When you meet someone you want to share your life with, forever can’t come soon enough. That’s is why some couples decide to forgo a long engagement period and elope instead.
Eloping has transformed in recent years, as modern couples start to think critically about what matters to them for a ceremony and celebration and look for ways to save a pretty penny. Though the route isn’t for everyone, if you’ve thought of jetting off to Vegas, Hawaii, or just the courthouse in your zip code, here’s what you need to know.
What Does it Mean to Elope?
In the simplest terms, eloping is a more private way to wed without the usual pomp-and-circumstance that comes along with a traditional wedding. However, eloping looks a little different for every couple. While some choose a simple ceremony at lunchtime on a Tuesday, others leave their loved ones behind and get hitched on vacation. Or you can invite a select, close-knit group of people to witness the exchange. Generally speaking, you’ll say ‘I do’ and begin your marriage sooner with less planning, fewer frills, and a significantly lower price tag.
Not Your Grandparents’ Elopement
If you ask your grandparents, they might define eloping as secret and rushed, where the couple-to-be was unexpectedly pregnant beforehand. This is an outdated motivation to elope, and luckily, couples don’t have to run away to get married these days. This is partly due to changing ideologies around eloping, and a more open-minded perspective on the whole affair, according to Los Angeles-based psychologist, Dr. Yvonne Thomas.
“Eloping is more acceptable because it can be a better choice for some couples,” she says. “Generally, eloping is less expensive, less complicated, less stressful, and is more intimate.”
Pros and Cons to Getting Eloped
Like with all decisions you make about any important event in your life, weighing the negatives and positives can help direct your choice. Though there are plenty of perks to eloping with your one-and-only, there are also a few drawbacks. Let’s take a look.
Pro #1: You skip the stress and avoid decision burnout
There’s no way around it, wedding planning is stressful. From choosing a venue to selecting vendors and dealing with pressure from family and friends, even the most relaxed couples can develop a short fuse. Dr. Thomas says eloping can be a major benefit for the health of your relationship. Why? You get to skip all of the chaos, and become spouses sooner. After all, the heart of a wedding is the marriage — not the other way around.
Eloping prevents unnecessary disagreements about the many details of wedding planning, allowing you to sail into marriage sooner and more smoothly. “Couples can have less stress and make decisions more efficiently and quicker because there’s less time to plan things. The ‘bridezilla’ phenomenon is less likely to occur since there’s usually less emotional pressure and burnout,” Dr. Thomas explains.
Con #1: Your parents may not love it
Though viewpoints surrounding eloping are evolving, your parents may not be quite there. Leah Weinberg, owner and creative director of Color Pop Events, says the immediate families of each partner usually want to witness this important milestone and celebrate it with their children.
If you decide to go the solo route, be prepared for backlash from your folks, she warns. You can start by having a candid conversation about your wishes. Explain your reasons, remind them you care about them, and ask for their support. You can soften the impact by making plans to memorialize the event with them, such as setting up a family photoshoot or planning a special dinner celebration.
Pro #2: You will save mega money
Once you’re engaged, you start thinking about when and where you’ll get married. This depends on your location, your respective jobs, and the availability of venues. However, once you’ve decided on a location and paid the deposit, the costs have just begun. Forgoing traditional expenses means you will spend less and flexibility on your timeline can also lead to huge savings.
As Weinberg puts it, those who choose to elope are in a favorable stance to negotiate. This is especially true if you want to have a super-short engagement. “Since couples traditionally book farther out, if a venue or vendor has your date open, say, four months from now, they will probably be open to talking about price,” Weinberg continues. “They realize that they will probably not have another opportunity to book that date on such notice and that’s money they otherwise wouldn’t be getting.”
Con #2: Your friends might have questions
Your best friend or sibling has been there for you through the years. So when you announced via Facebook that you eloped over the weekend? You better believe they will have questions, and potentially be hurt they weren’t included in the celebration. They may even pull away from you.
“As much as the choice to elope should be up to the couple, family and friends may not see it that way and the couple may need to find a way to repair any emotional rift that results from their decision to elope,” Dr. Thomas shares. It’s worth giving your closest loved ones a head’s up before you elope, to prevent any miscommunication or heartache.
Pro #3: You get to skip family politics
Mary Angelini, a wedding filmmaker at Key Moment Films explains some weddings focus on the family’s traditions, as opposed to the couple’s personal preferences. More often than not, this is led by family politics, where your parents feel pressure to perform and extend an invite to everyone in their network. Or, they want to follow the same rules and rituals of every generation before them. You may not value these practices as deeply (or at all). Eloping bypasses many of those discussions completely.
Con #3: You miss out on tradition
You’ve watched dozens of friends go through the wedding planning process, and it doesn’t sound appealing to duplicate their day. Though that’s normal, founder of The Wedding Academy, Kylie Carlson encourages brides and grooms to think about the traditions that may matter to you.
“If you elope, you may not be able to get ready with a wedding party, walk down the aisle, have a first dance, toss your bouquet, cut the cake, and so on,” she explains. When you look back, you may feel sad you skipped these elements, so be candid with yourself and your partner before taking the route.
The happy medium
Just like traditional weddings, elopements aren’t one size fits all. You have the ability to customize each part, allowing you to choose certain elements while saying no to others. “A happy medium could be to have a small intimate wedding/elopement where only a select five to 15 friends and family are invited to keep the focus on the couple,” Angelini suggests.
One popular way to pull off this part-wedding, part-elopement is to choose a hard-to-reach location. Because couples know not everyone will make the long journey, they are able to appease their circle with an invite, while knowing the ultimate guest list will remain small, Angelini says.
Questions to Ask Before You Decide to Elope
If you’re thinking that eloping might be right for you, here are some discussion questions to help get you and your partner on the same page.
What do you both really want?
Ready to take the leap and elope? Before you book travel, find a venue, or set a date, have an in-depth conversation about your motivations and expectations.
Not everyone dreams of a wedding, or even pictures getting married. Maybe you’re not the type of person who likes to be on display in front of a few hundred people. Perhaps you get tired at just the thought of trying to pick out invitations. If your relationship thrives on spontaneity, or you tend to be more private people, eloping can sound pretty appealing.
When making your choice as a couple, set aside social media expectations, wedding magazines, and outside opinions. Whether it’s a private sunset ceremony on Kauai, the third floor of city hall next weekend, the park where you had your first date, or in your own backyard, only you know what you really want.
Would one of us regret eloping?
Maybe you want to wear formal wedding attire, while your partner would be more comfortable in something more casual. Perhaps you would like your parents to be in attendance, while your soon-to-be-spouse doesn’t want to invite their family. Every relationship varies, and each of you has a different background. But when you’re discussing the possibility of eloping, make sure to share your reservations and be considerate of your partner’s concerns, Dr. Thomas urges.
“The couple needs to know themselves both as a couple and as individuals to honestly be able to determine if there would be any regrets or upset with the decision to elope.” She recommends that if either of you is torn or undecided about eloping, it’s best to hold off. If you’re both fully on board, great. If not, one of you may end up with regret or resentment.
The Bottom Line on Eloping
A wedding is about love and your commitment to share and build a life together. No matter what type of celebration you decide on, it’s important to focus on the health of your relationship in the long term.
After all, what makes a wedding remarkable and memorable is the deep connection between the two people involved. And when you have that, everything else will sort itself out.