Couples say 'I do' to all-inclusive elopement weddings during the pandemic

Posted at 4:56 PM, Dec 23, 2020

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Trying to plan for life’s most joyful experiences has become another source of stress during the pandemic. With large weddings still on hold, couples remain in limbo.

“These are people who’ve planned their weddings, spent a year, maybe two years, planning their wedding. And it’s just starting to crumble beneath them a little bit. Everything is being just ripped away, all these things they had planned," said Sara Whittaker, owner of Desert Born Studios in San Diego.

And when weddings came to a halt, so did Whittaker's livelihood.

“I looked at a lot of my other friends who are vendors in this industry and watched their years kind of plummet. And everyone struggling financially and still wanting to work,” said Whittaker.

Knowing vendors were in need of work, and couples eager to get married, Whittaker set out to create a COVID-friendly wedding experience.

“As a small business owner you really have to adapt or die," she said. "If you can’t figure out a way to roll with the punches that the world gives you, you’re not going to make it.”

Teaming up with industry vendors, she crafted an all-inclusive wedding elopement experience.

The $2,500 package includes florals, hair and makeup, photos, video, and a wedding officiant.

Couples can invite up to 15 people to the elopement ceremony in Joshua Tree National Park.

Bree Steffen, owner of Pause Creative Collective, built and designed a desert-themed ceremony backdrop.

"It was just really cool to be a part of something this intimate and special while still being safe. It was awesome to capture these couples being so strong and committed to each other and finding a safe way to celebrate their love, even during a pandemic!" said Steffen, who is also the event videographer.

After months of wedding planning stress and anxiety, Izzy Van Vleet opted for the desert elopement soon after hearing about it.

“We had a big warehouse venue picked out, with 200 guests. It was going to be a big celebration. I had a lot of the planning done and it didn't look like those plans were going to work out." said Van Vleet.

She liked the idea of an intimate wedding with her closest friends and family.

“Now, we get to spend time with the people that are most important, that we would’ve wanted to spend time with anyway and just really celebrate our love and getting married," said Van Vleet.

“It’s not so much about who’s got the biggest floral budget or the most expensive dress. It’s about marrying the person you love, and having those people that you love the very most being able to witness it as well," said Whittaker.

She believes it's a trend that could continue after the pandemic and plans to create new elopement experiences in the future.