The definition of the word “elopement” has done a total 180 over the past few years. So you might be left wondering, what IS an elopement nowadays?! Today I’m busting elopement myths & giving you all my best elopement tips!
First off, what is an elopement?
Not just a courthouse ceremony
Recently, I have been chatting with people who are super unfamiliar with the photography and wedding industry as a whole – like most freshly engaged couples. And most of them have NO IDEA what an elopement is nowadays.
They still think it’s an old-fashioned, rebellious, run-away-and-get-married-in-Vegas kinda thing. One where you get an Elvis impersonator to officiate your 5-minute ceremony.
Or if they were to look in a dictionary, they think they’d find something like this:
run away secretly in order to get married, especially without parental consent
But elopements today are so much more than just a 2-hour, one & done courthouse shindig.
While that does still occur in some instances, elopements have evolved. Let me go ahead and shed some new light on this subject for you.
An intentional day you create, with the focus on you
An elopement, or intimate wedding, nowadays is where a couple purposefully chooses to make the day about their marriage celebration and about what makes that special for them. Either alone or with whoever they want to bring along for the ride.
It’s about intentionally making the day about things that make their heart sing, experiences that make them happy, and weaving that into the story of vowing their lives to each other.
Eloping is taking back the idea of a wedding day and shifting it from the guests and the family and making about who it is TRULY about, the couple and their love.
So why opt to elope?
You might be wondering why a couple would opt to elope when big weddings seem to be the automatic go-to for newly engaged couples!
Here are some of the most common reasons I’ve heard couples talk about, and that I hear when a couple is asked why they chose to elope:
1. You value quality time with your people > putting on a show
If you’ve ever attended a wedding, you may have seen the couple do one or multiple of these common traditions:
- Cake cutting
- First dances
- Receiving line
- Bouquet/garter toss
Think back on those memories: remember when the couple seemed to feel super awkward cutting a slice of cake with 200 guests watching? And them not really knowing what to do with themselves?
Or when the couple’s first dance was happening, but you could tell they were shy and probably would have rather danced in private, without hundreds of eyes on them?
If you don’t feel like putting on some sort of show or performance that big weddings often ask of couples, then an elopement might be right for you.
You value quality time with your spouse, family, and friends more than following traditions that don’t mean anything to you. And you’d rather invite the people you care about most & celebrate with them, rather than inviting your 50 cousins that you barely talk to, but felt pressured to invite.
Elopements mean quality time with your most loved people, whether that’s through an intimate ceremony, a private dinner, or a hike inside of your favorite national park. Say goodbye to awkward first dances and even more awkward garter-grabs in front of your grandparents!
2. You’d rather spend your $$ on an experience
Another reason many couples choose to elope is that they value experiences over material things. They’d rather spend their well-earned money on an experience that’ll give them memories for a lifetime, instead of on some cheap wedding decor they’ll throw away right after the wedding.
Eloping gives you the chance to be super intentional with your money and put it toward what matters most to you, not what Pinterest or Brides magazine’s “Wedding Trends of the Year” list tells you to buy.
3. Adventure calls your name
If you’re like me and would rather spend your weekends in the great outdoors, finding new hikes and exploring beautiful locations, an adventure elopement would be perfect for you! I know – did you even know that was an option?!
I’m an elopement photographer who loves helping you create epic memories in epic places. Let’s visit your favorite national park, the place you had your first date, a location you’ve always wanted to visit, or a spot that’s special to your heart. Wherever it is that you feel most at home and like yourselves, you can (most likely) elope there!
The reason I say most likely is because it’s super important to make sure your desired location allows elopement ceremonies to happen. You’ll likely have to get some sort of permit, so be sure to do your research before getting your heart set on a location!
Adventure elopements can look however you want them to:
- We could take a helicopter ride to a glacier in Alaska
- Let’s hike through mountain valleys & alpine meadows
- Bring your closest friends along to watch an epic sunrise in a national park
The possibilities are truly endless!
4. You want to be unique
Couples elope for a variety of reasons, but the number one thing I hear time and time again is that they want their wedding day to be an extension of them and focus on their love, their interest, their favorite people. Not to be a big show or hoopla.
Long story short: elopements give you the opportunity to make your big day so fully, 100%, completely YOU! No more feeling forced to do a wedding tradition that might mean something to another couple, but feels pointless to you.
You’re allowed to create your elopement day to look however you want it to, wherever, with whoever, doing whatever. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution!
5. Crowds stress you out
One of the best parts of eloping is that you don’t have to deal with crowd-pleasing and having 200 guests to deal with. Maybe the idea of putting on a huge wedding and inviting 150+ guests is stressful to you. So instead, you can elope and keep the focus on your main goal: getting married and having a truly meaningful experience that resonates with you.
A bonus: You won’t have to buy hundreds of wedding favors you know your guests will probably never use! Instead, put that money toward creating a wonderful experience for the guests you do invite to celebrate with you.
6. Avoiding family drama is easier
Let’s be real – weddings can be the perfect environment for family drama to flare up. Aunt Karen and Uncle Bob’s new wife are yelling across the room, your siblings are arguing, everyone around you is stressing you out and taking the focus off of YOU.
Elopements allow you to invite ONLY the people you truly want there – the people who will support you 100%, celebrate with you, and not bring the attention to themselves. Simple as that!
The do’s & don’ts of eloping
I think it is a beautiful thing that couples get to chose how they want to celebrate their love. Whether it be with all of their friends and family, a select few special people, or just the two of them (and the photographer of course ;)), every wedding is so gosh darn special.
There are so many expressions to each couples love and there is truly no cookie cutter way to define what a wedding should or shouldn’t be along with what traditions matter and what traditions don’t. In the end, what truly matters is that you married your favorite person and your day was focused on that.
But here are a few guiding suggestions based on all my elopement experiences & time with couples:
DO: have a full-day or multi-day elopement
Elopements aren’t just a 2-3 hour thing: they deserve to be celebrated and captured fully, just like an 8-10 hour long wedding would be.
I want to encourage you to consider having a full-day or even multi-day elopement, rather than assuming your elopement has to be short, or that it’s less valuable than a larger wedding day!
Full-day or multi-day elopements allow you to truly build an experience that will be perfect for you. Find a cozy Airbnb to stay in, explore the area around you, go hiking/biking/climbing, sleep in and escape from normal life for longer, cook together, hang out with your best buds around a campfire, go camping. . . the possibilities are LIMITLESS.
You can only fit so much into a few hours, and I promise you that something will run late – it just happens. And that’s okay!
The beauty of eloping is that you can be completely flexible with the day and let it flow naturally. No having to rush because you’re behind or late – who cares?! It’s your day!
DON’T: let outside opinions affect you
Please, for the love of all that is good, don’t let outside opinions affect what your TRUE desires for your wedding are.
It’s easy to give in to those whispers in your ear from your family, your sister who just got married, your aunt who wants you to follow old wedding traditions, or even that Pinterest board you saw that you loved.
Take inspiration, yes. Be open to advice & help, yes. But ultimately, make decisions because YOU want to make them, not anybody else.
DO: be selfish
I know, it sounds weird that I’m telling you to be selfish!
But seriously – do it. This day is your day. It’s not your family’s or your friends. YOU two decide what you want to do and what would make it most special, so you’re allowed to be selfish about it.
If you don’t want to invite certain people because you know they’ll stress you out the day-of, or cause drama, don’t invite them.
If you get to your ceremony and need a little breather to spend a moment with each other, or need to relax before it to calm your nerves, don’t worry about being “late” or “keeping the others waiting” – it’s your day. Be selfish. Do what YOU want and what you need to make it the best freakin’ day possible.
How to tell your loved ones that you’re eloping
I know sometimes breaking your decision to elope to your friends and family can be difficult, as a lot of people assume a big wedding follows a proposal. Or they were expecting to be invited, and may not be anymore now that you’re eloping.
You can still of COURSE invite your fam & friends to your elopement!! Elopements don’t have to be just you two. These are more suggestions for anybody who is nervous about not inviting certain family members, or is choosing to elope in private!
With that in mind, here are a couple ways you can include friends and family in this decision if you’d like:
1. Tell your closest friends and family ahead of time
This helps keep them in the loop and you can explain your reasoning for choosing an elopement vs. a wedding.
2. Keep the people that matter most involved and updated as you go
It can be hard for close family members or friends to feel cared for if they’re not being invited – so make sure to let them know that it’s nothing to do with them. Rather, this is what will make the day most special for you, and you don’t love them any less because you’re not inviting them!
It can help to allow them to be involved in the planning if you want them to be. And you can update them as you go so they at least feel in-the-know of what’s happening!
3. Send an announcement to let people know after the fact
You know what they say: ask for forgiveness, not permission!
If your elopement is happening more last-minute, simply do the dang thing and THEN let your loved ones know that you eloped. They should be happy for you two!
4. Hang with them afterward
If you want to see your loved ones and celebrate with them outside of the actual elopement, you can plan a simple brunch, barbecue or cocktail party to celebrate after the fact so it is less of a big reception and more like family and friends hanging out. This could be the evening of your elopement after you say your vows, a week after, or a month after!
Overall, remember that the people who matter most will still love you and respect your decision!!
Discover your dream elopement destination
Now that we’ve talked alllll about elopements, I’ve got a super fun quiz for you to help you discover your dream elopement destination! Because I know it can be HARD to choose where the heck to go.
Scroll down on my website homepage to find the quiz!
Alaska elopement packages
If you’ve been convinced & are so ready to elope, feel free to take a look at the Alaska elopement packages I offer! I’ve included the details below, and then you can reach out here to start planning your epic elopement day!