A lot of people still think of bejeweled chapels and hasty ceremonies when they think of elopements – because for a long time, elopements were one of those things that “stays in Vegas!” On the flip side, if you’ve seen elopements on Instagram, you may think of an elopement as something that requires an insane hike, an epic adventure, where a couple ties the knot standing on a mountaintop. The truth is that when it comes to the question of “what is an elopement?” there’s no single way that an elopement has to look – no formula for what makes an elopement an elopement, no “right way” to get married… and that’s the whole point!
In this guide, we’ll define the word “elope,” talk about what it really means to have an elopement instead of a traditional wedding, and help you decide if it’s right for you!
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of the word “elope” is “to run off secretly to be married, usually without the consent or knowledge of one’s parents.” This may have been an accurate definition in the past, but this isn’t what eloping is about anymore! The meaning of the word has changed a ton over the past few years.
So, today, what is an elopement? The word “elope” can be hard to define, and when it comes to answering the question, “what is an elopement?” the answer isn’t a neat set of rules or a tidy definition of all the things you need to do to plan an elopement – instead, an elopement is a way of getting married that prioritizes the couple. Eloping means that you can get married however you want – your wedding day can be everything and anything that you want, and just as importantly, it should be nothing that you don’t.
And elopements can look a million different ways! It’s all about making sure that the day you get married actually feels true to who you are, and that you begin your marriage exactly the way you want to! This might mean tying the knot in your backyard with a few of your loved ones, it might mean going for an epic hike and reaching that mountain summit where you can exchange vows with no one else around, it might mean a chill day with your partner where you just relax and enjoy some cake… or it might mean something totally different and unique to you!
The most important thing is that the two of you get married in a way that you love, and a way that feels true to you.
Now let’s dive deeper into elopements, to help you understand what an elopement day can look like, how it differs from a traditional wedding, and why couples choose to elope!
One of the biggest differences between an elopement and a traditional wedding is the guest count. Elopements are intentionally kept small and intimate, but you can still have guests!
Many couples do decide to elope just the two of them, but if you can’t imagine getting married without the people you love by your side, they can totally join you for your day. Elopements typically have between 0 and 10 guests, but you can have as many as 25! It’s all about how the day feels – and if the people around you support you and your decision, it can make the day even more special.
But, if eloping just the two of you feels more like your jam, don’t worry! That’s absolutely okay too. It’s not about excluding people – it’s about making sure your day feels like you. And whether you’re an introvert who doesn’t want eyes on you as you exchange vows, you want to have an adventure that the family may not be up for, or a “just us” elopement just feels right, you can elope with no guests!
Another big difference between an elopement and a traditional wedding is where you can get married. While big weddings are limited to venues that can accommodate all those people, an elopement gives you much more freedom to choose where you want to tie the knot!
With a smaller guest list, you have more options – and can choose from parks, beaches, overlooks, and other outdoor spots. Many couples who elope love being surrounded by nature – and there’s no better way to start your marriage than with a backdrop of scenery that you love!
But, while you definitely can hike to your elopement location, an adventure elopement doesn’t require hiking! Some couples feel that an elopement has to be “epic” to be important, but that’s not the case at all. There are so many gorgeous places that you can get to without breaking a sweat, and your elopement location should be like the rest of your elopement – personal, and just right for you!
Let’s face it, weddings carry a big price tag! The average wedding in Canada costs $29,450 – which can be a pretty mind boggling figure. Elopement budgets are usually smaller, but a common misconception about elopement is that they’re “cheap,” or that they’re something couples only do when they don’t want to invest in their wedding day.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, and in fact, I encourage you to invest in your elopement day! Elopement budgets are much more versatile than traditional wedding costs – you can prioritize, decide what’s important to you, and decide what matters on the day you get married. So while elopements often cost less, this is because couples spend money on the things that are important to them – saving money on a huge venue and catering for hundreds of people means you can spend more on experiences, and things that will really make your day amazing! There are so many ways to make an elopement special, and they can suit a variety of budgets. You might want to spend more on travel costs and hop on a plane for your dream destination elopement, or you might want to choose a local hike for your ceremony location and spend that money on an amazing meal or your dream outfit instead!
It’s all about prioritizing, deciding what’s important to you, and making sure your wedding is about experiences, rather than things!
It’s time to answer the biggest question… is eloping right for you? Now that you have an updated definition of what it means to elope, does the idea of tying the knot outdoors with a tiny ceremony get your heart beating faster than the thought of a huge wedding in a hotel ballroom?
It can be a scary decision, but I’m here to help! As an elopement photographer, I’ll work with you to create the perfect day – one that’s everything you want, nothing that you don’t and one that makes you over the moon excited to marry your best friend! From elopement location recommendations to creating a custom timeline, I’ll help you plan every part of your day – and make sure that you have amazing photos to remember it all.
Ready to elope? Contact me!
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Your not-so-traditional Elopement + Intimate Wedding Photographer. I document love stories for couples who want something unique, and who's focus is each other and having a meaningful, intentional experience on the day they say "I do".
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