So you’re engaged — woohoo! After you’ve basked in that post-engagement glow, it’s time to start thinking about your wedding plans.
Maybe you want to do a big celebration with hundreds of guests, maybe you want to elope on a secluded mountaintop or maybe you envision something in between. There are so many factors for you and your intended to consider when trying to figure out if a traditional wedding or an elopement is right for you: your budget, your personalities, your preferences, your families’ preferences and other life circumstances.
“Eloping is a wonderful way to skip the stressful planning of an event wedding,” planner Maggie Gaudaen, co-founder of Pop! Wed Co. in Washington, D.C., told HuffPost. “An elopement wedding can be as simple as just the two of you at the courthouse, or it can include a few favorite people to share the day with. You can even choose a location that’s special to you.”
If you’re on the fence and can’t quite decide if an elopement is the way to go, we’re here to help. We asked a marriage therapist, a wedding planner, a wedding officiant and a financial planner to share some of the signs a couple should consider eloping instead of hosting a conventional wedding.
1. You hate being the center of attention.
Does the thought of reciting your vows or slow-dancing with your spouse in front of a captive audience fill you with dread? If the feeling of having all eyes on you makes you want to curl up and die, a more intimate elopement might suit you better.
“Public speaking, in general, makes many people a bit anxious,” Gaudaen, who plans small weddings and elopements, said. “Not to mention, saying your vows may be one of the more intimate things you’ll do in your lifetime. If you’re more nervous about the crowd than the vows themselves, an elopement can be an easy way to banish stress.”
If you identify as an introvert, then certain aspects of a bigger wedding may feel particularly overwhelming to you. It forces you to engage in draining small talk with distant relatives and your parents’ friends and makes it difficult to carve out some much-needed alone time to recharge your battery.
“Elopements, by definition, are intimate events, and introverts typically have the best time with smaller groups of people they deeply care about,” officiant Daniela VillaRamos of Once Upon a Vow said. “So whether it’s just you two or your close-knit crew, chances are an elopement will feel a lot more fun and stress-free.”
2. Money is tight and your families aren’t able (or willing) to contribute financially.
Between the venue, the food, the flowers, the booze, the music and the wedding attire, wedding costs can add up ridiculously fast, even when you and your fiancé are doing your best to be budget-conscious. If you opt to elope instead and invite only a few dear friends and family — or, heck, no one at all — you could end up saving yourself tens of thousands of dollars.
“Depleting your savings, or worse, going into debt right at the beginning of a marriage can put significant strain on an already fragile time of a marriage,” financial planner Angela Moore of Modern Money Advisor said. “That first year can already be difficult trying to merge as a couple. Add financial strain, and you have a recipe for increased chance of failure.”
3. You have the money, but you’d rather spend it on something else.
If you two have some money saved up or have family members who are willing to cover some or all of your wedding costs, that’s awesome. Still, you may have mixed feelings about dropping so much cash on one day, especially when those funds could be put toward other things you might deem more important: paying off student loans, buying a house, preparing for a baby or traveling.
“If you keep wondering how else you can spend your money, chances are eloping is the answer you’ve been looking for,” VillaRamos said. “Nowadays, that doesn’t just mean getting married at city hall. You can pretty much get married anywhere your heart desires and treat yourselves to a luxurious experience without digging yourselves into such a deep financial hole.”
4. You feel pressured to have a certain kind of wedding that doesn’t actually appeal to you.
Your family and friends may try to persuade you to have a wedding because that’s the “conventional” thing to do. But if the hassles associated with planning a big bash are a turn-off or the idea of saying your vows in front of a ton of people just doesn’t resonate with you two, then eloping might be the way to go.
“If you march to the beat of your own drum, then chances are unprompted opinions, wedding etiquette and the never-ending list of do’s and don’ts stress you out,” VillaRamos said. “Eloping offers that freedom to create your own rules and get married whenever, wherever and however you see fit. It’s your chance to focus on what matters to you, as a couple, without anyone else’s input in how you ‘should’ do it.”
Even if you choose to elope, you may have to deal with loved ones who are upset because they wanted to be part of the action. It’s inevitable. To minimize hurt feelings, inform close family and friends of your plans beforehand or, at the very least, before you post anything on social media. It may still sting, but at the end of the day, you have to let go of other people’s expectations and do what’s right for the two of you.
5. Making decisions really stresses you out.
If you’re not a super decisive person, wedding planning can feel particularly overwhelming because there are so many choices to make at every turn: Where will you get married? Whom will you invite? Will you have a plated dinner or a buffet? A band or a DJ? What about a signature cocktail? White tablecloths or colorful ones? Peonies or poppies? And the list goes on. Then, when you finally make a decision, you have to listen to friends and family weigh in with their opinions (often unsolicited!) on what you’ve selected. If you don’t have thick skin, after a while this can definitely affect you.
“Planning a wedding is no easy feat, even with the help of a wedding planner,” Moore said. “There are a million decisions to make, a million tasks to complete, a thousand people with opinions on how your wedding should be, and did I mention the constant outflow of money? I had a friend that judged me because I didn’t send out fancy paper invitations and opted for Paperless Post instead. I had guests that didn’t RSVP until the last minute, and I even had someone wear jeans to the wedding. Although it was an amazing day, the process of planning the wedding was not without stress, anxiety and weekly meltdowns.”
6. You find the intimacy of an elopement more romantic than the hoopla of a big wedding.
If you’re a no-frills kind of couple who dreams about tying the knot in a no-fuss kind of way, an elopement could be the right move. When you picture your ideal wedding, do you see all of your friends and family there cheering you on as you tie the knot and partying alongside you on a big, bustling dance floor? Or do you imagine reciting your vows in a more private setting, followed by a quiet, candlelit dinner with just a handful of loved ones?
“If you think it’s more meaningful and romantic to be just the two of you and a couple of friends for witnesses, eloping is just the way to have it exactly as you want it,” psychotherapist Tina Tessina said.
7. Your families aren’t supportive of the relationship.
In a perfect world, your friends and family would be happy for you two and excited about the wedding and marriage to follow. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If your parents don’t approve of the marriage or if there’s a lot of turmoil surrounding your relationship, eloping may eliminate some of that tension and stress.
“If you fear your wedding would turn into a battleground with all the in-laws about religious issues, ethnic tolerance, different customs or maybe just misbehaving, like drinking too much and getting obnoxious, then eloping may be just the thing,” Tessina said. “Families tend to come around once it’s a done deal.”
8. You want to get married ASAP.
Maybe you’re pregnant and you’d prefer to be married before the baby arrives. Maybe you just lost your job and want to get legally married so you can take advantage of your partner’s health insurance benefits. Whatever the reason, if you’re looking to get married quickly, an elopement will be much easier to pull off in a short amount of time than a more elaborate wedding.
“If you want to be eligible for insurance or get a tax deduction before the end of the year, elopement allows you to have a ‘just before the deadline’ wedding,” Tessina said. “You can plan a big wedding later, and no one needs to know.”