Big weddings with romantic, fairytale honeymoons are the ideal – if you have the budget, a supportive family and the desire. If not, slipping away alone together can be a romantic, adventurous way to launch your marriage. And it’s economical. With the right destination, you can combine the cost of a wedding and honeymoon – and have the time of your life. Destination elopements may be a growing industry. In the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans has been banking on the wedding industry – and eloping – to beef up tourist traffic. Some luxury resorts along Maryland’s eastern shore have begun offering weekend elopement specials. In South Carolina, last-minute weddings have always been in style. Of course, Las Vegas is famous for eloping. The city is packed with chapels, some with drive-through windows and Elvis impersonators officiating. But according to Joni Moss, wedding representative for the Nevada Wedding Association, Las Vegas offers much more than the stereotype. Several of the city’s chapels provide lovely, traditional settings for less than $400 for the ceremony. And if you want something utterly original, you can elope in a helicopter overlooking the lights on the strip. And getting a wedding license is easy. You can apply Monday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to midnight. There’s no wait, no blood test. If you dream of a traditional Southern setting, historic Charleston can be ideal. Richard Burton, head concierge at Charleston Place in its historic downtown, is a popular last-minute wedding officiant. “This is a natural extension of my work as a concierge and what we do at Charleston Place (a hotel in the historic district). It’s our version of one-stop shopping,” says Burton. “It’s very easy to get married here. There’s no red tape. You just need a photo ID, but you do have to wait 24 hours.” Another elopement destination that offers the promise of romance and charm is New Orleans. According to the Rev. Tony Talavera, proprietor of the French Quarter Wedding Chapel on Rue Burgundy, New Orleans is the most romantic place on earth to be wed. In business as a wedding officiant in New Orleans for 10 years, Rev. Tony has presided over 3,000 weddings, and roughly 30 percent were elopements. He recommends his Laissez le Bon Roulez (Let the Good Times Roll) elopement package, which includes one hour’s use of the French Quarter Wedding Chapel, the reverend, room for up to 15 guests, two witnesses, a violist, a bottle of champagne, one roll of color photos and a bridal bouquet with boutonniere – all for $930. “We will marry people 24/7. I’ve had people call me at 2 a.m. wanting to get married at 3 a.m. And we’ve done it,” he says. Rev. Tony’s website (see sidebar) outlines the steps for securing a wedding license. “It’s very easy. There is a 72-hour waiting period, but by law a legal officiant can waive it.” Then, he says, you can celebrate by dining at your pick of French Quarter restaurants and “enjoy the world’s best food.” For some couples, marriage is a private affair. They want to marry in a secluded, intimate setting and be alone together. The Inn at Perry Cabin, a luxury resort in St. Michael’s, Md., caters to this clientele. Their elopement package includes a gazebo wedding, one night of accommodations, dinner, breakfast (in the restaurant or served in your room), champagne and a small wedding cake to store in your freezer for your first anniversary. The package, which costs $1,200, does not include photos, an officiant, flowers or music. However, the staff there will help orchestrate those details. Just note – the wedding license wait is 48 hours and must be from Talbot County. Whether you are considering a glitzy Las Vegas ceremony, or the quiet romance of the Atlantic shore, eloping can be wonderfully romantic. “After all, getting married is really just about the two of you,” says Moss. “Even if you run away and don’t tell anyone,” she adds, “you can still invite your family. Make a video, post it on the Internet – and send an email!”
Tips for Destination Elopements With a name like Richard Burton, it makes a certain amount sense that you’d be drawn to weddings and romance. As the marriage officiant and head concierge at the Charleston Place hotel and spa in Charleston, Burton has presided over many weddings and offered these tips if you plan to elope: Check in advance on the marriage license laws in each state. Most have waiting periods, but in others you can get married right away. Also, don’t assume the license office is open on Saturday and Sunday. Bring a camera. You will want photos from this special day. Choose your venue carefully. If you want an outdoor ceremony – for example, along the Battery in Charleston – make sure you have an indoor backup. Bring your vows. Before the ceremony, write your own or pick a poem. If getting married in Charleston or New Orleans, consider hiring a horse-drawn carriage to whisk you away after the ceremony. This can be inexpensive – and very romantic! Most of all – and above all else – make sure that you are sure.
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