Adventure elopement, Moab. A couple with backpacks on cuddle up, with towering red rocks behind them. The bride has a bouquet in her backpack.

WHAT DOES ELOPE MEAN?

BY CHAD AND VANESSA, ‘THE OUTLOVERS’: YOUR ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHY TEAM

1-MARCH-2021

‘What Does Elope Mean?’: 7 Common Themes to Help Explain

Elopements have undergone quite the (r)evolution over the years. From a ‘dirty little secret’ in times gone by, to a little-known almost ‘dare-devil adventure’ in more recent years, to something like ‘the new norm’ nowadays (thanks Covid19!).

While we welcome this move into the limelight – we think elopements deserve ALL the attention – we are aware that it’s led to a lot of confusion and you might be asking yourself ‘What does it mean to elope?’.

And until you know THAT, how can you know if you WANT one?!

We’re going to clarify the definition of an elopement by looking at seven common themes.

At the same time, we want to bust some myths: there are a LOT of misconceptions around the idea of eloping which can be really misleading.

We want to help you get a clear, honest idea of what it means to get eloped.

YOUR ELOPEMENT TEAM

Photography, planning assistance, ceremony officiation.

Hey! We’re Chad and Vanessa, ‘The Outlovers’. 

We’re an adventurous Colorado and Utah elopement photography team, adventuring with couples across the US and worldwide.

We create epic elopement experiences for adventure-seeking couples who find their deepest connection in the great outdoors. 

What Is An Elopement?

What Does Elope Mean: A Dictionary Definition 

This interesting (and entertaining!) article by Merrian-Webster explains how the meaning of ‘to elope’ has changed DRASTICALLY over the centuries. 

Originally it didn’t even have romantic implications; it simply meant to run away from home. Over time, the ‘traditional’ understanding has come to mean running away in secret to get married – perhaps without parental consent – and has carried with it rather negative, even ‘dirty’ connotations.

RANDOM FACT: did you know the tradition of eloping began in Scotland? Read more in our ‘How to Elope in Scotland’ full guide.

What Does Elope Mean: A Gradual Evolution

Over time, the meanings of words evolve and, in more recent decades, we’ve come to think of eloping as a spur of the moment decision, a ‘why the heck not’ quick visit to the registry office…. Or Las Vegas! 

There may or may not have been alcohol involved…. (totally our favorite Friends episode ever!)

The definition of an elopement has continued to evolve (thank goodness!) and has morphed into something entirely different today. 

Today, an elopement means something positive, liberating and inspiring!

So, what does it mean ‘to elope’ in the 21st century?

Hiking wedding, elopement in North Carolina. The groom sweeps his bride off her feet, revealing the hiking boots beneath her elegant dress.

What Does Elope Mean: Our Modern Definition

We think ‘to elope’ simply means to decide against a big, traditional wedding celebration in favor of something more intimate, intentional and true to YOU. A wedding celebration more in tune with YOUR personalities and YOUR wants and needs than what the standard wedding industry has to offer.

You may have heard of the term ‘adventure elopement’. What the heck does THAT mean?!

You’re probably picturing a bride with her bouquet stuffed in her backpack hiking up a mountain! And whilst that is certainly one option (we LOVE hiking elopements) it’s definitely not the ONLY one.

An adventure elopement could mean going on a road trip, it could mean visiting a cool national park or it could mean traveling to a new country!

‘Adventuring’ is a very personal concept. Put simply, if it involves exploration, excitement and unrestrained happiness it’s probably an adventure elopement.

Here at ‘The Outlovers’ we specialize in adventurous elopements in the great outdoors. You can check out our elopement packages here!

North Cascades, Washington, mountain elopement. The couple walks hand in hand towards the camera, with an enormous snowy peak rising behind them.

THIS IS ALL VERY INTERESTING BUT, STILL, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ELOPE?!

We’re moving towards a closer understanding but you’re probably still asking yourself: what EXACTLY is an elopement?!

Sorry, there’s just not a straightforward answer.

We know that’s probably a little frustrating but, quite honestly, elopements CAN’T be strictly defined and that’s the BEAUTY of them. 

Deciding to elope is much more about a ‘feeling’ or a ‘mindset’ than following any strict definition or set of rules.

There is no one correct way to elope! There are no rules and no limits.

However, we do think there ARE some common themes that seem to guide eloping couples and can help you decide if an elopement is right for you.

What Does Elope Mean? The Most Common Themes Of An Elopement

1.   What Does Elope Mean? A limited guest count. 

MISCONCEPTION: an elopement HAS to be just the two of you.

REALITY: It certainly CAN be  – we’ve seen many beautiful elopements with the couple only – but it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. If you’d like to bring some of your nearest and dearest friends and family along with you, of course you can.

Do you want to dedicate this day to just the two of you? AWESOME! We’re all about that.

Or would you prefer to bring your nearest and dearest? Do it! We gladly work with groups up to 20.

Either way, elopements definitely are SMALL!

Hiking wedding. The bride is wearing a short wedding dress and has packed her bouquet in her backpack. They both have big backpacks and signs saying 'Always and Forever'.

And there are two main reasons that elopements are, by definition, small:

– Elopements are all about INTIMACY. Eloping couples deeply care about every single person they’ve invited. There are no ‘obligation’ guests, no people you haven’t seen for ten years (and don’t intend to see for ten more), and no rogue relatives you’re worried will cause a scene!

– Elopements are meant to be STRESS FREE. And corralling 100 guests is anything but that. Even with a wedding coordinator taking care of the details, you and your new spouse end up worrying about everyone else all night long.

There’s no strict limit to how many guests can be present at an elopement: for some couples, 10 guests might feel super-intimate while for others it’s an overbearing crowd. That’s something for YOU to decide.

Personally, we cap our guest list at 20 people max (plus dogs of honor, of course!).

SIDE NOTE:  the terms ‘elopement’ , ‘micro wedding’ and ‘intimate wedding’ are often interchangeable. If you’re having a ‘small wedding’ you may well be ‘eloping’ and not even know it!

2.  A real focus on what matters to YOU as a couple.

MISCONCEPTION: to elope is selfish. This is a common criticism of people who are so locked into the traditional way of doing things that they honestly just can’t fathom an alternative. It’s shocking to them that you dare to prioritize yourself on your wedding day!

REALITY: to elope is self-care. This is YOUR WEDDING DAY! The day you commit your lives to each other. YOU are the ones who are going to look back on it every year on your anniversary. YOU are the ones who are going to grow old together and fondly remember those times.

To elope means bringing your wedding celebration right back to what really matters: you – the couple – and YOUR desires.

When you’re planning a big wedding, it’s hard (we’d gamble impossible) to balance the needs of every single guest, and often your OWN needs are forgotten about or sacrificed in the name of keeping everyone else happy.

If you elope, everything can be aligned with what you feel is right for you as a couple: WHERE you get married, HOW you get married, WHO you share it with, WHAT you do to celebrate.

These things matter!

3.   What Does Elope Mean? Intentional choices. 

MISCONCEPTION: elopements are a giant ‘F-YOU!’ to wedding traditions and all eloping couples think such things are stupid.

REALITY:  The pressure to have all those ‘just because’ traditions has been removed and you can really think through what you’d like to incorporate (or not). There’s no right or wrong decision – we actually think meaningful traditions can be super-sentimental and full of emotion – but the important factor here is CHOICE. You get to DECIDE what matters to you.

With elopements, the ‘scale’ of your wedding day becomes much more manageable and you have control over every single aspect. This means you can slow down, focus on what matters to you and make really intentional, meaningful choices.

Do you want to buck all typical wedding traditions and do things your own way? Sweet! We’re kinda rebellious, too. There’s nothing you HAVE to do on your wedding day. It’s a beautiful blank canvas! You could even create your OWN wedding tradition to be continued by future generations.

Or, maybe you WOULD like to incorporate some tradition into your otherwise non-traditional wedding day? That’s totally cool, too!

Just imagine a sweet first look atop a mountain with views to die for.

Or your first dance by a campfire on the beach watching the sun go down… Heck yeah!

Just because you’re eloping it doesn’t mean you CAN’T have those things.

You can TOTALLY have your (wedding) cake and eat it too.

4.  A focus on creating a unique ‘experience’.

MISCONCEPTION: people elope just because it’s cheap.

REALITY: whilst not spending over $30 000 on the average wedding to please everyone else can certainly be A factor in choosing to elope, from our experience it’s usually not THE  factor. It’s not that couples choosing to elope begrudge spending money, it’s much more that they really value WHAT that money is spent on. They value unforgettable EXPERIENCES over fancy florals and perfect table linens.

We really encourage our couples to remember that this is their WEDDING DAY, just like any other couple, and it is deserving of so much more than just a five-minute ceremony and a few quick photos.

We recommend you really focus on the idea of a whole EXPERIENCE. A day (or more!) of dreams that you’ll remember forever.

And that day can look however you want it to. Close your eyes, and daydream about what your PERFECT day looks like…

Where are you, what are you doing, how does it FEEL?

Do you want to wake up in a cozy cabin and hike to a mountain top to share your vows?

Do you want to take a private helicopter to the most secluded spot imaginable?

Do you want to take a road trip around a foreign country?

Do you want to stay in a luxury resort in the heart of the desert?

It’s ALL possible.

North Cascades, Washington elopement. The couple cuddle together sitting on a wooden bench overlooking lush forest and misty mountains. They're a striking, alternative couple: he is in a brown suit and metallic bow tie, she has a crystal crown and jewelled headpiece.

5.   What Does Elope Mean? A focus on the actual commitment being made

MISCONCEPTION: elopements are just a quick sharing of vows and barely even constitute a ‘wedding’.

REALITY: elopements have a more relaxed timeline than a traditional wedding and move at a much slower pace, really allowing the couple to soak in every little moment and focus on each other as they slowly build their excitement and emotion, ready to share their vows in a time and place that feels right to them.

The real meaning of a wedding day – the beginning of a MARRIAGE – can often be lost in the chaos of a big, traditional wedding. As the wedding industry has grown, couples have faced intense pressure to really put on a show: to have just the right flowers, to serve food your guests will talk about for years to come, to look more perfect than you ever have before and ever will again…

All too often, this has come at the expense of what we personally consider to be the most important part of the day: the sharing of vows between life partners. The vows end up taking a backseat to all the other bazillion things that need organizing.

The number of times we’ve heard of brides or grooms freaking out the night before their wedding because they haven’t written their vows yet! Or hastily scribbling them on a bit of paper as they get ready the morning-of.

Eloping couples, on the other hand, have so much less to organize and so few other people to impress, that they can really focus their day on the commitment they are sharing and create a really meaningful environment in which to share those promises of a lifetime.

Adventure elopement with personal vows. The bride smiles as she hears her groom share his handwritten vows.

6.  An outpouring of raw emotion.

MISCONCEPTION: couples who are eloping don’t really want to celebrate their love.

REALITY: ooooh, this one gets us riled because it couldn’t be LESS TRUE! Couples who choose to elope actually want to celebrate the heck out of their love, fully immerse themselves in the experience and really allow themselves to FEEL all the emotions of their wedding day.

With limited guests to entertain and less of an ‘audience’, it is so much easier for eloping couples to really embrace the beautiful, raw emotions that arise on your wedding day. The laughter, the tears, the joy: all totally unrestrained.

This is particularly true during your ceremony. With a hundred guests watching and all eyes on you, it can be really hard to say exactly what you want to when you and your partner share your vows. You may end up with a censored version that you feel more comfortable sharing publicly.

How sad!

When you share those vows privately, as in an elopement, no editing is necessary! You can make your lifetime promises EXACTLY as you want to.

Beautiful!

You might also enjoy: How To Write Your Own Wedding Vows

The couple celebrate by taking in the desert the views after their epic Moab elopement. As they stand together on the edge of a canyon looking out, a storm rolls in in the distance casting shadows across the wild landscape.

7.   What Does Elope Mean? Super cool locations!

MISCONCEPTION: to elope means you’re getting married at either A. the local city hall or B. the chapel in Vegas.

REALITY: to elope means you can choose almost anywhere that sings to you! There’re a few permitting rules to figure out but we’ll help you with that. 

Start dreaming big and really try to envision where you’d like to share your promises with each other and how you’d like to spend your day celebrating.

It can be HARD to find the ‘perfect venue’ for a traditional wedding. Of course, you want somewhere beautiful but you’ve also got to consider how far it is for all your guests to travel to, how much space you have to seat everyone, what you’re going to do if it rains on everyone during your outdoor ceremony, what catering options you have…

It may be that you’ll have to sacrifice at least some of your desires to find something that will work for everyone.

With fewer (or no!) guests to seat, feed and entertain, you have a MUCH bigger choice of venues when you elope!

In fact, you don’t even need a ‘venue’ at all. Getting married in the ‘great outdoors’ is a BIG pull for eloping couples: what better backdrop than mountains, forest, the ocean or the desert?

 Check out our Ultimate Guide to Your Moab Elopement for inspiration!

Ok, so what does elope mean?!

Hopefully by now you have a MUCH clearer idea of what it means to elope. 

And, perhaps more importantly, what it DOESN’T mean to get eloped. There are so many misconceptions about eloping and we’re happy to have busted some of them here!

To elope does NOT mean you’re selfish, it does NOT mean you’re cheap, and it certainly does NOT mean you don’t care about your wedding day.

Nope, nope, nope!

Choosing an elopement means you value your life experiences (and there’s few more special than your wedding day!), you want to commit to your love freely and epically and you’re excited about the incredible EXPERIENCE your wedding day can be.

We would love to create an epic elopement experience for you! We provide planning assistance, photography and officiation for adventure-seeking couples across the US and worldwide. Get in touch to start brainstorming with us!

Chad & Vanessa, ‘The Outlovers’

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