It’s no secret that planning a wedding can be a stressful, expensive ordeal — so it’s no surprise that some couples choose to go rogue and elope. Eloping feels inherently romantic, allows you and your boo to call all of the shots, and best of all, is far less likely to leave you saddled with major debt. Plus, you won’t have to make awk small talk with that second cousin you haven’t seen in years. But if you're thinking of eloping, there are so many important things to consider. After all, tying the knot in secret comes with a slew of both perks and pitfalls, and the more you prepare yourself for all of the possibilities, the better your chances of kicking off newlywed life on a positive note.
BTW — if you’re eager to elope, you’re not alone. A 2018 study conducted by OnePoll revealed that a whopping six in 10 couples who got married within the previous year had seriously considered it. For many couples, it ultimately comes down to saving money — and when you consider that the average wedding in 2018 cost $44,000, according to the Brides American Wedding Study, it makes sense why many people would be tempted to skip the traditional ceremony and reception. Besides, Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner eloped, and if they’re not #couplegoals, I don’t know who is.
But before you start filing for that marriage license, here are some must-know considerations for ensuring a smooth, successful elopement.
Remember that it's your day — and yours alone.
By far one of the biggest benefits of eloping is that you can base all of your decisions on what makes you and your SO happy. You don’t have to factor anyone else’s needs or preferences in.
So, be sure to take full advantage of this. Fantasizing about rocking a vintage wedding dress in a bright shade of green? Itching to play Van Morrison as you walk down the aisle? Dreaming of an outdoor wedding in winter? It’s your day, and you don’t have to fret about grandma rolling her eyes, so go wild. It’s up to you whether you want to do your own hair and makeup or have a glam squad to help you get ready. It’s your call whether you want to incorporate scenic decor wherever you exchange vows or keep things super simple and minimalistic. All that matters is that you and bae are on the same page with each other about what will make your day feel truly memorable.
Research the requirements ahead of time.
By far, one of the biggest benefits of eloping is that you can get married wherever you darn well please. If that means marching down to the local courthouse a la Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big, or to Sin City a la Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, then tying the knot will be relatively simple. However, if saying “I do” at city hall or in a Vegas chapel with an Elvis impersonator isn’t your idea of romantic, then you have plenty of other options. You can certainly elope to a scenic locale either within driving distance of your home state or to an exotic destination overseas. For example, your favorite vacation spot or the location of your first trip together could make for a meaningful backdrop as you exchange your vows (and undoubtedly provide some jaw-dropping photo ops).
That said, you will need to do a little more planning if you’re getting married outside of the U.S. because laws and procedures vary from country to country. According to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, some countries even require that you spend a certain amount of time there before you can get married. Other requirements you may run into include parental consent, blood tests, minimum age for both individuals, or an Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry (which can be executed at a U.S. embassy or consulate). This is why it’s crucial to contact the embassy or tourist information bureau of the country where you plan to marry ahead of time. That way, you can find out their requirements and prepare accordingly before you hop on a plane.
Hire a pro to capture the special moments.
It’s easy to forget about the fact that without friends and family in attendance, you’ll have fewer people to take pics throughout the big day. That means that when you elope, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands. Even if it’s not super important to you to have an album’s worth of photos from your nuptials, your friends and family who couldn’t be there will likely be eager to see some pics. Besides, you’ll likely be glad to have them years down the line to look back on. (“Hey, remember that time we eloped like BAMFs?”)
Certainly, your witness may be willing to snap a couple of photos before and after the ceremony, but that's about it. Plus, unless you happen to have a high-quality camera and they happen to be a skilled photographer, you don’t really know what kind of quality you’re going to get. So, it’s typically worth it to hire a professional photographer.. They can capture as much of the experience as you wish, from getting ready in your room, to saying "I do," and sharing your first kiss as a married couple. Ultimately, you’ll probably be immensely grateful you hired a pro — as will your loved ones, who will get to feel as if they shared in the elopement by seeing some of the special moments.
Speaking of pros, you’ll also need to hire someone to officiate your wedding, whether it’s a religious officiant (if you’re eloping at a church or chapel), or a justice of the peace at your local county clerk’s office. You could also choose a friend or family member who is ordained, or even find one online. It’s a good idea to check out their credentials, references, and reviews before booking them to confirm that they’re a good fit.
Have a plan for how you’ll break the big news.
There are different ways to go about telling your loved ones that you’re eloping (or already have), but the important thing is to have a specific plan for how you’ll handle it — and make sure that both you and bae are on the same page. If you suspect your parents would be deeply hurt if you got married without telling them, you may decide to clue them in ahead of time. While they may be disappointed that you won’t be having a wedding, they’ll likely be grateful to get to participate in some small way. For example, you could enlist your mom to help you pick out the destination, or simply make it a point to FaceTime the fam right after you’ve said “I do.”
On the other hand, if you decide to keep your elopement a secret until after you’re married, make sure that the most important people in your life (whether that’s parents, siblings, or an aunt who raised you) are the first to know about your marriage. That can at least help to minimize some hurt feelings on the part of people who didn’t get to be involved in your big day.
It can be helpful to make a list of all the friends and family you want to personally notify about your elopement, either face to face or over the phone. They might be a bit miffed if they find out the news via social media, so it’s key to make an effort to keep your inner circle in the loop. You can also send out formal marriage announcements via snail mail.
Some people opt to announce the big news at a post-elopement party — so provided you and bae can keep your exciting news under wraps, you might also invite friends and fam to a secret shindig to fill them in.
Regardless of how you choose to share your news, be prepared for some mixed reactions. Plenty of people will be psyched to hear that you made this spontaneous move and eager to celebrate this milestone with you. Some may not quite get why you eloped, or even feel a tad hurt that they didn’t get to be a part of your special day. As long as you and your SO feel confident in your decision, your loved ones will eventually understand — and hopefully, be happy for you that you followed your heart.
Eloping can obviously be an incredibly exhilarating, not to mention less expensive, way to make a lifelong commitment to your one and only. However, going this route does require some special considerations. As long as you keep these things in mind, your primed to get hitched — without a hitch.