Choice Overload Leads to Increase in Elopements (It’s not the economy… or the pandemic)
2021 UPDATE: I wrote this article in 2013 and I think it’s even more pertinent today. So, I’ve made some edits and updates that make it more informative for the 2021 (and beyond!) engaged couple.
Elopement weddings are on the rise
Yes, I think elopements are here to stay and I don’t think that couples who elope are solely motivated by the financial enticement of a micro-wedding. And while the Coronavirus pandemic has certainly resulted in a rise in elopements and micro-weddings, I don’t believe that is the reason for the uptick.
I think, quite frankly, that people are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by too many choices in their lives.
If nothing else, traditional wedding planning time is one of decision-making. How much? How many? Where? This or that? Him, her or them? How? Why? What? Who says? Should we? Did they? Which color? What kind? Does it matter? What style? Minister or Justice of the Peace? Garter toss or not? God/No God. Dance lessons or hug and sway? And does our wedding need to have an Instagram-worthy moment so we go viral?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Choice Overload has become rampant in this country
The first time I became aware of it–and the internal angst that choice overload caused me personally–was when I came back to the states after living abroad for some time. I must have subtly adjusted to the fewer choices available in the stores of European and South American countries, because I distinctly recall standing in the aisle of a Denver Walgreens and feeling massively overwhelmed by the abundance of shampoo choices arrayed before me. It felt like an endless sea of options! Rather than feel grateful that I had so many opportunities for squeaky-clean tresses, I just wanted to run screaming for the door. (I think I did leave without buying anything–although I did refrain from the screaming and the running part!) It was like I hit my own personal tipping point for how many shampoo choices my brain could assimilate before it imploded.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of “choice overload,” it’s this:
“Choice overload …describes how people get overwhelmed when they are presented with a large number of options to choose from. While we tend to assume that more choice is a good thing, in many cases, research has shown that we have a harder time choosing from a larger array of options.”
Weddings are not Exempt from Choice Overload
In talking with couples, I’m learning that even those who enter their wedding planning with great expectations and high hopes quickly suffer from choice overload. And it’s no wonder, given the ridiculous amounts of choices that we all have to make in our lives on a daily basis. We’ve heard the catchy phrases that refer to this ever-burgeoning phenomenon: possibilities paralysis, the paradox of choice, decision overload, The general consensus among the “experts” is that the average person makes about 35,000 decisions (from the inconsequential to the grand) per day.
In a TED talk, Professor Barry Schwartz talked about the Paradox of Choice when he said “some choice is better than none, but it doesn’t follow from that that more choice is better than some choice”. That’s a fancy way of saying just because a little is good doesn’t mean that a lot is better.
And that, I believe, is why so many more couples are turning towards eloping.
Sure, it may have started when the economy tanked. And it may have been exacerbated by Covid-19. But I think the elopement trend is here to stay. People are just plain tired of all the decision-making! The sensory overload with which we are bombarded on a daily basis starts from the minute we arise (When I was a kid, my parents drank Folgers or Maxwell House; now you go into a Starbucks and you have to literally choose from over 170,000 possible options) and follows us until we lay down our heads on our carefully chosen coordinated bed linens.
We’re so maxed out with having to choose, that the thought (whether it be a conscious or subconscious one) of taking on a year or more of hyped-up decision-making is enough to have couples running for the nearest courthouse or justice of the peace.
Bring on the Elvis impersonator! It may be tacky, but it’s simple.
Fortunately, there are options other than Vegas or the courthouse if a couple chooses the elopement route. (Thank heavens, or else we wouldn’t be in business!) Options that allow couples to truly focus on each other without getting embroiled in a decision-making nightmare.
Aiming for simplicity in one’s nuptials is no longer considered to be offbeat. In fact, it’s becoming downright trendy–a moot point, as most people who aim for simplicity couldn’t care lest about trends anyway. For many couples, NOT opting for a low-choice wedding isn’t even considered. It’s just not worth the stress on time, finances, and emotional energy.
So, yes, I believe that unless our life choices become dramatically limited (not likely!), elopements are here to stay.
And it’s nice to know that in this world of inflated options, we can still marry in a way that celebrates our love without demanding that we jump through a million and one decision-making hoops.
If we so choose, of course.