Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Happy Monday everyone! A couple of weeks ago, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to escalate in the US and the wedding industry was just starting to be disrupted, Hunter and I put out a blog called “Wedding Planning in Light of COVID-19: You Have Options” (here). In it, we talked about three great alternatives to consider if your wedding is being disrupted by this pandemic, to remind our couples that canceling their wedding was NOT their only option.
This week, we’re expanding on the third and final option we discussed in that blog: elopement. Even though we posted that article just 16 days ago, it feels like so much has changed since then. As of right now, 41 states have issued strict “Stay at Home” orders, including our dear Commonwealth of Virginia. This means that all social gatherings with more than 10 people are essentially illegal.
So today, we’re introducing this guide on elopements: why they’re worth considering, and how to plan one during this Coronavirus craziness!
Before we get into planning how to elope, we want to talk about why you might want to consider an elopement. And for starters, we’ll state the obvious: you still get to be married! Several of our Spring 2020 couples are waiting until they get married to move in together. This means postponing their big wedding celebration for 6 months or a year would mean even more agonizing time spent apart.
But some of our couples that currently live together are still opting for an intimate wedding day sooner rather than later. If you’ve been reading our blog for very long, you may have heard Hunter and I talk about the deeper “why” behind our wedding photography business. Yes, we love photography and can make a very reasonable living capturing weddings. But we also believe so strongly in the importance of healthy and happy marriages as the foundation for healthy families and a thriving society.
And some of our couples just get it. They know that weddings are AWESOME! But they also know that they’re the means to an end: marriage. So when the wedding goes out the window (even if just temporarily), they mourn for a time, then move ahead as planned. Let’s get married anyway!
Another reason to consider eloping now, even if you’ve postponed your big wedding day, is for the sake of your own mental health. We’ve been processing through these decisions with so many of our couples, and know that it’s been hard on our brides. The disappointment of their postponed or even canceled wedding day has mixed with the loneliness and social isolation of a home-quarantine for some really difficult times.
Having this elopement to look forward to — and resting in the fact that despite the craziness of the world, you still have some control of your marriage and your future — can be a huge relief. Even just having something to look forward to can lift your spirits for quite some time!
There’s also an added bonus — and we apologize in advance if this sounds self-interested. When you move forward with an elopement in the midst of the home-quarantine, it can help keep the lights on for your wedding vendors. There’s been a lot of news recently about the restaurant industry that’s been hit so hard by the home-quarantine. And, in response, people have been stepping up and ordering take-out not out of convenience, but out of a patriotic duty to keep their local community afloat. You could think of moving forward with your elopement (and postponing your full wedding day) as ordering take-out from the wedding industry!
The easiest and most obvious solution for your elopement is to simply go with your original wedding date. For whatever reason, you and your fiancé chose that date so many months ago. Maybe it had some emotional significance like anniversary, or maybe it just had a nice ring to it. Maybe it was just the last date that your dream venue had available!
But either way, that date has grown more and more special to you over these last few months as you’ve been looking forward to your wedding day. So, keep it! Don’t let the virus take that away from you. It was blocked off in the calendar of you and your family for months – why not just keep that date?
Another option for those who have immediate family who qualify as “high risk” or who would have to travel long distances for your special day (which is discouraged at the moment) is to still elope this year, but to wait until things are safer. For couples who postponed their wedding a full 12 months, it might be worth considering getting married this summer when things (hopefully!) begin to return to normal.
Just like you may be able to keep your original wedding date, you may even be able to keep your original wedding venue! Although this is entirely up to the discretion of your venue, some venues who may have been obligated to cancel or postpone your 150+ person wedding may feel differently about a 10-person elopement.
And if not, there are plenty of beautiful, outdoor, public locations where you could still be married. You’ll have to check with your own city and state parks, as well as other common locations (like Charlottesville’s downtown mall or the beach). Many locations are closed in the interest of public safety, so just do some research or even go scope out a location in advance. Just be sure to practice social distancing while you’re out!
Finally, if none of these options are possible, there’s one more option that can still work wonders: get married in your own home! Whether in the living room or in the back yard, you or a close family member may be able to open up your home to those most beloved family members so you can still be married, despite everything going on in the world right now.
Just like when you planned your wedding the first time, now that you have a date and a venue, you can think about all the smaller details of your (new) big day! The good news is that not as much has to change as you might think, and by not postponing your business by months or even a year, you may just help your vendors keep food on the table!
For starters, call up your floral designer and see if they’re still willing to make you a bouquet and a boutonniere. Although the rest of the florals for the wedding party and any floral decorations will have to wait, you can still have these two essential pieces for your elopement! Likewise, give your caterer a call. With all their events canceled this Spring, they may be open to providing food for your elopement “reception”, even if it’s just a dinner for 10! And the same goes for your cake, although it may lose a few tiers until it’s debut at your reception next year. Don’t forget to make sure your officiant is still open for business during this time as well! And of course, if any of your original vendors have closed up shop for the time being, call around, and make some other vendor’s day!
And of course, don’t forget about your photographers (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?) 😂 This is the one aspect of your day that can change the least. Put on your wedding dress, have your man put on his new suit, and once you two are officially married, your photographers can whisk you off for some socially-distant portraits! The good news is that your love for each other and the beautiful light of golden hour have not changed since all of this began, so beautiful wedding portraits are certainly still a possibility!
We hope that this guide has been helpful to you in the midst of these crazy times. Whether you’re considering an elopement as a hold-over to your full wedding day celebration, or as it’s replacement, we hope that this guide has brought a little spark of joy to your quarantined life.
Oh, and if you’d like to see an example of one such elopement, we posted one this weekend on our blog. Check out Caroline and Connor’s oceanfront elopement here!
And as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us if there’s ever anything we can do for you ❤ Stay healthy out there!