It sounds romantic, and a little dangerous. Lovers who want to marry, but are not meeting with social acceptance sneak off into the night and have the ceremony performed by a judge or the priest of a nearby village.
Hopefully once the marriage has been made official, the community will come around. If not, the couple may find themselves ostracized and forced to seek a new community. Often they realized that their union would never be accepted and they never returned.
There may have been embarrassment for the family, especially if either spouse had been promised to someone else in an arranged marriage. If monies had been exchanged, the couple or family may be forced to make reparations. The consequences are to the family’s social standing. There were often ripples through a community, creating feuds, breaking of alliances and generally making things uncomfortable for everyone.
While some may have entered into an elopement on a whim, it was not a choice to be made lightly. Often an elopement meant leaving behind family and hometown. The running away would be forever, not just for the wedding.
While we consider them great romantic tales, the stories of Romeo & Juliet, Pyramus & Thisbe or Tristan & Isolde are about how ill advised self-selected, romantic love can be. It upsets the social order, and causes rifts on the community. Ill-fated, star-crossed lovers are the cause of their own ruin and the sorrow of their families.
Most couples (in the US and Europe) have found each other through whatever means and are choosing freely to marry. So why “run away?”
It is often a practical choice; a matter of time and money.
The modest modern wedding runs between twelve and twenty thousand dollars. Sure much of it if often off-set by parents or family, but wouldn’t that money be better spent as a down payment on a house or condo? Or set aside for possible future emergencies?
Eloping is not free. But the costs are minimal. Marriage license range in the US from $10.00 to $115.00. And since is the license that actually makes the union legal, it is the primary cost.
A few states and a handful of counties require a blood test to show one of the following things – 1) Neither partner has a venereal disease 2) to prove immunity to Rubella or that 3) neither party is intoxicated. There may be fees or a doctor’s visit associated with this.
There is the question of what to wear. Even at the courthouse tux rental and a wedding dress may still be a part of the ceremony.
If you’re traveling far, overnight accommodations are in order. The bridal suite can be an expensive upgrade.
Places like Las Vegas, that specialize in quick and easy weddings, often have packages that can run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Just because you eloped doesn’t mean you don’t want to honeymoon. And if you’ve saved several thousand dollars on the wedding itself, maybe you can afford that trip to Tahiti or Paris or the Galapagos.
The other big factor that makes the modern couple consider running off and getting the ceremony out of the way is time. Most wedding planning sites outline between eight and eighteen months of planning. Not only is it time consuming, many find it stressful. If you have not been imagining your “dream day” since you were six, there is a great deal to think about: date, colors, officiate, save the dates and invitations, flowers, caterer, cake, guest list, venue, reception venue, tux and suit rentals, wedding gown, brides maids dresses, rings, wedding party, gifts for the wedding party, rehearsal dinner venue, music for the ceremony, entertainment for the reception, dance floor, linens, transportation between ceremony and reception, toasts, what to serve, where to seat people, ride to the airport… all of which leads to stress. At some point many couples look at that and say, “Vegas, baby!”
Wedding planners can take some of the heat off, but they do come at a cost. They can help a great deal, but you are still making the final choices just paying them to narrow those choices into manageable sized bites.
Overwhelmed, some couples find the Justice of the Peace or Las Vegas all-inclusive weekend for under a thousand dollars starts to look pretty good.
People on a second or third marriage sometimes find that they are not in need of gifts and that their lives can’t tolerate the kind of disruption that a full wedding and reception can inflict. Sometimes going away for the weekend to get hitched, then throwing a party for friends and family when they get home works just as well for them.
Of course the other consideration is how much you want to share this day with friends, family, your church, your co-workers, your cross-training buddies, and other people in your life.
If many noses will end up out of joint because you’ve “run off,” then it might be worth putting the proverbial nose to the grindstone and hosting that extravagant wedding.