As wedding expert and the CEO of The Wedding Academy Kylie Carlson shares, elopements are incredibly popular right now, mainly because there’s no way of knowing when exactly weddings or large gatherings can resume. Rather than waiting for the world to open up, Carlson says many engaged couples are taking the “marry now, celebrate later” tactic. In other words, they’re hosting a small ceremony with few or no other guests (and if anyone else is there, they’re more than 6 feet away) and then looking ahead many months (or years!) down the line for the reception of their dreams.
If you’re in the sticky situation of figuring out how to say, “I do,” take the advice of wedding professionals to create a magical, meaningful elopement experience. As we’ve all been reminded during Covid-19, while many things have been canceled, postponed or forgotten, love still wins in a pandemic.
Navigating elopement risk
When we think about our elopement, we might think of a tropical paradise with a sunset vow exchange, followed by a (much-needed!) two-week honeymoon. As you think about picking the spot for your elopement, it’s essential to dig into the local guidelines — no matter if you’re marrying in a backyard or public park.
When pinpointing your elopement location, consider your party size. If you intend to have a smaller wedding with fewer than 20 guests, you may need a bigger open space (like a park) to keep everyone safe and distanced. If you are going the traditional elopement route and making it an affair for two, you can stick to a smaller spot outdoors. Then, of course, there’s testing, which is absolutely essential for a truly safe wedding for everyone involved, according to our wedding expert, regardless of if you intend to keep your masks on the entire time or not.
Hiring an elopement photographer
One of the perks of not having a big wedding is saving money. Since much of the cost of big-day celebrations is tied to headcount, couples who choose to elope cut back significantly on expenses. However, many still invest in a photographer to have beautiful, lifelong memories of this special day.
When you’re deciding which professional to capture these moments, Carlson says to get specific on what you want so you can set expectations. As she explains, since he or she won’t be shooting the typical schedule of events — getting ready, family portraits, reception and so on — you should ask about what their elopement packages include. How many photos? How many hours? What’s the turnaround like for editing? “If you are quietly dashing off to elope, you may want one to two sneak peeks to share with family and friends shortly after the ceremony,” she adds.
And don’t hesitate to explain your hopes and dreams for these photos. If there’s a beach photo you have in mind or a “first look” experience you still want to have, let the photographer know. Better yet, provide examples of shots you like so they can better understand your vision.
Since you’ll want to remember this day, Carlson says it could be worthwhile to splurge on a videographer too. “The ceremony itself will be rather short, but you may still want to share this private moment with your friends and family, or even have something to look back on later,” she continues. “Consider going with a photographer that may also do videography work. You’ll be thankful to have the memory of your elopement for years to come!”
And yes, the photographer should always wear a mask as well.
Sure, you may not be walking down an aisle surrounded by dozens of people. Still, choosing a gown you love that makes you feel special and beautiful is a necessity. Here are a few options to inspire your shopping.
For a beach wedding
Flowy, romantic, sultry and easy, this gorgeous dress fits the tone of the sand, the surf and the sunset. Don’t forget a flower bridal headband!
Try this: Jenny by Jenny Yoo Lourdes Gown ($1,695; bhldn.com)
For city hall
Rather than having any bells or whistles, you’re skipping it all for a simple city hall wedding. After all, you only really need your partner to make your wedding official — the rest is just an added bonus. This sexy, three-piece sophisticated jumpsuit fits the tone perfectly.
Try this: The Tailory New York x BHLDN Westlake Suit Jacket & Suit Pant (starting at $350; bhldn.com)
For a mountaintop
The great beauty of Mother Nature, sweeping views of the valleys and forests below — and the look of admiration in your fiance’s eye. There’s nothing quite as magical. For a dreamy mountaintop elopement escape, this flowy, beautiful dress will have you feeling swept away.
Try this: Nouvelle Amsale Allemande Gown ($1,995; bhldn.com)
For a budget elopement
Rather than shelling out the dough for an expensive gown, you and your partner are trying to be as money-minded as possible for your elopement. This way, you can save for a big party! You can still feel like a bride by taking the little white dress approach with this choice.
Try this: Caron V-Neck Crepe Dress ($148; bhldn.com)
For a backyard elopement
If you’re keeping some of the same traditions for your micro wedding, like your father walking you down the aisle and having your loved ones in attendance, follow the theme of your celebration with this classic (and beautiful) dress.
Try this: BHLDN Odalis Gown ($1,295; bhldn.com)
And the men certainly deserve a new suit for the occasion too.
Kenneth Cole Reaction Men’s Ready Flex Slim-Fit Suits (starting at $83.99 with code FRIEND, originally $395; macys.com)
Lauren Ralph Lauren Men’s Classic-Fit Tuxedo Suit Separates (starting at $188 with code FRIEND, originally $450; macys.com)
Best elopement accessories
This is unlike any staycation you’ll ever take — so make it memorable! We asked wedding experts to recommend the must-have elopement accessories for any couple.
Invest in a new camera
Wedding pro and owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services Kevin Dennis recommends finally biting the bullet and purchasing a new point-and-shoot camera. “Your elopement and ‘honeymoon’ is going to be your first trip together as a married couple, and you’ll regret not documenting it to the best of your abilities,” he continues. “Better yet, pair this with a new tripod so that you can take photos together against the backdrop of breathtaking views and sunsets.”
Try these: Canon PowerShot SX740 HS 20.3-Megapixel Digital Camera ($399; amazon.com)
Phopik 77-Inch Lightweight Aluminum Camera Tripod ($50.39, originally $67.99; amazon.com)
Personalize your travel goods
Sometimes couples will skip on the traditional personalized honeymoon goods because they eloped instead of hosted a wedding. But hey, you still took a huge step in your relationship — and you should be excited! That’s why Dennis recommends going to town with monogrammed beach towels, robes and so on. “Since you won’t necessarily have the option of having the wedding you originally planned for, it’s a nice touch to celebrate your marriage with these classic items,” he adds.
Try these: JoyfulTidingsBridal His and Hers Personalized Robe Set (starting at $82; etsy.com)
RichDesignCo Just Married Personalized Mrs. Beach Towel ($26.99, originally $29.99; etsy.com)
Invest in signage
Consider purchasing a “We eloped!” sign so you can have your photographer take images of you right where you become newlyweds. It’s a sweet way to pay tribute to the adventure — and makes for the perfect photo to share.
Try this: ZCreateDesign ‘We Eloped’ Sign ($31.45, originally $34.95; etsy.com)
BannerCheer We Eloped Banner ($17.97; etsy.com)
Make your PPE wedding-themed
No matter if you’re hosting an elopement for two or for 10, make your personal protection equipment — face masks, hand sanitizer, etc. — wedding-themed. In a difficult period, wedding planner Gretchen Culver says it’s a great way to stay safe and make your celebration special.
Try these: ShopNikNaksByNik Navy Mr. & Mrs. Masks (starting at $15; etsy.com)
GlamBridalGifts Face Masks for Wedding ($9.59, originally $11.99; etsy.com)
BlackRabbitLabels Custom Printed Hand Sanitizer Labels (starting at $10; etsy.com)
Best after-elopement ideas
Once you’ve made it official, you’ll return back to your regular routine, but the festivities can still continue! From announcement cards to photo gifts, consider these ideas.
’We Eloped’ announcement cards
Though Culver says it’s not appropriate to register for your elopement gifts, you can still send an announcement card to everyone you would have invited to your wedding. They can then make their own decisions on if they’d like to send you a “congrats” card or treasures.
Try this: MintyPaperieShop We Eloped Invitation Template ($7.65, originally $9; etsy.com)
Upload images to a digital frame
No matter how you planned your wedding, it’s a day you’ll never want to forget. Rather than narrowing down all of the photos, you can see them all with a digital frame. You can keep it for yourself or even preload it with images as a gift to your families!
Try this: Aura Carver Smart Digital Picture Frame ($199; amazon.com)
Have fun with photo art
The timeline of your relationship is a beautiful thing to document in your home. Keep the story going by choosing a special photo art creation, like this heart-shaped one, to remember all of the joy of your elopement.
Try this: Heart Snapshot Mix Print (starting at $48; minted.com)