18 East Chase Street Baltimore, Maryland 21202 (410) 727-1112

Elopements (AKA MIcroweddings) in Maryland

Small is Beautiful!

In weddings, size is everything and nothing.

People fret over their guest lists more than anything else when they’re planning their wedding. Who to invite, who not to invite, who must be invited.

And if that’s not enough to make you crazy, there’s the whole money thing.

Weddings are often the third most expensive thing people buy in their lifetimes, right after a house and a car. Ten, twenty, thirty thousand dollars or more can go into your wedding. 

Or not. 

There was a time, from the mid-1910s until 1938, that Maryland was the quickie state. Most of the surrounding states had instituted 48-hour waiting periods from the time a marriage license is issued until the ceremony can take place, having decided that impulsive marriages were getting out of hand. But Maryland, “the free state”, kept the doors open. That came to a halt in 1938 as the Maryland legislature became increasingly embarrassed by the state’s reputation as the place to elope. 

So quickie elopements moved from Maryland to Las Vegas, where they will be happy to supply any number of ersatz Elvises to marry you.

In the rest of the modern world, we’ve adopted “elopement” as a term of art, generally referring to a wedding that includes up to 30 or 40 guests, or as few as none at all. Oddly, in the wedding business, “small wedding” can mean a wedding with as many as 100 guests. No matter, if size and cost are making you crazy, there are ways to have a wedding that’s manageable in every way and that isn’t a courthouse experience.

As a wedding venue owner, I primarily sell time and space. If I’m able to sell less of both, say for a 30-person, one-hour wedding, I can charge less. A lot less. So a pretty wedding place with expert wedding guidance becomes attainable on an overall wedding budget that is less, and often far less, than ten thousand dollars. 

Can an elopement also work for a backyard wedding? You bet! There are, of course, pros and cons to backyard weddings, and logistical and aesthetic things to consider. The  condition of the property prior to the wedding and what needs to be done to make it just so, the wear and tear that will result from even the most well-behaved guests’ presence, and how to restore the property to its original condition afterward are all important considerations. It’s not a big deal if it’s just a few people, but it doesn’t take many more to tax the resources of an average home and property. On the positive side, the cash outlay can be quite low, the hours are completely flexible, and reserving a date is easy!

Backyard weddings are a whole topic unto themselves, so let’s swing back to your guest list. I attribute my favorite piece of guest list advice to Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners, who says: “Invite the people you love and who love you.” Really, who else do you want at your wedding? You want to look at every face, every single person, and think, “I’m glad you’re here!” What a wonderful criterion for choosing guests for your wedding! 

If you’re able to keep that list to a relatively small number, the ease and convenience of a very small wedding might be just the thing for you.

Appreciate that we’ve just been talking about your wedding ceremony. Dinner (or lunch) and dancing and so forth are another thing altogether. But it’s not insurmountable. Lots of my elopement couples take everyone out to a local restaurant to celebrate, with some of them picking up the check for everyone, and some not. Other couples go off to one of their relative’s or friends’ houses to celebrate. Either way, that cost can be easy to manage. My venue also offers receptions along with elopement ceremonies, the cost of which, with catering, is generally in the ten- to fifteen-thousand dollar range. Still, thousands of dollars less than a big wedding!

It’s entirely possible to have a fabulous wedding that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg or make you crazy. One of the ways to do it is to tighten your guest list. Bigger isn’t always better! And in weddings, it often isn’t. Surround yourself with the people you love and who love you, and celebrate your new marriage with them however you like. That’s all that is required. No matter what social media, or the wedding magazines, or — good grief! — your family tells you, however you choose to do it is more than enough. It’s perfect.

David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of the castle at Chase Court, a wedding ceremony and reception venue in the fantastic Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Visit and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram

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