What Does it Mean to Elope? | Elopement Definition and Meaning (2023)

Traditionally, the term elopement referred to a couple “running away” to get marriedin secrecy without telling any family or friends, but today eloping has a totally new meaning! Eloping doesn’t have to come with any shame or embarrassment and should instead be just as much of a celebration as any other wedding!

So what exactly is an elopement?

There are a lot of different definitions out there, but here’s my own version: An elopement is an intimate wedding day experience that is focused entirely on you and your partner. A day that is intentionally planned to be a reflection of your relationship and what truly matters. Eloping doesn’t mean you’re running away in secret or that you can’t afford a big wedding or that you have to have a day that’s any less special than a traditional wedding. Eloping is about taking the most important part of a wedding — the GETTING MARRIED part — and building an experience around it that feels authentic to YOU. This can still include elements of a traditional wedding if you want or you can completely toss those out the window. An elopement can be adventurous or it can be luxurious, it can be fun and exciting, it can be super low-key, it can be literally whatever you want it to be.It’s about making the day you commit yourselves to each other truly the best day ever. That will look different for every couple, but that’s one of the best parts of elopements — there are no rules!

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Elopements vs Intimate Weddings: What’s the Difference?

Elopements technically ARE (very) intimate weddings, but there are a few things that set them apart including the number of guests present and the overall flow of the day.

Elopements often only include the couple and officiant (and photographer too, of course) but when there are guests, it’s generally less than 10 people. Intimate weddings have a larger guest list than elopements, but a smaller one than traditional weddings. Typically, this means 50 people or less.

Elopements are all about the couple and allowing them to really be the sole focus of the day! As much as traditional weddings are also about the couple, there is an inevitable emphasis on guest experience that comes along with having more people present (even if it’s a “small” wedding). It’s not a bad thing to want to spend time with your friends and family, make sure that they are entertained and enjoying the food, music, atmosphere, but that usually puts limits on other elements of the day and means less alone time for you and your partner.

Elopements can take place pretty much anywhere! They aren’t confined to a venue so many couples choose to elope in epic destinations or somewhere more adventurous. You can elope to the top of a mountain but it would be very difficult to have more than a few guests at this type of location. For this reason, you are more likely to need a venue to host your guests if you’re having an intimate wedding. A lot of destination weddings are intimate weddings!

There’s usually no formal reception or huge party after an elopement ceremony and instead there is a larger focus on couples portrait and spending intentional time together - whether that’s hiking and exploring your chosen destination, doing a fun excursion (like a boat cruise or helicopter tour), or including a favorite activity/hobby of yours (like swimming, bike riding, skateboarding, cooking, etc.). Even if there are a few guests present for an elopement, the couple will plan extra time away for just the two of them. Intimate weddings generally still have a reception, but it’s usually more casual and relaxed than at a traditional wedding.

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Common Misconceptions about Elopements

Elopements are shameful or unapproved marriages. Not anymore! While this may have been commonly true in the past, elopements now have a different meaning. Elopements are about choosing to get married in a more intimate way that is meaningful to your relationship. It’s about what YOU want, not what other people think about your relationship. A lot of couples who elope still have support from their family and friends, they’re just celebrating in a different way!

You have to keep your elopement a secret. This is a personal choice, but definitely not a requirement! Many couples share their elopements with their family and friends beforehand or even include them in the day. If keeping it private is what feels right to you, then that’s okay too!

You can’t include your family or friends in your elopement day. While many couples do elope just the two of them, you can absolutely invite your loved ones to your day if it’s important to you to have them there! If you want to keep your ceremony private but want to include your family in other ways, consider asking them to help with different things throughout the planning process or schedule a bigger celebration at a later date.

Elopements are always last minute and don’t need planning. This can be true, but it’s not always the case anymore! Many couples spend just as much time planning their elopements as they would a traditional wedding day. Eloping means being intentional about the choices you make for your wedding day and you can take as much time as you need to make these decisions.

People only elope to save money. The fact that elopements aregenerally less expensive than traditional weddings is a nice perk but it isn’t usually the sole reason behind the decision to elope. Many couples choose to invest more into their elopement day because they value the experience and truly want the day to be exactly what THEY want.

Elopements are selfish. This idea always baffles me. When it comes down to it, your marriage is about YOU. However you spend your wedding day should also be about you. If a larger wedding with all of your friends and family is what YOU want, that’s awesome! But if you want a more intimate wedding experience, those who love you will support you, and you shouldn’t feel bad about doing what feels authentic to you as a couple.

Elopements are quick and rushed. A lot of times, people think that because elopements are smaller than bigger weddings that means the day also has to be shorter or that it will be less special. I strongly disagree! No matter how you’re getting married, I truly believe that you should be able to take in and enjoy every single moment of your day and that itdeserves to be fully documented. There’s so much more to getting married than having a quick ceremony and a few couples portraits! Your entire day can be an intentional and meaningful experience.

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What Does an Elopement Day Look Like?

Your elopement day can look like whatever you want it to.

I like to tell couples to imagine the best possible day they can think of spending with their partner and turn that into their elopement day! This could look like waking up at sunrise and hiking up to an epic viewpoint or having a slow morning together over your favorite breakfast. It could mean getting ready together with your partner or inviting your siblings, parents, or closest friends to help you. You can get married at a destination you’ve always wanted to travel to (helloooo, Italy or Iceland??) or get married in the backyard of your childhood home. As long as your day reflects your relationship and is meaningful to YOU, that’s all that matters!

Learn more about how to plan an elopement.

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What Does it Mean to Elope? | Elopement Definition and Meaning (11)

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What Does it Mean to Elope? | Elopement Definition and Meaning? ›

While the technical definition of eloping means to run away and get married without telling anyone, our team of elopement professionals defines eloping as when a couple decides to celebrate their marriage with 10 or fewer people.

What is the correct definition of elope? ›

verb. i-ˈlōp. eloped; eloping. : to run away secretly especially to get married without parental consent.

How do you explain eloping? ›

Use the term 'small wedding' instead of elopement

You know it's an elopement, but again, your older family members have a very different vision of an elopement. So you can instead explain it as "we plan to have a much smaller wedding with just 10 people". Or "we've decided to get married just us two together".

Why does eloping mean? ›

Elopements allow you and your partner to have an authentic celebration of your love that truly represents your relationship. For many people, having a huge, traditional wedding isn't what they want. And that's totally okay. (Just like it's okay to want a traditional wedding!)

Is it biblical to elope? ›

Eloping is not a sin when you really consider the creativity that comes along with it. It wouldn't be a great Christian wedding idea to dishonor your father and mother to elope, ditch your church family, or have your ceremony ungodly, right? But these are all myths that come along with eloping.

What is a common term for elopement? ›

Elope Synonyms

run-off. abscond. flee. run-away-with. escape with a lover.

How is eloping different from marriage? ›

An elopement is when two people get married with just the two of them. Usually, just the officiant, a photographer and videographer will be there to capture the exchange of vows and small ceremony. Elopements can be as extravagant or as simple as you want.

Does eloping mean marriage? ›

An elopement wedding is typically thought of as running away without telling friends or family, but that definition has changed over time. Now, an elopement wedding means that you are tying the knot and celebrating with just yourselves or a small gathering in a minimal, more casual fashion.

Does eloping have to be a secret? ›

When eloping, it's important to plan and decide who, if anyone, you want to inform about your decision. Discuss with your partner if you want to keep it completely secret or share the news with a select few individuals whom you trust and feel close to. This will help you set boundaries and avoid any surprises.

Why is eloping so much better? ›

If you want to elope, there are many reasons you might say it is better to elope. Benefits of eloping include the price, less drama, less stress, less planning and coordinating, more location and vendor options, better photographs, a more authentic and genuine display, an experience to remember forever and many more.

Is eloping disrespectful? ›

Is it disrespectful to elope? For an elopement to be disrespectful, a wedding ceremony and reception would have to be something that a marrying couple owe to other people. That may have been true when couples married to make their families happy. But it's not true now when couples marry to make themselves happy.

What's the difference between eloping and getting married? ›

Eloping used to mean running away and getting married without telling anyone, but that's not really the case anymore. These days, eloping entails planning a small wedding day that's entirely and only about the couple. They are typically smaller ceremonies and can take place at any venue, including outdoors.

Is eloping different than getting married? ›

Although many restrictions have been lifted in many places, intimate weddings continue to gain popularity. An elopement is when two people get married with just the two of them. Usually, just the officiant, a photographer and videographer will be there to capture the exchange of vows and small ceremony.

Is getting eloped a real marriage? ›

Eloping is no longer running off to get married – an elopement is an intentional wedding celebration uniquely crafted to each individual couple. If you've ever thought, “I wish we could just elope,” know that you're one of many who would prefer an intimate adventure to a big, traditional wedding!

Is an elopement not a wedding? ›

Is an elopement different from a wedding because it's some secret, clandestine affair where family isn't invited? The reality is, an elopement is different than a wedding because the intention is different. Ultimately, an elopement day is designed to focus on the couple and what they want.

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