Weddings on the Run: Is It Possible to Elope in a COVID-19 World?

by | Ceremony Wisdom, Wisdom

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Mr Houndstooth
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Image: By the Wilde via Bitsy & Toby’s Romantic Hobart Mountaintop Elopement

When I think of eloping, I picture couples zipping off overseas to get married in exotic locations to take the pressure out of planning their wedding.

If I’m being really honest, I also picture Chandler and Monica in Friends when they nearly elope in Las Vegas only to be pipped at the post by an intoxicated Ross and Rachel.

The official definition of course, is a couple running away to secretly get married.

But like a lot of things this year, the definition of eloping needs a bit of a 2020 update, after all, it’s basically been impossible to run away anywhere as a result of (important) travel and gathering restrictions.

This got me thinking during the Elopement Issue here at Polka Dot: what have loved up couples been doing in 2020 when saying ‘I do’ just hasn’t been possible? Is it even possible to “elope” during a pandemic?

I figured there was no one better to provide all the inside gossip on how weddings have been functioning during this time than celebrants, so I went straight to the source.

Erica Evans and Melissa Polimeni are Melbourne-based celebrants who are able to provide an interesting perspective given they’ve been working under the strictest restrictions in Australia. 

Image: Agape Media House via Serena & Taylor’s Modern Hobart Elopement

Melissa, who has been a celebrant for more than a decade, said at the elopement weddings she has officiated, the couples were seeking “an intimate, no fuss/stress-free way of getting married with just two (or a few more) of their loved ones witnessing the moment.”

She also added that eloping is a cheaper option – something which I hadn’t considered as a motivation.

Erica, who recently celebrated her second anniversary as a celebrant, describes the elopements she’s officiated as “intimate and fun”.

“In my experience, the couples eloped because they didn’t want the fuss of a big wedding. Or they just wanted to get married privately,” she says.

So, elopements are intimate, fun and avoid the fuss of a big wedding, sounds a lot like many of the weddings being held in 2020 due to lockdown restrictions.

Melissa has officiated two weddings during the pandemic, both of which were live-streamed to overseas/interstate guests who couldn’t attend due to the restrictions.

The most recent of those two was attended (in-person) by the happy couple, two witnesses and Melissa.

“The couple had planned a big wedding in early April but when lockdown looked imminent in Melbourne, they chose an intimate ceremony at the bride’s parents’ home in late March.

“Even though there were only five of us present, it was still a very moving and meaningful ceremony.”

Erica has officiated three weddings during Melbourne’s lockdown, with two of them occurring during the first lockdown, which were impacted by what Erica described as “the party of five” rule and were held in the couple’s respective homes.

“One had the couple, the other two guests and 150 people watching from all over the world on Zoom. It was incredible,” Erica says.

“Although the weddings that occurred with the five-person rule were definitely different they were still so special and intimate for the couples.”

Image: Jenna Bryant Photography via Rosie & Kyal’s Fun & Colourful Las Vegas Elopement

Interestingly, Melissa and Erica said many of the couples were planning on holding larger receptions with family and friends later down the track, so why did they choose to get married during the pandemic, essentially eloping on their original wedding plans? Why not just wait until after restrictions have eased?

“For some couples, dates hold special significance, so even if guests are limited, they are still keen to marry on a certain date,” Melissa says.

“I also think we need to have hope and have wonderful and exciting things to look forward to when everything else looks pretty bleak.

“A pandemic can remind us what’s most important in life and for some, that means making their commitment to their loved one official. When the future’s full of such uncertainty, why not celebrate love?”

Erica agreed:

“These couples just wanted to be “married” and didn’t care if they couldn’t have the big day.

“For some, getting married and making that legal commitment is what is most important to them.

“They don’t care who can come they just want to celebrate their special day together. For one of my couples the wedding date was very special and important to them and they didn’t want to have it on any other day.”

So, there are definitely benefits to eloping, even during the pandemic, cost, intimacy and immediacy for starters.

And if you’re thinking about eloping, albeit in a restricted environment, Melissa couldn’t have been clearer with her message: “You have my full support!”

“If you’re okay with delaying/ditching a big celebration, then definitely go for it. A wedding is all about celebrating love so if restrictions allow, then don’t let a pandemic get in the way of your special day.”

Ms Floral Says: I think Melissa said it best when she said a pandemic can remind us what’s most important in life. If you want to be married, be married!

About Mr Houndstooth: I am a happily married man. I enjoy a fine whisky, a new suit and swashbuckling around town with my beautiful bride. Looking back on my wedding day always makes me smile, even though it began to rain just as I said ‘I do’.

About Erica Evans: My style as a celebrant is fun, relaxed and with no boring bits! I believe that everyone should marry the one they cannot live without. My aim is to give my beautiful couples a day they will never forget.

About Melissa Polimeni: I love my work and I’m told I always deliver ceremonies in a happy, engaging and polished manner. I would describe my ceremonies as relaxed and meaningful.” Fun fact: Melissa officiated Mr and Mrs Houndstooth’s wedding six years ago and she went on to officiate his brother AND his sister’s wedding. She’s the unofficial celebrant for the Houndstooth family!

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