When they hear the word "elope," many people probably imagine a couple running off to Las Vegas on a whim dressed in jeans and T-shirts and having a quickie wedding. In today's tough economic times, eloping is on the rise, but it can actually be quite a romantic event.
"Beach elopements are by far the most popular, followed by vineyard elopements," Nigel Morgan says, citing the results of a poll from his elopement Web site, http://www.LetsRunOff.com. Morgan says Las Vegas ranked the lowest in terms of popularity.
He's seen a 30 percent increase in traffic on his site over the past year. He says the top reasons people are choosing to elope include money, ease of planning, need for intimacy and marrying again. Other reasons, according to his Web site, are family and religion/culture. Also, some people who elope want small weddings or dislike attention.
Morgan says that the typical traditional wedding cost more than $30,000 when he first launched his Web site three years ago and that it has continued to rise every year since. That's not including the typical cost of more than $3,000 for a honeymoon, Morgan adds.
"It really adds up to a level most people can't really afford, especially today," Morgan explains. "It's harder to put these big expenses on a credit card, more so if you don't have a job."
Morgan says people can have perfectly nice elopement weddings for as little as $200. However, if you wanted to splurge a little bit, you could spend $2,000 or more, but that would include a couple of nights in a luxury hotel, the wedding, a meal, photos and flowers.
Morgan says there are a lot of officiants who provide all-in-one services -- which often include the license, the ceremony, a photographer and a location -- and there is a listing of locations and prices on his Web site.
The one downside to elopements is the fact that because they're typically smaller than traditional weddings, there may not be room enough in your party for all your friends and family.
"The reality is that a wedding is one of the most intimate moments in a person's life," Morgan says. "It is between the two people getting married. If we're asked, we advise that couples remind their friends and family of this and that the wedding should symbolize their marriage and commitment and not necessarily be a celebration of friends and family."
Still, for those who may not make the actual wedding ceremony, there are several celebration ideas on Morgan's Web site that can take place before or after the wedding and can include everybody. For instance, you can have an intimate dinner party -- to which you invite your closest friends and family -- at your house or a favorite restaurant, coordinate food native to your honeymoon destination and pass around pictures of your wedding.
Besides the elopement, another style of wedding gaining in popularity is the destination wedding, in which the entire party travels to a special location for the celebration. Destination weddings cost less than traditional weddings -- according to http://www.LetsRunOff.com, people spend an average of 41 percent less on their receptions -- and are sometimes easier to plan.
"You don't have the time to go back to the cake shop or destination over and over again, constantly second-guessing yourself and getting stuck in a selection rut," Morgan says. "You make a choice and stick with it. Also, a destination wedding typically gives you and the guests more time with each other, as you are likely all to be traveling to the destination."
Morgan says he and his wife had a destination wedding, and all the guests spent two days together.
"The families and friends all mixed with each other, and now, five years later, they're still asking about each other," he says.
So whether people choose to elope, have a destination wedding or even a traditional wedding, there are more options now than ever to make that day truly your own.
At http://www.LetsRunOff.com, Laura and Ray recall their 2006 elopement:
"Our wedding day was perfect; it wasn't the fairy tale that a lot of people dream of, but it suited us perfectly. We were married down by a creek in a beautiful lush clearing, just us and the preacher ... and two witnesses. We had a lot of photographs taken and brought back plenty of souvenirs so our friends and family could have their own little piece of the day. More than that, we brought back memories that will last forever and such happiness that we had done things our way."