Romantic lighthouse elopement on Cobble Beach. The Oregon coast is full of amazing places to elope. Wedding couple caresses on the black stone beach in front of Yaquina Head Lighthouse

How To Turn Your Traditional Wedding Into An Elopement by Oregon Elopement Photographer Black Salt Photography

How to Switch to an Elopement

When you decide to switch to an elopement instead of a traditional wedding, you’re deciding on a day spent on the important stuff. Switching is more common than you might think. Especially after COVID, so many couples chose to downsize and elope rather than risk their guests with a traditional wedding. Choosing to have a small wedding doesn’t mean you have to get rid of the party part of your day. If you still want to have the reception with all of your friends and family, you can! There are a few key things to keep in mind when switching your plans like informing your guest list, discussing deposits, and your vendors. Getting married doesn’t have to be stressful! It really doesn’t.

Table of Contents:

  1. Deposits
  2. Reception
  3. Invites
  4. Postpone
  5. Elopement Vs Intimate Wedding
  6. Free Elopement Planning Resources

If you’re still not sure whether a big wedding or an elopement is better for you, check out this blog on the 10 most common reasons my couples elope.

Change of Plans: How to change your traditional wedding into an elopement

There are many different reasons why people want intimate elopements. Some couples may not have a lot of money to spend on their wedding, or they simply want something more casual and less traditional than the average ceremony. They might also be frustrated with all the stress that comes along with planning an extravagant event – like guest lists, venue booking times, and sourcing for the best supplier deals.

Even if you’ve already started planning the big day you can still switch to an elopement at any time!

The elopement is a stylish way to have an intimate ceremony without all the fuss – it’s also something out of the ordinary that will make your wedding day feel more unique than any other event you’ve attended before. There are so many different ways you can personalize your elopement, from the location to the dress code and time of day. Don’t let the buzzword “adventure elopement” scare you away. You don’t have to go on a long hike or somewhere new to elope.

You’ll probably lose your deposits

As a couple, eloping is exciting. It’s more intimate and romantic than your traditional wedding—and you don’t have to deal with any of the stress that goes along with planning it. But there are some disadvantages when you switch to an elopement as well. You’ll likely lose all or part of your deposits for food, flowers, music, venue rental fees etc. There are a couple of ways you can get around this, though, if you’re being creative. You could choose to keep your original wedding date and the venue for just the reception part. You could keep the venue but just have a ceremony for the two of you. Sometimes, if the vendor is able to fill your date after you cancel they will give the deposit back as well.

Your ability to stomach losing the deposits will depend on how many you already paid and how much they are. It’s an important conversation to have with your partner on whether or not you can afford to lose them. Keep in mind the money you’ve already paid is likely far less than your remaining bill. So even if you cancel the traditional plans and decided to elope, you’re probably still saving a lot of money.

If you choose to still have a reception after your elopement then you will probably be able to keep some of your deposits. Especially if your vendors are okay with postponing the date, you can probably work out a new date that works for everyone ahead of time.

Read a complete breakdown of elopement costs on this blog. I go over everything you want to keep in mind and even created a calculator for you to use to estimate your elopement budget.

Turn your original wedding plans into a reception

Planning just a party versus planning your wedding is A LOT easier. The moment you take out the big-ticket items that cause all the stress it’s like a magic bubble bursts. Choosing the color of the napkins is suddenly not important at all. After you choose to elope you understand what is really important to you on your wedding day. Everything else is background noise.

You can make your reception as big or as small as you want to. If one of the biggest reasons you’re planning your elopement is to save costs then you might not want to offer an open bar, even if you’re only inviting a small group of close friends. If you want to do your first dance during the reception you can but you can also keep it for a more personal part of your adventure together on your wedding day.

What about the invites?

Choosing to still host a reception after your elopement can come in handy when you’ve already sent out your invitations. This way you’ll know that all of your guests already have the basic information they need to know. Your friends and family can be up to date on your new adventure elopement plans (or not) but the rest of the rando guests you invited don’t really need to know the details. Most people only care about the party anyway.

If you would rather keep your original wedding day then you could also send out a link either via your wedding website, email, or a wedding Facebook group and inform guests of the change of plans. If you’re choosing to still share the day with them by hosting a video call of your ceremony this would be a good place for that too.

Should you cancel or postpone?

Only if you want to! For your vendors, it will likely not make much of a difference at the moment whether you choose to cancel completely or postpone. Many vendors will require a new deposit for a new date. It would just depend on why you’re eloping. Are you eloping because you don’t want the stress or family pressure? Are you eloping because of extenuating circumstances? Only you can know what would be best for you and your partner. When you switch to an elopement you remove a lot of the stress but you still have to decide on those few key things.

Another option you could consider instead of choosing to elope is to still keep your original date but change up the activities. You and your partner could say your vows and do your first dance alone on an adventure hike or something during the day. Then that evening you come together and celebrate with friends and family. This is a great option if planning two separate functions gives you the heebie-jeebies.

Elopements vs Intimate Weddings

A small elopement is a quick and simple way to get married, without the fuss of an intimate wedding. It’s also usually much less expensive than having a full-blown event with lots of guests or requiring travel for your family members. Eloping can be as fun and exciting as you want it to be! Your elopement can be just the two of you or some of your closest family and friends.

You can read more about my definition of an elopement here.

If you’re worried about not having your friends and family present at your elopement ceremony then maybe an intimate wedding would make more sense for you. An intimate wedding is typically the love child of eloping and a normal wedding. You can have the small ceremony with just you two AND the after-party with 20 or 30 of your closest friends and family.

Intimate weddings are generally more stylized with fancy tables, chairs, and centerpieces. Because you only have to cover 1-2 tables, you can splurge a bit more on the decor.

If you’ve been thinking you want to switch to an elopement, but have concerns over how to tell your family and friends first or what kind of ceremony a small wedding entails, I totally understand. I can help you make the switch from traditional to elopement without causing any drama for yourself in the process!

Send me a message if you’re ready to have the wedding you’ve actually been dreaming of.

Elopement Planning Resources

As your elopement photographer, I help you have the wedding day of your dreams. I help you find the best spots for your ceremony, assist with planning the logistics and permits, and give you endless advice and tips for everything elopement. You don’t just get a photographer, you’re getting a friend who actually cares about you and your experience. I want you to have the most amazing day and I’ll be by your side capturing every moment of it so you can relive your day through your images over and over again.

My goal is to actually help you. I don’t just regurgitate the same old crap. I learned and used these tips myself and it made my wedding day SO MUCH BETTER.

Check out some of these amazing elopement planning resources to help you plan the day of your dreams!

Still need some more convincing?

Check out these gorgeous elopements.

Black Salt Photography is an elopement photographer and intimate wedding photographer based in Portland, Oregon. Photographing in the surrounding PNW areas and traveling often for destination love stories. Specializing in intimate candids and editorial portraits to craft a one-of-a-kind wedding day for every couple. Her moody photography style plays with natural light and shadow, laced with raw emotional moments, to create an authentic narrative experience. She photographs you as you so you’ll love your photos authentically.

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