couple from Oahu at their elopement

9 Ways to Celebrate Love & Have an Intimate Elopement

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Why Do People Elope?

Being engaged is one of the most exciting seasons of your life. You’re looking forward to the future with the person you love most, and all that’s standing in the way is a single day: your wedding. But that can mean very different things to different people due to the amount of pressure betrothed couples face when planning a wedding.

While people often dream of their wedding day from the time that they’re little, not everyone decides to have a traditional blow-out in the end. Especially, with COVID-19 restrictions impacting the wedding industry this past year, elopements have skyrocketed in popularity. Frankly, it’s not hard to see why.  So what is elope and how do you elope?

What Does it Mean to Elope?

We no longer live in an age where daughters are viewed as property to their fathers, a woman’s family no longer pays a dowry and young grooms compensating a father for a brideprice would be seen as exploitative of women in modern societies. The negative reputation surrounding elopements come from the economic loss to a family when children decide for themselves that marrying for love and not wealth or political gain is necessary. The history and traditions surrounding weddings and marriages seem to be lengthy but for the majority of human history weddings were mostly not about the couple but synonymous with advancing the social standing of families.

Traditions surrounding weddings can seem barbaric and are filled with origin tales of women impersonating brides to reduce the chance of bridal abductions(bridesmaids), men that serve to protect a bride’s virginity(groomsmen) and a myriad of ways to ward off evil spirits that threatened a young woman’s fertility. Even the need for witnesses in some states are becoming obsolete. To understand that the need for these roles and rituals are becoming unnecessary is to question what exactly a wedding ceremony should consist of? Two people in love? A ring exchange? Vows spoken? Maybe a dress and an officiant?

Without the pageantry of a bridal party, the expense of catering a reception, the requirement to obtain parental consent for a couple to wed; elopements are acquiring a second, more flattering and modern meaning. The official but dated definition of elopement is “to run off secretly to be married, usually without the consent or knowledge of one’s parents.” If you look to any form of social media to find what it means to elope you will find couples utilizing their wedding day to bring deep meaning and connection that is authentic to their relationship.

Many couples use the sacredness of a location that induces “awe” and wonder to feature their nuptial exchange. The presence of the vastness of the wilderness is a symbolic theme to many eloping couples; it is so much more than just “romantic” the nuances of the chosen locations for these unions are strong and the message is “our love is our spiritual connection, worthy of being cultivated and nurtured so that we may be boundless together.”

couple after elopement in oklahoma in a canyon for article 9 reasons to elope

  • An Elopement provides an Intimate Wedding Experience

If you’ve taken time to talk to other couples about their wedding experiences, you may have been greeted with similar responses, “Oh, the whole day just went by so quickly! I was worried about so many different things, and I just wish I had been more in-the-moment.” OR “I would do it so differently if I were to do it all over again. I felt like my spouse and I barely talked to each other. We definitely didn’t have time to eat or do a dozen of other things I thought we would have.” 

Traditional weddings are busy. They’re focused on the guests as much as they’re focused on the couple. If you’re striving for an intimate wedding experience – one that centers on one another more so than anyone else – then it makes sense that you’d significantly cut the guest list. 

Doing so allows you to concentrate on what matters most to you. This way, the wedding itself is no longer a big production. After all, you’re just there for the two of you and the few others you invite. As a private and intimate affair, you’ll exchange vows, and make it a memorable and unforgettable occasion. 

  • It reduces stress-The Main Reason Why People Elope

Raise your hand if the thought of planning a wedding stresses you out! Countless couples spend months planning a wedding only to want to skip the day itself. Between the guests, the vendors, the money, your family, your in-laws, and everyone’s opinions, you’ll be dying for your honeymoon to start. 

Weddings are beautiful, but they breed stress and anxiety. Even with a wedding planner, it’s inevitable. You’ll be responsible in some form for this logistical nightmare that you thought you wanted. 

If you’ve never been able to envision yourself having a large wedding or you’re just not interested in heightening your anxiety, go for the elopement or even self solemnizing! You won’t regret it. 

A bride after her wedding in elopement pictures at Lake Powell.

  • It gives you an alternative to a traditional wedding experience

Are you naturally adventurous? Do you and your fiancé have a whole bucket list of things you’re working on completing together? Do you want a wedding venue that’s more exciting than your local church or country club? Are you imagining skydiving or bungee jumping on your wedding day? 

If so, there’s plenty of more creative ways that you can kick off married life. Just because the traditional way to get married is with a ceremony surrounded by all your friends doesn’t mean that’s how you have to do it. Elopement allows you to consider the more traditional route or something more adventure. Some couples turn their elopement into a day of fun activities like hiking, rock climbing, or surfing and even turn it into an extended honeymoon. 

Let your imagination run a little crazy and figure out exactly what you want out of your wedding day. An elopement means the possibilities are practically limitless. You’re not constrained by what a church will allow or whether or guests can get there. As long as you, your fiancé, and few extra people can make the trip, that’s all that matters. 

In the end, if you’re an experience over possessions type of person, then elopement is the way to go. You’re putting your money (and a lot less of it at that!) toward something you’ll remember forever. 

One of the best reasons to elope is the intimacy it provides for the couple.

  • It helps you save money

It’s hard to argue with this fact. The average wedding hosts 131 guests but the average elopement usually has a total of 7 guests in attendance so it’s easy to see how money can be saved.  It makes sense to elopement if for no other reason than to save money. Simply Eloped reported that the average cost of a elopement was $1,485. When you compare that to the average cost of a traditional wedding (around $30,000), it’s hard not to be swayed by the financial benefits. Save the money on the wedding and spend it on the honeymoon!

  • It allows you to skip the family drama

Just like stress, most weddings have some semblance of family drama. In fact, even close-knit families lose it over weddings, which often deters people from wanting them at all. When an event is supposed to bring people together (not tear them apart), why risk strain or a potential rift? 

Naturally, the counterargument to this is, “Well, my family would be just as mad (if not madder) if I eloped!”

And that may be true. Only you know your family. But elopements aren’t about “running away” together anymore. Almost 85% of couples tell their family they are eloping before their wedding date, which means (like it or not) they’re in the loop. 

And if you don’t have a close, supportive family, a traditional wedding may be too much for you to handle. You shouldn’t have to carry that baggage with you on your wedding day or feel obligated to invite people you simply don’t want there. If your family is the source of negative feelings, leave them at home. An elopement only requires you, your fiancé, an officiant, and two witnesses. 

  • It promotes an epic photo occasion 

An intimate elopement is a misunderstood occasion. Most people think that people run off to elope in Vegas or at a courthouse. Of course, that does happen, but it’s not the only place people elope. Couples who elope often care about where they elope and how they can memorialize the day. 

Just because you’re skipping a traditional wedding doesn’t mean you can’t take your elopement seriously. In fact, because you’re not worried about venues and vendors, you often have more control over the little things (like pictures!). 

Traditional wedding photos are often squeezed into the schedule on the day of – either before or after the ceremony – and fail to capture the couple in their natural element. If you have a traditional wedding, your photos are probably fairly similar to everyone else’s wedding photos. They’re posed and formal (even those candid photos) in formal attire and a wedding dress. Elopement photography aims to capture the authentic moments from the day all against the beautiful backdrop that you select.  

couple at their elopement at Mount Scott in Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge.

  • It benefits the environment 

Did you know that the average wedding has 150+ guests and produces between 400 and 600 pounds of trash? Between trash bags, food, napkins, plates, and flowers, you’re significantly contributing to environmental waste. 

While you may have dreamed about a certain type of wedding since you were little, you likely didn’t think about what came after the wedding. The couple heads off on their honeymoon, and they leave behind an immense amount of waste. The magazines simply don’t show you that. If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly and sustainable approach, eloping is the way to go. 

  • It pains you to plan

Hey, let’s face it. Not everyone is a planner, and weddings require significant planning in order to take shape. Most couples want nothing to do with that. Planning an elopement can be as simple as hiring an elopement photographer and applying for a permit

So, why do it? A lot of people would answer that question with, “Well, it’s what you do,” OR, “My family would want me to do it.” 

But make sure you ask yourself: What do YOU want? Do you want to plan a big wedding and stretch yourself too thin? Or do you want to plan a smaller elopement, focus on what matters to you, write your own vows, and spend time with family leading up to your wedding day?


  • It’s the more authentic route

Do you look at the big blowout weddings and think, “Ugh…that’s just not me?” It’s okay to want a big, traditional wedding, but it’s also okay to want something smaller and less traditional. If you can’t imagine yourself in a big poofy dress, standing in a church, or dancing the night away, then don’t. Maybe choose to elope in front of the Eiffel Tower with a celebrant in Paris.  Read through these top elopement destinations below (both domestic and international!). See if one strikes a chord with you. If it does, you may be on to something. 

Having epic views for your wedding is one of the best  reasons to elope.





  • Lake Louise, Canada
  • Isle of Skye, Scotland 
  • Santorini, Greece
  • Patagonia
  • Swiss Alps
  • The Sahara Desert
  • Cinque Terre, Italy
  • Mount Cook, New Zealand 
  • The Cliffs of Moher

Steps for How to Elope-

1. Choose a location that’s special to you both.

Whether you’re eloping in your hometown or another country together, be sure to choose a location that holds special meaning for both of you. This will help make the experience more memorable and intimate.

2. Keep it small and simple.

Eloping doesn’t have to mean having a bare-bones ceremony with just the two of you. Omitting the pageantry of a traditional wedding allows you to think of simpler, more enjoyable ways to spend your wedding day. That may mean having a picnic after your ceremony or sharing a champagne toast by a candlelit dinner.

3. Let your loved ones know ahead of time.

This is especially important if you have close family or friends who might be upset that they weren’t invited to your wedding. Telling them ahead of time will help avoid any hurt feelings and allow them to plan a celebration for you once you return from your honeymoon.

4. Don’t forget the marriage license!

This may seem like a silly thing to mention, but it’s easy to forget about things like the paper work when you’re busy planning an elopement. Whether you are self solemnizing or hiring an officiant make sure you have all the necessary documents to make your marriage legal in order before you leave for your destination.

5. Hire a photographer!

This may be one of the most important investments you make for your elopement. A professional photographer will be able to capture all the special moments of your day, from your first look to your ceremony and even your post-wedding celebrations. Most elopement photographers have the experience of being skilled in logistics and location scouting, so while if might be tempting to hire your friend who has a “nice camera,” nothing beats the knowledge that a professional elopement photographer can bring to your elopement.

6. Have fun!

Eloping should be a fun and stress-free experience, so go into it with expectations of creating a day that reflects the personality of you and your partner.

Many destination wedding locations are in North Carolina.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, the decision to elope is a personal one, and it means that quite a few friends or family members wouldn’t join you on your special day. However, for some people, keeping it smaller allows them to stay sane. It lets them avoid any unnecessary drama or stress and creates a much more intimate experience to be enjoyed by the two most important people there. 

As a destination wedding and elopement photographer, I’d love to hear about your ideas for your upcoming elopement. Contact me here.

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