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I'd be lying if I said the thought never crossed my mind. I'm at that awkward age where I'm getting up there in my 20s, I've been with my partner for four years, and everyone in my family is starting to look at us a little weirdly. Of all of the times that marriage, and even eloping, has been brought up in conversation, I've come to learn that there are definitely things no one tells you about eloping.
I love my family, don't get me wrong. But by the same token, as much as I love them, they drive me crazy sometimes. We're almost all from Charm City, and while I think everyone would describe themselves as quite charming, my grandmother took over all wedding planning for my mother, fighting over planning privileges with my aunts. I don't know why, but most of the women in my family are very, very eager to take over the planning of weddings.
However, my mother didn't want any involvement in wedding planning, so she was happy to hand the reigns over. Me though? I either want the day to be unforgettable and all to me and my partner's tastes, or I want to hop on a flight to Japan and get married at an airport chapel on the way.
Believe it or not, there's... etiquette involved in eloping.
Are you going to keep it a secret until you've already eloped? It's okay if you choose to do that, but tell people pretty quickly after the fact.
Don't keep your elopement a secret for weeks or months on end. People will be disappointed, some even upset, sure, but that's inevitable. They're going to be upset no matter what, but if the news comes around really late, they'll be even more disgruntled. Those who are nearest and dearest to you should definitely get the wedding announcement pretty quickly.
Check into the marriage laws in the region you're looking to elope to.
It's very fun and romantic to think about running away to get married, but there are some logistics that you need to think about first. For example, to make it legal, you're going to need a whole lot of documentation.
In Maryland, the requirements are pretty lax. You just need identification of some type, to pay the marriage license fee (yup, even getting married has hidden fees), and to wait 48 hours between obtaining a license and getting married. If you want to elope to beautiful bayside Baltimore, you'd definitely want to make the trip a long weekend because of that pesky waiting period.
However, some states will require witnesses, proof of residency in that state, or even blood tests. While some of these requirements are a bit bizarre, make sure you look into the fine print before choosing your destination state or country.
You probably should plan some parts of your elopement.
I know, I know, it sounds like I'm ruining the spirit of eloping, but if you go off and elope to any popular destination (like Vegas for example), depending on the time of year, it might be pretty packed. You might not be able to stay at the hotel you want to, might not be able to get the luxurious newlyweds suite you want, and so on and so forth.
Wedding planning, from getting quotes on wedding venues to flowers, is stressful. If you really don't want any of that, treat your elopement like a vacation. We do usually plan even the most spontaneous vacations a few weeks in advance, so take a little time and make your various transit and lodging arrangements accordingly.
Don't let eloping make your wedding day any less special.
Another of the things no one tells you about eloping is that there is still paperwork involved. Not as much as you'd have if your wedding planner shoved 10 different vendor agreements in front of you, but still some. If you elope, you're probably going to end up going to city hall at some point on the big day. If you start to worry that perhaps a small wedding might have been better, just remember that your wedding day is solely about you and your partner.
It's about formalizing the bond between the two of you. If you've both agreed that eloping is what you want, then run with it, fly with it. Celebrate it however you want to, but let me be perfectly clear—celebrate it. Go as wild as you want to, it's just two of you somewhere different and exciting.
Photos are still important.
In one light, you shouldn't get pushed around by Instagram and some of the unrealistic expectations highly PhotoShopped images will give you about marriage and eloping. You don't need to make everything picture perfect if you don't want to.
However, give it some thought. Even if you don't want the whole shebang of hair and makeup, you still might want to take some elements of the traditional wedding. You could hire a photographer or videographer if you do have your elopement at a small wedding in a church, in a park, or on a beach.
Let's go back to that idea of making your wedding day special; you want to remember this day for the rest of your life. Hiring a location photographer at your destination of choice is a good way to make that happen.
Elopement packages are a thing, and they can make your life easier.
If you're eloping to escape the stress of wedding planning, then look into elopement packages. You can choose a destination and a package—they'll iron out all the details for you, like lodging, food, and who will officiate the marriage ceremony.
When you think of eloping, the idea often sounds so spontaneous and free that you don't realize you can actually book something and make it really easy. Plus, if there are any pesky legal concerns like waiting periods or whatnot in the place you're eloping to, the package will warn you about those ahead of time, and provide you all the warning you need to tie the knot right then and there.
You might still want a wedding dress, but you can be very non-traditional about what that dress is.
Since you've decided to forego the big wedding with tons of guests, you can really do whatever you want. You've got all the freedom in the world and you can do something completely unique, strange, and absolutely you with your wedding dress. Do you want to elope in a little red dress for good luck? Do it. Do you want have a favorite dress that is beautiful but not exactly traditional wedding material? Wear it.
Alternatively, if you're the crafty type, you could do a little wedding gown rehab and remake or redo a dress with special meaning to you.
Alternatively, if you go and elope somewhere very beautiful, like in the woods or in a mountainous area, you can wear something comfortable. If you are going to have proper photos taken, keep that in mind, but you're free to do anything you want to.
To mitigate hurt feelings, decide how you're going to announce that you eloped.
It's a good idea to tell your closest family and friends before posting about it on social media. For me, I know my parents would be disappointed that I eloped, but my father would probably take me to the side later on and tell me that I made a good financial decision.
Regardless, if I didn't at least call them to tell them the news before posting about it on Facebook and Instagram, they would give birth to an entire herd of cattle. So think about your nearest and dearest, who you want to tell first, and how you want to share the information. Personally, I think calling or messaging the people closest to you first is a good idea, then post the information publicly so people know you're married now!
You'll save money, yes, but don't expect any wedding gifts.
This may or may not be a big deal for you. In my case, I've been living with my partner for years. We literally already have everything we truly need. Wedding gift piles are usually filled with household items, since that's typically what newlyweds needed in the past. If you aren't living together yet, then this could be very handy. But if you are... well, you don't truly need to replace your set of Ikea dinnerware, do you?
In some families, it might be common for the bride and groom to receive monetary presents from relatives. This definitely varies by the socioeconomic status of your family, but if they do have some cash and you elope, don't expect a celebratory envelope to find its way to you.
For me, the lack of presents isn't a big drawback to eloping, but it's worth noting. Weddings are expensive, so you are saving there, but you, most likely, won't get anything back in the form of presents.
Your elopement and your honeymoon can all be one trip.
I'm totally fine with the idea of essentially skipping the big wedding and heading straight to the honeymoon. The all-in-one wedding and honeymoon idea is one of those things no one tells you about eloping. That's exactly what eloping can be, and why it is so alluring for so many people. Personally, I find this to be a very romantic idea, especially when thinking about honeymoon destinations for nature lovers like my partner and me.
Whether you make the eloping a long trip or a short one, definitely choose your destination with care. The place you elope to will be a location that burns warmly in your heart whenever you think of your new partner and your union together. It should be somewhere memorable, for it'll be an event you never forget.