My friend Paula (of qreativequail) and her husband Brian did! Learn how they kept quiet while planning their adventure:
Name: Paula Riley
Occupation: Art Director/Graphic Designer
Why did you decide to elope?
The thought of planning a wedding terrified me. I’m sure a lot of couples think the same thing but rarely do they have the opportunity to consider eloping. We were lucky and knew our families would be happy for us either way. So we just decided to do it!
How do you plan a secret elopement? Why Vegas?
The best way to plan a secret elopement is to do it as quickly as possible. We gave ourselves 2 weeks from the day we decided to do it to the day we got married. No kidding! The less time you have to do it the less chance you have of spilling the beans.
We considered eloping in our home town or eloping in our favorite city, Portland, Oregon. After a little research, we found that both Wisconsin and Oregon had waiting periods to get a marriage license. Our goal was to make this as painless and stress-free as possible. Since we were already planning on flying to the west coast for our honeymoon, and after a curious browse of a few Vegas wedding chapel websites, we came to realize how easy and inexpensive it would be to fly to Vegas, marry, and take off on our honeymoon. It just made sense for us to do it that way.
How did you pull off the actual elopement?
Keeping the planning time down to 2 weeks was key. I don’t have a very good poker face so any longer and I would have cracked. Actually, I did spill the beans to a woman at Anthropologie. I was buying my wedding dress and she asked what the special occasion was. I couldn’t lie, and I immediately dove into my story of our secret elopement. It didn’t take long before she was in tears! She couldn’t believe how exciting and romantic it was, and I guess I didn’t realized it either until I saw her reaction. What we were doing is something you see in the movies, but rarely do real people actually go through with it. This was about to be a VERY memorable wedding. So no one, but her, knew about the elopement. I did tell a few people that we were going on “vacation” but I didn’t dare tell, my sisters for instance, that we were flying into Vegas. They would have figured it out.
When did you announce your marriage to everyone? How did they react?
Right after the wedding we sent out hand-written “announcement” cards with a picture (same one you see above) to our family and our closest friends. A few days later we started getting phone calls as people received their cards. The reason why we did it this way was because it allowed us to tell everyone at the same time (well, as they opened their mail). Their reactions? Nothing but joy and excitement! This was our moment, and we did it the way we wanted to do it. They were incredibly happy for us and proud that we stuck to our guns and did it our way.
Did you have a reception so everyone could celebrate your marriage?
When we got home from the honeymoon we immediately called everyone to tell them all the juicy details. But we still wanted to provide them a chance to congratulate us, so three months later we threw a huge bash at our house. I’m still amazed and overwhelmed at how supportive everyone was of our decision. In no way did they treat us any less. They showered us with gifts and almost everyone we invited showed up! I guess its good motivation to attend a “wedding” when you can skip the ceremony and go straight to the reception.
What was the best part?
The whole experience was completely stress-free. So much pressure was taken off our shoulders knowing that our chapel was doing everything for us, and I mean everything. They even wrote our vows! And they were conveniently located across from the Marriage License Bureau. It’s worth mentioning that we only had to wait 30 minutes to get our licenses. The cherry on top was how much money we saved. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a wedding, we put it towards our honeymoon and were able to indulge in wine country, shop in San Francisco, gorge ourselves on seafood along Highway 101, and stay in a 4-star hotel in downtown Portland.
What was the worst part?
Keeping it a secret. I so badly wanted to say something, especially to my sisters. But I knew that if I told one, then I’d have to tell the other. So I told neither.
Any advice for someone who wants to do this?
Do it the way that makes sense for you and will make you both happy. Weddings have gradually gotten more expensive over the years. I’ve heard the average price is almost $20,000! So get rid of all the expectations and pressures of a typical wedding and let loose. We spent the morning of our wedding lounging in a hot tub, then after the wedding we had dinner at the In-N-Out Burger and spent the evening enjoying an incredible Cirque du Soleil show. Talk about an eccentric, crazy, but perfect day that only we could have fully appreciated. Only in Vegas, baby!
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Paula! I remember that Monday morning at work when everyone was crowded around your desk and you whipped out your hand and I said, “OMG, you got engaged on vacation!” And then you were like, “Nope. MARRIED!”
Photo from Paula Riley.