COVID-19 has forced many couples to either pare down their dreams of a big wedding to a smaller, more intimate event or to postpone the big day altogether.

For some couples, eloping has made the most sense. According to Travel + Leisure magazine, “elopements are not only trendy; they’ve become the go-to for the foreseeable future.” They also can save a couple thousands of dollars, allowing them to pay off student loans or to save for a home’s down payment.

Chad Cotter, general manager of Totally Trips in St. Joseph, has seen an increase in couples requesting elopements.

He said many brides and grooms, some of whom canceled their weddings in 2020 because of the pandemic, are now opting to schedule smaller destination weddings or elopements in 2021.

He had one couple go to the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands where the majority of the island is a national park.

“They got married on the beach with the ocean on one side and the forest on the other side of them,” Cotter said.

Another couple he helped were married inside a cave on the island. A waterfall just outside the cave served as the backdrop.

“Both weddings were absolutely beautiful,” Cotter said.

With its blend of striking mountains and beautiful beaches, Cotter said Hawaii is always good choice. He also has helped couples plan getaway weddings in Mexico and Jamaica.

But even though the new year is here, the pandemic continues. Public health experts strongly recommend checking infection rates and restrictions before you travel. These restrictions can vary not only by country, but also by state and county in some areas.

Wanderingweddings.com has a plethora of elopement location ideas in 12 states (including Hawaii) and around the world. Breathtaking photos of brides and grooms against backdrops of snow-capped mountains, rugged canyons, seaside cliffs and desert vistas are elopement eye candy. The images capture what a wedding (large or small) is really all about — two people coming together in love and commitment.