Our elopement that people were invited to attend: re-thinking what "eloping" means

January 14 | meganfinley
This is what an elopement looks like.

Our elopement was attended by 60 people… 60 people who were all invited. That's not an elopement you say? I say, well then maybe it's time to change your definition of elopement! It might actually make your wedding planning way less stressful.

I'm an extrovert with a capital EX, while that guy I married HATES the limelight. I wanted a big wedding guest list with everyone I've ever known or loved in attendance. And the thought of all those eyeballs made Aaron want to cancel the wedding. Instead of canceling the wedding all together, I suggested we elope to Maui, with the caveat that anyone who wanted to see us get married was welcome to do so.

Once we started looking at our wedding as an elopement to which people were invited to attend, it began to relieve a lot of pressure.

  • A destination wedding meant we could invite all the people I wanted (Megan says "yay!"), knowing that most of them wouldn't be able to attend (Aaron says "phew!").
  • Invites weren't that hard to figure out — all people needed to know was the date and the location. We listed the time as "around sunset." Fuck it, we're eloping — you want to know more details, you'll find out when we do.
  • We didn't mess with booking a block of rooms because… you know… eloping! If you want to show up, you can, but that's as far as we're worrying about your travel plans.
  • No rehearsal necessary. It didn't matter if there were just three people, or fifty-three people showing up on the day we chose to get married — the plan was the same: we show up, we meet our officiant, we make it official, we eat dinner.

Framing our wedding as an elopement meant that I could keep my comfortable laissez faire attitude about the whole event because it helped me focus on the whole point — gettin' hitched. But it also meant that we had a lot of loose ends flapping in that warm island breeze.

For example, no one knew where Aaron and I would be standing along the beach (hell, neither did we until we just… ended up somewhere). And my dad and I had to just wing him walking me down the "isle" (get it? When you walk down a non-aisle on an island, you walk down the ISLE?! HAR HAR!) — giggling the entire time at how unorganized the whole event was, and how wonderful it was that it really didn't matter. And did our photographer that I didn't waste much time worrying about totally suck? Absolutely.

But all those last-minute confusions and problems didn't really stress us out. Because framing our wedding as "an elopement that people were invited to attend" let us keep this in the forefront of our mind:

As long as we end up married at some point during this trip, that's all that matters.

Well we did, and it was.


More elopement-related posts:

  1. i think im in love with this idea.

    would people be weirded out to get invitations? how did your guests react?

    6 agree
    • I'm curious about this as well.

      For me, a trip to Maui would be absolutely impossible due to my financial situation– did you do anything back at home for those guests who were unable to attend?

      I suppose that "being offended" is totally subjective, but did you have to deal with this at all? I can imagine a lot of people in my family would feel slighted– this is just such a fantastically intriguing idea to me, I'm curious to know more.

      2 agree
      • We thought about doing another celebration back at home, and then realized we were ALSO stressing out about THAT idea, on top of it being more spend-y. Ultimately, one celebration was right or us.

        And no one that I knew of was offended. But since we were, in a sense, eloping, but choosing to let ANYONE WHO WANTED TO (who's situation could lend itself to travel) still be there for it, there wasn't much room for complaints! Mwahahahaha…

        8 agree
      • I'll admit I was really hurt as a guest who didn't have $6000 and a weeks vacation laying around for both me and my partner. The feeling was 'feel free to un-invite yourself' but the couple also mentioned the words "and those who think it's a priority will make it" directly implying that those who didn't make it didn't care. So always do what's best for your wedding but do choose your words carefully.

        8 agree
        • Isn't this true of any destination, though? Or even potentially, ANY wedding happening out of town?

          4 agree
    • We had a few confused invite recipients (read: older people) who had questions — "Um… where should I stay?" "But really, what's the EXACT time and EXACT location of the ceremony?" — so we made sure to include our wedsite address with an FAQ. All the while making it clear that while we welcomed them to join us, we weren't going to be holding their hands through it all.

      Those that still didn't understand, just didn't end up coming. Which meant even LESS stress for us!

      1 agrees
      • well im glad you didnt get any dramaz for inviting people to an elopement. i could imagine the more etiquette-crazy to get all up in arms about this..

        0 agree
        • Just like they get up in arms about potluck weddings, "getting weddinged" and all sorts of other wedding options we talk about here on Offbeat Bride. As always, we trust our readers to know whether an idea feels like a fit for them and their community.

          5 agree
          • Exactly. WIth my community, they would have felt "insulted" if they HADN'T at least been invited.

            2 agree
  2. My brother and his now wife got married in Vegas, but they invited us all to come if we could. They just gave us a time and place. Every guest was in charge of their own travel arrangements and entertainment.
    Vegas vacation + wedding viewing? Can't complain!

    4 agree
  3. Intriguing. How did you deal with sorting out dinner if you didn't know how many guests were attending? I mean, I assume you were all just going to a restaurant, but 60 is a pretty big number in the end! :)

    1 agrees
    • Ah HA! We did have RSVP/write us a message if you want cards. We also had word of mouth, as it became obvious that it was going to be a bigger attendance than we thought once people started talking to us about how excited they were to go to Maui.

      So, we rented the patio of the nearest restaurant where there were enough to fit, at the most, 60. We figured, "that's MORE than enough." Ultimately, we just got lucky and it all worked out. Confession: A LOT of the logistics of the wedding was just left to luck. I don't recommend this type of wedding planning for the Type A folk. ;)

      6 agree
  4. I ad wanted to do something like this (although, I wanted to just have a big party and then surprise everyone by getting married at it).

    My husband, however, wanted something a little more intimate. I love that you guys did this. Sounds INCREDIBLE & lovely.

    0 agree
  5. What was the understanding about who was paying for dinner?

    0 agree
    • OOH! This brings me to a really good point, and another stress-free bonus. We made it clear that we were just getting married — that's all we were planning. But my mother wanted to have a reception (amongst other celebrations). So she offered to host to a reception.

      My in-laws wanted to host something as well, and since we didn't have a rehearsal or the need for a rehearsal dinner, they offered to throw a "welcome to Maui dinner."

      This format really left it open for our folks to volunteer to help out financially if they wanted. But originally (pre-restaurant reception offer) we were just going to pay for pizza and beer (ssshh!) and play some tunes on the beach after the ceremony with whomever wanted to hang out.

      6 agree
  6. Oh wow, you just summed me and my fiance up to a T! We are getting married this year and we are "eloping" to New Orleans. For all the reasons you listed and more, we are calling it that so it's less stressful! I am glad to hear that other people feel similarly :)

    0 agree
  7. This is a fantastic idea. We just told my family over the weekend about our official decision to elope. This makes things sound pretty awesome and so much easier than what we originally had planned. Thanks for sharing.

    0 agree
  8. Congratulations!! What a beautiful idea. And its so important that you and your husband worked it out for YOU. My husband and I "eloped" this weekend, with my father/his wife, my husband's brother/SIL, and two of our friends in attendance. Later in the summer we're going to have another celebration/vow-taking ceremony in front of the rest of our friends and family. For many important reasons, this is what worked out best for us.

    We also have had some questions from certain people of certain ages not quite understanding, but again, some of our reasons were deeply personal and we don't really feel like we need to explain everything in such detail. As long as we're able to be married, and celebrate with everyone we love – however that has to happen – we're happy.

    Congrats to you and THANK YOU for posting this, Offbeat Bride is really a unique wedding space on the net, isn't it? Many happy years to you and your husband!!

    3 agree
  9. My husband and I had been talking about getting the legal part out of the way for a while and then have a party later. We ended up getting married on 12/12/12 and gave our families about 4 days notice.

    It was the second marriage for each of us so there were no issues with forgoing the hoopla. I found a FABULOUS royal blue dress, a friend made a birdcage veil for me with 2 days notice and I found a vintage wrap from a consignment shop since it was 45 degrees and raining outside.

    We had our parents and siblings there when we did the deed, and we are planning a party for this summer for a larger group and out of town family. The best part is that there are no cold feet issues since we the deed is already done. Time to party!!!

    1 agrees
  10. Love this! My fiance and I are doing something similar but local. We're having our wedding near our home and inviting everyone we can. It's destination for everyone else but us. The idea is the same though, simple, no fuss, and it's party time!

    0 agree
  11. My husband and I just did this. We knew we wanted a small wedding so we knew a destination wedding was perfect for us since we have so many family and friends who would have been offended if we did not invite them to the wedding in our city. We knew we both felt the idea of a large wedding was not for us in any way.

    We loved the spirituality behind 12/21/12 so we picked that day. Since his mother was performing our ceremony, we had to go where she was- which we were happily willing to do since she was in the San Francisco area. My parents and his grandfather flew down and we got married in a small chapel with a nice, simple, super laughter filled wedding. His mother is the priest for her church so that is the chapel we were able to use when it wound up being far too rainy and cold to happen outdoors at the Palace of Fine Arts which was the original plan.

    We hired some awesome photographers that we found here at Offbeat Bride and they made the day look so super special in photos. We already got our photos back and we are soooo pleased!

    Our elopement of sorts involved family because his mother flew in for Thanksgiving and the family had a lovely shower/ ring warming ceremony for us. We both love to cook so we bought a cookbook that we took to our showers and had everyone sign as they would have signed a guest book at our wedding. My brother threw us a shower here since he wouldn't be able to fly to San Francisco. It was a great memory filled time- from the time we started planning on September 1, when he proposed, to looking at our photos now.

    We were able to have a nice, relaxing wedding night that was so us- pizza and champagne in a really nice hotel room- because we did not have to worry about entertaining a lot of people. The day was truly about celebrating our marriage and we feel so blessed that it all went so well.

    Everyone who is close to use was very supportive and understanding. Financially, this was the best choice for us. We may still have an outdoor barbecue with food trucks and an ice cream stand in March when it gets a little warmer so our family and friends here can celebrate with us one last time.

    0 agree
  12. Well, they do say no two weddings are the same. And I suspect you will do damn well to find another that comes close to this one!!!
    All to often couples try too hard to please all their guests and naturally fail. So the ethos here is spot on. It's your day so do what you want, how you want, when you want!

    1 agrees
  13. And your photos are crazy beautiful. Sorry but I did stalk them all on flickr when I was looking for other beach weddings, and I wanted to SAVE ALL THE PHOTOS

    0 agree
    • D'aw thanks! It's hard to take a bad picture with Maui as your background. ;)

      0 agree
  14. I don't know…this sounds like a destination wedding to me. The idea is fun and exciting, but doesn't ring true to me as an elopement if you send out invites. It doesn't matter if no one shows up, the point is that you invited people to come.
    I understand that the word is becoming more and more relaxed and vague, but I'm old fashioned, I guess. :)
    Either way, your wedding sounds like paradise! Go you!

    9 agree
    • I agree! I would describe this as a super casual, spontaneous, destination wedding. By definition to elope means run away and get married without telling anyone. Since there are people who still do that, I say let's keep the definition this way and maybe invent a new word for your casual, spontaneous wedding.

      I love the concept though. And the photos are beautiful

      4 agree
      • Also agree! While making the idea of eloping more accessible/less taboo is an awesome thing, it's probably a bit counterproductive to try and do so by trying to change the definition. There's nothing wrong with calling this what it was, as Floofy and Jasmine have said: a fun, casual destination wedding.

        I just think it's important to keep each type of wedding distinct, since each have their own challenges and benefits. Jasmine is right that we should come up with a new word for what Megan did. A Demilopement? A Semilopement?

        1 agrees
  15. I don't count this as an elopement, and I am a wedding officiant. Performing wedding ceremonies of all kinds is what I do. This is a small destination ceremony. An elopement is not a long planned in advance affair. It does not include any more than the witnesses, and usually is done on weekdays because officiants have large events on the weekend. While I most certainly love what you did, it does not constitute as an elopement. Best wishes on your new life together!

    6 agree
  16. This is exactly what my fiancé and I are doing! We will have our ceremony in Maui and I have told anyone they are welcome to attend. We are having a reception when we get back to our hometown to celebrate as our ceremony is going to be very low key. We haven't had any negative feedback or any upset feelings (except maybe grandma) from this at all and I have encouraged our families to use our wedding as a great excuse to take a much needed vacation.

    0 agree
  17. I would love to do this. I found a great all inclusive resort that I want to use, the problem is for people to attend the wedding there they must also be staying at that resort. I feel bad forcing people to spend so much money on flights and an expensive resort just to see my wedding. Has anyone else experienced this?

    0 agree
  18. I adore this idea! We're actually doing something similar. How did you let people know though? A mass FB status update isn't really my thing, but I'm curious how others went about it. Right now we're just doing word of mouth.

    0 agree
    • To introduce the idea we mailed postcards that said "We're getting married, you should totally come!" with the time and date and a link to our wedsite that explains the laid-back nature of this event. That might be a good compromise between FULL ON invitations and a word of mouth.

      1 agrees
      • Ok, thanks! It sounds like a Save-The-Date/Actual Invite kind of thing.

        0 agree
  19. I've found Offbeat Bride recently, and I've fallen in love with the website for all the people who've developed my same ideas that family & friends just don't seem to understand.

    After months (make that 15 months) of deliberating, my fiancé and I married (no pun intended) our two best ideas: a destination marriage and an elopement. My verbal wedding invitation follows: "We are having a planned elopement in Sonoma, to which we would be overjoyed if you could attend!" All I get are confused faces and questions of the authenticity of the "elopement".

    My thoughts? We're getting married on a certain day and a certain time, whether or not anybody else shows up. Of course we would much prefer the company. However, my guests's confusion makes me question if ideas too far out-of-the-box are incomprehensible to some?

    0 agree
    • we're in the same boat. the family seems to be very confused about what we're doing but like you we pretty much are saying that we're getting married and you're welcome to join us. for some family members we are just saying we're having a very nice dinner you're invited to it and we happen to be getting married before hand.

      It has created a bit of tension with my traditional mother but you can't please everyone and we're having the wedding the way we are mainly to please the family. If it were up to us, it would be a straight up, just us, and tell no one until after elopement.

      0 agree
  20. Did you guys actually send out invitations for this? What did they say? My fiance and I are planning on doing this as well, in Vegas (!), and I'm just wondering if we should just tell people, or if we should still order invites.

    0 agree
    • You could order some invites, maybe ixnaying the RSVPs (unless you really needed a head count for some reason) and all the fluff inside and just keep it really simple. Folks like to know logistics. Your invite could also just be an evite or email or something (or both paper and internet). Or you could invite like a small number of people and tell them to "pass it on, open invitation". But yes, no matter which way you do it (and depending on how little or much you care about whom would be attending), tell folks.

      0 agree
  21. I too am in love with this mentality and am applying it to the bigger wedding idea…might actually work for us since pretty much everyone is travelling (to some degree or another) to our venue….its up in the mountains….great idea!

    0 agree
  22. @Megan Finley I'm so in love with this idea. Hopefully I don't change my mind once again. This is what I'm gonna try to plan for next October in myrtle beach. You snail mailed post cards to invite people to see y'all elope. Then you also did RSVP cards as well? Maybe I read something in the thread wrong Hmmm? Help please.

    0 agree
    • Hey Charla, we sent out post cards with the initial "we're getting married, you should totally come" for the Save the Dates — you know, since some people need some major time to save up the $. Then sent out invitations with an actual RSVP card. That was all really important to my parents. If it were up to me now, I would just do the post cards with a link to our website where people could RSVP there. Because, it really didn't matter how many people were coming until about the week before to tell the restaurant how many chairs/tables we'd need.

      1 agrees

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