What Does Eloping Mean? 10 Reasons to Start Planning

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It sounds so romantic – eloping to get married, in secret, without anyone knowing, just something you both keep to yourselves until after you’ve uttered the words “I do.”

It’s also possible you know couples who’ve done exactly this already – and the idea appeals to you, as it means avoiding all the fuss usually associated with nuptials. Plus, you don’t have to invite hundreds of people (even people you’ve never met), it’s just about the two of you, it’s entirely your day with no one getting involved or stirring up the pot. It’s no wonder more and more couples choose this route to begin their lives together.

Having a beautiful elopement is fast becoming a popular way of getting married for couples young and old all over the world, who are looking for something different to traditional weddings. However, while lots of couples elope because it sounds like fun (and some couples will tell you they knew immediately it was right for them), what does elopement mean and could you get away with marrying without a traditional wedding and all your favorite people around you?

Let’s explore elopement in more detail.

What Is An Elopement Day Wedding Ceremony?

It’s important to understand what an elopement means. Mostly, it means getting married in secret, whether planned or in the spur of the moment!

You read about couples running away to get married in Las Vegas, perhaps in a fun Elvis chapel, with bright lights and an Elvis celebrant conducting the service.

In the United Kingdom, it’s popular to escape to Gretna Green and be pronounced man and wife in a small, intimate ceremony. But is planning to elope right for you?

The main ingredients of an elopement experience are:

  • Preparing to elope and marry in secret sometimes in an out of state wedding, somewhere small and intimate.
  • To elope means to tie the knot without any family members or friends, or just one or two sharing your secret.
  • Something planned in advance or a very quick decision!
  • Eloping means the complete opposite of a big event!
  • An elopement day is entirely intimate and can be tremendous fun too!

A couple eloping in the mountains surrounding Asheville.

Where Can You Elope?

You don’t have to get married in a fun elopement day ceremony somewhere in Vegas – although the city is well-known for eloping. You can elope and get married wherever you want, it’s entirely up to you.

Perhaps you’ve always dreamt of eloping, you may want an incredibly small but extremely romantic wedding on a beach in some farflung destination?

Or maybe you want to get married locally, somewhere close to where you live? You might dream of a snowy wedding in the mountains, or just a quick eloping ceremony in a county clerk’s office?

There are no rules if you want to elope – except two:

The Key Rules: What’s Eloping?

Rule One:

Elopement weddings are very, very small, smaller than a micro-wedding which may feature just half a dozen guests.

Rule Two:

They are also shrouded in secrecy, often with only the couple involved knowing about it.

All you need for eloping is a marriage license, officiant and a photographer to capture your special moment so you treasure it forever.

You may, of course, choose to include flowers, your own theme, a traditional wedding dress (or not), bridegroom’s suit and even your closest friends/family members. It is your day – elope how you want to!

The couples ring in the ring box for eloping in Asheville.

Why Choose an Elopement Ceremony?

A wedding elopement is not for everyone but nowadays, many couples choose to elope. If you’ve spent the whole of your life dreaming of a fantastic, big wedding day with a jaw-dropping, dreamy white or ivory dress, abundant creamy flowers, a quality photographer along with all of your family and friends in a fabulous venue, then eloping won’t appeal.

However, there are many reasons why people do choose to elope.

Reasons Why People Choose an Elopement Wedding Day

  • Tension between certain family members/partners.
  • Some couples prefer not to have the spotlight on them!
  • Disapproval of your relationship or maybe it’s a secret relationship.
  • Because some couples just don’t want a large, elaborate wedding!
  • Second, third or fourth marriages (maybe more!).
  • To avoid family taking charge (perhaps interfering in-laws), an elopement means the couple decides what they want to do.
  • To save on cost.
  • To remove the stress often associated with planning a traditional wedding.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Life-changing and life-altering news.

Remember, it is your life, if you opt to elope, you can still have the day you dream of, including a wedding cake, music, sumptuous backdrop, photographer, wedding meal, wedding attire and more. It is your day – do it your way!

How to Perfectly Plan an Elopement Wedding Day

If an elopement wedding day sounds like the perfect way to get married for you and your partner and you don’t like the idea of traditional weddings, here is some useful information to help you plan your nuptials.

What Is Your Budget?

The first and most important aspect of your elopement wedding is your budget.  You should have a figure in mind and once you have that figure you can begin to plan your day.

Some elopements can cost almost as much as a big wedding – it depends how luxurious you want your wedding day to be. You should be able to find vendors to fit your budget.

Don’t be put-off by only having a small budget to play with, eloping can be as minimal as you want. Equally, an elopement wedding can also be a wonderfully lavish production, if you have the funds.  Either way, an elopement wedding, like any traditional wedding still should have the focus firmly on you and your partner.

Set Your Date!

Once you know your budget, set your eloping date.  Make sure it doesn’t coincide with any other important calendar dates and if you’re seeking a destination elopement wedding, make sure that the season provides pretty much guaranteed sunshine (if it’s a beach, for example, you won’t want bad, rainy and cold weather).

 Where Do You Want Your Elopement Wedding to Take Place?

Next, it’s all about choosing your dream elopement destination and if you have the budget, the world is quite literally your oyster!  A faraway deserted island, a chic fancy boutique hotel in a pretty village, a mountain wedding, a waterfall location or somewhere more local to you, perhaps a place that means something special to both of you?

If there’s time (and there might not be!), try and visit in person.

Hotels and venues often cater for weddings of all sizes (and can help you find vendors too) but some places may require special dispensation.

If you need to book flights, secure them early and if you want to bolt on an extra few days away as your honeymoon, take this into account.

Once you’ve found the venue where you wish to elope, ask them about their wedding vendors and other vendors that might help make your day even more extra-special.

Organize Your Marriage License!

Don’t be fooled into thinking that eloping is legal everywhere – there are some places where your marriage won’t be legitimate without the right paperwork in place.

When you’ve chosen your destination, make sure that your elopement wedding will be legally binding and apply to marriage laws, not only does this eliminate any stress that might occur when you arrive, but it ticks all the boxes so your nuptials are perfectly in order.

You’ll also need to make sure you get a marriage certificate once you’ve said “I do”.

Tell Those You Want to Include

Of course – you may just want it to be about the two of you, the bride and groom but if you want to invite a couple of special people such as family and friends to witness your elopement wedding, then it’s best to do it in advance to make sure they’re available.

Some couples don’t want anyone to join them but just before they disappear to elope, they decide perhaps they do want one or two close friends or members of their family with them. Don’t leave it too late if you think this might happen to yoiu.

If you do want a handful of guests (and some elopement weddings include a few people), write a guest list in advance and make sure you’re both happy with your choices.

An authentic elopement is usually just the bride and groom with one or two extra people (and the officiant to marry you, plus photographer etc.), if you want more than half a dozen people, a microwedding might suit you better.

Or Take Your Chances…

You may prefer to take your chances and invite favorite people just before – but they might have other commitments! If you decide to do the latter, try not to feel disappointed if they can’t join you.

Organize Your Travel

Once you know where you’re elopement ceremony is taking place, and you’ve got your date secured then book your travel. Sometimes, elopement weddings are last-minute so be prepared to pay more as it’s invariably less expensive to book in advance so if you can, get those flight tickets early!

Book Your Accommodation

If your elopement wedding day isn’t taking place in a hotel then get your accommodation in place too. You might want to extend your stay at your destination to include a honeymoon or minimoon, in which case choose a suitable hotel (for example, don’t choose a family hotel where there will be a lot of children, perhaps seek an adults-only hotel, or a small, chic boutique hotel with only a few bedrooms).

Or you may prefer a resort with activities and watersports? You might want to stay in a mountain cabin, or rent a city apartment – it’s up to you but get it organized well in advance.

Book an Elopement Photographer

You’ll want to remember all the romance and beauty of your elopement so do book a wedding and elopement photographer and if you have a particular photographer you want to use, it’s best to secure their services in advance as they do get booked up.

Remember, capturing the whole story is important as those who aren’t at your elopement wedding will want to see the photographer’s pictures!

Ask to see examples of other elopement weddings they’ve photographed and tell them about you both as a couple so they have an idea in their mind of what you like and don’t like.

Sometimes, you can organize a pre-elopement wedding photo-shoot which captures both your personalities, this is a great opportunity to discuss elopement photography ideas.

Also, do you want a videographer too, as well as a photographer? If so, again, secure your preferred wedding videographer early. Your elopement photographer may work with a videographer, ask the question.

All the Ingredients For a Perfect Elopement Ceremony

Once all of the above is firmly in place, turn to the important trimmings that make your elopement wedding as special as possible.

Just because you’re not having a traditional wedding doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge yourself in everything brides and grooms want, it’s your elopement experience after all. So, here’s what to think about during wedding planning:

Your Wedding Rings

Size wedding rings and the engagement ring as well as purchase them well in advance. Have them cleaned by a professional jeweler so they can sparkle for all those detailed wedding ring pictures.

Your Wedding Attire

A big, meringue wedding dress? A sleek, fishtail? A smart white suit or a daring mini-dress? Have whatever you want – and so should the groom too!

Music Maestro!

Do you want music as you walk down the aisle? Would you like a string quartet, or a single violinist? Do you have a favorite playlist? Decide what you want and book any musicians if necessary in advance.

Hair and Makeup

How will you wear your hair? Will you do it yourself or do you want a professional to do it for you? What about your makeup – as above, who will do it for you or are you happy to do it yourself?

If your elopement wedding isn’t close to where you live, then it will be difficult to have a trial run (usually the best option) but you can always do some research and speak to hairdressers/makeup artists in your destination area who are used to bridal parties.

Look at reviews from other brides and have some ideas ready if you can. This could be just for you, or if you are having a couple of other people with you, it might be for your bridal party too. Organize an online meeting, perhaps over Zoom or FaceTime.


As above, do your research beforehand and speak to local florists to ask what they can do for you. Tell them you’re eloping. Ask if your elopement wedding venue preferred suppliers and if so, it’s worth investigating what they offer as well.

Wedding Cake

Cutting the cake is a main event for traditional weddings but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your cake (and eat it!). You won’t need a huge cake, just a small token should suffice. Speak to your elopement location and ask what they can do or research a local bakery.

Write Your Wedding Vows

Write your eloping wedding vows in advance, as part of elopement planning and pack three copies (in case one goes missing). The earlier you start your own vows, the more time you’ll have to change any vows rather than rushing at the last moment.

What About What You Don’t Have to Think About?

As eloping is different to traditional weddings, you certainly won’t need to think about invitations, seating charts, warring families, disapproving loved ones or how to entertain children – for many couples, these are huge advantages and make eloping even more attractive!

To Party or Not to Party?

Just because you’re choosing an elopement doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate afterwards and by celebrating, that could be the two of you, a few of you (including your minimal wedding guests such as immediate family and closest to you) or planning a huge celebration down the line!

A lot of elopement focuses on just getting hitched and returning home, and many couples choose this because of the cost of an entire wedding. So, if you’re trying to save on the cost of an average wedding, plan the party at a later date and have whatever you want.

You can still enjoy a perfectly beautiful, stress free elopement without all the fuss!

If it is just the two of you running away to marry, you could book a very intimate meal at a fabulous restaurant or your venue could organize one for you, they may well be used to having an eloping couple as their guests!

To ensure plenty of atmosphere, why not include a harpist, violinist or singer to add to the ambience?

How to Announce Your Elopement (Without Offending)

Now you’ve eloped – how do you tell people? While it’s your life, news could also affect them. This can be a tricky hurdle to get over, after all, your nearest and dearest may be initially disappointed they won’t there for your special moment, especially if you’ve had your elopement day in complete secrecy. However, there is no getting around this – you will have to tell friends and family that you are legally married and they weren’t on the guest list.

Tips to Share You’ve Eloped With Everyone You Know

Here are some tips to share the news of your beautiful elopement once you’re legally married (without hurting your nearest and dearest):

·       You could choose a pre-wedding elopement announcement to say you are eloping, and the best way to do this is a few days before hand.  You can explain that while you are eloping, you’d rather have a big party later on, when it’s more appropriate/affordable.  You can also give some reasons why you’ve chosen to elope, such as saving money or avoiding all the stress – but don’t feel obliged to either, it is your day.  Stress the need for privacy but be prepared for some hurt feelings that might hamper your own happiness.

·       Following on from above, most eloping couples prefer to wait until they’ve eloped and are legally married – to avoid the upset, to minimize others trying to dissuade them from their choice and to keep their small wedding entirely private.

·       Do your elopement announcement in person rather than just sending an impersonal email!  Tell close family you’ve eloped first, such as parents.

·       Even though you’re going to elope, do organize something else to celebrate, such as a special meal, or a small get-together at home, perhaps just cocktails and canapes for friends and family who you didn’t invite.

·      Remember, it might take time for some of your nearest and dearest to get used to the idea of your elopement, but hopefully, they will all accept it eventually and understand your reasons to elope.  Be prepared!

·      Share photographs from your elopement photographer of your first kiss and videos to those you didn’t invite so they still feel a part of your special day.

·      Always share this type of news together.

·      In terms of telling acquaintances and people you work with, a simple, friendly email perhaps with one cute photograph attached is enough. You don’t even need to mention the word elope!

Eloping in Central Park at the Gapstow Bridge.


Some Final, Important Words On Eloping Meaning

Now you know exactly what eloping means, if an elopement wedding sounds like an amazing experience, do think it through carefully, being mindful of possible pitfalls as well as the advantages.

Once you’ve both decided upon an elopement ceremony, if you have time to do so, start planning all the detail so it is exactly as you want it when you do eventually elope.

Of course, some couples decide they want a shotgun wedding (they might be heavily pregnant, for example), in which case there won’t be time (and at least there’s no need to organize the dreaded seating chart or wonder where grumbly Great Aunt Sara will sit!).

Your elopement planning can genuinely be just as wonderful as planning something traditional and in today’s modern times, to elope is a very acceptable way to get married.

Remember, just because you’re both eloping to get married doesn’t mean you can’t have the most perfect day possible – and if you feel you want to, there’s no reason why you can’t plan a larger celebration later on with everyone on your guest list….even the dog!

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