This is a long one folks…
And by elope I mean forgoing so-called “tradition” of the big wedding affairs and have something small. (that can be a true “surprise everyone we are married” or just a small event, just the couple, just a few friends, or just immediate family…. It can happen at someone’s home, at a travel destination, in a court house… and so on. … just last year I eloped, and for me it was… just me, my husband, the mayor, maid of honor, and best man and it took place on my maid of honor’s porch.)
So yes, it is okay to elope…
Not because it’s posh. Not because well “screw the establishment” or “damn those naysaying family or friends” etc.
Do it if you want to.
Here’s the deal as I stated above, I eloped… and as I am an over-thinker and researcher I spent a lot of time searching for books, blog posts, pinterest, Instagram, movies, whatever I could to validate my decision.
So in case you were like me…. Here is your validation… It is okay to elope. HOWEVER, there are things to consider. I will list them all below and resources as usual.
But first, here is a quiz:
Answer true or false to these statements
I am considering eloping because ….
- My friends, family, or the important people in my life are against my relationship
- I don’t want to elope but my partner does, and I just go with what they say
- There is a big age gap in our relationship or we are both very young
- Marriage is bs/whatever & we can always just get a divorce if it doesn’t work out
- all my friends are all already married and I want to be married too
- I have fears my partner is going to leave me so I need to seal the deal now
- Me/my partner is pregnant, we “need to”, even though we don’t want to/ or know each other very well.
- one of us need’s the other’s work health benefits
- I don’t want to see people/spend money, but expect lots of gifts anyway!
- I don’t think I’m ready for marriage/a wedding/commitment, but eloping is different, right?
If you said “true” to any one of these…. Then you should reconsider what you’re doing. See, all those above statements are the negative connotations of why people Elope. People think you don’t respect the institution of marriage, that you are a child being led astray, you are making a rash decision in spite of people, or that you are ‘with’ child… and so on. (Now granted these can be small parts of the puzzle, if there are things like toxic family members or pregnancy or any other factors that’s okay too HOWEVER… the reasons for your elopement should be because of dedicated commitment and your wants and needs… not ‘in spite of’, not because of pressures, not because of expectations. )
It is important to recognize if you are looking to elope because you are placating fears… meaning, eloping is getting married it’s just not with the big fanfare, it’s still a commitment, it’s still legally binding. It’s also still technically a “wedding” even if you don’t wear a white poofy dress or walk down an aisle.
Oh… And yes, on the option of divorce, which I am glad exists, because we can all make mistakes and there might be other factors involved… but marriage should never be entered into with the thought of “Well I could just get divorced.” Also, divorces are not easy, they can be just as expensive as the wedding itself, and if you don’t know your partner very well, and there is a negative power dynamic, you could be stuck in a very hostile and tricky situation. So yes, there is an out if something comes up down the line… but realize, overall you are going into this with the intention of “death do us part.”
SOOOOO… The thing is, marriage, in any form is a big deal. You are bonding your life with another human being, which means combining finances, sharing a household, possibly having children, possibly changing your name. If you are taking this lightly and without much thought… well I advise you to think on it a bit because it’s a big deal which is why people spend crazy amounts of money on weddings because they want it to FEEL like a big deal. But then the whole commitment gets lost in the shuffle.
So before eloping… which is totally okay to do… you really need to ask yourself the following questions…
- are you ready to get married?
- do you know the person you are marrying really well?
- are you both on the same page about the really important stuff (religion, politics, having/raising babies, where you’ll live, division of money etc.)?
- do you have any other expectations for the marriage and have you looked at whether these expectations are realistic?
Remember marriage changes everything and nothing… and by that I mean, you will still be the same people you’ve been. Marriage won’t make you wake up and feel a certain way. However, it does change dynamics—shared funds, shared living space, shared goals and commitments. It also means checking your plans against another person’s for the rest of your life. So it is important to know what you truly want and that you and your partner are on the right page/ meant for the long haul etc.
So you might be asking, if I feel so strongly about thinking things through etc, why did I elope? THE SHORT VERSION…. 1) We were engaged almost a year and tried to plan a big wedding, then finally decided to elope, which took approximately 1.5 months to plan 2) As we had been together for 5 years, and living together for 4, we already felt married. Both in our 30s & committed to one another. 3) Anxiety, Stress, Expectations for a big wedding were overwhelming us 4) Couldn’t justify the costs of a big wedding, and wanted to save money–we didn’t want to rob our future selves of financial freedom just to make an extravagance happen, especially when our current selves already have/had loads of debt. …. AND NOW, we are very happily married. That doesn’t mean that it’s all smiles and romance; we know that life can be tough and we need to manage expectations and also support ourselves and each other through it all as a partnership.
I may do a follow up post on my personal experience if people are interested… but now let’s get back to why it’s okay FOR YOU to elope (if you want to)…
Valid and healthy reasons why you may be considering eloping …
- You have personal reasons that make a large wedding unfavorable such as health issues, anxiety, depression, and so on
- You don’t have a lot of money and/or don’t want to spend a lot of money on a wedding
- You want something truly special between you and your partner.
- There are a lot of expectations from people who are truly not important to you and your relationship… so it would be just better to do what you want.
And also the most important of course: Heather of “You Got This” @yougotdisblog highly recommends it… (JUST KIDDING!!!) Even though I am very happy with my choice to elope and do recommend it…it’s up to you to figure out what you want! I am merely a guide.
NOW FOR THE REBUTTALS…. (or helping with those nagging thoughts)
BUT WOULDN’T I BE WRONG ABOUT NOT FOLLOWING TRADITIONS???
Traditions are relative. We create new “traditions” every day and some of what is considered classic traditional is not even so…. Weddings do come with a lot of expectations of “traditions” and extravagance. In 2018 the national American average for weddings was slightly over $33,000! Majority of so-called expected “traditions” were part of something that was necessary for the time it originated but has overtime been misconstrued into a sense of tradition. (Such as the reason why the bride threw a garter) Whilst many other “traditions” were made up by the wedding industry itself to get as much money from the Bride and Groom as possible! (Such as the need for a special engraved cake server)
It has only been within the last 80 years that a big wedding became such a “to-do” for people of every financial bracket. Before the 1930s (and actually well into the 1950s), weddings were a simple affair. That is unless you were royalty. The major difference is, is that the wedding industry has masterfully convinced the modern day bride that this is their one chance to feel like “royalty”. Honestly, they have made it so popular that even though you probably have debts such as car payments, and school loans, and so on there is still a part of you justifying some extravagance because “it’s my day!” (That’s like at one point I looked at having a Disney wedding… meanwhile our screen door we use every day has been held together with duct tape because we couldn’t justify buying a new one, but somehow spending $20,000 on just the princess carriage with its sole purpose of providing a grand entrance up to my wedding day walkway seemed reasonable… I ultimately decided it wasn’t but you catch my meaning.)
To me a large wedding (especially for those who cannot financially afford it) is just societal pressures and really the money making wedding industry being a big bully. So, No, it’s not wrong. Traditions vary, you can create your own traditions… it’s what traditions are important to you that matter!
BUT IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE?!
Well to that I say, I surely hope it isn’t. I know that sounds mean but it’s not… Could you imagine, your wedding is fabulous everything is perfect for that one day, but your whole married life is lackluster? (Also, I have yet to meet anyone that has had a wedding that was perfect… people make messes and cause drama… in fact most of the people I know have thought “IT WENT TOO FAST” or even worse, “I AM JUST SO GLAD IT’S OVER”… yikes! That doesn’t sound right to me… spending all you’re your money just so you can have this one special day in your life, sounds like a toxically mixed message… if you are getting married, I hope that there are days better than your wedding day, because if there isn’t…THEN WHY GET MARRIED???!!?!? I do not understand this.
I mean sure of course you love that idea of one perfect day… but perfect is a perception. And the thing is it also depends on your perception of what perfect is. To me perfect was verbally baring my soul to my future husband as he did the same with our personally written vows. It was a simple homemade cake, looking pretty, some pictures, and nice dinner. It was returning to our home that now truly feels like “OUR HOME”. However we still stumbled over words, I forgot to hand write transfer my vows so I read them off my phone… the florist who was only delivering two small bouquets and flower pins had the wrong day listed and had to be called… I mean things happen no matter what! It was still wonderful for us.
Your wedding day can still be an awesome day even if it’s an elopement. (In fact for most it might be more magical because there are less factors and stressors and people to consider so it can truly be your vision.) There is no such thing as a perfect day and I hope for you that there will be many amazing days in your life, not just your wedding day!
BUT IT REALLY DOESN’T COST THAT MUCH RIGHT?
The 2018 national average as I said was $33,000. That’s average which means there are some below but probably a lot more above. Now depending on who you are, where you live, who you know, and what you do, that might not seem like a lot but to me, that felt like a fortune for a single day. If you have a great paying job, the right connections, and generous well-off family and friends, then it might not be a lot but considering that most cars cost less than that average, and many people are starting with big debts and barely covering their day-to-day bills… yea it is a lot.
Also if you have plans of family, a big house, pets, travel whatever…. All of that costs money. I know a lot of people who have had to put their lives on hold to make a big wedding happen and are still with their lives on hold because of continuing to pay off that wedding. Look at what is truly important to you… there will always be expenses.
What people consider traditional or big weddings always come with a hefty price-tag and many times people will up the price if they hear the terms: bride, groom, wedding, bridesmaids, groomsmen, marriage… etc.
BUT DON’T YOU GET THAT MONEY BACK IN GIFTS? OR ISN’T IT EXPECTED OF ME TO HAVE A WEDDING SO I CAN GET GIFTS?
If you are going broke for a wedding, and your family and friends are in the same financial situation, they cannot afford to give you much either. Some may not be able to give even a little bit of money. This is also rooted in the misleading wedding industry… why stop at the bride and groom’s wallets when they can monopolize the friend’s and family’s… so of course the Bride and Groom should have an extensive gift registry… And honestly… it almost seems mean to expect gifts… remember even if your intent is for your friends to have an amazingly memorable night… you aren’t taking care of all of their costs… which can include things like: flights out to places, fancy clothes, pre-parties, cash bar, hotel rooms, dinners, spa trips, babysitter expenses… and much more… all of which can cost a lot of money… I know friends who are broke because of other people’s weddings.
Soooo… Unless all your attendees are of a certain financial socioeconomic status, there’s no way that you will be getting back the costs of the wedding through gifts. There is no saying who will attend and what they will bring. (Also everywhere I’ve looked it’s considered rude to ask for personal extras or money… I know this sounds crazy, if you are making a list of what you want any way can’t you just list what you want?… but according to the ettiqutee rules… that’s a big no no. )
Ultimately the reason you get married is because you want to make that commitment to someone, it’s not about how many gifts you get. Also, when it comes to big weddings, in the majority most bride and grooms will not see even half of the amount of money they spent on the wedding in gifts from attendees. (QUICK ASIDE: If you want something, and you elope, you now have the money you didn’t spend on the wedding to buy yourself whatever you wanted.)
side note: and yes sometimes even if you elope people will give gifts or have celebrations it all depends on the relationships youve made and what people feel compelled to do.
BUT AREN’T ELOPEMENTS/SMALL WEDDINGS JUST AS EXPENSIVE??
NOW, they certainly can be, it depends. Once again it’s about planning, picking and choosing what you feel are necessary elements for your wedding and a little bit of who you know. (Courthouse weddings are cheap, take a few minutes, just paperwork filing fees.) However, if you are eloping to an all-inclusive hotel on an island, and buying a ‘Say Yes To The Dress’ ball gown and so on… you can easily rack up the price- tag. However, an elopement is the best for those who are more private people, those who can’t afford a large wedding, and want it to be solely about the commitment.
Overall elopements are nowhere near the amount of a big or traditional wedding. However that depends on how much you spend on all the little details and what you value, who you know, etc.
BUT WHAT WILL MY FAMILY/FRIENDS/CO-WORKERS SAY!??? (Shouldn’t I be focused on making my family and friends happy?)
Honestly, I don’t know what they will say! It depends on the people. If it’s possible and you think your family would be supportive and receptive to the idea, then broach the topic with them in advance.
However, the people who love you and truly accept you will understand. There may be some hurt feelings and if you have toxic unsupportive family members, well they will be toxic and unsupportive either at your wedding, or in response to your elopement… a wedding doesn’t change people, so don’t expect fairy tale magic to change this. I know harsh, but it is what is.
Personally, overall my family and friends were accepting and loving. There were some who admitted to being sad that they weren’t there but ultimately understood. Our respective work places, families, and friends have had some small get-togethers… (most brides don’t get to eat while I’ve had multiple celebratory cakes! lol) And we are still having some. It’s awesome.
Ultimately if you are concerned about who to tell or not, remember it is up to the happiness of you and your partner… YOU CANNOT PLEASE EVERYONE. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. (Also, and this is terrible, but with some people is much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.) That being said, just be mindful of who you tell and what your aims are.
Overall know that you cannot please everyone and that you cannot control people’s reactions. You need to do what is best for you, the most important people to consider are you and your future husband/bride.
BUT CAN’T I JUST DO A SMALLER VERISON OF THE WEDDING I WAS PLANNING?
Technically Yes, yes you can. This is truly up to you. Generally, you are able to cut unnecessary items from your ceremony and reception and slash your guest list down so you can make your wedding affordable. There are certain costs however that will always be large (venues, entertainment, feeding people, etc.). Remember DIY is only cost effective if you have the time to spend to DIY and you can get the items and things easily and for minimal costs.
In Summary: So of course think this stuff over, like a lot, it’s stressful, it’s a big deal. For us, the most stress free option when it came to want/ needs/desires and finances was to elope. So if you needed that reaffirmation, it is okay to elope.
NOW ALL THAT BEING SAID. (Man there is a lot of caps in this one… but I feel like Caps and bold are necessary to navigate this crazy long post! Anyway…) This does not mean that I see anything wrong with someone wanting a big to-do for their day, it’s YOUR day, just make sure the reasons you want it that way are because YOU want it that way. And when I say YOU, (I mean you as a couple… You and your partner should be on the same page).
MY Biggest ADVICE, IF YOU DECIDE TO ELOPE:
Alert/Inform people ASAP: Make sure it isn’t more than a week after… Because then you get the “why didn’t you tell me?”. And also plan for everyone to find out as simultaneously as possible because you don’t want people calling in shock that heard the news from someone else. This can be family and friends but also co-workers… It is best to plan in advance how you are going to tell everyone you care about as to make sure they can all find out clearly within the same small time period. Personally, I had drafted emails I wrote the day before I got married, to my family, to friends, and work associates and then hit send the morning after. I also wrote out what I would say in a text for other close friends unreachable by email, and I wrote out a blurb I would post on Facebook. I also had a friend “in the know” to make up a simple website for me. Everyone got a message all at once (yes even our parents and close family) so it was all fair and everyone found out at once.
Treat Yo Self: Just because you are having a small wedding or elopement doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a nice outfit, flowers, or some kind of flourish. You can still buy outfits off the rack or off of Amazon, you don’t have to be a blushing bride in white. But if you want to buy something special to wear, you really should. (Side Note: LOOKING THE PART: if you live in the United States and are getting married in the US and want to have the “yay look there is a bride” cheering onlookers thing… you will have to wear something that looks like a wedding dress, have a veil, and/or flowers… because you can’t expect anyone to just “know.”
If you get a special outfit: if you are getting a special outfit and decide to go to a wedding boutique, David’s Bridal, or even the bridal section of Nordstrom… you need to give a little bit of time for alternations or to order in items. Also know that many places wont just have white dresses off the rack if isn’t considered “the right season” for it. So do some research. ALSO A HEADS Up: If you purchase a dress or suit from a wedding outfitter know you will be asked for the wedding date then put in their system and most likely will be bombarded with emails and perhaps even calls and texts for them to upsell more crap… er items to you. And if you are on a tight timeline, you may have to lie and say that your wedding is a year or so out so that they do not pressure you into buying something because they know you are on a tight schedule. (This is dependant on how much you trust these sellers and how much of a backbone you have to stand up if they say “oh this is the only one” or “well this is all we can do”. )
Hire a Photographer: YES even if it is just a courthouse wedding and a meal… Most people won’t be upset as long as you have pictures to share. And even if it’s a simple little thing you are going to want pictures. Even an elopement can be exhausting and a blur. It’s a special moment, capture it and of course take some shots with your phone so that it’s easier to post on your social media accounts. (FYI, its probably best to send announcements to loved ones and make sure they got them before posting things on social media)
Take a moment to reflect and to do some research: Look into your finances, know what you can afford. Our elopement took a little over a month of planning… there are things still to purchase at a small wedding such as wedding band and outfits… things to do such as book the mayor/courthouse visit/dinner reservation/photographer ETC. ALSO, each state has different wedding laws, there might be waiting periods, filing fees, you may need no witnesses, you made need two witnesses, there may be a blood test… LOTS OF LEGAL DETAILS… There are other laws and paperwork if you get married outside of the country…. So… DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Make a checklist and go through what you have to do (you may still have to budget and plan ahead that is unless you are doing the Vegas drive through): I highly recommend this website (also listed below) because this is the best checklist I’ve seen https://www.herecomestheguide.com/wedding-party-ideas/detail/elopement-checklist
Be firm in your decision: Do not be apologetic that you eloped. If you truly want(ed) to elope then it doesn’t matter what anyone ultimately thinks on the matter. Don’t try to guess at how people will feel, be prepared for whatever reaction people may make but ultimately it’s up to you how you feel. When I made my email announcement I made that very clear by stating: “It is with great joy and excitement that I announce we are now married! We love you all so much and look forward to celebrating with you in the future. We had a photographer in attendance so we will have lots of pictures to share.” If you think someone is going to be a naysayer, be a yay!-sayer so that their naysaying falls on deaf ears!
Budget & take a hard look at your financial wants/needs/goals : Really take the time to sit down and budget, maybe with lots of saving and knowing the right people etc a big wedding can happen… but also realize what you are forgoing in your life to make this big wedding happen. So crunch the numbers, and unless you know you truly can depend on your parents or your partner’s parents to chip in, know that the financial burden is truly on you and your partner. See what is important to you.
Don’t depend on others to finance you wedding: If you have a wonderful relationship with both sets of parents and they are well off and truly have your corner and your wishes in mind (this is the exception not the rule)…. Then sure…. OTHERWISE…. When others back your wedding they feel they have a say on how things should be so know that for everyone who pays a good deal for wedding expenses you’ve given them power and the right to chime in. SIDE NOTE: unless it’s a trusted wedding planner… which you can still have if you so desire and can afford for even an elopement… I would suggest making the time to make all calls and appointments and arrangements yourself, if you give someone else the voice to speak for you (especially someone who has wronged you or does what they want anyway) you are giving them the opportunity to change your plans without your knowledge and ultimately overrule your decisions (if they are malicious they may even charge things to your accounts that you cannot afford, take away food restrictions they don’t believe in, and some super crazy toxic people have even changed the guest lists!)
Extra celebrations: Depending on the people in your life you may have surprise parties, dinners, etc. in your honor of your marriage because people want to celebrate you. Know that this is out of kindness and love for you, however, there is a difference between someone holding something in your honor as a celebration and someone feeling they need to do something. Be mindful of toxic people and situations and put your foot down when you need to HOWEVER don’t get angry with the generally nice well-meaning people if they want to have some simple stress-free celebrations that they plan and you just show up, why not? I know this sounds odd but some people elope because they truly don’t want the attention and others because they are avoiding toxic family situations… that doesn’t mean everyone is toxic, you know your people. Also it is okay to spread the joy out by hosting small intimate gatherings here or there (a dinner out) a pot luck whatever to celebrate with friends or family.
Gift expectation: It’s okay to want gifts and accept gifts… its NOT OKAY TO EXPECT GIFTS! You didn’t have a wedding, or if you did, most weren’t invited… it’s tacky/rude to think you should just get gifts because you got married. Not cool. SO even if you have a party with friends that you got married, you shouldn’t expect a gift. HOWEVER, know that if someone does want to give you a gift, unless it is obviously negatively charged and you cannot accept a gift, most people are just being kind, not trying to “make you feel guilty because you didn’t have the big wedding they expected”. Unless it’s a festering turd or a threatening note written in blood, it’s usually okay to just assume they just wanted to give you something because they love you and want to give you the gift. So, if someone wants to give out of the kindness of their heart, be thankful and appreciative, and know how special it was that they wanted to give you a gift despite having no involvement with your wedding. They aren’t doing that to make you feel guilty. (And if they truly are because you know their toxic behavior, then it is perfectly okay to say “I will only accept a gift if it comes from a place of love, not if it comes with expectations or ill intentions… if that is the case I cannot accept this gift. Thank you for thinking of me.” And then walk the heck away.)
Dealing with Vendors/Venues: If you have a special destination or a special vendor that you would like at your wedding/event know that many will have dollar signs in their eyes and see you not as a human being but an ability to upsell (it’s just the economy and the industry don’t take it personally) however go in with awareness that there will be this thought process and sometimes you may be ignored or pushed around if you aren’t have a big extravaganza. Again as I said do you research and make sure you have other venues/vendors you can play against the others and also have information like “this was stated on your website and on another reputable website as this price, or this offer, what you are saying isn’t congruent with that information”… and worst case sceanrio you can leverage with a semi-threat of writing a poor social media review and spreading the word about being treated poorly or given inflated prices etc. (Pro tip if you do write a review, calm the freak down before you do, and write it from a place of “just to let everyone know because I don’t want you to deal with this,”or “I don’t want this to happen to you” attitude because, there are a lot of crazy people on the internet, so it’s best if you want to be taken seriously to write from a place of making people aware, NOT from a place of “these A**holes are f***ing liars who rip you off...” etc. ALSO DO NOT WRITE A NEGATIVE REVIEW IF YOU ARE STILL GOING TO USE THAT VENDOR!!! THEY MAY BECOME SPITEFUL AND PURPOSEFULLY RUIN YOUR WEDDING!!…. so be mindful of how you use this power… I would suggest only saying that you would write a review as leverage and then only writing the review either after not getting anywhere so you aren’t hiring them or writing a poor review for a vendor you did use that was ultimately terrible after the wedding is over. ALSO don’t write a negative review, if they fixed their mistake, we all make mistakes if they took the time to correct it, then focus on the positive.)
Whew, I think this my longest post by far… but marriage (even an elopement is a big deal so I wanted to give you as much as I could!)
Now go get hitched! (or not) No matter what, You GOT this!
Weddings Under $5,000 (or even under $2,000) :
Are you ready to get married?:
https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a34195/signs-youre-ready-to-get-married/ (signs you are ready)
https://www.bustle.com/articles/180602-the-9-weirdest-signs-youre-ready-to-get-married (signs you are ready)
https://www.essence.com/love-sex/relationships/12-signs-youre-not-ready-marriage/ (signs you are NOT ready)
https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/love-sex/8-signs-youre-not-ready-to-get-married/ss-BBIA1Kc (signs you are NOT ready)
People Who have eloped or had very small weddings (their advice or why they are glad they eloped…. AKA more validation):
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/couples-who-decided-to-elope-and-are-damn-glad-they-did_n_5720fef6e4b01a5ebde43513 (Couples who are glad they eloped)
https://d23.com/this-day/walt-disney-and-lillian-bounds-are-married/ (Fun fact even Walt Disney had a small wedding!)
Talking to/Dealing with Vendors/Venues:
Eloping advice and important info:
Movies to get you psyched for a Vegas Wedding:
16 Reasons Why It’s Okay to Elope:
Some of these may be a little outdated on the exact costs but otherwise are still very useful. Most of the titles are on budgeting a wedding of any size.
The ones I have read…
One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead
Let’s Elope: The Definitive Guide to Eloping, Destination Weddings, and Other Creative Wedding Options by Scott Shaw and Lynn Beahan
The ones I haven’t read but come highly recommended…
The Broke-Ass Bride’s Wedding Guide: Hundreds of Tips and Tricks for Hitting Your Budget by Dana La Rue
A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene (2nd edition)
Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides by Ariel Meadow Stallings
The DIY Wedding: Celebrate Your Day Your Way by Kelly Bare & Natalie Zee Drieu