Everything You Need To Know About Eloping

More couples than ever are eschewing larger weddings in favour of eloping with just a couple of guests. While larger weddings are on again, the pandemic has made many people realise there's a new way to do it. We asked a celebrant, a wedding planner, a photographer – plus, two real-life brides – to share their advice.
MAJA TSOLO

THE CELEBRANT: Jennifer Patrice on…

The legalities
“For elopements in the UK, the couple still need to carry out some legal formalities. If they are resident in the UK, this means giving their notice of intent to marry and everything else that entails. Even if the couple are opting to elope, they still have to give the venue name and location of where they intend to get married if that’s going to be their legal ceremony.”

Elopement ceremonies
“If you’re opting for a celebrant-led elopement ceremony in England, the legal part will be a two-plus-two ceremony (i.e. the couple and two witnesses) at a registry office. After this, the couple and their celebrant can have another, more relaxed ceremony anywhere else. I’ve conducted elopement ceremonies in Hyde Park, on Gabriel’s Pier and at Blea Tarn in the Lake District – usually with just the couple, myself and the photographer.”

Religious elopements
“It’s more than possible to have a religious elopement ceremony. If it’s the couple’s legal ceremony – in a place of worship with just the two of them – they’ll need two witnesses and to follow the same guidelines set out above. If it’s an independent celebrant-led ceremony, the couple can discuss the content such as readings/scriptures to be read in a location of their choice.”

Witnesses
“For the legal ceremony, witnesses are required. The register is signed by the couple, the registrar, and the witnesses. Check with the person marrying you if they have an age limit on who can be a witness and remember, register office staff are not allowed to be witnesses. For a celebrant-led ceremony, witnesses aren’t required, and this is entirely dependent on whether the couple want it to be an elopement in the truest sense of the word, or to have a few guests, such as parents, grandparents or siblings. As long as they meet the requirements, anyone can witness a wedding.”

Eloping abroad
“My advice for a couple wishing to elope abroad is to always carry out the legal formalities here, so that when you arrive in the country, you’re already legally married. If you don’t want to do this, you’ll have to carry out detailed research on the country you’re eloping to to be sure on all the legal requirements – such as paperwork and residency requirements. There are many elopement packages couples can purchase now to help with the logistics of planning this kind of wedding – it includes everything from the celebrant to the photographer. Just make sure you do some thorough research before you book.”

Visit JenniferPatrice.com

MELODY JOY

THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Maja Tsolo says…

Plan your elopement photography
“It’s really important to invest in a good photographer, as the images will be the only way for your family and friends to experience the day – not to mention the only memories you will have to look back on. Couples who are planning to elope usually have a lot more flexibility in terms of dates and timings, too, so eloping mid-week rather than at a weekend may offer more photographer availability. Also, have a chat with a photographer you’re keen on booking before you finalise a ceremony time. This way you can discuss optimal times for the best light and settings.”

Know what to ask for
“Most couples will want to take photos immediately after the ceremony, but not necessarily before or for much longer afterwards. Personally, I would always encourage couples to cover the main parts of the day – including a bit of time before the ceremony. I personally don't plan on taking specific images – it only restricts me from capturing all the candid moments. But if there’s something specific the couple wants me to photograph, I can always make sure it gets taken at some point.”

Enjoy the advantages
“The best thing about elopements from a photographer's point of view is the flexibility to tailor the day around the best light and backdrops. The couple doesn't need to feel rushed after the ceremony, so we can take longer to capture the right images and explore different locations. As a photographer, you also get to spend more time with the couple during each part of the day, so you can get more creative with them and really get to know them.”

Visit MajaTsolo.com

THE PLANNER: Wedding & Events Planner Kristina Kempton says…

Decide what you want

“Regardless of guest numbers, a lot goes into planning a wedding or elopement. You still face the same challenges – and even more so if you’re planning to do it abroad. A planner will help you figure out what you want, and they can support you and keep you on track budget-wise. As with regular wedding planning, they’ll know the best suppliers to use, will work on the design and ensure the wedding is picture-perfect. They’ll also be there on the day so you can enjoy the moment.” 

Get legal help

“The most important part of an elopement is the ceremony – i.e. legally getting married. A planner will know all the requirements – from applying for a marriage license to other laws you need to follow. Covid has affected a lot of large-scale weddings, so reducing the guest lists means you really focus on you as a couple. You won’t have the worry of a big family gathering or a huge event, so you can really prioritise the little details.” 

Know what to consider

“The UK has a wealth of stunning venues for elopements, so make sure you choose the right venue for you ­– one that will offer you an intimate wedding, as well as getting the right suppliers for your budget. Also, plan as if you are planning a formal wedding to make sure you haven’t overlooked any details. Celebrate your elopement in style, as you would any wedding – you only do it once and you don’t want to have any regrets.”

Visit KristinaKempton.com
 

THE REAL BRIDES WHO DID ELOPE

Emily

Lawyer and new bride Emily’s legal ceremony in Edinburgh was a small affair, with just her, her now-husband and two witnesses in attendance…

MELODY JOY
MELODY JOY

The elopement ceremony

“We always knew we wanted the legal wedding to be small and to have another, bigger ceremony for family and friends later. Both of us thought of the elopement or ‘legal’ wedding as the ‘admin’ – just us and two friends as witnesses. The fact it was so small took all the stress out of it, but when we got to the vows, the emotions were overwhelming. Our friend Ginny had written a poem, our friend Jasmine was crying, Laurence’s parents were watching in via Zoom – and it felt very intimate and special. It was also so romantic to hop in a taxi, grab some flowers and stroll home through the city afterwards. 

The dress, hair & make-up

“I thought I might just buy something from the high street, but after trying on multiple options, I hit a wall. I’d seen the gorgeous Organza Mini by Harriette Gordon stocked in The Fall Bride and loved it, but talked myself out of buying it. Nothing else came close, though, and when I saw The Fall Bride was offering a limited number of ready-to-wear sizes, and weddings were opening up again, I bit the bullet – it was so fun to wear.
 
“I also wore the flow earrings from Completed Works that Laurence gave me for my 30th birthday. My shoes were simple, white mid-height strappy sandals from & Other Stories ­– nothing too high or precious. And I had the wonderful Kate Elliott-Muir do my hair and make-up. Laurence wore a tailored suit from Beggar’s Run, a shirt from John Lewis (his tailored one got stuck in Portugal because of Brexit), and a green wool tie my mum fixed up the week before. I also jumped out of the taxi to pick up a bunch of flowers from a local florist called Snapdragon on the way.”

MELODY JOY

The photographer

“Our photographer was Melody Joy. We weren’t going to have photos taken, but we really wanted some images of Edinburgh – it’s the city we met in over a decade ago as students. Melody was incredible, her work is stunning, and she was so easy to be around – I can’t believe how great the results were.”

The meal

“On the way home, we popped by our favourite café, Elliott’s, which had turned itself into a takeaway in lockdown. We hadn’t planned a fancy dinner and people kept asking us what our plans were after the ceremony. We decided to keep it casual and ate the food outside. On the menu that day was a very indulgent macaroni cheese with orecchiette, gruyere, Isle of Mull cheddar, parmesan and cornichons. The lovely owner even presented us with a free bottle of prosecco.”

Advice for other couples

“I’d really recommend eloping (even if you also want a big celebration later). It felt so intimate to do something pared back that was just the two of us, with no expectations. We were both surprised at how special it felt.”
 

Caroline

As the pandemic bore down, newlywed Caroline and her husband Rio opted for a small legal ceremony at Marylebone Town Hall with just a couple of friends…

MAJA TSOLO
MAJA TSOLO

The elopement ceremony

“We’d always talked about having more of a party than a formal wedding, but the pandemic put paid to that idea. Instead, we chose to get married in the historic Old Marylebone Town Hall with five friends. Our witnesses were my best friend Maya, and Rio’s colleague Vivek, who is like family to us. Our actual families were sad to miss out, but we set up a Zoom for them to watch. Rio’s family are in New Zealand and Australia and mine are in the US – we’re looking forward to celebrating with them next year.”

The photographer

“We knew we wanted a great photographer so we could share moments from the day with our families. Our photographer Maja Tsolo was amazing – she immediately understood our relaxed vibe and was able to capture some of the best moments during the day.”

MAJA TSOLO
MAJA TSOLO

The dress, hair & make-up

“Initially, I thought I’d wear a tailored suit but then I saw this Vanessa Cocchiario dress online – the long sleeves and mini cut was perfect. It came in the post two days later! I also wore a padded headband with a birdcage veil attached from Etsy seller @DesignByHummingbirdOfficial. I kept my necessities in a handmade white satin knot bag made by a New York-based female artisan @ByCindyNguyen. I wanted an elevated natural make-up look and Lauren Irwin nailed it. Rio wore a custom navy suit from Gieves & Hawkes with Ferragamo shoes and accessories. My friend Maya and I also walked to the Aoyama Flower Market the night before to pick my bouquet.”

The night of the wedding

“We rented out the upstairs of the Marylebone Pub for drinks after the ceremony. We ate cake made by @SugarPlumBakesKingston and danced with around 30 of our friends.”

Advice for other couples

“Even though we opted for a small group and laidback setting, it's so easy to find yourself getting stressed about the details… just remember why you’re getting married and what the day is all about.”

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