Elopement sounds super romantic, doesn't it? Who doesn't want to be like Romeo and Juliet, sneaking off into the night to be wed in secret? With the average cost of a wedding hitting $35,329, it's easy to see how a wedding for two can be economically attractive. If it's good enough for celebrity couples like Jessica Alba and Cash Warren, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, and Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen, then it's definitely good enough for us!
However, there can be downsides to jetting off to get married without informing any of your nearest and dearest, including some hurt feelings from friends and family who may feel like they missed out on a milestone moment in your life. (You can elope and still have a few VIP guests, by the way.…) So what are some of the pros and cons of eloping? We asked a few brides who went the elopement route to share their personal experiences.
As the chief planner and designer at Cocktails and Details Weddings, Terrica makes other brides' wedding dreams come true as part of her normal workday. For her own nuptials, Terrica eschewed having a traditional wedding entirely and instead eloped—a decision she now regrets. "I am definitely sad about missing out on the key moments of the wedding with my family and friends. I also skipped the planning process with my mom, friends, and husband. They all felt slighted and robbed of the experience," she says.
Kortney Gruenwald, a freelance journalist and lifestyle blogger, fell hard for her German pen pal. The pair eloped in a quaint German village courthouse, where they exchanged their vows. Gruenwald cites financial constraints as one of the main reasons they opted to elope instead of planning a traditional wedding. Plus, they just couldn’t wait any longer to be husband and wife! Three years later, they are finally planning a wedding ceremony that will include both of their families. Gruenwald doesn't regret her decision at all: "Traveling around the world, investing in our careers, and saving money during those first years together was far more important for both individual character development and strengthening our relationship than planning a wedding," she says.
Sasha Chou, founder and CEO of Picvoyage, a destination photography service that operates in eight countries, has seen an increase in the number of couples using her services for elopement photo sessions. In New York City, she has booked shoots on the Brooklyn Bridge, at the Ladies' Pavilion in Central Park, on various hotel rooftop terraces, in Times Square, and even on the stairs of the New York Public Library. "My clients choose elopement because they want freedom and intimacy," Chou says. "Wedding planning can be a stressful, complicated process."
Sometimes, there are other factors in play. Elopement is a drama-free option for brides and grooms with complicated family dynamics (perhaps caused by a messy parental divorce), and it's also a popular option for brides who have previously been married and have already had their "big day."
No matter the reason, for brides who decide to elope, there are a few easy ways to make sure your wedding day is one to remember. Opt for a special outfit (yes, you're entitled to splurge just a little bit!), choose your location wisely (it's going to be the backdrop to your photos, after all), and make sure you have a photographer lined up to capture the occasion, whether it's inside the courthouse with a photo session to follow or at some gorgeous locale. Even though your friends and family may not be present when you exchange your vows, they'll definitely want to see the photos later!