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To Elope or Not to Elope?

That Might Be the Question!

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Getting married in Sedona, Arizona.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Elopement was often depicted in old movies. An impetuous groom placed a ladder beneath the window of his true love's bedroom window and whisked her away for an otherwise, forbidden wedding ceremony. Or a desperate pair raced across the California desert to find a slumbering pastor or judge in Quartzite to hear their vows.

Today, thousands of couples converge in Las Vegas for a quick wedding. There are dozens of chapels in casinos, resorts and along the streets. The marriage license office is open 24-hours. Ministers carry pagers so they can be summoned on a moment's notice. While some find the experience tacky, others are delighted to have an Elvis impersonator present to hear their vows.

Historically, couples wanting to escape the trappings of a big wedding find elopement the easiest way to get their vows solemnized. It is not surprising that Sedona, Tucson, Scottsdale, and Phoenix have all become popular destinations for elopement. Couples from all over the world come to Arizona just to get married. Instead of driving across the harsh desert, you can be among hundred of couples that stay in the desert and elope!

Why elope if you don't 'have to'?

Elopement is romantic. Sometimes the heart whispers the emphatic desire to be married. When a relationship has been growing properly, nothing says "I love you" like a proposal to elope. Eloping couples find they can express their individual style in a small, private affair.

Elopement certainly suggests the importance and value of the relationship. While some think of elopement as a selfish experience, romance is an emotion only shared by two.

Elopement is meaningful. Just because elopement appears impetuous doesn't mean that marriage is unimportant. On the contrary, elopement addresses the great value a couple places on becoming husband and wife.

Many couples have invested years in a relationship that leads to a simple elopement. It certainly makes it clear that their wedding is not a pageant or a show, but a significant articulation of their commitment.

An elopement doesn't automatically exclude others. Sometimes a few close friends witness the ceremony. Often the parents are present to give their blessing. Nothing prevents a couple from hosting a small meal following the ceremony or a festive reception when they return from their honeymoon.

Elopement is practical. It takes little time. Let's face it--many couples in meaningful relationships have busy careers. Some have already started their families. For some modern couples, a meaningful and romantic elopement may be the only opportunity to be wed.

Elopement is affordable. Some couples just show up at the minister's front door with a marriage license in hand. Some plan a complete vacation.

Since elopement services are varied, any combination of quality services can be included. Many couples order flowers or have a small cake sent to their hotel. Brides often wear something borrowed and something blue.

Arizona has some of the most romantic spots in the world. Consider the red rocks of Sedona, the tranquil lakes and forests, the opulent resorts and bed & breakfasts, the mountaintops and the desert places known only to you two!

Is elopement right for you?

When couples call I offer these tips:
 
  1. Make sure you are not pressured. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. If you want personal advice, talk to a parent, a close friend or minister to express your feelings.
  2. You don't have to make it a secret. Let those who love you know what you are doing and why you have chosen elopement. Best friends and parents feel most valued when they are informed.
  3. Make a plan and keep to a budget. You can talk to a wedding planner and a travel agent to find ideas and specials to put together a fun elopement. Going in debt to elope doesn't make sense; don't start your marriage with a financial burden.
  4. You must have a marriage license and two witnesses. Bring two friends or your Minister can often supply witnesses.
  5. Pleasant surprises can result when announcing to a flight attendant (upgrade to business or first-class), hotel clerk (upgrade to honeymoon suite) or restaurant reservation desk (get the best table for two) that you are on your honeymoon.

If elopement is right for you, congratulations!

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