Think about marriage like a Rube Goldberg machine. It’s something that takes forever to set up, costs money and time and is over in basically 14 seconds once you push that marble. Granted, it’s a beautiful Rube Goldberg machine and, if done right, one that sets you up for a lifetime of happiness. If you prefer to just pick the marble up, put it in the bucket at the end of the machine and call it a day, elopement might sound appealing.
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First Things First: Should You Elope?
It sounds romantic in a way. You jet off to Tahiti or Maui or Tallahassee and have a whirlwind elopement ceremony. For some couples, that’s just the ticket (no pun intended), but not for everyone. If you’ve always dreamed of exchanging gold wedding bands in front of your whole extended families, elopement probably isn’t for you, no matter how appealing it may sound right now.
Now, elopement has plenty to recommend itself by. It’s cheaper, faster and you don’t have to worry about drunk uncles at the reception. If you know you want to be married, and you would prefer to be married like yesterday, elopement may well be worth it. If your budget is small, you can still have a traditional wedding ceremony, but elopement may make financial sense as well.
Your Elopement Checklist
Define a Budget
Just because elopement can be cheaper doesn’t mean it necessarily is. You can drop thousands and thousands of dollars on an elopement in the same way you can do that on a wedding. Granted, it’s probably more work to do it for an elopement, but if you’ve got a fiancé with a talent for spending money, it’s quite doable
One of the biggest stressors in the wedding process is money. One of the biggest upsides of elopement is the financial simplicity. If you lose that, you lose a significant portion of the value of elopement. Whatever your budget is, define it and stick to it.
Decide on a Location
Are you heading to Andes or are you heading to the courthouse? If you want the whole whirlwind married-in-Vegas thing, there’s a bit more logistical work required. If you just want to be married and the venue isn’t important to you, this is going to be a whole lot easier.
Get the Rings
Sure, you don’t have all the fanfare associated with the traditional wedding ceremony, but you still want to hang onto some conventions. You don’t have to exchange rings, of course, but it’s generally considered rude to show up to your own wedding empty-handed. Maybe a piece of jewelry or a cool stick you found outside. If you want to split the difference on modern and traditional, go with a unique ring like a wooden wedding band.
Will You Invite Anyone?
It sounds counterintuitive, but you can technically invite people to your elopement and still call it an elopement. Granted, it’s likely to be a short guest list, but so be it. That sounds like a feature and not a bug in the elopement process.
Consider Going Pre-Made
If you can’t make your own elopement, store-bought is fine. There are professional coordinators for basically everything at this point, even the most mundane things. It should come as no surprise there are elopement coordinators as well
Now, we aren’t disparaging elopement coordinators. We are, however, disparaging kindergarten graduation reception coordinators. We don’t believe that those exist, but they will eventually if they don’t already. Having an elopement coordinator is going to cost more, obviously, but it’s also going to keep the stress low and that might be worth it to you.
Get Married in the Eyes of the State
You want to really do your homework on this one. Each state is going to have different regulations on this, so we can’t tell you exactly what you need to do. Generally, there’s going to be a set of forms you need to fill out, a minimum number of witnesses and maybe some sort of officiant.
Book Your Travel in Advance
If you’re properly eloping and going somewhere fun and festive, you want to get that travel booked now. If a last-minute economy class Amtrak ticket sounds like your idea of romantic travel, then ignore this advice. If you want something a little fancier, you’re going to have to get that sorted now.
Get a Photographer
Sure, you don’t need one, but don’t you want one? You won’t have a traditional wedding ceremony, but you will at least have memories engraved in digital media. There are some photographers out there who specialize in elopement, so that’s likely the best place for you to start.
It’s a bit of work upfront, but the monetary savings and the low stress level may be a worthwhile tradeoff for you. Good luck, and happy elopement!