TJ Iconic Elopement: Elli + Will Paris by Bayly & Moore

TJ Iconic! The elopement of Elli and Will is probably more relevant today than when it first appeared on TJ. We have noticed a huge uptake in elopements and smaller weddings, a side effect of a global pandemic. There can be so much beauty in a smaller more intimate gathering. So while you may not be able to have a huge wedding right now (in NZ at least) you could opt for a small affair and plan a big celebration party for further down the track.

The uniting of a couple through marriage is a time-honoured tradition that crosses cultures, religions, classes and ethnic groups. There are many different paths that can lead a couple in love to this joyous destination. The exchanging and ordaining of marriage vows lies at its heart, but lots of customs and styles of celebration vary greatly. Some want to celebrate their marriage by throwing a party for as many of their closest friends as is humanly possible, which can take years to plan. For others, it will be about escaping the limelight to celebrate something sacred, intimately, as a couple. One choice isn’t inherently better than the other. It’s an intensely personal decision that the couple must make together. So why are a growing number of couples swerving a traditional wedding to elope?

Fortunately, times have changed. Unlike elopements of old, which were conducted under a veil of shame, the 2022 version is less clandestine and devoid of scandal or ‘shotgun’-style haste. Modern elopement is about breaking with the norms of the past and creating something true to you, as a couple. Once upon a time, eloping referred to running away with your beloved to marry in secret, for fear of being forced apart, either by disapproving parents or religious obligations. Today, the term ‘elopement’ has come to mean a marriage performed with limited or no public engagement, with a ceremony that generally just involves the bride and groom, an ordained officiant and two witnesses. But the definition of the word seems to be changing still. Many couples who choose to elope let their friends and family know beforehand. Others keep it a secret and then surprise them afterwards, and have a separate celebration — whether that’s later that day or six months down the track is up to them. Some couples begin with the idea of a traditional wedding and soon realise that not only are they becoming burned out by the planning process, but by spending less on a ceremony, they’ll have more money to spend on hotels, meals and an incredible experience together as a couple. For others, elopement is simply about the romance. Escaping everything and heading to an exotic destination to celebrate the start of your life together as a couple has got to be one of the greatest romantic gestures ever.

This was true for Eli& Will who eloped to Paris last year. They had begun planning a traditional wedding, but after adding up the costs from potential vendors and aimlessly looking for the right venue, they decided it was best to “go on a little adventure instead”. Eli describes their decision as a spontaneous, romantic choice that felt meant to be. “My best friend and I were chatting about how getting married in Paris would be the most magical thing in the world. While we were talking, she spotted a postcard that read ‘Paris is always a good idea’. When she picked it up and read that out, it was a done deal for me. Will was onboard. We also live on Paris Street, so our decision was already made for us when we moved here.” Will’s father, an ordained minister, legally officiated their nuptials in the States a few days before they flew off to Paris, where they exchanged vows and rings at the foot of the Eiffel Tower with their two best friends and cousin as witness.“Our day was relaxed. We didn’t have too much of a plan. Our only requirement was to stop by the Eiffel Tower to get hitched.

We hired a chauffeur for the day, who was amazing. Cedric took us on an incredible tour all around the city before bringing us to our spot. Once the ceremony was over, we had lunch at a local cafe and spent the rest of the day and night exploring the city more. Our hearts were so alive.  We felt like rock stars.

”Elopement “fixers” and “retreats” have never been busier, catering to couples who want personalised ceremonies in specialised venues without an audience. Many resorts around the world offer affordable elopement packages that include an officiant, flowers, dinner etc. While ‘destination weddings’ are not the same thing, elopements are also away for people with a sense of adventure to combine wedding and travel together. For some, it makes sense to put what you might have spent on a big traditional wedding towards an African safari or sailing a yacht through the Greek islands with the love of your life instead.

Wedding photographers Sophia and Simon of Bayly & Moore have shot hundreds of weddings around the globe. They captured Eli & Will’s elopement in Paris and have an interesting take on the whole wedding game. They talk about a sliding scale of intimacy— from just the two of you, through to a full-blown, tear-the-roof-off party of 200. “The smaller the crew, the more intimate and couple-focused the whole experience is. The larger your wedding, the more it’s about celebrating all of the people who got you this far in life.” The difference is about intimacy, Simon explains. “If it’s just the couple and a celebrant, you can recite your vows to each other in an ice cave in Greenland. Nude, if you want. That’s beyond intimate. Two to 10 people is still gloriously intimate and very couple-centered. You can pretty much get married anywhere, even in the middle of a New York street, and no one’s going to stop you. Ten to 20 people is basically a portable party, whereas you will need a schedule for a crew of 20-50 people.It will make a wonderful large dinner party but won’t tear the house down. With 50 to 100, you’ve got enough for a great party, but this amount of people need quite a bit of notice for anything. One to two hundred people is a serious event and you’re at its epicentre — you’re three parts event-planner, five parts friends-introducer, two parts mother-minder and one part person in love. And 200-400 people? LOL. ”Sophia and Simon have witnessed how elopements are about cutting out all of the distractions so that you’re completely present with each other, as a couple. Intimacy, mobility (meaning the ability to be in a place that means the world to you both), simplicity and spontaneity all contribute to a special feeling.

They also acknowledge that getting hitched can very much be about shouting to the world how much you love someone. Some couples really need to have an audience to feel like it’s stuck. “Marching back down an aisle while your friends and family are screaming for you is one of the greatest life experiences. It’s just unfortunate that we’ve made that experience synonymous with throwing a large, event-style wedding.”Eli echoes these sentiments. The hardest thing for her and Will was not having all of their friends and family there to witness their union, but in a way, it was also the best thing. “Starting our lives together without all the pressures of a traditional wedding and choosing to just focus on one another was a deeply special experience,” she says.“If we had a chance to do it all over again, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Photography: Sophia & Simonat Bayly & Moore