When my hubby-to-be and I got engaged, we immediately decided to elope. And not just to a chapel in Vegas—but all the way to Ireland!
We had already planned a vacation there in 6 months, so why not? Plus, we weren't jazzed about the idea of a big ceremony or about the stress of dealing with my HUGE family (I have over 100 relatives on my side. Bonkers, I know.)
So we did extensive research, sent a ton of emails, gathered the necessary paperwork, and jetted off to Ireland to tie the knot.
I'd like to tell a story about my elopement in which everything is perfect—no hiccups or stress bombs—and how yours can turn out the same way.
I WANT to, dear readers, but I gotta tell it like it was. And, hey, what fun is a story without some intrigue and curveballs anyway? Come on!
So what happened? I'll lay it out for you:
- Our photographers couldn't meet us on time because the high tide where they were staying hadn't subsided, so the road was covered by ocean. You read that right: The. Ocean.
- Once they were free of their watery prison, their car broke down on the way to us. 90 minutes before the wedding they were still 45 minutes away. Scary math, right?
- To add even more to that little stress party, they were also our witnesses—without them, there would be no wedding.
- Plus, for the first time that week, it started raining. (Actually scratch that one, because we LOVED the rain and how delightfully it was misting that day.)
You might be wondering, "Wait, are you pitching a new Rom-Com?!" Oh no, all of this really happened. I lived it.
Did I freak out? NOPE. (Okay a little bit. But just internally…and my problem-solving hat was strapped on tight.)
The great thing about these unexpected mishaps? They didn't keep everything from working out perfectly. My hubby-to-be and I got in a car and picked up our absolutely endearing and charming photographers, and then drove right back to the registrar where we were set to wed. And, as luck would have it, we were only 5 minutes late to our appointment. We were married, we cried, made everyone in the room cry, and simply had our photos taken after the wedding instead of beforehand. *dusts off hands*
A lot of people say that the best parts of a wedding are the ones that aren't planned. Now I know what they're talking about.
Eloping to Ireland was the best decision we could have made for ourselves. It was a trip completely about us and what we both wanted, and we didn't have to worry about making anyone else happy. The only timeline we were on was our own. The memories we share from that week are so special and unique, they still feel like a dream when I look back.
Does an incredibly personal overseas elopement sound like the perfect wedding to you? If so, learn from my experience: Make plans, but also expect the unexpected and keep that problem-solving hat close by.
Here are my top tips for planning an intimate destination elopement:
1. Prepare yourself emotionally for difficult correspondence.
Time zone differences make it practically impossible to have quick responses, let alone "real time" ones. When there's a miscommunication—and by golly there will be—just be clear, concise, and patient. It may take up to 10 emails in which you repeat the exact same thing before you and the other person are on the same page. (Yes, that happened to me.)
"Difficult correspondence" can also apply to your own friends and family. There could be hurt feelings when your loved ones realize they won't be there for your big day—or when they find out your big day has already taken place. Just be open and honest about the reasons why you and your partner chose to elope, and perhaps consider celebrating with loved ones later in the form of a celebratory cocktail hour or dinner.
2. Make research your best friend.
To marry outside of the U.S., there are just a few hoops to jump through. But I promise, they're totally doable! My advice would be to check out your chosen country's tourism website for details. Obviously you'll need a marriage license, but some countries require much more than that: birth certificates, photo IDs, and even proof of divorce if you've been married before. Special requirements can range from blood tests (not kidding) and waiting periods to witnesses and extra fees. To keep yourself organized, make a checklist of everything you'll have to provide.
Be sure to note any deadlines as well. Many countries (like Ireland) require a waiting period or a notification of intent to marry up to a few months in advance of your desired wedding date! Exceptions can be made as long as you communicate properly, but please be sure to research your little butt off so you're aware of the legal requirements.
3. Pick the top 2 things you really care about for your international elopement.
Focus on those, and let the rest fall into place—or not—as circumstances allow. Otherwise, you could find yourself with too much to worry about. Elopements are about keeping it as simple and stress-free as possible. For us, the photographer was important and we carefully chose ours in advance. We also planned out some pretty sweet outfits!
The rest truly did fall into place. For example, I ended up buying a bouquet the DAY OF the wedding because we found out there was a florist nearby. (Don't count on this though—we got super lucky that the florist was RIDICULOUSLY accommodating and made me a simple, but gorgeous, bouquet in less than an hour. And it was only $60!)
4. Plan plan plan. Then accept that those plans may fail.
That way, your failed plan is your plan. Perfect, right?! I know, I'm a genius. Since you can never predict what's going to fail, emotionally accept that anything could go wrong and you'll be better suited to problem-solve your way out of whatever situation arises. Serendipity is part of the fun of international elopements.
5. Most importantly, remember why you're there.
You wanted an intimate, just-the-two-of-you wedding, so revel in those romantic moments. Laugh when things go wrong. Then laugh when things go right. When you're getting photos taken, memorize the look on your new spouse's face and feel how full your heart is.
There's one photo from our elopement that, when I look at it, pulls me right into that moment and I cry happy tears every time. Yes, I'm crying right now. I'm so thankful for every single thing we experienced while we were in Ireland because, doggone it, we dealt with every obstacle like CHAMPS. And our marriage is stronger because of it.
Hold up! Are you in our tribe?
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