09/24/2021

What is an Elopement Wedding? - The Changing Definition of “Elope”

If you had asked someone a few years ago, “what is an elopement?” they might have told you that it’s when a couple runs off to Vegas to get hitched, usually fueled by secrecy and scandals and maybe some booze. And the truth is, a lot of people might still tell you that!

Eloping has changed a ton over the past few years, so if you picture Elvis impersonators and bedazzled chapels when you hear the word “elopement,” or maybe just a cold courthouse, you aren’t alone! 

But, that’s not what an elopement is - not anymore.

When you Google “elope definition,” you’ll see a lot of variations of “to run away secretly in order to get married, especially without parental consent” from dictionary websites. 

But let’s be honest, the dictionary takes a while to catch up - so here’s an updated definition of the word, and what it actually means to elope.

An elopement is a small, intimate wedding that is intentionally focused on the couple and their experience. 

Eloping is about planning a day that you’ll actually enjoy, and one that reflects the two of you and your relationship. Because somewhere along the line, traditional weddings became more stress than excitement, more about throwing the best party than about celebrating the beginning of your marriage, and more about expectations and people pleasing than about the couple. To elope means to take back your wedding day, and to make sure it’s exactly what you want - and nothing that you don’t.

With the old, outdated definition of eloping, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions. I think every couple deserves an amazing wedding day, so let’s bust those myths!

A big myth is that couples who elope just go to the courthouse and have a quick ceremony, not investing any time in their wedding day. 

But this isn’t true at all, and elopements are more than a ceremony! While the ceremony is usually the main event, your wedding deserves a full day, and eloping doesn’t change that. You’re marrying the love of your life, and that’s a pretty big deal. 

Maybe you start your day with breakfast and coffee together, then you split up to get ready. There’s the excitement and nervous butterflies as you think about what’s about to happen, the anticipation and the “I can’t wait” as you put on your wedding attire for the first time that day.

Then there’s getting to your ceremony spot - maybe you chose a hike to the top of a mountain or a scenic drive to the beach. During the ceremony you’ll read your vows, promising to spend forever together!

And after the ceremony, there’s the adventures! Maybe you’ll celebrate with a dinner for two cooked by a private chef, or a first dance around the campfire, or a 4x4 tour of the wild terrain - no matter what you decide, eloping is all about doing what’s right for you, and whatever would make this the best day ever! 

So what is an elopement? It’s anything you want it to be!


Another common misconception about the definition of eloping is that it happens in Vegas or it happens in a courthouse. Most people think of elopements as a quick, easy “no frills” ceremony for couples who don’t want to take the time to plan a wedding.

But one of my favorite things about elopements is that instead of getting married in a traditional wedding venue, you can tie the knot somewhere beautiful! You can choose a landscape that speaks to you - a place that just feels right.

Maybe it’s the coast of California or the fjords of Iceland, the unexplored terrain in a place you’ve never visited or the familiar comfort of your own backyard. You get to decide what kind of landscape you want to be surrounded by, what you want to do, and where you go!

The truth is that elopements usually do end up being less expensive than big weddings. But the misconception is that couples who elope are doing so to avoid investing in their wedding day. According to The Knot, the average US wedding costs nearly $30,000 - which is pretty mind boggling! 

The biggest difference is that with traditional weddings, you usually spend money on things - like decorations, catering for 200, and items that won’t last beyond that night.

But when you elope, your budget goes toward experiences you’ll remember forever, rather than things you’ll toss away. Every elopement is different, and so is every elopement budget - but you get to decide what’s important to you, and what you want to spend money on, whether that's plane tickets or a lakeside picnic. 

A lot of people tend to have a lot of opinions when it comes to weddings - but the truth is that this is your day! One common myth about elopements is that it’s selfish. But I think it’s infinitely more selfish for the people that know you to make demands about how you get married! 

Your wedding day should be about you and your partner, and every decision should be about what feels right, and what would make this day absolutely perfect. Some couples elope just the two of them, while others invite a few guests. If there are friends or family members you want next to you when you tie the knot, you can definitely include them!

Because of the myths about elopements, like the idea that it’s a cheap, fast ceremony or a scandalous affair, a lot of people believe that eloping is less meaningful, and less important than a traditional wedding.

But a small ceremony doesn’t make your day less special! In fact, being intentional about how you celebrate, and ensuring that your elopement is exactly what you want makes it even more meaningful. While a traditional wedding is right for some couples, many fall into the trap of planning their wedding around other’s expectations, and being brave enough to do your own thing is something to celebrate!

Elope definition

Myths About Elopements

Myth 1: Elopements are Just a Quick Ceremony

Myth 2: Elopements Happen in a Courthouse

Myth 3: Elopements are Cheap

Myth 4: Elopements are selfish

Myth 5: Eloping Makes Your Wedding Less Meaningful

Now that we’ve talked about all the things that eloping isn’t, and all the myths and misconceptions that people have about them, let’s answer the question! What is an elopement?

A big myth is that couples who elope just go to the courthouse and have a quick ceremony, not investing any time in their wedding day. 

But this isn’t true at all, and elopements are more than a ceremony! While the ceremony is usually the main event, your wedding deserves a full day, and eloping doesn’t change that. You’re marrying the love of your life, and that’s a pretty big deal. 

Maybe you start your day with breakfast and coffee together, then you split up to get ready. There’s the excitement and nervous butterflies as you think about what’s about to happen, the anticipation and the “I can’t wait” as you put on your wedding attire for the first time that day.

Then there’s getting to your ceremony spot - maybe you chose a hike to the top of a mountain or a scenic drive to the beach. During the ceremony you’ll read your vows, promising to spend forever together!

And after the ceremony, there’s the adventures! Maybe you’ll celebrate with a dinner for two cooked by a private chef, or a first dance around the campfire, or a 4x4 tour of the wild terrain - no matter what you decide, eloping is all about doing what’s right for you, and whatever would make this the best day ever! 

So what is an elopement? It’s anything you want it to be!


So many couples say they don’t even remember their wedding day - that they were so busy running around making sure everything was going as planned and making sure they greeted all their guests, that they forgot to take in the moment.

Shouldn’t you, you know, enjoy your wedding day? Eloping lets you slow down, and really be present, soaking in every magical moment. Instead of rushing from place to place, you can take it slow, and do whatever feels right.

During traditional wedding days, couples barely get to spend time together - aside from the ceremony, they’re busy chatting with guests and hustling from one event to the next, sticking to a strict schedule and following a timeline. 

But with elopements, the whole day is dedicated to the two of you! Even if you get ready separately, you’ll join together to begin your marriage in a way that’s unique and personal to you. You get to explore, adventure, and just have a great time, together.

It’s no secret that wedding planning is pretty stressful - but for a lot of couples, the day itself is pretty stressful too! Things inevitably go wrong, and with so many moving parts, things get a little nuts.

While elopements do require some planning, the process is a lot less stressful! Instead of picking out centerpieces, you get to pick what kind of adventures you’ll have, and on the day of, all you have to worry about is getting married.

The most important thing about eloping is that it should be an experience. The whole day is about choosing what will reflect the two of you and your relationship, and what would make your wedding day perfect. So plan something unique, something once in a lifetime. 

Your entire day should be about you and your partner, and celebrating the one of a kind story you’ve created together. 

What is an elopement?

Elopements are Intentional and Meaningful

Elopements Let You Slow Down and Be Present

Elopements are About Spending Time Together

Elopements are Less Stressful

Eloping is an Experience

You’ve likely heard of intimate weddings, or micro weddings, or just small weddings - but how does this compare? What is an elopement vs an intimate wedding?


When it comes to guest count, there isn’t a magic number that makes an elopement turn into a wedding, because it’s more about how you feel on the day! An elopement with no guests can feel just as incredible and private as an elopement with 15, if all your guests support you and are there to make your vision come to life. 

Intimate weddings usually have between 15 and 50 guests, give or take. Elopements can typically include 0 to 20, and couples usually invite their closest friends or family members.


One of the biggest differences between elopements and traditional weddings is the venue - and intimate weddings tend to fall somewhere in between! Depending on the size of your small wedding, you may need to rent a venue.

With elopements, you have so many more options for where you can tie the knot - you can go to trails and overlooks at parks, and while there are sometimes restrictions (especially in popular national parks), the smaller your ceremony is, the more options you have.

Some parks have designated areas for bigger ceremonies (usually 10-30 people), so these amphitheaters, picnic areas, and special locations designed to host intimate weddings can be an option! If you aren’t sure about eloping, and you feel like you still want your loved ones around, you also have the option of tying the knot with your family and friends, then heading off to adventure alone - and a national or state park can make a great venue! 

Usually, if your intimate wedding is 30 people or more, you’re a lot more limited, and may need to find a venue - but these can often be cheaper rentals than traditional wedding venues, and you can even host an Airbnb ceremony or a backyard wedding!

The main difference between elopements and intimate weddings is about the vibe, and the focus of the day. With traditional weddings it tends to be all about the guests and their experience, and while intimate weddings are smaller, they are still about spending time with guests and gathering with loved ones. This is totally fine for a lot of couples, and if you want your wedding day to be about spending time with the people you love most, an intimate wedding might be for you!

While elopements can definitely include guests, and you certainly can spend time with loved ones, the day is intentionally focused on you. It’s about doing the things that would make you happy, and planning a day that’s unique and designed to celebrate the two of you and your love! 

Another big difference between elopements and intimate weddings is the photography. With traditional weddings, it often seems like the timeline is based around the photographer - and the couple feels rushed to make sure there’s time for photos and to make time for everything that needs to be done. Intimate weddings take a little bit of the stress away, but there’s usually still a timeline that needs to be stuck to in order to ensure that there’s time for everything and that the guests are happy.

With elopements, we’ll still have a timeline of events - but it’s more of a general outline of where to go and what to do, but it’s much more flexible and allows for spontaneity. A lot of couples worry that it’s going to be an all day photoshoot, but that’s not the case at all! Elopement photography is much more of a documentary style, and it’s about capturing the two of you in your element - exploring and doing what you love together. I’ll just happen to be there with the camera! 

We’ll stop for some formal couples portraits, but most of the day is about having fun and being yourselves - and it takes a little bit of time to get comfy, but soon enough, you’ll forget the camera is even there. And when you get your photos back, you’ll get to relive every moment, and see all those little things and all the big emotions you didn’t even realize were happening.

 Elopement vs. Intimate Wedding

Guest Count

The venue

The focus of the day

elopement vs wedding photography

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is an elopement?” let’s see if eloping is right for you! If you still need a little convincing, here are 5 signs that you should take the leap and elope.


This is often the one that makes couples start thinking about elopements in the first place. If you’ve started planning and realized that you’re having a hard time making decisions and are finding yourself feeling like you don’t really care, or if you haven’t even started yet because you just can’t gather the energy to make yourself look at color schemes, that’s a good sign that you should elope!

The incredible scenery and epic adventures are a huge perk of eloping - so if you’re a couple that loves to get outdoors, you’ll probably prefer nature to a traditional venue! Eloping gives you so many more choices for where you tie the knot, and allows you to experience the things you love doing - whether that’s hiking, sitting on the beach, taking a scenic drive, or paddle boarding on your wedding day. 

Whether you’re introverted, have some stage fright, or just don’t like the thought of sharing your vulnerable, emotional vows in front of an audience, not wanting to be the center of attention all day is a sign that eloping might be right for you! 

Elopements shift the focus to you and what you want, but they take all the eyes and all the attention off of you - so you can experience your wedding day with just your partner, or with a few of your favorite people around.

The truth is that big weddings cause a ton of waste - multiple tons, actually. Between carbon emissions, single use items, and things that get thrown out at the end of the night, there’s a pretty big environmental footprint with a traditional wedding.

Eloping reduced so much of that waste! By getting married outdoors instead of in a venue, having a limited guestcount, and little to no decorations, you’re helping the environment a ton - so if you’re interested in sustainability, that can be a great bonus when it comes to eloping.

Just imagine your wedding photos - where you’re standing on top of a mountain, or in the middle of a forest, where you’re hiking through gorgeous scenery or taking a helicopter tour, being outside and enjoying spending time with the love of your life.

The awesome photos are… awesome, but beyond the epic scenery there’s the elopement experience that was custom crafted just for you! Your photos won’t just show the incredible landscape, they’ll also show the two of you, living your dream wedding day, with no stress, no expectations, and no judgement.

If eloping sounds like your jam, and you’re ready to start planning the best day of your life, contact me! I’ll help with the fun stuff, like picking a location and finding the perfect cup of coffee in town, and with the less fun stuff, like permits and marriage licenses. And of course, I’ll be there to take the photos!

Is Eloping Right for You? 5 Signs That You Should Elope

1. You Don’t Want to Plan a Wedding

2. you love nature

3. you don't like attention

4. You're eco conscious

5. you want epic photos

Thinking about eloping in Rocky Mountain National Park?

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