and makeup for celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton — to style Ms. Tombalakian. And she reserved them a window table at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, which served a miniature three-layer cake for two.
“We felt like guests at our own wedding,” Ms. Tombalakian said. “We were driving around that morning, saying, ‘Isn’t it amazing how nothing can go wrong?’ ”
While an extravaganza like that is never going to be cheap, a ceremony for two invariably saves money over a ceremony for 200 (consider the catering costs alone). And in this economy, savings matter, said Jen Campbell, who runs Green Wedding Shoes, a wedding blog that has featured several ambitious elopements.
“For a couple fresh out of school, paying for a large wedding probably isn’t possible without considerable support from their parents,” she said.
Still, fancy elopements, or “private ceremonies,” as wedding professionals sometimes call them, can cost $10,000 to $100,000. (By contrast, the average wedding costs $26,000, according to a recent study by Brides magazine.)
But for older couples, particularly busy professionals, money is not always the only consideration. For them, priorities have often shifted.
“Clients getting married in their 20s say, ‘I want to be in front of 200, I want to be a princess bride,’ ” said Lisa Vorce, a wedding planner in Los Angeles.
Brides over 30 are often past the stage in life where they demand that their wedding day be the definitive day of their life — part family reunion, part college reunion, with a dash of royal wedding mixed in, she added.
“They just want a special thing with their significant other,” Ms. Vorce said. “It’s kind of like this glorified honeymoon.”
To fill that market, hotels and resorts in wedding-friendly locales like the Napa Valley or the Caribbean offer elopement packages coordinated by a full-time wedding consultant.
And the more spectacular the setting, the better. Whereas eloping couples in the past may have limited themselves to recording the event for a personal scrapbook by taking a few snapshots with a disposable camera, many now hire top photographers, knowing in advance that the photos will at the very least find a public audience on Facebook, if not on wedding blogs.
To be considered for such blogs, however, design matters. That means styling an elopement as ambitiously as any other wedding.
Shalini Saycocie, an art producer for a New York advertising agency, was planning to elope with her fiancé, Chad Carbone, for a more intimate experience. She was inspired to create a mountaintop fairy tale of their own after seeing sumptuous photos of the Provost ceremony on the blog Style Me Pretty. She enlisted a planner in Eagle, Colo., Frosted Pink Weddings, to arrange a ceremony at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in the Rockies last December.
After a private ceremony, which was held next to a fireplace covered in hyacinths, the couple retreated to an outdoor ice rink just as the sun was setting. There, James Christianson, a prominent wedding photographer, snapped away as Ms. Carbone, wearing a 1920s-style ball gown and a vintage beaver wrap, circled the ice with her new husband, against a backdrop of snow-dusted mountain peaks. Afterward, they set off sparklers and posed some more for the camera. The photos ran on Ruffled, another popular wedding blog, a few months later.
“The visual aspects were especially important for me, since our family wasn’t there with us,” Ms. Carbone explained. “I wanted someone else to be the eyes for our friends and family.”
Having no guests also frees up what couples can afford to do for their wedding.
Quinn Ly, 28, a law-firm manager in San Diego, and Andy Van Le, a lawyer, decided to keep things small yet spectacular. Last month, they traveled to Vietnam with their wedding planner, Ms. Vorce; a floral designer, Mindy Rice; and a photographer, Aaron Delesie, to stage an elaborate ceremony amid the temple ruins at My Son. (The planner and florist served as witnesses.)
They hired local children to carry the posts for the ceremonial canopy. Flower girls in cream-colored traditional dresses called ao dai carried crocheted lace lanterns that were made by local artisans. Musicians performed on bamboo stringed instruments. Afterward, a chef prepared a feast for two on a private boat that glided down the Thu Bon river.
The ceremony was so elaborate that Ms. Ly did not even refer to it as an “elopement” but rather “a wedding for two.”
“We had the rehearsal dinner, the hair and makeup, the cake cutting, the vow exchange,” she explained. “We had everything but the guests.”Continue reading the main story