Change of Plans: How to go From a Wedding to an Elopement

Elopement with dried palmsElopements aren’t what they used to be. They’re adventurous! They’re beautiful! Most of all, they are special and meaningful! But still, there may be a few people who still have some sort of “taboo” connotation with the idea of eloping. If there’s anything we know it’s that the wedding industry is changing, and we’re here to tell you that elopements are where it’s at.

However, it may seem like a blow to you and your guests at first if…an elopement is not exactly what you imagined.

And that’s where CEO and founder of Cactus Collective Weddings, McKenzi Taylor, comes in! McKenzi delivers intimate, affordable elopement packages to couples from her home base of Las Vegas — and she also eloped herself! So, kind of an expert on elopements, folks. We worked with her to create a simple 2-part guide of helpful information, specifically for couples who didn’t exactly plan on eloping but are making the switch in light of social distancing.

{above photo: Freckled Fox Photography | dress: Joon Bridal | florals: Samantha’s Garden | Suit: Menguin }

Here’s how to get excited about your new journey ahead — and how to get your guests excited, too:

How to Get Comfortable with the Idea of Eloping

outdoor adventure elopement
photo: Cactus Collective Weddings

First things first, you and your partner have to come to terms with the new plan. When you change your mindset and approach, all the fun opportunities start to become clear and exciting!

Remember that You Have a Choice

You don’t have to get married under current conditions — you still have a choice. If, for example, you’re not ready to let go of a vision of family, friends, colleagues (and plus ones) gathered together in one place, you don’t have to! Be willing to embrace the idea that it may not happen for some time, but never feel pressured to compromise if it’s truly what you want.

Positive Thinking, Positive Language

If you do decide to elope, congratulations! From now on, an elopement is no longer the backup plan — it’s just The Plan. Immediately pinpoint and swap out negative thoughts and phrases (example: replace “This isn’t our real wedding.” with “This is our wedding!”). Negativity will only hold you back and make you think about what you’re missing, rather than the opportunities ahead!

Malibu Saddle Rock Ranch elopement Katie + Jake decided to do a last-minute elopement at Saddlerock Ranch (last week!) and will then celebrate with their family next year! Congrats! Photo: Wild Whim Photography | Planning: HoneyFitz Events | Bouquet: Pavan Floral 

The Day Can Still Be Beautiful

For some couples, eloping is a trip to the courthouse and a quick exchange of vows. Then it’s onto the reception or back to normal life. And that’s totally fine! Some courthouses are actually SO beautiful and may even feature a pretty lawn for a few photos! But if you’ve been reading GWS for a while, you’ll know that you can elope ANYWHERE. And we encourage it!

Oregon ElopementLynsey + Kenny eloped at the Courthouse, then went down to the beach to capture some dreamy photos to remember the day! photo: Caitlin Cooper Photography | bouquet: Selva Floral | bride + groom styling: Benjamin Holtrop

No matter where you elope, you can still book your dream vendors. One thing that McKenzi often hears is that couples assume that a small wedding means they aren’t entitled to book wedding vendors. Not at all! Many of our GWS couples hired designers and florists, and of course, a great photographer. And many companies (including Cactus Collective Weddings!) actually specialize in elopements and small weddings — so keep that dream of a beautifully designed day alive!

Discover the Freedom of Unique Locations

The greatest benefit of eloping is that it offers more freedom. When it’s just the two of you, you aren’t limited to venues based on guest capacity. You can reframe your hunt for a location from seeking out an “epic venue” to chasing some epic memories! You could exchange vows in the park where you regularly have picnic dates. Or by that little creek that’s walking distance from your home. And then every time you visit that place you’ll remember your wedding day!

That’s exactly what McKenzi and her husband did: “We eloped to one of our favorite rock climbing spots in Red Rock Canyon. Now every time we hike and climb there, we’re reminded of our special day.”

If you are able to hire a videographer, we highly recommend that so you’ll be able to share this special day with family + friends later…if you are on the fence about it, check out this film by Om Storytelling – we think it might change your mind to having a videographer as a MUST HAVE for your day!

Eloping Brings it Back to Just the Two of You

“Most eloping couples I work with prefer the ceremony being just the two of them. It allows them to be in the moment and completely focus on each other while removing the stress of worrying about extra guests or plans. It’s my view that any couple getting married in 2020 needs to be comfortable with this reality. Even though restrictions are lifting, I personally like to go with the worse-case-scenario mindset. Talk with your partner and discuss if it really will be ok if it is just the two of you. If you can’t come to terms with this, then postponing until you can host even three or four guests is a better option.”

How to Help Guests Understand Your Decision

Same Sex Wedding

Once the idea of eloping sits more comfortably with you (and you’re excited!) it should feel a little bit easier to tell friends and family. However, there are still ways to let them know they’re loved and valued!

The Dilemma of Un-Inviting Guests – Solved

If you’re making the change to an elopement then it does leave one massive challenge: how to tell guests they’re uninvited. McKenzi suggests turning to one of three plans:

1. Send an un-save the date card.
“Use them to explain the change in circumstances. If the entire guest list receives one, it won’t feel awkward or like any one person is being singled out. Guests are very understanding during this time.”

2. Keep the same guest list and go virtual.
“Hosting a virtual wedding means rigging up a live stream using Zoom or Google Hangouts. This way your nearest and dearest can still see you get married in real-time. Just make sure you have the volume turned up to enjoy the cheers and whoops for your first kiss as a married couple.”

3. Send guests a celebrate with champagne or celebrate in spirit invitation.
“Ask guests to enjoy a glass of something bubbly and make a toast on the time and date of your ceremony! Get them to film bottles popping and glasses rising so the footage can be edited together later.”

Do Good Mural with Elopementphotos above: Freckled Fox Photography | dress: Joon Bridal | florals: Samantha’s Garden

Plan a Party and Vow Renewal for Later

“For our later reception, we had a band, tacos, a great bar, a great venue, and great fun. We even booked Elvis to conduct a short vow renewal for guests to witness. This really helped solidify our marriage for our friends and family. They felt it was more real at that point, so I recommend asking a friend, family member, or celebrant to do a short renewal or handfasting.”

Final Thought: Changing Your Wedding Plan Isn’t a Solo Mission

Midwest Elopement
photo: Freckled Fox Photography | dress: Joon Bridal | florals: Samantha’s Garden | Suit: Menguin

Remember that working through the logistics isn’t something you need to do alone. Call on friends and family, and lean on the experience of wedding vendors who are actively working to create solutions that are both inspiring and helpful.

If you’re looking for a helpful list of how-to’s when it comes down to the nitty-gritty planning, here’s our guide to planning an intimate wedding. You’ll find all the tips you need to get started and make it a memorable (and beautiful) day.

Thank you to McKenzi at Cactus Collective Weddings for offering your personal experiences and expertise!