While it may seem strange to discuss elopements while couples in Ireland continue to be restricted by Covid-19 wedding guest restrictions, there is no denying the romance (or, indeed, logistical advantages!) of a pared-down wedding for two. We’ve witnessed numerous couples elope during the pandemic, providing new inspiration for anyone considering eloping abroad or closer to home. Even if you choose a low-key wedding, planning your elopement requires some thought. You’ll need to decide where to do it, what to wear (very important! ), how to make it special, and what to do afterwards, all while managing the accompanying emotions. And, of course, you’ll need to devise a strategy for informing your parents and friends. That is why we have compiled a brief guide on how to elope – the must-dos and most emphatically not-dos!
1. Pursue the Right Motives
Eloping can be a statement in and of itself, so if you’re considering marrying without your friends and family present, make certain it’s something you truly desire and that you’re doing so for the right reasons. Saving money, avoiding unnecessary fuss, keeping things intimate and personal, or avoiding family drama are all perfectly valid reasons to elope – just make sure you’ve given it plenty of thought and that it’s what you and your partner want.
2. Don’t Feel Bad About It
Elopements can be fraught with guilt, so this may be easier said than done, but try not to feel bad about your decision – you are not required to justify it to anyone. While some friends and family members may initially be disappointed at the prospect of not sharing your day with you, once they get over the shock, the chances are they’ll be overjoyed for you. I believe the adage “be prepared for the worst but expect the best” is critical here. While you’d like to believe that everyone is rooting for you, try not to be disappointed if a few people aren’t as excited about your news as you’d hoped.
3. Do Have a Plan for the Reveal
You may wish to throw a large party upon your return to inform all your friends, you may wish to send out announcement cards, or you may wish to quietly inform your nearest and dearest of your good news and leave it at that. Make a plan for how you will inform people about your elopement. When it comes to parents, siblings, and close friends, it is critical that they hear the news directly from you, preferably in person, rather than via the grapevine or, worse, Facebook! Prepare a brief script – as I previously stated, you do not need to explain yourself, but you and your partner must be on the same page when it comes to sharing your big surprise with friends and family.
4. Do Not Ignore Legal Considerations
Make sure you’re familiar with the legal requirements in the jurisdiction where you’re marrying; how far in advance you must register, what identification and paperwork you must bring, and whether the marriage will be valid in your own jurisdiction. While we all fantasise about an impromptu wedding in which you simply book your flights and say “I Do,” the reality is that even the most fanciful gestures require some planning. Oh, and before you fly home, don’t forget to collect your marriage certificate!
5. Consider Your Destination (And Avail of Local Knowledge)
Do you want a chic city elopement in Paris or New York, island vows in the Caribbean or Thailand, or would you rather cross New Zealand, South Africa, or Japan off your bucket list? Once you’ve decided on a destination and the vibe you want for your elopement, you can begin developing a plan. (For inspiration and advice, consult OFD’s destination guides!) It’s not a bad idea to hire a local planner who can advise you on legalities, connect you with a celebrant, photographer, and any other vendors you desire, as well as arrange transportation and dining on the day of the wedding. They’ll also be able to recommend some peaceful locations for your vows or portrait session, so take advantage of their insider knowledge. You don’t want to waste time searching for a florist and booking taxis.
6. Don’t Forget to Make a Photographer Appointment
We’ve always believed that hiring a photographer for your wedding day is a wise investment, even more so if you’re eloping. Having photographs to show your friends and family will help them feel a sense of involvement in your day. Additionally, you’ll have mementos of your vows to jog your memory. After all, if there is no photographic evidence, did the incident even occur? I am joking!
7. Do Make It Unique
Even if you don’t have 120 guests to wine, dine, and entertain, your elopement should be memorable. Whether it’s writing personalised vows, indulging in a luxurious limousine, eating wedding cake for breakfast, or dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant, do whatever it takes to make your wedding day truly special and memorable. The best part about eloping is that you have complete freedom, so make the most of it!
8. Avoid introducing your vendors to one another at your wedding.
Thus, this is not a mandatory rule, but it is strongly recommended! I was at a beach resort once when a gentleman in a suit approached me and asked if I could film his wedding on an iPad. Naturally, I obliged, but as his bride walked down the aisle, a random onlooker (me!) stood on the sand filming her (she had no idea her groom had asked). The couple was meeting the celebrant for the first time at the altar, the photographer had only met them a few minutes before, and the witnesses were a couple they’d met at the bar. They were obviously shy people, which is why they chose to elope, but here they were standing in front of a crowd of strangers reciting extremely sincere and personal vows. Different resorts and planners will approach things differently, and perhaps you’re unconcerned about such details, but if you want your elopement to feel intimate and romantic, I recommend meeting anyone who will be in attendance in advance.
9. Wear Something Stunning
It is not necessary for it to be white or formal. It is not necessary to wear a gown or a suit. And it is not required to be “wedding appropriate.” However, ensure that you wear something meaningful to you on your wedding day, whether it’s a sequin bridal jumpsuit, a little white dress, your grandmother’s pearl necklace, or your favourite Hawaiian shirt – or even full formal wedding day attire. Have some fun with your look and ensure that you feel incredible on your wedding day, even if you’re dressing up for yourself and your significant other.
10. Do Not Abandon a Wedding Day Timeline
You may not believe you require one – after all, eloping is all about breaking the rules, correct? – However, considering the structure of your day is the most effective way to make the most of it. If the ceremony lasts 15 minutes and dinner lasts two hours, there is still plenty of time remaining in the day. Allow extra time for hair and makeup, a leisurely breakfast or pre-ceremony lunch, a couples’ massage, or an extravagant photography session – just make sure your day flows smoothly so you can maintain the excitement and momentum.
11. Be Prepared for Some Expenses
While many couples choose to elope in order to avoid the expense of a large wedding, this does not mean there will be no costs. Your wedding licence, bouquet, outfits, hair, makeup, and celebrant will all be the same price regardless of the number of guests – though you should inquire about elopement rates from your planner and photographer, as you may require less of their time on the day. That said, if you can afford it, there’s no harm in splashing out and upgrading to a posh hotel or plush suite for your wedding night, indulging in a fabulous meal, or going all out on the Champagne – after all, what’s the point of eloping if you can’t indulge a little?!
12. Never Book a Package Without First Examining It
Numerous resorts – and some planners – specialise in elopement packages. These frequently include the ceremony, an in-house photographer, locally sourced flowers, and a romantic dinner, as well as lodging. These packages can be convenient and cost effective, especially if you’re not overly concerned with the details, but before booking, ensure that you’re happy with all of the components – especially the photographer!
13. Be Prepared for a Minor Setback
All weddings are depressing, but I have a feeling that the depressing effect of an elopement is especially strong. With all the excitement and build-up associated with hatching a plan between you and the energy associated with keeping it a secret, it may seem strange when it’s all over and the time comes to share your news with the world. Additionally, you may experience strange pangs that you should have done things differently or that you omitted certain elements of a traditional wedding. It’s perfectly normal to feel that way; it doesn’t mean you have any regrets, and it may never happen, but it’s always prudent to be prepared.
14. Avoid Expecting Gifts
However, if someone is kind enough to send you something nice, that is wonderful! (And, if they do, be sure to send them a thank-you card!).