Due to Coronavirus (or COVID-19), couples more than ever are looking for information and guidance about eloping. I am always looking for good information to share with my readers. As it happens, I recently met Morgan Pirkle through a wedding industry networking group, and was excited to share her expertise with you. She is a photographer who specializes in small weddings and elopements, so I thought she would be a great resource for couples considering eloping due to Coronavirus. Below is what Morgan had to say in my first of what I hope to be many Guest Bloggers featured here.
For many engaged couples, COVID-19 has shifted wedding plans dramatically, which for some means eloping instead. Recently, I wrote a blog post about what exactly an elopement is in the modern world. As a small wedding and elopement photographer and as someone who eloped themselves, I’ve had tons of firsthand experience with elopements. However in the time of Coronavirus it all looks a little different. I’m currently working with several couples who had originally planned a larger, more traditional wedding for 2020 and are now postponing their larger wedding plans, but who are also keeping their original date for an elopement.
Whether you’re pivoting your wedding plans to elope due to Coronavirus, or planning an
elopement from the start, it’s important to know that elopements are more than a photoshoot. It
may not be what you had ideally planned, but it can still be a truly special, significant, and
beautiful day in its own right.
Eloping, whether due to Coronavirus or not, is truly a beautiful way to begin a marriage
If you’ve just postponed your wedding, it may feel daunting or even downright depressing to
begin planning an entirely new event. Before beginning any plans, I highly recommend taking
some time to decompress and process. Any feelings of grief or loss you may be having are
absolutely valid. Wedding planning is never an easy feat, but Coronavirus has certainly made
things exponentially more difficult. It’s hard to look forward to your elopement day if you’re still
feeling conflicted about rescheduling, so take some time. Spend time with your partner doing
the things you love together, and let some of the dust settle before you embark on your
If you’re eloping due to COVID-19, the key factors to consider are: restrictions, date and location, guests, attire, and personalization
Discuss potential restrictions before you elope
Once you feel confident and comfortable (hopefully even excited!) in starting your elopement
plans, you’ll first want to consider the restrictions for your city and state. These will narrow down
your options in terms of location, guest count, and necessary attire (for yourself and guests).
This differs based on location, and may change between now and the time of your elopement.
Angelenos can stay up to date on the latest Coronavirus news on the LA County website.
Determine a date and location for your elopement
Next, you’ll need to nail down your date and location. These steps go hand-in-hand. If you’re
planning to elope on your original date, secure any desired/necessary vendors. It’s important to
keep in mind that the vendors you hire should be included within the legal gathering limit
provided by your city/state, not in addition to that number.
Due to elopements being smaller in size, there’s generally a greater level of flexibility on where
they can take place. However, because of park and beach closures, not all places that would
typically be available for consideration are in operation. Additionally, it’s important to note that
some locations require permits for events and photography. State parks, national parks,
beaches, and even private properties like Airbnbs typically require an application or permit of
some sort. The fees vary greatly, so this is something to begin looking into early on. I always
recommend finding a place that means something to the couple whenever possible – a location
that holds a special memory makes for an added layer of meaning on your wedding day.
Create your elopement guest list
One of the common misconceptions about eloping is that it can only be the couple and an
officiant. While that certainly can be the case, it’s not a requirement. Many couples opt to have
their parents or siblings present for their elopement. If you’re eloping due to COVID-19, the
travel and social distance logistics may make that challenging.
Many of the couples I’m working with this year are opting for a very minimal elopement, and of course they’ll be celebrating with their extended family next year. Because of COVID-19, it’s important to communicate expectations with your guests in terms of social distancing and behavior. If you are inviting guests to be present, you’ll want to make sure that you select a location that is large enough to accommodate plenty of room for guests to maintain distance. One couple I’m working with soon has custom ordered masks for the few guests that will attend their elopement.
When you’ve sorted out more of the concrete logistics of your elopement, like restrictions, date,
location, and guests, you can do the more “fun” stuff!
What should I wear if I’m eloping due to COVID-19?
As far as attire goes, all of the couples I’m working with who are eloping due to COVID-19 have opted to “save” their wedding clothes for their postponed traditional wedding and are wearing an
entirely different outfit instead. Elopements can be as casual or as formal as you want. If you
want to wear your wedding dress twice, go for it! However, this can also be a fun opportunity to
wear something a little less traditional.
I love the trending two-piece wedding dresses like this one from BHLDN, bridal jumpsuits like this one from Lulu’s, or even an outfit that’s a different color – like this strapless black jumpsuit. If you do purchase a second outfit, this could be a great reception outfit for your postponed wedding as well. When thinking of attire, also consider shoes (did you know you can customize Converse!?), accessories, and – face masks. It sounds odd, but you may need to consider which face mask to wear on your elopement day, and there are some truly beautiful ones (check out these on Etsy). I love this “tux” mask too.
Personalizing your elopement day
I truly believe one of the most beautiful things about eloping is the ability to make the day really
reflect you and your partner’s values and interests. In a larger, traditional wedding, there are
often limits based on the number of guests attending and the most cost-effective way to host,
feed, and entertain them. Instead, an elopement is just about you and your partner having a beautiful wedding experience together.
Some of the things I’ve seen couples do to personalize their day include:
- Waking up before dawn to share a sunrise first look with their partner in a state park
- Saying their vows surrounded by their closest friends and their two dogs on top of a
bridge in the Venice Canals (Venice, California)
- Sharing a first dance at sunset in the desert of Joshua Tree
- Ordering their favorite pizza to eat after their ceremony
- Sharing a bottle of their favorite expensive wine together
- Exploring one of their favorite hikes (with a great view of course!)
There are so many opportunities here! The easiest way to figure out how to personalize your wedding is to answer this question:
What are some things that you and your partner love to do, that just wouldn’t be possible with your original guest list?
The answer to this question could be as simple as sitting around a bonfire, indulging in an expensive treat, or visiting one of your favorite trails together. One of my favorite things to do with my couples is ask them to grab their favorite drinks, clear their schedule for an evening, and walk down memory lane together. Think about where you two love to eat, how you’d spend an ideal Saturday in a dream world, the ways you surprise each other, your favorite experiences shared – the list goes on and on! While not every experience is replicable, or even feasible, it’s a great starting point (and it’s a fun way to have date night).
Another way to personalize your elopement day is how you choose to incorporate your family
(or not!). Here are three ways you can do it:
- Facebook Groups + FB Live Stream: One of the couples I’m working with this year has made
a Facebook Group of their original guests. This is an easy way to communicate with a large
group of people. They’ve shared information on their postponed plans and will be live streaming the ceremony there for family and friends to watch.
- Letters: Asking close family members or friends to write you letters to read on your elopement day can be a very special way to make them feel as if they’re in attendance. These can also be a treasured keepsake far beyond your wedding day – in the digital age, it’s not often we get the chance to hold a handwritten letter from our parents, grandparents, siblings, or friends with such sweet messages inside.
- Mementos can be a beautiful way to incorporate these people as well. Things like accessories, jewelry, or photos pinned to boutonnieres or bouquets can be a fun way to feel the presence of those not actually present.
There are so many ways to pivot your original plans to an elopement. Eloping is more than just
a photo shoot. It’s a REAL wedding day, even if it isn’t the one you originally envisioned. It can
still be something memorable, unique, and special. Your options will be influenced by your
personal tastes and the restrictions of your city and state, but I hope you found this post helpful
in getting started. If you have any questions, please contact me. And if you want to browse more
elopement inspiration for now, check out these elopements.
Morgan Pirkle, the owner and lead photographer of Kept Record, specializes in photographing
small weddings and elopements around the United States. All of the photos on this page are from her portfolio. You can see more of her work at www.keptrecord.com and on her Instagram account.
If you had to postpone your wedding due to Covid-19 and are wondering what to do with your invitations because your wedding plans changed, check out this article I wrote on Morgan’s blog.