Weddings

5 Tips for Eloping in DC

Maggie Gaudaen of Pop! Wed shares how to plan the perfect flash wedding.
Photograph by Maggie Gaudaen.

For couples who aren’t sure they want 400 people surrounding them for their nuptials or wish they could say their vows in a venue that doesn’t technically host weddings or simply decide they want to buck traditional sit-down ceremonies, Pop! Wed has an answer: flash weddings.

Last January, photographer Maggie Gaudaen and her husband and business partner, Steven, a wedding officiant, hit on the idea of providing local couples with a way to elope that can still involve cake, a dress, and photos to remember the day.

“We wanted to offer the best parts of a big, fancy wedding with the most fun parts of an elopement—a brand-new way to get married,” says Maggie. “We thought about the kind of wedding we’d want to have—tiny, stress-free, unique—and then we built a package around it.”

Pop! Wed partners with the couple to create the small wedding they want, including a custom ceremony, cake cutting, photography, their look, and a location that suits their style. The very first Pop Wed! ceremony took place outside the gorgeous, rainbow-painted Blind Whino Arts Club, another featured a flash mob wedding at LeDroit Park, and yet another took place in front of the elephant at the Natural History Museum.

The flash weddings don’t have to exclude family and friends from the celebration. “Lots of our couples incorporate a Pop! wedding into their larger wedding plans,” says Maggie. “For example, one couple headed over to Darnell’s after their wedding for a giant afterparty filled with family and friends. It’s a great way to get married without the stress and then celebrate afterward with everyone you love.”

Admittedly, these spur-of-the-moment nuptials don’t always go as planned. “We got kicked out of the Natural History Museum and the Sculpture Garden so quickly that we were all laughing about it for hours afterward,” says Maggie. “It’s just absurd that someone would interrupt the tiniest, least invasive wedding ever!”

But for the most part, Steven and Maggie have become pros at planning elopements. For couples who are interested in scheduling a Pop! wedding on one of the available dates, Maggie has some words of wisdom.

1) Clue your families into your plans. “If you tell them why you’re eloping and share how excited you are, they’ll hop right on board. When we got married, we also created a website where we shared our wedding photos, video, and updates about our lives so that even though our extended family wasn’t invited to our wedding, they felt included in our plans.”

2) Prioritize your wedding traditions. “The awesome thing about eloping is you can incorporate any wedding traditions you want. You can bring a bouquet or ignore flowers altogether. You can wear a fancy bridal gown or a tux or your favorite pajamas. There’s no pressure to fit into this predetermined wedding mold.”

3) Wear your wedding garb all day. “You should do this no matter how you get married. It’s ridiculously fun, everyone wants to high-five you, and you just look awesome.”

4) Document your elopement. “I’m a photographer, so I’m fairly biased. But especially with elopements, you want to make sure you have photos to share with everyone who wasn’t there on your wedding day. A wedding video can also be a great way to include people who aren’t invited; they’ll basically feel like they were there the whole time—right?”

5) Think outside the courthouse. “You can elope literally anywhere in the city. Well, a lot of places in the city. There are so many awesome options that you never have to go to the courthouse at all!”

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Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.