Whether you’re overwhelmed by the thought of planning a large-scale wedding or you’re on a tight budget, eloping is the route to “I do” that many couples are taking these days. It can take the pressure away from the planning and allow the couple to better enjoy the sentiment of the ceremony. Not only does it ease responsibilities, it can also cost a whole lot less. Here’s our simple guide to the ins and outs of eloping.
Because eloping is often a spur-of-the-moment decision, it’s easy to forget to share the news with family and friends (often leading to unhappy loved ones). You aren’t required to invite anyone, but be sure to call your parents and siblings before you tie the knot, or immediately afterward. This will help alleviate hurt feelings. Other than that, you’re free to do everything however you’d like! That’s the fun and freedom of eloping. Once you return from your nuptials, be sure to send out wedding announcements to let your friends and family know the good news—and don’t forget to include a pic or two from the wedding day.
If you’re working with a smaller budget, you can always go the cost-efficient route by heading to your local courthouse. A weekend getaway to your favorite resort or a nearby hot spot is also an option (if you don’t already have one in mind, you can usually find a local officiant who will marry you). This usually costs about 10 percent of the average wedding. If you want to go all out, consider wrapping the wedding and honeymoon together for a multiweek trip to your dream destination.
You can elope anywhere! That’s the beauty of it. If the two of you love to party, head to Vegas for a fun-filled weekend of gambling, and top it off with a wedding ceremony at the famous A Little White Wedding Chapel. Beach wedding more your style? Fly to Miami or somewhere on the California coast for an oceanfront affair. Or go to Aspen for a mountainside winter wedding complete with snow! Your options are truly endless.
Are you fashion-frugal? If spending thousands of dollars on a wedding dress is not your cup of tea, consider that most elopement ceremonies are decidedly more casual. For something you’ll wear again, don a simple white cocktail dress or choose something with a splash of color. Just keep the climate of your destination in mind. City hall weddings are much more flexible. Dress up or dress down—it’s your choice. You could even wear a simple-yet-sophisticated pantsuit if you prefer.
The Post-“I do” Party
According to wedding etiquette expert Peggy Post, couples that choose to elope can still have a traditional wedding reception at home. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear your dress again, have a wedding cake and create a bridal registry. Just keep in mind that timing is important. A reception should be planned in the weeks immediately following your ceremony. Anything later might be considered to be in bad taste if you’ve registered or are hoping for a monetary gift.
The Legal Details
The thought of running off and getting married spontaneously may be romantic, but it’s not always practical. Of course, you’ll need a marriage license, and requirements vary depending on the city, state and country. It’s important to call ahead to see if you need to do special paperwork or have physical tests done, like blood work. Make sure you confirm the office hours and know whether or not you need an appointment—imagine your disappointment if you and your would-be groom arrived and were turned away. Also, have all of your documentation on hand: a photo ID, certified birth certificate and proof of divorce or death if either of you has been married before. Some places may require a two- to three-week waiting period, so always check first. For a wedding abroad, contact the country’s embassy to determine what’s needed for nonresidents to be married there. You’ll likely need all the same paperwork as above, and you may also need a witness.