What is an elopement, anyway?


Besides being a word that might scare your parents and grandparents just a little bit, and despite its outdated definition in the Oxford Dictionary, elopements have evolved into a beautiful, intimate, and intentional celebration within the world of weddings. They can look, really, however you want them to, with the general rule that the guest list should be at a maximum of about 10-15 people. Sometimes, this means quite literally just the couple and any necessary officiants or witnesses (unless, of course, you are in a state like Pennsylvania where you can have a self uniting ceremony) - other times, the couple may want just their closest friends, or closest family members, to stand by their side as they celebrate their union.

As far as a location, elopements can happen anywhere, from your local courthouse to a backyard, to traveling to a location that's meaningful to the couple (or at least, that truly excites them). There are no rules here, and the beauty of elopements is the limitless creativity that couples can delve into when the logistics that come with a larger guest count melt away. There is an excellent opportunity to incorporate activities that you love to do together, like going for a hike or sitting by a fire, and an even better opportunity to ensure you get to spend time together on your wedding day in general.

Couples can choose to elope for many reasons, but the term has evolved from a perceivably shameful decision to something truly beautiful. While elopements aren't (as frequently) meant to be kept a complete secret from everyone these days, they can be a great decision for couples who experience a lot of anxiety around being in the limelight with a larger guest count, and potentially even a budget-friendly decision depending on how it's planned.

Ultimately, elopements bring a level of intimacy, intentionality, and presence to the table that is difficult, if not impossible, to create during a wedding day with a larger amount of guests, and this seems to be the primary reason that I find many couples decide to elope. Larger weddings, by nature, have to cater to and focus on the guest experience simply due to the logistics of serving large groups of people well, and even safely. Elopements, on the other hand, provide the opportunity to design the entire experience specifically around the couple. One of the largest complaints I've heard about elopements is that they are selfish, a word that is meant to carry shame. They may not be entirely wrong, however I would argue that if ever there was a time to be deeply selfish, it's around how you choose to celebrate your wedding.

sunrise elopement at Acadia National Park, Maine, photographed by Anna Claire Photos
elopement by a lake in the Poconos, Pennsylvania, photographed by Anna Claire Photos
Maine camping / clamping elopement, photographed by Anna Claire Photos
If you and your partner are considering eloping, here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Some people are not going to understand your decision. This is to be expected, and can be an uncomfortable reality to come to terms with. At the end of the day, this decision belongs solely to you and your partner - even if it disappoints some people.
  • The sky is the limit here, but it doesn't have to be. A courthouse or backyard elopement is just as beautiful and just as meaningful as running away to the Sierra Nevada.
  • There are pros and cons to every decision when it comes to wedding planning, and the decision fatigue can be immense no matter how you go about planning your celebration. Trust your gut with which direction to go.

Eloping certainly won't be perfect for every couple, in the same way that larger weddings also might not be perfect for every couple, and the decision between the two can be difficult. I encourage couples to really dig into their priorities for their wedding day and ask the big questions about what they're most excited about, and plan from there.

Across the board, elopements are my favorite thing to capture. They are the most honest celebration of commitment I have ever witnessed - decisions made on purpose, commemorated in a way that is so uniquely meaningful to each individual couple.

Near or far, whether we find ourselves on the coast or a mountaintop or in your own backyard or at your local courthouse, count me in.

Want to see more elopements?

see my portfolio at the link below