CHEAP LOVE: WITH ELOPEMENTS ON THE RISE, A PHOTOGRAPHER HELPS THRIFTY COUPLES LOOKING TO SAVE ON THEIR BIG DAY.

Author:Pressler, Alyssa
 
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Newlyweds shell out thousands of dollars for all the fixings of a traditional wedding: the dress, the venue, the food--the list goes on and on. According to Southern Bride Magazine, the average wedding in North Carolina now adds up to approximately $30,000. With costs on the rise, more couples are opting out of traditional high-cost nuptials and saying, "I do" to elopements. So it's no surprise Charity Parrish has found success with Charlotte-based The Elopement Co., which offers a variety of all-inclusive elopement packages.

Parrish, 36, launched the company in November 2016 after living in the Queen City for about a year. With a background in information technology, her passion for photography started as a hobby and then evolved into a side business. After moving to Charlotte from Chicago, she had trouble finding work in IT again. So she turned to the wedding industry.

The idea to start a business focused on elopements and microweddings --nuptials with 20 or fewer guests--came from a fellow photographer who mused that it would be fun to shoot courthouse weddings. Parrish visited a courthouse to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds.

"They were all dressed up, looking really pretty. I could tell they were happy, but they were just taking pictures with their phones, and that kind of broke my heart," Parrish says. "I thought, 'I can make this better.'"

That's exactly what she set out to do with The Elopement Co. She created four packages that range in price: elopements, micros weddings, courthouse weddings and adventure elopements. The package pricing depends on travel involved and weekday versus weekend celebrations. The cheapest option, a photography-only package at the courthouse, starts at $500, while the most expensive option, an adventure elopement outside the U.S., is $7,500.

She's one of a handful of individuals in the state to structure elopement photography like this. Elope Asheville, a similar business with a team of photographers and officiants, also offers elopement packages ranging from $350 to $800.

Parrish says her most popular option is the elopement package, which includes officiant services; up to five hours of consultation; two hours of photography; more than 100 hand-edited images; flower arrangements for two, which she creates herself; cupcakes for as many as seven people, which she outsources; and access to preferred vendors lists. For elopements within a one-hour radius of her headquarters in Charlotte, the package costs...

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