More and more people are eloping these days, but how do you know if eloping is right for you? What even is eloping?
For starters, “eloping” used to exclusively mean: “the two of you run off together and no one knows you’re getting married.” These days, the definition has broadened to include “intimate weddings” from just a few people up to 20 or 30. The terms haven’t been firmly defined, and I’m cool with that. Who cares what other people call it? You do you, cupcake.
Disclaimer: I definitely vote for eloping. I’m a little bit biased, because Duncan and I had a teeny tiny wedding, and almost all the weddings I photograph are intimate, and I love these small weddings. Howmever (not a typo): as much as I want everyone to be aware that they can get married wherever and however they like–some people don’t realize they can!!–I am also a fierce advocate of personal choice. If you want a big wedding, you have a big wedding. But if you’re thinking about a more intimate wedding…here are some things to consider:
Traditions are the biggest barrier to eloping. Now, right off the bat, let me just say this: I’m not here to tell you to trash all your traditions. Far from it. I’m here to tell you to consider each of them. Keep the ones that truly matter to you, and feel free to let go of the ones that either mean nothing to you or feel wrong to you, or whatever. I love unconventional weddings, but “small” and “unconventional” aren’t synonymous. It’s just easier to go small when you focus on what’s really important to you rather than what everyone else tells you to do.
Cultural traditions are actually my favourite freaking thing. You want kilts and bagpipes? Yes. Tea ceremony? Yes. Guitarists, readings in other languages, dances… I’m here for all of it.
So go for it; incorporate things that mean something to you!
You also need to balance how important traditions are to your family, and by extension, how much your family’s wishes matter to you. If your grandparent really wants you to get married in a church, but you really don’t, how important is it to you that you honour their wishes? That’s a personal call that only you and your partner can make. If everyone around you has got an opinion and it’s doing your head in, give this a read.
So don’t look at this as black and white, as keep the traditions or throw them out. Keep the ones that mean something to you, and let go of the ones that don’t.
Planning an elopement doesn’t take nearly as long as planning a big wedding.
If you’re looking at a shorter engagement, you just want to get married, or you just don’t want to spend a lot of time planning, an elopement may be for you! All wedding planning comes with some stress (click over to this post if you want help managing it), but elopements can be put together much more quickly.
People book up to a year out to make sure they can get all their vendors available on the same date. I’ve been booked less than a month before a wedding, but honestly, if your wedding is next week and I happen to have the date available, I’m down. Smaller weddings often have fewer vendors, or more wiggle room, so you can often book much closer to your wedding date.
…no guarantees though. Just saying.
Has to be mentioned, especially these days!
A 2017 study claimed that the average couple in the U.S. spent $33,391 on their wedding, but this varied greatly depending on where the wedding was located. You have to take location into account!! Next time you see one of those Facebook threads asking, “How much did you pay your photographer?” please know that the cost is so variable. It depends on location, skill level, demand, etc. etc. etc.
Like…what are you doing Manhattan; why do your weddings cost $76,944?!
We eloped for way way less than that average, and in one of the most expensive states in the country. On average, wedding guest counts are starting to drop, but cost-per-guest is climbing. People are always looking to cut corners to save some money, and I get that, but…you guys, don’t hire the cheapest photographer you can find. I won’t make this a soapbox moment, but these are your memories we’re talking about here! And the idea that everything surrounding an elopement should be cheaper is just…bananas to me. We happily invested most of our budget in a photographer because the photos were even more important to us for an elopement.
Especially if it’s just the two of you, stunning, intimate photos show your family what you experienced. They help them to understand why you chose to elope.
And if you do need to tighten the belt, do it yourself, and be ok with how that’s going to turn out. I knew I couldn’t afford my talented florist friends, so I made do on my own, rather than asking them for a discount and devaluing their work. Because I’m not a garbage person.
Anyway. Back on track: smaller weddings can be much less expensive than big, traditional weddings, but this isn’t the main reason why people choose to elope.
Some people love planning big events, and that’s ok. Some people have the money and patience to hire a planner, and that’s ok too. But then some people (like me) get a little overwhelmed by having to constantly make decisions that they really don’t care about.
Now. As someone who works in the wedding industry and knows exactly how much hard work and talent goes into everything involved, I am in no way trying to knock other vendors. But tiny weddings–especially “true” elopements of just 2 people–tend to have way fewer vendors than big weddings. Fewer moving parts, fewer things to coordinate. If you aren’t interested in planning a huge event, a small wedding may be the way to go.
Speaking both as someone who eloped and someone who’s photographed both large and small weddings: you can’t get “small wedding intimacy” with a big wedding.
You just can’t.
Neither Duncan nor I enjoy being the center of attention. We didn’t want our wedding to be a show for other people, we wanted it to be about us. Wanted to spend as much time together as we could, just enjoying the day, rather than making time to talk with 100 different people. We exchanged private vows before the ceremony, planned plenty of time to just be alone with our kickass photographer, and then enjoyed a cosy dinner at a restaurant with our families.
No matter what size your wedding is, everyone there wants a piece of you. They’re so excited! They want to congratulate you, hug you, tell you how happy they are. But when the guest list grows, suddenly your obligation does too. You’ll spend half your day wondering where your new spouse is, while yet another well-wisher pulls you to one side.
You may have a totally different perspective, and that’s ok! Have your big wedding and socialize with everyone! But if you’re like me and you get tired just thinking about that… I seriously can’t recommend eloping enough.
It’s a lot to think about! And there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Give yourself time to take a break, think about what’s important to you, and muster up the courage to make that happen xx