elope

Elopement, A Real Wedding Option

Elope. This is the nuptial norm for most military couples, but what are elopements really like?  I’m breaking it down for all my traditional wedding people, who think eloping is a dirty word.  Elopements can actually range from a humble and sudden exchange of vows to a luxury experience.  Feeling a little spontaneous?  Let’s elope!

The original definition of an elopement is simply a no notice or secretive marriage that takes place with just the couple.  Many associate it with running off to Las Vegas or Mexico with the one you love with the intent of coming back with shared last names.  Today, some of the original framework still holds true, but additional guests or local elopements are becoming more common.  Generally speaking an elopement is planned under 90 days and has 5 guests or fewer.  Micro Weddings are equally as popular with military and civilian couples as it involves an intimate guest list of under 30 people.  Anything over that, you are just having a wedding.  I’ll break those down in a future post.

Focused On The Marriage Not The Wedding

The element that I love most about an elopement is the focus on the marriage as opposed to the other details which can be a bit of a distraction.  You aren’t worrying about appeasing family, friends or living up to any particular expectation.  The focus is put on the couple.  Their wants and wishes.  They hone in and make the day they choose to say “I do” special. 

Believe it or not, my husband and I eloped.  Yup!  I was head over heels for this promising Air Force pilot.  We knew it was serious by the second date when we were talking about credit scores and future plans.  We just knew.  Things moved fast, which is common in relationships with military members.  We took a hard look at finances and our future plans as we found out we were expecting.  Little did I know my husband to be would propose in December on Christmas day.  When asked about a wedding date we completely dismissed the idea as we figured we would wait until after the baby and settling in at whatever new base we would be assigned to.  Then we’d have a “real wedding”. 

By February I started thinking, “I really would like to be married by the time my son arrives.”  My husband said, “Okay, pick a day.”  I figured we could do it when all of our family was in town to visit for his UPT graduation, but my soon to be husband reminded me that if we are eloping we didn’t need everyone there as the mission was simply to get married.  He was right!  That weekend would have been focused on thirty other things besides the true focus, us.  Two weeks later I purchased a dress that fit my belly, had it hymned (because I’m short), made a bouquet with broaches and pink silk hydrangeas and made a bird cage head piece out of tulle and two bobby pins.  My husband wore his service dress uniform.  Our local church pastor married us since we had completed marriage counselling with him, which is uncommon for most elopements.  After the nuptials we went to our favorite Mexican Restaurant for dinner and some friends joined us.  One even made us a little cake!  This was a “real wedding” and it was perfect.  I remember thinking to myself, “I’d live in a cardboard box as long as it was with you.”  It showed and the few that witnessed could see it.  

Intimate & Personal Experience

There was something magical in those moments when all that mattered was just the two of us.  We later endured the wedding runaround as we wanted a celebration for our family and friends to be a part of.  My dad wanted to walk me down the aisle, for example.  Ultimately, I think we were less stressed over it because we had had our intimate experience via the elopement.  We said several times throughout planning that we wanted our guests to have a great time so the burden of the occasion was lifted.

The intimacy of an elopement is unmatched.  If you choose a Vegas adventure or a backdrop in the great outdoors, the couple has the opportunity to express themselves through their selection without the task of coordinating access for several people.  Think about it.  You can elope in a tropical cave under a waterfall, on the cliff of a national landmark or in any other place for that matter.  Sky’s the limit.  Many assume elopements mean a cheaper option, however that isn’t always the case.  The investment on the experience and details go directly to the couple’s enjoyment.  If they want to each enjoy a five star meal, exclusive photo shoot, personal fireworks show or anything else, they can do so.  You have the unique opportunity to create a once in a lifetime experience for just the two of you and the few you may ask to bear witness.

The must haves!

There are a few things I would definitely recommend when choosing to elope. 

·         Wedding Planner

·         Photographer

·         Videographer

·         Marriage Announcement

·         Wedding Video

·         “After Party”

You absolutely have to capture these moments so a photographer is a non-negotiable to me.  Having quality photos is one thing I promises you will not regret.  You can used them when sending your wedding announcement, which is another must do.  People should be informed of your new chapter and it’s nothing to hide or down play.  Eloping is a momentous occasion because it’s all about the marriage.  A videographer is a close second.  You will want to share the footage with those who weren’t there as well as reflect back on it for years to come.  Of course I’m going to tell you to get a planner.  I know, I know… I’m required to say that, but seriously!  A planner knows your location, has relationships with venues and knows policies or restrictions that may be vital to pulling things off with a short timeline.  I list this first as the planner can match you with an amazing photographer and videographer that fits your style.  Last, but not least you should have an amazing “after party”.

An after party can mean a lot of different things to different people.  It could be a honeymoon.  A romantic getaway or staycation that keeps with the idea of the focus being on the couple.  It could be an actual party.  Celebrate with friends and loved ones.  Big or small, whatever fits your taste.  Go to dinner after or do something exciting like bungee jumping or a tour of the local attractions where you eloped.  Either way, ensure that you celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!