Want a Fabulous Wedding? Consider Eloping

She said it wasn’t so odd for a wedding planner to elope. She’s had too many brides call her in tears over seating arrangements or guest lists to take on that kind of stress for her own exchange of vows. “I wanted the wedding to only be about us,” she said.

Gone are the days when elopement almost always meant only that spontaneous trip to City Hall. Many of today’s couples are planning their elopements more closely than ever, some plotting secret ceremonies several months in advance and spending $15,000 or more for their dream weddings — without a hundred of their closest family and friends.

They search for stunning exotic backdrops for their ceremonies, shop in secret for the perfect dress, hire florists to arrange a Pinterest-worthy bouquet, hire photographers, even order specialty cakes. But in lieu of the invitations, friends learn about the wedding afterward in a cheeky Facebook or Instagram post, a photo announcing, “We Eloped.”

Statistics are hard to come by concerning how many couples are forgoing the big wedding to elope. But in the last few years, interest in eloping has created a cottage industry of photographers in romantic locales like Paris, New York and Hawaii that specializes in photographing eloping couples.

In 2014, Jennifer MacFarlane, a wedding photographer in Bushwick, Brooklyn, founded a company called Eloping Is Fun with her husband, Matt Levy, who also runs a tour guide company. For $2,100 for a three-hour wedding, Ms. MacFarlane scouts the perfect location and shoots the photographs the day of the wedding. Her husband interviews the couple so he has enough anecdotes to write a highly personalized ceremony, and then he officiates. Their first year, they married 20 couples. Last year, they wed 60.

“When you’re planning a wedding, the pressure from families can be overwhelming,” said Ms. MacFarlane, whose planned elopements have included one at Grand Central Terminal, the…

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