Why We Decided to Elope Amid COVID-19
To elope or to hold? The literal meaning of an elopement is "to escape," inferring in modern terms that a couple commits to each other privately in a moment away from everyday life. During COVID-19, an increasing number of to-be-weds have pursued the route of elopements to legalize their marriage. Postponed weddings or scaled-down affairs, among other unexpected pivots in planning, have resulted in couples finding greater value in their marriage, first, with a broader wedding celebration held later.
Take, for example, The Knot Most Influential Weddings couple Samuel Anthony and Erik Velasquez, who not only made the decision in mid-2020 to postpone their large Scottsdale wedding but to move forward with an elopement, which they've since dubbed "a wedding for two."
When a wedding ceremony is private, it strips away the fuss and pressure of a more formal affair. According to a report by The New York Times, eloping couples still remain committed to finding the perfect floral arrangements, catering options and photography to supplement their private ceremonies. In recent years, celebrities have led the charge on hyper-personal, intimate getaways, and what was once a sacred, furtive act has become more commonplace especially during COVID-19.
"What we loved most about our wedding, party of two, is that it truly was a celebration of us," Anthony tells The Knot. "Of course, we would have loved to have our friends and family there with us, but we felt their love and support even in their absence. Instead of focusing on what wasn't there, we spent the evening embracing what was: We were no longer boyfriends. We were finally husbands."
What to Consider When Planning an Elopement
Your Family and the Guest List
The trickiest component for couples who elope is often communicating their decision to family members. "While you may be excited about an elopement, some people, like your parents, may need time to warm up to this as they've undoubtedly waited their whole lives to be a part of this day," muses Anthony, a PR professional and the founder of his blog, The Frenchy Toast. "We are both very close to our friends and family, and we wanted everyone to understand what we were doing and why we were doing it."
For Anthony and Velasquez, a photographer with a sizable Instagram following, they went the route of direct outreach to family. "Honesty is the only option in these circumstances. Our truth being that we were ready to move forward, to take the next step in our relationship and get married. We explained that it's not ideal but that we still found a way to make our wedding special," recalls Anthony. "We shared our excitement about the details and our sadness that our loved ones wouldn't be able to participate. Fortunately, everyone we care about is very informed on the severity of the COVID pandemic and preferred to avoid large gatherings. However, it did help that we told everyone that once we get on the other side of this crisis that we will host a reception to celebrate our love with our family and closest friends."
They had one friend present for the occasion, but his role doubled as the officiant. Not to mention, the couple dressed their two French Bulldogs in bow-ties that matched their outfits.
Finally, there are no rules that an elopement has to be only the couple. In fact, it could be very small group of loved ones to witness your nuptials whether at city hall or abroad. If you feel moved, share your elopement photos when you return to daily life. That way, your extended loved ones can feel present.
Your Vendors (And Simple, Special Decor)
"Make a list of all the traditional elements you would love to integrate into your wedding party of two," suggests Anthony. "Work with your venue coordinator and/or planner to see what you can and can't do. Make it about the two of you: so often weddings end up being about everyone else, slow down and take the time to focus on what you both want as opposed to what everyone else wants for you."
Venus Et Fleur, the luxury boxed brand of eternity roses beloved by Kardashians, provided several mounds of its famous, fragrant eternity roses in white to decorate the space.
The Wedding Attire
Anthony and Velasquez are often big advocates of self-expression through fashion, so their elopement was an opportunity to focus on the details of their sartorial style. "We wanted to use our outfits to put our personalities on display," explains Anthony, who chose a bold color palette: he wore pink against his husband's blue suit, both by Sandro Paris neatly paired with Giorgio Armani button-down shirts and Gucci ties.
"Having it tailored is always the best way to take a basic suit and make it fabulous… And as a gay couple getting married, there's a little humor hiding in me wearing pink and Erik wearing blue," Anthony notes. "Whether it's a feminine color or a sparkling diamond ring, we both feel that men's range of self-expression shouldn't be limited by our gender. I think when you look at photos from our wedding that message comes through loud and clear."
The Elopement Destination
Near or far, an elopement can be as simple as exchanging vows at your local city hall or traveling to a remote destination halfway around the world for a sweet escape. Despite a change-in-plans, Anthony and Velasquez still chose to wed at their original wedding venue: the Andaz Scottsdale and worked closely with their event coordinator George Romero.
"Although our plans shifted dramatically from our initial plans to the wedding itself, having a location that can evolve with you and your needs is crucial," he explains. The pair went with an outdoor ceremony on the grounds of the property, followed by a reception for two at the Girard House, a presidential suite at the hotel. "Thinking about walking in and seeing all of our lights, candles, flowers and other decorations set up in the space still gives me chills," he recalls. "It was perfect. It was so us."
A Hyper-Specialized Wedding Menu
If anything, an elopement presents a unique opportunity to splurge on a tasting menu or a culinary experience for two, which is often challenging to execute for hundreds of guests. "A shared passion for food has always brought us together," reflects Anthony. The couple worked closely with the catering team at the Andaz to create an "exceptional" wedding menu, one that they can remember forever.
Moments to Savor
Both Erik and Samuel looked forward to several "firsts" on their elopement day. "Our first [venue] look in our fully-decorated event space was something we both looked forward to every day leading up to our ceremony," says Anthony.
The second was their first look. "Although we shopped and went to tailoring appointments together, neither of us saw the other dressed and ready until the day of our wedding," he adds. "Sharing that moment was something I will never forget. I'm smiling right now just thinking about it."
Whatever your style, the vows a couple ultimately makes has little to do with the number of people at a wedding—it's ultimately about commitment and love.