By: Marianna Milkis-Edwards
An average American couple spends $33,391 on a wedding. However, considering that between 40-50% of marriages end in divorce, the amount spent on a wedding doesn’t quite determine the level of each couple’s present or future happiness. Still, rehearsal dinners, bachelor and bachelorette parties, party favors, tiered cakes, and The Dress are so deeply rooted in our consciousness that…how else in the world are you supposed to get married?!
Our Elopement Story
My husband and I knew we wanted to get married. We also knew the following three things: One, my family and friends lived between Bulgaria, Israel, and Russia, and his between California, North Dakota, and New York. In other words, getting everyone in one place would be a challenge, and not inviting either side would be plain wrong. Two, we had just sold all our possessions to move cross country in a sedan and were saving up for a house. We weren’t going to empty all of our hard-earned savings on, let’s be honest, a few good pictures, a couple of teary-eyed dances, and lots of drunk relatives. And three, I wanted to get married on a cliff by the ocean at sunset. Which coincidentally kicked the potential cost of a “real wedding” entirely out of the ballpark.
A traditional white wedding had never been on my bucket list. Instead I wanted to start a business, travel to New Zealand and Patagonia, and take a long road trip on a motorcycle (which happened when we got engaged). This doesn’t mean that the “I’m getting married” itch bypassed me — I pinned plenty of princess dresses (hello, Vera Wang!) on Pinterest, googled pastors and photographers in Big Sur (our usual vacation place and home of one of the best cliff-ocean combos in the world), and frantically researched AirBnBs. I figured, if we weren’t spending big on the wedding itself, we could at least splurge on nice digs.
My then future husband seemed to have read my mind when he gifted me 3 nights at an AirBnb in Shell Beach for my birthday. And just like that, our wedding got a date as imminent as the following month. This annulled the possibility of a Pinterest-worthy dress (that would have needed to be custom made since obviously I couldn’t afford a Vera Wang) and made me take a closer look inside my wardrobe. There, I discovered a white silk slip dress that I wore only once or twice. Problem solved.
We both frantically shopped for wedding bands and I managed to order his on Etsy, a tungsten and deer antler style. I tried to book a pastor but the closest I found was in Monterey, and he would only drive as far as the north side of Big Sur where there are no cliffs. I decided that the ocean is a good enough pastor. Finally, perhaps my most daring decision in our age when if it’s not documented, it doesn’t exist, was to forgo a photographer. I couldn’t afford the quality of pictures that I truly wanted and didn’t want to waste money on something that wasn’t up to my standards. I took a bet to rely on my memory for this special moment. Surprisingly, it worked out wonderfully well.
So, there we were, packed for our usual coastal vacation with a light addition of a pair of heels and a dress for me (ok, I did also bring my curling iron) and chinos and a collared shirt for my fiancé. “Should we do it tomorrow?” he asked on our second evening. “Sure,” – I responded, sipping wine. We decided to call up my fiance’s best friend’s parents who live a dozen miles away and invite them to join us.
And join us they did. As soon as we were done hand-writing out oaths and sharing a bottle of champagne graciously gifted to us by the hosts (we hadn't mentioned the wedding, so they must’ve read our minds), our guests picked us up and the four of us drove to the cliff. They handed us a beautiful bouquet and boutonniere that they somehow procured on a super short notice. They also brought amazing and largely underrated Central Coast wine. As the sun was setting over the ocean, painting everything pink, we read our oaths, exchanged the rings, and celebrated with the delicious wine at a wooden picnic table. The five photos that they took of us on an iPhone with the Portrait Mode enabled came out stunningly.
We wrapped up the night with a relaxed dinner for four at a nice local restaurant and a stargazing walk on the ocean floor in the middle of the night during the lowest tide, just the two of us. It couldn’t have been any more perfect.
Since then, I have caught myself encouraging newly engaged people to consider whether elopement could be right for them. If it sounds like something you may be interested in, here are some tips to ensure your elopement is everything you want a wedding to be and more.
Have you ever eloped or considered eloping? Tell us in comments, we can’t wait to hear your story!
Marianna Milkis-Edwards is a co-founder of Maison Me, the brand of custom on-demand clothing that doesn’t compromise. She lives in sunny Arizona with her husband and baby boy and is always looking for unconventional approaches to life. Follow her exploration of simplicity and creative entrepreneurship on Instagram at @maisonmilkis.