Staged elopements prosper in downturn

"We ran off."

"We ran off." Image: adampsyche/Flickr/CC BY-SA

The wedding industry, like any other, has taken a beating in the down economy. And while it has started to recover since the Great Recession, it is still not where it once was. Couples still seek alternate ways to make their nuptials a special event without going broke doing it. One way, gaining increasing popularity, is the staged elopement, in which nothing is spared except for the guests.

Average wedding costs $26,000

According to, the average cost of a wedding today is comparable to some new cars, or about $26,000. While many Americans continue to live on restricted budgets, that kind of expense is simply not in their means.

Gary Schaeffer, who recently married his fiance Michelle while on an 18-day trip for two to Italy, said:.

“Today, the young people getting married — it’s rare to find the old school belief that the bride’s parents throw the party. It’s the bride and groom and both sets of parents. You have to ask: Is this is a person’s down payment on a home? Is this is a person’s college education? Is it appropriate to put your ass on the line … for a seven hour party?”

‘We wanted it to be for us’

The idea of a staged or planned elopement may leave many scratching their heads. Aren’t elopements supposed to be spontaneous events? Or ones done in secrecy because of disapproving parents? That dynamic, like so many things, is changing rapidly in the economic downturn. Elopements now are often about budget — and about control.

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Schaeffer told Daily Finance:

“There comes a point when you say, ‘What would Nancy and Harry say if there’s no shrimp on the buffet?’ Nancy and Harry can drop dead as far as I’m concerned. … We don’t need to impress anybody else. At the end of the day, it was for us.”

Carey Provost, who eloped to Santa Barbara, Calif. last year, agrees. She told the New York Times:

“I wanted the dress, the vows, the flowers and the pictures. But when you have guests, we felt like it ends up being more for them, not for the bride and groom. We wanted it to be for us.”

Distance as guest-filter

Kirsten Welter and her fiance — bargaining on the tightness of most budgets today — eloped to Italy two years ago, using the distance as a buffer to a huge guest list.

She told Daily Finance:

“We wanted a smaller wedding with only the people who are closest to us here. Honestly, it sounds kind of mean, but by having it in Italy, we could invite everyone we had to invite to be polite from the states and know that only our good friends would actually make the trip.”

Elopement travel packages

Many travel sites now offer packages specifically designed for eloping couples. A quick online search for “elopement packages” yielded pages and pages of responses. One at random,, offers three elopement packages, priced for the thrifty, from $250 to $1,195.

The website proclaims:

“For those of you who do not want to deal with the extreme stress and expense of a large wedding or vow renewal, but still want the magic, memories, tradition and blessings of your own small, intimate, private and special day.”


Chicago Tribune 
New York Times 
Daily Finance

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