There are a number of reasons people elope: Some want to avoid the significant expense of a traditional wedding, others have challenging family dynamics, and some couples just want more intimacy surrounding their nuptials. Often, it’s a combination of all three.
Do you know someone who has eloped? Many of us don’t, but these four couples did — and are sharing what they think people to know. (Most importantly: Check your state's requirement for a marriage license!)
The backup plan
Julie and Mike; New York City
Julie and Mike have fond memories of becoming engaged. Their family and close friends were thrilled, even when the happy pair shared early wishes for an intimate ceremony.
Almost immediately, however, the groom’s mother started calling: “It’s going to be so hard not to invite the neighbors.” The calls became more frequent and urgent despite Mike’s insistence that their wedding only include their inner circle.
Julie went dress shopping with her mother and came home with a white lace dress — complete with train — even though she was conflicted about the purchase. When Mike found Julie fraught over the wedding they didn’t want, they put the brakes on and crafted Plan B.
Julie returned the dress, forfeited a modest deposit for an inn and caterer, and got excited about a trip to Vegas instead. With their parents’ blessings, Julie and Mike took several weeks to make arrangements, which included Elvis chauffeuring them to the Chapel of the Bells in a pink Cadillac. Twenty years later, they still love telling the story.
Pro Tip: Since Mike’s parents had their hearts set on a big wedding, they threw the newly married couple a party and invited extended family and neighbors. Everyone got what they wanted.
The customized plan
Julie and Stana; Houston
Stana surprised Julie with a ring in Central Park over a long weekend getaway to New York in 2016. The couple was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to tie the knot, but they had a few considerations. When Julie envisioned herself in a traditional wedding dress, she experienced heart palpitations. They also came from different religions, cultural backgrounds and parts of the country — and Julie had four children. Most crucially, they both felt that conventional weddings were just a party for the families.
While browsing clever alternatives, Julie stumbled upon Eloping Is Fun, New York-based elopement planners, who provided everything from an officiant to photography to the perfect location.
“Our clients are thrilled to be getting married, but they just don’t want big huge weddings. They want something more intimate,” says co-founder and photographer Jenny MacFarlane. “Our couples also don’t want to go into debt to get married.”
Stana echoed the sentiment: “I didn’t want to finance our wedding. We saved up for the details that meant something to us and were able to pay off the wedding of our dreams in one credit card cycle.”
After falling in love with their engagement city, Julie and Stana returned to New York in May 2018 for their wedding. Jenny’s husband, Matt, officiated their ceremony. Exchanging personal vows and having lots of beautiful and fun photographs was important to them both, as was including Julie’s children. Stana splurged for a custom-made suit and both women had their hair and makeup done by a professional.
Pro Tip: Before the wedding, Julie and Stana provided family and close friends with stationery to express well wishes, which the couple read aloud on their wedding day over cake.
Eloping is an excellent option for couples who want exchanging of vows to be at the center of their wedding without any distraction.
The Vegas plan
Sally and Rob; Boston
After four years together, Sally and Rob skipped the engagement and headed straight for a neon altar in Vegas. Only Sally’s best friend and Rob’s brother knew.
They had witnessed first-hand the level of stress associated with planning a traditional wedding and wanted nothing to do with it. And the financial burden may have jeopardized funds set aside for a home purchase.
After Rob surprised Sally with a vacation trip to Las Vegas this past spring, it quickly became clear that this was their perfect opportunity to get married. After a couple of days exploring Vegas, including a visit to the county clerk’s office to apply for a marriage license, they made an appointment at the Little Neon Wedding Chapel for later that night. Elvis officiated the ceremony, Elvis classics played and Sally and Rob exchanged ring pops.
Their family and friends were shocked by the news, but thrilled for the newlyweds. They celebrated with a big backyard party for 75 people that summer.
Pro Tip: Bucking tradition doesn’t have to mean sacrificing it. Their “something borrowed” was a fake sunflower bouquet, “something blue” was Rob’s shirt, “something old” was Elvis and “something new” were the ring pops.
The intimate plan
Rebecca and Kevin; Brooklyn, New York
Rebecca and Kevin were thrown an engagement party by her sister, and family and friends attended from both sides. By the end of the night, the couple started making private jokes about eloping. And, when the jokes continued, Rebecca and Kevin took notice.
What they wanted more than anything was to feel emotionally present with each other. Rebecca and Kevin worried their well-intending families would make that difficult by prioritizing their own expectations.
The couple flew to Niagara Falls and sorted out the details once they arrived. In four days, they secured a marriage license, justice of the peace and even a witness-for-hire. They exchanged traditional vows in an unconventional, yet intimate setting, and called their families afterwards. Nearly 20 years later, Rebecca and Kevin still wouldn’t change a thing and vow to support whatever their children want when their days come.
Pro Tip: Eloping is an excellent option for couples who want vows at the center of their wedding without any distraction, because true elopement means accepting that those in attendance will be strangers.