Staged Elopements: Dream Weddings Without Nightmare Price Tags
By Ross Kenneth Urken
The pair had each dealt with the burdens of throwing large weddings before. “We had grandma and had the ambiguous relative with the oxygen tank,” Schaeffer said. “We had the one with the hole in the throat and the one with the clavicle notch. Michelle had a relative have a heart attack at her first wedding.”
This time would be different. “We don’t need to do it with anybody else,” he said. “We don’t need to impress anybody else. At the end of the day, it was for us.” “There comes a point when you say, ‘What would Nancy and Harry say if there’s no shrimp on the buffet?'” Schaeffer said. “Nancy and Harry can drop dead as far as I’m concerned. Then you get the phone call: ‘Don’t forget the food allergies, don’t put me at Cousin Mark’s tablet, don’t seat me next to the band.’ ” On Photography Rather than catering to the logistics of a massive party, Schaeffer was able to focus on the beauty of his nuptials. These staged elopements, after all, aren’t performed by Elvis and toasted with Bud Light. The goal is to create a classy event without the external frills. So he hired Johanna Jacobson, an L.A.-based photographer specializing in small destination weddings. Jacobson said the couples she works with are focused on maximizing their enjoyment during the wedding and creating a great environment — which then leads to fantastic photos.
“My couples generally are small two- to 10-person weddings, who splurge on my photography services but select a high luxury destination such as the Amalfi Coast,” Jacobson said. “The destination alone creates a beautiful backdrop, so they tend to spend very little on decorations, using the natural sights and sounds.” Picturesque is how she cast Schaeffer’s wedding trip — which featured shopping sprees in Naples, top-notch hotels and restaurants and a private driver named Pepe at the couple’s beck and call. “I’m anal compulsive when it comes to travel and food, and if this were filmed as a TV show, this would be one of the most acclaimed shows,” Schaeffer said. “This is what people dream of having in their lives.” A Way to Take Control Kirsten Welter, who lived in California when she married two years ago, also found a staged elopement was right for her and her then-fiance. The pair were married in idyllic Marina di Lesina on the Adriatic, close to the groom’s hometown of Imperiale in southern Italy. “We wanted a smaller wedding with only the people who are closest to us here,” Welter said. “Honestly, it sounds kind of mean, but by having it in Italy, we could invite everyone we had to invite to be polite from the states and know that only our good friends would actually make the trip.”