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Couples say "I do" to courthouse vows & mountain elopements

Pivoting wedding plans during a pandemic
Posted at 8:59 AM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 11:10:07-04

No one will argue that 2020 was a doozy of a year, but when it comes to weddings, the "pandemic pain" was extra evident. COVID-19 restrictions meant couples with dreams of a large wedding had to scramble to scale down or reschedule.

And many did, with nearly half of last year's wedding receptions getting postponed to 2021, and 15 percent of planned weddings getting entirely pushed back at least a year.

One trend that's emerged that may end up being a popular option even after the pandemic is planned elopements, something Idaho ski hill Tamarack Resort quickly embraced. Says Tamarack Wedding Manager Hayley Johnson, "It's a unique opportunity to get on a pontoon boat, to go out on Lake Cascade and say their vows."

Last fall, the resort in Donnelly held its first elopement event, hosting 10 tiny weddings on one big day. "It's not your Las Vegas drive-thru chapel, it's really out in nature, and being a part of what Tamarack's all about."

Johnson says the first event was so successful, they plan on doing it again in June. "We'll have multiple boats going out on the lake, and multiple officiants available," she says.

Another trend that saw bigger-than-normal numbers in 2020 were courthouse nuptials. Canyon County Judge Dayo Onanubosi (or Judge O, as he's known) says last year, he performed "a lot" of weddings, his calendar full with sometimes up to 10 weddings in a day. "I enjoy doing it," he says, "I enjoy the interaction with people, I enjoy putting a smile on people's faces."

A courthouse ceremony is certainly cheaper than a traditional wedding. It costs just $25 to get married by a judge in Canyon County. "We [even] take pictures, you can bring your family members, we take a video," Judge O tells us.

Elopements are inexpensive as well, most coming in at just a couple thousand dollars instead of the average $20,000 that couples plunked down in 2020.

Judge O says so far this year, the number of people using the courthouse to tie the knot has backed off a bit, but he hopes couples know it's always an easy, inexpensive option for getting hitched, and it doesn't have to inside a courtroom. "Sometimes they want an outside wedding," he explains, "so I can actually go their house, a backyard wedding, or to a local park, we do that as well."

Johnson of Tamarack Resort says they've enjoyed hosting the planned elopements, and thinks for now, these smaller but still memorable marriage ceremonies may be here to stay. "There's definitely a future there, I don't know for how long, but I think for the next several years we'll [continue to] see these small intimate weddings."