I had the privilege of photographing a gorgeous elopement for an incredibly kind and thoughtful couple on Nantucket last month. This adventurous duo had actually never visited the island before, and made a relatively last-minute decision to hop on the ferry and get married on a sunny Friday morning on a quiet stretch of beach.
The few hours I got to spend with this couple were beautiful, intimate, and incredibly inspiring. In this post I’m sharing my top takeaways about the benefits of eloping on Nantucket. Keep reading and let these highlights from Jordan and Matt’s simply perfect and perfectly simple day convince you that it doesn’t get better than an intimate wedding on a tiny New England island 30 miles out to sea.
#1 Save yourself (and your family) a lot of money
Let’s start with one of the most obvious benefits of a Nantucket elopement: the money you’ll save. It’s true: Nantucket weddings are wildly expensive. But take away the venue, catering, entertainment, wedding planner, tents, decorations, and all of the other expenses that add up oh so quickly … and it turns out, it IS possible to have a beautiful and budget-friendly Nantucket wedding. You need a place to stay (the hardest and most expensive part, probably), something to wear, a bouquet or some other floral touch, a photographer, and ideally, a hair and makeup artist. You’ll want to remember to secure your marriage license and probably have an officiant too (but a good friend will do this for free). And that’s pretty much it.
Elope on Nantucket and save your money for a party at home down the road, your new home fund, or your honeymoon. Speaking of honeymoons, if you’re choosing to elope, why not enjoy an extended honeymoon in the same special place you decided to get married? You’ve already decided to travel to Nantucket for your big (or not-so-big, in this case) day, and saved thousands of dollars by going intimate. It’s just you two, so why don’t you skip the long flight and jet lag, and just enjoy another week or two on the island, a honeymoon destination in its own right.
#2 You can keep it (your guest list, that is) short and sweet.
It sounds straightforward enough, but deciding who to invite to your wedding can be extremely complicated. If you have a big family the guest count can add up very quickly, and even when your family is small, it’s often very challenging to make those close calls about which friends or colleagues to invite, or how to whittle down your guest list to stay within budget. One of the most beautiful (and stress-relieving) things about eloping is that this problem is eliminated entirely. Of course, there is no one way to elope; some people choose to have a small ceremony with just immediate family and a friend or two; others hike deep into the mountains to say their vows in isolation. The great thing about eloping is that it’s extremely malleable — you can make it work for you, whatever that may mean. One of my favorite parts about Jordan and Matt’s elopement was that it truly was as intimate as can be. The only people present at their ceremony were the two of them, their officiant, his wife, and me.
#3 No venue required
So you want to get married next summer on Nantucket? Cool! That means you’ve already booked your venue, photographer, hair and makeup, tents if needed, catering, and secured accommodations for your guests… right?! Yikes. This is true in many places, but even more so on Nantucket, a small island that only has so many hotels and potential wedding venues (and vendors) that can accommodate large groups. The great ones book VERY early, usually at least a year out, if not two years. Understandably, a lot of people want to get married on Nantucket. It’s an incredibly special and beautiful place, and has an undeniable magic to it that leads many to call it their Happy Place. And it’s a treat for your guests to visit as well. But making all of these decisions more than a year out, not to mention putting down non-refundable deposits, is a major commitment and requires absolute certainty about what you want (and a willingness to adapt when your first, second, and third choices are already booked). A Nantucket elopement, on the other hand, can take place pretty much anywhere you like, and most of those places don’t require a reservation or a deposit. I helped Jordan and Matt choose the perfect beach in an off-the-beaten-path location for their Friday morning ceremony – and we made this decision just a couple of weeks before they exchanged vows.
#4 Your choice of date and time
When planning a traditional wedding with a large guest count, assuming you’re considering inviting a lot of people because you actually want them to be there, you’re limited in the dates you can choose. Most people work Monday through Friday at a minimum, which is why Saturday weddings are so popular. You can, of course, host a larger wedding on a Friday or a Sunday (a trend I personally love), but that decision can make it more difficult for some guests to attend. Furthermore, you always have to take into account the personal and work schedules of your immediate family and wedding party, and likely others as well. This can include vacations that were planned before you were engaged, school and sports schedules for families with kids, work conferences, etc. For my wedding in 2016, Tim and I knew we wanted to get married in the fall, but after taking into account the dates available at our venue and other scheduling issues we had to work around, we were left with only one date that would realistically work. (This was fine for me – I secretly love it when a decision is taken out of my hands – but having limited options certainly isn’t ideal for everyone).
Going the elopement route gives you so many more options. You’re not confined to your venue’s available dates, you can get married any day of the week you choose, you can choose your date based on your favorite numbers, the day’s astrology, an inside joke between you and your partner, based on whatever. Sunrise, sunset, mid-day, midnight – it’s entirely up to you.
#5 You set the pace for the day
Large weddings have a tendency to be planned down to the minute. There’s often good reason for this. You want to make sure your guests know where they need to be and at what time, and that they’re getting fed at a reasonable hour. Some venues have a hard stop time due to noise restrictions. Hair and makeup always takes longer than you think it will, so coordinating with your makeup artists and wedding planner is critical to ensure everyone is photo and ceremony-ready on time. But without being beholden to the venue’s rules, and with no guests to worry about, you can structure the day as you’d like, and even make some impromptu decisions (e.g., cancel that dinner reservation and jump in the ocean in your wedding gown instead!) – changes that would be virtually impossible to make with a large wedding.
I followed Matt and Jordan to lunch at Millie’s after their beach ceremony. We talked about this as an option beforehand and Jordan said they liked the idea of stopping there because “it would be so us to get married and then go get a sandwich.” I think I convinced Jordan to go for a Millie’s taco for her wedding day lunch, but the point stands – these two casually strolled into Millie’s for lunch, in their wedding clothes, moments after saying “I do.” How cool is that? As you might imagine, they got an extremely warm welcome from other patrons that day, as well as the lovely Millie’s staff, who invited them behind the bar to pour themselves a celebratory pint of Grey Lady.
Traveling to Nantucket next summer? It’s never too early to book your elopement or family session. Reach out to me here to inquire about 2024 availability.