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Good Experience

The Good Weekender Guide to Eloping in Ontario

Jaclyn Tersigni
September 2, 2020

Remember when you thought you were gonna have a dreamy 100-person wedding replete with eucalyptus garland, a chalkboard sign with some cute (re: low-key passive aggressive) reminder to use the right hashtag, and bridesmaids in non-matching but like, kind of matching dresses?

Remember when 2020 came along and was like “Lol nope”?

Enter: elopements.

ELOPE verb
Formerly: To run away and get married in secret (sorry mom and dad).
Presently: To opt for a very small getaway wedding, maybe with a couple guests or no guests at all (sorry mom and dad). 

Like sweatpants, confusingly realistic cakes and spontaneous crying, the pandi has made elopements trendy. And not just because weddings planned pre-COVID have been rendered impossible, but because, it turns out, there are plenty of very appreciable advantages to skipping the whole song-and-dance in the year of our lord 2020. Namely:

- Cash.
Feeding two extended families is expensive.
- Politics.
Your mother-in-law can’t exactly weigh in on the table wine if there are no tables.
- Stress.
Planning an all-eyes-on-you, multi-stage event for everyone you know and love ain’t easy.

Elopements aren’t just a cheaper/simpler/less stressful alternative to more traditional nuptials; they’re also pretty damn romantic. Skipping off to marry your partner in life/love/lockdown, just the two of you, in some golden hour-lit field? Who are you? A living breathing “bohemian wedding inspo” Pinterest board, that’s who.

If an elopement is feeling like your bag, there are things to know. May we present: the Good Weekender guide to eloping in Ontario.

You, walking away from the gongshow that is wedding planning.

Location, location, location, regulation

Sure, you can totes get married in your parents’ suburban backyard or on your condo balcony.

You know where else you could get married? Pretty much anywhere*. A rocky outcrop in Georgian Bay! A country field in Prince Edward County! A cute lakeside cabin in Muskoka! 

*Anywhere meaning, anywhere you’re allowed to. When figuring out where your elopement is going to go down, there are some items to consider:

- Permits. Campgrounds, provincial parks, city parks and other public-use spaces and places may require that you apply for a permit ahead of time.
- Fees.
There may be fees that come with that aforementioned permit.
Not every locale is accepting visitors in “these COVID times.” Some have changed their operating hours, some have lowered their capacity limits, and some are just straight up way busier than usual (cough, Sandbanks). Know before you go.

The great outdoors isn’t your only option; COVID be damned, there are many a private venue willing to host you (safely) in holy wedded matrimony. 100 Acre Wood, a country stunner in Prince Edward County, for instance. Whispering Springs, a glamping wonderland in Grafton. The Northridge Inn, a campy motel meets glampy paradise by the water in Sundridge. 

Got your eyes on a cottage, cabin or tiny house rental? Send a note to the host to check whether they’re open to hosting your elopement. Make sure your plans won’t exceed their guest capacity or break any house (or COVID) rules, and you might find that many are pretty willing.

The 100 Acre Wood chapel is damn dreamy, filled with people or not.
(Photo: 100 Acre Wood)

Master of ceremonies 

It’s cool that your best pal/fave cousin/eager brother offered to marry you but are they legally permitted to do so? 

For your marriage to count — in the eyes of the law — your marriage ceremony needs to be carried out by an authorized religious official, judge, justice of the peace, or city clerk.

That doesn’t mean you have to settle for religious vibes or a city hall quickie. There’s a whole industry of licensed officiants who offer non-denominational, custom ceremonies; this WeddingWire database is a good place to start.

If you insist on giving the job to your best pal/fave cousin/eager brother, you’ll have to get legally hitched (at city hall or by an officiant) before or after they do the ceremonial honours.

License to wed

Chill wedding for two or 300-person eleganza extravaganza, you need a license to get hitched.

You can get your license from any Ontario municipality. You’ll need two pieces of government-issued ID (one must be photo ID) for each party, plus you’ll have to pony up the fee, which varies depending on the town or city.

How you get your marriage license “in these COVID times” also depends on the municipality; some are offering online processing in addition to in-person applications.

Once you’ve got your license, you’ve got 90 days to use it. As in, like, get married within three months or else have to go through the whole process again. The bureaucracy! 

Can I get a witness (or two, pls)?

There’s one more legal requirement to make sure that your elopement is offish: witnesses.

Witnesses are people over 12 years old who aren’t you and aren’t your officiant. They’ll sign your marriage certificate, confirming that they saw you and your sweetie swap “I dos” with their own eyes.

What’s an eloping couple to do, sans guests to serve as witnesses? Ask your photographer; they’re used to filling in. Same goes for other vendors you might opt for, like a videographer or wedding planner.

Take a picture, it will last longer

May we suggest (absolutely insist) on hiring a photographer to capture your elopement?

It may feel like a lot of dough to shell out for a wedding-for-two but trust: you’re going to want some photo evidence. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it… Yeah. Hire the photog.

If you have a specific location in mind for your ceremony, consider looking for a photographer who’s from the area or who has shot weddings there before. They can help scout out the best spots for your ceremony and for portraits. 

There are a million and one wedding photogs out there. Jess Craven, aka Daring Wanderer, is one in a million, with lots of stunning elopements under her belt. (Photo: Jess Craven;

Turn it into a Good Weekend

Where ya gonna lay your blissful wedded heads on wedding night? If your elopement ceremony location doubles as accommodation, perf. If not, give yourself the gift of a stay at a 10-outta-10 cottage/cabin/boutique hotel near your venue.

Here’s a sampling of worthy places near elopement hot spots:

Prince Edward County

Dragonfield House: Does a newly married couple need an abode that sleeps 12? Absolutely not. But this design-y Airbnb, smack dab in a pastoral country setting, comes with a heated saltwater pool, a hot tub, a chef’s kitchen and so on, and so on. It’s beautiful. You deserve it.


The Leonard Muskoka: Island views from a private dock, all the smart tech you could want, a cedar barrel sauna and hotel-quality sheets. *Chef’s kiss*


Monett Bay: A top-to-bottom reno with mega privacy and mega waterfront. And lookee here: they’ve hosted elopements.


On the 6 Bed and Breakfast: An outdoor pool, complimentary bike rentals for exploring wine country by two-wheeler, and escarpment views make On the 6 a 10.

Bruce Peninsula

The Hea Frame: Nothing to see here — just a wood-panelled A-frame stunner with a wood-burning fireplace, clawfoot tub, trampoline and easy access to the water, Sauble Beach, Tobermory and all the other local attractions.

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