| April 11, 2023

Elope Definition: What does it mean to elope in 2024?

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What Does “Elope” Mean?

Elope. Eloping. Elopement.

Say it out loud. Where does your mind go?

Do you see a couple hopping a plane to Vegas to get hitched in a rhinestone-studded chapel? A bride-and-groom duo running off to marry in total secrecy because their family doesn’t approve? Is it two people popping into a courthouse to quickly sign a piece of paper?

If you’re thinking any of these things (or something similar), we promise, you’re not alone. People usually think that elopements are these last-minute, no-frills, secret-operations that are clouded in shame, judgment, or embarrassment.

We’re here to share one simple truth — that’s not the meaning of an elopement anymore. 

Elopements are for the brave people who care so, so deeply for the person they love that they’re willing to take a bold leap away from the norm and choose something different, meaningful, and wholly intentional.

We know elopements continue to be a misunderstood topic—often shrouded in all of these preconceived notions and wild misconceptions. We’re here to dispel all of that! 


An elopement is an intentionally small, intimate, meaningful, and authentic wedding experience that is a true reflection of your relationship where the focus of the day is really about the two of you.

*Learn more about the definition of elopements

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter where you’re doing it. It doesn’t matter who else is there.  

An elopement is about stripping away every ounce of pressure, anxiety, or obligation that has ever tried to weigh you down. An elopement grants you the absolute freedom to commit your life to your partner however and wherever you choose.

As elopement photographers and guides who have helped hundreds of couples embark on their dream elopement adventures, we’re passionate about what we do—but we’re also passionate about helping people understand what elopements truly are.

Because we’ve experienced—and continue to experience—what real elopements are all about every single time we embark on one with a couple.

A bride and groom walk hand in hand in the mountains on their wedding day.


If all you truly want is an intentional day that’s full of meaning, intimacy, and a pure focus on the two of you, then you’re already seeking out an elopement — even if you couldn’t quite put that into words just yet.

Because when you really boil it down, a true elopement isn’t about the tangible details — it’s not about bridesmaids or mint tins or table garlands. It’s not about a performance, it’s not about a production.

Elopements are about bringing the focus of the day back to the two of you – choosing your love and how special your moment of saying your vows to each other is over everything else.

It’s a brave choice to intentionally choose to have a truly intimate wedding day experience.

The overwhelming majority of people feel like the day they get engaged they’re stuck with having a big wedding. And we’re just here to let couples know that it doesn’t have to automatically be that way. We believe that your wedding day is your day and it’s your choice how it happens.

Read: The 5 Differences Between Elopements vs Weddings


Eloping is making this intentional decision to say I choose not to follow a tradition that doesn’t make sense for me. It’s saying I choose you to your partner. It’s saying I choose us.

The whole idea of an elopement is about this focus on getting married with intention. Eloping means choosing to put the love you have for your partner (and how & where you want to say your vows) over things that might not matter as much to you—like a big party where you’re the center of attention.

Instead you’re choosing to focus on intention and the priorities that mean the most to you!

At the end of the day, elopements truly have no rules! An elopement is quite literally creating the most incredible day for the two of you—and getting married too.

That’s one of the things we love most about eloping. One great question to ask yourself to start imagining what your day might look like is: if you two had a free day with absolutely no limits – what would that look like?

There are no wrong answers. No limits. No impossibilities. Need a little inspiration? Check out Our Ultimate Guide for the Best Places to Elope!

Think about what the most honest, authentic day would look like to you two — a day you’d want to soak up every single moment of and look back on it for the rest of your life with a smile on your face.

This could be your wedding day.

A bride and groom get ready on either side of a camper van in the early morning.
A bride and groom embrace in the mountains on their wedding day.
A bride and groom pop a bottle of champagne in the snowy mountains on their wedding day.
A bride and groom walk hand in hand in the forest on their wedding day.


We like to think that an elopement is the core of a pure wedding — an intimate ceremony celebrating the love two people have for each other. In our minds, it’s the truest form of what committing your lives to each other looks like.

But since elopements are still very non-traditional, and we understand that there are still a lot of misunderstandings or misconceptions around elopements that have kept couples in the dark about what eloping truly means.

So, let’s explore some of those elopement myths!


There’s this dated, preconceived notion about eloping that if a couple is choosing not to have an enormous party surrounded by hundreds of friends, family members, or acquaintances—that they probably don’t have these types of communities or support in their lives.

That’s definitely not the case.

A lot of the couples we’ve worked with that have eloped have very strong friendships, solid relationships with their families, and communities that are backing them 100 percent—but they still choose to take a different route with their wedding day.


Because these couples decided that, even though they have lots of people around them, the moment they’re committing their lives to each other matters more than anything else.

Couples who have everyone they know in their corner can still choose to elope because when they look back on their wedding day for the rest of their lives, they want to remember a day that was purely for the two of them—a day without a single regret or a single compromise.

Don’t get us wrong—it’s entirely possible to have an intentional elopement while having guests there! Which brings us to our next myth!

A bride wipes tear off her face while the groom reads his vows to her.
A couple runs hand in hand in the mountains on their wedding day.


Elopements used to be thought of as these secret, clandestine affairs that no one else is allowed to attend because that would break the elopement rules.

But, guess what? There are no rules to an elopement. You can absolutely elope with family, friends, your loved ones — whoever you want to be there.

Bring your mom. Bring your officiant. Bring your kids. Bring your best friend. Bring your dog (please… PLEASE bring your dog!).

Your elopement day is entirely up to you.

There is no defined number of guests (or lack of guests) that will define your wedding as an elopement. It’s all about the intention of the couple and how your guests respect that.

We have photographed so many beautiful elopements that have included the couple’s closest family and friends. We’ve photographed couples who chose to only have their parents present, their siblings, their best friends, or even small groups of up to 15 people.

More than that, if you want to include your loved ones in your day, but you don’t want to sacrifice that intimate, one-on-one alone time with your partner, you don’t have to — you can split your day, have separate ceremonies, or make your elopement two-days!

Like we said, there are no rules as long as you’re following your heart and you’re being direct with your guests about your intentions. 


Traditionally, people tend to think of elopements as always being extremely low-budget options — truthfully, that’s more of a positive side-effect of eloping than the driving force behind it.

Sure, you probably will end up saving a little bit of money, but that’s not the core reason behind it. You can do an enormous wedding with hundreds of people on a low-budget, and you can also do an elopement with a really hefty budget, too.

The reality is, eloping instead of having a wedding day isn’t purely about saving money or not investing in your beautiful day. It’s just about choosing to invest in your day in a different way.

Many couples decide to elope because they want a day that’s entirely focused on them and what they want to do — for a lot of people, that might not mean hosting a big party. For some people, a day that brings them total joy might mean they’re surrounded by nature, doing something they love (like an epic hike or going stand up paddle boarding) with the person they love.

Elopements boil down a wedding to its bones to bring it back to what really matters — you and your partner. The budget has nothing to do with that.

A couple stand at the edge of a cliff on their wedding day.
A couple embrace in the mountains on their wedding day.
A groom is almost in tears as he looks as his bride reading her vows to him.


People sometimes think that elopements are these secret ceremonies that couples choose because they’re ashamed, embarrassed, or think their loved ones won’t approve of their decisions.

In the past, this might have been true. But, that’s not necessarily what elopements are anymore.

We’ve had couples who choose surprise elopements, but most times the surprise lies in how they chose to get married — not that they chose to get married at all.

Having an elopement does not mean that you’re doomed to deal with disapproval or shame — it just means that you’re choosing to set aside some of the pressure, anxiety, and expectations that can sometimes go hand-in-hand with the traditional wedding route.

When you choose to elope, you’re choosing not to compromise. You’re choosing meaningful moments packed with intention. We don’t think there’s anything shameful about that.

A bride and groom have an intimate ceremony in the mountains.
A couple embrace and smile at their children in the mountains on their wedding day.
A bride and groom have an intimate ceremony by a body of water.
A bride and groom walk hand in hand while hiking with their dog on their wedding day.


In the past, elopements were thought of as a less-than version of a wedding where you snap a few portraits, sign a license, and you’re all packed up in an hour or two.

But in our experience, we’ve found that elopements are these vast, meaningful experiences that are packed with hundreds and hundreds of intentional, love-filled moments—that there’s no way an hour or two would do justice. We believe your wedding day deserves more than that.

Most of the couples we’re fortunate to work with choose elopement experiences that last anywhere from 8-12 hours (we even have couples who choose two-day elopement experiences, too!)

An elopement is…

  • A two-day road-trip through Scotland exploring places you’ve always wanted to go.
  • Backpacking 30 miles so you can say your vows on the top of a mountain.
  • Waking up at the crack of dawn, walking down a sandy beach, diving into an alpine lake, helicoptering over a glacier.

Whatever the heck you want it to be for however long you want it to be — it’s everything a wedding day should be!


Sometimes, elopements are thought of as last-minute or ill-planned ceremonies — but that’s not always the case for modern-day elopements.

In fact, a lot of the couples we work with plan their elopements as far in advance as weddings — we’re talking 9-months to a year-and-a-half out.

In the past, elopements have been considered last-ditch, zero-effort ways to tie the knot. In reality, they’re actually pure, intentional moments that focus on the intentionality and meaning of the wedding experience.

No matter what kind of wedding day you’re after, we always encourage you to have the experience that you know will make you and your partner the happiest.Your elopement can be as planned or laid-back as you want. You can include beautiful ceremony options or go somewhere gorgeous and just say what’s on your heart.

A bride and groom walk hand in hand in the mountains on their wedding day.
A couple stand on a rock in front a lake on their wedding day.


An elopement is for the people who want nothing more than to spend, a day, two days — however long — basking in the intimate, meaningful moment where they choose to commit their lives to each other.

It’s for the people who look their partner in the eyes and know that this day — their wedding day — is about them and them only. It’s for the couple that knows that on the day they pledge themselves to each other forever, they want total freedom to say, do, think, and feel what they want.

Elopements are anti-pressure, anti-obligation, anti-doing-what-everyone-else-tells-you-to-do.

Elopements are taking your partner’s hand, holding on, and jumping into a huge adventure together in exactly the way that you want to.

Intentional. Brave. Empowering.

That’s what an elopement really is.   

A bride and groom walk hand in hand while hiking with their dog on their wedding day.

You deserve the beautiful elopement experience you’ve always wanted—don’t let anyone tell you any differently.

Get in touch with us and let us guide you.  

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Maddie Mae

Elopement Photographer

& Planning Consultant

Three photographers

About us

Adventure Instead

Your Elopement Photographers & Planning Consultants. We are Maddie Mae, Amber, and Tori. We're your photographers, your elopement consultants, your cheerleaders, and your go-to adventure buddy on the day you say your vows.

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