As weddings trend toward the personal and un-fussy (why not ditch the cake for a “cookie bar” or, hey, wear Crocs down the aisle if that’s your thing), elopements seem ever more common, not in the least because they can be a way to get married without going into debt. Look no further than the micro-wedding trend for proof that many couples are interested in hosting the wedding of their dreams without the exorbitant price tag that goes with it.
When my fiancé and I got engaged late last year, we jumped right on the highly personal, non-traditional wedding bandwagon, deciding on a Las Vegas elopement for the big day, replete with a kitschy ceremony at A Little White Wedding Chapel officiated by an Elvis Presley impersonator. The only catch? We’re spending just as much on our relaxed Las Vegas elopement as the average American couple does on their formal wedding. And we don’t regret it for a second. Here’s why, to us, it’s worth every penny.
1. It’s still cheaper than a New York City “I do.”
According to The Knot’s annual “Real Weddings” survey, in 2018 the national average cost of a wedding was $33,931, right in the ballpark of what our Vegas elopement is costing. That figure pales, however, in comparison to the average cost in Manhattan—$88,176—where we live.
So, though our wedding isn’t turning out to be quite as budget-friendly as we had initially hoped, it’s still far cheaper than trying to plan the average NYC celebration.
2. We get to spend the budget exactly how we want.
Instead of picking out the perfect floral arrangements that wedding guests will forget faster than the blooms wilt and die, I’m sporting my first pair of designer shoes, and they are my dream pair: Gianvito Rossi cream-colored leather and lace thigh-high boots. And unlike every other wedding garment people tell you that you can wear again, I will actually, definitely wear these babies again post-nuptials.
3. Vegas is an excuse to be completely over-the-top.
If wearing thigh-highs down the aisle is extra, then my choice of wedding gown is beyond flamboyant.
I’m a huge gold jewelry lover and recently discovered London-based designer Fannie Schiavoni’s metal dresses, which look like sexy armor. When I saw a brass halterneck-style dress entirely plated in 18-karat gold, I thought it was so Vegas, like J. Lo performing in Vegas kind of Vegas.
It was nearly double the average wedding dress cost of $1,631, per The Knot, but it’s an unforgettable look and feels like something that only this alternate Vegas universe version of me—and J. Lo—would wear. Wearing a white dress as I walk down an aisle to the sounds of a string quartet would feel like playing dress-up to me, and if I’m going to play dress-up, I’m going to go all out with a particularly extravagant look.
If I’m bedecking myself in real gold, naturally, my husband-to-be has to look just as sharp. So even though a groom’s look is, on average, $283, we’re shelling out for a bespoke tailored suit for around $1,000.
This is our chance to do something once-in-a-lifetime because anything goes in Las Vegas.
4. It lets us express ourselves as a couple.
We have a small group of family and friends coming to celebrate with us on our big day, but rather than host a reception at a venue or restaurant, we’re renting out a killer suite at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for a more laid-back after-party. The “Bungalow” suite is three stories with a private terrace boasting an outdoor bar and its very own plunge pool, plus round-the-clock butler service. It’s also much larger than our Manhattan apartment. This is eating up a big part of our budget, but to us, it’s a luxury that’s worth it.
Though we’re using Las Vegas as an excuse to live out our high-roller fantasy, in our day-to-day lives we’re a down-to-earth couple and we want our after-party to reflect that. Nothing feels more “us” than serving our guests one of our favorite foods—pizza from The Cosmopolitan’s Secret Pizza restaurant, delivered straight to our suite.
And we might not be giving out traditional party favors, but our guests can still go home with something they, literally, won’t be able to forget. Las Vegas tattoo artist B. Tosh will be inking live tattoos with designs he’s created especially for our day.
5. I hate to plan.
The very idea of adhering to a schedule, creating a formal guest list and waiting for RSVPs, or even picking out the invitations stresses me out.
A Vegas elopement lets me avoid all the parts of a wedding I dislike—namely, making a thousand decisions, which I do enough of in my regular life.
Instead, my fiancé and I have cherry-picked a few must-have wedding elements to incorporate into our untraditional celebration, like an amazing photographer we found in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, Kiara of Indwell Weddings, who specializes in elopements and has planned a cool desert photo shoot for us, and the aforementioned pizza.
6. It lets us “cut the fat.”
Even though our ceremony and party do require some planning, the very concept of an elopement sounds spur-of-the-moment and unplanned (and compared to the average wedding with its many months of preparation, we are pretty much winging our nuptials).
This keeps us from feeling pressured to invite co-workers or that one cousin we never really liked. We can keep the guest list intimate and focus on the most important people in our lives, which, whether one decides on a $1,950 backyard wedding or our extreme Vegas party, is the whole point of breaking with tradition to have a wedding that’s truly personal and one of a kind.