Oh darling, let’s elope!
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I just love the idea of eloping. The notion of sacking off the guest list, the budget spreadsheet, the logistics, and jetting off somewhere exciting to say your vows, just the two of you! I mean, what a story for the grandkids! But even if you’re opting for a no-frills wedding, planning your elopement still deserves a little thought. You need to figure out where to do it, what to wear (important!), how to make it special, and what to do afterwards, while handling all the emotions that come with it. And, of course, you’ve got to make a plan for telling your parents and pals. That’s why we’ve put together a little guide on how to elope – the must-dos, and the most definitely don’ts!
1. Do It For the Right Reasons
Eloping can be something of a statement in itself, so if you’re planning to get married without your friends and family by your side, make sure it’s something you really want, and that you’re doing it right reasons. Saving money, avoiding fuss, keeping things intimate and personal, or avoiding family drama, are all completely valid reasons to elope – just make sure you’ve thought a lot about your decision, and it’s what you both want.
2. Don’t Feel Bad About It
There can be a lot of guilt associated with elopements so this might be easier said than done, but try not to feel bad about your decision – you don’t have to justify it to anyone. Of course, some friends and family might be initially disappointed with the idea of not sharing your day with you, but once they get over the shock, chances are, they’ll be nothing but chuffed to bits for you. I think the adage of “prepare yourself for the worst but expect the best” is key for this. Hopefully everyone will be rooting for you, but try not to be upset if a couple of people aren’t as excited about your news as you’d hoped.
3.Do Have a Reveal Plan
You might want to throw a big party when you get back, and let all your pals know you’ve eloped, you may want to send out announcement cards, or perhaps you want to quietly tell your nearest and dearest about your good news and leave it at that. However you let people know about your elopement, make a plan. When it comes to parents, siblings and close friends, it’s important that they hear the news from you, ideally in person, and not through the grapevine or worse, on Facebook! Have a bit of a script ready to go – as I said, you don’t need to explain yourself, but you both need to be on the same page when it comes to letting friends and family in on your big surprise.
4. Don’t Dismiss the Legalities
Make sure you read up on the legalities of where you’re getting married; how long you need to register in advance, what ID and paperwork you need to bring, and whether the marriage will be valid in your own jurisdiction. We all have a romantic notion of an impromptu wedding where you just book your flights and say “I Do”, but sadly, even the most fanciful gestures require some forethought. Oh, and don’t forget to collect your marriage cert before you fly home!
5. Do Think About the Destination (And Avail of Local Knowledge)
Do you want a chic city elopement in Paris or New York, island vows in the Carribbean or Thailand, or would you prefer to tick a destination off your bucket list and go to New Zealand, South Africa or Japan? Once you’ve decided where you want to go, and the feel you want from your elopement, you can start building a plan from there. (Check out OFD’s destination guides for inspiration and advice!) It’s not a bad idea to invest in a local planner who will advise you on the legalities, set you up with a celebrant, photographer, and any other vendors you might want, and arrange on-the-day transport and dining. They’ll also know some quiet locations for your vows or portrait session, so take advantage of their insider know-how. You don’t want to spend your trip looking for a florist and booking taxis.
6. Don’t Forget To Book a Photographer
We always think booking a photographer is a sound investment for your wedding day, and even moreso if you’re eloping. Having pictures to show your friends and family will make them feel part of your day. Plus, you’ll have keepsakes of your vows to keep the memories alive. After all, if you don’t have photographic evidence, did it even happen? I jest!
7. Do Make It Special
Just because you don’t have 120 guests to wine, dine and entertain doesn’t mean your elopement shouldn’t be special. Whether it’s writing personalised vows, splashing out on a fancy limousine, eating wedding cake for breakfast, or going to a Michelin star restaurant for dinner, do whatever it is that will make your wedding day feel special and truly memorable. The best thing about eloping is that you can do whatever you want, so make sure you do!
8. Don’t Meet Your Vendors For the First Time At Your Wedding
So this isn’t a strict one, but it’s highly advised! I was once at a beach resort when a guy in a suit came over and asked me to film his wedding on an iPad. Of course, I obliged, but as his bride walked down the aisle, there was a randomer (me!) standing on the sand filming her (she didn’t know her groom had asked me). The couple were meeting the celebrant for the first time at the altar, they had only met the photographer a few minutes before, and the witnesses were a couple they’d befriended at the bar. They were obviously shy people, I got the impression that’s why they’d decided to elope, but here they were standing in front of a bunch of strangers reciting really sincere and personal vows. Different resorts and planners will do things differently, and maybe you don’t care about such things, but if you want your elopement to feel intimate and romantic, I suggest trying to meet anyone who’ll be in attendance, ahead of time.
9. Do Rock Something Gorgeous
It doesn’t have to be white or formal. It doesn’t have to be a dress or a suit. And it certainly doesn’t have to be “wedding appropriate”. But do make sure you wear something special to you on your wedding day, whether it’s a sequin bridal jumpsuit, a little white dress, your granny’s pearl necklace, your favourite Hawaiian shirt – or indeed full formal wedding day attire. Have some fun with your look and make sure you feel incredible on your wedding day, even if you’re only dressing up for yourself and your other half.
10. Don’t Write-Off a Wedding Day Timeline
You might not think you need one – after all, eloping is about throwing out the rule book, right? – but thinking about the structure of your day is the best way to make the most of it. If the ceremony takes 15 minutes, and dinner takes two hours, there’s still a lot of day to fill. Take time with your hair and makeup, have a long breakfast or pre-ceremony lunch, have a couples’ massage, or go all out with your photography session – just make sure there’s a flow to your day so you can keep up the excitement and momentum.
11. Do Expect Some Costs
A lot of couples will plan an elopement to save on the expense of a big wedding, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be costs. Your wedding license, bouquet, outfits, hair, makeup and celebrant will all cost the same, no matter how many guests you have – though, do ask your planner and photographer if they offer elopement rates, as you may require less of their time on the day. That said, if you can afford it, it’s no harm splashing out and upgrading to a fancy hotel or a plush suite on your wedding night, treating yourself to a fabulous meal or going all in on the Champagne – what’s the point in eloping if you can’t indulge a little?!
12. Don’t Book a Package Without Looking It Over
Lots of resorts – and some planners – offer dedicated elopement packages. These often include the ceremony, an in-house photographer, local flowers and a romantic dinner, sometimes along with accommodation. These packages can be handy, and cost effective, especially if you’re not really into the details, but make sure you’re happy with all the elements – especially the photographer! – before you book.
13. Do Be Prepared for a Bit of a Comedown
All weddings are anti-climactic, but I have a feeling that the comedown after an elopement is particularly strong. With all the excitement and build-up of hatching a plan between the two of you and the energy of keeping it a secret, it might feel a little strange when it’s all over and the time comes to share your news with the world. You might also have some weird pangs that you should have done it differently, or that you missed out on certain elements of a traditional wedding. It’s totally normal to feel that way, it doesn’t mean you have any regrets, and it might not actually happen, but it’s good to be prepared, just in case.
14. Don’t Expect Gifts
But you know, if people are kind enough to send something nice your way, great! (And make sure you send a thank-you card if they do!).