Katrina Clarke | July 3, 2017 | CBC Life
Kyle and Sara Locke said “I do” 16,000 kilometres from home on a beach in Bali, surrounded by zero family or friends.
It was exactly what they wanted.
As millennial brides and grooms seek to keep wedding costs low, minimize wedding-related drama and have intimate, personalized events rather than cookie-cutter blowouts, they are increasingly turning to elopements to solve their wedding woes, wedding experts say.
“It’s an easy way to take off that stress and that pressure,” said Crystal Adair-Benning, owner of Distinct Occasions wedding planning in Toronto. “An elopement is really about you as a couple. It’s not about anyone else.”
Adair-Benning said her elopement client numbers have quadrupled over the past decade, with elopements now making up a third of her business. These clients are typically young professionals in their late 20s to early 40s whose reasons for eloping run the gamut. Some want small weddings to keep the day affordable while others want to sidestep family drama, such as relatives who don’t get along. Around 90 per cent of her clients keep the wedding a secret until they return home, she said.
Ontario Humanist Society officiant Mary Beaty, who has married more than 1,000 couples, said some of her elopement couples go the low-key route after axing plans for a big wedding, while others just want a small ceremony with close friends and family. She’s performed elopement ceremonies everywhere from parks to Casa Loma.
And while eloping used to have a stigma attached to it, with young people doing it because they were pregnant, had disapproving parents or were drunk in Vegas, Adair-Benning said those motivations are now far from the norm. The stigma is now “non-existent,” she said.
The previously unassuming elopement style has changed too. Adair-Beaning’s couples now elope on clifftops in Hawaii and beaches in Thailand.
Here are the stories from three couples who eschewed tradition and tied the knot by eloping.
Kyle Locke, 30 and Sara Locke, 29, in Toronto
Wedding: Bali, June 3, 2016
Total cost: Did not want to disclose but said Bali trip accounted for 40 per cent of total cost and Toronto cocktail reception accounted for 60 per cent.
In high school, Sara Locke and her girlfriends spent hours at Chapters, poring over wedding magazines.
“I would always think about my wedding all the time,” she said. “I pictured myself in a massive ball gown with a big wedding — a big to-do.”
Her actual wedding was the total opposite.
Sara and her now-husband, Kyle, married on a secluded beach in Bali last June, just the two of them at sunset with an officiant, a photographer and surfers in the distance. Sara wore a tight-fitting backless lace dress and did her own hair and makeup. She and Kyle spent the day swimming and tanning. He played tennis and she did yoga. They called it their “weddingmoon.”
“There was no pressure,” she said. “It was just a beautiful, relaxing day.”
Sara’s dreams of a big, blow-out wedding had long evaporated by the time she got engaged. She’d watched too many friends plan big weddings they weren’t keen on, consumed by stress over pleasing other people the whole time.
“I just didn’t want that at all,” she said. “I wanted something that was easygoing and carefree.”
Sara and Kyle hired a wedding agency in Bali to plan their big day and arranged to sign the legal paperwork in Toronto. It was too difficult to get an official marriage licence in Bali, said Sara.
Their elopement wasn’t a secret, but when they returned home, they threw a huge celebration, renting out the top floor of Sassafraz restaurant in Yorkville and inviting 120 people for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
Before everyone arrived they held a small ceremony there with 20 people in attendance during which Sara’s father walked her down the aisle and the couple re-said their vows. It was one way of including their friends and family in an important moment, while still getting their romantic “big day” alone.
Karen Allan, 32, and Ryan Allan, 33, in Kingston, Ont.
Wedding: Niagara, Sept. 10, 2013
Total cost: $2,000
Karen and Ryan Allan were happily non-engaged and approaching their 10th wedding anniversary when they struck up a conversation about marriage. It had long been in the cards but neither had given thought to actual plans.
“We were just sort of chatting and my husband said, ‘Well I don’t really want a big wedding,’ ” Karen said. “I didn’t really care about that either.”
They decided to elope. An elopement meant they’d be able to have the small, intimate ceremony they wanted, while also avoiding logistical challenges (Karen’s family is huge and Ryan’s family lives in Manitoba) and sensitive family situations, as Karen’s parents are divorced while Ryan’s mom died and Karen knew a big event might make it harder for him, knowing his mom couldn’t be there.
In secret, they bought wedding outfits, hers a simple white dress and his a navy suit. They looked up an officiant in Niagara, booked a hotel and slipped away for a four-day getaway. They married on Sept. 10, 2013 in a small chapel with two hired photographers as witnesses.
The next morning, Karen and Ryan called their families. Everyone was overjoyed, except Karen’s dad.
He told her, “Congratulations but I’m not happy about it.” Karen asked why he was upset but he wouldn’t elaborate. She suspects it was because he wanted to be there. The interaction made for a few tense weeks, but their relationship is now much better.
“You just have to sort of accept the fact that some people might feel hurt by it,” Karen said. “But really, the day, it actually has nothing to do with them . . . It’s really about you and your partner.”
Natalie Vaughan, 34 and Levi Carlson, 36, in Vancouver
Wedding: Maui, Nov. 4, 2015
Natalie Vaughan and Levi Carlson got engaged on their fifth anniversary and married on their 10th. The engagement lasted five years for several reasons: they were in no rush, they didn’t want to go into debt for a wedding and their families’ expectation for a big, traditional wedding differed drastically from their own vision.
“My thing was I didn’t want a wedding-y wedding,” Natalie said. “Everyone has the big white dress and you have six bridesmaids and six groomsmen and it’s all matchy-matchy with the colours . . . That was just so unappealing and just not us.”
Three years into the engagement they realized eloping would solve most of their potential wedding problems. They moved forward with a plan, in secret.
They decided they wanted something intimate and private, somewhere secluded and tropical, and Crystal Adair-Benning of Distinct Occasions promised to deliver. She then arranged for their week-and-a-half-long vacation to Maui, and even went, along with her assistant, to serve as witnesses at the ceremony.
On Nov. 4, 2015, Natalie and Levi wed at a botanical garden on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset. She wore a blush-coloured dress and he wore jeans, a white button-down shirt and running shoes. Extraordinary and low-key, just as they wanted.
“It was stupid perfect,” Natalie said.
When they returned home to Drayton Valley, Alta., where they were then living, they posted their news on Facebook. Some friends were shocked while others said, “Finally, it took forever!”
Some family members were initially taken aback, but they have no regrets about keeping their nuptials a low-key affair.
“I think a wedding is nothing other than what the two people want it to be to celebrate their relationship,” Natalie said. “That kind of gets lost (when) you have to put on a show.”