Drum roll please…..so you’ve decided to elope! Congratulations! There is so much to do! Where to begin? A few helpful lists will help you break it down into a manageable job. Let us help. Here’s our top 10 list of things to think about when eloping for your big day:
- Location, Location, Location
No matter where you go, you will want to pick a place that “speaks” to you and your beloved. For some, it will be returning to the place where you got engaged; for others, it will be a landmark destination or a much dreamed of spot. Whether it is a beach, a park, a bridge or museum, make it special and perfect for you and your guests. Use all of the resources at hand including websites like Trip Advisor, travel guidebooks, magazines, wedding resources, and social media. Think outside the box. For outdoor locations make sure to check local weather during your desired time of year (including temperature and sunrise/sunset). See that you know about required permits and legal restrictions for the venue you want. Are there restrictions about decorations, music, alcohol, crowds? Bottom line: do your research.
- Location, Location, Location, II; Back-Up Plans
Life doesn’t always work out like you want it to. If you are planning an outdoor affair, do you have a Plan B should poor weather conditions require you to move indoors? There is no need to obsess over all of the things that can go wrong on your big day, but check in with your officiant, wedding planner, and hotel concierge about places where you might hold the wedding if bad weather impacts your plans. Many nicer hotels may be able to provide indoor space for you—sometimes for no fee or at a reasonable cost. A professional planner can hook you up with colleagues who may give you a fair last minute price for indoor space, especially if you are having a daytime affair during the week, as opposed to the weekend. Remember, “When there’s a will, there’s a way.”
- Do your Homework
America is a complicated place, and the legal requirements and paperwork vary by states and localities. The good news is that all of the requirements in terms of identifications, wait periods, officiant requirements, etc. are spelled out in fine detail online. So you will know exactly what to do before you arrive to get married. If you are having an international wedding, that will require even more homework. If things get super complicated abroad, you might wish to consider having your legal ceremony in the United States and have your symbolic celebration at the international location.
- Who’s in charge here?
Finding a high quality officiant is especially important when eloping as this person will likely fill many roles on the big day. You are relying on this person to create a beautiful ceremony, while likely giving you support in negotiating the legal requirements of the license process and some wedding planning assistance, too. And in many cases, you may not meet this person until you are at the wedding! A lot can be accomplished over email, video chats and on the phones. And, most professional officiants will have reviews available on wedding websites.
In most cases, the location for an eloping wedding will provide ample visual beauty for photographs. But, think about any additional items you might want to make the day special. This might include bubbles for the end of the ceremony, rose petal decorations for a casual processional, champagne glasses for a toast, or simple items for any ceremony rituals. Talk with your officiant about what he or she might provide and what you will be responsible for.
- Don’t Forget the Music
Don’t be afraid to be innovative with music choices, whether recorded or live. If you host a city wedding, you will have ample opportunity to secure a wide variety of live performers; from a jazz saxophonist to steel drum players. And if you are having a destination wedding in a more exotic locale, you can enjoy the music of the locals. Using tools like the website gigmasters.com, you can directly connect with and book area talent at a fair price.
- Picture Perfect
One of the goals of an elopement is to capture the location in pictures—for all time. Talk, at length, with your photographer about what you want to see in your wedding photos. Are there particular spots that you want in various pictures? Is there a time of day (sunset, for instance) that is important for you to catch? Do you want to take pictures before your wedding—or wait until after the wedding to take all of the shots? How much time do you have between the ceremony and a celebration for wedding photos?
- The Gift of Time
Especially when eloping in a big city, give yourself plenty of time to get to your wedding destination. If possible, you might wish to visit your wedding location prior to the big day. Use tools and apps to check traffic patterns and transportation options to save you stress in getting where you need to go.
- Let’s Celebrate
When booking locations for post-wedding dinners or celebrations, visiting couples gravitate toward touristy spots that are rather pricey. Don’t be afraid to do some extra digging for restaurants, clubs, and lounges that are a bit off the beaten path. You might have a more authentic experience at a better price. Your local contacts can hopefully give you good advice on this. Likewise, a thorough review of travel websites and guidebooks may be helpful.
- One Good Turn Deserves Another
When a couple has a private elopement ceremony and heads off to dinner or drinks afterwards, I tell them to proudly let the restaurant and others know they’ve just married. “Everyone loves romance,” I say. “We New Yorkers love a wedding….and they will likely take very good care of you.” Likewise, if you receive great service at your hotel, restaurants, florist, etc. during your elopement—do let them know. I suspect you may be surprised with discounts during your stay. You may also garner benefit during future visits when returning to the place where you eloped.