Again, file this under "blog posts we never thought we'd write." Unfortunately, more and more of us have been forced to cancel our weddings or significantly re-hash our wedding plans. For a lot of us, that looks like shifting our nuptials to an elopement, even if that was not our first choice.
Elopements are often the perfect scenario for folks that want to keep their wedding day an intimate, couple-focused affair. For folks that want to involve their friends and family, an elopement might be worse than no wedding at all.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to make your elopement feel a bit better; whether that's finding ways to include family, or adapting well-loved wedding traditions for a smaller scale.
Videotape your toasts
The weirdest thing about an elopement—especially if it's not your first choice—is that you can do whatever you want afterward. There is no party, no reception, no obligations, unless you plan it yourself. Where some folks will read that and be delighted, others will be terrified: I don't want to just sit at home after my wedding! We get that.
In lieu of a normal reception, consider hopping on a Skype call with your nearest and dearest to share online cocktails and to give toasts. If you're spread across different time zones, consider having your parents and bridal party videotape their toasts and send them over. You can screen-share them with your family or splice each toast together into a lovely video to watch whenever you're feeling down. This makes an excellent keepsake and is likely to get better audio and a more intimate toast than a videographer wrestling with microphone levels in a banquet hall.
Livestream your ceremony
Hear us out—there are unobtrusive ways to manage this. Set up (and mute!) an iPad or a smart phone and do not use Instagram Live. Use Skype to include only your family and friends and set the device off to the side so it won't be distracting to you while you're having your ceremony. If you're concerned about sound quality, consider purchasing an inexpensive microphone for your officiant to hold, which can pipe audio directly into the call.
This is an excellent way to include grandparents or people with pre-existing conditions for whom it is not safe to travel. Just be sure to test this system ahead of time!
Collect mementos, gifts, or letters ahead of time
In lieu of those face-to-face memories, collect mementos, gifts, or letters ahead of time to enjoy on the day of your elopement, either before or after your ceremony. The key to making the most of your day is ensuring a level of pomp and circumstance that would be present on a wedding day proper, just scaled for health and safety guidelines.
Have your parents write you letters and well wishes for your wedding, and read those before your ceremony, so you have their words with you when you say "I do." Ask your maid of honour to choose your "something blue," and wear it. Collect virtual date ideas or marriage advice via an online service or on your wedding website—these can be made into some really neat art afterwards.
Hire a videographer (if you can)
When your families can't be present to see your ceremony, it's a really wonderful thing to have a videographer present if you can. We're all dealing with budget cuts and shrinking income as the pandemic wears on, but if a videographer is within your budget (or you can arrange a skills trade, or something like that) having a record of the entire ceremony (which will only be up to 15 minutes!) will make an incredible difference to you and to the people that love you. It's worth the expense.
Keep as many ceremonial aspects intact as you can
Just because the only people present are you and your spouse, your officiant, and your two witnesses, does not mean you can't have the ceremonial and cultural aspects of bigger weddings rolled into your day. Choose a first dance song and decide where you're going to have it (maybe one of your witnesses can play guitar—from a distance). Toss your bouquet (again, have one of your witnesses catch it). Be carried by your spouse (or carry your spouse) across the threshold of your home as a married couple.
If possible, arrange a staycation instead of a honeymoon abroad—perhaps start up a wine or coffee subscription, choose a set of ten insane recipes to make together, and work your way through the best hikes in your region, day in and day out. Take time off to be together just like you would following a big wedding.
There are a lot of good reasons to put weddings off right now, but given the way this pandemic is going, it's possible that postponing for even a year or two still won't allow you to have the 200 guests you want. We're in this for the long haul—so reimagine and reprioritize what is important to you on your wedding day. Ultimately, as long as you have your partner, you have everything you need.
Take care, everyone. We're thinking of you.