Eloping in the Military: How to Make the Big Decision

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I am so excited to welcome Keating from High Heels and Combat Boots to the blog today! Keating has a unique wedding story which she’s sharing… along with how she and her then-fiance made the decision in the first place. Ready to jump in? Let’s go! 

Although I always dreamed of having a big wedding day, all of that changed when I fell in love with my husband, Zack. After two months of dating, we eloped and tied the knot in a small North Carolina courthouse with just two of his friends present. No family, no big wedding gown or bridesmaids or fancy place settings and floral arrangements. None of that. We don’t even have pictures from our wedding day. We’ve now been married for about a year and a half and don’t regret our choice one bit.

Pros and cons about eloping in the military lifestyle from a bride who did it! #militarybride #weddings #militarywedding #militaryspouse #milspouse #milspouses #milfam #militaryfamily #militarywife #eloping #elope

I never thought I’d end up eloping and getting married in a courthouse, but for us, the pros outweighed the cons when it came to deciding between an elopement and a traditional wedding. I loved our choice to elope and it’s a fun story to tell to those who ask about us. We’re so fortunate to have such amazing and supportive friends and family who made it easier and less stressful for us, but eloping definitely isn’t for everyone. Here were our pros and cons to eloping:

The Pros

It’s faster.

If you’re in a military relationship, then sometimes the quicker option is what you have to go with. Between trainings, deployments, and PCS moves, you don’t always have the time to have a typical year long engagement with hours of wedding planning thrown into the mix. Military relationships sometimes require some fast decision making which is exactly what we had to do.

It’s less expensive.

The average wedding nowadays costs around $35k. I’m sorry, but that’s insane. We got married at 21 and had very little time to make it happen. There was no way we could afford a $35k wedding at that age. Between our marriage license, wedding bands, the hotel room(for the week), and the gas for me to drive to and from North Carolina, we didn’t even spend $1k. I was then able to save up more money to make the move to North Carolina a couple months later.

Less stressful.

It was so nice to not have to worry about caterers and florists and whether or not my dress would fit right. There was very little for us to worry about. All I had to do was make sure I had the necessary documents with me to obtain our marriage license and pack something to wear. That’s it. It was nice to not have pressure from everyone else in my life about all the details of the day. It was a relaxing and easy process.

Less pressure.

I loved not having so many people staring at us while we said our vows or had our first kiss. It was just us. And like I mentioned above, I loved not having the pressure from family and friends to have my wedding day a certain way. All that matters on your wedding day is what you want, but it can be hard to do that when you have so many people helping you out. Everyone wants a say. But with an elopement, your opinion is the only one that matters. I didn’t have to compromise with anyone on what I was wearing or what flavor cake I chose or the floral arrangements. It was all about us and starting our future together.

It’s exciting.

There’s something about doing things on a whim and without anyone knowing that’s exciting. I’m not a spontaneous person at all. I prefer to have everything very planned out and organized so for me, it was exciting to let loose, follow my heart, and go for it. I also loved that we were the only two who knew about it (okay, a couple friends knew too…but that’s it!). It made it romantic and fun to run away and get married.

You can save up for a larger wedding in the future.

If you really have your heart set on having a big wedding, then an elopement can allow you more time to save up for that wedding day. Although I don’t regret our choice to elope one bit, we do plan on having a “wedding day” in the future for our friends and family. We know they missed out so we want to do a vow renewal for our 5-year wedding anniversary or whenever we’re able to save up the money to do that. No matter what anyone says, you can have a wedding day after you’re already married.

Pros and cons about eloping in the military lifestyle from a bride who did it!The Cons

Less extravagance.

There’s really not much to say about this one. An elopement just isn’t typically a big event like a traditional wedding. It’s very simple and to the point. There’s also less people to celebrate with as well and (if it’s a big deal to you), less people also means less gifts or sometimes no gifts at all.

Future regrets.

You could look back on your wedding day years down the road and regret that you didn’t have a big special day. Like I said above, all women dream of their special day. It’s the biggest day of your life. It should be spectacular. So if you feel like you’d regret not having a traditional wedding in the future, then maybe an elopement isn’t for you.

Potential hurt feelings.

You could have family and friends who get upset over the fact that they weren’t included in your big day. Of course our families were disappointed that they couldn’t be there, but luckily everyone in our life was very supportive of our choice and we promised them a vow renewal in the future. If your family isn’t like ours, then you probably don’t want to start your marriage off with family drama.

Your families will miss out on time to bond.

For some, a wedding is the first time the bride and groom’s family meet. This is the perfect time for everyone to get to know one another before you two tie the knot. Neither of our families had met before we got married and we actually hadn’t even met each other’s families either. I met his family a few weeks later and he met mine that Christmas. Our families didn’t meet each other until a year after we got married. Thank God everyone loved each other and we’re all one big happy family now, but I was definitely a bit concerned with that when we chose to get married before meeting everyone..

Fewer witnesses to share the memories.

Since we only had a couple people at our elopement, we’re not able to share the memories with family or other friends. We also didn’t have pictures taken that day so there’s not a whole lot to look back on.
When it comes down to it, the most important thing is that I got to marry the love of my life. I look back on that day and the one thing I remember is standing across from my best friend, saying our vows and pledging to spend the rest of our lives together. And that’s always been enough for me. Weigh your pros and cons and make this big decision together as a couple.

My name is Keating, I’m 23 years old, a PR student at SNHU, iced coffee addict, and a military wife stationed in North Carolina. My husband, Zack has been in the U.S. Marine Corps for 5 years now and together, we’ll be making our first PCS move together to Okinawa, Japan this summer. I am currently majoring in Communications and Public Relations and hope to someday work for a nonprofit organization like The American Cancer Society. 

4 Responses

  1. Aw, love this! I actually really wanted to elope but my hubby pushed for the more traditional route. He always takes “the more the merrier” route, but I would have loved to have had it be just us two at a courthouse…

    1. Were you happy with your bigger wedding or do you still wish it had just been a courthouse wedding?

  2. My husband and I eloped over 17 years ago. He was stationed at Fort Sill, OK. We went down to Wichita Falls, TX and got married. No family, just us. His parents were angry and I think it was because of that it took so long to warm up to me.

  3. My husband and I eloped last summer, and it was definitely the right choice for us! One thing I want to add that you miss out on when you elope (and this has honestly been the thing that I have been the most sad about missing out on): bridal showers!! If you live in a town with your family and friends, you of course can have a shower after eloping… But if you’re like me and eloped after moving thousands of miles away from where anyone you know lives- you pretty much lose the chance. Part of the motivation for eloping for us was finances, and not having a bridal shower meant we had to buy each separate thing for our new home out of our own money. Silverware, glasses for the kitchen, trash cans, shower curtains, towels for the bathroom, sheets– it all adds up very fast.
    So for those looking to elope, I recommend that you find someone (friend or family) who will be willing to organize a shower for you after the elopement is made public. It will help you out more than you realize!!

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