2020 was a game changer for just about every industry possible, including the wedding industry. For those of us who had plans of a big wedding for 2020 or 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold to any plans we had to celebrate like normal.
My heart goes out to anyone that had planned a big, romantic affair and saw their vision dissipate before their eyes or be put on hold indefinitely. It was a challenging year, but fortunately, 2021 is proving to be somewhat of a return to normalcy.
As the world goes back to a new normal, many of us ask- do we really want to go all the way back?
With the popularity of work from home and the necessity of small gatherings, some of us are wondering what COVID tactics should stick around.
For my husband and I, who got engaged on New Year’s Eve 2020, it had been an exhausting year for both of us. It started with a cancelled vacation to Mexico, and then stalled plans to go home and see my family, cancelled family gatherings all year long and a feeling of “surviving, not thriving.” To top it off, we both were managing the pandemic at work, he as a first responder, and myself who works in grocery.
March 2020 through about August was a blur of long days, little sleep, rapid change and a feeling of loss that normalcy would never return in any aspect of life. Of course, if you’re reading this, this isn’t unique to our family, it was truly the shared experience of a generation- stress, grief, change and uncertainty.
Through it all, we were grateful for steady work, the health of those around us, the hard work of front-line essential workers and of course, the never ending schedule of Zoom calls to try and feel connected to those we desperately wish we had hugged just once or twice more before this all started.
So, New Year’s Eve, when he got down on one knee to ask me to make our lives together as official as it gets, I was 10 weeks pregnant and absolutely unsure when the world would (if ever, get back to normal). I was over the moon about the baby in my belly and the idea of entering into marriage for the first time, but I was absolutely exhausted from a rough year with a full plate.
What to do? Run to the courthouse? Postpone a wedding until vaccines were available and the baby was here in July? Try to have a small something, but not be sure if it would be safe for loved ones to gather? Most brides stress out wondering if the weather will cooperate, much less if the pandemic would cooperate with any plans. It was overwhelming.
Eventually it was decided that the easiest way to not stress my body out any further, would be to elope on our own, in early spring. Eloping with just the two of us meant that we wouldn’t have to stress about the what-ifs of wedding planning, guest attendance and mostly- the safety of those we loved. But now that we’ve seen a decline in case numbers and life is somewhat returning to normal, will the eloping trend of the COVID era continue? Here’s why I think it should.
Duh, eloping is absolutely cheaper than hosting a big wedding. You remove the headcount, you free up your budget. Here’s a breakdown of our budget, but know you can absolutely do this cheaper or more fancy based on your needs. As a couple, we prioritized a few things: splurging on my hair, investing in a suit he could wear for the next decade, super-special photos and having the entire event being stress free. That was it. You can absolutely tailor your elopement to fit what’s important to you:
Our Elopement Costs:
Our goal was to keep our special day under $5,000 for the major stuff. I had an aesthetic we wanted, but I absolutely could have gotten a cheaper dress or done my hair with some simple curls to save a few hundred dollars. I would say, our biggest expense, the elopement package with complete digital rights to our photos, was absolutely worth the price we paid. It included vow books, our cake, floral, and a fully baked itinerary tailored for our dream day.
I could have changed up the dress, used shoes I already had or even found a cheaper room to stay in at El Cosmico. Two things can cost you the most at a wedding- your commitment to a specific aesthetic and a guest list! Had I been more flexible on the “look,” I could have saved more, but capturing our style and getting to play dress up was part of the experience we wanted.
With the entire industry pivoting to survive the pandemic, more venues and vendors offer elopement packages for no-or-low guest count weddings in absolutely dreamy locations with dreamier itineraries. Our photographer doubled as our elopement coordinator and she planned everything for our big day- from where, when, how and what.
We booked an absolutely perfect escape at the El Cosmico Hotel in Marfa, Texas for a glamping experience over two days. Our amazing photographer/coordinator, Jessica, built our dream day off of a Pinterest board I sent her.
We stepped out of our adorable Yurt and into a dream day that she planned for us. The vow books were provided, the bridal bouquet was built to my specifications, and the cake was ready to go with our favorite flavors in mind. Being pregnant, I couldn’t decide on a flavor, so our cake ended up being a strawberry raspberry lemonade and probably one of the tastiest we’ve ever had!
While Jessica could have coordinated a hiking trip at sunrise for us or a trip to the tattoo parlor to exchange our vows (I wanted tats but being pregnant was an issue), so we opted for a low-key experience that involved Mexican food, a romantic first dance, and some time with our pups. The possibilites for elopement can be just as creative as you are. Go to a disco to dance it out or take a hot air balloon ride, your choice.
Long story long, we got to customize the entire experience and had to stress over NONE of it.
I’m going to use the word magical 100 times in the course of this article, because it was. With elopement, you’re both physically and financially freed to customize your day to the nines, or, like in our case, keep it as cozy and simple as you need.
You have fewer of the financial and physical limitations that comes along with a robust guest list. It’s YOUR day. The wedding industry had to innovate during 2020, and for brides and grooms- it means we have more options than ever and the world is our venue. You get freedom, creativity and flexibility.
Are you worried about eloping because you’re worried about missing out on the fun moments that come with a bigger guest list? Again, this is where customization rocks with elopement.
Our elopement package would have allowed for up to 20 guests but we had some heartburn about who could make it and the stress of pruning a list to 20 people with our family dynamics made driving out solo to a remote spot in the desert appealing to us.
For us, we couldn’t find a right sized event for our budget with how far flung our loved ones were. Chances are, if safety is no longer a concern for your event, you may still be grappling with pruning a guest list to a feasible size without hurting feelings. Trust us, we grappled with the same!
No matter where we married or when, it meant someone was left out. Since our loved ones live in about 9 different states and few of them live locally, we stressed about finding a venue that would be fair to everyone. Being real, beyond the very real safety concerns of the pandemic, we had concerns about asking our friends, many with young kids at this point in our mid-30’s, to fork over $600+ in airfare plus a hotel for us to celebrate.
Having been to a plethora of weddings myself, I easily have spent over $1000 to attend a weekend wedding. I love everyone I’ve flown out to celebrate, but for those of us who live far away, we have to ask ourselves if it’s fair to assume everyone has the cash to share these moments.
After COVID, many of us have had to face financial realities and had to reassess our priorities. We know we did. With a baby on the way, we couldn’t justify $10,000-$20,000 for ONE day, nor did we think we could ask our family to chip in.
After a year of being separated from loved ones, wondering when things will stabilize, I craved normalcy but I realized weddings just aren’t it. Spending $1000 to travel to a wedding for about 20 minutes of face time with the bride and groom, and usually rushing out on a weekend to do so- just ain’t it.
For our family, quality time is just as important as the budget, and rushing in and out to a weekend wedding isn’t always worth it.
All in all, it’s up to you. Imagine yourself on your wedding day. Will it just not be the same without an audience? Or, like us, would you rather save the cash from 50+ place settings and use that money to fly out for quality one-on-one time with the people at the top of your guest list?
For us, we pictured where that money could take us a year from now- and we wanted it around campfires, dinner tables and Christmas trees with our far-flung families- not a sweetheart table for a jam packed evening in a crowd.
Additionally, do you want to spend the time and headspace in planning such a large affair? For us, it was also a no. We spent that time talking through our finances, taking pre-marital counseling and working on our 5 year plan as a newlywed couple. We spent weekends talking through our hopes and plans as a growing family.
For us, we wanted to plan our next year together, not just the weekend we took our vows. Elopement freed up the headspace to prepare to be husband and wife- not just bride and groom. For you, you may be able to do both, and that’s awesome! For us, we felt confined attempting to do both.
The pandemic has been deeply challenging for everyone, but for us, it gave us a golden opportunity to get down to essentials and have hard conversations about what mattered. For us, it was financial freedom and quality time with those we loved and we realized an expensive wedding would achieve neither.
So, if you’re longing for an intimate affair with under 50 people, dreaming of an exotic location to say I do, or life seems to get in the way from ever getting started on marriage, elopement might be the ticket for you. It was for us.
Best of luck!