When Eloping Is A Great Idea (and a few instances when it isn't)
A couple of our clients took to Instagram recently to share their reasons for eloping. (Thank you Madison + Gabe for the inspiration!) Their post got us thinking, there are definite quantifiable advantages to eloping that can’t be replicated by traditional weddings, and yet, very few couples actually choose to elope. Why is that?
Is it time that more of us should start to rethink the traditional wedding?
Let’s start with some inconvenient truths…
1. Traditional Wedding costs have become astronomical.
Gone are the days when it was reasonable to expect the father of the bride to pick up the tab for the entire wedding. In 2018, the average American wedding cost just shy of $34,000, and that number increases the closer you are to metropolitan areas. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on everyone involved, from the betrothed, to their parents, and often, money stress can stress couples in other ways, too.
If you are a couple fortunate enough to be getting help paying for your wedding, you may feel the added pressure of trying to accommodate the expectations of everyone who’s helping you. If your mom and dad are giving you $10,000 and have their hearts set on a church wedding, but you and your fiancé want to downplay the religious side of the ceremony and get hitched outdoors instead, who wins? What if you are getting financial help from both sides, who have very different ideas of what your wedding should be?
Madison and Gabe reported feeling that their wedding was becoming more about fulfilling everyone else’s expectations of what a wedding should be, than it was about what they actually wanted for their own big day. And here’s the thing: even if you have the coolest parents this side of the Mississippi, you’ll still be faced with copious amounts of pressure. Because guess what? The wedding industry is designed to push couples into spending obscene amounts of money. Whether it’s on programs, favors, or monogrammed napkins for your reception, there are hundreds of little add-ons that really add up in cost, which is why so many couples report feeling “buyers remorse” a few months after the wedding when the bills start to really roll in.
Don’t believe us? Here’s a scary fact:
74% of couples go into debt to throw their wedding. That means 74% of couples begin their new life together stressed out and in a financial hole, and that might just be the biggest reason of all to consider elopement.
Professors from Emory University found a direct correlation between higher wedding costs, and higher rates of divorce. In fact, in their study, couples that spent over $20,000 dollars on their wedding were 350% more likely to end up in divorce than couples that spent under that 20k mark. Now, just to be clear, every couple has different incomes and different priorities, so this statistic is NOT a guarantee of a doomed relationship, but it does beg the question, what is all this spending really for? How much stress do you and your fiancé want to take on together?
Elopement packages, by comparison, often cost less than $5,000, which on an average wedding budget, would leave you over $25,000 ahead than where you’d be if you threw a traditional wedding.
2. Elopements are (often) better for the environment.
Let’s be clear: though the terms are used interchangeably, elopements and destination weddings are not the same thing. Destination weddings typically still have longer guest lists, but just happen to be thrown in a fun destination. These are popular with couples that live some distance from their families (making travel inevitable) and want to give their guests more of a vacation than what their hometowns may offer. All that travel ensures that these weddings still carry a massive carbon footprint.
Elopements, however, can be anywhere from just the bride and groom, to the bride, groom, and photographer, to the couple and their immediate families and/or best friends. Typically, when all is said and done, elopements involve fewer than 10 people, which makes their environmental impact minimal compared to traditional or destination weddings.
The average American wedding of just 150 guests carries a carbon footprint of over 56 tons. The more people, the more you can expect that number to rise. There is just no comparison with eloping, especially now that eco-resorts are opening up in so many desirable destinations. Now, more than ever, this is a good reason to consider elopement.
3. Elopements let you enjoy your time as fiancé(e)s.
Wedding planning can feel like a full-time job. The closer the big day gets, the more we hear couples start to grumble that, “They just can’t wait for it to be over, to be able to get back to their own lives.”
This is totally normal, and yet it is also a total bummer!
You’re engaged. You’ve found your soul mate. This should be an exhilarating time when you get to teeter-totter between celebrating how far you’ve come, and getting excited for your future. But planning a traditional wedding may mean that your time as fiancé(e)s is taken up by frivolous details, like selecting table linens, or worse… you may have to spend your pre-wedding months picking up extra shifts or working a second job to pay for your fast-approaching big day.
An elopement frees you from that scenario. By foregoing a traditional wedding, you are ensuring that your time as a betrothed couple really gets to be yours to enjoy how you’d like.
Remember that study we mentioned from Emory University Professors? Well, let’s return to it for a second. Another possible explanation for their findings is this: couples that exceed their budget, or spend all their time planning a wedding, may be prioritizing the wedding over the relationship. At the end of the day, your wedding is just the starting point to your marriage. Getting too wrapped up in frivolous details can demand attention that you would otherwise be giving each other, and this is another reason that simplifying wedding planning by choosing to elope may pay dividends in your happy marriage later on.
But we started this article by saying very few couples actually elope, and while the reasons to consider an elopement are pretty compelling, there are definitely some scenarios when you may not want to run away together.
If you are thinking about eloping, there are still two questions to consider.
1. How will eloping impact your family relationships?
If your parents will be mortally wounded by not being there on your big day, maybe eloping isn’t for you. Again, your wedding is only the beginning. Your marriage is the bigger consideration. If your parents will always blame your spouse for your decision to elope, for example, that will almost certainly be worse for your long-term than accommodating their wishes now. After all, all couples eventually need support in one form or another. You will have things in your life that you will want friends and family to be part of. If you think eloping will alienate important relationships in your life, it probably isn’t the right decision, no matter how stressful the wedding planning feels now.
2. Will you regret not having shared your wedding day?
It is pretty easy to get dreamy about the idea of dashing off to have a secret beach wedding, but take some time to really ask yourselves, will it bother you, afterwards, that no one was there to see it? Will you hate having only pictures to show friends, rather than memories with friends? This is an important consideration. A lot of people have certain pictures of what they want their wedding to be. Suddenly changing that picture can feel exciting in the impulsivity of the moment, but realizing that you gave up something important to you can hurt later on, so consider how important those long-held pictures of your big day are to you before you toss them to sea.
Finally, if you still can’t decide on whether elopement is right for you, consider a hybrid...
Nowadays, weddings don’t have to be all or nothing. More and more couples are doing courthouse weddings or destination elopements, and throwing receptions months or even years later when they can afford the bigger party. Some couples do it on the anniversary of their wedding date. Some do it in a more desirable season. Throwing a reception after an elopement may be a perfect solution to satisfy everyone involved: your loved ones will feel like they’ve had the opportunity to be part of your celebration and to share in your memories, while you and your fiancé will feel that you’ve respected your finances and safeguarded this precious period in your relationship, and that is a total win.