If you and your fiancé are considering—or in the midst of planning—an elopement, congrats! It's a romantic and intimate way to make your marriage official. "Elopements give a couple the opportunity to focus their full attention, free from distraction, and to be entirely in the moment with one another," Lindsey Sachs, a wedding planner and owner of COLLECTIVE/by Sachs in Boulder, Colorado, and Minneapolis. But, like any wedding, elopements require lots of planning and may not be quite as simple as they sound. Here, we asked two wedding planners to share the sage wisdom they dole out to clients considering an elopement.
Narrow your location down to a specific area.
While an elopement often tends to involve a far-away destination, it's important to limit your travel to a single city, or at least country. "Elopements are supposed to be simple, but if you're looking all over the globe, you'll complicate things," says Danielle Rothweiler, owner of Rothweiler Event Design. "If you really cannot decide where you want to focus, start by looking at areas you do not want to consider and go from there."
Don't take disappointment from friends and family personally.
Your wedding day is sacred, and something that should matter most to you and your soon-to-be spouse. For this reason, it's important that it feels authentic and not the result of other people's wants and wishes. "After deciding that an elopement is right for you, prepare yourself for the fact that some loved ones will be disappointed," says Sachs. "If you're willing and able to host a small reception or gathering after your elopement, you can leverage this news as a way to smooth out the situation." And don't let anyone make you feel guilty. "A wedding and marriage is about two people, not everyone else, and an elopement is truly about two people alone," explains Rothweiler. "Don't let those around you bring you down with comments how you are robbing your Great Aunt Sally from seeing you walk down the aisle."
Research, research, research!
Although planning an elopement is simpler than planning a large wedding, Sachs notes that many couples still underestimate the amount of planning that's required. "We recommend researching your desired elopement location to understand access for your ceremony, prepare for any complications that may arise depending on the time of year, and carefully selecting your photographer and any other vendors you may need," she says. "These individuals, when chosen wisely, will have a positive impact on your intimate wedding day experience."
Assume you won't be getting many gifts.
If you're not inviting people to your wedding, or are only inviting a small group of people, don't expect other relatives and friends to send you gifts or money just because you got married. "It's in poor taste to ask for gifts from those that aren't invited, and if you have a small group coming, there's no need for a long registry either," says Rothweiler. Of course, some people will still send gifts, so it's nice to put together a list just in case.
Be sure to learn the local laws.
Whether you're getting married in a different state or an entirely different country, the laws around marriage and weddings are most likely different. For example, the window of time allotted between applying for, receiving, and using your marriage license is different in New York from New Jersey. Additionally, as Sachs points out, some destinations require a witness, and internationally, some locations have residency rules in order to be officially married. If you have questions, she recommends reaching out to the local City Hall. "Be sure you fully understand the requirements in advance so that come wedding day, you're free and clear to say, 'I do.'"
Remember that vendor services aren't cheaper.
Despite what most people think, an elopement isn't always cheaper than a big wedding celebration. "You'll save money in terms of the guest list, but depending on your destination, you might still get hit with some unexpected costs," says Rothweiler. "For instance, if you pick a location that hosts weddings regularly, you might have to pay a large fee to block out the venue for your elopement." You'll also have to factor in any additional vendors, such as a photographer, videographer, as well as the cost of your wedding dress, veil, and other accessories, which don't come with lower price tags just because it's an elopement rather than a formal wedding.