Eloping can be very exciting. After all, there’s no waiting. No lengthy discussions about whether or not to invite kids. No planning a dessert course for 200 people. It’s just you and your beloved, hand in hand as you race to a romantic location of your choice (and only yours).
The decision to elope can be a practical one, too. After all, it lets you plan your ideal wedding without arguing with parents-in-law over details like wedding dress hemlines. It allows you to save a huge amount of money. And you can rest assured that drunk Uncle Fred won’t be able to spoil your special day.
Before you start planning, make sure you really want to elope. Ask yourself whether you may possibly regret the decision in the future. If you or your partner feel pressured into skipping a traditional wedding celebration, it could lead to resentment in your relationship. If there’s any doubt in your mind, you may want to take the aspects of eloping that appeal to you (such as the intimacy) and turn them into a small, unconventional wedding ceremony instead. Since eloping can sometimes cause hurt feelings among would-be guests and make existing family drama worse, it’s worth taking a moment to consider your plans.
The first step in planning a successful elopement is deciding whom to tell. In many cases, couples decide to elope in order to avoid clashes with friends and family who don’t approve of their union. If this is your situation, it is extremely important to keep a tight lid on your nuptial plans. Even telling one friend can spiral out of control if you find you’ve overestimated your friend’s ability to keep a secret. Be wary of posting any details online, too; despite the best intentions, privacy filters can be bypassed when friends gossip among themselves.
Once you’ve decided whether or not you want your elopement to be public knowledge, it’s time to handle the logistics. Make sure the officiant or Justice of the Peace you choose is prepared to fill out the appropriate paperwork to make your union legal. This varies by state, so be sure to research your location’s requirements if you’re crossing state lines for a more exotic experience. Get your paperwork, including birth certificates, divorce papers (if you’ve had a previous marriage), medical test results, and travel documents, ready before you leave.
Will you need witnesses to make your marriage legal? When you elope to a remote location, the logistics of the ceremony are completely up to you. If you’re eloping to a marriage mecca like Las Vegas, however, you won’t find any trouble hiring witnesses for your ceremony. Plan ahead of time so you know whether you need to bring a few friends along for the ride.
Just because you’re eloping, you don’t have to forgo the niceties of a wedding ceremony. If you’re attached to the idea of a formal wedding gown, professional photography, or even flower arrangements, you can still have them with your runaway wedding. Research vendors who are local to your desired wedding location and reserve your date with them well ahead of time. Just because your wedding will be an intimate one, it doesn’t mean it will take up less space on vendors’ calendars. If you’d rather prepare DIY versions of your wedding-day items, be sure they travel well–items should be able to fit in your car or suitcases without becoming creased or damaged.
Enjoy your intimate wedding. You’ll probably come back from your elopement (and honeymoon) refreshed and full of romance. However, life won’t always resume smoothly from there. Be prepared to explain your decision to family and friends who may feel hurt by their exclusion from your ceremony. It sometimes helps to plan a “just married” party so you can include your loved ones without worrying that they will complicate the ceremony. However you decide to reveal the news–some couples wait years before announcing their marriage–just make sure you have fully thought out your reasons and are able to explain them to those who ask. Remember, it’s your wedding and your decision in the long run. If you plan your elopement in a style that suits you and your partner, you’re doing it right!
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.