Elopement Planning: Part I

QC tutor Heather Vickery is the Owner and Event Director of Greatest Expectations Special Events and Weddings, one of Chicago’s most celebrated event planning and design firms. All photos in this post are from events produced by Greatest Expectations.

Have you ever considered adding elopements, or as I like to call them mini-weddings, to your list of services? I imagine, for many of you, when you think of a couple eloping, you picture a courthouse wedding and that’s it. Well, these mini-weddings are a hot new trend, both in the United States and internationally.

Elopement Wedding Planning 1 Dann Wunderfurn

Photographer: Dann Wunderfurn Photography

Mini-weddings are perfect for those who want a more intimate wedding with a shorter turn-around time and a very small guest list. Previously, clients who were looking to elope fell into a category that either forced them to a courthouse wedding or forced them into a larger wedding that they really didn’t want or sent them off to Las Vegas. That is no longer the case. As wedding professionals, we can truly offer a personalized, custom yet still intimate elopement experience.

How did I end up offering elopements?

I débuted my elopement package “Destiny Chicago” two years ago. I originally developed this product in conjunction with 14 Stories (the United States leading expert in LGBT weddings) as a way to be of service to the LGBT community. There were many same-sex couples that wanted to get married but could not do so, legally, in their home state. To get married, these couples were traveling to states that would recognize their union. I am based in Chicago and we were fortunate enough to have marriage equality a year before the rest of the United States. Couples were coming to Chicago to elope and I knew there was a gap to fill. I wanted to offer a welcoming haven to these couples. How could I be of service to these couples and make a good financial business decision? I decided to provide them with a complete elopement package that would ensure they felt like their wedding was truly unique and special.

Elopement Wedding Planning 2 Dann Wunderfurn

Photographer: Dann Wunderfurn Photography

It turned out, however, that elopements were not just needed for same-sex couples. In the course of the last year I have had all sorts of couples express interest in a mini-wedding. Some clients have a very short planning time frame of less than two months. Other couples plan their mini-weddings well over a year out. Yes, there really are couples that plan that far out for a wedding that only has about 18 guests! Many of these couples are traveling from another state. That is part of what makes elopements so much fun! Elopements allow couples to combine a love of travel, and an exciting new destination (or perhaps a spot that holds a special place in the couples’ heart). They can share it with loved ones while keeping the entire process simple and enjoyable.

What should an elopement package include?

When putting together my Destiny Chicago package, I knew it was important to offer a complete package that would take care of all essential needs. Even though these are tiny weddings, they still have many of the same elements you see with a larger event.

Elopement Wedding Planning 3 Dann Wunderfurn

Photographer: Dann Wunderfurn Photography

Clients who want to elope still have to:

  • Pick a date
  • Select a venue for the ceremony
  • Select a venue for the post-ceremony celebration (this could be breakfast, lunch, dinner or simply cocktails and desserts)
  • Hire a photographer (because it didn’t really happen if you don’t have the pictures to prove it and you should always have professional photographs of your wedding!)
  • Select an officiant
  • Design and send out invitations (even if they are electronic)
  • Book a hotel that will be comfortable for their guests and also a good spot for them to get ready
  • Hire hair and makeup artists (if that is desired)
  • Order personal flowers
  • Arrange transportation to the ceremony and post-celebration
  • Collect responses

While it’s not on the same scale as a standard wedding, that still adds up to a lot of planning—and that’s where you come in.

Interested in adding elopement planning to your business? Check back next week to hear more from Heather in Elopement Planning: Part II!

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