A new tradition is emerging in weddings, especially among millennials: elopements. These pared down ceremonies are proving a popular alternative to big, expensive wedding ceremonies with tons of family and stress.

Whether the desired ceremony involves the bride and groom only or a small group of friends or family, an elopement can be budget friendly, beautiful, fun, less stressful than a big wedding and help those who do it feel as though they are not following traditional norms.

Cutting costs is an obvious appeal for those who consider eloping vs. planning a typical wedding, which costs in the range of $35,500 on average, according to The Knot’s 2016 survey.

But cutting costs doesn’t necessarily mean you are limited to a courthouse ceremony. A visit to Alabama’s sugar-white Gulf Coast beaches, whether for a three-, four- or seven-night stay, is an ideal solution (and can cost a whole lot less than the national average for a typical wedding ceremony). Time spent at the beach before and after ceremony can also double as a honeymoon.

A great time to get married on the Gulf Coast is fall, when the number of visitors to the beach thins and the weather is still pleasant. Plus, fall rates are significantly discounted from peak summer rates.

Book a two-bedroom, Gulf-front condo if it’s just two, or even if it’s a small group, perhaps fewer than seven people, for example. There are 200+ two-bedroom condos in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach and Perdido Key, and rates could be just over $1,000 for a four-night stay. Plus, you can get married on the beach just outside and enjoy a beachfront view from your private balcony.

For larger groups, a wedding-friendly Gulf-front beach house offers plenty of space, access to the beach, space to gather indoors and outdoors, and private spaces to retreat for the evening.

A wedding ceremony on the beach at sunset can be a perfect end to a beautiful day, as the sunsets over the Gulf light up the sky in hues of red, orange, pink and blue.

Numerous ministers and judges in the Gulf Shores area offer their services on the beach for religious or non-religious ceremonies. Permits are required for beach ceremonies on public beaches.

You’ll need to obtain a marriage license either in your home county or at the Baldwin County Courthouse in Bay Minette, Ala.

Photographers, wedding planners, florists and bakeries are also accustomed to serving weddings. See our wedding vendor listings HERE.

Treat yourselves to a spa treatment prior to the big moment, and enjoy a fun evening dining at one of the area’s great seafood restaurants.

Celebrate with a visit to the Ferris wheel or the zip line course at The Wharf in Orange Beach. Or, go to OWA for a thrilling ride aboard the Rollin’ Thunder roller coaster.

A sunset sailboat ride is another way to relax in the peaceful environment of the Alabama Gulf Coast.