I'm Donna Marie
An inclusive adventurous destination wedding and elopement photographer livin' in upstate New York. I'm here to empower all couples to create an intentional wedding day that focuses on the experience and the feels.
So the moment the question is asked, you don’t have to start planning a huge wedding. Or the week after, even. Nor should you. Live in it. Be engaged. I have no idea when this “planning pressure” started, but it needs to chill. When friends and family ask if you’ve set a date (which I’m sure doesn’t help on the pressure end of things); it’s more than okay to tell them that you’re enjoying being engaged for the time being. But when you’re ready to start planning, here are the top 8 reasons to elope instead.
I’m all for helping and guiding couples in creating a wedding experience that focuses on the feels, with way less pomp and circumstance, and a little more adventure. A traditional wedding can’t really offer these things. Why? Well, it doesn’t really focus on the emotions between you and your partner. Why do I say this? Because typically you’re obligated to greet or talk with 150+ guests in the span of your day.
And there’s definitely pomp and circumstance; the introductions, the toasts, the myriad of first dances, the bouquet toss or garter toss… These last two have been moderately becoming less popular over the last few years, which I’m thankful for. Lastly, there’s usually not too much adventure in a traditional wedding. You’re limited by a number of factors surrounding your guests, guest count, and venue.
So, how do you get the actual wedding day that you want? Simple.
Yep. Eloping is not your clandestine, run-off-in-secret and get hitched in a drive-thru chapel like many people think it is. Let me give you a few reasons to elope rather than having a traditional wedding. Just in case you’re sitting on the fence about it. Keep reading below for the most popular reasons my couples have shared on why they decided to elope.
From choosing a venue, to the linens and décor; ignoring the migraine caused by figuring out a seating chart; wedding planning can be demanding, hectic, and it is absolutely time consuming. It’s a quick way to turn something that you’re hella excited about into feeling like a chore. Big, elaborate weddings with all the bells and whistles aren’t for everyone—which is perfectly okay! Create the wedding day YOU want by exploring all your options—epic, adventurous options.
Elopements are perfect for those who don’t feel that the traditional wedding route fits them very well. If you want the freedom from planning a traditional wedding, and the freedom to decide how to commit your life to your partner, eloping is your answer. Eloping allows you to return the focus to you and your partner and the love you have for one another. It removes the need to please family members and conforming to traditions that may not mean anything to you.
Planning an elopement is easier in a lot of ways—one of which is simply because you have ZERO limitations! You have full control over everything. The location, the pace of the day, what time you want to have your vow exchange… You control all of it and you can customize any of it. The next couple that comes along and elopes at your location won’t have had the same cookie cutter day as couples who both book the same wedding venue. It makes your wedding day truly unique and catered to YOU. This is one of the more popular reasons to elope.
It’s okay to feel like that the wedding industry has buried the real reason for a wedding under mountains of expectations. Because it really has, and social media tends to perpetuate this issue. If you’re someone that would never dream of being a part of a traditional wedding; the giant party, the ballroom style wedding dress, hundreds of guests, and the hors d’oeuvre—you’re not alone. The wedding industry is FILLED with wedding “traditions” that are generic. They don’t always align with who you are as an individual and as a couple. When you sign up for a traditional wedding, it’s an all or nothing kind of deal. Meaning you sign up for all the parts that don’t feel authentic, too. When you decide to elope, you take back control over your wedding day. You call the shots on how the day unfolds.
Elopements are all about creating an authentic wedding experience. But if a traditional wedding experience resonates with you, that’s perfectly okay too. Choose a wedding that reflects you, your love, and will tell your love story the way you want it told.
If the thought of spending 10-15k for one day at a wedding venue makes your stomach turn, you’re not alone. People who value experiences over tangible things tend to gravitate toward eloping. Not because they don’t want to invest money into their wedding day, but because they can get a fulfilling experience. That same price tag can get you one hell-of-an amazing experience at just about any location in the world. You’ll be able to have your wedding somewhere completely different, but you could Honeymoon around the area as well! You’ll get married to your partner AND create lifelong memories of the experience of exploring, adventuring, and stepping out of the norm together.
According to The Knot, the average price of a traditional wedding in New York in 2019 was $48,600. Nearly $50,000 spent on the décor, furniture rentals, party favors, food, drinks, attire, florals, decor, the linens, invites, DJ, and everything else for a 6-8 hour wedding. It’s hard to rationalize that kind of spending on single use stuff. Cause, let’s be honest, weddings are filled with copious amounts of stuff.
People who opt to elope aren’t opposed to making that kind of investment into their wedding day. They just don’t want to invest it into stuff and would rather invest it into experience. Forget the venue, the furniture rentals, and all the customized signs for each table that you’ll never use again. Grab your passport, travel to a place you’ve always wanted to visit, and book an incredible getaway for yourself.
An elopement is a “just us” experience where you reduce the amount of people there to watch you exchange vows. Have your first kiss, and be in love together on your wedding day. During a traditional wedding, you’re not given much privacy. (That wedgie, oof. And let’s be real, traditional wedding attire isn’t always the most comfortable.) By reducing the number of guests, you increase the privacy and intimacy of your day. It’s more relaxed, where you’re less likely to feel on display and/or oogled by that strange uncle who tends to drink too much. You’re free to let the tears flow when your partner tells you why they chose you to spend the rest of their life with you, without having to worry about what family may think. And you can engage in meaningful conversations with those who you did ask to come along.
Think about it. Wanting 150+ of your family and friends with you on your special day is absolutely okay, don’t get me wrong! But if you’re having 100 people, that’s 100 different conversations that you may feel obligated navigate throughout your wedding day. Yes, even that conversation with your Great Aunt Becky whom you haven’t seen since you were 13.Now throw in your typical wedding schedule: ceremony, toasts, dances, and dinner. Are those 100 conversations going to feel meaningful during your reception time? What happens if you can’t talk with all your guests through the day? Is Great Aunt Becky going to cause a scene? What about spending time with the person you just married? Feeling overwhelmed?
The truth of the matter is it’s just not possible to have a meaningful conversation with that many people on your wedding day. And then after the day is done, you’re left feeling like you had 150+ people travel, spend time and money to attend who you may not have had time to talk to. Let alone spend any kind of quality time enjoying that you’re newly married with your partner.
Not everyone has a close-knit relationship with their family where they can feel comfortable and free to be themselves. If this is the case, you can find yourself trying to survive your wedding day versus being able to enjoy it and experience it. No one should spend their wedding day feeling hyper conscious about the company they’re in. Your day shouldn’t be spent stressing about whether or not drama is going to break loose at some point in the day. This alone is a driving factor when couples list their reasons to elope.
For those who don’t have a supportive family, traditional weddings can be a source of acute stress, panic, or even traumatic. You deserve a wedding day where you’re surrounded by people who support you, your relationship, your aspirations, and your love fully. Judgement, fear, and shame have no place at a wedding, ever. There are so many wedding traditions that require certain family members to do or say something on your behalf. If you don’t have a good, healthy relationship with that family member, it can feel inauthentic and unnatural. You don’t have to put yourself through that.
Even couples who have a fantastic relationship with their family will opt to elope to avoid family drama that tends to pop up during traditional weddings. Sometimes there’s just too many family members to invite to a traditional wedding, or it’s too costly to invite everyone—whatever the reason may be, some couples will opt for an elopement to avoid causing any further family issues.
Your family does not have to be held up on a pedestal when it comes to your wedding day. Do what makes the most sense for your life and what will make you the most happy. Just be sure to prioritize your relationship with your partner.
If you’re looking for more reasons to elope, consider venturing to a location that is significantly more exciting that your local country club. Seriously, the possibilities are endless. Want to take it across the US? Do it. Internationally? Do. It. There’s literally nothing stopping you. Have a location that is close to your heart? That works perfectly well too. All the options are there for you. You just have to decide and then pack your bags. Or you can make it a road trip experience with a week-long agenda. (If you’re really not sure where to go, and want to try your hand at a random place, or just have some fun, check out Earth Roulette.)Traditional weddings typically take place at the same venues year after year. It almost feels tired. New trends come and go with traditional wedding venues (barn wedding trend anyone?), but something about doing exactly what you want just hits different. Whether that be out in nature, in an arcade, or on a boat—each beats a venue with the same views year after year. With an elopement, you can literally choose anywhere on the planet to have your wedding ceremony.
Time and time again, I hear about couples who look back at their traditional weddings and regret not eloping—and the majority of them regret it for one reason: they wanted epic photos of them in their wedding attire. Imagine pairing your dress with hiking boots and rocking it; imagine having your first dance on roller skates in a roller rink. It would all make some bombass portraits, that’s for sure. It’s not every day you get dressed to the nines to declare your love for someone. Celebrate it. Full disclosure: it’s totally okay to be obsessed with getting amazing views and stunning portraits for your wedding. Be obsessed.
You’re allowed to want amazing photos of your wedding day—once the day is over, your photos are going to be your only vivid, and steadfast reminders of what you and your love experienced together. Couples who elope really care about their photos because they want their photos to accurately reflect who they are—not have a set of portraits that are too posed, appear forced and generic amongst other couples’ wedding portraits. An elopement affords you the time to just enjoy being with your partner, doing something that you love together, leaving no need for posed, or forced emotions in your portraits.
No joke, planning a wedding is hard. It’s why Wedding Planners and Wedding Coordinators are a thing that you pay good money for. The process of wedding planning while balancing a career, your education, your family, and your relationship with your partner can really be strenuous. It can really sap the excitement over getting married out of things early on, which is heartbreaking when it happens (and it happens more frequently than you would think). Too many couples have resigned to just “getting through” the wedding planning process—figuring out the wedding party, the seating chart, the party colors, whether you should rent that photobooth, booking the venue, taste testing cake and dinner, etc. Only to try and “survive” the day when their wedding day does arrive—follow the schedule as closely as possible, as you only have a certain amount of time booked at the church and venue. By the end of their wedding day, they’re exhausted—mentally, physically, and emotionally. That’s not how a wedding day should leave you feeling.
Did you know: you can opt out of planning a wedding. For real, you don’t have to. That’s not to say that eloping doesn’t require any planning. Depending on what kind of elopement you want, the amount of planning can vary. But the level of planning is dependent on how much or little you want to put into it. You can absolutely spend your time planning an elopement where you can focus on the things you love: finding an epic location to exchange vows, writing those heartfelt vows, and/or planning fun things to do on your trip. And don’t forget to bring along a photographer you vibe with who can find amazing locations and create an experience for you.
Want to include a few family or friends—there’s nothing stopping you. You’re able to do whatever you want. It’s your day. You’re not locked into this box of expectations like you are with a traditional wedding.
Begin your lives in the way that best suits you both—ditch the tradition and take back your wedding day. Experience it and be in love.
Whatever your reasons to elope are, I’m here to support you the entire way.
If eloping sounds like your cup of tea, and you want a photographer who guides you along the way, it’s time to talk planning. I love being able to help couples create the most authentic and epic wedding day they envision. I don’t just get to join rad couples on their epic adventures, but I also help with planning: from timeline, to potential locations, vendor referrals, and fun activities for you to do while you’re there.