Eloping used to be a quiet affair that people usually slipped off and did in secret. Well, leave it up to us to ruin the one escape hatch we had from the Wedding Industrial Complex by inventing a whole new, more annoying way to elope. Enter the unfortunate trend of "elaborate elopements," which are basically like regular fancy weddings minus the guests. Oh, fun?
Now, let's be clear: Elopements as a concept aren't bad. There are plenty of reasons not to want your whole family to attend your nuptials. The expense of paying for 200 or so of your nearest and dearest to eat steak or the thought of spending hours, or even months, being stressed out that your drama-prone crew might unleash its particular brand of crazy during the toasts are just two reasons that one might want to forgo a traditional wedding. And then there are the people who'd just rather keep their romance private. More power to them.
But the people following this new, more elaborate eloping trend, which the New York Times brings our attention to, are of an entirely different, more unpleasant breed. These people obsess about all of the visual details and get extravagant with the whole affair—they just don't invite the guests. Carey and Brian Provost, who are pictured in the Times being wed in the middle of an open field with nothing around them, chose to elope. But says Carey, "I wanted the dress, the vows, the flowers and the pictures. But when you have guests, we felt like it ends up being more for them, not for the bride and groom. We wanted it to be for us." Well, there is a way to plan a wedding so that it works for both you and the guests, but anyway… Carey described her special day as,
It was almost like a glorified photo shoot for the two of us. We got to spend the whole day together, just the two of us, which almost made it more meaningful. There wasn't a distant cousin or mother or girlfriend there adding stress.
Wow, having attended a fair number of photoshoots in my time, I can honestly say that nothing sounds less romantic or joyful, but hey, to each his own. Of course, it sounds a little lonely too, which is true whenever you don't have guests there, but fortunately (or unfortunately?) this new elopement trend has found a way to share the experience of being there with people: Facebook, Pinterest, etc. As the Times so eloquently puts it:
Why shell out for another rubber chicken dinner for Aunt Beatrice from Tuscaloosa, when what really matters are the luscious photos capturing the style and pageantry, which can be "liked" and "pinned" by users of social media sites? It is a way to have your wedding cake and eat it, too.
Oh, is it? Because there is nothing more validating than getting liked or pinned by someone who's just hastily scanned through your wedding photos while they've got two minutes to kill between meetings.
The emphasis on having impressive weddings even when you technically don't have any guests to impress is a very strange and uniquely modern one. Apparently, it's no longer enough to just show up at a drive-thru wedding chapel or go down to City Hall. No, you must seek out a spectacular destination, you must hire the best professional photographer, and don't slack on the aesthetics if you want to be Facebook famous or be featured on a wedding blog:
To be considered for such blogs, however, design matters. That means styling an elopement as ambitiously as any other wedding.
Oh god, oh god, oh god. WHY are we planning our weddings, much less our elopements, for blogs? What's more, having one of these straight-to-blog elopements does not seem to cut down much on the stress that comes with planning a wedding with guests—and wasn't the whole point of eloping in the first place? Take, for instance, the wedding of Shalini Saycocie. She and her fiancé, Chad Carbone, wanted an intimate wedding experience at a resort in Colorado, and it sounds crazy fancy:
After a private ceremony, which was held next to a fireplace covered in hyacinths, the couple retreated to an outdoor ice rink just as the sun was setting. There, James Christianson, a prominent wedding photographer, snapped away as Ms. Carbone, wearing a 1920s-style ball gown and a vintage beaver wrap, circled the ice with her new husband, against a backdrop of snow-dusted mountain peaks. Afterward, they set off sparklers and posed some more for the camera. The photos ran on Ruffled, another popular wedding blog, a few months later.
Well then, consider it a success? But what are you going to tell your children—or really anyone who asks about your wedding? "Oh, no, Grandma and Grandpa weren't at our wedding, but we were featured on Ruffled.com, so it was fine!"
The now Ms. Carbone says of the elopement, "The visual aspects were especially important for me, since our family wasn't there with us. I wanted someone else to be the eyes for our friends and family." Well, I'm sure your actual friends and family very much appreciated that. There's no way any of them would have liked to be on a mountain ice-rink to watch the sun set…
Here's the really odd thing. These couples all seem to be saying various versions of "we just wanted it to be for us," which would be fine, if that's what was happening. But as soon as you start styling a wedding and photographing it and making it for an audience—either on Facebook or Pinterest or on some god-forsaken design blog—then it's not just for you anymore, is it? If you want people to like it or pin it or write about it or be jealous of it, then why not just invite them to experience it first hand? If you're going to all the trouble anyway, you might as well get your loved ones to participate in a wedding which, at its core, is traditionally a somewhat communal experience, and to invest themselves in the success of your marriage—which, believe it or not, is one of the nicer parts of having witnesses at your nuptials. Plus, they give you gifts and not only do you get to enjoy yourself during the evening, you also get to see the people you like enjoying themselves because of you. It's a win-win.
Yes, obviously paying for a big guest list isn't within everyone's reach, and that's fine. Elope on a budget or throw a small wedding. But that's not what we're talking about here:
[F]ancy elopements, or "private ceremonies," as wedding professionals sometimes call them, can cost $10,000 to $100,000. (By contrast, the average wedding costs $26,000, according to a recent study by Brides magazine.)
*Screams so loudly that my voice disappears, and I am forced to live the rest of my life as a mute* Seriously. If you spend $100,000 on a "private ceremony" for two people, not only are you not getting a single "like" from me on your perfectly curated Facebook wedding album, I am defriending you the minute those pics go up. Two can play at this game, Elopezilla.
What's even stranger than staging a giant photoshoot for two atop an isolated mountaintop during a full moon that features actual angels descending from the sky playing harps? Inviting strangers along on your destination elopement but not any of your family or friends. Meet Quinn Ly and Andy Van Le. They wanted to "keep things small yet spectacular." So what did they do?
They traveled to Vietnam with their wedding planner, Ms. Vorce; a floral designer, Mindy Rice; and a photographer, Aaron Delesie, to stage an elaborate ceremony amid the temple ruins at My Son. (The planner and florist served as witnesses.) They hired local children to carry the posts for the ceremonial canopy. Flower girls in cream-colored traditional dresses called ao dai carried crocheted lace lanterns that were made by local artisans. Musicians performed on bamboo stringed instruments. Afterward, a chef prepared a feast for two on a private boat that glided down the Thu Bon river.
That does sound very pretty, if a touch impersonal—Oh, wait, one more thing:
We had the rehearsal dinner, the hair and makeup, the cake cutting, the vow exchange. We had everything but the guests.
Wow. Congratulations. Mission accomplished. Everything was perfect, but you had no one to share it with—well, except your hired flower girls, your paid witnesses, and the Facebook void.
Elaborate Weddings, Minus the Guests [New York Times]
Image via artemis_lady/Shutterstock.