Elopement Planning

What Does Elope Mean? Guide on Deciding If Eloping is For You

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about eloping? You may think of running off to Vegas and some guy impersonating Elvis marrying you two. Although we love a good elopement with Elvis, you’ll be surprised how eloping has transformed over the years. At Wandering Weddings, we have featured multiple couples who have decided to elope. Each one is unique and completely different than the Las Vegas elopement you’re thinking about.

What does elope mean? 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.

An elopement is a personal, intimate, and romantic alternative for couples who want their wedding day to be focused on what they both want to do. You have probably heard of words such as intimate weddings, micro weddings, and even destination weddings. These are all classified as modern-day elopements. Still not sure what eloping means, and how it differs from a traditional wedding? We are here to help clear things up for you.

Want to skip the info? Jump straight into inspirational elopement photos.


What Does Elope Mean? The Changing Meaning of Elope

So, what does elope mean? More importantly, how has it changed over the years?

Back in the day, when a couple decided to elope, it didn’t just mean spontaneously saying “I do” in a little white chapel with Elvis, but it also meant tying the knot in secrecy or out of shame away from their family. Fast forward to today, and eloping has become an epic way couples have decided to celebrate their marriage.

We have featured hundreds of intimate elopements over the years, and we have come to realize that eloping has not only become more popular and accepted in the wedding community, but it is also a great alternative for a lot of couples.

Couples who elope are able to go on adventures together and travel together. If you can’t travel somewhere new and exciting, we have also seen many couples get creative and elope right in their hometown or state park.

Instead of running off to marry in total secrecy, couples are creating fun elopement announcements or including their immediate family and friends. Instead of a last-minute decision, eloping can be just as planned out and thoughtful as a traditional wedding.

What is the Difference Between Traditional Weddings and Elopements?

Now that you know what it means to elope, how does it differ from getting married? When a couple decides to elope, they are running away from traditional norms and getting married the way they want to. 

Thus, eloping and getting married are technically the same. The difference, however, comes from what the couple prioritizes during their wedding day.

If they are essentially the same, then why is it called eloping? When a couple elopes, for example, they are forgoing planning a traditional wedding ceremony for something more intimate and simple in nature. Instead of planning how many tables and chairs they will need and where to sit each person, they focus their elopement timeline on each other.

Is Eloping a Good Idea?

Photo by Stephanie Keegan and Design & Bespoke Florals by Ivory & Evergreen

You’re now probably trying to decide if you want to elope and if it’s a good idea for you. You should consider asking yourself what’s important for you and your partner on your wedding day. If you both want to have a bridal party or include a lot of family and friends, then you should probably have a traditional wedding. If you want to focus on adventures and each other, without any distractions, then you should probably elope. There are multiple reasons to elope, and if you agree with these reasons then planning an elopement is a good idea.

Check out our top 10 reasons to elope.

I’m In, I want to Elope! How Do I Plan My Elopement?

If you made it this far, we are 100% sure you are pretty sold on planning an elopement. What now?

  • Head over to our how to elope guide. We break down elopement planning into 7 easy steps for you.
  • Think of Your Ideal Elopement Location. We have featured elopements around the world. We know desert elopements, mountain elopements, beach elopements, and more. Don’t know where to start your search? Check out our best places to elope.
  • Get Inspired and Stay Connected. Our goal is to inspire and assist couples who want to elope. Our site is filled with elopement ideas and stories on how others, like you and your partner, decided to say no to traditional wedding norms.
  • Team Up With Our Vendors. Wandering Weddings offers an array of talented and experienced professionals who are specialized in all things elopements. Search our elopement vendors and connect with them! We are sure they will be just as excited as you about eloping.


25 Photos That Define What is Eloping and Why Couples Elope

We talked about the definition of eloping, now we need to answer why do couples elope?

We get this question a lot from couples who are on the fence about eloping.

Thanks to the help of our photographer friends, we were able to compile 25 moments that define elopements and explain why couples decide to elope.

1. Stressfree

Elopements are not stressful when you compare them to traditional weddings. You don’t have to worry about inviting certain people or what color napkins you’ll be putting on your table!

“There is something so magical and intimate when all the stress of the big traditional wedding is gone. When it is just you two, husband and wife, becoming one.” [Juju Elgeioushi, The Photographer]


2. Fun First Look Moments

We love first looks. We also love the reactions from couples who see each other for the first time all dressed up, and surrounded by nature.

“Belinda was so excited and giddy to turn Cody around. They couldn’t stop smiling at each other.” [Mecca R. Dennehy, The Photographer]

3. Including Your Pets

When we see elopements that feature pets, we get so excited! It’s your special day, so we are all for including your special furry friends!

“I wanted to create a simple, but beautiful elopement that anyone can do, and of course I had to include man’s best friend. Not many elopements nowadays are with dogs, and pets, but pets are a huge part of people’s lives– why not include them on your special day!” [Savannah and Rui Lopes, The Photographers]

4. Surprise Announcements

If you are asking what is eloping, then the answer includes an adventurous announcement like this couple.

“This couple traveled to the Austrian Alps to elope between Christmas and New Year. The night before we picked out a beautiful location for their elopement ceremony with amazing panoramic views. However, a snowstorm on their wedding day meant that we had to come up with a plan B. Still wanting to get married outside, they braved the heavy snowfall and cold winds for the most magical of winter elopements.” [Cat Ekkelboom-White, The Photographer]

Check out some of our favorite ways to announce your elopement to your friends and family.

5. Smiles

Eloping is not only stress-free, but it also brings so much joy to our couples.

“The unconditional love and connection between Alicia and Keith is nothing short of incredible and authentic. Every smile, giggle, movement, and moment captured tells their story of the wild adventure their three years of love has been so far and gave a glimpse of the magic their future holds!” [Chantelle MacDougall, The Photographer]

6. Enjoying Mother Nature’s Beauty

If you decide to elope, then you have the opportunity to elope wherever and whenever you want to!

“I love winter sessions, especially in Iceland, for many reasons. Firstly, the sun is only up a few hours of the day, and it never breaks the horizon line. All-day is a soft glow and the skies are pastel pinks and blues all day. It’s insanely beautiful and unique. Everything also seems quieter, and you feel like you are the only humans in existence.” [Steph Zakas, The Photographer]

7. First Dances

Photo by Rebecca Dahl

Eloping means dancing to music from your mini speaker, your phone, or no music at all. First dances during elopements are one of the most magical moments in our books.

“This dance was on Thanksgiving weekend, and it was about 35 degrees. These two, however, made the moment feel so beautiful that you forgot the sun was setting, and it was starting to get chilly.” [Rebecca Dahl, The Photographer]

8. Staying Warm Together

Sometimes couples are brave enough to wear their wedding attire in cold temperatures. Thus, they end up trying to keep each other warm during their elopement portraits.

“As Kim and Chris got dressed, they used each other for warmth as they snuggled up together. They then enjoyed the sunrise as it illuminated the true beauty of Mt. Rainier.” [Amanda Vaelynn, The Photographer]

9. Exploring New Places

Do you both love exploring new places? Then you should elope! Eloping means discovering new places and experiencing new things!

“The streets were nearly empty thanks to the early hour. If you have the energy, then we suggest a sunrise photoshoot to have the time to take unforgettable couple portrait photos!” [Joanna Fotopoulou, The Photographer]

10. Celebrating Your Love

When you decide to elope, you are also deciding to focus just on the two of you without the extras that come with a traditional wedding.

“Our vision was to keep the shoot totally stripped back and just included the core elements of an elopement to highlight one of the big advantages of eloping over have a big wedding which is not having to plan or spend a lot but just to keep it focused on the love of two people and the love for a place.” [Hannah & David, The Photographers]

11. Enjoying the View

Who needs decorations when you have a view that travels for miles? One of the reasons couples decide to elope is because they want to be surrounded by nature and beauty. 

“We loved watching the sunrise at Praia De Ursa beach. To get there, we had to hike down, and there were also no signs. This was challenging at 7 AM, but it was also worth it. I love the feeling when it is hard to get to places because it is more value and adventure in it. ” [Diāna Veinberga, The Photographer]

12. The Vows

One of our favorite moments during elopements is when the bride and groom exchange vows. Imagine reading your vows as the sunsets. WOW!

“I believe God created that one person specifically for you that will watch the sunrise and set.” [From the Groom]

Check out our guide on how to write your wedding vows. 

13. Disconnecting From the Real World

We live in a world where technology has taken control of the majority of our day. This constant connection to the world has resulted in many of us not taking in a moment to its fullest. What is eloping? Eloping is disconnecting and focusing on the person in front of you. 

“The first 40 minutes of our shoot, we were searching for each other with no cell service. It was by chance that they pulled into the second trailheads parking lot, just as our hopes of having the shoot were dwindling. In the end, the session turned out to be a blessing in disguise.” [Savannah Claudepierre and Greg Herr, The Photographers]

14. Doing What You Love

When planning an elopement, you can incorporate details that are important to you without worrying about what other people will think. 

“They were surrounded by the people they love the most, wearing her mother’s wedding dress during the ceremony while overlooking the most beautiful place.” [Jennifer McCann, The Photographer]

15. Romantic

Elopements are romantic! They were designed specifically to focus on the bride and groom. Thus, you can appreciate every detail, hug, and kiss.

“Nicole and Pat are the most down to earth humans I have ever met! Their love and connection were beautiful and carefree. I feel honored to have been able to capture their love.” [Sadie Rodriguez, The Photographer]

16. Simple yet Beautiful

If you are overwhelmed with wedding planning, then you should consider planning an elopement instead. Elopements don’t need thousands of flowers. Eloping in mother nature’s beauty is enough.

“We wanted to show couples how simple an elopement can be out in the desert. Who wouldn’t want to say their vows to each other with such a jaw-dropping background? We hope this inspires other couples to YES to the desert when considering an elopement location!” [Jessika Hill, The Photographer]

17. Toasts and Mini Wedding Cakes for Two

Dinner and cake for two? Yes, please. Eloping with, for example, a mini wedding cake and toasting to your future adventures defines what eloping means. 

“This Boho styled sunset elopement showcases the couple’s beauty and affection draped in white and orange contrasted against the harsh barren earth.” [Allison Knull, The Photographer]

18. Going off the Beaten Path

Photo by Groovy Banana

Eloping doesn’t have to be planned in a fancy location. It also doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can simply mean traveling on a road where others don’t normally go to.

“We went off the beaten path and wandered outside an abandoned resort. The light was amazing, and the couple had a strong, loving connection. I didn’t do much. I just placed them in the middle of a grass field and shot from afar.” [Gaelle Meheut, The Photographer]

19. Intimate

Intimacy defines what it means to elope and why so many couples do it. 

“Emilee and Matt came across as a relaxed and laid-back couple during our first conversation over Facetime. They never had any crazy requests but just wanted their wedding to come across as intimate, yet fun. They said their vows with the beautiful Lake Michigan as their backdrop, and then went on to celebrate their love with lots of love and laughter.” [Durva Shrivastava, The Photographer]

20. New Cultures

Eloping is experiencing new experiences and new cultures. We love this intimate ceremony in Mexico!

“Alejandra and Brad wanted a private and meaningful new experience to share and unite their marriage, that also infused Alejandra’s cultural roots. They shared a sacred spiritual union and an all-day adventure experiencing San Miguel de Allende, MX, which is one of Mexico’s most culturally rich cities. It was an amazing fit to tie in her culture and share an incredibly symbolic new adventure together.”  [Lauren and Allen, The Photographers]

Check out some of our favorite ideas to include during your elopement ceremony.

21. Adventure

Eloping is an adventure. Couples who elope decide to elope because they love the thrill of spontaneous traveling. 

“The couple travels a lot and lives in Cyprus, so we communicated via FB Messenger. On the day of the photoshoot, they were traveling from Norway to Cyprus with a short stop in Lithuania. They had a plane to catch in 6 hours, but they still said YES to this photo adventure. If you have a strong desire to do something, then there’s no such word as IMPOSSIBLE!” [Kristina Černiauskienė, The Photographer]

22. Cuddling Together

We love seeing those moments when the couple just holds each other. There is no timeline, so the limit of cuddling time does not exist!

“While the day was chilly and we were snowed out of our first two locations, Dylan and Mali cuddling together kept us all warm and ready for more!” [Annaleisa Friednash, The Photographer]

23. The First Kiss

The moment we have all been waiting for… the first kiss! If you decided to elope, then you have decided to have an epic first kiss picture!

“Lisa and Corey fell in love and built their relationship in June Lake. When they got engaged, they did so by the lake. When they started to plan their wedding, they knew they wanted to say their vows overlooking their lake.” [Simone Anne, The Photographer]

24. Unique

Elopements are unique in every single way. You also don’t have to wear a white, long dress if you don’t want to. All you have to do is marry the one you love!

“I love the mountains, but that’s not where I would elope. I also love those stunning flowy wedding dresses, but that’s not what I would wear. Thus, I thought if I feel like this, maybe others do too?” [Sara whittaker, The Photographer]

25. Fun

Elopements are fun. You can smile, laugh, dance, and do whatever you both want to do! If you want to toast with beer, champagne, or tequila, then do it! Do what makes you both happy.

“They both decided to ditch a traditional wedding for an elopement in the red rocks of Moab! This couple wanted a day that was truly about them. They also chose to share Ding-Dongs as their wedding cake, and it was everything.” [Rebekah de la Fontaine, The Photographer]

As you can see, eloping is defined by so many aspects. We can easily see why so many couples decide to elope.

What is eloping to you? Are you planning your elopement? Then check out our elopement planning resources.

what is eloping and why couples elope

Photo by Faran Holzer

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