I am delighted to bring you an interview with Carly, the wonderful lady who runs epicelopement.co.uk helping you fulfill your dream of eloping.
I met Carly during a twitter chat hour, and as some of you may know, I’ve always been a fan of the idea of eloping. When my husband and I started early stages of wedding planning I showed him my own personal favourite location to elope to – Gretna Green – but he was dead set against the idea much to my disappointment.
Over the years I’ve known many couples who have chosen to elope, friends of mine have gotten married in Cyprus, Gretna Green and Las Vegas, and another friend is planning her own elopement to Venice.
If you’re toying with the idea of eloping, or struggling to get your plans off the ground read on for Carly’s experience, hints and tips…
Once you’d made the decision to elope, how did you find the planning?
I enjoyed planning my elopement very much and wish I could do it every day. My husband and I both enjoyed our previous trip to Las Vegas and we were really looking forward to going back.
My main issue was finding suppliers who were happy to work with me from afar and who I could trust to turn up on the day! That was why we ended up going with a chapel rather than an officiant who worked independently. I could live if my photographer didn’t turn up but I wouldn’t gamble with the actual ceremony.
I did most of my planning using visual searches like Pinterest and Instagram. I find images much easier to search by and that’s how we managed to find most of our supplier and location ideas. I found having a couple of friends who knew what was going on kept me sane so whilst I wouldn’t recommend everyone fly their best mates with them you should find someone you can confide in. You will need them for something, in my case it was a dress intervention when my love of vintage dresses got a bit out of hand!
Did you have any second thoughts or any negative reactions to your decision?
Not at all. My now husband and I had been together for nearly 10 years by the time we eloped and I don’t think anyone ever expected us to have a big white wedding. Having worked in weddings previously including traditional bridal magazines and wedding planning, I honestly couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less than choose chair covers and attend menu tastings.
We told our parents just before we left so it wouldn’t shock them too much. I think my parents were a bit upset they weren’t coming along but I knew I couldn’t pay for my whole family to come along and it didn’t seem fair to put that financial pressure on them to afford it.
I never had any second thoughts about eloping. Once we had gone from joking about it to starting to plan it seemed so natural and easy for us that I couldn’t imagine us having a normal wedding.
What budget did you initially set, and how far off of this budget did you end up being?
We didn’t have a budget as such to start with but I did do research on average costs and all the options we could have. I am really careful with money and, whilst I didn’t want to scrimp on our wedding day, I didn’t want to get us into debt for the sake of a marriage certificate. I knew what market value of certain things was and made sure we shopped around for everything. I also avoided anything that shouted “wedding” like bridal dresses and accessories so avoided any of the additional costs that come with specifically buying for a wedding.
Our travel was our biggest cost at around £1200 for the two of us but because we had been to Las Vegas before I knew we could get good deals on hotels so this balanced out the cost of the whole holiday. People think of Las Vegas as being very expensive but, it can be great value with some amazing hotels and free things to do.
Chapels all have easy to find costs and packages on their websites so we looked through variations of the classic chapel package (basic ceremony, a few photos, limo hire etc) and narrowed it down to a few chapels that we liked and then went with the best deal from the shortlist.
Because we went “out of season” we got an upgraded package for free too and this included a lot of things I would never have bought on their own, like button holes and marriage certificate holder.
Our other major costs were:
- Photographer (who we hired for a few hours to follow us around and document our day)
- My hair and make-up for my bridesmaids and I.
I spent a long time shopping around for these and made sure they had good reviews balanced with their cost. Many services in the USA are a lot cheaper than in the UK so that massively helps when purchasing services but you need to remember to add tax and tip where appropriate! I always got full costs before agreeing to any supplier and factored that in.
I would estimate that overall we spent about £4,000 on our elopement for the two of us for the whole week. Our guests paid for their own travel and we shared accommodation costs so overall for the 6 of us we probably paid around £8,000 which when I compare that to a “budget” wedding in the UK I think we did a great job! We had an awesome week in Las Vegas with our best friends and I don’t think many people can claim to have had the best week of their lives for that amount of money!
What were the best bits of your whole wedding?
I loved our ceremony. We aren’t religious and we didn’t want anything else in our ceremony but our vows and we really didn’t know what to expect (you don’t get a rehearsal!) so when I misheard the minister I couldn’t stop laughing because I honestly had no idea what he had said and I certainly couldn’t repeat it.
The greatest thing about eloping was actually just that we got to hang out and enjoy the day with our closest friends without worrying about “entertaining” anyone else. We went and played in the games arcade, danced in front of the Las Vegas sign and just generally enjoyed Las Vegas. The added benefit being that our photographer captured it all and we have some great photos to bring back those memories.
If you asked my husband he would say “beef jerky and champagne” as I made sure the limo was filled with food and drink for him as we embarked on our Las Vegas photo tour. He definitely enjoyed that the most!
Why did you start ‘Epic Elopement’?
I started Epic Elopement because I spent so long planning my own elopement and I couldn’t understand why there was not a place you could go and just simply see how easy it is to elope and be inspired.
There are lots of location specific sites but what if you don’t know where you want to go or you have legal limitations to consider first?
I have spent a lot of time writing and researching so now I realise that it’s just as easy to get married in your house in some American states as it is to go to a Las Vegas chapel, that you can have a ceremony anywhere but you might not be legally married, and that for English couples it’s quicker to fly to the US and elope than it is to even register your marriage license in England!
This is the sort of thing that I would have loved to have known for my own elopement. The different places, true stories from other couples who didn’t do the big white wedding, and some basic information about legalities for different locations was my inspiration really and I love sharing new places and couples with the world. I just assumed Las Vegas was easy to get married in but it turns out there is a big wide world out there for couples to explore and so many options for eloping.
Which questions do you get asked most often by couples considering the idea of eloping?
Usually questions are about legality. I know when I told people we had eloped the first question I would be asked was “is it legal?” I think most people don’t understand the difference between legal marriage and none legal ceremonies and don’t realise how different the legalities around the world actually are.
Most couples also think they have to go through a planner or business but there is a lot of joy (and some stress!) in getting a lot of suppliers together in a random location and finding something off the beaten track. The cost of planners etc can seem scary too but it can be extremely cheap to do it yourself. I have some elopements on the blog where literally the only costs were buying the marriage license. Elopements can be as small or as extravagant as you like.
What budget range do most couples seeking advice from you have?
Most eloping couples I speak to are looking at less than £6,000 even for an overseas wedding with a honeymoon attached. Some people have a lot more to spend and really want to blow the budget but most are trying to save for their future marriage not just their wedding day.
I would say the cheapest elopement we have covered was a few hundred pounds but we have some really elaborate ones which cost more than £15,000 but when you put that in perspective of a traditional wedding you can’t really compare costs!
Does eloping really work out cheaper than a ‘normal’ wedding?
Absolutely. Most couples combine their elopement with a mini-moon or full honeymoon trip and even with that included you are dealing with half the cost of a traditional British wedding.
It’s not just that these couples aren’t feeding and entertaining 100 people but that they normally forego traditions they don’t feel comfortable with. Out go bridesmaid dresses and groomsman suits, elaborate floral displays and expensive transport. My husband traveled to our elopement on the bus whilst we ladies took the complimentary limo! We had no one to impress and it made for fun photos too.
And forget needing two photographers for a whole day, a wedding band and all the other regular suppliers that show up on your normal wedding day planner. Some couples still throw a party on their return home but without the “wedding day” label it is usually less formal and comes with a smaller price tag.