Weddings vs. Elopements

Apr 6, 2022 | Prenuptial Agreements, Relationships, Wedding

Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the USA in 2019 was $28,000 (Knueven, 2021)? For many, that could be the equivalent of about one year of income. It’s enough for a 2-year career break traveling and adventuring in affordable tropical countries, a new car, a master’s degree, or over a year’s worth of rent at $2k per month. Add on to the price tag the fact that millennials are more frugal than previous generations, and that they have a penchant for re-writing tradition and the sum equals a substantial rise in elopements among millennials (Dickinson, 2018). In fact, a whopping 91% of millennials who intend to get married in the future said that they would consider eloping, and three out of five millennial couples who were already married reported that given the opportunity for a do-over, they would elope (Sims, 2019).

Millennial celebrity couples are also jumping on the elopement bandwagon; Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner eloped in Las Vegas in 2019, opting for a ceremony officiated by an Elvis Presley impersonator. Similarly, Miley Cyrus and Liam Helmsworth (now separated) had a spontaneous wedding at home with just a few friends and family members present (Sims, 2019). And, eloping does not have to mean excluding one’s loved ones or wider network; many couples (Including Jonas and Turner) who choose to elope also host big receptions later on for family and friends (Sims, 2019).

Once a secretive, spontaneous, and even rebellious venture, elopements today are more common, more organized, and more accepted (Dickinson, 2018). They now often involve small groups of family and friends coming along for the ride–just not in as large numbers or with as much fanfare as with a traditional wedding. Elopement has become a booming business; a plethora of agencies offer couples everything they need to get married at a premium, often in fairy-tale destinations overseas. 

The New York-based agency Eloping is Fun has seen their earnings double year-over-year during the four years they’ve been in business (Grimm, 2017).  A similar company, the Elopement Collective, has hosted many couples from around the world in New Zealand, Australia, Bali, and the USA. They frame elopement as a celebration of marriage, whereas in their eyes traditional weddings have become  less about the union itself and more about the hosting of a wedding (Elopement Collective, n.d.). And they have a point–hosting a major event, with all the energy that goes into planning your wedding, can take away from the intimacy of what you’re actually doing: committing to another human being for the rest of your life, to the unique story you’re writing together, and to navigating the challenges that come your way together. When done in unison with hosting a massive event, the magnitude of such a commitment can easily be overshadowed by seating arrangements, coordination of vendors, and endless other logistical tasks—not to mention the need to try to make small talk with hundreds of guests. Therefore, some couples feel that eloping allows them to focus on honoring the bond they’ve built and the commitment they’re making.

One bride-to-be shared the story of why she and her fiancé decided to elope. Keri, 31, disclosed that she and her partner had been planning a conventional wedding and had gone as far as selecting a date and venue and whittling down the guest list to 150. The price was going to be around $16,000 (which is less than average) and Keri was dismayed thinking that such a huge investment was only going to go towards one eight-hour ordeal. During a trip to Colorado, however, she experienced an a-ha moment in realizing that she could plan a much cheaper, more fun, less stressful, and longer wedding experience by taking a less conventional route. She and her fiance decided to take a group vacation with 10 friends to Rocky Mountain National Park, rent a cabin together, and get married in the middle of their holiday. Even factoring in the cost of flights, cabin rental, a white dress, and a wedding photographer, their new plan will total $2,500 (less than one sixth of the original event), last a few days longer, and will likely be less stressful (Grimm, 2017).  

Aside from the cost and intimacy of eloping, the amount of people involved in elopement versus in a traditional wedding also means that your big day is less likely to become a COVID-19 super spreader event if you elope, and you’re also less likely to encounter wedding-related family drama or issues that sometimes spring from the combination of in-laws + wedding planning, for example. 

However, not everyone feels the same way about eloping. There are also a host of downsides to consider before you write off hosting a more traditional wedding. 

For one thing, parents might not immediately be happy to hear that a child wants to elope. Many elopements involve only the couple and the necessary officiant and witnesses, without the involvement of any friends or family. Most baby boomer parents of eloping couples hosted traditional weddings when they got married themselves, and some are apt to feel hurt or take it personally if a child wants to get married without them present. If you and your fiancé are considering eloping, make sure you explain to your parents your reasons for doing so and make sure you verbalize and demonstrate that you care about them. You might also plan wedding-related events that your family can take part in, such as a family photoshoot or special pre- or post-marriage family-only dinner (Tigar, 2021). 

On a similar note, friends with whom you’ve developed deep bonds or known for a long time might also feel slighted if they discover via Facebook that you eloped over the weekend—especially if you were invited to their wedding. If you do decide to elope, you can help them feel included by clueing them in before the big day. Let them know that you’re eloping, explain why you have made that choice, and ask them not to tell anyone. Letting them in on the secret prior to telling the world can help avoid hurt feelings (Tigar, 2021). You might even ask for their blessing as a way of showing them that they matter to you, or you could ask them to help you plan a bachelor or bachelorette party even though the wedding won’t be traditional. 

Another con to eloping that many couples don’t consider is that certain wedding customs that are part of a traditional ceremony and reception, some of which you may have always dreamed of participating in, may not be part of an elopement package. For example, you may not get to walk down the aisle, toss a bouquet into the outstretched arms of your best friends, cut the cake and feed it to your betrothed, have a first dance, or prepare for the ceremony in the company of a wedding party. If you do decide to elope, make sure the benefits of foregoing these and other elements of a traditional wedding outweigh the disadvantages (Tigar, 2021). 

Weddings are also a practical way for newly-married couples to kick-start their home lives. Since guests typically gift home accessories and furnishings with hefty price tags, many couples have come to rely on their weddings for their first home goods. With a small or nonexistent guest list, the gift list will shrink proportionally. Moreover, traditional weddings often involve keepsakes; an expensive wedding dress can be passed down to future children, or flowers from the big day can be dried and preserved (Tigar, 2021). These things are of course possible with an elopement as well, but keepsake opportunities might be fewer or harder to manufacture when you’re wearing a rented dress during your short time slot in the courthouse in Cyprus. 

Of course, elopement and big, traditional weddings are not the only possibilities. Many couples choose to strike a happy medium by planning small, simple ceremonies in or near where they live and inviting just 20-50 guests. One example of this happy medium is the case of Ari, age 31, who rented a large Airbnb property in the countryside for the weekend and invited friends and family to come camp on the land. Rather than hiring caterers, friends and family cooked simple dishes. After the ceremony, the newlyweds and the guests went for a hike together. The price tag was many thousands of dollars less than a traditional ceremony, and its quirkiness made it unforgettable for everyone involved (Ari C., Personal Communication, 11 August, 2018) . Wedding planning these days is only limited by the limits of one’s own creativity. 

Whether you choose to elope, host an elaborate traditional wedding, or strike a balance between the two extremes, there’s one common denominator no matter what: You’re going to need a prenup! If you’re thinking about getting married and you haven’t written your prenup yet, we recommend getting started as soon as possible. You should have your prenup finalized at least a month or more prior to the big day so that you can focus on getting married, and in order to think carefully about what you’d like to include you should start discussing your prenup a few months before that. Some couples (standing ovation for you guys!) start discussing their prenups even before getting engaged. 

The financial aspect of your relationship is not to be minimized. Getting married often means merging your income and assets; doing so without a prenup means being at the mercy of the divorce laws of your state if things don’t work out some years down the road. And, financial conflicts are unfortunately one of the top reasons for divorce. A prenup doesn’t only help you make a contingency plan, it also lays out detailed plans and agreements for your financial future as a married couple. 

Putting the requisite time and energy into this process can help fortify your marriage against the financial disagreements that you might have later on without a prenup. 

Letting Hello Prenup’s interactive, personalized software help you thoughtfully handle the most important aspect of wedding planning will also alleviate the stress and high price of doing so with attorneys. Here’s how it works; check it out if you haven’t already! 

 

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. HelloPrenup, LLC (“HelloPrenup”) makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site. HelloPrenup will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at any time and without notice. HelloPrenup provides a platform for contract related self-help. The information provided by HelloPrenup along with the content on our website related to legal matters (“Information”) is provided for your private use and does not constitute legal advice. We do not review any information you provide us for legal accuracy or sufficiency, draw legal conclusions, provide opinions about your selection of forms, or apply the law to the facts of your situation. If you need legal advice for a specific problem, you should consult with a licensed attorney. Neither HelloPrenup nor any information provided by Hello Prenup is a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed to practice in an appropriate jurisdiction.

Julia Rodgers CEO helloprenupJulia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here 🤓 Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected] 

 

 

 

References

Ari C., Personal Communication, 11 August, 2018.

Dickinson, G. 2018. Why are Millennials Shunning Traditional Weddings and Eloping Overseas Instead? Retrieved from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/why-do-people-elope-overseas/

Elopement Collective. N. D. The Elopement Collective. Retrieved from: https://withers.co/elopementcollective

Grimm, B. 2017. For Millennials, Eloping is the New Lavish Wedding. Retrieved from: https://www.glamour.com/story/why-more-millennials-are-eloping

Knueven, L. 2021. The Average Wedding Cost $19,000 in 2020, About $10,000 Less Than the Year Before. Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/how-much-does-a-wedding-cost#:~:text=The%20average%20cost%20of%20a%20wedding%20in%20the%20US%20was,an%20average%20of%20%2410%2C000%20alone.

Sims, M. 2019. This is the Wedding Trend Millennials are Considering Most in 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.theknotnews.com/millennial-wedding-trend-eloping-41031#:~:text=But%20there’s%20a%20new%20trend,who’ve%20previously%20married%20too.

Tigar, L. 2021. Should You Elope? Pros and Cons of Eloping. Retrieved from: https://www.mywalletjoy.com/pros-and-cons-of-eloping/#C

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