Had it with wedding planning? Elope! Check out these destinations and packages that offer an alternative to Vegas.
Instead of sneaking off in the middle of the night to avoid disapproving parents, today’s couples are opting to elope as a way to save money and have a more intimate experience. “Elopements are all about getting the most for your money,” says Frankee Love, a Virginia–based elopement planner. “I see a lot of couples that are choosing to go away so they can have a high quality, nice wedding and a relaxing vacation along with it.”
Today, more people are bringing parents, siblings and close friends to their elopement ceremonies. “It’s a gray area now between ‘elegant elopement’ and ‘small destination wedding,’” says Love. Case in point, at Alexander’s Country Inn in Ashford, Wash., elopement packages range from casual couple-in-a-hurry to brides in full white dress with videographers, make-up artists, hair stylists and 30 guests in tow.
Whatever your plans, if you’re considering an elopement wedding, choose a destination that doubles as a vacation spot after the vows are over. Here are a few places to elope, from a country inn to an island getaway.
Choose Alexander’s Country Inn in Ashford, Wash., if you want an intimate one-stop elopement. People have gotten married in front of the landmark water wheel, by the waterfall or inside at the fireplace that’s always decorated with seasonal flowers. Packages range from a simple ceremony, cake and toast for two to what’s really a small wedding with guests, spa services pre-ceremony and a reception.
Say I Do: 37515 State Rd. 706 E., tel. 800-654-7615. www.alexanderscountryinn.com
Whether it’s the beach at sunrise or sunset, on top of a mountain looking down at fall foliage, or standing on a sloping hill gazing up at the mountain’s peak, Virginia has it all. Love, who owns Elopement Packages Virginia and is an officiant, has two wedding chapels—one in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Winter Green Resort and another on Virginia Beach (on the bay side, so couples can get married at dusk with the sun setting behind them). Her prices range from $395 to $3,500.
San Francisco wedding officiant Judith Dempsey Malear likes to host elopements, even surprise elopements, in a private garden at Half Moon Bay, a small California beach town 30 miles south of San Francisco. The Hastings House Garden is an ideal spot to spring a wedding on your unsuspecting spouse-to-be, says Malear, because people pretend they’re going to lunch, but stop off at the garden instead.
Say I Do: Visit www.pacificcoastweddings.com for more information.
The gardens around the Blue Skies Inn in Manitou Springs, Colo., are ideal for photo shoots with meandering paths, streams, waterfalls and bridges. Manager Sally Thurston, an avid gardener, incorporates her flowers into everything from hand-picked bouquets to cake decorations and even winter weddings with hundreds of rose petals scattered across the snow.
In Reno, Nev., you’ll still get the benefits of an accommodating marriage license system, and courts and chapels that are open late (the Arch of Reno is open until midnight Fri. and Sat.; 10 p.m. Sun. through Thurs.) without all the hoopla of Vegas. Once you’ve tied the knot, head to the Sierra Nevada slopes or raft down the Truckee River. An added bonus, head to the California side of Lake Tahoe for a same-sex ceremony.
Say I Do: Visit www.visitrenotahoe.com for more area information.
Casa Sedona in Sedona, Ariz., (halfway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon) puts couples within view of the red rocks. After your ceremony, toast your couple-hood, cut the cake, pose for photos in front of Thunder Mountain and head out into Sedona on foot, on horseback, or from the air with a hot air balloon or helicopter ride.
Say I Do: 55 Hozoni Dr., tel. 800-525-3756. Visit www.casasedona.com for more info.
Couples come to Kona to exchange leis Hawaiian-style and to escape the crowds that descend on Honolulu’s beaches. But, besides quiet, the Kona side of the Big Island has other benefits, from cheap site fees ($20) for beach weddings to unique ceremony spots. Minister Danny Cheeks, owner of Royal Kona Weddings (no affiliation with Royal Kona Resort) has hosted weddings at hidden waterfalls, lighthouses and on the beach while whales swam just offshore. Send your ceremony back home with a video stream that sends live video to friends and family on the mainland.
Say I Do: Visit www.royalkonaweddings.com for more information.
Costa Rica is within reach if you’re willing to bring your passport, two witnesses (they must be acquainted but don’t have to be a relative) and wait two months for the registry to register your marriage. After your vows, explore the jungle or the ocean at Villa Caletas.
Say I Do: Visit www.hotelvillacaletas.com for more information.
Get whatever island escape you want in the Florida Keys, a tiki bar, aboard a glass bottomed boat or simply on the sand. Just a few unique options in the keys: get married underwater at the Jules Undersea Lodge, among clouds of butterflies at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory or at Ernest Hemingway’s home and garden.
Say I Do: For more ideas, visit www.fla-keys.com.
Themes: Romantic Getaways
How about eloping at the San Francisco City Hall? It is very easy and costs just a little bit over $100 and the building is absolutely magnificent! Check out this San Francisco City Hall wedding slideshow. When you done, you can enjoy the amazing City of San Francisco or travel to the wine county for a mini honeymoon. I personally know people from India, China, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia who have traveled to tie the knot at the San Francisco City Hall.