For many years there was a certain stigma attached to eloping. Luckily, that's not so anymore. Eloping has become increasingly popular in the last decade, and more couples than ever before are choosing to tie the knot on their own for a variety of different reasons. For some, it's because they're interested in a wedding in a far-off destination they love and that simply wouldn't be practical to invite guests to. For others, an elopement makes the most sense because they want this commitment to truly just be about the two of them—not all the pomp and circumstance that can be associated with a wedding. For others still, family dynamics, budgets, or timing can all play a part in the decision.
Whatever the reason, it's important to remember that couples elope because they're doing what feels right for them. While not all family members and friends are as accepting of the news that their loved ones did not include them in their special day, most are willing to let go of the hurt when they remember that it was not done out of disdain, but rather in the spirit of love between the newlyweds. Here, couples who've eloped share what they want future brides and grooms (and their families!) to know about the experience.
Steve C. and his wife decided on a destination elopement in New Orleans, Louisiana, and say they were married on a perfect day beneath a beautiful oak tree. Since this was a second marriage for each of them, a more intimate celebration just made sense. "We had both already done the traditional wedding, so neither of us had an interest in that type of production. Instead, we wanted to get married in a way that we could revisit and celebrate every year on our anniversary," he says. "For us, New Orleans was a perfect choice. My wife's grandparents eloped in New Orleans when they were young and the city is an easy three-hour drive from where we live." The couple found a minister who would meet them at their planned wedding location to perform the service, and the couple planned a personalized ceremony that spoke to who they are as a couple. While he agrees that eloping isn't for everyone, Steve advises other couples to truly think about what they want out of their nuptials. "If the big, traditional wedding is your dream, don't elope—live out your dream wedding and don't look back. However, if you want a smaller, more intimate ceremony, then eloping may be a great option for you," he says. "Whether you pick a destination wedding or the local courthouse, there's much less planning, expense, and stress involved when you elope."
Natalie Z., from New York, New York, and her husband surprise their family with a 10-person, immediate-family-only wedding in his hometown of Tampa, Florida, this past year and say they couldn't have been happier with their decision. "At 1:00 p.m. on the day of our wedding, I looked around and saw my mom, my dad, his mom, his dad, and his two brothers all relaxing on the patio, sipping coffee—there was nothing to do! Giving everyone peace of mind around our wedding was priceless and something I think I'll appreciate forever," she says. One thing she wants others considering an elopement to know is that whether you choose to invite no one, a handful of guests, or 300 people to your wedding, the most important thing is that you and your partner focus on what you want. "We spoke with a lot of our friends about their weddings before we had ours, and found that an overwhelming majority couldn't recall many meaningful moments or conversations from their big day—just the formulaic hellos, goodbyes, cake cutting, and saying thank you to everyone for being there—and we simply didn't want that," she says. "When you break it down, marriage is about two people and their commitment to each other. You certainly don't have to put a filet mignon in front of everyone you've ever met to convey that."
Jennifer A. and her husband were engaged for almost two years before they got married, mainly because she kept having massive anxiety about planning a wedding. "It just didn't seem to make sense for me," the bride explains. "Also, our families were spread out across the country—Los Angeles, Idaho, New York, and Baltimore—and, to add to that, his parents had a rather notorious divorce that didn't leave them on good terms, so neither one of us wanted to deal with that dynamic." The couple inevitably decided to go to the courthouse one Monday and elope without telling anyone until after the papers were signed. "We spent only $600 total and are happily married and would never change a thing. It was perfect for us!" Although eloping meant a huge weight off Jennifer's shoulders, she admits that many family members felt slighted or confused by the couple's decision. "We remained open to their creative solution, which was a small reception six months later at a family home, and totally without our input or organization. We showed up as guests, received blessings, toasts, and a few small gifts, and that was it," she says. "While this solution worked for us, I'd urge anyone who wants to elope to realize that a marriage is more than a wedding or reception, and it's okay if someone's feelings get hurt. You have to do what works for you, and time will heal hurt feelings!"
When Kari G. from New York, New York, and her husband ran off to city hall and got married, they say it was the best choice they ever made. "With family and friends spread all over the world, and us having faced a lot of obstacles due to geography, it was the logical choice, but also so special for us as it was intimate, romantic and a bit crazy," she says. "We shared the happy news with friends and family via text and social media, which actually went over really well, then we went to our favorite restaurant for a long lunch. Not only was it meaningful and special for us both, but it was also a love letter to New York, complete with a classic yellow cab ride over the Brooklyn Bridge on the way to the clerk's office." The most important thing she wants other couples to know is that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to elope, or get married for that matter. "Make the best choice for what you and your partner want to do, and don't listen or worry about anyone else or what they have to say. It is about you and your partner, and nobody else," the bride explains.