The Ultimate Elopement Checklist

The beautiful color-coordinated wedding with hundreds of guests and all the trimmings is surely every girl’s dream. Well – hold on – not so fast! Many couples just want to head off to somewhere romantic and tie the knot in peace and quiet and on their own. It doesn’t even have to be somewhere romantic. If you’re deeply in love City Hall is just fine for many of us.

Today’s weddings are very elaborate, can be very costly, and can leave you feeling like a pair of animated dolls that turned up just to make all the many participants in your big day happy. Somewhere in all the decisions about venues, rehearsals, dresses, décor, flowers, cake, rings, gifts, and much, much more, the point of the ceremony can get lost. Many brides- (and grooms) to-be just refuse at the first fence – and elope instead.

Elopement used to be a necessity if the families didn’t approve. In Britain, the classic elopement was a race to the Scottish border, to Gretna Green, the nearest point in Scotland from England. Because Scottish law was different, girls could get married under the age of 21 without their parents’ permission. Once the bride had been wedded and bedded, the deed was done, and most families just had to accept it. Elopement was exciting, romantic, and just a little bit dangerous.

These days, elopements are more of a romantic gesture and a way to avoid the often staggering cost of a big wedding. Surprisingly, elopement can even involve friends and family attending the wedding. In fact, elopement has almost come to be shorthand for “we’re just having a small wedding.”

What Is An Elopement Checklist?

Even though you are going to elope, it’s a good idea to have a checklist to make sure that everything goes exactly as smoothly and romantically as you hope. A checklist can help calm nerves and end sleepless nights, and it will ensure that nothing vital is overlooked.

A true elopement means that you just go off and get married without telling anybody. These days an elopement can also just signify a very private, small wedding. We are working on the basis that you are thinking about a true elopement that will be a secret from everybody – yes, even your mom.

The Cost Is A Big Factor

The average US wedding cost in the region of $33,000. Imagine what you could do with all of those savings! If you elope, you can go to a fantastic destination, stay at a top resort, wear the dress of your dreams, have photographs to treasure, and still have a lot of change!

Maybe you can’t afford to spend very much at all on your wedding, whether you elope or not. Elopement means that you can do something simple, lovely, and very low cost. No one said that getting married in your local City Hall, clutching a bouquet of garden flowers, and then going out for Chinese food can’t be beautiful – if you are doing it with the right person.

Don’t Forget – Your Mother May Never Speak To You Again

Nor your best friend, nor your sister, nor your granny… so be prepared for some sulking. One solution to this is to hold a wedding party when you get back, at which you announce your marriage. Make everyone feel special, give your moms and grannies and sisters and friends lovely bouquets, and have a cake – but keep it low-key and informal. This is effectively your wedding reception, but much less expensive and easier to organize.

The Ultimate Elopement Checklist

  • First, you need to decide where you are going to get married. It may be that a lunchtime wedding at City Hall is perfect for you, but most people do want to have a memorable wedding in a beautiful spot. As you are having the simplest of ceremonies, you can just about choose anywhere to get married. We think it’s nice to decide on a spot that has significance for you, but it can simply be the exotic destination of your dreams.
  • Choose the best time of year. For example, if you are dreaming of the Caribbean, you should be aware that some places can be relatively cold in the winter and that during the rainy season, blue skies and turquoise seas are not very reliable. You might also want to avoid peak holiday travel when romantic destinations might not be as peaceful and un-spoilt as you might hope for.
  • Check the legal ins and outs. Some destinations restrict the places and times that you can get married. Some require that you have witnesses and that those witnesses have to meet certain requirements. Some places have residence requirements, meaning that you will have to stay at your wedding destination for a certain period before the actual ceremony.
  • Find someone who can conduct your wedding and marry you legally. Remember that being licensed to marry people is a legal, not a religious function, and will not necessarily be valid from state to state or from country to country. You can, of course, have someone conduct the ceremony who is not licensed to marry you, but you must also have that person with the legal status to actually tie that knot.
  • Decide on where the wedding will take place. Elopement ceremonies are very often outdoor affairs, but make sure that you have permission to have your ceremony where you decide it should take place. You don’t want a British bobby moving you one in the middle of your vows because you aren’t allowed to get married in front of Buckingham Palace! (And we’re pretty sure that you aren’t!)
  • Write your vows. You have chosen a unique way of getting married, so you will want your vows to be very special too.
  • Don’t write your vows! You are a bit of a rebel, so maybe you find vows to be a bit – well – mawkish and embarrassing! If so, you might want to stick to the traditional Christian formula that you can find in the Book of Common Prayer, use something from your own faith tradition, or simply don’t have vows at all.
  • You are likely to want to have pictures of your happy moment. Research wedding photographers at your destination, and in particular, look for people who have a good feel for elopement photography. Once you have found your chosen photographer, check their availability – remember that good photographers get booked up years in advance. Remember that as it will be a small event, you should be able to negotiate a good deal on pricing.
  • As your loved ones aren’t going to be there, you might think about having a live stream, or at least a video that you can share once you get home.
  • If you are eloping abroad, then it might be wise to use a local wedding planner to organize the arrangements for you. This can be especially useful if you are not a very experienced traveler. Even a simple elopement is going to require some planning, and having a friendly person to help organize all the details is very useful.
  • Book your travel. Fortunately, there will just be two of you to consider, so this is many times easier than it is for a conventional wedding. You might consider taking some of those savings that you have made by not having a big conventional wedding and using them to travel first class. Book your accommodation without having to worry about all the relatives who are coming. You choose exactly what you want, whether it’s a Youth Hostel in Scotland or a private villa in Belize.
  • You will probably want flowers, so contact a specialist florist at your wedding destination to organize your bouquet and buttonhole for the day. Once again, this is an opportunity to spend some of that money that you have saved. So you want rare orchids? You can have them!
  • Buy your wedding outfits. If you live in a small town, it’s going to be hard to go to the local wedding outfitters and keep it a secret – news travels fast! In any case, this is somewhere that you can really splash out. Saving money means that you can indulge in that couture dress of your dreams. Or maybe you just want to get married in shorts, a t-shirt, and walking boots – when you elope, there are no rules. You have no one to please but yourselves.
  • Buy the rings and make sure that you have a safe place to carry them. That means that if you are traveling, they have to go with your hand baggage. Never ever put your rings in your checked baggage. Just – don’t!
  • Don’t be tempted to confide your secret to anyone. It will certainly get out, and your elopement is in danger of turning into a small wedding or even a big one.
  • Plan how to inform your friends and relations. If you are going to have a marriage reveal party, make it informal, and book a venue for when you get back. Some people like to have an anniversary party a year after the marriage. If you decide on this, make sure that everyone knows that they’ll be invited, to avoid hard feelings.
  • If you elope, don’t expect as many gifts as if you had had that big wedding. However, people are kind and will want to give you gifts, so perhaps it might be as well to have a post-wedding registry set up. Even though you might insist on no gifts, people will always want to buy you a wedding present, so rather than having fifteen toaster ovens, you may as well have a list of things that you really want.

Elopement Novels To Read On The Beach

Elopement is a common theme in romantic novels, and here are a few fun ones that you might like:

  • “Rebecca” Daphne du Maurier. Set in Cornwall, it tells the story of a doomed marriage, so perhaps not the perfect read, but gripping nonetheless.
  • “Saturday Night Special” Marie Carr. With an Irish background, this is rather a saucy read but a lot of fun.
  • “The Abduction of Julia” Karen Hawkins. A bodice ripper featuring a traditional dash for Gretna Green.
  • “The Secret Wife” Gill Paul. Set in modern times and Tsarist Russia, a love story and a mystery that cleverly blends the past and the present.

And Finally…

The decision to elope is driven by many considerations, and they are going to be different for each couple. It might be that your families don’t get on. It might be that your marriage doesn’t meet with general approval. It might be that you don’t have a lot of money to waste on things that seem rather frivolous. Or perhaps you read a romantic novel and decided that it would be elopement for you or nothing!

Whatever your reason, careful planning with the help of a checklist will mean that everything goes smoothly and that your own private, personal wedding experience will be as wonderful as you always imagined.