A Quick Guide to Eloping: What is an Elopement and Why They are Amazing

by | May 13, 2020 | Wedding Planning Tips | 1 comment

When someone says elopement, you may think of the courthouse, a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas, or maybe even a shotgun-type wedding scenario. Elopements have definitely changed over the last few years as couples have started to redefine what a wedding is and have weddings on their terms. This quick guide to eloping will explain what the heck an elopement is and what it could mean for your wedding day.

what is an elopement - quick guide to eloping

But first, what is an elopement?

Let’s be clear: an elopement does not mean a hasty, last minute decision a la Britney Spears 2008 style. This is not a secret (though it can be). An elopement is not necessarily at the courthouse.

The definition of an elopement has shifted towards a small wedding, usually at a destination of the couple’s choosing. Many couples do visit a destination to elope, but it’s not 100% necessary. You could technically elope in your backyard. The key aspect of the wedding that makes it an elopement is that it is SMALL and it’s a chance to start your marriage completely on your terms in a personal way.

What is an elopement? It’s small.

An elopement is probably under 20 guests. Many states (including Michigan) require two witnesses at every wedding, so often an elopement at the very least has the couple, two witnesses and an officiant. If you decide to elope in a state like Colorado, you are able to self-solemnize the marriage.

You can choose to have your immediate family there or just a small group of friends. The idea is to keep the day about YOU BOTH rather than an extensive guest list. No matter what type of wedding you plan, as a host, you’re always worried about making guests comfortable. Elopements eliminate that need.

what is an elopement - quick guide to eloping

It’s centered on the couple more than traditional weddings.

It is so freaking easy to get carried away when you plan a wedding. Your mother-in-law thinks you need to have huge centerpieces and your mom says it’s not a wedding without a bouquet toss. I get it — in many cases, weddings are an industry that thrives on production.

But eloping tones down that element of production, making the wedding day more personal and about what you want to do rather than what other people want you to do. It’s not wrong to want the traditional wedding day, but if you don’t want that, an elopement is a way to plan a more personalized wedding experience.

A caveat: this does not mean that an elopement doesn’t require planning. Remember, it’s not necessarily a last-minute decision thrown together by running to the courthouse (though that could be fun).

It’s about keeping the focus on getting married.

By keeping the guest list small and the celebration more limited, you keep the wedding about getting married rather than having a wedding. Let that sink in for a second. This is by no means saying that those planning a more traditional wedding are not excited to be married or don’t believe as deeply in marriage as those that elope. It just means that with an elopement, you’re able to keep your sights on what’s important to YOU and what you believe to be true about MARRIAGE. Start this new chapter on YOUR TERMS, not someone else’s.

what is an elopement - quick guide to eloping

What an elopement can look like

We have all seen the beautiful Instagram photos of elopements on the edge of mountain cliffs and on beaches overlooking the ocean. If you’re reading this, you’re most likely living in the Midwest, the area I primarily serve. Don’t be fooled by thinking you can ONLY elope in a destination wedding scenario. That’s simply not true.

Going back to what is an elopement, an elopement can be anywhere that is special to you. You could get married in a park. You could get married outside the place where you met. You could be married at your favorite hiking trail. You could have a backyard elopement. The sky is truly the limit here. The place you elope can be a place that matters to you, not a venue you’ve selected that fits everyone (though small dining rooms are commonly used for 20 person or less receptions or ceremonies).

Choosing a location is a tough decision for anyone planning a wedding. It’s the same for an elopement. But I think one of the best ways to think about it is to think of a place that is near and dear to your heart, that is meaningful to your relationship, and see if you can elope in that spot. You don’t necessarily have to have grand vistas or a beautiful sunset behind you. You can make the day more about what matters to you.

Should we elope?

This is a question I can’t answer for you, but the most common reasons for eloping are:

  1. You hate being the center of attention. Hello this is what weddings are literally all about.
  2. You don’t want to spend a ton of money on your wedding. Elopements generally cost a lot less than traditional weddings.
  3. You just aren’t a fan of the big old traditional wedding experience and want to still have a special experience to commemorate your love and commitment to one another.

It’s not wrong to want a big traditional wedding. And it’s not wrong to want to elope either. Choosing what’s right for you is totally what you should be doing.

Side note – have your cake and eat it too: you can elope and have a big reception.

There are no hard and fast rules to weddings anymore. I’ve worked with many couples who have eloped and then had a reception with everyone later (this is increasingly common for destination couples who still want to celebrate at home), or couples who were married in an intimate ceremony with immediate family and then celebrated with a backyard barbecue with friends. You can do whatever you want to do. The beauty of it being your celebration is that you get to choose.

Overall advice: make it about you. The day isn’t in a box.

You don’t have to plan this grand adventure elopement to make the wedding day about you. There are so many ways you can celebrate your love.

Remember, the day is no longer in a box. There are no rules except for signing the license. You can do WHATEVER YOU WANT.

That means spending the day like your first date or stopping by all of your favorite spots in the city for photos or having a toast at a bar or eating ice cream as the sun goes down. This day is about you, what you want, and no longer has to be about what a wedding “should look like.” It’s about what you want it to look like.

what is an elopement - quick guide to eloping

Intimate weddings and elopements in Metro Detroit:

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Hey there, I'm Madalyn.

I’m a Detroit wedding and family photographer who loves connecting with people and capturing their milestones in an non-intrusive way.