• Marla Manes

What is an Elopement?

For a long time, the word “elopement” conjured up images of scandalous affairs, disapproving parents, cheesy Vegas chapels, and last minute, rushed marriages. But, the meaning of the word has shifted a ton the past few years. So, what is an elopement? Why are more and more couples choosing to ditch the traditional wedding and elope instead?


A white couple in white wedding attire embraces at their elopement in the desert

Elope Definition

“What is an elopement?” is a hard question to pinpoint an answer to - because an elopement is anything you want it to be! To elope means to be intentional about how you spend your wedding day, and to have the freedom to do whatever you decide. This can be an intimate ceremony on top of a mountain, or exchanging vows in your grandparents’ backyards with your family by your side. You can hike a glacier on your elopement day, or you can have a picnic by the lake (or both) - eloping gives you the right to choose!


Somewhere along the way, weddings became about everyone but the couple. You spend all that time planning, just to spend the actual day worrying about greeting every guest, stressing about things running behind schedule, and hardly getting to see each other! Eloping gives couples the freedom to let go of all the pressure and expectations that seem to get piled on as soon as you get engaged, and to get married in a way that actually feels true to you.


An elopement is an intimate wedding day designed intentionally to celebrate a couple's commitment to one another.


About Elopements

A lot of people still think of elopements as less important, less meaningful, and less worthy than traditional weddings. But an elopement is not just a quick, easy way to get married. Let’s bust some of those old myths!



Elopements are Meaningful and Intentional

Eloping often gets written off as less than a big wedding. But I think that when you’re intentional about how your wedding day goes down, when you get married in a way that reflects who you are, when you do what truly makes you happy, that’s even more special than throwing a big wedding just because you’re “supposed to.” A smaller guest list, or no guest list at all, doesn’t change the fact that this is the day you commit to the love of your life. That deserves to be celebrated!!


Elopements are an Experience

It isn’t just a ceremony and a few photos - but what is an elopement? How could you possibly fill an entire day?


When you start planning your elopement, think of anything and everything that would make your day the best day ever. Is it traveling to a new place to tie the knot? Hiking your favorite trail? Trying something new together? Dream big - nothing is off limits when it comes to eloping!


This is your wedding day, and that’s a big deal - so from breakfast in the morning to watching the sunset together, this day isn’t just about reading your vows and exchanging rings. It’s all about the experience.


The Cost of an Elopement

Another myth about elopements is that they are for couples who are “cheap,” and don’t want to invest in their wedding day. It’s true that elopements tend to be less expensive than big weddings, as you’re cutting costs by not renting out a venue or feeding 200 people. But, most couples still invest into their elopement day - it’s just that instead of being spent on material items and things you’ll only use once, that money is being spent on experiences!


The mother and father of the bride tear up during their speeches at their daughter's elopement

You Can Have Guests at an Elopement

While you totally can elope with just the two of you, and no guests around, you certainly don’t have to! What’s important is that your day feels true to you, and if you have family or friends (or pets) who support you and who you can’t imagine the best day of your life without, bring them along for the adventure!


But if you can have guests at an elopement, when does it become a wedding?


There is no magic guest count that separates elopements from weddings, because eloping isn’t defined by who is or isn’t there - it’s defined by a couple being intentional about their wedding day, and celebrating their commitment to one another in a way that feels right for them. And if the people in your life support that decision, an elopement with 15 guests can feel just as intimate and meaningful as an elopement with none. Most of the elopements I photograph are under 25 guests - and whether you call it an elopement, a wedding, or a microwedding, what really matters is how you feel on the big day!


Elopement Venues

One of my favorite things about elopements is that they usually aren’t held in traditional wedding venues! Instead of getting married at a venue, you can get married in the mountains, in forests, in National Parks, in your backyard, at a brewery, on a rooftop… anywhere you want!


Well, you do have to pay attention to certain rules and restrictions about where you can have your ceremony, but you know what I mean! Eloping means you get to choose what kind of scenery you want for your elopement day - whether it’s a plane ride away or right at home.




Elopements Aren’t Selfish

With the outdated definition of eloping comes the outdated idea that couples who choose to elope are selfish. Family members especially tend to have a lot of opinions about this - but I think it’s important to remember that you’re the ones getting married, and it isn’t selfish to forgo throwing a big party if that isn’t what you want! This is the day you commit your lives to one another - so shouldn’t it go the way you want it to? Shouldn’t the best day of your life be about you?


Elopement Photography

Some couples assume they only need a photographer for the ceremony, and “just a few photos” after. But, I’ve said it once… well, I’ve actually said it about three times now, but I’m going to say it again! Your elopement day matters, and it’s just as important as any traditional wedding day!


The entire day is a part of your elopement experience, and photos are the best way to capture that. If you get ready separately, you won’t see the nervous-but-excited smile on your partner’s face as they prepare to marry you. You might forget how hard you laughed at their dumb puns, and you might miss the way they look at you when you aren’t paying attention.


So while the ceremony is important and we definitely will take a few photos after, I’m all about authentic moments, and the best photos happen when you aren’t posing. That’s why the entire experience is important - because your photos shouldn’t just show you what you look like, they should reflect how you feel on your elopement day.


A bride squeezes her husband's butt through his dress pants as they enjoy the view on their elopement day

Ready to Plan an Elopement?

If this answer to “what is an elopement?” resonated with you, and you’re ready to ditch traditions, forget about expectations, and let go of the pressure that comes along with weddings, it might be time to start planning your adventure!


As a photographer who specializes in this kinda thing, a big part of my job is guiding couples to an elopement day that’s unique, and just right for them. From customizing a location list to helping you with permits to putting together a timeline, I’ve got your back when it comes to planning your elopement! Contact me, and let’s get the ball rolling!

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