Change of Plans: Eloping Was the Best Wedding Decision We Never Thought We'd Make

"The morning after our wedding, we both wondered why eloping first then celebrating later wasn’t the norm."

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CRISTINA CIANCI/PHOTO BY ASHLEY BATZ

As a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, couples all over the world are having to make a very difficult, and often heartbreaking, decision to cancel, postpone, or adjust their best-laid wedding plans. To share their stories—and, hopefully, help our readers process this admittedly emotional and fluid situation, we are asking those affected to share their "Change of Plans" stories in their own words. Below, Margaux Lushing tells her story from Los Angeles.

Leading up to my COVID-elopement, hearing my long-married friends share that "they wished they would have eloped!" irritated me. Easy to say, I thought, once you’ve gathered 100+ of your closest friends and family in one place, danced, and hugged the night away as you had planned.

But, post-elopement, I don’t wish anything different about the way my now-husband Steve and I married. It was just the two of us, a road trip, a stunning resort, and the most romantic weekend getaway we’ve ever taken. If you’re on the fence about whether to marry now and possibly party later, please let me at least try to convince you of how magical an elopement-for-two can be, even when it seems to be the last option on the list.

For context, I’m relatively low maintenance but not low maintenance enough to actually elope under normal circumstances. Steve and I had considered it a handful of times during our six-year engagement and nearly 13 years together. Once after a sake-drenched tasting dinner at Nobu Las Vegas (there’s a chapel upstairs at Caesars). Another time in Alaska’s other-worldly Tutka Bay Lodge (there’s endless otters, bald eagles, whales, and the most beautiful sunsets on Earth). We even pursued the idea of a small destination wedding at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm, going as far as to visit with nearly all of our respective immediate families after first becoming engaged.

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Photo by Ashley Batz

It was just the two of us, a road trip, a stunning resort, and the most romantic weekend getaway we’ve ever taken.

couple
Photo by Ashley Batz

Instead, we waited and planned to marry at our new home in Los Angeles in May of 2020. And then June of 2020. Ultimately, our best-laid plans of marrying at home, surrounded by friends and family, and catered by L.A.’s cool-catering darlings Hank and Bean, were a total bust. Firmly committed to making the best of it, we kept our June date and made plans to elope at Meadowood Napa Valley—if we couldn’t have a dream wedding with everyone we loved, we were going to have the dreamiest elopement we could muster. Even if our respective parents were at high risk and could not travel to join us.

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Photo by Ashley Batz

Despite the many roadblocks to actually kicking off our wedding weekend, one literal resulting in a three-hour delay in our drive, we made it to check-in; arriving at a beautiful suite upgrade, pre-ordered dinner just placed on our dining table, and a bottle of Domaine Carneros’s Le Reve sparkling wine on ice from our friend and officiant Jennifer. On the night that would have been our rehearsal dinner with family and out-of-town friends, we instead spent it together, just the two of us. We ditched our road-trip gear, threw on some plush robes, popped the cork on our sparkling, and lit a fire. Over a quiet dinner of vegan pizzas and Caesar salad (when you elope the menu is whatever you feel like!), we fielded texts of love and support from friends and family, while we soaked in the beautiful setting and felt overwhelmingly lucky. 

We fielded texts of love and support from friends and family, while we soaked in the beautiful setting and felt overwhelmingly lucky. 

The morning of, we woke up to the sounds of Napa Valley nature and didn’t even look at our phones. Our too-large, in-room dining order arrived and we ate together on our terrace overlooking three snuggling fox cubs. Nobody else to please, no day-of-drama, no entertaining—just us and the foxes. Afterward, we went to poke around the site where our ceremony would be held.

On any normal, non-COVID Saturday, Meadowood’s wedding sites would likely have been booked out a year or more in advance and filled with hundreds of chairs and over-the-top floral arrangements. There would be a decent chance that Meadowood’s guard gates would be on high alert to keep out the paparazzi. But all of these large events had to be postponed. When we arrived, it was just us and a carpet of perfectly manicured, but still-wild grass that had flourished in the absence of events during the property’s closure. We checked in on just the second day after their reopening, and California’s large gathering ban was in full effect. The event industry’s misfortune turned into a silver lining for couples like us whose own events had been canceled or postponed. There was nobody around but us and the trees and the birds—as this was just the day after re-opening occupancy was still low enough for us to feel we had the entire place to ourselves.

After walking back to our suite, local Napa Valley hair and makeup artist Carrie Aldous arrived to help get me ceremony-ready, and local St. Helena florist Christina Yan of Bellevue Floral Co came by to drop off a gorgeous bouquet and a boutonniere for Steve. Two friends soon joined us: one of our closest friends who would soon be officiating and another friend who happens to be one of the Bay Area’s most talented photographers, Ashley Batz. Once our ceremony time neared, Steve and our officiant-friend headed down to the ceremony site. Ashley and I joined soon after by golf cart to capture our "first look" at the altar. 

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Photo by Ashley Batz

In the moment, having such a private ceremony, guided by our families and communicated by a close friend, felt like what a ceremony should be. We could party later, but this was totally for us. 

elopement
Photo by Ashley Batz

The ceremony itself was the opposite of what we had originally planned. In place of 80 of our loved ones, we had a gorgeously quiet, perfectly sunny day with just us, our photographer and officiant. And despite our families not being able to join us in-person, and not wanting to break the love-spell by requiring any kind of streaming technology (and the tech support that goes with it), our officiant-friend Jennifer had our parents and grandparents each send her a marriage blessing of sorts to be read as part of our ceremony. We heard it all for the first time as Jennifer read it to us. In the moment, having such a private ceremony, guided by our families and communicated by a close friend, felt like what a ceremony should be. We could party later, but this was totally for us. 

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Photo by Ashley Batz

We had the run of the property with no events on the books that day and got to take photographs wherever we felt like the light was right. Once the sun set, our friends left us and we had a dinner for two, prepared by the property’s talented catering team due to the restaurants not yet being open, served poolside, and with no other guests in sight. 

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Photo by Ashley Batz

There were no toasts, no dancing, nobody else. But there was also no stress, no pressure, and nobody else. It was just us, the most amazing five-star service, and a beautiful tasting menu finishing in a miniature version of a wedding cake. It was elopement-heaven. The morning after our wedding, we both wondered why eloping first then celebrating later wasn’t the norm. Even though we will figure out our 2021 date for a party with everyone we love, we left our wedding weekend totally agreeing with those married friends who said they wished they had eloped. They were right.

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