Unpacking the Truth about Elopement Traditions, Costs and Planning

What is an elopement? 

Before we dive deeper into bursting some common elopement myths, let’s first look at what an elopement actually is. We’ve also written an entire blog post about 6 Things to Consider before Eloping which you can check out here

So, what is an elopement? A modern elopement is one where the couple forgoes a traditional wedding and focuses on creating INTENTIONAL EXPERIENCES. What used to mean running down to a courthouse or sneaking away from family to get married, now looks much more like a day of intentionality and endless options! The emphasis on elopement days is centered around the couple and their love for each other and each day can look a lot of different ways as each couple is different. What is meaningful and important to one couple may look different than what is meaningful and important to another couple. There is no wrong way to elope if you are intentional about making the day focused around you and your partner. 

An elopement doesn’t mean you ditch all traditions, it just means you ditch the ones that don’t make sense to you and you keep the ones that you truly value.

What is the difference between an elopement and a microwedding?

In the wedding industry, the terms elopement and microwedding can often be used interchangeably. The end result of these two days is the same (the couple is married), but the main difference comes down to the guest count (spoiler alert – you CAN have guests at an elopement.) 

Elopements tend to be smaller either having no guests or very few guests – typically fewer than ten – while microweddings tend to be a bit larger with up to 50 guests (sometimes more). Both events are still very intimate and place the main emphasis on the couple and what they desire for the day, which is truly what it’s all about. 

Common Myths about Elopements:

So let’s dive into some of the common misconceptions surrounding elopements. 

Elopements are secret

The definition of elopements has changed dramatically within the past few years. Gone are the days of running down to the courthouse or sneaking away somewhere in secret to avoid disapproving parents. And yes, while those things can still be representations of an elopement, modern elopements look much different. Today, many couples do tell their family and friends in advance of their plans to elope, sometimes even inviting them to the ceremony! There are many fun and creative ways to announce your elopement allowing you and your partner to celebrate your exciting news with loved ones. Afterall, it is one of the biggest events of your life and is worth celebrating no matter what your plans are.  

Elopements are short and rushed

Not true; at least not always! Couples often spend a few months planning their elopement, just as they would a traditional wedding. They may even hire an elopement planner to assist in the planning process. Just because you decide to elope does not mean that you have to forgo any of the traditional wedding elements that are important to you such as wedding attire, florals, location, etc. All of these things do take coordination and planning which can take a few weeks up to several months depending on what you want to incorporate. 

Additionally, this is an entire day dedicated to you and your significant other so you should absolutely spend the whole day celebrating! Elopements do not have to be a 1 or 2 hour event, ending as quickly as they started. Each photographer is different, but for our couples, we like to spend a minimum of 6 hours with them because we want to make sure that we capture each experience throughout the day, from sipping their morning coffee, to hiking that trail with the beautiful view at the end, to staring up at the starlit sky at the end of the day. 

Elopements offer a chance to create a unique and customized experience for you and your partner, full of all the things you love doing together, so enjoy the planning process no matter how long or short. 

Elopements just include the couple and officiant

This will look different for each couple. We have photographed elopements with just the couple and the officiant as well as elopements with a small number of guests including friends and family. At the end of the day it is all about including those who are your biggest supporters and cheerleaders, not those who you feel obligated to invite. 

If you want to invite someone because they have stood by you and you can’t imagine not having them there to celebrate with you, then invite them. But if you feel that you have to invite them because they would be upset or someone else told you they have to be invited, then forget that! Invite who you want to invite or don’t! You should never have to feel bad or guilty for not including anyone. This is your day and you get to decide what that looks like and who you want involved. 

Elopements are cheap 

We’ll be 100% honest. Although an elopement might save you some money overall since you are not feeding hundreds of guests or spending money on extensive decorations as you typically would for a traditional wedding, you are still spending in order to have an experience that focuses on YOU, who you love, and what you love. Your dress, suit, veil, rings, planner, florist, photographer or videographer don’t become cheaper because it’s an elopement, and the costs to travel to a beautiful place, or go on an excursion you’ve always dreamed of going on together might add up. It’s best to be realistic with yourselves and invest in what truly matters to YOU.

We have an entire blog post dedicated to “How much does it cost to Elope?” which also includes an elopement cost calculator for simple estimates. 

However much money you spend on your wedding/elopement day doesn’t say anything about who you are or what your values are.

Elopements are less important than traditional weddings 

Don’t let anyone tell you that an elopement is not as special or important as a traditional wedding. It’s not the traditions, the acts or the location that makes a wedding or elopement day important. It is the love and the commitment between two people that creates those special and important moments. 

As mentioned earlier, your elopement day can include traditions if that is something you both want. If you want to do a first look, do one! Want to write letters to each other or have a cake cutting ceremony? Then heck yes, you should do it! Choose the traditions that matter to you and leave the rest behind. They are not what makes a wedding or elopement important or special. What makes an elopement or a wedding important is the commitment you make to your partner and your partner makes to you. 

Elopements are selfish

If you are planning an elopement because you want to create a meaningful day celebrating your love with your partner, then you are NOT being selfish! Remember, it is your big day, not anyone else’s. Sure! People will have opinions and they may even speak up about them, but it is not their day, it is yours and you should do whatever it is that you and your partner want! Don’t let anyone else stop you from having the wedding day that you truly want. 

There are ways to help ease anyone’s feelings surrounding your elopement decision. Explaining why you are choosing to elope oftentimes helps others understand the reason and importance of your decision as well as help explain away any of the myths that they may believe about elopements. Some of our couples also choose to elope privately, but then hold a reception to celebrate with family and friends. This is a fun way to have the best of both worlds!

The Truth About Elopements

Now that we have discussed what elopements are NOT, let’s talk a little about what elopements ARE. We even created a survey and received honest answers and advice from couples who chose to elope for their wedding which we’ll share down below; but first, what is an elopement?

Elopements are celebrations

Your wedding is one of the most memorable days of your life and it marks the start of you and your partner’s journey together so it should be a day of celebration! Tell who you want to tell, invite who you want to invite and do whatever you and your partner want to do to celebrate the TWO of YOU!

Elopements are intentional

No matter your timeline, your elopement is a decision that you and your partner make together to create intimate, intentional and timeless moments together. Whether you include a lot of planning and arrangements or hold a simple backyard ceremony, your desire to elope comes from wanting to create moments and experiences that are true to your relationship.

Elopements are intimate

We’ll say it again. Invite whomever you want to your elopement ceremony…or don’t! It really is up to you and your partner to decide who you want to be involved in your special day! Whether you invite 2 guests, 10 guests or 20 guests, it’s not the quantity that matters, it truly is the quality. Elopements allow you to truly have the best of both worlds and have an intimacy ceremony first and then a party and celebration with friends and family afterwards, if that is something you want.

Elopements are custom

Your elopement is a chance for you to get to customize your day exactly to you and your partner’s preferences. Whether that includes a hiking adventure or a wine tasting tour, this day is your chance to create experiences that matter to you both. And while an elopement may not always mean a cost savings, it’s not the amount of money that matters; it’s the values that you share.

Elopements are more about experiences and less about traditions

Elopements do away with all the rules of a traditional wedding and allow for you and your partner to create experiences together. You can go hiking, or go to your favorite pizza joint, or maybe you want to travel to a new state, country or other adventure. Whatever it is, an elopement is a chance for you to pick the aspects of a wedding that you want and leave the rest behind.

Elopements are focused on the couple

No matter what your elopement day looks like, the only thing that truly matters is the love between you and your partner so it should be the main focus of the day. You both can choose what you want your day to look like and not let anyone tell you otherwise since it is a day that is all about you to begin with! Leave the stress and headache behind of what people tell you you should do and create a day that represents you!

And now for the survey results on elopement myths and truths!

Why do you think people elope?

  1. For a more intimate experience
  2. To get away from the stress of a “dream wedding’ and focus on what matters
  3. Want something intimate, family drama, cost, love the outdoors, want full control, etc
  4. A personal experience and adventure
  5. Family’s don’t agree or see eye to eye
  6. Big weddings are about the guests, elopements are about the couple
  7. So many reasons, but your relationship is about you, so your special day should be too!
  8. Financial, privacy, family relations, intimate
  9. Makes it less about others and more about the joining of your lives
  10. To focus on the whole reason of the wedding – the marriage, not the party
  11. To maximize emotions and minimize wedding productions
  12. To avoid a big wedding with high expectations
  13. Don’t like the attention on them, do things their own way, intimate, remember moments!
  14. They don’t want to wait any longer
  15. To have a day that better reflects who they are together
  16. For a more intimate and meaningful experience OR to avoid debt/pressure
  17. To spend more time with their s/o and do something that is special to them
  18. Spontaneity, budget, because it’s fun

If you eloped, why did you elope?

  1. To make it allllllll about us and do what we want and love
  2. COVID ruined wedding plans luckily since it was what we wanted all along. Just us + pretty photos + cake
  3. COVID! I wanted to elope. My partner wanted the wedding. Now we are doing both.
  4. I didn’t want to pay for the giant wedding & have the pressure when the day is about us
  5. Unsupportive family. Best decision ever.
  6. We don’t like attention and wanted to go to Ireland
  7. To remove the stress, pressure, and to do things our way
  8. Keep it small & was more us. Location mattered
  9. COVID and truly we were so overwhelmed by the process of planning a larger event. We got really lucky and were forced to elope 🙂 
  10. Cost, pressure to have a huge expensive wedding, wanted a marriage not a wedding
  11. We wanted a day that when we walk away we felt inspired, not drained. It was inspiring indeed
  12. Wanted intimacy and not to feel like my day is making sure others think it’s beautiful.
  13. We wanted our wedding to be intimate, adventurous, and focused on each other!
  14. I want the day to be about us, just us!
  15. Eloping this summer due to 1) saving money and 2) tired of hearing others opinions
  16. Less stress/drama, much more “us” type day, to go against tradition
  17. To experience a new place with the ones I love!
  18. Neither of us like attention and we felt our love was about “us” not 100+ ppl
  19. Weddings are overrated, money, pandemic, family drama

If you eloped, any tips for engaged couples out there?

  1. Think about what you are going to remember the most from your day and base it off that
  2. Choose 3 things you really want and have fun with your day letting go. Take pictures! You will want them
  3. Go somewhere dope. Trust your photographer. Hire a videographer too.
  4. Get a planner or a photographer who does planning!! It makes a difference
  5. Don’t let social norms or your family pressure you into something you don’t want
  6. It’s YOUR wedding, do what YOU want! Go into your married life adventure, adventuring!
  7. Not everything will go as planned
  8. Have a hotel the night after you elope! You’ll be exhausted & won’t want to drive home
  9. Just focus on YOU. And the experience for you and your best friend (partner)
  10. Hire your photographer first & don’t be guilted by what others have to say – do you 2!
  11. Think outside the box! Airbnb or Peerspace are untraditional venues.
  12. Evaluate what your love looks like authentically to you and stay true to that.
  13. Be okay with not being tied to a schedule. Let the day flow naturally.
  14. Be inspired by yourselves, not Pinterest
  15. Pick somewhere special for you and your boo!
  16. Whatever your dream is, go for it!
  17. Make it your day!!! I’m wearing green, just cause! It can be anything you’d like!
  18. Create a day that is truly FUN! That excites you and lights up your soul just thinking about it
  19. Just like a real wedding, be mindful of budgets, researching vendors, and guests lists, if any
  20. Talk to your spouse about what you each prioritize that day; then make a plan

If you eloped, how did your friends and family react?

  1. Not the happiest at first but they supported us eventually
  2. They were excited because we sent them an announcement with a little story of how it happened
  3. They came with for our vows, & loved seeing the photos afterwards so I think good
  4. Not well at all on some ends -frustration. But then also excitement from others!
  5. Poorly but I wouldn’t change it bc I didn’t like the control they wanted over everything anyway
  6. Overall great. The ones who weren’t thrilled at first got over it quickly!
  7. We prepared them for it
  8. It was mixed emotions
  9. They were more than happy to join us in Hawaii 🙂 
  10. Surprisingly well. They wanted us happy!
  11. We had no choice so they were very supportive!
  12. They were unsure at first but then they saw how happy we were & that made them happy!
  13. They were so shocked
  14. Happy and a little sad they weren’t included
  15. They understood!! Also it’s during Covid so everyone is more understanding
  16. “I wish I’d have done that.” Surprisingly supportive.
  17. Whattttt!!! Some upset but simply explained it’s our love and choice.

Was your elopement cheaper or more expensive than you thought?

  1. Cheaper than I thought but I hold nothing back lol
  2. Exactly what we planned it to be 🙂 
  3. More but only b/c it was a last minute plan. We invited my MIL to be the officiant…We wanted to include my MIL b/c her health/cancer. It changed our approach.  
  4. A little more expensive but we invited 10 family for the trip
  5. More $ since we initially didn’t want a photographer?!?! But we got one and were happy!!
  6. Expensive cuz Hawaii, but worth it because instant honeymoon!
  7. About the price we expected! Close to 10k
  8. More expensive but worth it % 100!!!!
  9. More expensive, but we decided we didn’t want to compromise on photographer and catering.
  10. Less expensive, personal, beautiful, but we splurged on photo to preserve the memories. 
  11. The photos were worth every penny & we were able to share our wedding story via photos
  12. A bit more! We found in planning that we weren’t eloping to save money
  13. Cheaper after we canceled our larger wedding
  14. Didn’t really think about price. Just did what we wanted.
  15. Neither. Cheaper than a traditional wedding with more guests for sure though!
  16. Cheaper, only big things we spent money on were attire and photo/video

If you eloped, did you invite any guests?

  1. None
  2. Our parents only.
  3. My best friend was the officiant and my husbands bfs were our witnesses
  4. 3 guests
  5. Immediate family 10 total
  6. No guests. Just us, the officiant, and the photographer
  7. Just closest friends
  8. Immediate family and my cousin
  9. Yes. Only 20
  10. We wanted to keep it minimal – just our best friends as officiant and witness
  11. Only people involved in the actual production…photographer. Florist. Officiant.
  12. Not allowed per COVID guidelines but would have had parents, grandparents, and siblings only.
  13. Just our mutual bestie and officiant who is another bestie
  14. Yes! Our closest family and friends
  15. Yes, if I could do it again I’d still cut out more
  16. Our three kids. 

If you eloped, what traditions did you include, if any?

  1. We still did vows. We still had celebratory drink and dessert
  2. My dad walked me down the aisle & we did the first dance, daddy daughter & mother son
  3. The dress and the tux, tradition vows, not seeing the bride before the ceremony
  4. Vow exchange, champagne, first look, read letters
  5. Celtic knot tying, family prayer
  6. No traditions. They just didn’t feel like us
  7. Traditional leis from the island out of respect for our location. We left them behind on a tree!
  8. Personal vows, rings and something old, new, blue, etc!
  9. My husband and I have a tradition of ice-cream now 😉 everywhere we go we get ice-cream.
  10. We kept the things we liked! Rings, a first look, a first dance.
  11. Cake! Flowers! Not seeing each other the day of. 
  12. First look, cake cutting, first dance
  13. We really wanted a cake/cake cutting because well duh…it’s cake!
  14. Traditional vows, wedding cake

We hope this article has helped dispel any myths or misconceptions you believed about elopements! Elopements are truly such a beautiful experience for our couples and there are so many options and choices when planning an elopement day that no two elopements are ever the same! 

Thanks for reading and let us know in the comments below if there are any elopement myths that you believed prior to reading this article!

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