If the mere thought of a massive wedding with a hundred bazillion friends and fam has you reaching for a Xanax, you might want to consider running into the sunset with the one you love and exchanging vows somewhere completely private and amazing. We asked seven couples to give us the scoop on their elopement — check out how they pulled it off and what they learned in the process.
ANKA + JOSH
“Eloping was an easy decision for us. Both of us have a parent that passed away and we couldn’t help but feel they would be missing should we have a traditional ceremony. Also, I didn’t want a big wedding, not my style. So we decided to elope and bring our best friends as witnesses. Anka’s parents got married in New York and my mother is originally from there. We live in Geneva, Switzerland, but we’ve always loved New York. It’s even more magical in the fall, when we got married.”
“We had a nice breakfast in the morning at our hotel. Then the girls had appointments to be pampered at our hotel’s spa. Us guys just went walking the streets of SoHo. We were super lucky, the weather was incredibly beautiful. We had the ceremony on the High Line and went straight to a tattoo parlor to get our respective tattoos. We had drinks at the Gramercy Park Hotel and dinner at One If By Land, Two If By Sea. By the end of the evening we were all exhausted but happy.
Getting the tattoos was just a way to go an extra step in my commitment to Anka. I knew what I was doing and who I was doing it with so I had absolutely no reason to be nervous. Anka says she wasn’t nervous either. We had been together for 11 years, through highs and lows, so we knew what were getting into. A couple of weeks later we got other tattoos together on our honeymoon in Bora Bora.”
SUZANNA + NICK
“Weddings are a big party for most people, it would have been a big panic attack for me. We're both introverts so eloping seemed like the best idea. We decided on the Met through process of elimination. City Hall was too stark, Central Park was too obvious. The subway? Ew. Eventually we landed on the Met, and it seemed like the obvious choice. We're members. We love it there. When we landed on the idea, it just felt right. It felt very true to our relationship. It was something special we were creating together and it was just for the two of us. I had a feeling that as long as we didn't touch any paintings, we probably wouldn't get kicked out. And if we had been kicked out, we'd have a story about getting kicked out of the Met on our wedding day, so the risk seemed worth it no matter what happened.”
“I found an officiant, Judie Guild, who specializes in small ceremonies. She'd done guerrilla elopements before. She gave us some options for vows and we chose something modern and non-religious. Writing our own seemed tedious. And yes, it was very quick. I don't really remember the content of the vows. The words weren't really important. We had this whole moment and place that was ours for just a couple of minutes. I like that our wedding was attended by strangers. I find that less embarrassing and strangely more intimate than standing in front of families and friends.
Now that I think about it, being married in the intimacy of strangers is a perfect example of why I love NYC. The ceremony was performed in front of Lichtenstein's ‘Stepping Out’. We went to the Met a few weeks before the ceremony to decide on a location. Nick and I have very different tastes in art. The one factor we have in common is that we tend to both like the depressing stuff, which was not really acceptable for this particular event. So we walked around and landed on ‘Stepping Out’. Since it's in the permanent collection, it feels special every time we see it.”
LAURIE + BRENDAN
“When I was having a hard time with the wedding planning and getting upset, my mom offered to send us up to the Lake Placid Lodge so we could have a few days up there to do our favorite outdoorsy things and have a little ceremony for ourselves. The whole wedding planning was just so annoying. We had even put down a deposit at the Explorer's Club, but then we thought, let's actually take some of the money we’re going to spend on the wedding and go off and do something that we really want to do. We're not religious and I don't like wearing white, so we were never going to have a typical wedding from the get go.”
“It was late May when we went to the Lake Placid Lodge, which is still a bit chilly in the Adirondacks. All I wanted was to get married under a moose head in front of a fire. Of course, they had just the spot. The ceremony was short and sweet. We're not really into the mushy romance stuff; I can't even remember our vows. But I remember that it was fun, we laughed a lot and the judge was a really nice guy. After the ceremony, he told us about the criminals he puts in jail.
I saw that dress in Ralph Lauren's Fall/Winter 2008 show. I've always remembered it, but of course by the time I wanted it for my wedding it was nowhere to be found. I managed to find RL red and black buffalo plaid fabric and then had it made to look like the one from his collection. I wore my favorite All Saints hiking boots with it. You can’t get in and out of a canoe in heels! After we exchanged vows we had s’mores and took a canoe out. I'm so happy we went the way we did. It’s not for everyone but neither is a buffalo plaid dress.”
KRISTIN + CODY
“We knew we wanted to elope almost from the start. We briefly considered a destination wedding with close family and friends, but ultimately decided it should be just the two of us. Thankfully, our parents and friends were very cool about it. I had been married before, so that gave me a lot of perspective about the wedding day. The first time, I went the traditional route, and it was nice but so exhausting and so overwhelming. I didn’t want that. I wanted our wedding day to be easy and fun. We wanted to be someplace that felt spiritual to both of us, but neither of us are religious, so a church wouldn't do. We love to be outside and we love to travel.“
“On the day of our elopement, we woke up and had breakfast on the patio at Yosemite Lodge and did a little easy climbing on Swan Slab. After that, I went back to the Ahwahnee Hotel to get ready. While I got ready, the guys did a bit more climbing, jumped in the river, and had beers. (If I could do it over again, I’d skip the elaborate prep, and join the guys at the river.) Cody rejoined me in our room, quickly got ready, and we drove to Yosemite Falls to meet our minister. We were married in the early evening by a non-denominational minister in Yosemite Valley, below the Yosemite Falls. It was short and sweet. But very sweet.
Afterwards, we slack-lined at Camp 4. We held hands beneath the redwoods. We toasted with tiny bottles of champagne. We kissed in the meadow under El Capitan. Your wedding day should be a reflection of you. It should be your most perfect day, whatever that looks like. Our elopement was incredibly romantic and incredibly personal. I love that we have a special place to visit and remember our wedding day. We plan to go back to Yosemite on our fifth anniversary. I get a little sentimental thinking about taking future babies to see the spot where I married their dad.”
CYNTHIA + BRAD
“Honestly, I never thought I’d get married, it just wasn’t important to me. It wasn’t until I started dating my husband Brad, and he said that he wanted to marry me, that I opened up to the idea. We are a low key, no fuss couple, and a traditional wedding just wasn’t for us. It really came down to simplicity and ease. We wanted to bring our dog, so the location had to be within driving distance. We had been to Joshua Tree once before and found it mesmerizing. It’s close to LA but feels like another world. The Rock Reach House is eco-friendly, but with all the modern amenities, and it’s tucked away in a breathtaking, serene setting. We spent the morning in Palm Springs, picking up the cake, flowers, and catered food, and then came back to the house to meditate, take a jacuzzi, and just be with each other."
“The ceremony was heavily influenced by our spiritual beliefs, incorporated Native American wedding traditions, in part because I have Native American lineage, but mostly because their wedding traditions take the earth into account. Since we were in this majestic setting, it seemed amiss to not acknowledge that. The vibe was so peaceful and serene, yet there was an intensity to it, but in the most intimate, laser-focused kind of connecting way. I don’t know if I would’ve had that same experience with a traditional wedding and 150 people around me. After the ceremony, we took photos, then went back to the house to sign the official documents. We sat around with the photographer and videographer and had dinner. After they left, Brad and I had our first slow dance together.”
JESSI + CODY
“An adventure seemed appropriate for the way we chose to spend our special day. After making the decision to elope we got in contact with our photographer Carl Zoch, discussed what we had in mind, and left it up to him to find a location. Besides travel plans and lodging we really had no plans. Cody and I even wrote our own vows the day of the ceremony. I would say I left 90% up to chance, but it came together perfectly. The day of the ceremony we walked into town for a lazy breakfast and some paperwork. We split up to write our vows and get ready. Then we followed Carl to the place where we could hike to our ceremony spot, a place where none of us had ever been. The adventure was the best part. We hiked in to a big rock where we finished getting ready.”
“Our ceremony was only 6 minutes long and included our closest friends Kori, Zach and Yasha. The ceremony was quick but very special. Yasha got ordained just for the ceremony so he could marry us. We exchanged our own vows, kissed, and were pronounced married. Although the day was untraditional and there was hardly a wedding atmosphere, during these 6 minutes there was an overwhelming feeling of happiness that came over us and it made the ceremony feel so real. After we finished the ceremony we walked back to the rock where we celebrated by drinking champagne, locally brewed beer and Doritos!
We then hiked back down (this time in our wedding attire) and headed for some dinner. We went to a local brewery in Hood River where we had pizza, beer, and a great time with our best friends. Although I wanted most of experience to be untraditional, it was still important to us to keep some of the sentimental value that comes with a wedding. It was important to Cody that he saw me in a white dress. After 9 years of dating it’s something we had both pictured a million times.”
KATE + JAKE
“We’ve never been tied to convention – Kate’s engagement present was a vintage Rolex watch (at her request). So, our wedding would be no different. We wanted to be free to say ‘I do’ under the blue skies, in the middle of a field of wildflowers, and with our closest friends. We knew we wanted this to happen outdoors. We chose Mt. Rainier National Park because it was beautiful and close to our friends in Seattle. We talked about what would be ideal, but we never decided on an actual location within the park. Two of our best friends – who got married a few years ago on the Olympic Peninsula – married us. One of them served as our witness, and the other got ordained online so she could marry us. We sang some music in the car and looked at the mountains ahead. ”
“We gathered our backpacks and headed off on the trail for a mile or so. We came around a corner, saw a valley full of purple flowers, and we all knew this was the spot. Right then and there, we changed clothes in the forest. We had planned a little bit of the ceremony beforehand, but we left a lot open. We each came up with stories – from our first year of dating, to when we realized it was forever, to our favorite things about each other, to what our life would look like when we were 75, to why we wanted to marry each other. We didn’t share those beforehand, so it was all a surprise. Donuts seemed like the right way to celebrate. I loved that there was so much laughter – while getting dressed, during the ceremony, and at the picnic. I couldn’t have been happier. It was unpredictable and imperfect and amazing.”