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Eloping in the UK & What Does it Actually Mean to Elope?

Eloping is a chance to get married without a lot of the fuss, taking your special day back to its roots.

When you hear the word 'eloping', what does it conjure up in your mind? If you're old enough maybe tales of young couples running off to Gretna Green to tie the knot over an anvil. Or it may just make you think of crazy old auntie Glenda and uncle Steve getting married in Vegas after one too many boozy cocktails in the casino! What ever your thinking towards the idea of eloping in the UK is, it may well be different from the reality. In the US, its big businesses, with couples disappearing left right and centre in order to get wed away from the stress and strain of a large congregation. But to elope in 2021 doesn't necessarily mean your family doesn't want you to marry, or you've got some issue with the concept of weddings in general. It can just be that you want a wedding that is not the norm, and is considerably smaller than people would expect.

Before the last lockdown, interest in eloping in the UK skyrocketed due to the restrictions on party sizes. And so couples were either jetting off to safer parts of Europe or further to marry, or they were simply having a no-fuss ceremony in the UK with practically no guests, but with a big party planned for 2021. This was seen as the better alternative to having a micro-wedding with 15 people or fewer, as it removed the need to decide on who can come and who can't.

What Does It Actually Mean to Elope?

Forget Ross and Rachel waking up after a heavy night, and realising they'd gone and got married in Vegas! That may well be eloping, but these days it's a far more classy and thought out affair. The modern idea of elopement is a couple travelling somewhere near or far to get legally married, without telling or not inviting many loved ones. It's romantic, as informal as you like and could be considered a honeymoon and wedding all rolled into one!

It’s very much up to you how you elope in the UK or abroad. You can inform your families beforehand or not. You can have a few friends with you as witnesses, or you can do it completely in secret, just the two of you. You can have a no-frills elopement and follow it up with a big party when you’re back home. It can be spontaneous or planned.

You’ll probably already have a feeling whether a big wedding party is right for you and this guide will only serve to help you solidify your gut instinct.

Why Would We Elope?

1. You Want to Save Some Pennies

Weddings aren't cheap, there's no denying that. If you're already raising a family, or you're on a low income, or you're saving for a house - a big wedding can put a strain on your finances. If you consider eloping, even when you factor in the cost of travelling abroad or across the UK, you’ll still be saving money when compared to a 'traditional' big wedding. An elopement in the UK is likely to cost hundreds, rather than thousands. For example in Gretna Green, an elopement package including a photographer starts from £560!

2. You're not Interested in Family Politics

This doesn’t mean you don’t get on with your family. It could just be that you and your partner can’t decide on whose family to marry near, one set of parents might live abroad and not be able to make the trip, or inviting certain members of the family might cause drama with others.

3. A Traditional Wedding Just Isn't You

Some aspects of the traditional wedding ceremony, such as being given away or being the centre of attention for an entire day, just don’t work for some couples.

4. You Hate Planning

Not many of us have experience of planning a party for 100 plus people, and so arranging a wedding day can be a fairly daunting prospect. When it comes to eloping, you can hire an elopement service to take away all the fuss of organising your wedding, but it’s also pretty simple to do yourself.

Eloping will save you a hell of a lot of time, and you can be married within the month rather than the average 13-month planning process traditional nuptials take.

5. This is Your Second Wedding, or You're Marrying Later in Life

You may have already had a big wedding once, and don't fancy another. Or maybe you have grown up kids, and you'd just like your big day to be a smaller, simpler celebration.

6. You Want to Spend all the Money on You!

Just because you're saving money, doesn't mean you have to save it, you can spend it too! Combine your elopement with your honeymoon and splurge on fancy hotels, expensive meals, bucket-list experiences and a whole new honeymoon wardrobe. An elopement can still be extraordinary, and a lot more wickedly indulgent!

7. You Get to Share a Special Secret

The time before you decide to tell your family and friends, there’s a really special period when no one knows you’re married, except you. That secret can be precious and really sacred for some couples.

8. You Still Want to be Legally Married

An elopement is just as meaningful, legal and valid as a big white wedding in a church or licensed venue. Eloping is an excellent alternative to going to your local registry office too. It is as unique, individual and memorable as you make it.

Eloping in the UK

1. Check the Legal Requirements

We hate to break it to you, but you can’t elope quite as spontaneously as you may think. Regardless of which part of the UK you are marrying in, you must ‘give notice’ to marry at your local registry office at least 29 days before, which includes details of your final venue. This means you'll need to know where you intend to marry beforehand. So find your venue and your officiant in advance (this could be a registry office, licensed wedding venue, celebrant on the beach etc) and get them booked in.

For those who want a church elopement, in the Church of England, the equivalent of giving notice is having the ‘banns of marriage’ read on three Sundays at any point during the three months before your marriage. Once you’ve given notice you most hold your ceremony within 12 months, but you cannot marry with less than 29 days’ notice.

In the past, eloping was associated with young couples running away to marry without their parents' permission. That isn't the case now, but legal age limits do stand if you happen to be under the age of 18. You must be over 16 to marry in England and Wales, and will need parental permission if you're under 18.

2. Plan the Ceremony

You need to know where you're marrying to get your marriage licence, so hopefully the destination part of your elopement is settled. Remember that you don't have to go to a different part of the country to elope, you can do it in your local registry office if you want.

What you need to do next is to decide what your ceremony will look like. Do you want to keep any traditions like exchanging rings? Do you want to hire an elopement photographer to capture this special moment? Will you carry a bouquet? What will you wear??

3. Choose Your Witnesses

You need two witnesses to legally marry in the UK. These can be strangers, people you know, or often staff at the registry office or venue will be happy to step in and be witnesses for you.

Bear in mind that it will make it a lot less stressful if you have your witnesses planned in advance, rather than trying to find two people off the street! That being said, having complete strangers as your witnesses can be a wonderful experience - and really add to the whole adventurous aspect of eloping.

4. Decide How You'll Celebrate

After the ceremony you'll want to continue your celebrations right?! This could be a fancy meal for just the two of you, a big reception with all your friends and family, or a small celebration with some of your closest loved ones. It's completely up to you and how secret you want to keep your wedding.

If it's just the two of you celebrating, you could fly straight off on a weekend break or check into a posh hotel and spa. If you want to reveal to loved ones you just got married, how about inviting them for a special dinner under the guise of celebrating a birthday or promotion and then reveal you actually tied the knot? You may not be ready for celebrations just yet, so why not throw a party on your one-year anniversary!

elopement wedding dress from essense of Australia

Eloping Abroad

The same basic principles apply when eloping abroad, but be aware that some legal requirements can be vastly different to the UK. Elopements abroad will be subject to the laws of that country. You can use this tool to find out exactly what documents you’ll need, any legal and residency requirements, and if the marriage will be legal under UK law. Be aware that certain countries, like Mexico, and some US states even require blood tests.

An experienced wedding planner – preferably living in the country you wish to elope to – will make dealing with paperwork, languages and practicalities much easier.

What Shall I Wear to Elope in?

If you haven't got the gist of eloping yet, it may surprise you that, you can wear whatever you like! You want to wear a big white ballgown? Go for it! Dreaming of a tea-length bridal with killer heels? Stop dreaming! As you're not having a traditional wedding, all rules are out the window, wear what feels right for you. As eloping couples are usually marrying abroad, or at the very least travelling. Destination style wedding dresses are usually the most popular choice for brides. Simple styles that are easy to pack, don't need too much steaming and our suitable for warmer climates. Here's our selection of Elopement-Ready Bridal that would suit your mini celebration perfectly!

We're not open in real life right now, but virtually we are. So if you ever have any questions about an existing order, a new order or just need some advice - please feel free to get in touch via our social media or by email. You are not alone.

Laura & the girls xx


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