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What does it mean to elope? (Why it’s the absolute BEST)

April 7, 2022

Elopements have created quite a buzz over the last few years, with people catching onto the awesomeness of eloping when the pandemic hit and ruined everyone’s big wedding plans. But what exactly does it mean to elope?

First, let’s talk about what eloping is not. Just for fun, I looked up the official definition, and these are the (sad, wrong, out of touch) words I found: “Run away secretly in order to get married, especially without parental consent.”

Excuse me, whaaat??

Washington elopement in the woods

Sure, that’s what things may have looked like ages ago, but let’s hang up that corded landline phone, because times have changed! I’m not saying that these circumstances are wrong; they’re not. But eloping isn’t limited to this one narrow definition. And having a secret ceremony and celebration between you and the person you love most is beautiful (it’s what my husband and I did, in fact).

More out of date perceptions of eloping:

  • Not a real wedding
  • Family and friends can’t be involved
  • Something shameful or to be looked down upon
  • Your Plan B, a sacrifice, not your dream scenario
  • Rushed and ill-planned – Fake Elvis marrying you at the Chapel O’ Love in Vegas

Again, not saying the old version of an elopement can’t be special, if done for your own reasons; I’d super get married by Fake Elvis in Vegas! But this isn’t your only option if the idea of eloping is appealing but having your wedding dinner at the Golden Nugget is not. And that’s kinda the whole point: eloping means that you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT!!

What a load off, right?

OK, but what is eloping if it doesn’t have to be a whim of a decision involving Vegas or an ornery judge in a dimly lit, dank courthouse?

Columbia river gorge elopement

WHAT AN ELOPEMENT IS

To me, the intent of an elopement is an intimate gathering by design, where you and your partner remain at the heart of the day. The reason you love each other, the journey that brought you to this place (physically and figuratively), stay within sight. Elopements are centered around emotion rather than pageantry and performance. (But don’t get me wrong, your day can still be as glamorous as you’d like!) Consequently, the day isn’t clouded by worrying about the tiny jars of jam your guests take home as favors after a reception, or making sure all the tablecloths are just the right shade of blush. You get to focus on sweet moments with your partner, family, and close friends (if you choose), and celebrate in a meaningful way that represents you honestly.

washington elopement in the mountains

SO WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

One of the beautiful aspects of eloping is you only have to please your partner and yourself. The way you plan for your day to unfold only has to make sense to the two of you. You get to strip away any trace of anxiety, expectation, unsolicited opinions, or obligation and simply commit to your partner the way you choose. Carve your own path of depth, sentiment, authenticity. Dream about locations and things you love to do together that you may want to incorporate on your elopement day.

Pretend, for a moment, that you could never share your wedding photos with anyone. If those photos were only for you, how would you want the story of the day to look? What would bring you the most joy in those collective moment as well as to look back on?

When it comes to location, how awesome is it to think about exchanging vows in a place where NO ONE has ever gotten married? Maybe you travel to the Washington Coast then go for a celebratory dip in the (almost unbearably cold) Pacific. Or helicopter to your dream destination on the side of a mountain in the Rockies. Perhaps you take an overnight camping trip and say your I Dos right before doing some stargazing. You could get married in your own backyard, at sunrise in Santorini, on your grandparents farm, or in the deserts of Jordan while riding out to your destination on camelback. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Exciting, right?

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT!!!

Your elopement will be your own personal adventure and can be curated in any way you want. No two elopements are the same. There is no formula or parameters to which your elopement must conform. There is no book of ‘elopement rules’ or traditions you’ll feel obligated to uphold. This is a day custom built around your desires as a couple.

Think of your perfect day.

Where would you wake up? What would you eat? What would you do? Who would you surround yourself with? THIS can be that day. You get to share a sacred day with the person you love most in the whole world, in a place you feel connected to. This is your dream day, and it just so happens to be your wedding day too.

EVERYTHING YOU WANT, NOTHING YOU DON’T

When my husband and I eloped, we made it official at a public park close to our apartment. A close friend officiated and three dear friends witnessed. It was nothing fancy; I had no flowers, my fella looked more dressed up in his suit than I did in my polkadot dress. The whole thing lasted about 3 minutes (no joke). But that’s what we wanted.

The following month, we planned something more meaningful to us at the Oregon Coast. We woke up in our darling AirBnB that morning, made French Toast and Mimosas, and went for a hike. When we came back, we finished writing vows, got ready, and made our way down the road into the woods. I wore the dress I wanted, had the loveliest bouquet, and had the best photographer (he’s also the most wonderful friend). We played music, popped champagne, played in the ocean in our wedding gear, and then we celebrated with some of our closest people. It was perfect for us. It was exactly what we wanted.

I cannot emphasize this enough: your elopement day IS your wedding day and should be celebrated as such. It can be everything you always wanted and more.

Washington coast elopement

When my fella and I got married, our photographer was with us for the bulk of the day. Even though we weren’t doing seemingly wedding related things all day, our focus was on each other and the commitment we were making. Our joy and happiness was almost tangible, and the whole day reflected that. Likewise, the story of your wedding day deserves to be told and remembered fully; the entire day is special and will have memorable moments throughout.

OK, so I think we’re seeing some patterns develop. Your wedding is YOURS. The whole day is your wedding day, not just a couple hours of that day. And the entire narrative deserves to be documented and told in detail. This is not a photoshoot; this is your wedding day experience. Your wedding may be minimal by way of guests, but it will not be lacking in emotion or value.

Oregon coast elopement

WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?

There are no rules, no boundaries, no set parameters that determine what an elopement is. What sets eloping apart from a traditional wedding is merely intentions and priorities. If you want to include your family and friends some how but don’t want to sacrifice the intimacy of just the two of you exchanging vows, you have options! You can stay local, close to home, stay AT home, or jet set, it’s up to you! If you want to split up the day, elope one day, have the whole day to yourselves, and then find a future day to have a celebration with all the folks you want to involve, great!

Choosing to elope is incredibly special. When I started photographing elopements, it became evident to me quickly that there is no cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all elopement. There are so many ways to fill your elopement with meaningful activities that will magnify the gravity of the commitment you and your partner are making. And I’m full of ideas and suggestions if you’d like a little help dreaming up your perfect elopement.

Oregon coast elopement

You’re making the bravest, most empowering, intentional decision by choosing to elope. I know the journey from here to elopement day may seem daunting, or you may not be sure where to start in your process. I’m always here to chat, bounce ideas off of and cheer you on, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!

If you want to reinforce your reasons for eloping, make your way over to this post and I'll give you 11 reasons to elope and ditch the big wedding (and one reason not to)

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