The ins and outs of eloping

After dating for five years and living together for three years, we made the decision last fall that while we wanted to get married. We got married in June of this year, but the traditional wedding bells and whistles just weren’t for us, so we decided to elope!

Elopement is a tricky subject because weddings are a cultural mainstay and have a whole cultural context of etiquette and traditions built around them. To skip all the traditions and get married in private does inevitably disappoint some and hurt others feelings. Today I’m sharing six reasons why a traditional engagement/wedding wasn’t a good fit for us and some pros (and one con) of eloping.

Disclaimer before I hurt anyone’s feelings: I have no judgment for those who choose to have a traditional wedding. That is each couples’ decision and I respect everyone’s ability to make their own decision about how they want to celebrate their marriage.

Image by TréVoy Kelly from Pixabay

Reasons why a traditional engagement / wedding was out:

#1. The marriage was more important to us than the engagement

One of my big personal gripes with wedding culture and the Social Media-Fueled Wedding Experience is the monumental emphasis placed on a woman’s value once she is engaged. People seem to care more about your getting engaged than they do about your future wedding and the congratulations seem to be focused solely on the woman rather than directed to the couple. A contemporary engagement requires capturing the moment for a social media post (and making sure you’re freshly manicured) so that it can make your high school arch nemesis jealous be graded by your peers online. It’s kind of like how elaborate prom-posals have outpaced the actual experience of going to prom.

I didn’t want people to be so excited for me (and me alone) that I got engaged, I wanted people to be happy for both of us when we got married. So, we just bypassed the whole engagement and surprised everyone instead.

#2. Outdated traditions don’t feel right in 2019

I shared openly and honestly with my husband that some traditions associated with engagement and weddings (like the asking the blessing of the father and the giving away of the bride) make me feel really uncomfortable. Yes, they are traditions. But we can’t pretend that the tradition is not rooted in the days of the dowry when a woman’s betrothal meant the potential for economic stimulation for the family of the bride and potential social mobility.

Women and their related marriage was a transaction, and the blessing of the father and the exchange of the woman from one man’s custody to another was also a transaction. It hearkens back to a time when women not only lacked autonomy, they were seen as a burden for a man to care for (either her father or her husband) unless she came with a dowry that could economically aide the husband.

In my opinion, it’s the 21st century and my decisions are mine alone to make. I respect and love my parents, but I’d hope that they respect my autonomy and would raise any concerns they have if they thought I was going to be with someone that raised red flags. I’m also not my husband’s burden to take care of – we are a team and we take care of each other.

#3. Diamonds aren’t this girl’s best friend

Yes, diamonds are beautiful. But does every woman actually love diamonds, or do we think we love diamonds because it’s beaten into our brain since we can speak that diamonds are the only acceptable symbol of love and if he really loves you, it had better be a big one?

  1. Diamonds are hugely marked up.
  2. While it is possible to find conflict-free diamonds, many diamonds can have questionable sourcing and be associated with human trafficking and exploitation.
  3. The average cost of an engagement ring is $6,000. I think that’s bonkers.

I am not a big jewelry person to begin with (and having an engagement ring on would really ruin the surprise of us eloping) so we decided to just exchange rings at our wedding and I selected a ring with a gemstone. I love my ring (and I love the symbolism of the particular gemstone I selected) and it DID NOT cost anywhere near $6,000. We agreed to a price ceiling beforehand for rings and picked our rings out together and stayed within that budget.

#4. Weddings require a lot of pre-planning and lead time

It’s estimated that engagements are on average, about 12-18 months, and in that time, couples may spend upwards of 300 hours focused on wedding planning. 12-18 months is a long time, and I have friends who were engaged even longer (many in order to save to finance a wedding). When we knew we were ready to get married, we didn’t want to wait!

Now, 300 hours of wedding planning? No. Thank. You. Culturally, a lot of that planning falls to the bride and perhaps the bride’s mother / mother-in-law. I love planning vacations. I love planning meals. That being said, I’ve planned large scale events before in past jobs and I absolutely hated it. It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s that event planning and the logistics of it are just not enjoyable for me. When we talked about getting married, it was very clear that we didn’t want to stress over or exert a lot of effort planning a big affair.

#5. Weddings are more expensive than ever

The average cost of a wedding in the United States is $30,000. That’s a downpayment on a house in our market. It’s more than the brand new car I bought before I met Jon that I’m still driving. It’s not that we couldn’t have thrown a party, but we didn’t feel that it was necessary to have a huge and expensive party to celebrate our next life chapter.

#6. Everyone has an opinion about your wedding

There are a lot of expectations about features you “need” to have at your wedding, etiquette rules you need to follow (even down to the finer details of the verbiage of your RSVP cards) and traditions governing how your party should flow.

Sometimes these expectations can be tied to someone else funding a part of your wedding. The easiest way to avoid those expectations was to plan a wedding that we could fully fund ourselves. The features of your wedding should be what you want – not what someone tells you that they want or that you are supposed to have according to a 1950s etiquette guide.

Reasons why an elopement worked for us:

#1: Eloping was easy peasy

We decided to have a destination elopement and to make a vacation out of our wedding and honeymoon. We eloped in Asheville, North Carolina, in part because North Carolina is a very easy state to get married in. We hired an elopement service (Elope Asheville) that made things so stress-free and streamlined. They brought the officiant, witnesses and photographer and recommended a location since we were not familiar with the area. All we had to do was pick up our wedding license at the County Register of Deeds and show up at the appointed time. Our combined cost of the elopement service and photography (including digital access to all of our photos) was around $600. Plus $30 for copies of our marriage license.

#2: Eloping was not stressful at all

Instead of having a full week of last minute planning and coordination, we had a completely relaxed wedding day. I did yoga the morning of our wedding. We went out for lunch and picked up cupcakes at a local bakery. Jon went to a video game bar while I got my hair and makeup done. Our ceremony and photos took all of 30 minutes and then we went out for ice cream, had drinks at a rooftop bar and went for a romantic dinner. Our wedding was at 4:00 PM and by 8:00 PM we were back at our place eating cupcakes and lounging in the hot tub.

#3: Eloping could be done in a short timeframe and wasn’t ridiculously expensive

We planned our elopement in about 8 months, and honestly, we definitely could have done it with far less time. I don’t want to bore you with budget details, but our entire elopement (counting everything from our honeymoon expenditures to our outfits, hair, license, etc.) was about $4,500. We’re throwing a one year anniversary party for friends and family in 2020 to celebrate and we’ll probably spend a little more than that on the party. Coming out with a wedding, honeymoon and a party for around $10,000 is 1/3 of the industry average.

One downside: Eloping can hurt some feelings

We shared with our immediate families and some close friends (who were involved in the planning/details of the ceremony) that we planned to elope. We wanted our parents, especially, to know that this decision was not being made to exclude them, but that we really wanted it to be a stress-free experience for us.

Some people do have hurt feelings over elopements, because they feel that they were not able to be a part of the wedding itself. We hope that having an anniversary party helps mend some of those hurt feelings and that people will respect that our goal was to start our next chapter in as stress-free a way as possible. That meant departing from societal expectations to meet that goal.

It worked for us, but your wedding is yours to plan!

We are both very happy that we eloped and we look back on our trip to Asheville fondly as an experience that was relaxing, intimate and special. What this experience has taught me is that weddings are a personal expression of your love, and you should plan the day that you both want, and that you should not feel pressured to bend to what other people expect of you.

2 thoughts on “The ins and outs of eloping”

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