So, if you haven’t noticed, elopements are kiiiinda a big deal right now. By opting for a small guest list (if any at all!), couples can enjoy increased flexibility in location and budget, giving them the opportunity to hire that dream photographer or visit that dream destination. Plus, as much as we love big, styled weddings, there are tons of couples who prefer the intimacy and simplicity that an elopement affords instead. But if you’re seriously considering an elopement, you probably have a ton of questions as to what that *actually* means.
We recently chatted with our friend Robin of Ro & Co, who has produced weddings of every style + size, about what really goes into planning an elopement. Read on for 10 elopement tips that are sure to answer any lingering questions you still have!
1. Make a trip out of it. I’ve seen a trend towards extravagant elopements. Without the expenses of hosting a group event, couples can treat themselves to a lavish international vacation, a pricey wedding gown or a high-end photographer. I love that couples are following their hearts and not going the traditional wedding route if it doesn’t speak to them.
2. Get a photographer. Hire a photographer to document your day. If photography is particularly important for you, the absence of a hosted event might allow you to splurge on a photographer you’ve had your heart set on. Regardless of your photography budget, be sure to hire a professional. You’ll want to look back on the memories of your special day and your parents and other family and friends will certainly want to see what they missed too!
3. You still need to budget! It’s a misconception to think that “elopement” = “free wedding”. The cost of an elopement will be considerably lower than a hosted event for a number of guests, but there are still expenses involved: the marriage license, travel and accommodations, your attire, wedding bands, maybe a simple festive bouquet and boutonnière, photography and/or videography and celebratory drinks or lunch/dinner afterwards. Those expenses can add up quickly so budget out what you’re willing to spend.
4. Let your friends & family know. Weddings are important milestones not only for a couple but for their families as well. The idea of an elopement might not go over well with some family members who likely have envisioned attending your special day. Of course, you need to do what’s right for you and those who love you will understand, but be prepared to field some hard questions (and guilt trips) about why you want to elope rather than have a party with your friends and family. To soften the blow, give your VIP loved ones the courtesy of letting them know ahead of time rather than being surprised by a general social media announcement after the fact.
5. Decide if you’ll create a registry. Do couples that elope still register for their wedding? If so, what are couple registering for? Products or experiences? Etiquette wise, I don’t think it’s proper to expect gifts from people you are not inviting to your wedding, but likely some people will still want to give you something, so it’s helpful to provide gift options. The trend lately has been to gift experiences and I don’t think that’s going away soon, but sometimes those in the older generations tend to still like giving a tactile gift. It’s always a good rule of thumb to offer both options on a registry. For a destination elopement, you could set up a travel registry to help with costs of the event and the trip.
6. Choose a destination. Will you be saying I Do locally or adventuring abroad? For a destination elopement, could a trip to Lake Como be any more chic? Saying I Do surrounded by incredible scenery followed by a boat ride picnic on the lake… what could be better? For the more adventurous types, an elopement/honeymoon on safari in Kenya could be the ultimate wedding experience surrounded by all of your furry friends. For nature lovers, how about a visit to Japan during cherry blossom season? Imagine saying your vows with the most amazing natural floral blossom backdrop. How about a road trip up the coast to Big Sur followed by a glamping getaway? Yes, please!
7. Make a honeymoon plan. Couples who choose a destination elopement, are they honeymooning right after? With a destination elopement, the “wedding” can lead right into the honeymoon! Couples who make a whole trip out of it tend to save on travel fees by combining everything into one experience rather than two separate ones. Plus, the experience is such a whirlwind of excitement and allows the couple to really connect, relax and create incredible memories to start their marriage together.
8. Decor or no decor? Gone are the days when all elopements were simple, courthouse affairs (though that’s okay too!). These days, if you want beautiful decor or lots of blooms, you can make it happen. Just be sure to decide if that’s something that’s important to you early on, and include it in your budget. You also have to think about where/how you’d source the decor and get it to your chosen destination.
9. Don’t forget the reception. What are some good reception ideas and locations? Locally, the “Carrie Bradshaw” method (a city hall wedding followed by a low-key meal with friends at your favorite diner) is the ultimate statement in confidence. It shows you do things your own way and do not need to follow the traditions of a big white wedding or an elaborate ceremony and reception to be happy. But even if you elope abroad, you may still want to come home and celebrate with family and friends. They’ll likely be waiting to hear all about your adventure, so be prepared to share lots of photos or a video so they feel connected.
10. Do what’s best for you! Ultimately, you’re probably eloping because a big traditional wedding just doesn’t sound right for you as a couple. If that’s the case, embrace the fact that you’re going an alternative route and make sure every bit of the day reflects what you wanted. Both weddings and elopements have the same goal: to honor and celebrate you, your partner, and your love together. Take time to chat with them about how you both truly want that day to look and feel.