Eloping is not what it used to be, said Lorelei Starbuck, founder of Elope in Austin, which has several venues across the area.
While eloping in times gone by meant running away to get married in secret, it now means getting married in a more intimate setting that is affordable and meaningful, she said.
Starbuck has served as a wedding officiant for nearly 35 years. In her years of experience, Starbuck said she noticed more couples wishing they could have smaller, meaningful weddings that wouldn’t break the bank. She founded Elope in Austin in 2017 and was met with unexpected success, she said.
“There was a hole in the market because [Elope] just took off,” Starbuck said. “People don’t want to have to spend a lot of money getting married. But they still want something meaningful. The whole purpose was to fill that void.”
Elope in Austin offers drive-up weddings, elopements, micro-weddings and pop-up weddings. Elopements include up to six guests, while micro-weddings can entertain 30-50 guests. Weddings typically include all the elements of a traditional wedding on a much smaller scale and are tailored to the needs of their clients, Starbuck said. The first chapel the business started was Chapel Dulcinea, an outdoor venue in Driftwood. Elope in Austin recently acquired the Austin Venue, a Romanesque villa with the ability to hold receptions. The turnaround for weddings is usually less than six weeks, Starbuck said, but for certain setups a client could be married within three days.
“We want people to realize that really they don’t have to worry about finding an officiant, a photographer [or] a videographer—we have all of that within our staff,” Starbuck said. “We’ll take the stress. All you do is tell us what you want. We literally do everything—from you walking in the door to you walking out the door.”
The Chapel of Love is on Star Hill Ranch in Bee Cave. With room for six guests, the couple, a photographer and an officiant, this venue is the smallest offered by Elope. Prior to becoming a wedding venue, the Chapel of Love was part of a longstanding elaborate Christmas display set for demolition, Starbuck said. The chapel was moved to its current location two months into the pandemic, when Elope started with drive-up weddings.
The Chapel of Love is the most popular venue for elopements, Starbuck said. Another popular venue is the Lincoln Chapel in Georgetown, which is a contemporary, all-concrete chapel. A favorite among younger couples is the Sekrit Theater, where Starbuck said clients have a variety of choices for a backdrop, such as an old circus clown or zombie truck, and also can get married in a greenhouse or a decommissioned paddle duck boat.
Elope in Austin
18619 Hamilton Pool Road, Austin
Hours: Daily 11 am-5 pm