August 31, 2020, will go down in my history book as one of the happiest days of my life. On this sunny afternoon, my partner asked me to marry him — and I excitedly agreed! Usually, we would have planned a lavish affair with our favorite champagne and all of our beloved friends and family members. But with the state of the world and the continued threat of COVID-19, we’ve decided to scratch the traditional approach of saying ‘I do.’ Instead, we are researching safe ways to pair together an elopement with a fun honeymoon somewhere warm and magical, just the two of us. Not only are we excited to make some lemonade-colored memories out of a lemon of a year, but we are also seeking the silver financial lining of opting out of a wedding.
We aren’t alone in this decision, considering elopements are trending across the world. Many couples, like us, don’t want to wait to start our married life together. As accredited financial counselor for Self Financial Lauren Bringle explains, the beauty of an elopement is found in saving significant cash and having more control over the celebration itself. The average wedding in the United States costs around $33,000, while an elopement, Bringle says, could cost as little as $200… And there are plenty of other perks. Wedding and financial pros weigh in on why an elopement could be the best decision you make for the start of your marriage.
Your guest list is smaller
And by small, I mean the entire list could be a grand total of: you, your fiancé, and the officiant. Cutting down on your guest list is the most impactful way to lower your spend, since a good portion of your budget is allocated to your beloved circle, according to Kylie Carlson, the owner of The Wedding Academy. Just think about it: you pay per invite/save-the-date, rentals for the reception, food and beverage, and so on. “By eliminating those costs, elopements tend to be much cheaper than the traditional wedding,” she shares.
Bringle puts it in easy-to-digest numbers: $50 per plate is considered extremely reasonable for many venues or caterers. If you invite 100 people, that’s $5,000 on food alone. It can add up quickly.
You don’t have to say ‘I do’ on the weekend
As the world shut down around us in 2020, couples scrambled to figure out what “Plan B” might look like. When months passed, and the pandemic continued far longer than anyone anticipated, couples negotiated with their vendors to reschedule for 2021. But then when newly engaged duos also began scheduling for 2021, it became difficult to find any openings, especially for high-demand venues throughout the country.
This was an incredibly stressful and time-consuming experience for so many couples… Elopements, however, can be planned in an extremely short time frame, and they don’t have to adhere to the same rules. One of those is rules is when you get married. My partner and I are tentatively thinking about a Tuesday in June, and we won’t start the planning process until March. As Jules Sharpley, the founder of Bubbles & Bowties, shares “there is also so much more flexibility in where you go and what you do on the day because you only have to account for the two of you — and maybe your planner, photographer, an officiant, and possibly a videographer,” she continues. “There is flexibility in where you choose to have a ceremony, where you choose to dine, how you choose to dine, where you go for photography, and how you structure your day.”
You have an intimate and inexpensive hitching now — and save for a reception later
If you’re wondering why we’re pondering becoming husband and wife on a Tuesday, it’s because in 2024, it falls on a Saturday. We hope that we can have a big anniversary, reception-like celebration with all our friends and family for our third anniversary. And, all the money we would have spent on a traditional wedding, we’re planning to put into a high-yield savings account so we’ll have more to shell out in a handful of years. Many couples are going this route, according to Tommy Waters, the event and wedding coordinator for The Renaissance.
Plus, it’s sort of the happy medium of this strange time: you don’t have settle for an event you don’t want to have (i.e., no dance floors, limited capacity) and instead, make it official and have the party you’ve always dreamed of a little later. “I’d much rather help someone create a once-in-a-lifetime memory with an elopement than have them settle for a larger event where the day is not something they have dreamed of,” he continues. “Ff elopements are a way to make [a couple] happy, and we can plan a larger family/friend-driven event, later on, then my choice is a simple one. With the cost savings of not planning a huge reception ‘now’, they can just bank that money, and plan something later on, and still not go over their budget.”
You don’t — technically — need a venue
Since you only have to consider yourself and your soon-to-be-spouse, there’s no real reason to select a venue. Want to say exchange vows underneath a waterfall? Go for it. On a mountaintop on skis? Sure thing. What about the private beach in front of an Airbnb you rent? Why not? As Sara Skirboll, the shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot explains, large gatherings require a proper place to accommodate the vast amount of guests attending, which comes with a multi-thousand dollar bill. But with an elopement, you can select a meaningful location from your relationship and/or shared passions. “Couples are free to choose smaller venues or locations that have special meanings tied to them, such as the park where they had their first date or a family home. No rules and no restrictions here either — and better yet, a much cheaper price tag,” she adds. And, of course, there’s also good old-fashioned City Hall.
You save money sans-wedding party
As Brooke Avishay from Orange Blossom Special Events explains, an elopement means not having to coordinate a wedding party. And although being surrounded by friends on your day is a beautiful thing, not having a party saves a ton of money. “You don’t need to purchase bridesmaids/groomsmen gifts, bouquets and boutonnieres, or meals for them and their dates. This definitely saves some green,” she explains. “I love a big wedding, and I make a living from them, but I can certainly see why some couples opt to skip the party and keep the milestone intimate.”
You plan for the marriage, not the wedding
Another reason I’m going the elopement route is because we are in our early 30s, and we’d like to have a child one day. The longer we put off a wedding, the longer we delay having children, since we both would like to be married before starting our family. Without spending a pretty penny for a large celebration, we will have more substantial funds to plan for our marriage and the goals we hope to achieve together. Bringle says this is likely one of the most impactful financial benefits of an elopement. “I’ve seen some couples who spend every last cent they have on a big blowout wedding, then move in with their in-laws afterward because they couldn’t afford living expenses on their own,” she continues. “ Don’t plan for the wedding without planning for your future. Especially since major financial strain and disagreements are leading indicators for divorce. After all, imagine how much closer $33,000 dollars could take you towards your other goals.”
MORE ON HERMONEY:
- In Sickness And In Health: 4 Tips For Changing Your Wedding Plans Due To COVID-19
- How To Say ‘No’ To A Wedding Invitation
- Why Did My Mortgage Feel So Much More Serious Than My Marriage?
- The Financial Pros And Cons Of Marriage
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