Psst! Wanna Elope?
Whether you're impatient to get hitched, embarking on a second marriage, or just want to get away from it all, running away to an island, resort—or the Graceland Chapel in Vegas!—can be a fun, affordable option as long as you temper your spontaneity with a little smart planning.
Brace yourself for a different pace.
The sense of urgency we have in the U.S. doesn't apply to some foreign vendors, hotels, and officiants who operate at a throttled-back clip. "Understand if you're doing it in a different country, there's a different way of living," Rabideau says. "Spain [for example] is very different—they're more relaxed there; it's a different culture. They may not necessarily work at the same speed you work at. Not only pack your clothes, but pack your patience."
Include a few traditional touches.
Even if your wedding is intended to be tiny, spur of the moment, hipster-quirky, or out-of-the-box crazy, you can still hire either a local wedding planner to ensure your ceremony hits all of the marks, or one or two local vendors, depending on your priorities. "While eloping does mean having a wedding with just the couple, I think it's important for every couple to consider hiring a photographer," Chang says. "Even if you only hire them for an hour, it's nice to have a memento of the occasion and of the emotion and the love you felt."
Also, this might go without saying, but don't ship your suit or dress or check it in your luggage. "Carry it on the plane with you," she says. "The flight attendants are usually really helpful with wedding dresses and finding a safe place for them."
If you're feeling generous, bring the experience back for your friends.
Once you're home safe, you can keep the party going by including friends and family who weren't there for the ceremony.
"The most successful elopements I have seen also include some type of sharing with the family back home, whether that's posting photos on your favorite social network or hosting a 'toast the newlyweds' reception when you get back home," says wedding planner Karen Bussen, of Simple Stunning Weddings, who has recently partnered with Palladium Hotels and Resorts in Montego Bay, Jamaica; Riviera Maya, Mexico; and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. "That's a great place to show your wedding video and let all the folks who love you share in your happiness."
Hot destinations for eloping:
The authenticity of Costa Rica, with its off-the-beaten-path feel, appeals to millennials, who have been flocking to the country to get married. "Central America is not their parents' tropics," says Susan Breslow Sardone, of About.com's Guide to Honeymoons/Romantic Getaways. "Green" weddings in particular are in style, says Christina Baez, a spokesperson for Costa Rica's tourism board. Especially in vogue: couples offsetting their carbon footprint with donations to reforestation projects, planting an honorary tree during the ceremony, and doing a post-wedding "trash the dress" photo shoot by jumping into one of the country's waterfalls, like those in the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano area.
Enduring, idyllic, and accessible, Savannah is a popular go-to wedding destination for couples who want their choice of restaurants and B&Bs but don't have the budget for long-haul air tickets, Rabideau says. Downtown's Forsyth Park, one of the biggest in the area, is a hotspot for small weddings.
The island of One Love offers laid-back weddings to couples who want to take the plunge, literally and figuratively. At Rick's Café in Negril, couples can say their vows and immediately leap from a 35-foot-tall platform into Caribbean waters. Afterward, relax with a rum-and-fruit-juice Planter's Punch while gazing at the area's famous purple sunsets.
Getting hitched by a singing Elvis impersonator at Graceland Wedding Chapel in Vegas is always an option (they even can stream it over the internet for family and friends!), but so is exchanging rings at beautiful indoor or outdoor hotel chapels at the Wynn Encore, the Bellagio, or Caesar's Palace. Or go mobile with services like the Las Vegas Wedding Wagon, which brings the wedding to you. Another bonus: With only a photo ID, you can obtain a marriage license and get hitched in 24 hours; the Las Vegas Marriage Bureau is open every day from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Escaping south to a warm resort in the States is a popular trend for elopers on a budget, Rabideau says. Red-rock views and indulgent spas are two quintessential Sedona musts. The Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa offers a 90-minute "three-part recharging massage" designed for hikers and bikers who want to get back on the trail the next day; the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa's concierge can arrange a hot-air balloon ride with a champagne toast high above the mesas.
Stay in a traditional Moroccan "riad," a house with an interior garden, in the historic Medina district, recommends Ingrid Asoni, founder of Asoni Haus event planning in Marrakech. "You still have the tranquility of a romantic getaway, but you also have some incredible views over the whole of Marrakech and the Medina," she says. Riad Noga, La Sultana, and Riad Enja are a few good picks. And don't skip the traditional pre-wedding couples' "hammam," a treatment involving a scrub, a clay or soap wrap, and another scrub—so you're radiant for your lover and ready as you'll ever be for pledging your eternal love.