Should I elope? That’s the question many couples find themselves facing as they embark on their wedding planning journey. The term ‘elope’ has undergone a remarkable transformation over the years, challenging the traditional notions of grand ceremonies and lavish celebrations. As noted by Merriam-Webster, in recent years the term’s meaning has shifted away from “run[ning] away and secretly get[ting] married, especially without parental consent” to refer, instead, to “a small destination wedding.” Recently, there has been an increased interest in both elopements and intimate micro weddings (typically 50 guests or fewer) compared to traditional large-scale ceremonies. As the meaning evolves, so does the way couples envision and celebrate their commitment.
In a national survey of over 1,000 engaged couples in the U.S., a striking 62% expressed openness to considering a scaled-back elopement-style wedding, with an even higher percentage among females at 69%. This reflects a growing trend towards embracing more intimate, authentic, and intentional wedding experiences.
As a wedding photographer specializing in micro weddings and elopements, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the mindfulness, privacy, and intention that characterize these intimate celebrations. It’s a privilege to witness couples prioritizing what truly matters to them on their special day. While there are countless reasons why couples may choose to elope, let’s explore some of the most common motivations behind this shift in wedding culture.
Now, more than ever, couples crave weddings that reflect their unique authenticity and challenge traditional norms. The choice to elope is often driven by a rejection of conventional wedding expectations, including outdated traditions and unnecessary expenses. Some couples find it challenging to envision themselves navigating through expected rituals like the garter toss or adhering to a traditional wedding party.
Additionally, some couples are reluctant to participate in traditions considered sexist or gender-normative. Take, for instance, the symbolic act of a bride being handed over from one man (her father) to another (her husband). This rejection of societal norms allows couples to blaze their own trail, creating a celebration that is distinctly their own, aligned with their values and individuality.
In the realm of elopements, the desire for intimacy and privacy stands as a significant motivator for couples seeking a more personal celebration. The thought of being the focal point throughout the entire day can induce anxiety, particularly for introverted individuals. Traditional weddings often unfold with every moment in the public eye, from vows and kisses to cake cutting, toasts, and even eating.
For some, the hesitation to express their vows in front of an audience stems from the deeply personal and sacred nature of those promises. Eloping offers a sanctuary of privacy, eliminating concerns about reactions or judgments from others. Couples find solace in this freedom, allowing them to be truly authentic during their wedding day experience.
Moreover, some couples transition from planning a traditional wedding to an intimate elopement or even a micro wedding in response to major life stressors or traumas such as illness or loss of a family member. In the midst of emotionally complex times, the pursuit of privacy can become an important consideration, providing couples the space to navigate their wedding day without the pressure of a large public celebration. If you find yourself navigating such a trying situation, you can find additional insights in my blog post on ‘Planning a Wedding in the Face of Grief.’
When it comes to elopements, the allure of adventure, spontaneity, and an unwavering love for the great outdoors can serve as the driving force for certain couples seeking a unique expression of their love story. While not every elopement immerses itself in nature, the draw can lie in the dream of an adventurous experience. Adventure elopements may include activities like exploring a national park, a sunrise hike, picnicking, or stargazing against the stunning backdrop of awe-inspiring locations such as Colorado’s Rocky mountains.
This innate love for nature, coupled with the desire to embrace a bit of spontaneity, persuades some couples to elope, providing a sense of peace and belonging amidst natural landscapes. For these adventurous souls, eloping transforms their wedding celebration into an even greater celebration of the extraordinary, an affirmation for a life less ordinary, and an expression of their deep connection with Mama Nature.
Weddings often come with the potential for family dynamics to create added stress—a scenario often humorously depicted in movies. While these portrayals are meant for laughs, the reality of dealing with family drama on your wedding day can prompt some couples to elope and avoid such situations altogether. Although sharing your elopement decision may elicit reactions, by choosing to elope, you can count on a peaceful experience on your wedding day.
Eloping provides a refuge from external family pressures, sparing couples from unsolicited opinions on how they should (or should not) conduct their wedding. Stressful family dynamics can become especially significant for couples where one or both partners grapples with familial estrangement. The freedom from anxieties associated with such dynamics can be a considerable factor in choosing to elope. By eloping, couples are spared the pressure of explaining family dynamics, the burden of filling seats, and the discomfort of navigating potentially hurtful situations on their wedding day.
Eloping provides a safe haven for couples who have a strong desire for authenticity on their wedding day. Couples often yearn for the assurance that they can be themselves, unfiltered and genuine. With no external influences to sway their decisions, couples have the freedom to create a day that resonates with their truest selves.
Whether you envision an aesthetic celebration or a lighthearted and humorous occasion, the choice is entirely yours. When eloping, you maintain the freedom to show up exactly as you are, allowing your unique personalities and love story to shine.
The desire for a stress-free wedding day is a compelling reason many couples opt to elope. Traditional weddings often entail a multitude of logistics, creating a seemingly endless to-do list. In contrast, eloping can offer a streamlined approach with significantly fewer logistical challenges.
Furthermore, with elopements, gone are the worries about pleasing a large group of guests that typically accompany traditional weddings. There’s no need to stress about selecting a meal that appeals to various palates or worrying about ‘unconventional’ cake flavors. When eloping, the focus remains solely on planning what you desire, minimizing unnecessary stressors.
The intimate nature of elopements also enables couples to bypass the potentially stressful planning associated with holding a larger celebration. This personalized approach allows you to focus solely on planning what you desire, sans stress. If you want to check out more tips on ‘How To Plan Your Stress-Free Elopement,‘ head over to my guide!
The allure of simplicity is a beautiful aspect that draws couples to eloping. This appeal lies in the sweet freedom to plan a wedding as ornate and involved or as straightforward and simple as you desire. Elopements provide couples with the flexibility to design their special day according to their preferences, unbound by traditional norms.
Whether you envision an elaborate desert picnic, a helicopter ride, a scenic mountain hike, or an intimate dinner, the choice is yours. There’s no need to adhere to a predefined set of rules; you have my full permission to torch the wedding rule book.
In the changing world of wedding preferences, more couples are placing greater value on experiences than material goods. This approach is increasingly popular as couples express a greater desire to create lasting memories centered around meaningful experiences.
Choosing to elope aligns with this philosophy, emphasizing the essence of the moment over the investment in tangible details. For couples who want to place value on the richness of shared experiences, elopements become an opportunity to create unforgettable memories. This shift in mindset reflects a broader trend where the emphasis is on the quality of moments lived and shared.
For some couples, the love of travel becomes a driving force behind their decision to elope. This wanderlust may lead them to a place that holds special significance in their hearts or within their relationship. Others see an elopement as an opportunity to check off a new destination from their bucket list, a perfect milestone to combine with the celebration of marrying the love of their life.
Eloping can also offer the chance to seamlessly blend wedding festivities with a honeymoon. Rather than allocating your budget separately for a wedding and a honeymoon, a destination elopement allows you to achieve both in one memorable experience. Some choose to extend their celebrations, turning their elopement into a long, adventurous experience.
For example, Sam and Ryan eloped at a gorgeous Colorado Airbnb in the middle of their scenic, multi-week road trip. I thought it was such a unique and fun idea that transformed their special day into a memorable adventure.
Click the button below to see the full story from Sam and Ryan’s Airbnb elopement day.
Eloping allows you to capture one-of-a-kind photos that uniquely represent you as a couple. Many couples strategically choose elopements in scenic settings like mountains or deserts, recognizing the potential for incredible wedding photos and epic adventures in these beautiful locations. Your choice of elopement destination opens up numerous possibilities for capturing unique and creative shots.
Imagine eloping on a mountainside. This setting can provide opportunities for unconventional and adventurous photos that authentically represent your union. The goal is to create a wedding photo gallery that evokes awe and emotion, preserving the excitement and sense of adventure experienced on your elopement day.
Eloping allows couples to choose any landscape that resonates with them, ensuring their photos tell a story that reflects them authentically. Moreover, working with an experienced elopement photographer enhances the storytelling in your elopement photos. This can provide a visually stunning and impressive narrative to share with your nearest and dearest who were not present on your elopement day.
Eloping can offer a more budget-friendly alternative to a traditional wedding. This allows couples to be mindful of their budget and allocate funds for the memorable experiences and details that hold the greatest significance to them. The average cost of a traditional wedding in 2024 will surpass $30,000. This includes expenses like decor, catering, transportation, and event rentals.
By choosing to elope, couples can significantly reduce these costs, potentially spending only $10-15k. This opens up the opportunity to invest in extraordinary activities that can make the day truly one-of-a-kind. Whether it’s splurging on a helicopter ride, embarking on a multi-day adventure, exploring an incredible destination, or renting a luxurious Airbnb to host your elopement – the choice is yours. All in all, eloping gives you the flexibility to put your budget toward what you dream of most.
Choosing to elope can be driven by a desire for a wedding day that aligns with your values of mindfulness and environmental consciousness. While weddings are joyous occasions, they can also generate a substantial carbon footprint, with the average wedding leaving behind over 400 pounds of waste and contributing to more than 60 tons of CO2 emissions. Shocking, right?
Various elements of weddings impact the environment, with guest count, air travel, meat consumption, and imported flowers being the most significant factors. However, eloping can be a great way to reduce the environmental impact associated with these factors.
For those interested in comparing the environmental impact of a wedding versus an elopement, head over to my ‘Guide on How to Have a Sustainable Wedding.’ There, you can find other valuable advice on this topic along with a link to a carbon footprint calculator to estimate your wedding day environmental impact.
Choosing between eloping and having a traditional wedding is a deeply personal decision. Just as I advised against letting someone pressure you into a traditional wedding, the same goes for elopements. The key is to do what aligns with your own desires for your special day.
Although I’ve spent a good amount of time praising elopements, it’s also important to acknowledge that eloping isn’t the right fit for everyone. That being said, here are some reasons why eloping might not be the ideal choice for you and your partner:
Extensive Network of Close Relationships: If you have a large network of close relationships and can’t imagine celebrating without these special people present, eloping might not be the best fit for you.
Love for Big Parties: If you genuinely love the atmosphere of big parties and thrive in social gatherings, the intimate nature of an elopement might not resonate with you.
Value Tradition: If you have a deep appreciation for tradition and want to extensively incorporate it into your wedding, eloping might not align with your values.
Religious Beliefs: For those with religious beliefs that require a traditional setting or a specific officiant, eloping may not be an option.
Travel Constraints and Accessibility for Loved Ones: If you have a close loved one who is unable to travel to your elopement destination, you may hesitate at the thought of spending your best day without them present.
Enjoy Being the Center of Attention: If you enjoy being the center of attention (no shame in that!) and envision a grand celebration, eloping may not fulfill this desire.
Long-Held Vision: For those who have envisioned their wedding day in a very specific way for many years, deviating from this vision might create discomfort or anxiety.
Remember, the most important thing is to choose what feels right for you and your partner, regardless of external expectations or trends.
Your wedding day marks a significant milestone, and it’s an opportunity to tailor the experience to your unique dreams and desires. Choosing an elopement provides the freedom to curate an intimate and authentic celebration that truly reflects you and your partner. Whether you’re aiming to sidestep family drama, yearning for a stress-free day, or embracing simplicity, this decision becomes a profoundly personal touch in shaping your journey.
Eloping is more than just a declaration of individuality; it encapsulates the essence of creating mindful memories, aligning with environmental values, and having the flexibility to craft a celebration that resonates deeply with you. If you’re ready to start this exciting journey, I’m here to assist you in planning a day that authentically captures your love story. Reach out, and, together, let’s create the ideal wedding celebration for you.