bride and groom portrait in New Hampshire elopement

Weddings and marriage have become quite the extravagant event nowadays. While it can be fun to throw a big party with all your friends and family, the planning and the day can often be stressful. It takes away the entire purpose of why you're having a wedding in the first place: to commit the rest of your lives to one another. And that's why many couples are turning to elopements. In this post I'm going to go over the definition of an elopement and explore what it means to elope in 2022.

What is the meaning of elopement? Here's the NEW Modern Elopement Definition

My definition of an elopement is this: An elopement is a meaningful, personal and intimate experience created specifically for you and your partner to celebrate your journey together.

Elopements are different than you may have grown up learning. Eloping no longer means a quick stop to city hall or running off to Vegas. It's not a hush hush event that you can't tell anyone until afterwards. When couples elope today, it's an intentional decision. It's now a day they've created catered to their passions, their love for one another, and focuses on being present and in the moment.

An elopement purposefully ignores the hubbub of a traditional wedding. It takes a lot of courage for a couple to go outside of the norm and choose to elope. There's a lot of pressure when it comes to planning a wedding, and sometimes you can lose track of what the day is about. An elopement can truly remove some if not all of that stress and allow you to focus on the excitement of marrying one another. To me, it's really up to YOU to make your own definition of an elopement - if that's the route you're choosing! The main thing to remember is; this is your day to make all the decisions - whether that be to go the tradition route or not!

Acadia Elopement Photography at Otter Cliff in the Fall

Is an Elopement Right for You?

While I am an elopement photographer, I don't believe every couple should elope. I believe that a couple should create a wedding day that fits their goals and their vision. Some couples dream of a big wedding and gathering all their closest friends and family in one place. But what I quickly realized over the last few years is that's not every couples dream. Most couples decide to have a big wedding because they believe it's their only option. I've built my brand around sharing with others that there are other ways of getting married, and that they too, can have their dream day.

What's most important is that if you can relate in any way, then this post is for you. I want to help you with the decision-making process. Ultimately, it is what is most important to you that you then can decide how to plan your wedding day. Here's a couple of indicators that an elopement may be right for you:

  1. You want more freedom and flexibility on your wedding day.
  2. Big crowds and a lot of attention on you sounds ick.
  3. Event planning stresses you the heck out.
  4. Spending $$$$$ on wedding favors and linens doesn't make sense to you.
  5. You and your partner crave a unique and intimate experience vs the typical big party.
Bride and groom elopement photo in New England fall colored mountain forest

Is Eloping different than getting married?

In simple terms, eloping is a way to get married. This may just be a different way of getting married than the big traditional wedding that you're used to seeing or hearing about.

If you're here, I'm assuming you are either leaning towards an elopement or at least having second guesses on a traditional wedding. So I wanted to help clear up some thoughts you may have about eloping and make sure you are going to plan your all time dream day.

The number one thing to remember is that this is your wedding day. I know your mom and friends have been looking forward to this day just like you have, but it is in fact - your day. You should make it exactly how you want it. Maybe you can compromise a bit if you really want to elope! Keep reading, because I know these things to know about your elopement is going to excite you!

Sicily Italy destination elopement exploring Mount Etna.

Elopement Synonyms

There's a bit of confusion about what it means to elope these days. The word " elopement"  is often used in the industry interchangeably with other words such as an "intimate wedding", "micro-wedding", "adventurous wedding", "Destination wedding", or maybe even just a "private wedding ceremony." We saw a lot of these words become very popular amidst all the changes that came with 2020 gathering restrictions, but even now the definition of an elopement still evolves.

Digging into the history of an elopement a little, this excerpt from Simply Eloped is helpful in understanding context!

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest use of the word “elope” was in the 14th century, where the root of the word “aloper” meant, “leap.” But by the 17th century, the term elope held a very specific definition: “To run away from her husband in the company of a paramour.” While its history may sound scandalous, eloping nowadays is hardly shocking. If anything, it’s becoming more and more common for modern couples. So, as history progressed, so did the idea of eloping. During the Great Depression, eloping grew popular because the resources to throw a wedding were seemingly nonexistent for most. Elopements were practical, and that’s how they got their reputation for being a cost-saving alternative to the traditional wedding. But elopements still weren’t favored in the social eye, despite their popularity and potential. During this time, elopements ceremonies were being performed solely out of necessity, not choice.

Since an elopement used to be viewed as something potentially scandalous or secretive, explaining your plans may bring up some element of shock or disappointment. Often times this may just be due to the older generation's view of an elopement being outdated. It may be better received if you use an alternated word such as one of the synonyms above. Next we'll cover some common elopement myths and why they may not be true!

Bride and groom and dog at elopement in New Hampshire. Couple enjoying wedding picnic in the summer

Common Elopement Myths

Myth 1. You can't have guests at your elopement

Intimate wedding on the beach in Acadia. And elopement with friends and family

But we're eloping, what do you mean we can have guests? While elopements have been known to be just the two people getting married, they've expanded to also be "intimate weddings" with 25 or less guests. This truly depends on the location as well as the photographer you choose as well. An intimate wedding can be defined in a variety of different ways, but generally it is between 15-30 guests.

A lot of people think that because they are eloping, no one else can be there. This is a huge detractor from eloping, which I completely understand. So now your minds can ease and know that the people you love most can still be there. Your parents, your siblings, your best friends. They can all be there to embrace the experience with you.

Myth 2. You have to elope at the courthouse

With more traditional weddings, you generally need a venue that can fit at least 100 people. With elopements, the world is your oyster. It's much easier to figure things out for less than 30 people than it is for over 100 people. An elopement can be at your favorite mountain, a National Park, in the desert, in your favorite country, or even right in your backyard. You can also choose a venue, as there are several beautiful venues that specialize in smaller intimate weddings. The main point is, you get to be creative!

Bride and groom skiing at elopement

Myth 3. An elopement is quick and boring

Another fun thing about elopements is that you can truly make it an experience. With traditional weddings, it's more difficult to get outside the norm of the daily experience. However, for elopements, you have less people and more time to make the day exactly how you want it.

Here's just a few ideas you can ponder on so you get the gist of what I'm getting at.

You can ATV out into Sedona to a secluded location for your ceremony with just the two of you plus your 25 guests.

You can set up a mini picnic on the mountain or at the beach to enjoy after your vows.

Maybe your dream has been to do a ski weekend with your family and you have your ceremony at the top of the mountain before heading back down. Then you spend the rest of the day doing something you both or all enjoy until dinner later on.

The options are literally endless. Instead of spending most of your day getting ready, your day can be filled with fun experiences! Think about your all time favorite things to do together, and you can turn that into your dream wedding day. How awesome!

Myth 4. You don't do anything traditional at an elopement

Just because you aren't having a full out traditional wedding doesn't mean you can't follow the traditions. Maybe you loved the idea of a father daughter dance. Then still have one! Or you really want to shove cake in each other face, then have a cake cutting! You can still do a first look and have an intimate moment with your partner. This is your day, so you can make it exactly how you want it.

While the day won't be as jam packed as a traditional wedding, you can still incorporate the traditions that are most important to you. Take away or add in any of them you want.

Myth 5. An elopement is one day only

Elopement ceremony in Acadia national Park

Some of my favorite wedding experiences have been multi day goodness. Elopements are generally looked at as get it done in an hour type deal. There's been so many times where I've heard "oh, we are just going to do a quick ceremony, then have a party later". Your day deserves so much more than that. This is the day of your anniversary. Every single year you will look back on your exact day. Now tell me, what would you want to remember about it? This is your chance to make it absolutely epic so you can rave about it for the rest of your lives!

All day or multi day elopements are so much fun and all of the love felt during those days are unreal. Like an epic elopement in Sicily, Italy with family and friends Maybe even plan a fun hike just the two of you the day before your actual day like this Acadia National Park elopement. There's no need to rush this, don't hesitate on making it a full out experience.

Once again, the ideas are endless and you can be creative. Just know that this incredible moment in your lives doesn't just need to be a one hour, or even one day experience if you don't want it to be.

Myth 6. Elopements are spontaneous and unstructured

Elopements don't need to be last minute decisions. Most people spend up to 12 months planning this magical day for themselves. While elopements have been known to be last minute, they don't have to be. Take your time and make it as special as it should be. A lot of people look at elopements as something rushed and thrown together, but I challenge anyone looking to elope to change that perspective.

This is your wedding day. The day that you are stepping into this next journey with one another. It should be beautiful, well thought out, and as you as possible.

If planning stresses you out, then you can still get a wedding planner. There are plenty of wedding planners out there who specialize specifically in elopements. If you want to plan a beautiful dinner or picnic, or an epic ceremony style, then they could be a great resource for you.

Go on Pinterest, or travel blogs, or wherever you need to get the inspiration you need for planning your epic elopement adventure.

Myth 6. Elopements are selfish

There is no doubt that you are thinking of yourselves on your wedding day. Weird, right? You're focusing on what YOU want, on YOUR wedding day. Gosh... so selfish.

People can think what they want, but I believe that people should think about themselves for their wedding day. Twenty years down the road, who is going to remember the special moments and details of your day? YOU ARE. Your great aunt who was pissed that she wasn't invited isn't going to remember. Your mom will absolutely get over it. But the last thing you should want for yourselves is reaching out to a photographer for your 10 year vow renewal because you "regretted" your wedding day. So no... elopements are not selfish.

I hope after reading all of this, you realize that elopements have changed. And I hope that your definition of an elopement is more clear after reading this. They are unreal experiences that you get to have while stepping into this next journey together. They can include your closest family and friends to join along the ride. You can fly to your favorite destination and get married by a medieval castle. Get a cake made and feed one another with a first dance under the stars. Whatever your dream is, you get to make it a reality with an elopement day (s).

Be sure to follow me on Instagram for more tips on elopements!

Adventure elopement photographer team

A New Hampshire + Vermont based adventure elopement and intimate wedding photographer team for the adventurous souls. We specialize in New England and destinations worldwide, empowering you to create the most beautiful, adventurous day and give you the memories you'll be able to look back on for all the years to come.


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