Elopements have gained more and more popularity over the past few years. Many couples have chosen to eloped for numerous reasons, such as looking to save money for the future, starting their lives together in a spontaneous and adventurous way, or even not wanting to deal with the overwhelming tasks of wedding planning! With that, couples forgo the traditional event and would rather marry in secret. After all, it IS way less stressful and inexpensive to have to put so much effort and money into one day when the only person you want to be with is the one that’s right in front of you. Intimacy is at the heart of an elopement!
While many pairs are deciding to go through with an elopement, many are still uncertain as to what the proper etiquette is and are often misinformed. Although a wedding is between you and your fiance, family and friends can take your decision to elope quite personally which may tear some relationships apart. To gain a better understanding and perspective of elopements, here are a few do’s and don’ts:
Photography Credit: Jose Alfredo Lerma Contreras
DO INFORM YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
The last thing you want is to start your marriage with your loved ones frustrated or angry at you. Ultimately for most couples, the biggest fear of elopment is the disappointment and reactions of families and friends. But the good news it – there are ways to manage that.
The first is to communicate your decision to your family and friends PRIOR to the elopement. You need to approach the situation very cautiously since there is always a handful of people who believe they have the “right” to be there as you wed. Explain to them the reasons why and ask for their support. By informing them beforehand, you can minimize and manage the hurt feelings and surprised reactions early on. It’s important that you strategically inform them in order as well. Be respectful and don’t go telling a co-worker first before letting your parents know. And this goes without saying – don’t be publishing it all over social media or e-blast as a way to announce it!
After you’ve tied the knot, let the world know! Send an official announcement out (again – not via social media) so that your family or friends have something to keep. If your photographer is on their A-game, ask him/her to send you a couple sneak-peek shots to include in your announcement cards!
DON’T FORGET TO DO YOUR LEGAL HOMEWORK
Eloping isn’t as easy as hopping on a plane and asking an officiant to be there. Make sure you do your research months prior to your elopement so that you know what is expected from you. It’s important to call ahead to find out what you need to bring with you. It’s important to also make an appointment with your doctor’s office for a check-up before you fly out too, especially if it’s overseas or somewhere exotic. A few key items to bring with you are: Passport, Photo ID / Driver’s License, Certified Birth Certificate, Marriage License, and Country’s Embassy Contact Information. It also doesn’t hurt to bring along a copy of your country’s documented marriage laws.
In some areas, there are even an option to self-solemnize your marriage so choose accordingly based on your wants + needs. Remember – every destination is different. The last thing you want is for your elopement to be negated and all that efforts to go wasted!
Most countries require a valid Canadian passport and a certificate issued by your province or territory stating that there are no legal impediments to your marriage. You should obtain the certificate before you leave Canada.
For more information regarding Canadians marriage overseas, take a read here.
DO ASK A WITNESS TO ATTEND
Depending on your chosen elopement destination, some countries / cities will require a witness to attend your elopement. We implore you to do your homework diligently and carefully so that if the situation does arise, you already know who to invite to be apart of your special day. In these cases, usually it’s best to ask each set of parents from both sides to attend to avoid any future family drama. If it becomes too hard to choose, the rule of thumb is usually below a dozen!
DON’T COMMIT WITHOUT THINKING IT THROUGH
Before you decide to elope together, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Eloping can often a spur-of-the-moment decision, but we strongly advise you to think it through before it becomes a decision you regret. Spend time with your significant other making a PROs and CONs list! List out the reasons why you want to elope and what purpose each reason serves. It’s understandable that eloping can take away the overwhelming stress of wedding planning and allow couples to truly enjoy the sentiment of the ceremony. Whatever the reason might be, just make sure it’s more concrete than “we just feel like it”!
DO BUDGET ACCORDINGLY
Although you are saving some big bucks by not hosting a traditional ceremony or reception with hundreds of guests, do take into consideration other expenses, such as travel, lodging, transportation, marriage license, travel vaccines, and meal expenses. Depending on your elopement destination and the complexity of it, luxurious elopements are also becoming popular. There are couple spending their money on what a “normal” wedding ceremony/reception would entail – such as: decor, florals, formalwear, and more. Ensure you have a sit-down chat with your future spouse to discuss your spendings if you both aren’t considering having a city hall elopement. It could add up quickly with the elopment and post-celebration.
DO HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER + VIDEOGRAPHER
Since your family and friends can’t be there with you for the special day, ensure to hire a photographer and/or a videographer to capture the day the way you have always envisioned. Not only can you share this with your loved ones post-elopement, but photographs of your special day do last a lifetime! We can guarantee that you will regret it if you don’t. You are already saving so much by not having an official ceremony and reception, so treat yourselves!
The great aspects of an elopement is that you can do whatever you please. If you would like to have your first dance on the beach right after you said your “I Do’s”, go for it! Let your photographer/videographer know of the timeline in advance so they are aware of the details of your day.
If you have a few extra bucks in the bank and are eloping outside of City Hall, think about hiring a local planner to help ensure your day goes off without a hitch. A day-of planner can help with vendor management, travel + accommodation logistics, timeline coordination, dinner reservations, local to-do’s, and more.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR SPECIAL PRICING
Since an elopement isn’t necessary a full day’s of work for most vendors, don’t be nervous to ask your photographer, videographer, or local planner for special pricing. Since eloping has became more popular, vendors usually already have elopement pricing or would allow you to pick a la carte items that work for your special day. We strongly suggest setting aside an hour with your photographer for a newlywed shoot, similar to a regular wedding at home! If you packed a big enough suitcase, try to pack Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue for your photographer/videographer to include in their detail shots along with your rings and vows! There are different ways to stay traditional even when you elope.
DO HOST A POST-ELOPEMENT CELEBRATION
Once the formality of a “wedding” is over, it’s time to celebrate! Your friends and family might not have been there to witness you two exchanging your vows and rings, but it doesn’t mean they can’t celebrate with you. If you are still looking to save some money, plan an intimate dinner party or cocktail reception to celebrate. Afterall, they will probably be dying to hear all the details of your adventurous elopement. Not to mention, this could also in turn alleviate some hurt feelings and allows everyone to have a great time.
Swap out wording on your invitation to include “we would love to invite you to a celebration in honor of our marriage” so that it’s clear that your guests won’t be there to witness your vows.
DON’T EXPECT GIFTS FROM LOVED ONES
Usually, the proper etiquette states that a registry is only to be created for guests that attend your nuptials. If you aren’t planning to host a celebration post-elopment in honor of your marriage, we would advise you to skip registering for a gift registry since it wouldn’t be appropriate. However, there are always a few family members and friends that may give you a gift either way! In any case, do prep some thank you cards in advance so they can be sent out right away.
DO UNDERSTAND THERE IS STILL SOME PLANNING INVOLVED
If you decide to take on the reins of planning the elopement, ensure you stay organized by creating multiple to-do lists and timelines. Aside from travel and lodging, take into consideration post-nuptial catering for you and your spouse. It might not be the most romantic to dine at a public restaurant after you said your “I Do’s”, so perhaps coordinate logistics with a rooftop terrace or private venue for your candlelit celebration. Similar to reserving a private car on the day-of to get around to point A to point B. In terms of your post-elopement celebration, consider who you would want to invite and what type of celebration it will be. Will it be a sit-down meal? An open bar? Will there be kids attending or adults only? Where will it take place?
A few questions to ask:
- What is the wait time between receiving your marriage license and the wedding itself?
- What date are you planning to elope?
- Are you staying local or heading somewhere out of town?
- What are the witness requirements? Who do you want there?
- Do you need an appointment at city hall? What paperwork will you need to bring along and how much does it cost?
- Who do you need to tell prior to your elopement?
- What vendors do you want to hire?
- What will you be wearing?
- How much are you hoping to spend in total?
- Who are you inviting to your post-elopement celebration? What type of celebration is it? What will be included?
DON’T OVERLOOK THE SURPRISES OR DETAILS
A traditional wedding day with a full ceremony and reception can fly by in a blink of an eye, so you can only imagine what an elopement could feel like! Make sure to take time prior to or after to coordinate a couple surprises for your future spouse. Whether that be exchanging gifts, dining at a spectacular restaurant, or planning a romantic date out, spend time together making new memories and doing activities you both love. An elopement is intimate enough but it doesn’t have to stop there!