Recent Comments


    Elope, or Have a Wedding?

    reverendOver the 11 years I have been officiating weddings, most couples have chosen to celebrate marriage with a full wedding ceremony surrounded by friends and relatives. But some choose to have a private ceremony, with no one else present besides the officiant and perhaps a photographer. I am finding that this is often referred to as an “elopement.”

    Now, in my old-fashioned view of the world, I picture an elopement as two people “running away” to get married secretly, usually on the spur of the moment. It might be a really young couple who are afraid their folks will try to stop them marrying. Or it could be someone who is running off with someone else’s wife—or husband. And then it seems they just find a justice of the peace to marry them! (Do you think I watch too many old movies?)

    So, when a couple first approached me about doing their elopement a few years ago, I was so clueless I said, “Why don’t you just hire a justice of the peace?” Eventually I learned that elopements are commonplace, and they are almost never about anyone “running away.” They are not even secret! I can say this with confidence now, having celebrated quite a few of them over the past few years. In fact, last year, thirty-five percent of my weddings were elopements. This year, half of the weddings I have booked so far are elopements.

    For what reasons do people elope? Here are some explanations given by the couples:

    • It can save you money, since it usually involves having a legal ceremony with almost no extra expenses other than the license and the minister.
    • You can avoid stress. Eloping may eliminate the need to plan, to figure out whom to invite and not to invite, to decide upon a venue, and so on.
    • Couples may experience more instant gratification.
    • Shy, private people sometimes feel more comfortable eloping.
    • For those who wish to hold a big ceremony later in another city or even country, eloping allows couples to wed now and deal with the other formalities in future.

    Some people elope to avoid from being deported. (Yes, I’ve had a couple of those!)

    And for what reasons do people have formal weddings with all the trimmings? Here’s what they tell me:

    Couples can celebrate to the max what is one of the most significant days in their lives.

    They can celebrate with family and other loved ones.

    Many want to hold the best party ever!

    They look forward to creating fabulous memories that will last a lifetime.

    Some marry because it’s more traditional, and carries on family traditions.

    Certain couples marry because of their religious beliefs.

    Sometimes parents or other relatives encourage couples to marry, even paying for the ceremony.

    And, of course, there are many other reasons why couples choose to have a more formal wedding and not to elope.

    Here’s the great thing: Whether you choose to have a simple elopement or to have a big wedding bash with lots of guests and a party to end all parties—either way, it’s a marriage! As long as you get the license and it’s signed by your officiant, you have all the legal rights attached to marriage! And what a thrilling time we are in right this minute, awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage for every state in the Union.

    I bless your marriage, and I hope you do too!

    Reverend Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. For more information, please visit