To ‘elope’ originally meant ‘to run away secretly with the intention of getting married, usually without parental consent.’ The definition today, however, has changed to mean simply a small wedding with a guest count of 30 people or less. If you are not planning a splashy wedding and instead want a more intimate ceremony, then perhaps an elopement is for you. In today’s blog, I list eleven do’s and don’ts to consider before you start planning your unique wedding. Be it a small civil ceremony or a more elaborate destination wedding for just the two of you, these elopement tips will get you prepared to say ‘I do.’
Elopement Tips – The Do’s
Make sure you are both on the same page. A wedding is a huge moment in your life. Before you start planning the details of your wedding day make sure that you are both united when it comes to wanting to elope. There are many, MANY benefits to having a smaller wedding: less money spent, more opportunities to personalize your day, and less hassle to plan. But you also won’t be surrounded by 100 to 300 of your closest friends and family. If you have always dreamed of a fairytale wedding, then downsizing to an elopement may cause lingering resentment that will last well beyond your wedding day. Talk about what you both want and how you visualize your wedding day before you put down any deposits.
Consider an exotic destination. Are there any ports of call you have been dying to visit together? Why not combine your wedding and honeymoon into one fabulous trip? Since you will be spending less money on a bonanza wedding, you might as well put your money towards a good cause: your own vacation.
Elopements come in all sizes. Keep in mind that elopements do not have to mean destination weddings. Again, the point is to keep your vows private and the experience intimate. City Hall weddings are a beautiful option, and if you get married at the City Clerk’s office on Worth Street, I guarantee you will come away feeling very much like a true New Yorker. Another option is to have an officiant or judge marry you in a private space. My clients, Hillary and Michael, opted to have their ceremony in the backyard of their home and be surrounded only by immediate family. The next day they had a huge party at the Harvard Club to celebrate with friends and extended family, but they always have precious memories of saying ‘I do’ in a quiet atmosphere at home.
Rejoice in the fact that you are spending less money on your wedding. Seriously, it would take a huge trip around the world to come close to what it takes to throw a wedding for 200 people in New York City these days. Enjoy your ‘frugality.’ Bear in mind, however, that many vendors charge by the hour, not by the guest count. For instance, I charge by the hour for photography and it does not matter if you are hosting a wedding for two or two hundred. The fee is the same because it takes the same amount of prep work and time to get to the venue. In fact, weddings with fewer guests can often take more prep work, especially if you want portraits in multiple locations that require multiple venue checks.
Be prepared for strong reactions. No doubt there will be some family and friends who feel that not being invited to your wedding is a personal snub. Have a short explanation at the ready for why you decided to elope and stick to the same story. Again, you shouldn’t feel guilty about your decision to elope. Having a quick answer to the questions you know are coming will make the process of telling people you are married easier.
Do send a notice to your friends and family after you have eloped. Note that telling people you are newlyweds should be on your terms and should be sent out when you want. I recommend having a plan of attack, so to speak, because you know that people will talk. Once people start hearing through the grapevine that you are married, then the story spins out of control. Sending a handwritten note to family and friends is the best – and most Emily Post-correct – method; NOT Facebook.
Less wedding = less stress, so enjoy your day! You have no excuse not to enjoy your big day because you will be without the pain of having to decide where to seat Aunt Greta or having to write a million thank you cards.
Elopement Tips – The Don’ts
Don’t feel guilty. Agreeing to commit to someone for the rest of your life is a personal decision between the two of you. How you get married is your own business. You should not feel the slightest bit guilty for not throwing a big bash or consulting every family member with your wedding plans. Just the two of you are eloping, so do your own thing and plan a day that says something special about just the two of you. If need be, you can always throw a larger party after you get married which can include all of your family and friends who feel like they ‘missed out’ on your wedding. But for now, hold fast to the idea of keeping your vows private.
Don’t set limits on yourself. While an elopement is technically a wedding, this doesn’t mean you have to stick with the typical venues, photographers, or even wedding dress. Since you are redefining your nuptial experience, then don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to all the logistics of your wedding. How about a toy bouquet, elegant blue dress, or a fashion photography portrait session? Indeed, the sky is the limit for what you can plan for your elopement. I recommend you think of unique, intimate experiences that you wouldn’t have been able to do with a huge wedding party in tow. One of my favorite weddings ever was a New Year’s Eve wedding on top of the Grand Hyatt with the Chrysler Building looming overhead. This was truly a once in a lifetime wedding.
Don’t let your day go undocumented. Call me prejudiced, but I am of the mind that you should have your wedding recorded in some way or another. You can always hire a photographer who will put the two of you at ease and travel with you on your special day (hey there!). You might also consider keeping a journal of your experience or a scrapbook so you can look back and remember your day.
Don’t burden yourself with the stress of planning. Just because you are eloping doesn’t mean you have to do all your own wedding planning. Especially in the case of an international or destination wedding, an event planner can come in handy as a local guide who knows the vendor situation on the ground. Event planners can assist with everything from where to find a wedding dress to hiring the perfect officiant and can save you hours of sleepless nights. Even if you are getting married in New York City and don’t want to have to deal with planning a wedding, an event planner might be your best option. Most planners, such as Hold Your Hand Events, have tiered packages and hourly rates that are perfect for small events.
Elopement Tips – An Example
One bride who did it right was Niya, shown here with her husband, Gladimir. I had the pleasure of photographing their elopement at the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn. These two met when Niya had a mouse problem in her apartment. She called an exterminator, and Gladimir arrived at her front door. After two months they knew they were destined to be together forever and decided to get married. How’s that for a ‘meet cute’ story?
At the elopement, Niya and Gladimir were both dressed to the nines – note Niya’s traditional wedding dress. Niya had invited to the elopement her friend and fabulous makeup artist, Sasha, so she looked great. Niya had a bouquet and guests threw rose petals at the couple after they kissed. Also, I cannot say enough good things about the officiant for the day, Daniela VillaRamos. Daniela personalized the couple’s vows and best of all, she speedily got out of the way when the couple kissed to give me a clean shot! The only thing was that the entire wedding and portrait session all took place in the space of one hour in the bridal suite of the William Vale. Niya and Gladimir’s wedding is proof that good things can come in small packages.
Enjoy the photos of Niya and Gladimir’s William Vale elopement and stay tuned for a busy blogging week. On Thursday I will share the love story of Nancy and Jeff who will be getting married this coming Saturday. More importantly, I’ll be photographing them at Comic Con on Thursday…in costume!
Venue: William Vale Hotel
Wedding dress: Ada’s Bridal
Makeup artist: Sasha Lee Artistry
Officiant: Daniela VillaRamos, Once Upon A Vow
If you would like to see more images from my portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com