It’s not only the high cost of planning a wedding—with national averages around $35K—but the high-stress, high-stakes, and high-expectations that come along with it. Even if a wedding is meant to crystalize the beautiful start to a marriage that endures through all of life’s ups-and-downs, it often becomes an argumentative period between families and couples, as they try and make everyone happy, often forgetting about why they got engaged in the first place. That’s why some couples are choosing to throw away the traditional approaches to wedding day chaos and elope. With no guests and often just a photographer to snap a few shots, these seven couples didn’t just go to the courthouse to get hitched, but found exciting, adventurous ways to ring in the first minutes of being spouses. Here, they share their super-sweet, inspiring stories that might make you throw that wedding planning book out the window and book a plane ticket ASAP.
Katya & Christopher
Where they eloped: Bald Mountain, Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah
When Katya d’Angelo and Christopher Triolo decided to take those steps toward the altar, they felt uninspired by their current location. Since no place in Boston held a special place in their hearts and they wanted to avoid the expense and stress of a big wedding, they set their sights on a low-key, more intimate ceremony. They instantly thought of Deer Valley in Park City, Utah, where Katya used to work as a baker at a lodge and Christopher was a ski instructor. It was during those snowy months they first met, six years ago. “All along we had been half-joking about eloping to Deer Valley, when it dawned on us that we should,” Katya says. Fast forward to five weeks later and they found themselves on a chair lift to the top of the mountains, on their way to "I do." The night before the ceremony, they stayed at an Airbnb and then splurged on five-star Stein Eriksen Lodge after the wedding. And Katya says the best money they spent? Hiring a photographer to capture their super-small, but perfect-for-them nuptials.
Jessica & Laurence
Where they eloped: Aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2 ocean liner in the north Atlantic Ocean
They say love knows no bounds, allowing it to endure through the good and the bad, the ugly and the lovely. Or, in the case of travel blogger Jessica Norah and her now-husband and travel photographer Laurence Norah, their dedication to one another, even across the miles, cemented their long-lasting love affair. At the time they were planning their wedding, Jessica, who's American, was living in California, and Laurence, who's English, was residing in France. This made deciding on a wedding location that much more difficult: “We lived in separate countries and our friends and family were split across three continents—North America, Africa, and Europe…Any destination we chose was going to be a compromise in terms of who would be able to attend,” Jessica says.
The solution? Why not jump over the broom while crossing the Atlantic Ocean? “I had always wanted to do a transatlantic cruise and since we were already moving to the UK, it was a convenient, yet elegant wedding venue,” Jessica explains. As a nod to their compromise to put one another first, they made it official halfway between their two countries, while on an eight-day cruise. “We were married by the ship captain, Captain Kevin Oprey, and members of the crew served as our witnesses. We had a short but touching service, and it was a wonderful experience for us,” Jessica recalled. “We even got to ring the ship's noontime whistle after the ceremony, and were also invited to dine with the Captain during one evening of the cruise and got lots of ‘congratulations’ from the other passengers during our cruise.”
McKinzie & Morgan
Where they eloped: Ouray, Colorado
After building their lives together for the past six years, McKinzie Pack and Morgan Pack were overwhelmed by the idea of planning an over-the-top big wedding. Instead, they wanted to choose a destination that held special meaning to them and kept coming back to a small town in Colorado that’s nicknamed the "Switzerland of America"—Ouray. It was this gold-mining town dating back to the late 1800s that captured their attention when they traveled from their home state of Texas to explore Colorado for a vacation the previous year. The decision was easy and they packed up their wedding whites and gray suit to follow their hearts together, as a married couple to-be. Who did they invite? No one—just the photographer to capture their once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Carrie & Kurt
Where they eloped: Essex, Vermont
As much as your wedding is about the start of your marriage, with sacred vows and happy tears, for many couples, it’s also a time of immense stress. Instead of it being about the dynamic duo, it often becomes a tug-a-war game between families, figuring out how to fund and organize a large affair. For Carrie Paetow and Kurt Anderson, the cost itself and the difficulty of managing expectations from family members was enough to inspire them to elope. But they didn’t just want to head to the courthouse—they wanted to pick a location for their "I dos" that felt right for their party-of-two. After researching numerous states, they landed on Vermont, a state neither of them had been before they met one another, making it filled with sweet memories. “Turns out it's an amazing place to get married! The state doesn't require witnesses and it's pretty small so it was easy to get to the airport and find where to get our marriage license,” Carrie says.
They landed on Essex Resort & Spa, where they took culinary classes and allowed the on-site wedding planner take care of the details. And when they woke up on their wedding day? Carrie says fresh snow had just fallen the night before. “The whole day was about us," she remembers. "We didn't have to worry about pleasing anyone but ourselves. It was so romantic to just have the day to ourselves. I feel like we could really enjoy each other without stress and really focus on the vows we were making to each other. So many women get caught up in planning the wedding they forget that marriage is a lifetime commitment." After they made it official, they traveled to Montreal, Maine, and then back to Vermont, before settling into their lives in Minneapolis.
Vanessa & Steve
Where they eloped: Barbados
Early in their relationship, when travel writer Vanessa Rivers was in the getting-to-know-you stages with Steve Gregornik, he took her to Barbados to stay at his friend’s house for a weekend. In the backyard is Worthing Beach, a stretch of sand Vanessa calls the "most picturesque coastline" she’s ever seen. “Steve and I feel asleep on the beach one afternoon, in the shade of a palm tree, with our feet in the soft, white sand and the sound of waves crashing at our heels,” she remembers. When they became engaged later on, they reflected on that moment and decided they wanted their wedding to be just about the two of them and the love they share. “That’s why we decided to get married in this very spot. We had no guests, our friends were our witnesses, and their son was our ring bearer. It turned out to be everything I ever wanted and more, and will always be the best day of my life,” Vanessa says.
Bianca & Christopher
Where they eloped: Bagan, Myanmar
When Bianca Gandolfo and Christopher Arriola landed on the decision to elope, they were currently living in Siem Reap, Cambodia, trying to plan a ceremony in Bagan, Myanmar. In fact, they only started planning two weeks before their wedding day, forcing them to hustle to get everything together, especially traditional wedding necessities like wedding bands and clothes for the ceremony. “Our travel agent in Myanmar became our wedding planner, and she did a really great job putting it all together last minute. Not everything went according to plan, I even lost half my eyebrow in a mishap with the makeup artist,” Bianca says. “But with that there were a lot of cool surprises like when our wedding planner dressed us up in traditional Myanmar clothing and paraded us around Bagan. It was a unique adventure that we hope to continue for the rest of our lives.” While they were thankful for the opportunity to have a ceremony built for two, without the chaos of a large affair, they’re planning a celebration for their friends and family on their wedding anniversary when their nomadic legs take them back home…for a while, anyway.
See More: The Biggest Dos and Don'ts of Eloping
Jamie & James
Where they eloped: Washington State
The choice to elope was simple for Jamie and James Storm: They wanted the day on their own terms. But more important than having the freedom to plan and execute the ceremony that spoke to their sentiments as a couple, they also knew a big wedding wouldn’t allow them to tune-in to their adventurous spirits. They wanted the day to feel less like a blur and more like 24 hours full of unexpected moments, where they could focus only on one another.
Though they originally planned to get married among the Redwoods in Big Sur, California, fire and landslides left the area unreachable, so they switched gears to Washington state. Here, they had their legal "I dos" in the courtyard of Willow’s Lodge at 8 a.m. on an unusually sunny day, and then changed into their hiking gear to climb the nearby Rattlesnake Ridge, with their witnesses—their photographer and videographer—tagging along.
“Once we had nearly reached the top, we snuck behind some trees where we dressed in our wedding attire. Once at the top of Rattlesnake Ridge, we enjoyed the fresh air and breathtaking view. We held hands, reflected on our journey that day and as a couple, dreamt about the years to come, but most importantly we were present in the moment, with each other, with no distractions,” Jamie recalls. “We hiked all the way back down while still in our wedding attire, our phenomenal photographer capturing stunning images the whole way. At the bottom of the mountain is the lake where there are old tree stumps out in the middle of the water. My husband and I wadded in hip-high extremely cold water to make it out to one of the stumps where our favorite wedding image was captured! We had done it. We did it our way.”