What You Need to Know About Eloping

Your guide to what it means to forgo a formal wedding and elope.

While wedding planning can be exciting and, at times, downright blissful, there is no question that the process can be incredibly stressful. For this reason and more, some couples elect to forgo a traditional event and elope for their ceremony. While more and more pairs are deciding to go through with an elopement, many are still misinformed about what the process truly entails. To gain a better understanding of what in means to elope, see our breakdown below.

It isn’t just for young duos without familial support. There is a long list of reasons why a couple might want to elope – the greatest of which is usually to save money. Others may decide this is the way to go if this is their second or third marriage, they both wouldn’t care at all for a traditional wedding, or they want their vow exchange to be spontaneous and romantic.

- There are a few conflicting definitions. In the technical sense, “to elope” means “to run away,” but modern times have linked it directly to weddings and marriage. People use “elope” to describe a few different scenarios nowadays: getting married without telling anyone at all, conducting the ceremony with just the two of you after having informed others about your plans, or having a very small affair with a few close witnesses. All of these can be done at a courthouse, among other venue options.

This will give up your “right” to register. If you choose not to include loved ones on your big day, you should not expect any gifts to celebrate your marriage. While friends and family may send some, depending on their knowledge of your elopement, etiquette states that a registry is to be created for the guests that attend your nuptials.

You’ll have to take part in some planning. Unless you’re doing the absolute bare minimum for your elopement, there will still be a few elements to plan for: travel, lodging, venue, and attire will have to be accounted for. If you have elected to conduct the most basic ceremony, you will still need to be prepared with legal documents, such as birth certificates and a marriage license plus other documentation depending on your state’s laws – we implore you to do your homework.

Loved ones may not be thrilled. This likely comes as no surprise, but choosing not to host a “proper” celebration might come as a shock to some, and be seen as hurtful or disrespectful to others. Some couples elope in order to avoid creating drama within their families, but there are plenty of instances wherein an elopement will cause more unrest than a traditional wedding. Be prepared for backlash – perhaps having a rational explanation behind your reasoning will help to ease the disappointment.

“Luxury elopements” are gaining popularity. While many select to elope in order to avoid spending money on a “real” wedding, there is a current trend many couples are partaking in that involves everything a ceremony typically does – the formalwear, aisle, heartfelt vows, picturesque décor, professional photographer, etc. – except for the guests. Pairs who opt for this method often have the money to spend on a traditional big day, but do not wish to deal with the typical challenges brides and grooms might face from those invited – as well as those not invited.

It’s still possible to have a celebration. It’s not uncommon for couples that have eloped to host a dinner or a party after their vows. There are some who decide to celebrate upon their return from their elopement and others who would instead host an extravagant anniversary party after one, five, ten, even fifty years of marriage. If this option interests you, remember that the get-together will be a more simplistic version of a wedding in that you will be playing host or hostess, and you must take on the typical responsibilities that come with that title.

- Las Vegas isn’t the only option. Though Vegas is a great choice for couples who are looking to get married quickly due to the abundance of chapels and the no-wait marriage licenses, there are plenty of other locations to choose from. There is, of course, your local courthouse if you’re looking for something straight forward, but if you’re looking for a more romantic concept, your wedding venue can be nearly anywhere. If your ceremony requires only an officiant and/or a few witnesses, do some research about your favorite areas – parks, beaches, cruise ships, etc. – to see if they’d be able to accommodate your small wedding party.

Read up on our expert wedding advice and see beautiful photos from a rustic elopement in Santa Barbara, California.

Opening photo by Chrisman Studios

Authored by: Megan Simpson