Time to Shine: Terran Ward of Asheville Luxury Elopements on Finding Strength in Overcoming Obstacles
Written by Angelina Gurrola
We’ve seen the way eloping is represented in media, movies, and culture: A couple meets in Vegas, and their spur-of-the-moment passion leads them down the regrettable path of legally binding commitment. Or alternatively, an unlikely romantic pairing, shunned by their families, runs away together to marry in modest solitude, starting their lives fresh as a duo.
While these depictions may be relatable to some, the reality for many engaged couples is that the lengthy, theatrical affair of a “traditional” marriage, embedded in our cultural expectations of young couples, is simply unappealing or unrealistic. Many would prefer the closeness of their partner and loved ones without the months of planning or the gravitas of the actual ceremony. As a result, more couples are choosing the more modern, straightforward path of elopement, sometimes leaving the preparation in the hands of an experienced third party to pull the event together at a month’s notice. Enter Terran Ward of Asheville Luxury Elopements.
Ward comes from a family of entrepreneurs and creative expressionists. “It’s just in my blood,” she remarks with a smile. Her eye for business opportunities became a valuable asset when she began doing hair and makeup for big weddings independently. In recent years, she began to receive inquiries for more and more elopements.
“Everyone thinks of a wedding as this big, huge, fairytale day with hundreds of people, lots of food, and a big party. But that’s not every girl. That’s not every couple,” Ward points out..” Every person doesn’t want this huge, extravagant thing. Sure, they want it nice and intimate and romantic… but they don’t necessarily want that Cinderella-style wedding. And I really relate to that.”
In meeting and talking with these engaged couples, she quickly realized that “most people would pay anything not to have to plan it all themselves,” she says of elopements. The realization was a turning point on her career path: “I just thought to myself, this is it.”
Terran made a calculated jump from exclusively providing hair and makeup services into building a one-stop-shop planning service for couples planning to elope. Her initial relationships within the wedding community empowered her to found Asheville Luxury Elopement Co. in March of 2019, now known for being Asheville’s only all-inclusive elopement company.
It was her connections within the industry that made her an indispensable resource for couples planning their elopements. Whatever service they needed, be it a photographer or a wedding cake bakery, Terran could connect them with the right vendor, thanks to three years of experience in the wedding community.
Today, her business relieves clients from the responsibility of planning by offering packages complete with officiant service, food, flowers, makeup, and pictures, all taking place in the romantic sweep of Asheville’s mountains. Most of her clients book these packages only one or two months in advance, and Terran’s team takes it from there.
Despite her experience in the industry, the process of developing connections and building a top-notch network of wedding vendors did at first present a learning curve. Her business strategy also needed refining early on; for example, she quickly learned the necessity of establishing clear boundaries and expectations with the clients she worked with via contract, even when she built close relationships with them. However uncomfortable at first, these decisions transformed her business into a well-oiled machine.
Terran was at the top of her game when the pandemic hit. Her services had struck that coveted balance of luxury and intimacy, and her business processes were efficient and effective. Asheville Luxury Elopements was led by her mission to curate the finest romantic memories which her clients sought, albeit on a smaller scale. However, her efforts came to a complete standstill for three months, March to May, while the state of North Carolina went into lockdown.
“We are the most luxurious you can get for wedding planning in Asheville. We work with really big brands. We are top-notch. It’s important that people see that. My brand is not lessened because I am a woman of color.”
That’s not to say it was all easy before the pandemic struck. Terran is candid about the challenges she has faced as a Black businesswoman, relaying some of the misconceptions surrounding her business: “It’s important for me to voice that we are a Black business, we are a Black brand, and we are luxurious,” she explains. “There’s unfortunately this idea in Black business of being less-than. It’s important that people know that we are absolutely top-of-the-line, and our prices reflect such.” Her adamance on delivering quality is thus what she considers one of her main successes in this field: “We are the most luxurious you can get for wedding planning in Asheville. We work with really big brands. We are top-notch. It’s important that people see that. My brand is not lessened because I am a woman of color.”
The constant for Terran, against each new hurdle, has been remembering her mission: Couples deserve their wedding day to be the best day of their lives, even if they book it in a short timeframe and invite only a handful of guests. How do they give them the best day of their lives? By sparing no cost or resource in order to create a luxurious, meaningful atmosphere that is worthy of commemorating their love. No detail is too small to include. “I want people to think about my brand as this ultimate romantic getaway. I want them to think: We had the most gorgeous views in the mountains, we had the best food, our flowers were luxurious, our pictures were amazing, my hair and makeup was perfect.” By holding steadfast to these goals, she has stayed ahead of the curve in her competition.
Terran has found that the lifting of lockdown has increased business, and in fact business is better than ever, as many couples can no longer live out their dreams of a traditional, high-volume wedding. People simply cannot congregate in large groups at this time, and this has played to Terran’s advantage. She has risen to the challenge in recognizing the renewed importance of her role in a world that has found normalcy in uncertainty. The health and presence of loved ones has become a tenuous thing—it could all change at any moment. It is in spite of this instability that Terran fosters a celebration of love and all its beauty through her services. “With eloping, you know you can do it. I know this is my time to shine.”