What Does It Mean To Elope?

Elopement Meaning: From Someone Who's Been There, Done That

The Meaning of Elopements | What Does It Mean To Elope?

What does it mean to elope? It’s a question my husband and I, two self-proclaimed introverts with a natural aversion to crowds, asked ourselves when we were in the middle of planning a large, traditional wedding. We started the wedding planning process like most couples do: jumping on to Pinterest, buying wedding magazines, gathering inspiration, and downloading every checklist we could find to figure out the steps to bring this huge party to life, all the while feeling this massive disconnect between the day we were planning and what we actually wanted.

Have you ever felt like all you wanted to do was get your wedding day “over with,” simply so you could start the exciting part of living your lives together? I know I did. Wedding planning was making me angry. Not because there were a lot of moving parts. And not because it was a lot of work. Let’s be honest, I’ve never been one to shy away from work. 

But because the whole concept of a traditional wedding felt awkward and uncomfortable to two people who wanted to share their deepest feelings in their vows and not have to worry about censoring themselves. Because we couldn’t wrap our minds around spending half of our wedding day mingling with people whom we hadn’t seen in years. And with each day of planning and staring at different silverware options and talking about how we were going to display stacks of donuts, we kept coming back to this one question that had been lingering on our minds…

What Would Happen If We Just Ditched This All And Got Married Our Way?

What Would It Mean If We Chose To Elope Instead?

I remember us thinking about the places that bring us joy. Places like the outdoors. Situations where we would interact with small groups of people, and REALLY connect with them. We’ve never been the types to gravitate toward large crowds. You’ll usually find us on the edges of a crowded room or party, likely a little awkwarded out. And I think we both knew in our heart of hearts that having an eight hour day where all we did was socialize with people and put on a public show just didn’t seem like us. 

And we didn’t really see the point in dropping tens of thousands of dollars on something we didn’t even want. We both knew that the simplest gestures and moments were always the ones we remembered and appreciated. Time spent hanging out on the shore of an alpine lake after hiking 5 miles. Sitting out on the patio of our apartment and watching the sun set behind the Rockies. THOSE were the experiences we appreciated. So why shouldn’t our wedding incorporate those moments too? And what would happen if we chose to elope in a way that honored those moments? And so we asked ourselves, what does it mean to elope, after all? And could we even do it?

The Implications And Meaning Behind Eloping

Our Choice To Elope Ruffled Some Feathers At First

We knew we didn’t want to keep our plans to elope a secret from our friends and family, so we made the decision to tell them. Our plan was to only invite our parents and siblings. No one else. 

At first, it didn’t go over well. People didn’t understand why we were making the choice to elope. Didn’t we care if they were present? Didn’t we want them to be a part of the celebrations? Did we value their presence? Of course we did. But that wasn’t the point. 

The two of us knew that our wedding day was a celebration of our love. And that it should be a reflection of that. An adventurous elopement in nature was what felt right to us. It was a celebration of the things we love to do together, and with a small group of people that we felt the closest to. And it’s funny: after we eloped, it’s crazy how many people reached out to us to let us know how cool of a decision they thought it was.

The Meaning Of Elopements Has Changed A Lot Recently

Our choice to elope happened during a time when elopements hadn’t really picked up speed. Things have changed a lot in just the past few years, to say the least. What does it mean to elope these days? We talk about the new meaning of elopements in this in-depth elopement definition blog post.

At one point, elopements were seen as shameful, secretive weddings. And they’ve held this negative stigma for generations. But couples these days are turning that meaning on its head and showing that elopements are arguably one of the most authentic, true-to-self ways to get married. They nix all the fluff and extravagance of a traditional wedding and swap it out for a day filled with intention.

It's Easy To Get Caught Up In The Wedding And Forget About The Marriage

The Meaning of Elopements Stems From Their Intention

We Believed That Our Choice To Elope Was Setting The Stage For What Our Marriage Would Look Like

I think a lot of couples get so caught up in the wedding, this one day event, and completely forget that the purpose of a wedding is to kick off a lifelong partnership. It’s a personal, intimate experience between the two of you…and not between you, your partner, and a room full of 200 guests.

Let’s be honest, the wedding industry does a pretty amazing job of making couples feel like they have to follow certain rules and check items off a checklist during the planning process. And, if we’re being frank, a lot of those traditions are simply put in place to get couples to spend more money. As someone in the wedding industry myself, that frustrated me to no end. It felt like the wedding industry was capitalizing on a couple’s joy without providing them true value in the process.

I wanted our elopement day to be a representation of what our marriage would look like: an adventure where we spent quality time together doing the things we love. We didn’t need a ballroom or a three-tiered cake to prove it. Sure, I wore the dress of my dreams. Yes, I hired an awesome photographer who gave us memories of a lifetime. But we both knew we didn’t want to spend money or time on all the extra fluff when it didn’t mean anything to us. We kept it simple and meaningful, and I don’t think I’d have it any other way. And that also meant we didn’t start out marriage off being in debt from our wedding.

So, All That Said, What Does It Mean to Elope...From Our Perspective?

Well, the choice to elope can mean a lot of things for a couple. As an adventure elopement photographer myself, I’ve heard my fair share of reasons why the couples I work with choose to elope. But here are some of mine.

Elopements Mean You Don't Have To Put On A Show

I personally don’t like to feel like I’m being watched, and I certainly don’t like to be the center of attention. When we chose to elope, we didn’t feel like we had to put on some performance or act a certain way, simply because all eyes were on us.

For us, choosing to elope meant being comfortable in our own skin on our wedding day. It meant feeling like we could let loose and be ourselves, without the need to people please and mingle.

Elopements Mean That Your Wedding Day Can Be Truly Personalized

The more I looked at traditional wedding timelines, with their cocktail hours and dance parties, the more I cringed. We both knew we’d rather be hiking instead. So we did. There was pretty much nothing traditional about our elopement, aside from the fact that we said our vows and signed a marriage license.

It’s not necessarily that we wanted to be anti-tradition. It’s just that every time we thought about those traditions, they seemed like a waste of time. They were our least favorite parts of weddings we’d attended, and we knew we didn’t want them present at ours.

The fact of the matter is, making the choice to elope can be scary and uncertain. But if that’s the type of wedding that feels right to you and your partner, you deserve to have that. I know that when we look back on our elopement day, we wouldn’t change it for the world. We are so happy with the decision we made.

To us, elopements mean everything. They mean the freedom to get married the way you want. They mean adventure and escape from an industry that wants to put you in a box. They represent the uniqueness of every couple, because there’s nothing templated about an elopement: it’s a customized experience.

Wanna Snag Some More Resources On What It Means To Elope?

As Seasoned Elopement Photographers, We've Got Your Back.

If you’re in the same place we were, thinking that you might what to elope, but not sure what making that jump really means, we’ve got your back. Not only have we eloped, but we help all of our couples bring their own adventure elopements to life. 

If you’re looking for a checklist that goes over everything you need to know when eloping, our Ultimate Elopement Guide goes over everything from prioritizing your elopement budget to figuring out what to pack for your elopement day.

If you’ve been contemplating eloping and you’re wondering how to do so without offending family, we’ve got you covered there too.

P.S. As elopement photographers, we pride ourselves in helping couples decide whether or not they should elope and what the meaning of elopements actually is. What does it mean to elope, to us? Well, we’ve personally been in your shoes with our own elopement, and that’s why we’re in this industry in the first place. We want to help, and we know what a difficult but exciting decision this can be.

Sure, we pride ourselves in taking killer photos of killer people in killer places, but we’re firm believers that your elopement photographer should be so much more than that. They should be a resource and guide to you during the whole adventure elopement planning process. So if that sounds like your vibe, we’d love to chat with you about your dream elopement.

Planning Your Adventure Wedding Or National Park Elopement?

Check out some of our favorite elopement and adventure wedding planning resources:

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Sheena Shahangian is a Colorado elopement photographer + adventure wedding photographer specializing in Rocky Mountain adventure weddings and adventure elopements across the western United States.

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