Under normal circumstances, weddings can be a handful.
During this pandemic, when nearly everything is on hold, services and venues are trying to reschedule and invitation lists must be reduced, some couples are ready to just scrap it all and elope.
According to weddingstats.org, the average cost of U.S. weddings in 2019-2020 was between $29,000 and $31,000 , honeymoon not included, though the Louisville/Columbus/Indianapolis region's cost range is closer to $18,500 to $21,800.
If a pandemic wasn't reason enough to aim for private destination weddings or a trip to the courthouse, the cost might be icing on the proverbial cake.
Though they didn't elope because of a pandemic, the experience of two Cincinnati couples who decided to exchange vows privately in Las Vegas and the Bahamas, respectively, may serve as good road maps for affianced couples.
Both wouldn't have done it any other way.
David and Deana Moss only told one person they were heading to Vegas to marry April 14, 2017, before they called their families the morning after.
Of the multitude of options they had for marrying in Vegas, they chose to get married on a helicopter. Flying to the Grand Canyon was an option, but they chose to fly over the strip. The company, Maverick, supplied the pilot, officiate, etc. They decided to keep it simple to focus completely on them as a couple.
It was seamless and it didn't conform to typical traditions.
"When we got married, I wanted a dress I wouldn't normally wear, but I didn't feel this pressure to have an elaborate dress," she said. "I wanted to feel pretty. It didn't have any rules to it. We deserve to be selfish on our wedding....I would not change a thing."
The helicopter piece was around $2,000, she said, but that, coupled with the cost of travel, was about it. They deemed that favorable to the average cost of a wedding.
She said they downloaded and filled out the form ahead of time to apply for a marriage license. They took an Uber to the license bureau, stood in line and filed the paperwork and received the big stamp needed for the ceremony.
A few suggestions: She said to order multiple copies of the marriage certificate because she needed two or three of them when she changed her name.
She said also to tell the hotel in Vegas about the marriage; they may provide special gifts. A fun memory of their own experience was leaving the hotel in her dress and everyone cheering for them.
It took 20 years from their initial meeting for Ryan and Krista Burton to head toward Paradise (Beach) and finally tie the knot Nov. 4, 2017.
He was a graduate assistant soccer coach when the former Krista Shamblin started her freshman soccer season at Ball State University. Their paths crossed again a few decades later on the soccer field when she and Burton coached for the same club.
"We were able to fully understand the value of our friendship and wanted to spend every second of this life together. Truly soulmates," Krista said. "Everything just fits - no forcing, no pulling, no settling for nothing less than the best."
With just the two of them making the trip, she said they chose Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas, so they could focus on each other without the stresses and worries normally attached to weddings.
"We researched patterns, costs associated at varying times of the year, beach locations and ceremony privacy," she said. "I spoke with a planner at the resort who was able to work with us through the legal documentation and logistics process."
She said it took a few months to plan. They blocked off a few days in their trip to make sure the weather cooperated. Their photographer took them via golf cart to every beautiful backdrop to capture the day. Dinner was a private table on the edge of the ocean at the One and Only Club, listening to a Norah Jones-type singer.
"We were finally barefoot toes in the sand, 20 years in the making," she said. "It was breathtaking and perfect."
As for those requirements to get married in Paradise, they had to be in the Bahamas at least 24 hours before applying for a marriage license at the Registrar's Office in Nassau, (242) 323-0594, open Monday through Friday, 9:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. A passport entry stamp or letter from a cruise ship's purser or guest services will suffice as proof.
The license is $120 and will be available 24 hours after you apply. That means you need to allow for 48 hours in the Bahamas before you marry. Your passport, state ID and divorce documents, if applicable, are must-bring documents. If you are single and never been married, you must have a sworn declaration in front of a notary to attest to this.
There are plenty of wedding destinations within driving distance or a short plane ride from Greater Cincinnati. Here are some logistics and resources that brides and grooms may find helpful.
Taking the plunge at a Greater Cincinnati courthouse is an option for eloping couples, where judges can serve as officiants.
Here are the links to get information on licenses, fees and ceremonies for Boone County, Brown County, Butler County, Campbell County, Clermont County, Hamilton County, Kenton County and Warren County.
There's a website that offers elopement packages for Cincinnati, Elope in Cincinnati.
The Vanderbilt family home at Biltmore Estates in Asheville, North Carolina, has 10 different venues to suit any size wedding, ranging from a 30-person event in the Champagne Cellar at The Winery to a 600-person ceremony at the Biltmore House and Gardens. Phone: 800-211-9804. Email: [email protected]
Getting married in Tennessee might be the most low-maintenance option. There are no waiting periods or blood tests. You just need a state-issued ID and your Social Security card. Both parties must be present to get the marriage license, which costs between $38 and $41 for non-state residents. If this is not the first marriage, you need documents showing legal divorce dates or a death certificate of a former spouse. Here's a list of marriage license centers and some more details on getting a license.
Florida beach weddings
Unlike Florida residents, non-residents can get their marriage licenses the same day with a valid state ID or passport and $86.50 in any Florida county. You do not have to be married in the county where you obtain the license.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Ever watch the movie "Somewhere in Time" and dream about a wedding at the Grand Hotel?
The hotel offers two options for a ceremony: The famous front porch - the longest in the world - and the Grand Hotel Tea Garden. Their honeymoon and anniversary package is the closest package for those who just want to spend an elopement weekend there, instead of planning a full wedding. Marriage licenses are available at Mackinac County Clerk's Office. Click here for instructions for marriage licenses and here's a list of possible officiants.
Consider there is a dress code after 6:30 p.m., so plan for that.
Couples who want to marry in Niagara Falls, United States/New York, must personally sign their applications in front of a clerk at any town's or city's clerk. In Niagara Falls, licenses are issued Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. While you can get the license right away, there is a 24-hour waiting period before you can marry so factor in that time when planning this destination. The cost is $40. Here is a list of officiants near Niagara Falls.
Couples who love lighthouses may head straight for this North Carolina destination.
Their first stop would be the Register of Deeds in Manteo, open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. People older than 21 won't need a birth certificate, but all will need a valid ID or passport, a Social Security Card and, if applicable, a judge-signed divorce decree from a previous marriage. Check this listing of town phone numbers to check if a wedding destination requires other permits.
For Greater Cincinnati couples who want the water, but not the double-digit drive time, Put-in-Bay could be an ideal location.
Ohio residents can apply for a marriage license in their county of residence and use it at Put-in-Bay. Remember to factor in the ferry time and expenses if family and friends come for the ceremony. Docks are located in Port Clinton and Sandusky, depending on the company.
Possible venues: DeRivera Park Gazebo, South Bass Island Lighthouse, Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church and St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
South Carolina beaches
Ohioans tend to gravitate toward South Carolina beaches like Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head for vacations, so it wouldn't be a stretch to find that couples want to head there for weddings near the ocean.
TripAdvisor.com provided this ranking of South Carolina wedding resorts based on value. In terms of logistics, though there is no blood test or exam required, there is a waiting period between when you apply for the license and when it can be picked up. Allow about a week. Normal requirements apply: Identification such as state ID or passport, Social Security cards, proof of divorce (if applicable) and both parties must be present. Fees vary based on county.