Lorraine Murphy and Wade Tink chose to tie the knot in Bondi, thousands of miles from family in the UK and Ireland.
Lorraine Murphy admits the idea of a big wedding had never really appealed to her. Instead, she and her new husband Wade Tink felt they wanted “a day that was just about us, our closest family members and our vows to each other” so, November 2, they eloped and got married on the doorstep in Sydney where they first met three years ago. “It was amazing,” says Murphy. “Everything went so perfectly and was ten times better than I even hoped it would be. We would absolutely recommend it.”
Where once elopement might have involved escaping through a bedroom window at midnight and running off to marry in secret, nowadays most couples who choose to elope want a small, private, no-frills wedding without the wait, expense and stress of a traditional ceremony.
Murphy says it took just two and a half months from the proposal to organise everything for her wedding day. The doorstep nuptials were followed by a party in Bondi attended by around 80 friends and family who thought they were there to celebrate the couple’s joint 30th birthdays. “When the cake came out I did a speech and said I’d had the best year of my life. Then I said that it had just got more amazing because we just got married on the doorstep that we met on and there was a gap of about five seconds and then there was an ‘aargh’ and the whole ceiling just lifted. It was incredible.”
Bride and groom Lorraine Murphy and Wade Tink kiss at their doorstep wedding 'elopement' in Bondi.
Elopements are a growth industry in the Hunter Valley, says marriage celebrant Maree Callaghan who has has been marrying couples in and around the region’s vineyards for more than 15 years. In fact, Callaghan is so busy with elopements she already has bookings for “four or five in November alone.”
Callaghan says while the majority of the eloping couples she marries are in their 30s, some are even in their 70s. “Many have been together for 20 years and don’t think a large wedding is realistic under the circumstances” she explains. “One such couple spent $20,000 instead on an overseas trip, while some eloping couples need the money to raise their existing family.”
With the average wedding in Australia costing $48,296, according to Bride To Be’s 2011 Cost of Love survey, eloping makes financial sense. Many destinations even offer special elopement packages. In Coffs Harbour, Loving Images Photography which specialises in wedding photography also offers complete elopement packages starting from $937 for a celebrant, wedding ceremony, photographer and witnesses. “The legal requirement is a minimum notice period of a month and a day for a ceremony to take place,” says Stephen Brehaut who runs the business with his wife Lisa. “We just tell couples that they need to make sure they arrive with their wedding attire, rings and their love” he says. “We make it as easy and hassle free as possible for them.”
Murphy agrees the financial pressure of a wedding is hard on everyone. “I’ve seen other friends when they get married and it’s this huge planning exercise for a year and a half and they spend $40,000 and it takes over everyone’s lives around them and then the day after the wedding they feel so deflated,” says Murphy.
Beyond the cost of a traditional wedding, family reasons are often cited says Callaghan. “In some cases one of the couple has family overseas and they don’t feel it is appropriate to just have the other’s family at their wedding. Sometimes there are different cultures with families who have different expectations so it gets too complicated.”
Some couples choose to elope to side step the stress. “Some are very private people who hate being the centre of attention and some see the planning and the wedding as an ordeal" she says.
In fact, 50 per cent of brides can't wait until the planning is over and almost one in four wish they could have eloped to save on all the stress of planning, according to an earlier Bride To Be survey.
Murphy says she and her husband chose to elope because “we've both had a huge year building our new businesses” and eloping “just takes all the pressure off. If people think they are rocking up to a wedding there is so much more expectation on the couple to have all the fancy touches and [for us] there was no expectation, people just really enjoyed the party afterwards. There was no pressure on us at all, everything was just a bonus that it turned out. We went to our seventh friend's wedding this year and it’s really exhausting for everyone and expensive for people going to the wedding as well.”
Everyone should elope says Torie Bosch on Slate. “Unless you are wealthy, come from a family that has never known strife, enjoy giving up an entire year of your life to planning, and can smile in the face of any possible wedding disaster (and mean it, not just for pictures), you should elope. That's because weddings — even small-scale ones — are more pageant than sincerity.”
Celebrities are doing it too. Jennifer Aniston is reportedly “eloping with friends” when she ties the knot with fiancé Justin Theroux. “[It will be a] destination wedding, kind of like eloping with a few friends,” a source told Us Weekly magazine.
However in the Huffington Post, the Bitchless Bride wedding planner outlines the reasons why she chose to elope but warns that it is not for everyone. “Feelings will get hurt, people will feel left out of your big day, and for some, it’s not worth the wrath or the guilt it may bring into your life for days, months and sometimes even years to come.”
Murphy admits these thoughts crossed her mind before her wedding but she has no regrets. She made sure she filmed the ceremony and took photos to show absent friends and family afterwards. “We were actually a little bit apprehensive because we didn’t know if some people would be upset that we hadn’t told them but everyone has been positive. I thought my family in Ireland might be upset because they couldn’t be here but they’re really happy for us. I think everyone understands. We are just going to try and make people feel part of it afterwards.”