What is an ‘elopment’ wedding?
The term ‘elope’ literally means to run away and not come back to the point of origin. When I think of the word elopement, it calls to mind images star-crossed lovers slipping away secretly in the dead of night to Gretna Green in Scotland, to marry before they can be stopped by unwilling parents or guardians.
While a very romantic image and possibly an ideal premise for a film, it isn’t necessarily a very accurate representation of a modern day elopement wedding. However, the term elopement when applied to a modern wedding can actually be quite off-putting because of its link to the very idea of something forbidden and secret. Nowadays it would be fair to say the definition of ‘elopement’ has expanded and includes any wedding which takes place in private, whether that be at home or abroad, with or without advance notice and with or without the prior knowledge of family and friends.
More and more couples these days are electing for smaller, more intimate wedding parties whether in their own country or abroad. Groups consisting of just immediate family and/or close friends are becoming quite common. Particularly for those wishing to marry abroad, couple-only weddings are now a frequent and popular choice. A destination wedding can be the perfect excuse for an elopement just as an elopement can be the perfect excuse for a destination wedding!
There are many reasons why individual couples choose to ‘elope’, however one of the main reasons seems to be the intimacy offered by an elopement wedding, together with other, more practical concerns such as ease, speed, cost, family, religion, culture and the desire for a small wedding. An elopement wedding is also considered a perfect option by many couples who have been married before. These are all very valid and very relevant reasons for a destination wedding and it is certainly true that an elopement wedding fully reflects a couple, their wishes and the significance of the step they are taking without much, if any, external interference. An elopement wedding is most definitely ‘your day’.
I have had the privilege to be present at and photograph a number of elopement weddings. In my experience, elopement weddings are very intimate, romantic and significant events. And while occasional brides and grooms may feel a little guilty or momentarily sad that they their loved ones aren’t there to witness the event, I have yet to meet a couple who has been disappointed by their decision to elope. In fact, the exact opposite seems to be true! An elopement wedding means you can truly banish concerns and consideration of anyone but yourselves. There is no need to follow formula, tradition and convenience, you can create a personal and unique event that truly represents you, your relationship and the step you are taking.
There are so many ways to personalise your wedding, especially when marrying abroad. Getting married will be one of the most best and most unforgettable days of your life and making it just about you and the person you have chosen to spend your life with is a wonderful way to truly make this day yours! While it may be lovely to marry before a large group of guests, much of the significance of your wedding can be lost to the presence and consideration of others. Tailoring an event to you and your wishes, while offering something for everyone, convenience and ease to your guests isn’t always easy and can be almost impossible!
A destination wedding is often an excellent way of limiting your guest list and thereby reducing your wedding budget. However, even with a destination wedding, having guests present means significant costs for hiring your venue(s), transporting guests to and from your venue(s) and banqueting. And this is before you begin considering other nice touches such as table decorations, save the date cards and invites, place cards, favours and gifts.
An elopement wedding means you can reduce wedding costs, or if you prefer, splash the cash on a luxury wedding trip and pamper and indulge yourselves and your every whim. At an elopement wedding, from accommodation, to your choice of wedding venue, flowers, transport, music and events of the day, you wedding budget is yours in its entirety to use as you wish.
You may choose to indulge your wedding day wishes or instead set a smaller wedding budget and have the honeymoon trip of your lives. You may choose to stay in a luxury hotel, to follow your wedding ceremony with a sea or lake-side boat trip. Rather than offering a buffet or silver service wedding banquet for guests, you may choose a private dinner for two in an exclusive restaurant or a romantic evening meal on your terrace of your sumptuous hotel suite. The world really is your oyster!
In terms of ease, what could be more straight forward and stress free than just doing what you want? Eloping means not having to worry about practicalities when creating your wedding day, such as how and whether guests will travel, the needs of much older and much younger guests, accessibility, convenience and adaptability.
Taking into consideration a date that will suit your guests work commitments, a location that will be relatively easy to travel to, an easily accessible venue, a menu that suits all palates and events that will ensure fun for all can be very difficult and can take the pleasure and the personal aspect out of your wedding day.
Planning a wedding can be an extremely stressful experience and couples can often relinquish their plans and hopes in order to accommodate the needs and requirements of their guests. While this is a very admirable gesture and doesn’t necessarily mean their wedding day is any less wonderful, sometimes it does mean that a couple doesn’t really have the wedding day they dreamed of.
Family-related issues can cause difficulties and concern for couples when planning their wedding. Problems such as inviting divorced or separated guests, family objections to your chosen location or wedding type, large family sizes and unwanted guests can make creating a guest list – not to mention a seating plan – a nightmarish experience. Religious and cultural issues can also make planning your wedding day extremely difficult. The presence or even the lack of strong religious, moral or cultural convictions means couples can face opposition from their nearest and dearest.
Having made the decision to marry and made or received that all-important proposal some couples choose to make preparations for their wedding a slow, planned, gradual process, setting a date even two or three years away and creating that perfect ‘dreams-come-true’ day. For others it can or a truly whirlwind affair. Sometimes, having decided to marry, couples are overcome by the desire to not wait another second!
Now, unless you’re planning to pay the King of Rock and Roll a visit in Las Vegas (playing havoc with my childhood dream to marry Elvis, not be married by Elvis) on balance, planning a wedding takes between 6 months to a year. Weddings abroad are, of course, subject to the legal requirements of your chosen country, response timescales and paperwork requirements, which dictate the minimum amount of time necessary to arrange a wedding.
However, without the issues of finding venues and dates to suit accommodate a larger wedding party, planning logistics and working around budget issues, an elopement wedding can generally be organized in a relatively short period of time and certainly much quicker than a larger wedding.
For couples where one or both have already been married, the idea of being just the two of them can be very inviting! Whether because they hope for a more low-key event, whether because they have already ‘been there and done that’ in terms of a larger event or whether simply because they want to focus on the significance of their wedding, a simple ceremony with the person they love can be the perfect choice!
Some couples simply prefer smaller events. Many couples elope simply because they don’t like the idea of being the centre of attention or creating a fuss. Some couples find it impossible to limit the numbers on their guests lists to a feasible amount, and so the idea of a simple wedding for just the two of them followed by a large reception party to celebrate their wedding once home is very appealing and an ideal solution to their problem.
And, let’s be honest, an elopement wedding can also create a sense of old fashioned romance, of adventure and thrill, of fun, magic and spontaneity.
Why not to elope?
So, there are many advantages to an elopement wedding, and it truly is a wonderful option, however it most definitely isn’t for everyone! There are, of course, also a number of disadvantages to eloping. Eloping means your nearest and dearest will not be there with you to celebrate and you may have to contend with hurt feelings and, potentially, your own retrospective sense of having ‘missed out’ on a big wedding.
A larger wedding can mean a chance to reconnect with friends or relatives you’ve lost touch with and, of course, there are many moments and experiences that are created by the people around you during your wedding, the moments, the expressions, the compliments and even just the joy of seeing your guests creating memories for them and you and enjoying the day you have created. Also, in the case of destination weddings, many countries, including Italy, require a certain number of witnesses to be present to testify to your marriage so if you are planning an elopement wedding you will likely need to arrange for witnesses to be provided by your wedding planner or chosen wedding ceremony venue.
There are important, and potentially harsh decisions to make when deciding whether an elopement wedding is for you. And if you do decide to elope, then there is a certain etiquette you can follow to ensure your decision doesn’t offend or at least to limit potential issues.
Elopement & Post-Elopement Etiquette
While eloping is by definition secret, most of the elopement couples I have worked with had already talked through their decision with parents and close family before deciding to elope. On a couple of occasions though, parents, family members and friends have received a surprise call, or photograph just after the wedding ceremony. In these instances the families and friends were thrilled and not at all offended, knowing of the bride and groom’s adventurous spirit, but this isn’t necessarily always the case. So, a paramount consideration is how important your nearest and dearests feeling are to you. If the thought of upsetting those closest to you by leaving them behind is just too painful, then perhaps an intimate wedding is a better option to consider.
If you do decide to elope and tell family and friends you simply want a private ceremony for just the two of you or a non-traditional getaway wedding, then wedding announcements are perfectly acceptable as are gifts. If, instead, you choose to keep your wedding a secret, you may find it a little daunting or difficult making that big announcement after the fact! Social media sites have revolutionized communications and are now a perfectly acceptable way of letting people know you are married. On occasions couples have updated their Facebook status straight after their ceremony and published a new wedding day profile picture to spread their good news! Emailing a picture of the two of you in your wedding attire is another way of surprising and informing your acquaintances.
Other more traditional methods include sending out written announcements to arrive on the day of your wedding, sending postcards from your wedding location to favourite people to let them know you’ve been married and sending ‘at home’ cards or reception invites on your return. Another popular trend is planning a large wedding anniversary celebration for the year after your wedding and sending an announcement to acquaintances, explaining that your wedding was just for the two of you but your anniversary celebration is for everyone and that you hope to see them there!
Having a post wedding party to celebrate with family and friends is a very good way of bringing everyone together without the pressure or fuss of a wedding day, and repairing any potential hurt feelings. It’s also an ideal opportunity to show guests pictures from your wedding day in a photo presentation. This way everyone feels involved and a part of your day without having actually been there. Small gifts brought from your wedding destination as wedding favours are also a lovely extra touch.
Elopement Wedding Photography
From a photography viewpoint, elopement weddings are a wonderful opportunity for us and the couple to spend time capturing breathtaking photographs, making the most of the bride and groom’s chosen location and really having fun, without the concern for having abandoned guests that you have to rush back to. In fact we have captured some truly unique and fabulous moments during elopement weddings.
Whether big, small or just the two of you, your wedding will be an unforgettable occasion and whoever you choose to spend your big day with, you can be safe in the knowledge that standing before the person you love and making your vows, you will be with the one person who matters most!