Bride and Groom walking towards Steelhead Falls

What Does Elope really mean?

So what does elope really mean? 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.

Elope Definition

So what is the exact definition for elope? Oxford Languages describes it as such: “run away secretly in order to get married, especially without parental consent.” That is a big NOPE. The meaning of elope has been ever changing. It is not a shameful, secretive way to get married. It isn’t running off to Vegas and getting married at a church next to a casino. Couples who elope today are proud and excited of their decision, because it makes their entire wedding day experience about them! Couples will choose to include cruises, helicopter rides, luxurious lodging, backpacking trips, and tons of other incredible activities into their elopement experience.

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. I believe 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 by a reception with 15-30 guests. This reception isn’t even always the same day, the choice is fully up to you, and that is the magic of eloping.

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 passed 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. Any fans of The Office will remember Pam and Jim running away from their own wedding to have a private ceremony. We don’t want you feeling like that on your wedding day, and more often than not, your friends and family will be insanely supportive of your decision.

Bride and Groom eloping at Corona Arch, Utah.

What people get wrong about modern elopements

When explaining what elopement 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 a definite no. 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 thing the meaning of eloping 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. 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.

Define "elope." Elopement at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.

In Conclusion

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. Eloping is an experience not everyone is brave enough to have. It’s choosing to validate your love for each other by not having distractions from the main course, you and your partner. If planning an elopement sounds like how you want to experience your wedding day, congratulations! I am so excited for you and can’t wait for you to celebrate your love your way.

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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! 

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