So, you’ve heard about eloping. People are talking about this cool new trend where you get to get married however you want in a freeing, blank-slate way. But how do you know if that’s the route you should pursue? Today I’m going to be outlining how to decide if an elopement is right for you! Let’s dive in.
To start, let’s focus on those feel-good things you probably want out of your wedding day.
1. If you want… more 1:1 time with your partner on your wedding day
You’re pulled in what feels like a million directions on a traditional wedding day to try and spend time with every one of your guests. So many people to talk to, so little time! Not to mention cocktails to drink, food to eat — you might look up and realize, when was the last time you hugged or kissed or shared a look with your brand new spouse?? Hours ago?
During a traditional wedding day, everyone is there for you — they are there to celebrate your new marriage, so it’s no wonder that your guests all want to visit with you and catch up. But you only have so much time to spend on your wedding day — and every one of those precious minutes and hours spent on your guests is time away from your partner. In my opinion, this is the main person you should be celebrating with — after all, you just got married to your best friend!
When you scale your guest list waaayy down, you’re able to spend much higher amounts of quality time with those people — the most important being your partner! And because you’ve cut out a lot of the pomp and circumstance that a traditional wedding carries, there are generally fewer activities and things to spend your day doing — which means you have a lot more opportunity to slow down, breathe, and relax together.
2. If you want… to be intentional with your budget
It’s no secret: a huge advantage to eloping is how much money you save doing it! The average traditional wedding in the US will run you a cool $35,000+. I don’t know about you, but that is a massive amount of money to spend on a party — which, let’s face it, is mainly for other people. That might be a little triggering to you, but think about it: you are quite literally paying for people to come to your party. You’re paying for their meals, drinks, space to accommodate them doing those things, their party favors, maybe even for them to stay in town if they’re traveling to attend.
Your wedding budget is able to go so much farther on an elopement: you have much fewer people to accommodate (if any!). And scaling back money spent on other people means you can ramp up the money spent on you two and what brings you the most joy. Think about what would make you friggen stoked to do on your wedding day. Does hopping into a hot air balloon at sunrise tickle your fancy? Does the idea of chartering a private wine taste hop adventure sound dreamy AF? Does off-roading to the top of a mountain for your ceremony, taking a helicopter ride at sunset, or hot tubbing in the Swiss Alps light you up? All of that would be financially in reach when you aren’t having to worry about 100+ other people’s experience.
If spending less money period is a priority for you (instead of simply reallocating it to different things), eloping is a great option for that objective as well. You can get married almost for free basically anywhere! When you opt to elope, you are no longer tied to a physical venue that costs $8,000-$15,000. Instead, you could head to your local state or national park and get married there for a small fee. Or do it for free on a family property, local park, or scenic pull off! When you eliminate dozens of guests, you eliminate dozens of fees and charges that go along with them — saving you thousands of dollars. Which you can then put toward other financial goals of yours that have a bit more staying power. 😉
3. If you want… freedom to design your dream wedding activities and control over how you spend your wedding day
I touched on this in the last point, but as you decide if an elopement is right for you, if it’s important to you to have more freedom in how you spend your wedding day (in other words, if a traditional wedding feels a bit… restrictive), this is a great upside of eloping. Without a traditional wedding day timeline and structure holding you back (“Okay, so we’ve got a photo session at 2:30, procession assembled at 3:00, ceremony at 3:10, water break at 3:35, second photo session at 3:40, greeting obscure extended family friends at 4:05…”), you have a wide open highway of freedom to design the day doing exactly what you want and when you want to do it. Who doesn’t love agency??
4. If you want… a less-than-traditional day that better reflects you
A traditional wedding day is not for everyone, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re forcing yourself into it and trying to love it just because that’s the comfort zone the people around you are nudging you toward. Following traditions that are hundreds of years old might just make your skin crawl. If that’s the case, bucking tradition altogether and designing a wedding day that much fewer people have experienced might be a better option.
Before I get into the next piece of food for thought: I’m going to challenge you on this, and I really encourage you to sit with whatever feelings that come up and listen to what your intuition tells you.
Think about this: Do you want a big, traditional wedding day genuinely because that’s what lights you up? Or do you want it simply because that’s what other people and society expect you to want? (also, hi hello any woman reading this needs to ask herself the same question as it pertains to having children). If you find yourself anywhere other than a pure extrovert on the scale, have a small tight-knit group of friends, and generally keep your weekend plans pretty chill around the house/your town — does it 100% align for you to create a ‘party of the year’ with 150 people and all the stops pulled out? (There is no right or wrong answer here!)
The point is to know what truly makes sense for you and your partner based on your personalities and goals. You will not serve anyone by ‘going with the flow’ and planning a large wedding just because that’s what other people want to do. In this one regard, put yourself first and evaluate whether this specific type of wedding day aligns with who you are as a person.
WHEW, that was a lot! Now, let’s move on to the more negative aspects you may not want as you decide if an elopement is right for you.
1. If you don’t want… excessive people to please/negative energy from those people
This showed up in a section above, but with large weddings comes large opinions. And not only large opinions but LOTS OF THEM. Maybe you are an absolute gem and your family is 100% respectful of how you want to create your wedding and leaving you to it, but if you don’t find yourself in that camp — you can rest assured that you are far from alone. As you get into planning, you’ll find that everyone in your circle has an opinion on something: whether you should have an engagement/wedding shower, what to include in your invitation suite, what color the invitations should be, what venue to choose, whether to do napkins folded next to the plate or artfully displayed on top of them. “You should hire this band that played at my friend’s wedding,” “Make sure you don’t put this in your ceremony…,” “I really think a plated dinner is better than buffet… can you please do that for me?”
And on and on and on.
The weight of other people’s opinions and what they want out of your wedding day can be crippling. It’s no surprise that many of us cave to them when push comes to shove. Not to mention when money is at play! That adds an entirely new uncomfy dimension where you feel obligated to pleasing people in your life if they’re contributing financially. If this sounds like the bane of your existence, and you can absolutely see your tribe being these people I’ve described above, downsizing is a great option. With less moving parts of your wedding day comes less things for others to have an opinion about. And maybe you decide that you want to spend the day only with your partner; just the two of you. People can’t have an opinion on your wedding day if they don’t get to be part of it! (well, they do, but they are no longer entitled to making it known to you and letting it ruin your planning experience 😉)
2. If you don’t want… tons of things to plan + coordinate
You (most likely) aren’t an event planner. In which case, the number of items that go into planning a wedding might just make your head explode! You’re basically adding a part time job onto your plate (p.s. you actually are — on average, couples spend 200-300 hours planning their wedding if they don’t hire a planner. YIKES.). I mean, in the spiral bound wedding planners you’ve seen out there, it seems like there are checklists for your checklists. If you’re exhausted just thinking about planning #allthethings, an elopement or intimate wedding might be a better option for you. With less planning areas to worry about, you get mental headspace back to enjoy the rest of your life — including celebrating being engaged to that smokeshow fiancé of yours!
3. If you don’t want… to be the center of attention
This one is basically self explanatory. Stagefright and performance anxiety is a real thing that people struggle with, and if the thought of experiencing that on an occasion as momentous as your wedding gives you stress hives, maaayybe it’s time to rethink your strategy. It’s very common for people to be nervous about having to have a certain reaction during their wedding (hello heteronormative pressure on grooms to have a huge reaction to seeing their bride walk down the aisle), and often it gives them anxiety thinking about the possibility that they may not live up to expectations (their own or otherwise). If this sounds like you or your partner, I would have a heart to heart with yourself or them.
It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing, either — if one of you hates being the center of attention so much that eloping alone would be the dream, but the other partner wants a party, you can compromise! Instead of having a 100+ guest wedding and all the anxiety of that, versus eloping without attention but also without your favorite people celebrating with you, compromise in the middle: create an intimate wedding day with only your closest, most supportive people in attendance to cheer you on.
4. If you don’t want… a planning and wedding day experience that stresses you out
In case anyone hasn’t said this to you before, planning your wedding is not supposed to be a dreadful experience! It’s not supposed to be a chore or a slog or something to endure. You’re supposed to enjoy this season of life with your fiancé and celebrate your relationship and beginning of your incredible marriage! If you notice yourself starting to drift off the shoulder into the Swamp of Doom (where dread, obligation, and unhappiness live), ask yourself what might be triggering that change of direction.
Keep in mind that stress also manifests physically. If your skin is breaking out for the first time in a year, or you have an ache in your neck that won’t go away, or you’ve just felt very fatigued lately, keep your ears perked up for those indicators that something is not jiving with your nervous system. If you have no other explanation for it, use that as an indicator light on your dash to check in with yourself and ask what about your wedding planning experience is causing your body to have that reaction. It might be one specific area, or it might be the entire thing.
I’m a broken record, but again: the point of all of this is to create a wedding day that is in alignment who you two are as individuals and prioritizes you feeling supported and at ease (don’t those words just feel lovely?). Remember, your wedding day is supposed to make you feel fulfilled, relaxed, and fucking ecstatic! Yes, small things will inevitably trip you up on your planning journey, but if you aren’t having those emotions on the whole, it might be time to ask if another route is better suited to you. The ends (experiencing amazingly positive emotions during your planning and on your wedding day) justify the means (whatever it takes to allow you space to experience those things — including ditching your big, traditional wedding plans). I hope this shed a little more light onto things and helped you decide if an elopement is right for you! If nothing else, I want you to remember that it is a beautiful thing to train yourself to check in and constantly ask yourself, “how am I feeling about this?” Questioning things and checking in on a regular basis is a great muscle to have and will always serve you. I’m cheering you on!