New Wedding Trend? Elope Now, Party Later

Photo: Elizabeth Messina Photo: Elizabeth Messina

The New York Times recently published a piece about what may be a new trend in weddings: couples who elope, then celebrate with a reception-like party afterward.

The story unpacks the pros and cons of eloping — on the plus side, elopement are quick and easy, generally cost less than a traditional wedding, and suit couples looking for a more private way to say “I do.” But you’ll also have to deal with disappointed family members who might feel cheated out of a celebration.

This “elope now, party later” idea might be the perfect compromise. The couple gets the secluded ceremony they crave (or can afford), and they can host a more laid-back party or even let friends and family throw a get-together for them. Would you consider eloping, then celebrating after the fact? Do you have any friends who’ve gotten hitched this way? Let us know how it went in the comments!

> Are you eloping? Here’s how to word your party invitations

> Planning a wedding — fast? Make sure you don’t miss any to-dos with our planning checklist

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  • Natalie L
    08/06/12 at 07:29

    My husband and I are totally doing this! We eloped last Friday and we are having the party next May. Feels good to know we aren’t alone in this decision.

  • 08/06/12 at 08:02

    I’m still way too not-ready-yet to get hitched to my boyfriend (though it’s where we’re headed), but I’ve always thought eloping and partying later was the best option for both the bride & groom and their respective families. Of course, I have a “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” sized Italian family, so that ain’t happenin’. Dare to dream!

  • 08/06/12 at 08:35

    In 2004, we got married in Italy but “eloped” WITH close family members in tow. I couldn’t get married without my parents or grandmother!! So, in total, there were 14 of us that travelled to Florence for our very intimate wedding. We continued on to our honeymoon (Amalfi Coast) while some family returned to the States and some stayed to visit another city before returning home. Then about a week after our honeymoon, we had a reception locally near our hometown for extended family and friends. We didn’t repeat the ceremony, but I did get to wear my dress twice!! It was awesome and so much fun, and made our wedding last what seemed like a month. :-)

  • Mila Loves
    08/08/12 at 11:56

    Hi, where in Florence? We planned on doing that and I got overwhelmed with all the villa options and prices.

  • Lori Richmond
    08/09/12 at 01:45

    We had a civil ceremony at Palazzo Vecchio.

  • Jessica
    08/06/12 at 08:40

    My fiance come from a very traditional puerto rican family. They’d start a riot if we eloped. So we’re looking at a two year engagement so we can afford to host a big wedding in NYC.

  • Tammy
    08/07/12 at 01:40

    My fiancé and I are getting married in Jamaica. After a difficult decision and planning a very expensive ( for my budget) wedding, It was just stressing me out. We both have children from a previous marriage and really wanted to include them by all doing vows to each other. So what we have come up with is a reception immediately following our arrival to the airport. We are video taping the ceremony and changing into our wedding clothes before we get there. I am having a friend do the entire reception while we’re gone. Nothing too extravagant, as I am too picky and want nothing to do with it. We are saying our vows to this kids on video and watching it as soon as we get to the reception. We will do cake, boquet and garter toss there as well. Next best thing to everyone being there. I have even thought about shipping the DVD to my dj to have him play right before we get there.

  • Tina Chanady
    08/15/12 at 05:20

    I love the idea of showing the video before you arrive. It will set the right mood…

  • Stephanie
  • Alicia
    08/13/12 at 11:29

    My hubby and i eloped just after 3 months meeting (almost 3 months really) in a out door private ceremony in Vegas on Cinco de mayo! 5.5.2012 :D we came back and announced our engagement ;) ;) we have been planning our formal wedding (fyi: it a semi-formal black n champagne garden wedding) for next summer 13 jul 13. Although his parents found out when a piece of spam mail arrived at their house with “wedding documents” printed on the outside -_- *sigh* they at least agreed after the awkward/ shocked congratulations to keep our secret. They asked the obvious question why? Well we just knew and couldn’t wait. but we didn’t want to miss out on the party of a lifetime (or the presents :) and we didn’t want anyone to feel left out. SO… we bought a copy of the video and our ceremony pics and we are putting together a slide show to play at the beginning of the dinner by then no one can really be all that mad. Its amazing how we are reduced to sneaky little children even though we are both 30! In many ways its exciting the anticipation of the big reveal and the bond we have enjoying our Huge little secret but in others its a little trying especially since we’re are both more than ready for a baby. Now that i think about it this secret is forcing us to slow down a little and enjoy just being married and acclimating to our new multicultural (he’s polish and my family is from St. Thomas) blended family (he has a 9 y/o son and i have a 6 y/o daughter). At least i get to share my secret with you guys so excuse the over abundance of detail. I’m a LITTLE excited :D and very surprised to see this article.

  • tina
    01/28/13 at 11:49

    I’m really glad to see this; some of the people in the forums are just plain mean about not having a traditional wedding. I know this sounds callous, but I don’t much care about “disappointed” family members. This is my ceremony, not a show-and-tell parade for my extended family. Besides, I have had two cousins get married in huge ceremonies; they will have to be content with that. We will be having a small ceremony with just parents, siblings, and grandparents at the courthouse in March, then throwing a huge reception/celebration in July or August. We’re registering, but sending along a note with the invitations saying gifts aren’t necessary. We’ve lived together for four years already, so we have a lot of what we need.

  • 02/05/13 at 09:26

    I’m doing the same thing, I honestly didn’t want all the attention a “big day” gives, and was mortified of walking down the aisle while everyone stared at me, so my fiance and I are going to get married a month early, with just our two immediate families, and then have the reception for everyone a month later. I think as long as you make the reception like an actual reception –speeches, flowers, music, photobooth, something for a guestbook- like deal, or whatever you would have done otherwise…we are even going to wear our wedding day attire again (yay for wearing my dress again!) if your friends actually care about you, they will be thrilled that you had the kind of wedding you wanted, and they will still get to celebrate. All my friends realized that I was a very private person, and so I think it’ll turn out fine :)

  • 02/05/13 at 01:50

    my boyfriend and I are doing the same. I know we are getting engaged this year (that’s a surprise as to when!) and we were just discussing about eloping shortly after. We have been together for over 6 years now, and we will both finally be done with grad school so this is what we have been waiting for for a long, long time! I couldn’t stand to think of waiting another year or so to be officially married, so when our engagement is official we plan on telling (and inviting) my parents and immediate family ONLY to our “elopement.”

    I personally want to make sure we have enough $$ saved up for our wedding. So this way if I don’t feel comfortable spending the money until 2015, we both don’t actually have to wait until then to be “husband & wife.” Our wedding will be conducted as a “vow renewal” with everything else in the traditional format. I plan on buying a more casual, tea length wedding dress for our elopement and having some photos done so we have something to share with family & friends. Then for our “real” wedding I will of course have a wonderful wedding gown and all of the glitz and glam I will be saving up for ;) Definitely a smart choice for us!

  • bayley
    02/27/13 at 11:20

    This is exactly what I want to do! Me and my boyfriend hate the idea of traditional weddings. Spending all that money to throw a party for everyone else! We feel that getting married should be intimate and just between the couple. So most likely we will get eloped, and then go on a vacation/honeymoon afterwards. Then we will host a little “just married” party so family and friends can celebrate or bring gifts, but it will be casual :)

  • Cassandra
    03/06/13 at 04:02

    So I have been trying to get ideas from Pinterest about what kind of wedding I wanted. I found the colors, the flowers everything I wanted to do for the wedding. But there are a few reasons why we are deciding to elope. Everyone in my boyfriends family is making everything a competition as far as who has the best wedding. Also my mother is being a control freak. I have aunts and uncles from my dads side I don’t really care for, who I would have to invite. I was stressing out about money and was thinking about me. My boyfriend has wanted a small wedding from day one and it is IMPOSSIBLE to do with both of our parents being divorced and remarried. So we are gonna go to the court house on a Friday and leave to our honeymoon right after. My mother is not happy but it’s not about her or anyone else. I want to have a special day with the one I love. I want the photographer to be our only witness so we have pictures. Also I want to have the reception the weekend after but be very casual and cheap. I have been going back and forth if this is what I truly want and I decided IF i feel a hole I can always have a renewal in ten years. So I feel this is really the right thing for me. Don’t feel selfish do what feels right! A wedding is between you and the one you love.

  • jon
    03/07/13 at 12:29

    We just did this, and now her dad is furious. He wants to have our marriage annulled so that he can “walk his little girl down the aisle.” This is exactly why i hate weddings. No matter how you plan it, someone is always butt hurt.

  • Kim
    03/14/13 at 06:04

    I really love this idea that way both my fiance and I can have what we want. I would ideally like to get married sooner and in a more intimate setting while he would like to have a large event with our families. The stress of planning something so far into the future and not having exactly what I want has been cause a lot of stress and depression on myself about it that I’ve almost wanted to give up completely. This way we can celebrate twice in two different ways over two years.
    Anyone who has done it- how many people did you tell that you eloped? I wouldn’t want to have to keep it a secret for over a year but I would still have a ceremony the second time

  • kimart1205
    03/18/13 at 09:44

    Hey Kim from what I have heard, immediate family (parents, siblings) sometimes are told in advance of an elopement and then other family & friends are told afterwards. I dont think you would be able to keep it a secret for very long lol.. plus eloping isn’t about it be “secret” after it’s done, it should only be a secret beforehand to avoid the stress, etc! Hope that helps :)
    -Kim

  • Heather
    05/03/13 at 01:55

    I really love the idea of eloping but we are unsure of the etiquette on some things. My fiance and I are both pretty private so we are looking to do something low key and intimate. My family is really supportive of the idea and thinks that we are justified in making the decision to be non-traditional, but a few of his relatives take our choice to not include everyone personally. We are planning to have a reception a few months afterward so that we can celebrate with our friends and family casually.Anyone else planning on doing this type of wedding?

  • Sam
    05/24/13 at 01:00

    We are also “eloping”, but only in the sense that it will be just the two of us. Everyone knows our intentions and has been told to keep the day of our big party open. The only downside thus far is that our party (suggested by & paid for by my MIL) has become the reception I never wanted to plan! (how to word invites? who to leave out to keep the guest list at 100? do we rewear our attire? Etc etc)

  • Shelley
    06/13/13 at 05:11

    My fiancé and I are not big on being the center of attention and definitely don’t need the stress or debt that even the most normal weddings cause. So we’ve decided on a nice destination wedding with immediate family only (since neither sides have met before). It’s costing more than I thought, but it gives everyone time to get to know one another while getting a vacation at the same time.

    We’re doing a JOP ceremony in two weeks and having our symbolic ceremony in 9 months.

    We want to celebrate with friends and family, too, but figured we could focus on them after my fiancé has completed a 1-year assignment overseas. So we figured a combined Welcome Home/1-year Anniversary BBQ would be the best opportunity for everyone to celebrate.

    It’s definitely not traditional, but it suits us and I can’t wait for what’s to come!

  • samantha
    06/20/13 at 09:40

    I loved reading your comments.
    I am also considering eloping, but I am worried I will regret not having an awesome party. He is Puerto Rican and I am Italian and we love to party!
    My father has agreed to pay for a honeymoon in Italy if we skip the tradtional reception.
    Is there a way to have both with some compromise? Where do you have a small party?

  • Lauren
    07/01/13 at 05:26

    Could you do a post on what to wear to that kind of after party? I’m invited to one in two weeks not sure what to wear I’m 15 and have a chiffon dress i could wear but its white! It has a black tie around the waist and a black band at the bottom. Please help ??

  • 07/23/13 at 03:04

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    a crowd of West Bromwich’s finest Year 11’s applauded our progress through an industrial estate.
    7 Quite often you should do fine. Haleigh was last
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  • Ashley Young
    12/03/13 at 10:18

    My finance are planning to elope sometime this Spring, hopefully around March. I’m currently in grad school and will graduate in May. Is there a timeline that you recommend between the time you marry and when you throw the party? Also, if you serve dinner but keep it casual, is it rude to register?

  • Ashley Young
    12/03/13 at 10:21

    Also, is there anyway to avoid all the typical things you see at a reception (cake cutting, toasts, first dance, etc) but still call it a wedding celebration? I truly just want to have a fun party and hopefully with friends and family and, if we’re lucky, get a few gifts.

  • Amber
    12/04/13 at 12:40

    Ashley, we eloped in NYC in late September & had our party on November 1st (we spent a few weeks in Europe in between and needed the time to plan and get over the jet lag!).

    We did not have a traditional reception. We did have a first dance… but not until 2 am when we finally remembered! Cake was replaced by pie that we precut. We registered against our will/better judgement and ending up loving it – turns out we wanted gifts more than we thought! Our reception was costly, at least that of a reception and the elopement itself was a budget buster. There was no savings for us in eloping but only because we did exactly what we wanted! Do what you want to do, how you want to do it – your friends & family will forgive you! There really is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’!

  • Laura
    01/14/14 at 03:30

    Amber this is exactly what we are planning. Did you re-wear your wedding dress or just wear something more casual?

  • Meghan
    06/28/14 at 09:25

    My husband and I eloped in Sedona. My sister officiated and my best friend and his wife were the only guests in attendance. We videotaped the 5 minute ceremony to play at our reception. The reception party is scheduled for October, around one year after the elopement date. We are inviting around 100 people and my husband’s mother is helping with the food, my mother is making our cake and I have been working on the decorations and music list in an effort to save on cost. We also created homemade invites as well. There was no stress at all in eloping and I have no regrets. I wanted something intimate because it was really only about us and I didn’t want to be stressed out.

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Escort cards are extremely easy to personalize and an excellent way to bring in your wedding day colors -- from calligraphed seating cards set atop a textured linen to apples tagged with each guest's name or small personalized bundles of lavender tied off with string. Other ways to display escort cards: Pin them to a clothesline, post them on a board covered in color-coordinated ribbon, or incorporate them into your cocktail hour using personalized stirrers tagged with guests' names.
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