PNW Beach Elopement

Not long ago, Brides 365 Magazine reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to help them with an article they were working on. The topic was based on the Pros and Cons of Eloping. While small, intimate weddings have been increasingly more popular over the past several years, this interview took place before March 2020, when COVID restrictions canceled so many of the traditional wedding norms. But since that time, Elopements or Intimate Weddings became the perfect fit for many couples rather than having to postpone their wedding for a year or more.  So when Brides 365 discovered that I’ve been offering a variety of intimate wedding options for couples for several years now, they wanted to know my thoughts and observations about the couples who benefit from them.

Here’s the full interview:

 

From your perspective as a wedding photographer, what do you see as some of the benefits to eloping or having a very small, private wedding? What are some downsides?

Eloping used to describe a couple secretly running off to a Justice of the Peace in a simple dress and suit with the purpose of getting married in an informal ceremony for any manner of reasons. But in recent years, elopements and private weddings have become a popular way to make a dream wedding become a reality. It can answer the problem of an elegant wedding on an extreme budget, or a beach-side, destination wedding. As a wedding photographer for many intimate ceremonies, I’ve stepped in as one of the couple’s witnesses, and even become an officiant!

Benefits can range widely when it comes to your budget. For example, a $25,000 wedding budget will only get you so far when you are hosting 200 or more guests. However, if you’re having an intimate ceremony of just 10 or 20 people, that $25,000 could allow for a chic affair, or even flying everyone to a dream destination wedding!

The most common downside to eloping or having a private wedding is that so many family and friends are left out of the festivities. Their reactions can be surprising and this has been known to backfire for some couples, causing hurt feelings and undue stress. Some couples balance this by having a simple reception later, to invite extended family and friends to celebrate. But it is definitely something to keep in mind.

 

What should brides and grooms consider before planning to elope?

From the minute you get engaged, it seems like everyone you know, and everything you read, are all telling you what you must do, include, and even in what order the traditions should be included. But the most important thing to consider isn’t at all, what you would expect…
When my husband and I were married, we were bombarded with what I refer to as the “must-haves”. Our families were telling us everything from who we had to be sure to invite, who should officiate, and even what colors we should use! Really? We couldn’t even pick out our own wedding colors? We didn’t have Pinterest back then, but if I knew then, what I know now, we would have done things incredibly different. Ultimately, the one and only thing you truly need to consider when planning your wedding is that… this day is yours. You are not obligated to anyone’s ideas, traditions, or expectations other than your own. So while family members mean well, take some time to decide what is important to the two of you. Make this day your dream come true.

 

As a photographer do you find that couples that elope often forget about the fact that they should have a photographer still to capture the ceremony, however private or small?

One of the most common misconceptions, and most regretted choices, from couples when planning the budget, is the idea that simply eliminating the wedding photos, or asking a friend to take them, will be sufficient. Don’t get me wrong, yes, I’m a wedding photographer, but even if I wasn’t, I can tell you from experience that this is one decision you will regret. Sure, your guests will all have cellphones, but I guarantee, there is nothing like having professional photography to document your day. Do your research. Don’t book the cheapest photographer you can find, because you often get what you pay for. Find a photographer who’s style you love. Then ask them if they offer either an elopement package or a package for just 1-3 hours of wedding coverage.

 

What advice do you have for couples who are thinking of eloping? (get a photographer, make sure x, y, z, are still in place, etc)

Whether your budget is tight or you just want an intimate, elopement ceremony, here are just a few key things you will want to make sure you check off your list:

  1. Find out your state’s Marriage License Laws.
  2. Work out your budget.
  3. Will there be travel involved? If so, make your arrangements plenty early.
  4. Are you exchanging rings? If so, don’t forget them at home! (It happens more than you’d imagine.)
  5. Writing your own vows, or allowing the officiant to take the lead.
  6. Figure out what you want to wear. (Get the dress you actually want, even if you’re eloping.)
  7. Find a photographer who’s style you love. Then ask them if they offer either an elopement package or a package for just 1-3 hours of wedding coverage. Having even just twenty high-quality, amazing, professional photos will always outweigh having a hundred, blurry, grainy snapshots.
  8. Do you want to carry a bouquet or wear a boutonniere? Whether you hire a florist or grab some pretty flowers from a local market, they are always a nice touch.
  9. Would you rather have professional hair and makeup, or a little mascara and lip balm? You do you. (Personally, I recommend hiring a pro for your big day!)
  10. Register for items you will actually use and need. (Yes, that’s right. Register even if you are eloping.) Ever consider registering through your photographer? Family and friends can often purchase Gift Certificates from your wedding photographer so you can order a gorgeous album or wall hanging of your wedding photos later!
  11. Will there be an After-Party or dinner and drinks? 
  12. Wedding announcements are always a cool idea… include where you are registered at the bottom! People love to send gifts.