The well-planned elopement

Elopement weddings require some degree of planning

The connotation of the stereotypical elopement contains elements of secrecy, romance and spur-of-the-momentness. The image of a couple dashing off on a whim to be wed in a Vegas chapel springs to mind.

Oh, how far we’ve come! I’m here to tell you–it’s not always, “Hey, let’s get in the car and go get married–ya wanna?”

Yes, we have our share of couples that call us saying, “I’m in the area, it’s gorgeous here and we figure, ‘what the hell?’ So, can you marry us today?” But more and more, I have couples contact us who are doing what I think of as a planned elopement.

Eloping couple standing in the ocean with the foam swirling around them

A well-planned elopement will result in a carefree wedding day.

But isn’t the whole point of an elopement to avoid the hassle and fuss of planning?

Well, yeah, sure it is. But that doesn’t mean a gal can’t wear a white dress, a couple can’t cut into an elegant wedding cake for two, or that a boutonniere can’t be pinned on the eloping groom’s lapel. A little planning can go a long way to make the day special–without adding copious amounts of stress to taint the occasion.

And let’s not forget that even an intimate ceremony can be torpedoed by lack of planning. You show up at a romantic mountain overlook only to find that a family (a very large, loud family) has booked the site for their annual family reunion hootenanny, you didn’t anticipate what to do in case of rain or blazing sun…you get the drift.

Here are a few things to consider so your simple and romantic wedding celebration stays that way.

  • Carefully decide who you do and don’t want to be in attendance. How you will announce (or not) your plans beforehand? Whatever you decide in that regard, make a decision and stick to it. If it’s to be the two of you along on a sandy beach with a Pacific sunset in the background and you’re not going to reveal your marriage until after the fact, then don’t leak the idea to your sister at the last minute. It may result in  family drama of epic proportions. Happy Wedding Day! An intimate ceremony with a few family members present requires a different type of planning than when it’s just the two of you. Decide what–and who–you want, then move forward with confidence.
  • Be selective in your choice of a location. You’ve chosen to have an intimate wedding that’s all about you. Whether it’s near or far, make sure the place where you choose to exchange your vows feels right to you. Consider a beautiful outdoor setting. Of course, you can’t beat the beach or the mountains, but you’ll want to work with a professional (like us!) that can point you to a site that that offers you some amount of privacy and seclusion (unless you’re into a whole beach full of strangers applauding as you kiss!). Your home or backyard, the place where you first met, where he proposed, a quaint neighborhood park or anyplace with a breathtaking view are all viable options. How about a winter mountain wedding on snowshoes? We’ve done those!
Groom adjusting bride's shoe

Good planning can come down to wearing the right shoes on your wedding day. If getting married outside, plan to wear comfy shoes to the site. You can always change into heels when you get there.

  • Don’t assume your venue will be free. Just because it’s a public park doesn’t mean there is no permit (and a fee!). Some parks require a permit even for a couple-only elopement. Check the requirements of the site before you find your intimate elopement interrupted by a ticket-wielding park ranger!Likewise, be selective about your timing. When does your chosen locale have its most temperate weather? What time of day do those thunderstorms tend to roll in? Want a sunrise or sunset wedding? Be sure to check local timing of these events or you might be getting married in the dark. Other things to consider in regards to time of day and possible glitches: rush hour traffic, local events like ball games or festivals, temporary road closures. And if you’re flying to your elopement wedding location, don’t plan to be married on the same day that you fly into town. Assume the plane will be delayed and arrive a day early. If you’ve chosen an outdoor location, have a backup plan, or be sure your officiant is willing to perform your elopement ceremony in all kinds of weather (we are!). If you’re not up for a rainy, windy or cold environment to exchange your vows, then have a Plan B in place. Ideas include the parlor of a B & B, a private home, your hotel room, a park gazebo, even an airport chapel (yes–most large airports have them!)
  • Remember, it’s not over until the paperwork is signed. Just because your vows are to be short ‘n sweet doesn’t mean there isn’t legal paperwork to contend with. Check the marriage license requirements in the area where you plan to elope. Do you have to be a resident of the state? Is there a waiting period to get the license after you apply? What documentation do you need to obtain a license? What are the days and hours of the government office where you must go to get your license and is an appointment necessary? Many of these offices are only open Monday through Friday during business hours, so you can’t fly in on a Saturday and be legally married on Sunday.
  • Bring cash for impromptu romance opportunities. Buying flowers from a street vendor, a spur of the moment carriage ride, tipping the passer by who just happens to pull out his guitar and serenade you (it happens!).Have a post-ceremony plan. Even if you’re going very low key and informal, you’ll want some sort of post-ceremony celebration. Champagne shared on the beach, a quiet picnic, a romantic dinner at an out of the way restaurant, a night at a posh hotel, or tickets to a ball game, theater or concert. Having nothing to do after you say “I do” is anti-climatic!

Whether it’s a quick trip to Vegas, a romantic mountain spot or a ceremony in your own backyard, don’t be afraid to plan a little. A little planning can take your intimate wedding from nondescript to a wonderful memorable experience.