Elopement Wedding

Why everyday couples are saying bye to big weddings and choosing to elope

Newly-wed Emily Hargreaves still remembers how surreal it felt walking towards the love of her life.

They were on the breathtaking mountains of North East Tasmania, with the ethereal sounds of ocean waves and the music of Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s First Class twinkling in the wind.

The fairytale moment was witnessed only by a celebrant, a photographer and her sister.

“She was the only family member that knew,” says Emily.

“It sounds corny but it really was the most magical day we could have dreamed up.”(Photo: Jon Gazzignato)

In 2020, COVID-19 crashed down big wedding plans with caps on gatherings and travel bans.

The latest 2021 Census reveals a 30 percent drop in marriages that year compared to 2019, which is the biggest annual decrease ever recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In Western Australia, marriages dropped by 19 percent with just 9,406 recorded in 2020, according to the WA Department of Justice which maintains the state Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Numbers began recovering in 2021 and have remained strong through 2022 with 5,415 marriages recorded between January 1 to June 30, including 267 Registry weddings.

Why couples choose to elope

Although restrictions on gatherings are long gone, wedding planners in the scenic South West region of Western Australia are seeing an increasing number of requests from couples wanting to elope.

Margaret River wedding manager Carly Melderis organizes ceremonies for couples from all over the world.

Carly Melderis says the pandemic and a shift away from tradition have inspired more couples to tie the knot in smaller ceremonies.(Photo: Shoot Me Jimmy)

“I do elopements all the time and they’re just so special,” says Carly.

“Covid has certainly played a factor so a lot of people couldn’t travel here for their wedding so they decided to just get married anyway and just have the two of them or perhaps a few close friends or family with them.”

Little over a month into the new financial year and Carly has had 12 new bookings for elopement weddings.

At this rate, Carly may book more than double the number of elopement weddings compared to the last financial year. (Photo: Shoot Me Jimmy)

“I have more and more inquiries coming through every few days for elopements,” she says.

It’s been a similar experience for Bunbury wedding planner Jodii Pedersen who’s trying to wrap up her business.

“I’m not advertising or putting it out there so that’s definitely an indication that people are still looking for it,” she says.

Want to elope? A bride’s advice

For Emily and her partner, the idea to elope was an epiphany that came while budgeting and guest list cutting for a more traditional wedding.

“We just wanted to have a big party and make the actual day all about us,” she says.

“We just decided that this was what we wanted,” Emily says.(Photo: Jon Gazzignato)

If you’re planning to elope, Emily says there are three key things to get right: do what feels right for both of you, find a way to celebrate with your loved ones later and watch who you tell before the big day.

“If you’re going to do it in secret, don’t tell a soul,” she says.

“Think about who you are as a couple.

“If family is important, include them.”

“Have the day exactly as you want.”(Photo: Jon Gazzignato)

Their elopement wedding cost about $35,000 including luxury accommodation and a 10-day holiday in Tasmania.

Emily and her wife told their parents a day after the ceremony.

“It’s always that thing: do I ask for permission or for forgiveness?” Emily says

“We planned an engagement party for after we got back a few weeks later and we announced at the engagement party that we actually went off and got married.

“It was really nice to have that night to celebrate with all of our loved ones.”

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