I’ve been married twice. The first time around, I had the traditional wedding – flowing gown, wed in an historic nondenominational church, the reception, the works! I didn’t enjoy even one minute of it. I was highly stressed with the planning and coordination, had zero help from anyone – other than my future mother-in-law who tried to control it all.
First and foremost, I had to have two of my wisdom teeth surgically removed three days before the wedding. I was in terrible pain, my jaw was swollen, and a bit bruised and I was pretty much hopped up on pain killers that I was in a fog for most of it. There was so much more but that is another article for another day.
For my second marriage, we eloped. And it was the best, most glorious time! We did this as simply – and as cheaply – as possible. Well, we had to go super cheap because we didn’t have a lot of money at the time. We found a retired judge who charged us $100 for her services.
We were fine with that as she came to our apartment. Our best friends lived above us so they came down to witness and celebrate with us after. It was perfect. No pressure, no stress. I cooked a fabulous meal, our friends brought the champagne and it was truly perfect.
However, I learned a lot about from both of my experiences regarding the pros and cons of having a wedding versus eloping. Upon reflection, I can honestly say that I also wish I had someone with the knowledge needed to plan both types of celebrations – a planner!
This article is going to focus on Elopement and offer some great suggestions on how to do it well, inexpensively, and more. I’ll also focus on how you can do this safely during the craziness that is COVID-19.
First Things to Consider
While hearing the word “Elopement” typically conjures images of a lovely couple running off toward the sunset hand-in-hand and laughing, the reality of eloping is much different, albeit, still quite romantic. There are some basics you still need to plan on, such as:
- Budget – How much money do you have to budget for your elopement? Are you planning a Destination Elopement? Are you planning to have a photographer? How much will the officiant cost? Marriage license fees? Bridal bouquet?
- Logistics – Where do you want to elope? Close to home or do you plan to combine the elopement with your honeymoon destination? What date do you want to wed? Who will be your witnesses? Are you going to stream your elopement live so friends and family can watch or record it for later viewing?
Will you marry at the courthouse or some place else?
If you are planning a destination elopement, you will need to make your arrangements far in advance, especially if the destination location is a popular one. Your planner can get you the best deals on hotel and airfare.
If you plan to dash off to your local courthouse, visit the website for your city/county’s Clerk’s Office to obtain information on how to get married at the courthouse. Here are a few tips you should follow:
- City hall locations can book up quickly, so you’ll want to make sure you reserve your date well in advance. There is a possibility that your City Hall doesn’t take appointments for marriage. Instead, it’s a first-come, first-served deal.
- Check the regulations regarding marriage for your state. There are some which require two separate appointments: first the marriage license, then you have to wed within 90-days of obtaining the license.
- Ask if there is a limit to the number of guests you’re allowed to bring (don’t forget to include your witnesses!)
- Remember: most often, couples who marry at City Hall are not allowed to read their own vows during the ceremony, so if this is something you want to do, consider a destination elopement instead – you will still need to obtain the license beforehand
- Other legal requirements may include: copies of birth certificates, divorce papers from previous marriages, other important documents on hand (Visa’s, green cards, passports, etc.)
- Check out U.S. Marriage Laws to learn more
Don’t forget the ‘little’ things
There’s still a few more items you need to elope and will want to budget for. The rings, your outfits (you’ll want to coordinate with each other), travel & accommodation considerations, and hair & make-up.
After You’ve Eloped
With all of the excitement of eloping, couples tend to overlook what happens after? How do you tell your family and friends that you’re married? Here are the How-To’s with regard to sharing your big news.
- Avoid guilt trips by announcing your marriage properly – Tell your family and closest friends about your elopement as soon as possible. Either before you do it, or as soon after as possible. Never do this by text! If you’re unable to meet with them in person, call them. Explain why you decided to elope and offer to celebrate with them at a future date.
- After you’ve told your family and closest friends, you should send formal announcements. You’ll want to send these to the people whom you would have invited to a traditional wedding. This is the perfect time to include details on any post-elopement celebration or reception you might be hosting
- Finally, after you’ve completed the above, now is the proper time to make it official on Facebook. Closest family and friends should never find out any major news over social media.