Ask The Experts: Elopements – The Dos and Don’ts by Penny and Martin from Tino & Pip

Everyone has their own idea of a perfect wedding. For some it is the big wedding, with all the frills and fuss. For others this would be their idea of a nightmare. I am seeing more and more elopements popping into my inbox these days, which shows that more and more people are choosing to elope and spare themselves the drama of planning a big wedding. Back in 2012 Penny and Martin from Tino & Pip Photography took themselves off to Scotland for their own elopement and the results were spectacular. Today they are here on the blog talking about their experience, giving you some very useful advice to help put together your own elopement.

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elope definition (e·lope)
verb: run away secretly in order to get married. “later he eloped with one of the housemaids”
synonyms: run away to marry, run off/away together, slip away, sneak off, steal away; run off/away with a lover “perhaps they’ll elope to Gretna Green”

Nowadays, the term elopement has a broader meaning. By all means flit off in the night for a secret ceremony the way the term once intended, but if you fear that your loved ones might be disappointed that they missed out, maybe give them a heads up. Perhaps a little gathering of your nearest and dearest after the fact, with bubbles and a slideshow of emotive photos may ease the blow! Alternatively, if you don’t want all the fuss of a big wedding, but can’t imagine getting married without your parents and best friends by your side, invite them along and have a ‘tiny wedding’. A wedding with a handful of guests could feel just as intimate and meaningful, but you’d still be breaking free from all the expectations of a so called ‘proper’ wedding!

Elopement Wedding Photographers Scotland_Tino&Pip-007 Define ‘tiny wedding’… so your average conventional wedding caters for around 100 guests and at least roughly follows the ceremony, drinks reception, group photos, couple shots, wedding breakfast, speeches, cake cutting, first dance route. A small wedding is likely to follow a similar pattern, but hosting around 50 guests. A tiny wedding includes just parents, siblings and closest friends perhaps – maybe 10 guests at most, and is unlikely to accommodate your typical wedding traditions, as the ceremony is the main focus. A tiny wedding celebrates what a wedding is at its core – a union of two people (or three or four… if they’re polyamorous), surrounded by their closest family and friends.

Intimacy is at the heart of an elopement. A wedding ceremony with hordes of guests can feel like a theatrical production, where there is a sense of us and them – the cast and the audience. Even if you have just a handful of guests, they can all stand beside you, and feel present in the words and vows of your ceremony.

Do the unexpected and escape the word ‘should’. I hate the word ‘should’. It appears so simple, but it carries undertones of expectation, convention, assumption, discouraging imagination, individualism and expression. With an elopement, you’ll have fewer people to please and you’ll escape those family/guest list politics that often rear their head at the very utterance of a wedding, not to mention the table plan fiasco!

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The Location: Eloping opens up a whole world of ceremony venue/location possibilities, especially as you can venture further afield. Getting married pretty much anywhere except England (enforcers of ‘tradition’), means that your venue does not have to be licenced – so the world really is your oyster! Less guests brings less concerns over location suitability, so be guided by your imagination – if being by the water is your querencia, how about a cliff top, a lochside, a river boat, a cave, a cove, in the sea even… and don’t be phased by a spot of rain! How about at the foot of a mountain, or at the top?! As long as you have permission from the land-owner, you’re away! You should find most folk willing to allow small weddings on their land, as long as you reassure them you will be vigilant about shutting gates and clearing up afterwards, e.g. confetti/champagne corks, etc. You may not even need to pay for the privilege! If you’d rather be warm and cosy indoors, consider historic buildings (many only have space inside for tiny wedding parties), greenhouses with spectacular views, a holiday cottage maybe. Many of these non-traditional wedding venues may charge less, as they’re not bound by the typical mark-up that’s associated with the conventional wedding. Incidentally, if you are venturing away from home, you could easily extend your stay and combine your wedding with your honeymoon!

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The celebration bit: Food is rarely overlooked when it comes to a celebratory gathering! How about a scenic picnic, or a BBQ on the beach or outside your holiday cottage, or a table at a local restaurant, or you could go paintballing, I don’t know – whatever you love doing is very much a possibility as it’s so much easier to organise with no guests or even just a handful of guests to accommodate, and so perfectly informal! And best of all, you won’t be spending all day saying hello to one guest then moving on to the next… you’ll actually be able to enjoy celebrating and spending quality time with each other or with the most significant people in your lives.

Far less to plan! Smaller weddings have fewer moving parts, so you can escape the stress of coordinating a gazillion wedding suppliers and cut your wedding planning checklist down dramatically. This was the deciding factor for us – we didn’t want our vows to be overshadowed by nerves or to have any niggles about what we did or didn’t forget to organise or double check! A tiny, simple wedding gives you the breathing space to enjoy every moment of the planning and of the day itself and allows you to be fully and emotionally present in the moment.

Budget is almost always a dictating factor in planning a wedding. For some, the most appealing benefit of eloping is that you can save a considerable amount of money and splurge on the things that are most important to YOU! That may be the venue or the dress, treating your very closest friends and family to a beautiful meal and vintage champagne, or capturing the narrative of the day in photos or video. Whatever it may be, remember your photos, your rings, your memories and each other are the only things you get to keep!

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Elopement Etiquette:

Many people are either overwhelmed by the thought of planning (and paying for) the whole wedding shebang, or simply cannot see themselves in that scenario – fuss and frills just isn’t their thing! We’ve heard time and again “I wish we could elope, but our families wouldn’t understand”. The thing is, if you handle it just right, you may well be surprised.

The safest approach is to sensitively discuss the idea of eloping with your closest family and friends beforehand. For some, it might help to sit down with your partner and sketch out a short and honest explanation as to why this is your dream wedding scenario – what an intimate ceremony would mean to you, and why it feels so right. Bringing up the subject of eloping as a discussion would give them an opportunity to express how they feel about the idea and may help to feel included in the decision. You could even brainstorm with your select guests to involve them in the planning process. That said, prepare yourselves for any negative feedback – some may not support your decision at first, but don’t feel you have to apologise, just reassure them – they’ll come round! Try not to question your decision or feel guilty. Those uneasy feelings will pass, so just go for it!

Once you have broken the news to your nearest and dearest in person, why not build up the excitement among the rest of your family and friends by sending out a little announcement of your plans, and reassuring them that you’ll be back with amazing photos!

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A secret elopement may be far more inspiring for some – the ultimate romance of flitting off into the night to get married! Whatever you do, give yourselves plenty of time to take in the fact that you just got married before you make any kind of announcement. Enjoy that feeling – it’s amazing! The last thing you need is to be overwhelmed with questions or worse – any negativity that might take the shine off! The vast majority of people will be so excited to hear your news, psyched that you followed your heart, (envious even!), but how you handle the announcement is key. Shocking your closest family and friends with a Facebook update is a big impersonal no-no! Write in advance, a list of people you should tell in person, and perhaps those who would at least appreciate a phone call. Break the news gently, but stand firm as a couple on your decision to elope. Perhaps follow this with some announcement cards – real ones, sent by old-fashioned snail-mail – something your family and friends can keep. Once all these more sensitive, thoughtful steps are complete… update your Facebook status to let the rest of the world know!

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An informal after-party is something to consider whether your elopement is secret or not. Giving your family and friends the opportunity to celebrate with you will make them feel loved and included. There’s no need for wedding reception-style formalities – something as simple as projecting your photos and/or video on to a sheet in your back garden, accompanied by an ample supply of bubbles and popcorn could work a treat. We actually talked our favourite little weird and wonderful café into hosting our party! We learnt from our own experience, the importance of having an emotive set of wedding photos to tell the story of your elopement. Seeing the reactions of our loved ones as they watched our wedding video/slideshow was priceless, and a few even said to us that it helped them to feel like they were right there with us!

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For more information on Tino&Pip Photography go to

www.tinoandpip.co.uk / www.instagram.com/tinoandpip / www.facebook.com/TinoAndPip / www.facebook.com/PennyAndMartin / www.twitter.com/TinoAndPip / www.pinterest.com/tinoandpip

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