We have been sent lots of incredible elopements recently to share with you and it's spurred us on to dedicate a post to elopements; how you can have one, what does it even mean? And it's an opportunity for us to re-share some of our all-time favourite eloping couples. As well as elopements we thought it was a good opportunity to touch on smaller gatherings in general especially as that is now becoming a consideration for lots of planning couples what with the ongoing government restrictions put in place because of COVID-19. We have enlisted the help of elopement enthusiast Emily Black Photography to answer your questions. You can find out more about Emily here on our recommended directory. Thanks so much for all your insights Emily.
The official definition? 'Run away secretly in order to get married.' Romantic right? Sure it is but it doesn't have to be a secret and it doesn't have to just be the two of you. In order to have any legal marriage in the UK, you need two witnesses. They don't need to be people you know - although that might be nice if you have two friends you'd really like to share the moment with. There is a minimum requirement of 5 people at any wedding ceremony. That includes the couple, the two witnesses mentioned, and then your celebrant. You will have heard tales of couples eloping to the UK's most popular elopement destination, Gretna Green, or the worlds most popular elopement destination, Las Vegas and just grabbing a couple of people off the strip to witness their day. And hey, we're not here to tell you who should be witnessing your day - your day your way after all. So do what suits you best. As with any marriage in the UK, you will have to give notice of your intent to marry at least 28 days before the date you intend to tie the knot so bear that in mind. You can't just think 'let's got get married tomorrow'... You still need to follow some rules to make it official.
Eloping in the UK can be a great option and there are so many beautiful adventurous, tranquil and peaceful spots to elope to. Whether it’s mountains, rugged miles of coastline or lakes we have it all. If you’re considering the UK as an elopement destination and not sure where to start, I’ve put together a little guide for you. From possible locations, to the legal side and what an elopement timeline looks like. From a photography perspective, eloping doesn’t mean your photos should have any less importance than any other wedding day. Eloping shouldn’t just be about documenting your vows then an hour of couples photos after. In fact it’s the opposite and your day deserves to be documented fully. - Emily Black Photography
When planning your elopement, as with any wedding day, you can think about how you want your day to look, in terms of both aesthetics and also what you want to get from it. And most importantly, again as with any wedding day, it's important to know how you want your day to feel; what’s important and meaningful to you? What would your ideal day 'look' like from the moment you woke up all the way through to the evening? Maybe you could spend your morning hiking, or chilling on the beach followed by a relaxed brunch. It’s yours to be as free as you like and that’s what’s so special about elopements. There are fewer people to consider, fewer people to organise, giving you more time to focus on you and your soon to be spouse.
Elopements Can Save You Money
Naturally, with much fewer guests you can save money on your wedding. Fewer mouths to feed, smaller more intimate venues may come at less of a cost than a venue for 100 people. Having fewer guests might allow you to spend more budget on those things that really mean a lot to you. Maybe it's splashing out on a designer gown, or having all the peonies in October, or perhaps you both have a shared dream of traveling the world and you're going to use your hard-earned cash to fulfill that dream off the back of saying I Do.
How To Avoid Family Politics During Your Wedding
Not knowing who of your family to add to your guest list doesn't make you a bad person. Feeling conflicted about whether or not Auntie Barb should be in attendance when in fact she's not your actual Auntie she's your Mom's best friend's sister but is always so lovely to you on boxing day and always sends you a birthday card is perfectly normal. Family politics can make weddings very stressful but it's very easy to remove any conflict and elope (although making the decision to elope might cause you some internal conflict on the way to making your final choice). You will have to still prepare yourselves for a level of questioning from those close to you (i.e. your parents) if you choose to have your elopement without them. But have conviction in your decisions. Maybe your two best friends are the right people for the job of witness. Or perhaps your parents and siblings are the only ones you really want to share the moment with. Auntie Barb sounds great and we're sure she will understand and wish you all the love and luck in the world and be thrilled that you've followed your heart and done things your way.
Truly Have Your Day Your Way
Without the added pressure of everyone else's opinions or societal pressures to conform to certain traditions or expectations, your day can truly be your own. Choose the traditions you enjoy, get rid of the ones you don't. Wear the outfit that makes you feel incredible, not the one that makes your sister cry. Dance to all the songs on your own playlist without having to consider anyone else's potentially dodgy taste. Eat the food of your dreams. You're likely to be able to afford that really special menu that you've always wanted to try. Everything can and should feel like the ultimate treat.
Treat your elopement as an adventure. From the moment you decide to elope, you will be sharing a secret that only the two of you know about. How special is that? You can pick a location that means something to you or you can choose to share your most special moments in a place that is totally new to you but that will become so important. A place you can visit every anniversary and remember the excitement you shared on the run-up to your day. It's a place you can take friends and family post-wedding and share that special piece of you with them.
When it comes to arranging your day you can use all the same suppliers you would for any wedding. Make sure you get the best photographer that your budget will allow for. Just because there might only be 10 guests in attendance on your day it doesn't mean that it should be captured any differently than if there were 100. Meet with your photographer, talk them through your plans, and feel comfortable and excited that they can capture what you want to from your day. Any photographer worth their salt will make themselves as inconspicuous as you would like them to be whatever the size of your wedding. If you are eloping on a tight deadline you may have to compromise on some suppliers depending on availability so it's still worth trying to anticipate your elopement or small wedding so that you can make sure it feels the way you want it to and you have those all-important suppliers. Let's look a bit at a possible elopement on-the-day timeline. You can see other articles on full day timelines and alternative on-the-day timings that we have put together as they may be useful references. Typically it's much easier to take your time when eloping. Perhaps you could have a later ceremony and really take your time to get into the day. Naturally, with much smaller numbers things like wedding breakfasts and group shots take much less time to get through.
Here's an idea of how you could plan your day:
Have a lazy morning - or don't.
Maybe you fancy going for a long walk, maybe you want to do that together too. As someone who has been married for 9 years, I feel like that would've been something that I would look back on and love. You're naturally nervous on the morning of your wedding and who better to spend an hour with, calming your nerves, than the most important person in the world to you. Maybe you want to go get a gel manicure (we wouldn't recommend any other sort of treatment on your wedding day!) or perhaps the idea of a solo brunch or a prosecco breakfast with your best friend or Mom seems the ideal way to spend your wedding morning. If you have an early breakfast because the excitement won't let you sleep, make sure you get a spot of lunch somewhere. Whether you order it in and pick at it whilst having a bubble bath or you find a gorgeous cafe to fill up another hour of your time, make sure you remember to eat.
3pm - Start getting ready (it might be worth considering a first look here if you fancy it and then head off to your ceremony venue together)
5:30pm - Have your ceremony
6pm - Grab those gorgeous dusky couples shots and fit in some group shots here too if you want any posed ones.
7pm - Look to sit down for your wedding breakfast in whatever guise that might take. A restaurant, the terrace of an incredible building, a BBQ. Whatever feels right for you and your wedding.
9pm - Move your wedding party to a more lively venue if you want to carry on celebrating into the night. It's a pretty simple schedule, isn't it? That's one of the reasons why a lot of people choose to elope - that lack of fuss and faff.
There is so much variety in the UK and different seasons can bring a completely different feel to a location. Popular beauty spots like the Cornish coast can get extremely busy in the summer, so you might want to consider late September when the weathers still warm, or even around May time before the summer season starts. Below are some of my favourite spots in the UK.
ScotlandScotland is breathtaking. There are so many beautiful spots that make the prefect backdrop for elopements. Glencoe, which has mountains, highlands and even waterfalls is worth considering. It’s only a 2 hour drive from Edinburgh airport and 1.5 hours drive from Glasgow city. It’s probably best to avoid summer months here as it can get very busy. Another beautiful spot and popular for elopements is the Isle of Skye, which is just stunning and a place you might want to spend a long weekend exploring and hiking.
CornwallCornwall has long stretches of beaches set on the Atlantic coast, it’s great if you love surfing. Many beaches like Penzance, Zennor and St Michael's Mount can be great spots and have a beautiful turquoise coast with rugged cliffs. It’s best to avoid July-August as these months are very busy with tourism.
DevonThe beaches in North Devon are my favourite in England and are a bit quieter compared to Cornwall and have such a dramatic Icelandic feel to them. A lot of the land is National Trust or private, so you will have to ask permission before hand. My favourite areas are Lynton, Lymouth and Hartland which is quieter and so dramatic.
The Lake DistrictThere are so many beautiful lakes mixed with mountains and a great opportunity to get really adventurous in the Lake District. You could hike a mountain and finish with a picnic tea by the lake. Lake Windermere, Ullswater and the Lake District National Park are all beautiful locations.
WalesOh Wales with all your hidden beauty spots. There is so many areas to explore but a firm favourite is Snowdonia. Snowdonia has gorgeous villages surrounded by mountains with panoramic views. There are plenty of waterfalls and beautiful beaches too.
Northern IrelandI have completely fallen in love with Northern Ireland after shooting two weddings there. The Giants Causeway took my breathe away and is situated on the coast with dramatic cliffs. You would have to get permission from the National Trust for photos here and you would incur a charge to take them so consider this.- Emily Black Photography.
What do you do about music?
For elopements, most couples take a small speaker and connect it to a playlist they’ve created, so they can still have music while they’re saying their vows. For small weddings, the couples I’ve worked with have either opted for a cosy restaurant somewhere with music or still had a band at their venue. Music is a big deal to a lot of people and just because you have a small number of guests doesn't mean you should invest any less in the quality of music you have. It's all about your priorities and what means the most to you.
How do we avoid it feeling awkward having a photographer around only 15 guests?
My advice would be to really invest in your photography and think about picking someone with experience in shooting smaller weddings and elopements. The way I work is very unobtrusive and documentary. I’ve learned how to work with just two people and a wedding with only a handful of guests.
With just 5 people in attendance, how can you create a party atmosphere?
You can still absolutely create a party atmosphere. Maybe pick somewhere You can go to after with good music and that is lively, perhaps that's somewhere with live music. Think of those times when you've had a couple of friends around for a glass of wine and all of a sudden its midnight, you're three bottles in and having a bit of an impromptu party in the kitchen. If you can do it in your kitchen in your comfies you can do it on your wedding day when you feel your absolute best.
We have a small ceremony but a big party later in the day. Any advice on how to make it still feel like a wedding for everyone?
There are lots of ways to make people feel really involved and invested. Why not save some of the traditional elements of the wedding breakfast or drinks reception for when your evening guests arrive? Perhaps you could save your speeches for the evening or keep an element of formality to the evening. You don't need a table plan but perhaps you could still decorate your tables, have evening food displayed on boards, have an interactive guest book. Perhaps you could speak with your photographer and see if there is any way you could display some images from your ceremony around the venue? For more elopement and intimate wedding inspiration, you can visit our Pinterest board. We hope you have the best day ever when you elope - we'd love to hear all about how your day panned out so do let us know. And if you have eloped or had an intimate wedding we'd love you to share any words of wisdom below or over in our free forum. And thanks again to Emily for her contribution to this article.