The Pros and Cons of Eloping

Reasons to Elope, Reasons Why You Shouldn't, and a Few Simple Alternatives

married couple kissing against the sky.
Getty Images/skynesher

If you're knee-deep in wedding planning and feeling stressed out or frazzled from juggling all of the decisions, you may be thinking, "Maybe we should just elope!" You might be considering an elopement to avoid all the stress of planning your big day, but at the end of the day you need to ask yourself, is eloping for you?

So many times in the wedding planning process, a stressed out bride will exclaim "We should just elope!" But the truth is, few actually go through with it. Given the high cost of a wedding and the ease of eloping, this might be an option worth actually considering. But before you take the plunge, so to speak, you should carefully consider the pros and cons.

Reasons to Elope

Most couples who elope say that they want to save money. The cost of running away for an intimate wedding and honeymoon is typically tens of thousands of dollars less than a traditional wedding. They also say that they don't want the hassle of months of wedding planning. They may also be avoiding family arguments, especially if one partner's parents disapprove of their choice of spouse, or if a divorced set of parents can't stand to be in the same room together. There's something old-fashioned and romantic about the idea of running off to City Hall. And of course, the stereotypical Las Vegas bride is looking for spontaneity and a fun thrill.

Reasons Not to Elope

You'll be missing out on celebrating with dear friends and family and some may be miffed that you didn't include them. Mothers of the bride especially tend to have hurt feelings when they find out that their daughters didn't invite them to their wedding. If your parents already don't approve of your fiance, this might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back, and your new spouse may never have a good relationship with the family.

You'll also be missing out on the chance to fulfill your wedding dreams. Some report that after eloping, they always think about the wedding they never had. You might also miss the opportunity to reconnect with friends and loved ones who live far away but would come for a wedding. And of course, there are the pictures and memories you'll miss -- instead of looking back on pictures of yourself in a beautiful setting surrounded by loved ones, you might have only a few pics of yourself in an impersonal city hall.

If you and your fiance decide that eloping is the right option for you, consider these variations that might avoid some of the pitfalls of eloping:

  • Have a ceremony that's just the two of you, but throw a reception afterward for all your friends and family.
  • Hire a professional photographer to come with you to city hall, then send out great pictures of the event with your wedding announcement.
  • Invite your parents and best friends to come with you – the small group can go out for a celebratory dinner afterward.
  • Elope now, but make plans to have a blowout ten-year anniversary party. You might even include a cheeky note with your wedding announcements saying something like "Our wedding day was just the two of us, but we hope you'll come celebrate when we make it to ten years on June 24, 2030. "

If you do decide to elope, be sure to not act too quickly. Consider carefully where you want to marry and look into the marriage license laws. Many places don't allow you to apply for a license and marry on the same day. This is also partially why eloping to Las Vegas is so popular, as fast marriages are considerably easier there.

You'll also want to think about inviting at least a few guests. Some couples invite only their best man and maid of honor, others invite their parents. For a courthouse wedding, ask how many guests you are allowed to bring with you. Of course, you don't have to invite anyone at all; typically court clerks can stand in as witnesses.