Have you ever considered eloping? Eloping may not be the most traditional way to get married but for my husband and I, it was the perfect way to get married. What are the reasons to elope and what should you consider beforehand?
When discussing marriage, I remember calling my husband (or fiancé at the time) and telling him how stressed I became thinking about all of the details needed to be planned and how I didn’t really want to go through that. It was distracting for me. I wanted to plan a marriage and not just a wedding. We felt that our energy would be best spent on building a solid foundation for our marriage in this transition than to plan a party. Read about how to plan a marriage here.
Reasons to Elope
A More Intimate and Personal Experience
My husband and I can tend to be pretty closed off and feel anxious with a lot of attention. But, eloping allowed us to be entirely present which meant that I still remember each moment and can still feel each word we spoke. There is no audience to feel very aware of during one of your most personal moments. Yes, the people you would be inviting to your wedding are ideally people you are very close to, but they are still sets of eyes that may be putting pressure on you during your ceremony. You might be worried about messing up your vows, embarrassed if you start crying, or be more concerned about timing.
With just us and a few close friends, we were able to take our time, cry our tears, and even had some unexpected guests! Within minutes of beginning our ceremony, we were surrounded by an entire herd of deer. They were so close that I could hear their hooves as they walked up and could even hear their breathing! If we had an audience at our ceremony, there is no way these deer would have joined our ceremony! And since there was no pressure to stay on schedule, I was able to spontaneously stop and tell the Native American story and medicine for deer (which is gentleness). We were able to take our time with photos and celebrating!
Minimal Ceremony Planning
The details to plan were minimal. Which meant less stress. I bought a dress, found a public park on top of a mountain, and took a fun day trip to scout the area with friends. We asked those same friends to be the officiant and photographers to keep the ceremony a little more personal. Caitlin and I found a castle online that my husband rented for the night before to allow us to be closer to the mountain for a sunrise ceremony. And that was pretty much it.
We saved so much money. I cannot emphasize this enough. The Knot estimates that the national average cost of a wedding is $33,900 (that’s including the cost of the engagement ring, but excluding honeymoon expenses). But after eloping? We had NO DEBT from our wedding. There were no venue fees, catering, bar charges, or event rentals. Because of this, we were able to pay for everything as we went along. I bought my wedding dress from Lulu’s (that my dear friend, Teresa, altered for me as a gift). We booked flights and the Air BNB Castle (Click here and sign up for Airbnb with my referral link to get $20 off your first home-booking and get $15 to use toward an experience worth $50 or more). I also did my best to cover everything possible for the friends who were stepping in for photography and officiating.
Our marriage started out without any added debt. Doing this allows you to spend your money on a home, moving, a honeymoon, your upcoming baby, or add to your savings. Personally, we spent our money on moving my dog, myself, and 4 suitcases across an ocean to live with my husband in a new apartment! I cannot express enough just how wonderful it felt to not start our marriage out with a large debt. It set us up for financial success as we added a new member to our family a year later!
Things to Consider Before Eloping
– What does your wedding day look like? This can change. I’ve had friends who wanted a big wedding but chose not to once the time came. I personally never envisioned a big wedding for myself, I was never a person who had ever spent any time fantasizing about a wedding.
– How does your partner view weddings?
– What is important for both of you and how can you be sure to meet both of your needs? This day is about both of you joining together, make sure both of your needs are joined in this one day. I made sure to ask my husband about his views of a wedding. I wanted to know if he had any vision for what that looked like, what it meant for him to elope alone, and if he could be happy with that.
– Where are you getting married? What are their marriage license process and requirements?
– Are you able to have an officiant that you know be ordained online or not?
– Can you receive your license in the proper amount of time? In Washington State, they have a 3 day waiting period and the license is valid for 60 days. My husband flew during that 60 days before our ceremony to apply for the marriage license. He came back the day before we left for the mountains to elope.
– If you are getting married outside of the U.S. will this marriage be valid?
– How many witnesses do you need? Research whether or not you need a permit if it is outside and you are planning on having a small group.
– Are there any elements of a traditional “wedding” that are important for you to keep? You can pick and choose elements that are meaningful to you from the types of vows to whether or not you want cake or photos. My friend Caitlin, who officiated the wedding, helped to keep some traditions alive for us. She baked us the most delicious cake (click here for the recipe) and blindfolded my husband so he couldn’t see me as we drove up the mountain. Our friends and photographers, Breck and Keaton, took Engagement Photos the night before.
– What memories do you want to create?
– Do you want to start any traditions?
– Will you still get engaged? This might not always be necessary.
– Do you want a honeymoon? My husband and I chose to get engaged but skipped the honeymoon. Our honeymoon was me moving to Hawaii to finally be together after a long-distance relationship. My roommate and friend, Bethany, did gift us a night at a very fancy hotel as a “mini-moon” and that was a really nice way to celebrate.
– How much are you willing to spend? Discussing a budget for any major decision involving finances is always a good idea!
– Are you going to have a reception afterward to celebrate? We had our immediate family come to Seattle a few days after we were married to celebrate over the weekend.
– Do you want to be completely alone for the ceremony or have just a small group of people?
– How many people do you want?
– What are you going to do if others are hurt and want to be included?
– Do you know what you are going to say to them?
– Is there anything that you can you do/say to prevent hurt feelings? Be intentional. Tell them you care about them and are involving them in x,y,z,… the secret, a reception, etc.
– Who do you want to tell?
– When do you want to tell?
Which brings me to…
The Only Problem That We Ran Into
We did hurt some feelings choosing not to have anyone involved. We chose to not involve anyone because of the experience we wished to have with it being just us. We held the belief that we would be hurting everyone’s feelings equally instead of trying to pick and choose who to invite and hurting some people more than others. When we were entertaining inviting people, it was too hard to keep the numbers down. We wanted our parents and siblings. And then, of course, our grandparents. But then what about the people we loved who lived near the Olympic Mountains? What about the family we were extra close with? Maybe we could just invite one friend each.. but then how can you just choose one? It became a much larger group than we intended.
We decided to elope alone and have a close family get together afterward to include them in the celebration. For our family and closest friends, we included them by letting them in on our “secret” and made sure to send out photos from the day and let people know how it went, especially before posting anything on social media. Despite all of our efforts to let our loved ones know how much we wanted to include them, I still lost a best friend in the process.
How to Handle Someone Who Doesn’t Support Your Decision
You can try to explain it to them first. Let them know this decision has nothing to do with them and is not a reflection of your feelings with them. They may have pictured a wedding for you, but a wedding isn’t right for everyone. My dream marriage began on top of a mountain, surrounded by deer, with just my husband and I. But, if they offer to fly in any way or ask to be the officiant, it can be difficult to keep setting those boundaries. It’s important to keep reminding them that this decision has nothing to do with them.
If they cannot support your happiness, that is their loss and shows their true intentions. I ended up losing a best friend because she wanted to be a part of a wedding that never happened. She couldn’t accept my decision and when I look back on it, I honestly have no regrets. I am sad to have lost someone that I was close to. However, I still would not change a single thing about that day, it was absolutely perfect. In the end, the old saying “those who matter, don’t mind and those who mind, don’t matter” rings true. To learn how I moved forward after a friendship ending, check out my article on Friendship Breakups.
Deciding to Elope
There are many reasons to elope! When making this decision, look deep into your heart to decide what is right for you. Be sure to discuss openly with your partner, as their opinion is just as important. We were both 1000% on board for it and that made it easy.
Also, enjoy this secret, whether it’s a big secret or includes some others. I loved it when my husband and I just had this little secret to ourselves. No one was able to give us opinions because we didn’t need them. We knew what was best for us and it was so relieving to just make that decision without much judgment, apart from the one friend.
Everyone has an opinion. Do what makes you happy. It’s not about them, it’s about you and your partner and what you want for your special day.
Make the day what you want. Get married on a mountain, a beach, in Ireland, or where your first kiss took place. Or, get married at the courthouse. Do you. This is your big day and all that matters is how you want to look back on it. Hire someone you know to officiate or don’t. You can have photographers or not. There is no right or wrong way to do it, just your way.
What are your reasons to elope? What else have you considered before deciding to do so? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Elopement Photography by Breck Grimm (IG: @breckashton)