The Modern Definition of “Elope”

What is an elopement in 2024?

When you hear the word “elope”, what comes to mind?

Does the word “elope” bring to mind a hasty wedding in Vegas? Or maybe running off into the night to escape the judgment of disapproving parents? What about getting married alone?

Eloping was once synonymous with secrecy, but over the last decade it has undergone a big transformation. More and more couples are opting to elope over a traditional wedding, which begs the question: what exactly is an elopement?

The Definition of Elope

What is an Elopement?

So what does eloping mean today? It’s not what it used to be. The word has been evolving over the last few years and you will likely get a different answer depending on who you ask.

Here’s how I define an elopement:

An elopement is an intimate, intentional wedding, typically celebrated outdoors. It can include bringing along your closest relationships, whether they’re family or friends, or no one else at all.

Eloping is all about putting the focus on the couple and their marriage, not the details of the event, helping the couple to celebrate in a way that is free from stress, meaningful to them, and fun!

There are no rules when it comes to eloping. It’s simply about you and your love getting married, in a place that you love, and having an amazing day to celebrate. That sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

the Technical Definition of “Elope”

Websters 1828 Dictionary defines “elope” as follows:

  1. To run away, to depart from one’s proper place or station privately or without permission, to quit, without permission or right, the station in which one is placed by law or duty. Particularly and appropriately, to run away or depart from a husband, and live with an adulterer, as a married woman.
  2. To run away; to escape privately; to depart, without permission, as a son from a father’s house, or an apprentice from his master’s service.

Dictionary.com defines “elope” as:

  1. To run off secretly to be married, usually without the consent or knowledge of one’s parents or family

An article from Newsweek explains the history of the word. It’s traced back to the 13th century and meant “to leap”. The word evolved over the next three centuries and by the 17th century it was used to describe a situation where a wife ran away from her husband to be with her lover.

Throughout the 20th century and until the last decade, eloping has meant having a secret wedding, without any guests. 

With more and more couples opting to elope, the word is yet again updating its meaning. But to understand how the word is changing, it’s important to understand why couples are opting to elope.

Why are Elopements Becoming so Popular?

In 2020 we saw a huge rise in elopements. This was because of several factors, the biggest being the pandemic forcing many couples who wanted to get married at the time to have a ceremony with few or no guests. Another reason is economic.

But it wasn’t just the pandemic that caused the increase. More and more couples are choosing to elope each year. In fact, in 2022, a survey conducted by Helzberg Diamonds found that 62% of couples would consider eloping over a big wedding.

Cost

The average cost for a traditional wedding in the U.S. is $30k vs. the average elopement cost between $5k-$15k. 

Many couples choose to elope because they would rather spend $10k+ on a day that they get to have full control over and choose to do something they genuinely enjoy over a day that is filled with traditions that don’t hold any meaning to them. Elopements are both cheaper and more personal.

It’s More Personal

Big weddings come with a lot of expectations around traditions. Sometimes these traditions have meaning, but often times couples feel forced to include certain elements because it’s expected. Elopements allow couples to customize every aspect of their day and tailor it to them. You can include traditional elements that have meaning to you, or you can leave them out completely. What’s important is that you feel comfortable and only include the things that have meaning to you.

To Avoid Drama

A lot of couples decide to elope to avoid drama. Whether that’s toxic family members or just the stress that comes from planning a big wedding where everyone feels entitled to their opinion. Eloping allows couples to avoid all the drama of a big event and create a stress-free day instead.

Couples Don’t Want to Put on a Performance

Big weddings can feel performative for many couples. Reading vows in front of 150+ guests fills many couples with anxiety and goes against their personalities. Eloping allows couples to have a more intimate day without any pressure to look, sound, or act a certain way. You can be completely authentic to you and express yourself in a way that is comfortable and natural to you.

Eloping Allows Time for Couples to Enjoy Their Wedding Day

Traditional weddings are usually fast paced with very little time for the couple to actually enjoy the day. Eloping allows couples time to enjoy the day with a more relaxed schedule. It allows more time to connect with each other and their guests (if they bring anyone with them).

Check out this list of 50+ activities you can include in an elopement day!

Bride and groom play with their horse on their elopement day.

Myth #1: You have to Get Married Alone

Myth #2: Elopements are Planned Last Minute

Myth #3: Elopements Only Take Place in a Courthouse

Myth #4: Elopements are done in secret

Myth #5: An elopement isn’t a real marriage

Is an Elopement Right for You?

Pros of Eloping

Planning Freedom

With no expectations and no one to please but yourselves, eloping allows for you to create a day that is entirely up to you! You can invite whoever you want (or not one else at all!), you can wear whatever you want, you can eat your favorite meal, and include any kind of activity that brings you joy (hello helicopter ride!). What I’m trying to get at is this: it’s your day to celebrate however has meaning to you and your partner.

You Can Literally Get Married Anywhere

Want to get married under a waterfall? How about on a boat? What about on top of a mountain? The possibilities are literally endless when you decide to elope!

Cons of Eloping

Less Gifts

Eloping will result in less gifts and financial gifts from family and friends. If you want to find some middle ground, you can have a reception with family and friends after your elopement to celebrate with your loved ones.

Too Many Options

With so many options for how to celebrate your wedding, you may find yourself overwhelmed with choices. For some, this can be more stressful than going with the norm.

Frequently Asked Questions about Eloping

How Long is an Elopement?

Can You Elope and Still Have Family and Friends with You?

What Do You Do on Your Elopement Day?

Do You Have to Hike to Elope?

How Do You Elope?

How to Elope in Idaho

How to Elope in Washington

How to Elope in Yellowstone

In Summary, an Elopement Is…

An elopement is an intentional wedding experience that puts the focus entirely on the couple getting married. It lets the couple create a day that is personal, intimate, and exciting whether that’s by themselves or with their closest family and friends by their side.

It can take place anywhere that you want with whoever you want by your side.

Does this sound like your dream wedding?

If so, I can help you make it a reality!

I specialize in helping couples like you plan adventurous wedding experiences across the Western U.S., and I would love to help you create the perfect elopement day!

More Elopement Planning Resources to Get You Started

How to Plan an Elopement Reception

Whether you want to elope alone or with family, a post-elopement reception is a great way to bring your loved ones into your celebration!

17 Ways to Include Family in Your Elopement

Whether you want to include your family in your elopement day or celebrate with them after, find inspiration for including them in your elopement experience!

The Benefits of an All Day Elopement

Not sure why you would need more than a few hours for your elopement? Here are 8 reasons you should consider an all-day elopement and how to plan it!