What Does “Elope” Mean, Anyway?!

I get versions of this question *all the time*. “What’s an elopement?” “What does it mean to elope?” “What’s this elopement stuff about anyway?” etc etc etc. A lot of elopement photographers have weighed in on this and I wanted to offer my 2 cents. 

I think these are fair questions considering the term has gone through something of a renaissance  in recent years. Even when I got married 6 years ago, eloping was still equated with going to your city courthouse, or getting married alone on the beach somewhere.

Let me be super clear here: IT CAN STILL MEAN THOSE THINGS. If your version of an elopement is to run by city hall on a whim, or to stand on gorgeous beach for your vows for sure do that thing. I’m not here to say you should/shouldn’t do those things or say those things don’t really count as eloping.

Cause here’s my 2 cents on the whole “what’s an elopement” question. Ready? 

*It’s whatever you want it to be*  

Can you hear me yelling from where you’re reading this? I’ll say it again. *Your elopement is whatever you want it to be.* There are no rules here, except that if you’re eloping you’re probably about to break some rules. If you look to a good old Merrium Webster dictionary (or just, you know, google) the definition that’s provided is that you’re getting married in secret and without permission of your parents.

So… I would argue that’s a pretty outdated definition of what it means to elope.

Eloping means having a wedding day where the focus has been moved off of the production and back onto the couple… both internally and in actual practice. The focus of traditional weddings has a tendency to get muddied by a lot of the *stuff.* Decisions are made and are sometimes influenced by opinions that don’t necessarily belong the couple getting married.

And look, I’m not here to bash traditional weddings. I had a fairly traditional small wedding (and day-after adventure session) so I’m not in a position to tell anyone what is “right.” I’m just here to say that an eloping is just as a legitimate way to get married as what is typically expected. It’s an option B for folks who feel like option A doesn’t suit them at all.

So Who Can Come to My Elopement?

Literally whoever you want. Just the two of you? Sure! A few of your closest friends and family? Do it! The elopements I specialize in cap out at 30 people, but that’s just me and if you want more than that, do that thing.

Where Can My Elopement take place?

Anywhere on planet earth. Your favorite park down the street? Yup. In Iceland? If that’s what you want. They key thing here is that it’s where *you* want. The place that makes the most sense as the setting where you will dedicate your life to your person. I tend to click with and work with folks who feel most at home in the wild places of the world and chose to have their elopements there, but there are loads of urban elopement photographers out there if the city is more your style. Basically… you can elope wherever you want.

Should I Keep My Elopement a Secret?

Totally up to you. For some, keeping their elopement on the DL helps empower couples to truly make decisions that reflect their authentic selves, but you definitely don’t have to. For couples that want to elope but can’t imagine their friends and family not being a part of their wedding day, there are lots of creative ways to include loved ones without them being actually present. Friends and family may write letters or record toasts that couples can play during their own champagne celebration. If you are in a place with cell service a post-ceremony phone call can be an important part of you day. Some couples plan their private elopement, then head back home and have a massive celebration. The point is- *you get to decide who you tell and when you tell them.*

Are you seeing a pattern here? When you chose you elope you are choosing to truly make the day about you.

An elopement is a wedding without the script. A wedding that abandons all the “shoulds” and all the “supposed to’s” and instead asks the couple to intentionally and with purpose ask “what is it that we *want*.” If the answer to that question goes against the status quo? Super cool. You might just be eloping. 🙂 And that is RAD.

Looking for other elopement resources? Check out this post on eloping in National Parks!

  1. Kailee Rose

    September 25th, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    This is so encouraging and helpful!! Honestly wish I had this before I started planning my wedding haha! What great advice + beautiful photos to go with it!

  2. Cat Ekkelboom-White

    September 26th, 2019 at 7:10 am

    What I great post. If I could do my wedding day again, I’m pretty certain I’d choose to elope.

  3. Greg Hastain

    September 26th, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I love how this new generation is taking control of how they get married, including eloping! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  4. Ashley Scobey

    September 26th, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    This is an amazing resource filled with such great advice!!

  5. Sydney

    September 26th, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    This was so helpful!! We eloped too but had no idea what to expect and wish we had read this before! Great advice 🙂

  6. Stephanie Betsill

    September 26th, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    I love how you emphasize that eloping can mean whatever you want it to be! There isn’t a right or wrong way to elope!

  7. Traci Edwards

    September 26th, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Yes this is so true! I think too often we as humans need definitions, but this is a stand on your own two feet kind of thing.

  8. Autumn

    September 26th, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    This is such great information and your photos are amazing. I love that eloping can be anything you want it to be. A day truly meant for the couple.

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