A smaller wedding can (and should!) be just as special as a bigger party.
wedding ceremony
Credit: Kat Braman

Whatever your reason for deciding to elope or host an intimate wedding—be it the desire to have a smaller, more personal celebration or because the larger wedding you had planned was rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic—one thing's for sure: You want this day to feel special in its own right. That shouldn't be a difficult task, especially with the right know-how and potentially even a little help from a wedding-planning professional. In fact, elopements and small wedding are often even more meaningful than an all-out traditional celebration, according to Kate Johnson, leisure travel planner and honeymoon specialist. "As a honeymoon specialist, I like to joke to clients that the wedding is for everyone else and the honeymoon is for the two of you, but eloping, I believe, can combine both of these—it's a wedding and honeymoon all rolled into one!" she says. "Eloping can allow for your union to be just between the two of you, as it was meant to be."

The hesitation she believes most people feel when considering eloping or having a small wedding is that they aren't sharing their "special day" with friends and family, but in light of the current health climate, loved ones are more understanding of the necessity to tie the knot privately than ever before. Plus, Johnson says, you can still celebrate with everyone at a later date. "If you choose to elope, there is nothing stopping anyone from celebrating with friends and family at a later date—you can have a simple symbolic ceremony amongst family and a party celebrating with them after you get officially married," she explains. "Eloping can be as special as you make it to be."

Here are some expert-approved ways to make sure your elopement or intimate wedding feels special, romantic, and monumental.

Choose a location that's special to you.

Kayla LeClerc, luxury and family travel consultant with Dream Come True Vacations, suggests having a united vision for your elopement that includes a destination or venue that holds some meaning for you as a couple. "You could choose to stay local and get married in a spot that means something to you, like the place where you first met or the backyard of your first home," she says. If traveling is an option for you, consider other meaningful locales that you and any guests you want with you can easily get to.

Plan your ceremony.

Even though you may not have an audience of people watching you get married (or perhaps you will via a video conferencing system like Zoom!), you should still take the time to plan your ceremony. "This 15-minute period of your life is monumental—it's the moment that you officially make a commitment to spend your lives together, and it warrants some love," says Bonnie Chase, destination wedding planner and owner of Events By Bliss in Los Cabos, Mexico. "In addition to deciding on the details, like whether or not you want your ceremony to be religious or spiritual, take the time to make sure it's meaningful to the two of you."

Choose an officiant that you connect with.

"Hiring a justice of the peace or enlisting a judge at the courthouse is easy, and if that feels right to you then that's okay, but when I got married, I knew I didn't want a stranger standing between me and my future husband, so I asked one of our best friends to officiate the ceremony," says LeClerc. "It made me feel more comfortable and gave my ceremony a more personal feel." For this reason, she suggests choosing an officiant who has had a positive impact on your life and in your relationship to add more meaning to your elopement.

Hire a photographer.

No matter who is there to witness this event—whether it's just a handful of close friends or family or just the two of you—you're going to want this important day in your lives documented. If budget is a concern, consider hiring a photographer for just a few hours. "We started out with plans to hire someone for just a few hours, and ended up spending the entire day and into the night with our photographers, and we have hundreds of amazing photos to look back on (and I do!)," she says.

Do some sort of "first look."

While it doesn't have to be as official as it might be with a full-on photography staff and a luxurious venue as your backdrop, there should still be a moment that signifies when you're seeing each other for the first time on your wedding day. "Just because you're eloping doesn't mean you should miss out on this incredibly intimate and moving experience," says Chase.


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