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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Say 'I Do' Without a Big "To Do"

Ready to say "I don't" to elaborate "I do's"? No need to rush off to Vegas; there are plenty of nearby options.

When it comes to logistics, Virginia is the simplest choice: The state does not require a waiting period, blood tests, witnesses to the ceremony or other hindrances to getting a marriage license. Maryland has a two-day waiting period, and the District requires a three-day wait and a syphilis test.
So, if you want to get hitched without the hassle, put down that copy of Martha Stewart Weddings and try one of these spots or services:

Blue Ridge Weddings. Wedding planner Frankee Love can arrange elopement packages. And as a licensed officiant, she performs the ceremonies herself. Locales for more traditional "I do's" include the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville and Virginia wineries. Love has married outdoorsy couples on hiking trails and ski slopes, too. Rates vary depending on location and package.

Little Wedding Chapel. Before 1939, when Maryland instituted a two-day waiting period for marriages, Elkton was a noted destination for eloping couples (the jurisdiction didn't require a waiting period or other obstacles). The Little Wedding Chapel is a little bit of old Elkton, located in the northeast corner of the state. Frank Smith, a nondenominational minister who performs the ceremonies, says many couples who get married there are following a family tradition. "We have couples whose parents and grandparents were married here," he says. Packages, which include flowers, photos, video and music, are around $500.

South Court Inn. Innkeeper and court-sanctioned marriage officiant Tom Potts performs ceremonies in front of the Shenandoah Valley inn's stately fireplace in the winter and anywhere on the lush grounds in warmer months. Elopers can choose between two packages, both of which include flowers, commemorative champagne flutes and a small cake: $295 for a one-night stay, $625 for two nights. Innkeeper Anita Potts takes photos with a disposable camera that couples may take with them.
160 S. Court St., Luray, Va. 540-843-0980.

Valley Wedding Chapel. Owners Sherry and Gary Patterson say a couple can go from two singles to newlyweds in 20 minutes flat at this speedy joint. They can pop over to the courthouse across the street, then exchange vows under the chapel's arbor, adorned with silk flowers. "We're like a little Las Vegas here," Sherry Patterson says. "I don't like to use that term because it sounds glitzy, and we're Victorian, but it's pretty much as easy to get married here." A "no-frills" wedding costs $145 and requires no advance notice. Fancier packages (with a cake, photography and other touches) cost up to $295 and must be reserved up to a week in advance. 2 S. Kent St., Winchester, Va. 540-545-7001.

White Fence Bed and Breakfast. Innkeepers Gwen and Tom Paton began offering elopement services in 2003 after fielding requests from matrimony-seeking guests wanting them to locate officiants and take photos for simple services at the picturesque B&B. White Fence offers several packages that include the service, photography and a champagne toast, including the $200 "mini-mini," requiring no overnight stay, and the deluxe package, which can cost up to $695 for a two-night stay, dinner and flowers.
275 Chapel Rd., Stanley, Va. 540-778-4680.

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