So what the heck even is an elopement?

It’s a question we get all the time and it’s easy to see why people get confused. Forever, elopements were seen as hasty, unplanned, run off to Vegas sort of celebrations. But more recently, elopements are getting more common and popular among those looking to get married, which we love. To us, an elopement is a celebration of marriage that focuses on the couple. It’s all about taking back control over how you get married and choosing an intimate day that focuses on what really matters to you. In other words, it means less details, less distractions, less people, but more freedom, more intention.

Our goal for this post is to help you re-frame what it means to elope not only for yourself but also for your friends and family! We want couples to see the possibilities of elopements. They can be fun, stress-free, and all the parts of a wedding that you want with nothing you don’t!

The Tradition Definition Of Elopement

Eloping means a very different thing now compared to even 20 years ago. Let’s take a look at the text book definition from Wikipedia

“Elopement refers to a marriage conducted in sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving a hurried flight away from one’s place of residence together with one’s beloved with the intention of getting married without parental approval.”

— Wikipedia

It’s likely that mentioning eloping to anyone born before the 80’s will bring to mind images of Vegas, courthouses or shotgun weddings.

Merrian-Webster wrote an interesting article about “The Changing Meaning of ‘Elope” to re-frame the meaning of elopement because let’s be honest, if you’re considering eloping, telling your family and friends can be hard if they have negative connotations associated with the word elope.

“Elope’s meaning is shifting towards “a small destination wedding” whereas it used to mean “to runaway and secretly get married,” and before that “for a married woman to runaway with a new lover,” and even before that it just meant “to escape or runaway” without the romantic context.”

— Merrian-Webster

Ok, now let’s fast forward to today.

The New Definition Of Elopement

Today, the meaning in many ways has been flipped on its head. No longer are secrecy and budget the main factors when choosing to elope. To us, ‘elopement’ means an intimate wedding focusing on the couple. It’s throwing out anyone else’s expectations. It’s about creating new traditions. And we believe that your wedding should look like what you want it to look like. If even thinking about planning a giant wedding stresses you out, or if you have already started planning a big wedding and it doesn’t feel right, it’s ok to choose another path. It’s ok to plan an adventure you’d love and forgo the things that stress you out.

Elopements are no longer just rushed weddings. We help couples plan an epic day that’s centered around their love. Sometimes it involves hot springs, hiking, brewery tours, candlelit picnics, kayaking, rock climbing, dancing under the stars, sailing, rollercoasters, slow breakfasts, snorkeling, wine tasting, But here’s the thing, eloping doesn’t mean you can’t have people with you or commit handwritten vows or dance. Eloping just means that the day you have is the day you actually want (and not the day your mom wants you to plan).

Not every person is the same, not every love looks the same, so not every wedding should be the same either. If you want a wedding that’s more intimate, less traditional, and full of the things that bring you and your partner the most joy, then we believe eloping is for you!

Elopement vs Intimate Wedding vs Traditional Wedding

In our experience, most weddings break down into these rough categories. These are largely determined by guest count – not activity or tradition.

An elopement typically has less than 20 total people present. On many elopements we’ve photographed, it’s just the couple, us two photographers, an officiant, and maybe a planner or stylist helping. But we’ve also seen elopements (and had one ourselves) with close family and friends!

An intimate wedding splits the difference between an elopement and traditional, larger wedding. We consider an intimate wedding to have between 20-40 guests. This way you get to celebrate with people who you want present, but aren’t burdened by inviting someone you haven’t spoken to in years.

This leaves a traditional wedding to be any with more than 40 guests, and often into the hundreds. And while we LOVE a good wedding dance with tons of people out on the dance floor, and we get weepy watching a beautiful ceremony, we don’t photograph bigger weddings anymore.

Pros Of An Elopement

  • Create an experience around what is most important to you
  • Celebrate your love the way you want!
  • Avoid family pressure to plan a day that doesn’t excite you
  • Stress free fun!
  • A world of possibilities – seriously go sky diving in Utah, go hot air ballooning in Turkey, go kayaking in Vietnam!
  • Spend the money on the experience and not extra details you won’t remember.

Pros Of An Intimate Wedding:

  • Have your friends there to dance with!
  • Make your family take part in the festivities!
  • Champagne toasts with the people you love!
  • Hugs! Really good hugs.
  • It still feels like a big party but there’s only your favorite people present!
  • You don’t have to buy food for someone you haven’t spoken to in 5 years.

Pros Of A Traditional Wedding:

  • An epic dance
  • A fun cocktail hour
  • You get to see people you don’t see very often but still love a whole lot
  • It feels like a giant reunion!
  • You don’t offend anyone by not inviting them.

Is An Elopement Right For You?

One of the big questions facing couples planning a wedding today is whether an elopement is the right choice for them because let’s face it, bigger traditional weddings are still the norm for most of the world. We don’t think that elopements are for everyone. And some people (us included) are happier with a hybrid wedding where they elope and then have a bigger party afterward. The question at the end of the day is this: Does the idea of a big wedding excite you or stress you out? Because if you’re excited about a big wedding with loads of people, then that’s exactly what you should plan. But if you want something smaller, if you want an adventure, if you want to create an experience unlike any other, then eloping might be the best thing you can do on your wedding day.

Questions To Ask Yourselves When Considering An Elopement:

  1. Do you want to be surrounded by lots of friends and family or focus on you and your significant other?
  2. Where do you want to get married? Somewhere close to home or somewhere more remote/adventurous? Can your parents/grandparents/older guests easily walk or hike somewhere more rugged?
  3. What is your budget? While elopements have become more than a courthouse wedding, it is still true that most elopements will cost less overall than a large wedding.
  4. Are you willing to get dirty and hike on your wedding day and potentially in your wedding clothes?
  5. Do you want the traditions like wedding parties, public vows, receiving lines, cocktail hours, toasts and dancing? Or do you want a wedding day timeline full of only your very favorite things?
  6. Do you want to stress over details? Or do you want to focus on the experience?
  7. If you’re honest with yourself and your partner, what does your dream wedding look like?

The Elopement Plus Afterparty Option

We hinted at this earlier but one option that has gotten more and more popular recently is to elope and then follow it with a larger party. This has become especially common since the pandemic disrupted so many wedding plans. We’ve seen this party take place any time from a couple days to a year after the original elopement. This allows the couple to celebrate with any friends and family that were not present at the elopement and to have some of the more desirable parts of a large wedding, such as a shared dinner, dance, toasts, etc. You’ve rented a catamaran in Mexico for your elopement. Now imagine a tent, food trucks, a great band, and your friends barefoot dancing to your favorite songs. Or you’ve planned a week in Paris at a gorgeous old castle with you and your 10 favorite people. Now imagine a chance to get dressed up and have a dinner party, complete with wine pairings, a string quartet, and twinkle lights. Or you’ve hiked the Wonderland trail for 7 days and imagine a potluck in your family’s backyard when you get back.

For a lot of couples, this is the way to get the best parts of both an elopement and a traditional wedding.

Why We Chose To Elope

We chose to elope in the Scottish Highlands a few years back and it was amazing. We rented an old hunting lodge in the Highlands and had lots of time to enjoy with a handful of our closest friends and family. The gents started the day off with a Scotch tasting and the ladies had a slow breakfast over flowers. We all hiked into the forest for our vows and then hosted an intimate dinner party with a private chef back at the lodge by the fire.

But we knew we’d miss celebrating and dancing with some of our favorite people so when we got home, we hosted a big potluck with some giant speakers and a bonfire at our friends’ farm in Minnesota! Eloping for us was important because we wanted our wedding to feel like an adventure and we absolutely love traveling. Realistically we knew it might be the only chance we ever have to travel internationally with our families together. But we also love a good party. The most important part of wedding planning is this: your love is what you’re celebrating and whatever way you want to celebrate your love is the right way.

If you’ve got any other questions, hit us up below or in an email!

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