I’m willing to guess that at some point in your life you’ve been told stories about what elopements are. Maybe the elopement definition you’ve heard is that elopements are shameful, secretive weddings that couples have when their friends or family disapprove of their relationship. Or maybe you’ve been told that the only people who elope are those that can’t afford to get married the traditional way. Or perhaps you’ve heard the definition that elopements aren’t real weddings. Well guess what?
I’m here to tell you that every single one of those archaic elopement definitions is outdated. Perhaps that old elopement definition was valid in the days of your grandparents, but times have changed a lot since then. And luckily the modern-day elopement definition has changed quite a bit. Here’s how:
While a lot of people define elopements as small weddings that take place with just two people, an officiant, and the necessary witnesses present, elopements these days come in way more flavors.
I’ve photographed elopements with 10 people total present, because the eloping couple wanted their friends and family there. I’ve also photographed elopements where it was solely the couple (something you can do in Colorado, where you can self solemnize or self marry by signing as your own officiant).
An elopement is a non-traditional, intimate, and intentional way to get married, where the focus is on the eloping couple as opposed to the guest experience.
Elopements are highly focused and defined by celebrating the eloping couple, whereas traditional weddings are primarily focused on the guests at the wedding (whether it be the inclusion of a cocktail hour or extended time spent mingling with guests instead of spending time with your partner).
Elopements can certainly have guests.I’ve photographed elopements with 10 people total present, because the eloping couple wanted their friends and family there. I’ve also photographed elopements where it was solely the couple (something you can do in Colorado, where you can self solemnize or self marry by signing as your own officiant).
A key difference between the definition of an elopement versus a traditional wedding is how your wedding budget is allocated. Your elopement budget can be focused on you and your partner, whereas a wedding budget is typically spread out amongst tons of vendors whose primary goal is to keep your guests happy and entertained.
According to the Knot’s annual study of the wedding industry, the average couple these days spends $258 per person on the guest experience for their weddings. With the average couple having 136 guests at their wedding, that’s $35,088.
After crunching the numbers, I think it’s safe to say that the key difference between the definition of an elopement and the definition of a traditional wedding is centered around this idea of your day being about you and your partner, versus your guests. When you have a traditional wedding, you’re typically dedicating the majority of your wedding budget to the guest experience.
I’m guessing there’s one question that’s been nagging you about this elopement definition of ours: aren’t elopements just secretive, poorly planned, sometimes shameful events where a couple runs away to a place like Las Vegas to tie the knot? What is an elopement, really?
Our culture has done such a crappy job of showing couples how insanely intentional and epic modern day elopements can be. Luckily, we’ve witnessed this elopement definition change a lot these days. And people are starting to view elopements as a way for couples to take back their wedding day.
In fact, I’d argue that elopements are some of the most genuine, love-focused, fun, and intentional ways to get married. And I’m excited to explain why. I’ll also dive into what an elopement isn’t and debunk some of the common misconceptions a lot of couples have when considering an elopement.
The reason why the wedding industry is dead set on defining elopements in a negative light is because the goal is to get you, the engaged couple, to spend the most amount of money on the most amount of things.
The wedding industry knows that if they hype up this idea of the guest experience being the most important part of the wedding day, engaged couples will end up spending a huge chunk of their budget on things they don’t even care about: like fancy silverware, trendy table settings, and wedding favors that your guests will probably throw away when they get home.
That’s exactly why elopements have this misguided “bad reputation.” Because elopements are defined by your experience, as the couple. And the reality is, spending money on two people versus 200 isn’t as profitable for the wedding industry.
This old-timey elopement definition is like nails on a chalkboard to me. The truth? Most couples I work with have spent just as much time planning their elopements as others do when planning their traditional weddings. When you look at the traditional elopement definition, you’re likely to run across some explanation of how elopements are rushed and poorly planned. But that’s just not the case.
So much intention and thought goes into planning an elopement. Because of the smaller scale of an elopement, the attention to detail can be even more important and noticeable than with a larger wedding.
Many couples love getting their close friends or families involved in the elopement planning process, which involves telling those people. And many couples opt to bring friends or family along on the elopement day.
Yes, you heard that right: elopements can have guests. For example, I define elopements as intimate weddings with less than 10 people total.
“Running away” implies that elopements are shameful, when they’re not. When you elope, you’re actually running to the type of wedding and experience that resonates most with you. The only thing you’re running away from is the wedding industry’s template of what a wedding “should” look like.
This is a big one I used to hear a lot when people defined elopements. Eloping doesn’t signal that your relationship is less legitimate. What does it mean to elope? It simply means you want to be intentional about the way you get married. And it means that you’re not taking everything the wedding industry says to you as truth.
And while we’re on the topic, an elopement is also not a shameful alternative for couples who can’t have a traditional wedding. Frankly that’s just a bold-faced lie the wedding industry wants you to believe so they can get you to spend the equivalent of a home down-payment on this one-day event.
It’s interesting to me that so many people say this to couples who are considering eloping. The fact of the matter is a wedding day is about the couple. It’s about celebrating their love and commitment. So it’s only natural that couples get to choose the way they want to get married.
In so many ways, traditional weddings are a production for two key parties: the wedding industry and the guests. Notice how the couple is nowhere in that mix. If eloping is something that feels right to you, you’re not being selfish or disrespectful for doing it. This day is for you and your partner, not your guests.
Absolutely. Choosing to elope doesn’t mean you’re not close to your family. In fact, a lot of eloping couples (myself included!) bring their immediate family members along with them.
Sure, you could choose to elope, just the two of you. Or you can bring along a few close friends and family too. Elopements are defined by their intention.
I feel you here. I actually come from a culture where big, traditional weddings are expected too. I won’t lie, it was tough taking the road less traveled and eloping, but eventually my family understood. At the end of the day, I was able to explain the intention behind why we wanted to elope: that we felt like a big wedding was more of a show and less of a celebration. That we didn’t want to be the center of attention for 8 hours straight. That we wanted to be open and honest in our vows, without almost-strangers listening in. That we didn’t want to waste money on decor that didn’t really matter to us.
But if talking to your family about your intentions behind wanting to elope doesn’t make a dent, you can always elope and then have a more traditional, ceremonial reception to celebrate with everyone later. That way you have your intimate elopement you’ve been dreaming of, while still including the traditions that are important to your family.
Yes! Elopements come in many different shapes and sizes. Some people want to have friends and family there, and others don’t. It’s totally up to you who you invite. The important thing to remember is that it’s your decision. Remember, no one should feel entitled to be a part of your elopement day. Only you get to decide who comes.
And if you want to celebrate your elopement with your loved ones without them being there for the day-of, you can always plan a post-elopement reception!
While the old definition of an elopement may have made them seem that way, I definitely disagree with this idea when it comes to modern day elopements. And here’s why.
Ok, just take a moment to think about the concept of a big wedding: a couple gets together with over 100 people in a room, stands in front of each other for 30 minutes, pours their hearts out, kisses in front of said room of people, and has stuff thrown at them as they walk away. When you really think about what a traditional wedding actually is, the whole concept is very strange and bizarre.
In fact, I’d argue that elopements make a lot more sense. You’re not putting on a weird, likely rehearsed show for a room full of people you might not know super well. You’re being authentic to your partnership and celebrating in whatever unique way suits the two of you best. Honestly, that’s the perfect elopement definition: getting married in whatever way feels right to you.
You absolutely can! As an adventure elopement photographer, I specialize in mountain elopements. And I have a wide range of eloping couples reach out. Some want to hike 10 miles on a 3,000 ft elevation gain trail. Others choose to say their vows at an overlook close to the trailhead. Adventure elopements aren’t defined by how much physical activity is involved. They’re about you adventuring in a way that feels right to you.
Honestly, if you’re nodding your head in excitement and wondering how you can ditch all the annoying pressure, tradition and nonsense that comes with traditional weddings, I don’t blame you.
That’s the thing about elopements: they empower couples to have their wedding their way. You get to make your own rules. You get to create your own traditions…ones that actually have meaning to you. When we define elopements this way, we’re quick to realize that eloping might just be the most powerful wedding you could have.
The wedding industry will constantly push their narrative down your throat, telling you everything you “need” to have when you plan a wedding. But the only thing you “need” is the two of you and your love for each other. That’s it.
As an adventure elopement photographer, I believe elopement days are about more than the photos. They’re also about providing my couples with guidance and advice as they walk through this process. Interested in working with me? Check out my pricing page to see what I can do for you, or reach out to schedule a complimentary elopement call with me via the button below.
Check out some of our favorite elopement and adventure wedding planning resources:
Not everyone loves tradition, but that doesn’t make your adventure wedding or elopement any less important.
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