“Let’s just elope!” It’s a phrase many couples state while planning a wedding because, let’s face it, wedding planning is stressful. For many couples, eloping will only remain as an idea because they prefer to host a traditional ceremony and reception surrounded by family and friends. However, what if eloping was something you truly wanted to do?
Meet Kara Bowman and Garrett Low. Kara and Garrett got engaged in Peace Valley Park, located in Doylestown, PA, one night while walking their dog ‘Melo. At one point during the night, Kara kept walking while Garrett secretly attached a bag to ‘Melo’s collar with a note that said, “I love you Mama. Will you marry my Daddy?” After Kara saw the bag and read the note (which did not happen immediately!), Garrett got down on one knee and proposed right in the middle of the park.
Since getting engaged, Kara and Garrett have weighed different options about how they would like to get married. Below, Kara discusses why she and Garrett seriously thought about eloping, its advantages and disadvantages, as well as her top 10 tips brides should follow.
Going to the Chapel: When you first got engaged, what were your initial wedding plans? Did you want to have a traditional ceremony, or were you thinking about doing something different?
Kara Bowman: We bounced around practically every idea you could imagine at first, including a traditional wedding with over 300 guests, destination wedding, tent wedding, and even a backyard wedding. After a couple months we had almost 100% set our minds on just the two of us eloping to Bora Bora. Considering that this is my second marriage, I was not keen on having a big to-do and neither was Garrett. We just wanted to focus on the two of us, and go somewhere special and paradisiacal to mark the start of our lives together.
GTTC: Why did you want to elope?
KB: It was a combination of a few things. Mainly, we wanted to only focus on each other. Additionally, the stress of planning a huge event did not particularly thrill either of us. Nor did the idea of wedding politics and formalities. A private and intimate wedding is just more our style. We are each homeowners and would like to sell both houses to consolidate to one sooner than later. We have some short-term financial goals to meet, and the thought of spending in excess of $50k on a party blew our practical minds. We try to “live life simply” as a general motto, really focusing on what’s important. A huge expensive wedding is just not a personal priority for us.
GTTC: What are the advantages and disadvantages of eloping? What about larger weddings?
KB: The advantages of eloping:
- Reduced cost in most cases
- Intimate and special experience between 2 people only, allowing the focus to remain on the married couple to be. There are fewer distractions and less opportunity for drama.
- Lower stress level and less details with which to be concerned.
- No need to fly right after the wedding. You’re already there!
Disadvantages of eloping:
- You miss out on the big party.
- Transferring marriage licenses between states or worse, countries, can be confusing and time consuming.
- Planning is not as hands-on. I’d imagine it is more difficult to go meet with vendors, sample food and cake, see certain options in person, etc.
- You risk hurting the feelings of those closest to you. Our mothers and siblings would have been crushed, which was not something we were okay with. Not to mention that many couples prefer sharing their wedding experience with loved ones…like us!
The advantages of elaborate weddings:
- It’s nice to have everyone who is important to you present.
- Big parties with great food and drink are always a fantastic time too!
- Out of town guests are always a pleasure to see, and big weddings really tend to bring families together.
- I love to get dressed up in formal wear! I love to dance! And I love to socialize! I’d just rather do those things at somebody else’s wedding.
Disadvantages of hosting a large wedding:
- Level of stress and planning involved
- Nerves and mental exhaustion involved with being the center of attention for so many hours.
- I personally feel more relaxed to marry with a smaller group present.
- Higher costs
GTTC: You mentioned your mothers and siblings would have been “crushed” had you decided to elope. Are you now planning a more traditional ceremony and reception surrounded by family and friends? If so, what made you change your mind?
KB: Consideration of the feelings of those closest to us is about half of what changed our minds. Equally, though, it was fear of looking back with regret. My family is very important to me, especially my immediate family. The thought of them not being a part of my wedding day memories made me uneasy. Plus, having grown up in Bucks County, I feel very nostalgic towards the area. Garrett feels very much the same. It seemed only natural to get married in a place that’s comforting to both of us. And so our intimate chic woods wedding concept came to be. I am not sure it could be called totally traditional by any means, but it is slightly more so in that we will not be all alone on the other side of the world. Since deciding we will stick around to get married in front of friends and family, we’ve had a great time being creative while planning a small custom woodsy wedding that fits “Karrett” perfectly!
GTTC: From a bride’s perspective, what are your top 10 tips for couples planning a wedding?
- The less hands in the pot, the smoother the decision-making will go. You’ll definitely need help from family and friends with arranging, organizing and planning, etc, but don’t let them sway you from your initial preferences. Go with your gut and don’t let the opinions of others alter your actions.
- Personalizing and paying close attention to detail is a good way to make guests feel like they are part of something special. Considering the small amount of guests Garrett and I have settled on, we can really focus on hand-crafted guest favors, custom wine labels, pictures, floral arrangements, reciting personalized vows, etc.
- Allow ample time to plan a wedding. In order to enjoy the period of being newly engaged, you have to be relaxed. Garrett and I enjoyed chit chatting and brainstorming about random ideas while coming to agree on a “vibe” we were looking to accomplish for our wedding. We didn’t rush into booking things nor did we commit to certain ideas right away. Relaxing together to envision our wedding allowed us to enjoy the idea of not only getting married but also being married.
- Get involved with the D.J./band before hand. Music is so important, especially to Garrett and me. Make sure your D.J. or band understands your desired vibe. Unless you discuss it ahead of time, he/she will just play the painful wedding “usuals.” Music makes the party and having all of yours and your guests’ favorites will really get people up and dancing! You just have to be willing to hammer out specific play lists ahead of time.
- Most vendors are far more flexible than they originally appear. If you do your research and ask the right questions, you will find that many “set” options and packages are changeable, and that seemingly “fixed” prices are negotiable.
- Delegate planning jobs accordingly. May the bride stick to that at which she is best, and the groom to that at which he is best. I’ve been focusing on more of the favors, flowers, invitation things, attire things; while Garrett has taken over honeymoon planning, finding musicians, and finding a photographer. If neither of you like a particular task, then you have found the perfect job to delegate to one of the future mothers-in-law!
- If you are having your hair and/or makeup professionally done by someone you don’t already know and trust, get a trial first!
- Remember your thank yous along the way. There are always cards and gifts coming to you during the time you get engaged, up through after the wedding. Engagement parties, showers, bachelorette parties, and especially the wedding itself all require written thank yous. Plus, people are constantly volunteering a helping hand, and doing nice things to make your life easier. In this case if you are not into the traditional “thank you card”, you can always make a special phone call, send a monkey mail, or even send flowers or a gift to show your appreciation.
- Don’t forget to keep talking about the day to day. Planning a wedding should be fun, not tedious and irritating. You can’t discuss “the wedding” 24/7. Remember to maintain an interest in each others day to day interests. Otherwise you’ll get burned out from planning.
- Have fun and realize that once the day has arrived, your work and planning is done. It’s out of your hands at this point. All that’s left to do now is enjoy!
Instead of eloping, on 9-10-11 (what a cool date!), Kara and Garrett will return to Peace Valley Park to exchange vows by Lake Galena surrounded by close family, friends, and of course ‘Melo, who will serve as ring bearer. The day will continue with an intimate reception following the ceremony. Congratulations, Kara and Garrett; all the best!