I must get at least 3- 5 emails a week from couples who want to elope in Paris. There are tons of reasons why people choose to elope: to save money, to save time, to save their sanity! Couples that contact me about eloping in Paris also typically display a very strong romantic streak. Since I find myself answering a lot of the same questions week after week, I’ve decided to compile The American Wedding Planner in Paris’ Top Five Tips for Planning an Elopement in Paris
1. Start Planning Early
Gone are the days of dropping into town at midnight and waking the village parson to marry you (his wife, with her wrinkled overcoat pulled over her dressing gown, acting as pianist-slash-witness). As nostalgic and romantic as it sounds, it’s just not realistic in this day and age. There aren’t very many English-speaking celebrants available in Paris, and most of them work full-time at their own churches. They also have families, hobbies and other commitments, which leaves a limited amount of time to officiate weddings for couples coming from overseas. They, of course, try to be as accommodating as possible, but to be fair, you should plan on contracting your officiant at least 3 months in advance of your ceremony (longer if you’re planning on eloping during the high season).
2. Hire a good wedding planner
Well…this one is pretty simple. People tend to think that wedding planners are for big, elaborate weddings. That’s not true at all. A destination wedding is a destination wedding- whether it’s just you 2 or 200 of your closest friends! Do you know where to get a hand-tied bouquet of café au lait-colored peonies with a matching boutonnière in Paris? A wedding planner would. Do you know the name of an awesome, reputable, English-speaking Parisian photographer? A wedding planner does! I could go on for another 2 paragraphs, but you get the gist. Besides having access to top-notch local vendors, hiring a wedding planner based in the destination that you’re planning your elopement takes the pressure off of you and your honey, and gives you time to concentrate on planning your honeymoon. As when you’re hiring your officiant, keep in mind that most wedding planners need at least 3 months notice to book an elopement ceremony.
3. Try not to plan too much
So, my first pointer was to start planning early, but that’s not to say to plan every single second of your event! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- France is not America. France runs as it’s own pace, and to most Americans, that’s about 3.5 paces behind the U.S! Everyone is familiar with the stereotype of the American tourist in a Parisian restaurant, waiting…and waiting…and waiting for “l’addition” (all the while growing more red-faced and furious at the waiter for “ignoring” his table). I’ve had elopement clients send me their itineraries timed to the quarter hour, “Car Pick-Up at Hotel: 12:45. Arrive at Eiffel Tower: 1:05. Waiter brings 1st glass of champagne: 2:17, etc. etc…” If you learn nothing else from this post, learn this: You can pay a deposit, fax an excel spreadsheet, confirm, re-confirm, and re-RE-confirm an order, but it won’t really confirm anything. In Paris, “on time” typically means between 15 and 35 minutes “late”. So, if you’re expecting a car to pick you up at 1:00 to get you to the Eiffel Tower for your ceremony to start at 1:30, just know that the car will probably arrive at 1:15, but it’s no problem because the ceremony probably won’t start until 1:50 anyway! It all works out in the end, and the wedding ceremony will be just as lovely 20 minutes later than planned.
4. You can not get married on top of the Eiffel Tower
Let me just say that once again for the girls at the back: You Can NOT get married on top of the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is a national monument which occasionally rents the top out for corporate functions, but not to private individuals. If you want to host your wedding at the Eiffel Tower, you’ll be encouraged to rent rooms at one of the two restaurants in the tower. BTW, you also can’t get married at Notre Dame Cathedral or at Sacre Coeur, unless you have some pretty strong pull in some VERY high places in France. For starters, in order to have a church wedding at all in France, you will first need to have a civil wedding here. That comes with a whole slew of rules and regulations, which is why most foreigners who come to Paris to get married choose to have a religious blessing or a symbolic ceremony instead. With symbolic ceremonies, you have a lot more flexibility- so while you still can’t get married on top of the Eiffel Tower, you can have a very simple symbolic ceremony in front of it.
5. Think off the Beaten Path
If you’ve already decided to elope to Paris, chances are you’re a pretty non-traditional couple. So why settle for the same ole same ole once you’ve arrived in Paris? Sure, you can get married beneath the Eiffel Tower. It’s gorgeous, historical, romantic- everything that you could ask from a wedding in Paris. But wouldn’t it be really cool to exchange your vows on top of the Buttes Chaumont, with its amazing panoramic view of the city spread out at your feet? Or beneath the echo-y vaulted ceilings of the Place des Vosges? Or even at sundown in the dramatic shadows of the Pyramide du Louvre. Since you’re creating your own, unique elopement ceremony, the world (or at least Paris) is your oyster! Elopement ceremonies tend to be fairly short, so if you’re mindful of the legalities of your intended venue (no standing on the grass, for example, if you’re not permitted to do so), and respectful of your environment (i.e.: don’t hire an accordionist to serenade you in a busy restaurant), your elopement in Paris should go off without a hitch!