love these days

It’s a Great Time to Elope

Illustration: By Stevie Remsberg

Some people spend their whole lives imagining their wedding day. A room filled with family and friends, all gathered to usher them into their next phase in life. A celebration of love and joy. Fancy clothes, fresh flowers, a dance floor. A bunch of big, round tables and a dinner choice of meat, fish, or vegetarian. You and your beloved saying hello to every guest and then almost immediately saying, “Well, we have to go make the rounds!” It’s a lovely scene.

But what if you decided to forgo it entirely?

I’m not currently in a position to get married. I am not planning a wedding, nor am I someone who had to scramble to reschedule a formerly planned wedding due to the pandemic. But here is what I think, and I do urge you to listen: It is a great time for you to abandon the idea of a wedding and elope.

Who is your wedding for? I would take some time to consider the question. It could be that your wedding is for you, that you’ve been waiting your whole life to have it, and that you would rather not throw the opportunity away because of our current global situation. Well, this suggestion is not for you then. I encourage you to still have your wedding sometime in the future, particularly if it’s the wedding I’m looking forward to going to the most (my friend Allie’s).

It could also be, though, that your wedding is mostly for your family. Maybe you don’t care about having the big day all that much, and you’re starting to believe that a cycle of familial guilt is what’s driving a couple to throw a wedding and force their family to attend (plus various costly pre- and post-wedding get-togethers), even though almost no one in the entire scenario really wants to do any of it.

I understand this guilt and imagine I’ll succumb to it myself if Domhnall Gleeson ever responds to my marriage proposal. But you, “lucky” you, have an excuse to break it.

Several states, including New York and California, now allow marriage licenses to be issued via videoconferencing. If you were already planning on getting married — or if you just want to consider getting it over with — a quick and easy, private and inexpensive marriage ceremony is possible, and there are several good, obvious reasons to do it. No one needs to know it’s because you never wanted to have a wedding anyway and you’re using the timing to your advantage.

The history of elopement is somewhat dicey. I hesitate to even bring it up, as it seems it was often used to subvert age-of-consent laws or steal women otherwise. But there has been increased interest in the practice as of late, in part because many people are waiting longer to get married. According to a survey from Helzberg Diamonds, 91 percent of millennials surveyed would consider eloping, and three out of five married couples surveyed said that if they could do it over again, they would have eloped. There are even elopement planners with reasonable price points, as well as elopement planners with unreasonable price points.

According to a survey from wedding-planning website the Knot, the average amount spent on weddings nationally in 2019 was $33,900. Whether this was ever a good amount to spend on a party is up for debate, but with the country sliding toward a new Great Depression, I think the amount would now give pause to even the comfortably wealthy among us. Who could fault you for wanting to save rather than spend?

For attendees, weddings often include travel, and gift purchasing, and outfit purchasing, and hotel-room purchasing. And isn’t it nice that you’re thinking of your relatives, preventing them from having to make these difficult financial and travel decisions? Not to mention preventing them, also, from having to consider entering into a sweaty dance-floor situation that I’m sure many are going to be uncomfortable with for a long time to come.

But what if you had already planned a now-rescheduled wedding and would lose your deposits in the transition to an elopement? That’s a difficult one. You’ll have to answer that for yourself, but I’d suggest you consider not throwing good money after bad. You’ll have an even better case for just succumbing to your unfortunate circumstances; no one could ever pin it on you that you’d wanted to do this all along. Instead of sending out a card informing your attendees of an impending new wedding date, how about a card saying “WE ELOPED!”?

And for the rest of you? Imagine it now: Either you tell no one or you tell your immediate family and close friends. You have a quick, dreaded Zoom with a county clerk and get married. Then you send an email to your entire extended family and all of your friends and even some of the second-tier friends who probably wouldn’t have gotten invited to the wedding anyway: “WE GOT MARRIED!” And then … it’s over.

The announcement would offer a bit of happiness and a bit of hope for the future. Family members who would otherwise be miffed at the idea of an elopement wouldn’t be angry that you’d left them out of your big day. Instead, they would likely feel sorry for you, under the incorrect impression that you probably would have preferred a large, expensive wedding, if only it weren’t for the current circumstances. Maybe they would still send you a gift.

After you sent your announcement email, you’d look over at your loved one and think about how lucky you are. You’d put on your fancy clothes and pour some Champagne. You’d have a dance in your living room and a nice meal together. You wouldn’t have to make sure anyone else was having fun; you wouldn’t have to “make the rounds.” You’d just have to be in love.

It would be perfect. And you would be married.


It’s a Great Time to Elope