The verdict is in: eloping is back, and experiencing something of a renaissance.
While we’re under no illusion that going against the grain of a traditional wedding can feel like an impossible feat, millennial couples are embracing less conventional nuptials like never before – and the tacky bright lights of Vegas are nowhere to be seen.
And who can blame them? When the stress of organising the seating plans and the table arrangements gets to be too much, the fantasy of running off to some flower-covered hills for a simple ceremony can be all too appealing.
And with the average UK wedding now costing around £27,000, shooting up to an eye-watering £38,000 in London, eloping can lead to some serious penny saving.
Maybe that’s why we’re getting hitched later in life than previous generations – after all, the average age for marriage now sits at 30 for women and 32 for men, according to the Office for National Statistics.
If you’re thinking of swapping a traditional wedding in favour of eloping and are looking for some inspiration, or if you’re merely curious about what eloping involves, this one’s for you.
Here, meet three millennial couples who took the leap and shunned tradition for an intimate exchange of nuptials abroad in the most beautiful of settings.
“We felt closer than ever, just the two of us”: Kate and Jordan
Kate Spiers, 26, is a blogger. Her husband Jordan, 30, is a barista and they both live in Glasgow. They decided to elope to New York City having been together for nearly six years.
“Jordan and I met after my friends dragged me along to see his band play a gig, and then we added each other on MySpace. And now here we are six years later – married.
We decided to elope for many reasons. Firstly, our families live at opposite ends of the world (mine in New Zealand, Jordan’s in the UK) and it seemed a big ask to get everyone to travel for us.
Plus, I wasn’t keen on being in the spotlight and neither of us wanted our loved ones to go to any trouble for us - whether that be travelling or spending money.
I must admit that I didn’t really grasp the cost of a wedding until we were engaged. Is anyone in their twenties in a position to drop thousands of pounds on one day? Money was a factor, but only because it seemed like it could have been better spent – and we’ve since been on a couple of really fun trips with of our would-have-been wedding fund.
We decided to get married in New York City because it’s a place that’s special to us, and we’ve had some of our best memories there. It all just seemed to fall into place when we first decided to do it.
Eloping was definitely less stressful – although we tried to keep it a secret, which was one of the hardest things ever! I think big weddings are perfect for some, but not all of us are traditional or willing to plan (or pay!) for an extravagant affair.
I actually got my dress online which was tricky. We only decided to elope a couple of months before we did it, and apparently you usually find your dress a year or so before your big day (who knew?!) Luckily I managed to get it altered and it was lovely in the end, but it was definitely a little stressful.
One thing we really loved about eloping was that we could pick and choose the parts of a traditional wedding that suited us. I didn't want to walk down an aisle, and we skipped the hen and stag parties, but we wanted to write our own vows. We also had a wedding reception party when we got home and chose our best friends to do speeches.
The wedding felt surreal in the days leading up to it, especially as we didn’t even tell anyone we were going to New York. Wandering the hot, noisy streets of Manhattan in a jet-lagged daze made us feel ecstatic about what we were about to do.
Then we FaceTimed our nearest and dearest from Central Park – still in our wedding gear. Everyone was shocked but so happy for us. It was a crazy day!
My advice for anyone wishing to elope? Tell your family and friends afterwards. That way they can only be happy for you, and if they’re upset at not being invited, explain your reasoning and move on from the subject.
It’s been almost five months and we’re so glad we did something that was a little bit crazy and more “us” than a traditional wedding. I get emails every day from readers wishing to elope, and I've actually had a few messages from happy brides who have done the same thing as us.
I think we felt closer than ever being just the two of us, in our favourite city, with one big secret on our hands. It was like being in a little bubble.”
Kate and Jordan’s wedding photographer was Phil Chester
“We wanted to have a simple, intimate ceremony”: Leena and Umesh
Leena Patel, 31, is a doctor. Her husband, Umesh Mistry, 36, is a technology project manager and they both live in Manchester. They decided to elope to Ibiza having been together for two and half years.
“Umesh and I met on an online dating website two and half years ago.
We’re currently in the process of organising a big Hindu wedding here in the UK, and we soon realised it was becoming more and more impersonal. We wanted to have a simple, intimate ceremony where we could share our deepest feelings and make our promises to each other, in a place that felt very special to us.
We go to Ibiza every year and the magical island holds a lot of special memories. It made complete sense that this should be the place where we seal our fate as husband and wife and start our new journey together.
We only told our immediate families and very close friends what we were planning to do. Though everyone wanted to come with us, they understood why we wanted to keep it private.
I wore a simple, lightweight, elegant gown from the Wed2B collection, and Umesh wore a wedding suit from ASOS.
As well as the obvious benefits of being able to keep your ceremony incredibly romantic and private, when you are alone, you really are able to kick back and fully relax. There's no worries about whether your aunt has had enough to eat or if your uncle is having a good time. You're allowed to be wrapped up in each other and indulge in each and every moment you have together.
We’re still having a wedding in the UK. But if this had been our only wedding, we would have saved around £30,000.
I think those closest to you will understand why you chose to go abroad when you explain the reasons. A nice middle ground would be to have a party when you return home so that your loved ones can celebrate with you and feel included in your happiness.
And the beauty of eloping abroad means the honeymoon is tied into your wedding, without any added expense.
We can honestly say there isn't a single thing we would change. It really was beyond perfect.”
Leena and Umesh’s wedding photographer was Nigel Edgecombe
“We spent less than half the price of a UK wedding”: Ellenor and Lee
Ellenor Griffin, 26, is a marketing executive and lifestyle blogger at Champagne Lifestyle. Her husband Lee, 32, is a speciality coffee consultant, and they both live in Leeds. They decided to elope to New York City having been together for nearly five years.
“My friend introduced Lee and I at a pub quiz night, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that she lured me out for lunch under the false pretence that it was just her and I. When we arrived Lee was there thinking he was meeting just our friend – who quickly ditched us. We ended up going out for coffee and then I asked him on a date. The rest is history, as they would say.
And it will be five years this November that we have been together.
We’d always wanted to have our wedding abroad but we gave into family pressure and started looking at options here in the UK. But no matter how small we went, everything was so expensive. At the time of planning, our friends were also getting married and spending tens of thousands of pounds on their weddings and it seemed to be so much money for not much return. For less than half the price of a UK wedding we got a full week in New York City, as well as the outdoor wedding we wanted. At the end of the day we weren’t so bothered about the wedding - we just wanted to be married and enjoy our adventure together.
We loved the idea of New York. Lee had never been before and I had only been once at university, but I fell in love with the city. New York is so easy to get married in – you apply for a licence and you can get married anywhere within 24 hours of getting it! I desperately wanted to get married under the bridge next to the Presbyterian Fountain a la Chuck and Blair (from Gossip Girl) but you can’t get a venue license for it. So the Ladies’ Pavilion in Central Park was the perfect second choice.
If we had more money I would have loved to have brought family and friends out there to join us in the adventure. Looking back, I would have changed my hair but I still love it!
From a practical point of view, I also wish we’d picked up more copies of our marriage certificate, because the DVLA and passport office only take the original (when changing your name), so if it ever gets lost in the post, it will be a pain to get another one.
But we really did get to plan our day without worrying whether the guests are going to like it or not. Eloping means you can really tailor the day for just the two of you – plus you get to spend more of the day with your partner, which is what weddings should be about. Depending on your location, you can have an amazing adventure together – for us, the day is so much more memorable now.
If the upset of leaving your family and friends behind is really getting to you, then eloping might not be the best option. Whilst the pressure was there from our own friends and family, we never once questioned if we should change our plans. I would advise you to give it a lot of thought and then own your decision. There are so many people who will say you’re being impulsive and that you’re going against the norm of a traditional wedding, but in the world we live in today – what is the norm? Your wedding is what you make of it and if that’s spending loads of money and having loads of friends and family around you, that’s great! And if that’s being on a beach just the two of you – then that’s great too!
In our eyes, New York City was both a wedding and a honeymoon. We want to ensure we always go away on our anniversary – whether it be a staycation or abroad. So that’s our plans for next April.”
Ellenor and Lee’s wedding photographer was Adam Paul Verity