Southern Scotland’s Gretna Green has been the runaway wedding destination for couples for centuries. The city of Elkton, Maryland was the hotspot for eloping American couples throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
And who can forget the popularity of Niagara Falls and Las Vegas for destination weddings since the days of the infamous Rat Pack?
A Sunshine Coast wedding planner and designer is hoping to raise the profile of her region’s spectacular strip of coastline in British Columbia for modern couples looking for a stunning location for small weddings and elopements year round.
“Many couples come to the Sunshine Coast for summer weddings, but it is becoming more of an off-peak wedding destination in recent years,” explains Melissa Tripp, owner of Coastal Weddings & Events. “We would love to see this trend build, encouraging our local economy and supporting local businesses through the off season.”
Aside from the wealth of absolutely spectacular scenery between the expansive Pacific Ocean, beautiful lakes, stunning mountain views and lovely old growth forest, Melissa says the Sunshine Coast offers couples great value for their dollar.
“The Sunshine Coast is brimming with special offers and all-inclusive travel options for off-peak travellers. Couples looking to be married have endless possibilities for ceremony and reception locations, from ocean to lake to mountainside as well as in charming resorts and venues.”
Coastal Weddings & Events is pleased to launch new small wedding packages designed specifically for small destination weddings and elopements. There is a package for just the bridal couple, another for a wedding planned for 12 and a third for weddings up to 30 people.
Do small weddings really require a wedding planner some might wonder?
Jennifer, who eloped with her sweetheart Charles in September of 2000, says in hindsight she really didn’t anticipate just how much planning was required. She and Charles, who had been together for several years, knew they wanted a simple wedding and decided to marry while on a trip to Halifax, NS.
“Not a lot of thought went into it ahead of time, we did things sort of spur of the moment. We did buy our rings ahead of time, and we bought our outfits ahead of time, but really we didn’t do as much planning as we should have,” she says. “Charles had stood for three couples that year, and he was a nervous wreck in front of the crowds, so we knew then that we would keep it small.”
They hit a snag at City Hall that could have ended their wedding plans.
“When we went to get our papers from the city of Halifax, we were told that we hadn’t been visiting for long enough to apply to get a marriage licence,” says Jennifer. Fortunately they found an official willing to bend the rules, averting disaster. “Another clerk was able to help us sidestep the rules a little bit so that we were able to get the papers.”
The two spent their wedding day, a beautiful and sunny Saturday, relaxing. They went to a farmers market, Jennifer got a manicure and they spent the rest of the day reclining in the grass and watching planes fly overhead.
For their marriage ceremony, Jennifer dressed in a long skirt and flowing blouse while Charles wore casual khaki pants, a white shirt and a jacket. They took a taxi to the home of the justice of the peace, where they were married in the living room.
“The justice of the peace used fairly standard vows, short and sweet, nothing elaborate,” remembers Jennifer.
Their witnesses, complete strangers to the couple, had just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary two days earlier.
After signing the papers they left, a married couple, and celebrated with a walk through public gardens, a quick supper by the water and a moonlit sailboat ride.
Jennifer remembers how relaxed they were, as well as, “The look of happiness on Charles’s face while we said our vows – I think I was more nervous than he was.”
When they returned to their home, they asked family to meet them at a restaurant to celebrate Jennifer’s birthday and announced their marriage. They then started planning a reception party for friends and family two months later at a curling club.
Jennifer said it, “really surprised me how fast the time went between when we came back and our reception. Time went so fast, and I wish we had started planning the party before we got married. It was hard to find a reception venue in a short amount of time, and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so options were a little limited.”
It did come together and nearly 15 years later they remember their small wedding with no regrets:
“We didn’t have to make anyone happy except ourselves. Charles was so happy and not nervous in front of a crowd of people, we had the most relaxing day ever, and we had a honeymoon built in with our wedding. We also didn’t spend a lot of money on a wedding, which meant we were able to save up for buying a house a few years later.”
Wedding planners save time and money
Melissa of Coastal Weddings & Events says couples are often surprised by the savings offered by hiring professional wedding planners.
“Even for simple, small weddings there are decisions to make, details to confirm and logistics to troubleshoot,” she explains. “We do it all, leaving the couple to focus on their relationship and enjoy their wedding day.”
Couples always marvel at her ability to anticipate needs and stay calm no matter what unexpected issues arise.
“That’s my job,” laughs Melissa. “To handle everything and make sure things run smoothly.”
As a wedding planner, Melissa has worked to build relationships with vendors and suppliers on the Sunshine Coast. She knows every possible facility and scenic location, with all the pros and cons, and is able to pass along sound advice and the most competitive pricing to her clients. In addition to the boundless creativity and enthusiasm of her team, Coastal Weddings & Events has an extensive inventory of wedding décor and decorations to create a custom ambience for every ceremony and reception.
She says the Sunshine Coast offers more than 100 places to stay and unlimited outdoor locations for a wedding ceremony or reception, plus warm hospitality and exceptional service.
“We want couples to realize the Sunshine Coast is a great alternative to a long flight and a lot of red tape to get married in another country! We think it is the most beautiful spot in Canada to get married.”