What is an Elopement?
Answers to all your questions about choosing to elope over a traditional wedding day.
Eloping has become a cool trendy word floating around the wedding industry. What even is it and since when did it move on from being secretive and shameful?
We have a new contender entering the wedding game: eloping. Eloping is an old concept that’s gotten a significant facelift in recent years. It’s been taking the wedding industry by storm, and for good reason too. Modern weddings often feel like they are about everything but the people getting married. Elopement brings the focus of a wedding back to where it belongs: the couple. This progress appears to be accelerated as couples have to look into alternatives to getting married with large groups.
Maybe this new version of elopements is new to you. Maybe you keep hearing about them but still don’t really get what they’re about. Maybe you’re just here because your carefully planned day has been upended. I want to use this as a chance to explain what eloping is and why it should be considered even beyond circumstances such as these.
I want to start off with how I personally define eloping: Eloping focuses on the couple, their connection, and celebrating in a way that’s best for them. It disregards societal perceptions of weddings and only focuses on what the couple wants to do on their day with only the people they truly want present.
What is an elopement?
I think this is a common question because its ambiguity is kinda the point. There’s no certain way to elope; you have total freedom and control over your special day. This concept stems from the fact eloping is customizing your wedding day to you and no one else. To elope is to pick what you want for your day above all else. You can’t find your perfect day on Pinterest? Then create a brand new version of an elopement that’s just for you.
Generally speaking, elopements will have less than 30 guests and more personal elements incorporated. Sometimes those elements are similar to traditional weddings. Sometimes there's not a single part of the day that resembles a typical wedding. The goal of eloping is to focus on what you want rather than conforming to a definition.
What's the difference between an elopement and traditional wedding?
The first thing you'll notice is likely the guest count. There's far fewer people which means the guest list is far more intentional. More on that later in this blog!
The second, the venue is likely going to look different. Elopements are less confined to wedding specific venues. Most commonly, elopements are on public lands in places like national or state parks. They still can occur at more typical wedding venues but the lack of a crowd creates a lot more options for your venue.
The last thing is the layout of the day. There can be a wide range of events at an elopement where usually you have a pretty good idea what's going to happen at a traditional wedding. Some elopements have a timeline very similar to a traditional wedding. There can be first dances, parents walking down the aisle, cake, a catered meal, and any other element of a traditional wedding. You're also likely to see modifications to the usual. There may be a ceremony and nothing else is traditional. It may just be an awesome day of adventuring and love with no resemblance of a wedding.
Why are people deciding to elope over a traditional wedding?
There are so many reasons why eloping is becoming more popular. Most weddings are more about the guest experience than the couple themselves. In recent years, weddings have become a monetized cash cow. Not that there is anything wrong with a traditional wedding! It’s a worthy investment if that’s truly the wedding you want, but there are many for whom that isn’t ideal. Eloping allows you to completely cater your day to you.
Eloping is an especially good option for introverts or those who want to refocus their day on their relationship. Weddings can feel very restrictive to some couples and eloping frees them to make choices for themselves.
Am I missing out if I elope instead of a big wedding?
Most definitely not. If anything, your day is more complete. Rather than going through the motions and arbitrary traditions, you only do what matters to you. You get to 100% customize your day so each part is important and significant for you. You deserve the wedding of your dreams and if you get that, you can disregard what everyone else says.
Can I invite people to an elopement?
Because eloping has a past reputation as a shameful way to get married, it’s often thought that you have to elope alone. Eloping alone is still a great option but you can also invite people. One of the goals of elopements with guests is to only invite people you truly want there. I often draw on my own experience eloping for examples. My husband and I are very close to our families and couldn’t elope without them present. It was a no-brainer to invite them. (If you want to read more about my personal eloping experience, follow the link.) On the other hand, not everyone is close to their family. This eliminates the obligation to invite those you don’t actually want in attendance.
Why are there so few guests at elopements?
Beyond the point mentioned above about inviting only guests of significance, there’s more to limiting the number of guests at an elopement. By keeping your group small, you keep the focus on the couple. Once there’s a bunch of people there, there’s more of a focus on taking care of the guests and being a good host. Limiting the number of guests allows you to keep the focus on what you want.
What do you do to fill the day when you elope?
Another common misconception about elopements is that it has to be just a ceremony and nothing else. Your elopement is just as much of a wedding day as a traditional wedding, and can be just as long. Eloping frees you from the obligation of traditional wedding events, but it doesn’t eliminate those options. Eloping opens up lots of options for what you can do, and you can pick events according to what’s important to you.
For me, it was it was important to make sure I got to go hiking. I hiked before and after my ceremony. We had a pretty traditional wedding ceremony and had a family dinner together afterwards. There was no schedule after that and we simply enjoyed time together as a family. For us, that’s what mattered. Celebrating our commitment with each other and those who matter most to us. We could’ve kayaked, went to our favorite restaurant, had a picnic, or simply enjoyed each other’s company. Think about what you love doing with your significant other and try to incorporate that into your day.
Check out this blog for more on how to schedule a full day elopement.
Where can I elope?
Literally anywhere (provided you get proper permits and permissions). I personally focus on adventure elopements that involve some aspect of nature since that’s what I’m most passionate about. I’ve also seen stunning elopements in the bustle of New York City, the mountains of Patagonia, and even simple ceremonies in backyards. The common theme of elopements is customizing for what you want. You have the freedom to pick a place that has significance to you.
How do you plan an elopement?
It's exciting to have all these options until it comes down to actually planning the elopement. If anything is an option, where do you even start?! Simply think about what you enjoy doing as a couple. Try to craft your perfect day and add any wedding elements that are important to you.
A bonus tip: hire an elopement specific photographer. Just about every full time elopement photographer (including myself) I know fully plans on helping you pick your location, plan your timeline, and guide you through this whole process. If you feel stuck, find a great photographer who clearly demonstrates they can guide you through this process to your dream elopement.
Still have questions on eloping? Drop them in the comments below. Does it sound like eloping is for you?