You may have noticed a change in wedding trends over the past decade or two and wonder what style you fit into. It seems like more couples are re-evaluating the dynamics of a big traditional white wedding and what that all really means.
Hi, my name is Terri and I created The Dream Maker, an elopement specialist service. If I could have my wedding all over again, I know where I would put my budget, namely into escaping with the one I truly love to a once in a lifetime location. One can’t compare apples with apples, especially when the budget is involved. Every celebration is unique and should be dependent on what you can afford or are prepared to invest, rather than what you or any close influencer ‘thinks’ you ‘should’ do or pay for your big day.
Couples who choose to elope together or with a small close group of friends and family, do so for lots of reasons, You might have a complicated family dynamic, you might be getting married for the second time or be older and not want a big fuss or have an un-choppable guest list, or simply love to travel and want to put your budget towards experiencing a new location that might not come around again. The list is endless. Whatever the decision-making point might be, it’s a decision you make together, and the world is most definitely your oyster.
Of course, now that you have made up your mind, it’s just as important to create an unforgettable memory that can be shared with all your nearest and dearest at a later gathering.
So, to help you, I have put together a list of things you might want to consider and think about before making your fixed decision.
20 Elopement Tips that will make all the difference
Before starting to plan your event: make sure your passport is valid and will be valid on your return.
Elopement Venue/Location options: It’s likely you have an idea of where you want to go and have the style of wedding in mind. For years there have been elopement options where you are purchasing a one size fits all package to include accommodation and celebration in one and the same neat and tidy resort. The downside to this is that it’s not necessarily unique, as the styling and setting remains the same and you could be waiting in a queue. You could broaden your search to other options, from mountain tops, beaches, heritage sites, caves, possibly combined with an exciting experience like skydiving, a scenic kayaking trip or a luxury cruise. There is an immense array of possibilities to choose from and find one that suits you as a couple.
Allow those close to you to be part of the decision making: I haven’t met a couple in the past decade, that didn’t mention someone close to them who was upset with their decision to elope. It is advisable to allow those you feel may be offended, to be calmly part of the discussion, so they can understand why you choose to elope and appreciate your desire to go it alone. If the dynamics are too complicated to invite those people into the conversation, I highly advise you to ask a life coach to help you obtain the skills to deal with the disappointments and sadness around this difficult subject. Once you have these skills, you can plan and enjoy the event, without the burden of other people’s personal opinions.
Wedding Website: It’s advisable to create a wedding website, regardless of where you choose to be married. This is a great place to share your plans and experience. You can also add a wedding gift registry, so friends and family can gift towards your travel costs or an activity you truly wish to do. You can also add all details and keep it neatly in one place.
Plan an after party: It’s important to understand that those who make your decision difficult, are most likely doing this because they love you and want to share the moment with you, so planning a party on your return will enable them to be involved in a later celebration that highlights how intimate and meaningful your day was and that it was about you, not them. You will want to have great photos and maybe a video to share?
Your elopement budget. It’s not necessarily the case that you will save money by eloping, but rather by channeling your budget into a different direction. A large wedding can cost anything upwards of $20.000 for about 4 to 6 hours, where that same budget can stretch across several days or weeks for a simpler event. So, this is where you begin to balance your decision making, by looking at the pros and cons of each style of event. Look at your budget and compare where that money will be invested. Many couples choose the big wedding over and above the honeymoon, some don’t have a honeymoon at all, whereas others choose to put their hard earned money into a weddingmoon experience, with everything encapsulated into one longer event with an experience most only dream about. This is a treat and an opportunity for luxury, beautiful dining, new experiences and bonding time. An elopement can be a solid foundation to build the rest of your life together.
Car Hire: if you are planning to hire a camper or car, you will need a valid drivers license. so make sure all of this is arranged well in advance of departure and double check your driving license is added to your packing check list.
Documents, travel insurance and details: Take copies of all travel and wedding documents and give them to someone you trust and who will help you in an emergency. You might also give copies of these to your planner and store them in the cloud.
Hire an expert: Planning a wedding from a distance can be very difficult, with currency exchange, language barriers and knowing who you can really trust. You don’t want your event to be unforgettable for the wrong reasons, so do your research and make sure the person heading your planning decisions can be held accountable and has a fantastic reputation. This person could be in the form of an accommodation/venue provider event manager employee, the resort handles this as a primary service. Or it could be an independent expert, with credentials such as being part of a national industry body. With the option to use social media to find reviews, there is no reason to enlist the wrong person. Putting a minimum of 2 to 5% to your planner is a fair price to pay for their time saving expertise, knowledge and connections, let alone for your own peace of mind. Be prepared with questions and understand their terms and conditions and payment plan. Remember that an expensive planner isn’t necessarily a better planner, but don’t go for someone who is too good to be true when it comes to the price, as you may end up very disappointed. A good elopement or wedding planner is worth their weight in gold, but that isn’t always appreciated until something goes wrong and you don’t have to personally deal with it. Ask if they clip the ticket (commission). This will make a difference to your bottom line and can be an advantage, as the planner is making a part of their income through their connections. But make sure it’s up-front, it shouldn’t be costing you more than the advertised price if this is the case.
Jet lag: Take this into consideration if you travel long and cross timelines. You do not want to rush into your wedding day feeling jet lagged and horrible. There are ways to avoid this feeling, I know it’s a time to celebrate, but avoid alcohol and sugary drinks while in flight. There are some wonderful natural jet lag products on the market, that help you sleep while in transit, without the groggy feeling when your awake. Change your watch, as you travel through the time zones, this helps your brain deal with the change more effectively. Try to walk around and stretch your limbs regularly while on the plane or boat, taking breaks and allowing your body to circulate will help prevent bloating and swelling in your limbs. A great trick is to take a foot massaging tool, to play with and keep good circulation on a long-haul flight. Drink plenty of water!
Celebrant: Some resorts have a resident celebrant on hand, which may be very convenient, but this may not give you much choice in making sure you have a truly unique ceremony. An independent celebrant will work closely with you to capture the true essence of your occasion. As well as this, they come with good advice and often know the other vendors or can recommend people to hire. A good and registered celebrant is most likely going to be part of an industry organisation such as the celebrants association and will have insurance and be accountable. Remember, although the celebrant can advise you, they are NOT responsible for obtaining your legal papers.
Witnesses: Each country will have its own rules, but in most you will need two witnesses, however they do not need to be close friends or family. If you are planning on travelling alone, remember to ask your main point of call (celebrant or wedding planner) if they will provide two legally eligible people to witness your marriage. This may have a small cost to cover their time.
Weather, delays and other unforeseen situations: The one thing a good wedding planner cannot guarantee or be accountable for, is of course unfortunate weather conditions, natural disasters or personal items not arriving on time, like your suitcases on a long-haul flight. Be prepared to deal with any occurrence out of your control. With a realistic attitude, these potential problems can be endured with resilience and smiles, rather than tears and sadness. Give yourself a few days spare, so there is time for flexibility in the case of an unseen problematic situation.
Plan B: Most resorts will have a Plan B option attached to their package. Again, by having an experienced wedding planner, who knows the location and vendors well, you will also have a built in Plan B option. There might be added costs, so make sure these are within your budget and are not going to sting you in the event of Plan B being called. A good wedding planner will create a Plan B option that will still provide you with beautiful memories.
Don’t cut yourself short: I recommend all couples not to rush their wedding day experience. A minimum of three nights should be budgeted for. The first day will give you time to acclimatize to the time zone or weather conditions and meet all involved in a relaxed timely manner. On the day of the wedding you will want to have a relaxed, romantic breakfast and a bride needs time to be pampered and prepare for the one day in her life she will be reminded of time and time again. Brides need to feel beautiful, loved and calm.
Time of celebration: Plan the time of day you will hold your ceremony. Depending on what you and your celebrant choose the ceremony content to include, this can be between 10 to 30 minutes. Consider a sunrise ceremony if you’re not too worried about professional preparation, or a sundown ceremony. There will be less people around and if you are in a hot country, it is a pleasure to have the ceremony during the cooler hours of the day. Also the light can be magical for your photos. The mid-day sunshine can not only be intense for photographs, but is often unbearable for all involved. Talk with your planner if you have one, as they will know what the local conditions are and give you the best advice for the time of year and location.
Time of Year: Whether you want a spring, summer, autumn or winter wedding experience is of course your choice, but again speak with an expert travel agent or wedding planner to learn about the pros and cons of all options and locations. Be well prepared for the option you choose. Spring and autumn can offer both cold and hot scenarios, so making sure you are aware that the clothing you need at that location is very important. I have seen too many situations where brides have very light clothing and become extremely cold or sun burnt. A good event manager will always have blankets and sun screen available, but it doesn’t make for a very pleasant day if you are too cold or too hot all day.
Transport: Once you have chosen your location, you might need a form of public or exclusive transport. Make sure the price of this is included in your budget. If you have not been at sea or in a helicopter before, but this is your choice of transport or even the only option, you might want to take some sickness travel or ginger tablets a couple of hours beforehand to avoid sickness.
Wedding Attire: Think about the type of wedding attire you are wearing. Of course you want the dress or suit of your dreams, but is it practical for the location and transport you are taking? You do not want a big, heavy dress when you are getting on or off transport, it could cause a trip hazard, get caught in oiling mechanics or give you heat stroke. Also remember that you need to transport the dress, which could add extra costs and take up lots of suitcase space as well as leave your attire irreversibly creased. If you arrive a couple of days early and plan ahead of time, you could actually buy or hire your outfits at the location itself, adding to the experience and giving you time for informed choices once you know where your event will be held. Again, carry spare clothes on the day, should you want to change after the photos have been taken. Also take sensible shoes for the location. Beaches have jagged rocks and mountains prickly plants, in all locations you might need to clamber to an interesting spot for a great photo, be prepared and bring sensible shoes.
Photos & Video: One of your biggest investments will be a photographer or videographer, and in many cases both, to capture those intimate and special moments and of course the incredible location. However, this doesn’t always need to cost a lot and in some locations you are limited on how many people can access the location with you. A helicopter for example, may only have room for up to 4 or 6 passengers. You could find a skilled person who can produce both a video and photos, which will save space. Decide what is important to you, as it could be as simple as giving your camera to the pilot.
Bonus tips: The tough stuff: When planning an elopement, we imagine all the ‘fluffy stuff’, but I would not be a professional wedding planner if I only told you about that, so here are a few things to add to your tick-off list:
Insurance: Over and above the obvious travel insurance, you might want to consider an up-grade or independent insurance in the case of a disaster around your wedding/elopement costs, to include wedding dresses and grooms attire, rings, and losses of any product or services due to delays or disaster. Each country will have its own companies specialising in this kind of event.
Organise your mobile phone coverage in advance. It might be a cheap mobile phone from the desired country. This can then be used when you’re in the country you have chosen for your event and will cost less over all wen communicating with vendors.
Follow the guidelines by the BDM from the country you are planning to get married in. You will need to make sure that all legal requirements are met in advance. I suggest you make payment for the legal marriage charges in advance, this is not the responsibility of your celebrant. Some companies claim to organize your paper work, however it’s guidance they give, as you must be the ones present for the declaration.
If you have a planner, keep them copied into all important emails and informed of any (potential) problems. They will handle everything for you from their end, but if they do not have the information required, then they are limited in what they can do for you and can’t be held accountable. .