| November 29, 2023

Should I Elope? Top 12 Reasons to Elope from 3000 Couples Study

Table of Contents

There’s a lot of posts out there with a list of convincing reasons why you should elope. 

But what sets this resource apart from the rest is that these reasons aren’t just my opinion as an elopement photographer (or someone who eloped myself).

Nope, the 12 reasons to elope shared here are from the largest study ever done on “why people elope”—based on over 3000 couples’ answers (see survey methodology below).

Why Do People Elope?

As the idea of eloping has gained momentum over the last few years, I’ve had the chance to witness and document hundreds of couples’ unique elopements all over the world. 

And my favorite question to ask couples is, “why did you choose to get married this way?”

Their answers have always fascinated me. 

And while I’ve heard similar answers again and again over the 8 years I’ve been a full-time elopement photographer—like you, I also wanted to know the real, data-backed reasons why people elope.

Unable to find this data elsewhere, my team and I took matters into our own hands and surveyed over 3000 eloping couples and asked them why they eloped and then had the data professionally analyzed and coded to reveal the top 12 most commonly reported answers. 

Without further adieu, these are the actual, top 12 real reasons why couples elope revealed in this 3000 couple survey (listed in order of frequency):

If you’re wondering if eloping is the right choice for you, read on to discover what each of these reasons mean and read first-hand quotes from couples explaining exactly why they ditched the traditional wedding and eloped instead. 

This one’s a must-read. You might be surprised by how much you relate to some of these responses!

Reason to Elope #1: Desire for the Non-traditional (& Rejection of the “Big Wedding Thing”)

It might seem obvious at first—but by far the most reported reason why couples choose to elope is because they wanted a non-traditional wedding experience. 

Yep, the #1 reason to elope is a rejection of the big traditional wedding, the wedding industry, and all that it tries to force on couples.

Couples who elope desire a wedding that looks and feels like them instead of a cookie-cutter celebration that follows societal norms and outdated traditions. And eloping means you can completely tear up that rulebook. Your wedding can mirror who you are as a couple—hiking with your dog, road tripping around Patagonia, soaking in views in literal hot springs, or dancing under the Northern Lights to your favorite song.

This couple’s response summed it up perfectly:

“We are drawn to the idea of eloping for a few reasons. First, we love the idea of exchanging our vows in private, where we can be 100% ourselves and make the moment completely our own. Second, we both balk at the idea of putting on a large event where our attention is divided across multiple groups of family and friends on our special day. Finally, as a queer couple, there’s a lot of traditional things about weddings that just don’t make sense for us and we’d much rather carve out our own path. Elopement provides us with the greatest freedom to do that.”

Eloping is a rejection of the status quo, and couples who choose to go against the grain in how they get married, often forge their own path in the rest of their life—with their careers, their lifestyle, etc. Couples who desire to make their own way instead of following someone else’s script, tend to be very drawn to the idea of eloping instead of follow the template of a traditional wedding.

The most common things eloping couples mentioned they didn’t like about big weddings were:

  • Planning a party for everyone but them 
  • Having to say their vows in front of a crowd
  • Having to be the center of attention
  • All the cringe traditions (bouquet & garter tosses, silly entrance dances, etc.)
  • The cookie-cutter timeline template with little room for personalization
  • All the opinions, obligations & expectations

Modern couples (especially Gen Z) are throwing out the rulebook, rejecting these norms and opting instead for a wedding day that’s:

  • Non-conforming, non-traditional, alternative
  • Different, unique, and stand-out
  • Personalized to them & fully about them
  • Free from outside pressure or expectations
  • Allows them to fully do what they want

These couple’s responses perfectly sum up what a desire for the non-traditional means:

“We are eloping for multiple reasons – we appreciate a more intimate setting, making the day about us, having an adventure and an experience to remember. Our entire relationship has been non-traditional and we don’t mind going against the grain.

“So far,
nothing about our relationship has gone the “traditional” route – we met on tinder (I know!), moved in together after a year, bought a house together, and then got engaged. Neither of us find the idea of having a traditional wedding appealing – being the center of attention, not getting to spend the day together, and the “industry” of it all. We want to be able to spend the day together doing what we want.”

Fun fact: I actually eloped in Peru in 2018 and I also hated the idea of planning something traditional because that’s what other people did. I knew that a traditional wedding didn’t feel authentic to me. I didn’t want to be the center of attention or plan a big party for other people. I wanted a day doing exactly what I loved with the person I love most.

Reason to Elope #2: Intimacy & Privacy (a “just us” experience)

The second most popular reason for eloping that the survey revealed is planning a private, intimate wedding day that is just for and about them as a couple.

A common phrase many couples used in their answers (and one I’ve heard so much as an elopement photographer)  is that they wanted a “just us” wedding day.

One couple explained it as such:

“We want this incredibly important day to be about US. No one telling us how we should do things, etc. This is the beginning of the rest of our lives together and we want to be intentional with how we celebrate this commitment. Plus, we’d like to say our private vows to each other and not have to filter anything out.”

Another shared:

“We feel the moment is too intimate to be shared with people that just don’t need to be there. We’re an introvert couple and prefer this moment to be just us with a couple closest friends (or just us). We have never imagined a large wedding for us, it has been eloping since we first started talking about marriage.”

A recurring pattern that emerged in many responses mentioning privacy was introversion, which makes sense since 40% of the world is introverted. And yet traditional weddings make you say your personal, private vows in front of potentially hundreds of people that you might not know that well. Toasts are made about you with all your guests watching your reactions because you’ve also been sat in the very center of the room. Grand entrances, first dances, everything is on display for a crowd.

Big weddings rarely allow time for intimate, intentional moments. Making sure you talk to every guest takes up a lot of time, and the conversations that you’re having are rarely deeply meaningful. 

Which aligns with this couple’s response:

“The thought of a traditional wedding just doesn’t do it for us. All the small talk, walking around talking to everyone else instead of enjoying the time together just doesn’t sound enjoyable. When I picture our perfect day, it’s the two of us hiking, drinking coffee on the mountain, saying our vows together and then celebrating with close friends and family.”

As an elopement photographer, I’ve always felt that the main difference between a big traditional wedding and an elopement is who the day is really for, and what it’s really focused on. Big weddings are focused on the guests, elopements are all about the couple getting married.

When you elope, you don’t have to worry about anyone else’s reactions to your choices. It means you get the whole day to explore, adventure, talk, laugh, eat, and be together without being on display. 

So if you are a person who loves deep, meaningful, intimate moments then make those a priority on your wedding day. Think about how eloping can give you the freedom to be truly yourself all day long.

Groom wipes tear off his eye while his bride looks on to him.
Close up of bride and groom.

Reason to Elope #3: Adventure & Spontaneity

The underlying theme among eloping couples is a dissatisfaction with the ordinary, a commitment to living life as a grand adventure. For these couples, the choice to elope aligns with their broader philosophy of embracing risk, innovation, and the pursuit of unique experiences.

One couple unpacked it like this:

“Everything about weddings seem like the opposite of us as a couple. We have a more private relationship and weddings seem so pageantry. We love to be outside and have adventures, and I’ve followed you on Instagram for many years and have felt so seen by your story and ethos. Our best days are spent chasing waterfalls and finding awe-inspiring views, so why not start the rest of our lives doing that too?”

Being an adventurer is a lifestyle of risk-taking, innovating, pushing ourselves to go further and climb higher, to press on through the fear of “not being enough,” and holding onto the conviction that our struggles are a vital part of the view from the top. It does not have to include adrenaline seeking behavior like base jumping. Danger isn’t inherent in adventure.

For the couples who see life as a grand adventure, it only makes sense that the way they begin their lives together should be with an adventure, too:

“We love the idea of that day just being the two of us somewhere absolutely beautiful. Our engagement was so special and such an adventure and we want our wedding to be just as fun.”

Whether an adventure looks like biking along the beach, exploring a foreign city, skiing in the Alps, scuba diving in the Indian Ocean, or just taking the dogs on a road trip, eloping is all about getting after it. And it’s not about a big barn, lots of frilly outfits, and taking a thousand family photos.

Maybe you’ve felt a little like this couple:

“He proposed Christmas of 2020, and we just haven’t found a plan that has felt right until we saw that skydiving and hot air balloons were an option!”

The decision to elope becomes a deliberate rejection of conventional paths and an embrace of a life less ordinary. And my experience has always been that the couples who choose the adventure over the traditional wedding never regret it. 

Reason to Elope #4: Less family drama

The fourth most common response I saw in the survey responses to “why are you eloping?” was avoiding family drama.

This couple couldn’t have said it more succinctly:

“We thought about planning a big wedding, but our family is trying to make it about them and we want to focus on us and our love.”

Not everyone has an easy, close bond with their family, and that’s completely fine. Baggage and discomfort often accompany family ties, making it tricky to navigate alongside starting a new life with your spouse.

And even if you have amazing relationships with your family, you can still find yourself wanting to have a day that is focused on you and your love instead of needing to please anyone else.

Because guess what? Your wedding is yours.

And for those without a supportive family, traditional weddings can be traumatic. Your wedding day should be surrounded by people who wholeheartedly support you, your relationship, and your goals. Unfortunately, family can sometimes be the source of negative feelings. Wedding traditions tied to family roles may not fit your dynamic, leading to discomfort and unnatural situations. Why put yourself through that?

“Like most people, we have some complicated family dynamics. The thought of paying to have estranged family members stare at us awkwardly while we exchange our intimate vows, doesn’t sound appealing. It sounds uncomfortable and kind of nauseating!”

Imagine instead of dreading what a family member might say, or hoping someone doesn’t make an inappropriate joke, or worrying about being the peacemaker, you don’t have to stress about any of it.

“Our families are not supportive of a same sex marriage and the idea of planning a wedding by ourselves is too overwhelming.”

I resonated with this theme because I myself have been estranged from my parents for a few years and I could not imagine saying my vows in front of them. I knew I wanted to elope because I wanted to feel fully present and fully myself on my wedding day.

If the idea of being around your family on your wedding day stresses you out, elope.

Bride and groom kissing in front of a fire.
Two grooms say their vows on a mountain top.


What does it mean to be authentic?

Couples often cited authenticity as a key reason for eloping. But the truth is ‘authenticity’ is a buzzword that’s been used in social media quotes and marketing campaigns, and unpacking its meaning will be helpful for understanding what we actually learned about eloping couples from the survey.

In so many responses the word ‘authentic’ was paired with words like ‘intimate’ and ‘silly,’ and opposed to words like ‘performance,’ ‘anxiety,’ and other people’s desires.

Authenticity often refers to the quality of being genuine or true to one’s own identity, character, or values. In various contexts, authenticity implies sincerity, honesty, and the absence of pretense or imitation. 

Something the survey continually pointed out was that couples who elope felt like they would not feel like themselves in the context of a big wedding… that there was something about a more traditional wedding that would pressure them to present a fake version of themselves.

One couple wrote:

“Because we are private people and prefer the authenticity of a smaller intimate ceremony. We honestly want to do something that is true to ourselves rather than catering to family’s desires for tradition.”

And if there is one thing that is true about a wedding, it’s that it’s meaningful. It’s important. Showing up feeling 100% like yourself matters when you’re committing your future to another person.

I loved how this couple put it: 

“Because we want our special day to be just for us where we can be our most silly, fun authentic selves.”

In the past, eloping had a connotation of ‘escaping’ when the truth is that eloping allows you to be present. You don’t have to dash from one conversation to another. You don’t have to people please or perform. You get to spend your wedding day feeling like your most amazing, confident, beloved self.

“Neither of us is motivated by the idea of hosting an elaborate performance for hundreds of people and honestly, the concept of planning and hosting a big wedding causes us some pretty intense anxiety. Don’t get us wrong, we’ve attended many of our friends’ big white weddings and they have been a blast, but it’s just never felt like the type of event that was right for us. We want our marriage to begin in a way that feels authentic to us and allows us to be fully present, to pause to soak it all in, and to preserve the intimacy of a moment like this. An elopement always felt like the natural choice because it’s a chance for us to craft an experience that is for us instead of a day meant to fulfill the expectations of others.”

Eloping creates the opportunity to prioritize the relationship and the commitment to one another over any other outside distractions or expectations.

Reason to Elope #6: Less Stress & Anxiety

Even though this is the 6th most common reason to elope, it’s a common thread amongst almost every reason to elope.

Planning a big traditional wedding is a significantly more stressful endeavor compared to elopements. The logistics involved in organizing a large-scale event with numerous guests, vendors, and intricate details quickly becomes overwhelming. By eliminating the guest list, most of the logistics fall away.

One couple explained:

“We both love going to weddings but the idea of having a big wedding has never been our jam. I don’t like the idea of planning this huge, expensive day for other people to criticize, and I find the idea of planning a menu, decorations, etc makes me very anxious. I want our day to be about us and our love, with beautiful pictures to share with folks after the fact.”

More importantly, the expectations surrounding a traditional wedding can contribute to heightened stress. Societal norms, family traditions, and external expectations often come into play, influencing decisions and adding layers of complexity to the planning process.

One couple shared:

“We both aren’t fond of the stress wedding planning brings. Families have issues, and we both have a little social anxiety. We’d be overwhelmed by the people there and forget each other. We want a moment to create a romantic memory between the two of us and a wedding would distract us from that. We’ll celebrate later with our family and friends.”

And finally, weddings cost a lot of money. The more guests you host, the more money it will cost. Even the most DIY weddings cost around $30,000 according to The Knot. That’s around $5,000 an hour if your event is 6 hours. Financial stress for one single day doesn’t appeal to a lot of couples.

To summarize, a lot of couples feel like this:

“We don’t want to stress about a million details that are less important to us. When I think back on this day I want to think about our love, not running around feeling stressed.”

When you elope, you don’t have the society anxiety of being the center of attention. When you elope, you aren’t planning a party for 100 people that aren’t you or your partner. When you elope, you get to spend your money on the things that matter to you. Ultimately eloping gives you a more relaxing wedding day experience.

Reason to Elope #7: A Lot Less Planning

If you hate the idea of planning a giant event, of hosting a lot of people for holidays, if you love cozy simple evenings or intimate date nights, then you will resonate with this next reason for eloping.

People elope because it requires so much less planning than a big, traditional wedding. Piggybacking off of Reason #6 Reducing Stress, elopements are also less stressful because planning them is easier.

This allows couples to invest their time and energy into meaningful aspects of their day.

One couple wrote:

“We’ve been trying to plan a wedding since 2020 and it’s just so not our vibe. It’s too much stress and logistics with our families both not willing to travel to each other.”

In essence, the appeal of eloping lies not only in the intimate nature of the celebration, but also in the practical benefit of requiring considerably less planning. If you want to focus on you and your love, if you want to prioritize your experience of the day instead of focusing on all the complex logistics of planning a big wedding, then you’ll absolutely relate to what this couple said about why they eloped:

“We have begun to plan our wedding but I am so overwhelmed with all of the details and trying to figure out vendors. We just want it to be more intimate with our close friends/family, eating really yummy food, and listening to good music out in nature.”

A lot of people surveyed started planning a big wedding and then ended up eloping instead for this very reason.

“We started to plan a traditional wedding and it started to fog [our brains] and take away from why we are getting married. We have such a big family and so many opinions we lost sight of what we wanted. We took a step back and started looking into Lake Placid weddings, then we finally decided to do a Lake Placid elopement because we want something that’s fun and intimate.”

Let me let you in on a little secret: When you elope, you only have to plan what you want. Don’t want to think about decor? Great. Don’t. Only want to plan an epic picnic on a mountaintop in Switzerland? Great. Do that.

Eloping cuts out everything unnecessary, which makes it infinitely easier and more fun to plan.

Bride and groom hold hands in front of the sunset.
Bride and groom embrace in a desert.

Reason to Elope #8: Love for nature

I want to start by saying that if you don’t love nature, you can still elope. You can still adventure on your wedding day. You can visit Paris or Rome and eat croissants or gelato while perusing museums and finishing the day listening to jazz music.

But something that many couples say about eloping is that it feels like a more authentic way for them to get married surrounded by nature. There’s something about the serenity in nature that echoes how couples want to feel on their wedding day if they don’t like the idea of a big, traditional wedding.

I’ve heard a variation of this theme my whole career photographing elopements:

“We both love the outdoors and are happiest surrounded by nature. Neither of us is excited by the idea of having a “traditional” wedding that is predictable, formal, and frankly boring! We want to spend the day in a beautiful place!”

And one of the top themes that emerged from the survey of 3,000 couples is this: couples who elope choose to elope because they want to get married in nature.

This intrinsic connection to the natural world emerges as a significant motivation, with a notable 131 couples highlighting their specific desire to immerse themselves in nature on their wedding day.

But why nature?

“We believe in a minimal, simple lifestyle. Our love has always been the mountains and outdoor adventure. We are the best versions of ourselves when surrounded by nature mountain biking, hiking etc. we want our wedding to be a reflection of our love story and our love for the outdoors.”

A lot of the responses about nature connected a love of nature with a feeling of being at ease and so many couples who elope want to eliminate the pressures associated with a big wedding.

One couple wrote:

“I’ve been trying to find a wedding venue for the past 5 months that we love and nothing feels special enough. I know the only thing that will feel right is exchanging our vows surrounded by mountains and nature!”

The love for nature encapsulates a spectrum of sentiments, ranging from a deep appreciation for the outdoors to a passion for a good view.

“We both live and breathe nature, so it was a no-brainer that we want nature at the center of our union.”

And if this sounds like you, but you want a little more inspiration on what’s possible, you can browse a ton of location resources on the blog here.

Reason to Elope #9: Simplicity

Couples who elope desire a more simple wedding. The desire for a small, meaningful, and stress-free celebration was a recurring sentiment in over 100 responses.

One couple wrote:

“We just want something simple, intimate, and adventurous—an adventurous day that represents who we are and what we love.”

And what I love about this response is that it really highlights what so many of the responses in the survey mentioned–namely that a lot of these things are tied to one another. Less stress and simplicity. Adventure and nature. Simplicity and nature. Adventure and less stress.

While there are so many different reasons to elope, and each couple who elopes are so beautifully unique in not only their personalities, interests, and desires, there are also these threads woven in almost every questionnaire response.

This emphasis on simplicity was consistent among couples who prioritized experiences over material stuff, as demonstrated by the response: 

“We are simple, no-frills kind of people and care more about experiences than material things.”

Planning for an epic experience simplifies your concerns on your wedding day. No need to please 100+ palates, no need to succumb to a family member’s suggestion, no need to make the day more complicated than you want.

If you want to keep it simple, elope.

Reason to Elope #10: Valuing Experiences over Stuff

People who value experiences over things tend to be drawn to elopements. Not because they don’t want to invest in their wedding day, but because they have a different set of priorities.

The average wedding in the United States in 2023 (according to Brides) costs between $29,000-36,000.

That’s for what ends up being about a six-to-seven hour event (which, hello, breaks down to about $5500 an hour) And during that time, an average of 600 (600!) pounds of waste is produced.

Several couples surveyed mentioned budget as one of their reasons for choosing to elope. But they weren’t saying that they didn’t want to have an incredible day full of experiences they love, just that they didn’t want to spend a ton of money on flimsy decor or food that would inevitably be thrown away.

One couple acknowledged:

“We are adventurous. We don’t want to spend tens of thousands on a big show for everyone, we want an amazing honeymoon and want our elopement to be intimate.”

Instead of paying $10K for your $65 a head meal for over 150 guests, couples who elope get to spend that money on an epic honeymoon or plan an adventure that they’ll talk about for years just like this one… 

“I worked in the wedding industry for two years and watched countless weddings where it was more stress than fun. A full blown wedding is too costly and we’d rather go on an amazing honeymoon for 2 weeks than spend the money on one day.”

Eloping allows you to spend money on things you will enjoy. If it feels like a waste of money to spend $30,000 on one day, then you can definitely relate to what this couple said about eloping:  

“Because we realize that marriage is about us and we want to make our wedding and union a special/unique/memorable adventure rather than spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a stressful “traditional” wedding.”

A wedding doesn’t have to break the bank. You don’t have to feel like the money you’re spending on your wedding is ending up in the trash–literally. Spend it on experiences you’ll relive and retell for the rest of your life.

Reason to Elope #11: Desire to Travel

Believe it or not, a newer reason for eloping that emerged in our study (that wasn’t as highly ranked in 2017 when we first surveyed couples on why they eloped) was a desire to travel.

Eloping provides a unique and customizable way to celebrate your marriage. For globetrotting couples, the opportunity to tie the knot in a location that resonates with their shared love for exploration is way more attractive than hosting their wedding at a local venue.

You are only limited to where you can elope by your imagination.

The flexibility and simplicity of elopements cater perfectly to the travel-loving couple. Rather than being bound by the constraints of a traditional wedding venue, eloping empowers couples to choose a destination that holds personal significance or has been on their list of places they’ve always wanted to explore.

One couple wrote:

“We have dreams of a small intimate ceremony and love how connected we feel when traveling together, especially to a new place.”

Moreover, eloping often opens the door to extended travel experiences, as couples can seamlessly transition from their intimate ceremony into an adventurous honeymoon. 

As someone who met her husband at an Engineers Without Borders meeting and has traveled to every continent together, eloping in Peru was the perfect way to incorporate our love of travel into our wedding.

And as this couple also shared:

“We want a stress-free alternative to a wedding. We also want to do what we love most – travel, experience something new, and be in nature with the people we care about the most.”

Bride and groom embrace in front of a waterfall.

Reason to Elope #12: Better Photos + Experience

Contrary to a common misconception that couples who elope are indifferent to their wedding experience, our data-driven insights reveal a profound level of care and intentionality among eloping couples. 

Far from hastily bypassing the wedding festivities, couples who elope showcase a remarkable commitment to crafting a wedding day experience that is intentional and reflects their values.

And this very often involves investing in amazing photos so that they can preserve their own memories and share their wedding with friends and family.

One couple put it like this:.

“We want to have an all day, once in a lifetime adventure together with beautiful photographs to commemorate and share the experience.”

Obviously as an elopement photographer I’m on board with this perspective. But I’ve not only seen in my own life how much photos can act as bridge from my own experience to a shared experience with someone else, but so many of the couples surveyed resonated with this.

One couple explained:

“I have always dreamed of stunning photos and videography of us in the wilderness on our wedding day, and an elopement seems like the perfect opportunity to commemorate the moment!”

The significance of memories is a recurring theme. Couples who elope stress the importance of ensuring that their photos authentically reflect the emotions and experiences of the day. The couples who responded to the survey expressed a desire for images that transport them back to the genuine emotions and atmosphere of their elopement day.

A couple shared:

“We want an intimate experience and don’t want to spend our wedding day entertaining guests. We want to be surrounded by natural beauty and have really awesome photos to reflect on.”

The survey responses showed that eloping couples view their wedding day as an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the moment, unburdened by schedules, rules, or external expectations. 

Ultimately, the overarching sentiment is encapsulated by one respondent’s insight: 

“Elopement photos are SO beautiful and intimate…at the end of the day, a wedding shouldn’t be about pleasing or impressing anybody else but yourselves! Just do you.”

And if you haven’t gotten a chance to peek at some incredible elopement stories, check out a few of my favorite elopements I’ve gotten to capture here and here.

How the Reasons to Elope have changed over the years

If you’ve been following @adventureinstead for a while, you might know that this is the second time I’ve conducted a study on the reasons why people elope. 

My first survey back in 2018 had 200 responses however interestingly enough, a lot of the reasons for eloping remain the same since then. But what’s fun is to account for the changes in the survey data. Let’s take a look at the top ten reasons why people eloped 5 years ago.

2018 Reasons to Elope Study by Adventure Instead (200 responses)

  1. A “Just Us” Experience
  2. Authenticity
  3. Intimacy & Intention
  4. Less Family Drama
  5. Valuing Experiences Over Stuff
  6. Less Stress & Anxiety
  7. Too Much Planning
  8. Not the Center of Attention
  9. Life Is Meant to be An Adventure
  10.  Amazing Photos

2023 Reasons to Elope Study by Adventure Instead (3000 responses):

  1. Desire for the Non-traditional (& Rejection of the “Big Wedding Thing”)
  2. Intimacy & Privacy (a “just us experience) 
  3. Adventure & Spontaneity
  4. Less family drama
  5. Personal Authenticity
  6. Less Stress & Anxiety
  7. A Lot Less Planning
  8. Love for Nature
  9. Simplicity
  10. Valuing Experiences Over Stuff
  11. Desire to Travel
  12. Better Photos & Experience 

Most notably, the order of frequency has shifted. Intimacy and less stress have held consistently in spots 2 and 6 respectively, but the desire for something individual and unique as well as a rejection of tradition has moved up the ranks of responses.

Plus a desire for travel and simplicity have emerged as new reasons and I think the last three years have truly affected the way people view not only weddings but also the kinds of lifestyles they want to foster.

Younger generations are excited to express their own desires, interests, and values in a way that is changing the landscape of what a wedding looks like, and a global pandemic has reminded us as a collective how we don’t have to invite people to everything for it to be special.

But something I found fascinating is how couples who elope prioritize authenticity… whether they were eloping in 2018 or 2023.

Whether we see that in seeking out the tranquility of nature, desiring an intimate, stress-free celebration that mirrors their values or a love of travel, eloping has always been a choice to prioritize connection. 

Eloping is always about the couple, allowing them to savor genuine moments without external pressures. 

The allure of unique settings, personalized experiences, and the freedom to prioritize their relationship defines the elopement experience. 

From a love of travel to a desire for amazing photos, eloping empowers couples to craft a wedding day that is as extraordinary and authentic as their love story.

Survey Methodology for 20203 Reasons to Elope Study by Adventure Instead

This 2023 study captured responses from 3149 couples who inquired about their elopement with Adventure Instead via our contact form between May 25th 2020 and October 23rd 2023 in response to the question “Why are you considering eloping?.” Respondents represent couples from all over the world with various ethnicities, income levels, race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity.  The study was conducted using a sequential exploratory design (qualitative-quantitative) utilizing a grounded theory methodology, with emergent coding and thematic analysis by Dr. Alistair Cook MBA PHD. These themes are presented in quantitative order, based on the number of associated coded references in the study data set.

Why we eloped

In addition to the top 12 data-backed reasons why couples elope, I wanted to share my own personal story on why my partner and I eloped in Peru. 

My partner and I are both introverted people who have lived life on our own terms. We are from 2 different continents and cultures—he grew up in the highlands of Scotland and I grew up in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. We both have spent our life traveling—he’s been to 70 countries, and I’ve been to 40. 

One big difference in our stories was our childhood. He grew up with an amazing family and my childhood was traumatic. I’ve actually been estranged from my parents for years. 

So when it came to us deciding how we wanted to get married, we never felt like we needed to sign up for the traditional thing, but the “who” we wanted to invite was complicated. 

There was no way I could have said my vows in front of my parents (even though I love his parents)—so we opted to elope just the two of us in Peru and then have his UK family come to Colorado 6 months later for a fun weekend in the mountains to celebrate. 

Eloping gave us the chance to be fully present, authentic, and vulnerable. It was simple, but stunning, and it was perfect for us.

What are the disadvantages to eloping?

With all these reasons shared about why couples DO choose to elope, let’s talk about the potential disadvantages to eloping.

I’ll be honest. Eloping isn’t for everyone. It takes courage to have a wedding day that’s truly yours. 

I wouldn’t recommend eloping for someone who: 

  • Really struggles with people pleasing and wants to make everyone else happy
  • Absolutely loves giant parties with hundreds of people and loves being the center of attention
  • Has always dreamed about following every single big wedding tradition

If you need to get married in the same venue your mom got married in…

If you love hosting big parties and want hundreds of people to see you say your vows or watch you hear speeches about you…

If you want your mother in law to plan the entire day for you, or you get physically ill worrying about disappointing people…

Then you probably wouldn’t enjoy eloping. Go have that big wedding—you have my blessing. 

And while I’m saying this in a cheeky tone—truth is, I am absolutely for you having the wedding you dream about… so if that is a bigger wedding, then I fully support you going all out on the things that are meaningful to you.

Common questions, myths, misconceptions about eloping—so you can decide if eloping is for you

Even though eloping is gaining momentum, there are still so many questions about what it means to elope and I absolutely love debunking myths or misconceptions about eloping.

What does elope mean?

The simplest definition of “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 (or days!) is full about you two. Eloping provides absolute freedom, allowing you to commit your life to your partner in a manner and setting that resonates with your individuality.

What’s the difference between an Elopement vs. a Wedding?

Whether you’re new to the concept of non-traditional, adventurous elopements or have long envisioned your dream elopement, you likely recognize the distinct differences between elopements and weddings. Elopements, as we define them, are intentionally small, intimate, and authentic experiences focused on the couple. In contrast, weddings often shift the focus to encompass various elements like the event itself, entertaining guests, and incorporating traditions. While the end goal—committing to your partner—is the same, the journey and experience differ significantly between elopements and weddings.

What are the pros & cons of eloping?

Many of the pros to eloping are found above in the top 12 reasons to elope, but ultimately the key pros of eloping include but aren’t limited to: the stress free planning process, the lack of family drama, the simplicity and beauty of a wedding day that looks and feels like you, and being able to spend your wedding in nature or wherever you want!

Most of the cons of eloping center around the fact that eloping is just a day focused on the couple. An elopement is not a giant party (unless you want to elope in Ibiza!) and so if you do want your entire extended family present, eloping might not be for you. If you love the idea of letting your food get cold while you hop table to table saying 30 second hellos to everyone you know, then you won’t love a quiet picnic on a mountain top with a tiny group of friends.

And while this answer might seem pointed, it’s because, as the couples in the 3,000 person survey noted, to elope is to make a very intentional choice in the way you get married. It’s not for everyone. But if it is for you, it’s going to feel like a huge relief, it’s going to feel so you.

Who do you invite to an elopement?

The good news is that you can invite whomever you want to your elopement.

While elopements are intentionally small they can be just the couple, the couple with pets, even the couple with a small group of family and/or friends!

An epic elopement can absolutely involve your family and friends—about half of the elopements I’ve photographed have included 10-20 people. 

The common misconception of eloping as a couple running away without involving family isn’t an accurate definition of an elopement. Many couples elope with family because they want to spend more intentional time with their closest loved ones.

How much does it cost to elope?

Similar to a big wedding, the cost of an elopement can range widely. The average cost a wedding is $30,000 in the U.S. and the average guest count is 117. The cost of eloping can be anywhere from just your local courthouse’s marriage license fee of round $30-60 to spending the same as a wedding on an amazing trip, experience, & photographer. 

Elopements aren’t a “cheap” version of a wedding—but more about spending money in a way that aligns with your priorities and not just for the sake of a long guest list.

The point is that eloping can cost what you want. And your priorities for the day get the biggest parts of the budget.

Do you get engaged if you elope?

Many couples who elope still have a traditional proposal and “get engaged” however it’s not required. Eloping means throwing out the rulebook and doing what you love. So that should extend to all parts of the process–engagement included.

What’s the difference between eloping and getting married?

In short, nothing! An elopement is still your wedding day—it’s the day you get married. However, you can absolutely decide to have a commitment ceremony when you elope instead of a legally binding wedding ceremony.

Technically, my elopement was a commitment ceremony because my partner and I had legally signed the paperwork to get married in Colorado before we read our vows in Peru.

What is elopement etiquette?

Telling your family and friends about your elopement (that you are in fact eloping and that they aren’t invited) can be a really delicate situation.

Traditional wedding announcements follow a clear etiquette, from “save the date” to formal invitations. 

But what does elopement etiquette look like? How do you announce an elopement? In short, like the rest of what comes with an elopement there are no rules here. Some couples tell family in friends in advance (check out my template for announcing your elopement if you want to go that route). Others, keep it a secret and share the photos with family and friends to celebrate later. You can even plan a post-elopement party!

How do you actually elope?

Unlike traditional weddings with set traditions, elopements offer unparalleled freedom, which can be overwhelming at first.

The good news is, I’ve been in your shoes. On top of having helped numerous couples craft authentic and unique elopement adventures, I also eloped myself! I totally get the joy of getting married by planning a day that is true to you, centered on your love, free from the stress of a big, traditional wedding.

I’ve compiled so many amazing resources to help you—a great place to start is my ultimate guide on how to elope and my curated list of the best places to elope. 
And if you’d like your own personal planning consultant and elopement designer—feel free to reach out.

Should I Elope? How to decide for yourself

So now the question is whether or not you should elope.

And honestly this is the fun part.

Deciding whether to elope involves considering a mix of personal values and preferences. 

Take a moment to reflect on what matters most to you—whether it’s adhering to traditional wedding norms or opting for a more intimate celebration.

If a huge wedding sounds draining, uncomfortable, stressful, know that you can elope instead. 

You can have an incredibly meaningful, intimate wedding day without family drama or stress.

You can fly to Switzerland, or Hawaii, or the Faroe Islands. You can roadtrip to Mexico or sail to the Bahamas. You can rock climb, kayak, hike, or take a hot air balloon across the desert. 

The choice of what your wedding looks and feels like is fully yours when you elope.

Think you’re ready to elope?

Have you read the survey responses and found yourself nodding “yes” or aligned with their reasons for eloping?

Have you been starting to plan a big wedding and wanted to give up or hated every second of it?

Have you been looking for a sign that you should forgo the traditional route and plan a day that’s an epic adventure?

Then I think it’s time for you to start planning your elopement.

And the good news is that I’m here to help. 

Bottom line—you and your love deserve to have a wedding day that’s exactly what you want. 

I have some amazing resources to help from the best places to elope to how to actually elope

Plus, here are some amazing love stories I’ve captured in beautiful locations around the world to help inspire you to take the path less traveled and much less stressful. 

And feel free to reach out if you’d like personal help planning your day—I’d love to be a part of your journey.

You don’t have to compromise. You can elope!

Bride and groom embrace while watching the starry night sky.

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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