Changing plans in the midst of a pandemic.
As a Pacific Northwest wedding and elopement photographer, I can attest to the amount of stress and unprecedented change COVID-19 has thrown at us all, especially in the wedding industry. And even more so, in the lives of every bride and groom who planned their wedding for 2020 and have had to change that plan a time of two (or five, depending on how many times the regulations have flip-flopped in your state). It has been stressful to say the least. As much as I’d like to take us all back in time for a complete 180 on this year, we all know that’s not possible. So I’m here to tell you why eloping is the next, if not the best, option this year.
The Pros & Cons of eloping and why it could be the best decision you make this year!
Some brides have been dreaming of their big, fancy wedding since they were knee high to a grasshopper, while other brides enjoy spontaneity and couldn’t imagine planning a wedding for an entire year. The decision to elope probably comes easier to the latter. But there are upsides to eloping. Let’s talk about those first and I’ll counter each pro with a con just so we’re being completely transparent here.
PRO: Your day will be completely, 100% about you and your partner.
Couples who elope tend to value experience over things. The time you would have spent acknowledging and hugging every wedding guest can now be spent embracing each other and your adventures together. After all, your marriage is about you, not the size of your wedding party. Eloping allows you to focus solely on your story and the reason you’re getting married in the first place. That means your wedding day, elopement day, ceremony day — whatever you want to call it — should be a true reflection of who you are as a couple, what you both want, and how you want to celebrate this day. Trust me… simplicity is a beautiful thing! And the intimacy of a small ceremony is very helpful to people who don’t like being the center of attention in large crowds.
CON: You may end up with some unhappy family. There will always be someone who doesn’t agree with the version of the story that you choose. But in all honesty (and with a side of attitude), WHO CARES!? That’s the beauty of an elopement. It’s not about them! It’s about you!
“Anyone who is considering eloping, my most important words to you are to DO WHAT FEELS RIGHT. Do not worry about pushback from family or hurting someone’s feelings, because truly, this day is one of the very few in life that is 100% yours. If your family is offended… tough.“
-Areigha, a real life elopement bride
PRO: Elopements tend to cost less, so you won’t break the bank.
It’s no secret that a lot of conventional weddings cost thousands of dollars. I’m talking $3,000-$5,000 venue, $3,000-$5,000 photographer, $5,900 average wedding ring price, $1,600 average dress cost expensive. Then you get to add all the small details and other vendors: decor, DJ, catering, bridesmaids and groomsmen gifts, table settings, etc. It can add up fast. The average total cost for a US wedding is around $34,000.
When you decide to elope, you should first determine which of those costs you cannot do without. My recommendation is your attire and a professional photographer, obviously. The rest of the cash you would have spent on other items can now be allocated wherever you’d like. Save it for a car or first home purchase. You could even spend it on a destination elopement! Whether you get married in Yellowstone, Greece, or Jamaica, after you say,”I do,” you’ll automatically be able to enjoy the honeymoon. Plus, you’ll probably be checking a destination off your bucket list in the process!
CON: Okay, there are really no cons here.
PRO: No wedding planning!
Yay! Go ahead and leave behind the stress and obligations of planning a full-blown wedding! You can literally get married anywhere in the world, deciding which details to keep and which to toss. Make this experience as extravagant or as simple as you’d like, whether that means pitching a tent in the Glacier Peak Wilderness or taking a small group of best friends and family to Lopez Island for an entire weekend. You have the full reigns and freedom to choose!
“There was no rush, no schedule, no worries about how much money we were spending. [We] were fully focused on the simple things WE wanted. And we did everything within four weeks. If it were a traditional wedding, those four weeks would have been Hell.” -A
CON: You have to be extremely comfortable with the unexpected. When you’re eloping riverside, on a mountaintop, or anywhere outside, you have to be aware that you have no control over the weather. The clouds could burst or the wind could pick up and you have to be flexible with those situations. I once photographed an elopement in Stehekin (pictures throughout post). The bride and groom backpacked in, battled rain, and ran into a bear. But their wedding story is memorable in every way because of the unique circumstances!
PRO: Eloping is kinder to the environment.
Think about it: a lot of garbage comes out of a wedding day. Wrappers from goodie bags, single-use plastics, etc. These items have a large negative impact on the environment, especially when you consider how many people get married on average every year. The number is actually somewhere around 2.5 million ( MILLION!! ) in the US alone.
The beauty of eloping, and the couples that do so, is that most of these people love the great outdoors. They find inspiration, peace, and intimacy outside in fresh mountain air. They value Mother Nature above most else. As an elopement photographer (and a decent human being), I always abide by the Leave No Trace Policy and the Pack It In, Pack It Out mentality, which is basically what your mom should have taught you as a child: pick up after yourself.
CON: Your dress might get dirty. But isn’t adventure all about getting dirty and having fun? If you’re not okay with a little bit of dirt on your dress, you’re probably not the kind of person who’s reading this anyway, let alone the bride who wants to elope, but don’t worry, I’ve got you! I do weddings too!
PRO: Your wedding photos will be one of a kind!
Whether you’re hopping into a helicopter to experience your beloved mountain range from the air, or kayaking in the Puget Sound in your wedding attire, your elopement images will absolutely stand out among the masses. I would know. In a place saturated with rustic farmhouse wedding venues, it’s easy for wedding images to feel repetitive. But when you elope, I can almost guarantee not many other couples have said vows in the exact same place because usually, elopement locations aren’t technical venues. The freedom to choose a more memorable location will provide a backdrop that evokes so much more emotion because chances are, you chose that location because it’s special to you in some way. For the same reason, your photos will truly showcase who you are as a couple and capture the adventure you experienced. I promise you’ll feel that same emotion flipping through your wedding album years down the road as you did when you tied the knot.
CON: Because you’re eloping, there is a chance that you will not receive images with your family or friends like you would if hosting a larger wedding. This is a sacrifice many couples are willing to make in exchange for freedom and adventure, but it’s something you have to consider unless you’re planning on bringing those most important to you. And after all, you can do whatever you’d like when eloping!
“If eloping if what feels right in your gut, do it.”
There you have it! If you’re fed up with changing plans on top of changing plans because of state regulations, you may want to consider eloping. After all, you may end up with a wedding day that truly reflects who you are much better than any traditional ceremony.
AND I AM HERE FOR IT!