define elope

What Does Elope really mean?

So how do you define elope? To elope or have an elopement, simply put, is to have the freedom to choose exactly how you want your wedding day to look. This can mean a lot of things. Your venue could be a National Park, your backyard, or a new country. Your guest list could be just the two of you, only close friends and family, or all of your pets. Modern elopements have tended to be centered around the priorities of the couples and what actually makes them the happiest.

The changing definition of “elope” has gone from getting married normally in secret and quickly, to a personalized wedding day.

Define Elope

What is the exact definition for elope? Oxford Languages defines elope as such: “to run away secretly in order to get married, especially without parental consent.” That is no longer the case. The meaning of elope has been ever changing. It is not a shameful, secretive way to get married. Couples who elope today are proud and excited of their decision. It makes their entire wedding day experience about them, they’re priorities, and generally only small groups are invited. Couples will choose to include cruises, helicopter rides, luxurious lodging, backpacking trips, and tons of other incredible activities into their elopement experience.

How Did the Meaning of Eloping Change?

When we define elope, and it looks exponentially different just in the last five years, we wonder where the change came from. I would say there was a slow start from couples who realized that filling out their marriage license could happen anywhere. Especially in Colorado. In Colorado, you can self-solemnize. This means you don’t need an officiant OR witnesses. You can simply say your vows together, sign your paper work, and be legally married.

Since then, defining elope changed. Couples realized they could do that anywhere. Maybe even invite guests. Add in a celebration. Thus, the modern elopement. This all drastically blew up and become a trend during the pandemic of 2020. So many weddings were pushed, and couples found a way to get married despite that. Many couples stated they are happy their big wedding got pushed, as the idea of eloping never occurred to them prior. Post eloping, they all felt so much happier with how their wedding day turned out. Photos of elopements flooded instagram, and this became a new way of getting married that people now choose out of choice.

Meaning of "elope." Bride and Groom eloping at Mt. Rainier National Park.

What is the Difference Between Traditional Weddings and Elopements?

You might be thinking, “I can choose whatever I want for a traditional wedding day to, so what’s the difference?” The difference between traditional weddings and elopements boils down to who you are planning for. Most traditional weddings have an average of 167 guests attending. Couples will start planning to decorate their guests tables, their dinners, choosing to pay for an open bar, picking a DJ all of their friends and family will dance too.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with traditional weddings. But not everyone wants to focus on things like table linens and hour long ceremonies for their wedding day. That’s where eloping comes in! You can choose absolutely whatever is important to you and your partner. This even includes guests if you want to involve friends and family into your plans! A lot of my couples have a private ceremony and adventure, followed a unique celebration than resonates with them. Generally, couples elope solo or have around 5-25 guests.

The Cost of Eloping VS. Cost of a Traditional Wedding

I could tell you the average cost of a traditional wedding and some of the major costs of eloping. However, I think it’s best explain as such: a high-end luxury elopement that includes first class flights, incredible lodging, amazing vendors, and all of your celebration costs would be around $25,000. Again, this is a really high budget for an elopement. That being said, a “standard” traditional wedding costs around $35,000 on average.

The biggest difference is that for an elopement, you’re allocating most of that budget to provide incredible experiences for you and your partner. With a big wedding, most of it is going to a place to host people, entertainment for them, as well as their drinks and food.

define elope, what is a modern elopement

Is Eloping for Me?

If you’re feeling stressed out by the thought of having a traditional wedding, you might want to ask yourself if eloping is for you. If you can’t seem to get past the idea of leaving out a large group of friends and family, this might not be the right option for you. However, if you and your partner are looking to have a day full of adventures with no distractions, eloping will be an amazing option for you. Remember, define elope now means just making the whole day about your goals with your partner.

Other things to consider. Do you feel saying your vows in front of a large crowd would make you anxious? Or feel performative? Do you want a venue or to be out in nature or a city? Do you want a say in each choice you make for your day without worrying if other people will like it? If prioritizing you and your partner feels like the biggest goal for the day, eloping is a great choice for you.

What People Get Wrong About Modern Elopements and Defining Elope

When explaining what defining elope means, it’s important to go over what it doesn’t mean as well. There are a lot of ideas people have about elopements that are entirely incorrect. As I mentioned before, elopements have really evolved over the years. Especially after 2020, so many couples chose to elope instead of waiting another year or two to have their wedding, and they couldn’t have been happier with that decision. Let’s get into what people get wrong about modern elopements!

Misconception 1: Couples elope because they don’t have the money for a big wedding

This is not the case whatsoever. In fact, a lot of couples still have a budget within the 5 digit realm for their elopements. Instead of spending half of their budget on guests, they spend it on themselves. It’s easy to have an enormous wedding with 200 guests and have an incredibly low-budget event, or take that same budget and have a luxurious elopement.

Saving some money while eloping isn’t the driving factor as to why someone chooses to elope. Moreover, couples can also choose to have a huge budget for their elopement. At the end of the day, couples choose to elope because they don’t want a huge party or to be stressed about their guests all day. Couples elope so they can fill their day with things that they love and focus on each other in an intimate way. And really, the money has nothing to do with that.

Misconception 2: You can’t invite any guests if you have an elopement.

People often think the defining elope includes not having any guests. It is totally ok to want a “just us” experience! Although a lot of couples have their friends and family help with the planning when they choose to do that. Many couples also choose to invite friends and family to their elopement ceremony, and then spend the rest of the day by themselves.

Some couples involve a small group for their entire day. Some couples have a reception a few months down the line. It all boils down to what is important to you, and there is no wrong decision here. Bring your friends, bring your parents, bring your pets! If having guests there is important to you, there is no need to compromise.

Misconception 3: Elopements are poorly planned and a last minute decision

Elopements have been looked at as a last-second way to tie the knot in secret. This is no longer true. Many couples plan their elopements for six months to a year and a half. I’ve booked couples for over two years out. It isn’t the short-cut way of getting married. It’s the way of getting married with no compromise. And when you don’t have to make any compromises, you open yourself up to an enormous amount of possibilities.

Considering these possibilities and planning out everything that you and your partner want to do takes time. An elopement is a celebration of love built on having the experience that makes sense to you. It’s not a last-ditch effort, oh hell no. It’s a way of saying “I love you forever” with a day that isn’t about force or tradition. It is nothing but intentional moments that matter and choosing yourself and your partner above all else.

Concluding “Define Elope” and What it Really Means

What does elope really mean? It really means that it’s a way of forgetting about tradition, pressure, and whatever anyone else tells you that you should be doing. A day dedicated to expressing your love your way. It’s fully and completely about the desires of you and your partner.

It’s choosing to validate your love for each other by not having distractions from the main course, you and your partner. Thinking about eloping, and what it make take to plan one? Read my in depth guide on how to plan an elopement. I’m an elopement photographer that helps couples plan their entire day from start to finish, and documents their stories. You can reach out to me for a low-pressure consult call where I can answer all of your questions about eloping!

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You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

I'm Emilee

I'm an elopement photographer who specializes in planning, crafting, and documenting untraditional weddings. I believe a wedding day should be filled with traditions that resonate with you. I'm here from start to finish to make that happen. Want to chat about your plans? Click below to set up a free consultation! 

You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

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