Choosing to Ditch the Guest List Can Set You Free
So, you began this story of Happily Ever After, planning for a wedding with guests, a wedding party, venue and cake. Then, COVID_19 brought all of it to a screeching halt; no parties or gatherings (church or otherwise), masks are required, and social distancing is mandatory. Your plans have all been tossed into the trash and you are forced to decide whether to postpone your new life together or find a new way to keep your wedding date and choose to elope.
The term elope can be traced back to the 14th century where the original definition meant to leave your spouse and run away with your lover. By the 1800’s; however, it had changed to the the more contemporary meaning of running away to get married. Today, you can hear alternatives to the term elope such as “destination weddings” or “small wedding”. Whatever you decide to call it, it means you have made the conscious choice to marry without too many (or any) guests.
Some of you may be holding onto the idea that you have to travel to Las Vegas to get married, but this isn’t the case. There are wedding officiants, celebrants, judges, and ministers who would be more than happy to help you get married in any location. All you have to do to elope includes the following steps:
- Obtain a wedding license. Depending on where you live right now, you may or may not be able to get a license. Due to COVID_19, many county licensing departments allow for online application instead of going to the offices to apply. Expect to pay a fee for your license and those fees vary from state to state.
- Wait the allotted amount of time. After you receive your license, some states require that you wait a certain number of days before you get married. This time can range from immediate to weeks, depending on the area. Places like Las Vegas, Nevada allow for immediate marriages upon receiving your license making it a popular destination for couples who want to elope. Make sure to check the waiting period guidelines in the area you plan on getting married.
- Find an officiant in your area. Again, each state has different guidelines as to who can marry you. Most often, it is an ordained minister or judge who is allowed to perform a ceremony. The definition of an ordained minister is different from area to area. Some have to be ordained and licensed by an ordaining body for a denomination (Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) in order to perform a wedding ceremony. Other ministers have to be ordained and don’t have to be part of a traditional religious denomination. If you are unaware of the background of your officiant or are unclear as to their ability to perform your wedding, ask about his or her credentials.
- Choose a location. This is where you get to be creative. Where do you want to have your ceremony. Do you want to be indoors or out? A scenic location or an urban hotspot? The possibilities are endless. An experience officiant should be able to help you if you do not have a place in mind or do not know where to elope. Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are several locations that make awesome places to elope.
- Check with COVID_19 guidelines in your state. The guidelines where you want to marry are probably changing quickly and often. Some states offer rules on the specific number of people who can attend, how far apart you must stand and where you can meet. Washington State guidlines, for example, are very specific about how you can marry. Other areas may be lest restrictive. In either case, make sure to check your local and state mandates in order to keep yourself safe and lawfully able to wed.
- Find your witnesses. This may be easier or harder than it sounds. You can expect to need at least two witnesses over the age of 18 years old in most states. You can ask siblings, friends, family members, or coworkers, but deciding who those people are will be a challenge. Eliminating some people and choosing certain ones over others may end up hurting feelings. If you can’t decide or don’t want the drama of choosing, many officiants and ministers have witnesses who can be available for a ceremony. Expect to pay a small fee for their time.
Choosing to elope may not be the dream wedding you always wanted. And just because you elope, doesn’t mean you can’t have a bigger, family and friend celebration at a later date. It’s not uncommon for couples to elope and then have another ceremony later. Getting married with a small ceremony in front of a few witnesses frees you up to have so many options you wouldn’t have normally thought of.
Eloping can be exciting. Stealing away with the one you love is romantic. However you choose, you’re still married in the end and you will have a unique story to tell your family and friends in the years to come.
Schedule an Elopement or Small Wedding Consultation
If you’re ready to schedule your elopement or small wedding in Tacoma, Washington or surrounding areas, contact A Small Wedding for you FREE ceremony consultation.
Rev. Lori Erwin-Johnson is a wedding officiant and wellbeing coach looking to help individuals and couples find their Happily Ever After. Visit her website to learn more about her.