A general understanding of what it means to elope is to run away in order to get married, especially secretly, even more so to avoid the interference of disapproving parents. Some imagine a Romeo and Juliette-esque middle of the night hushed escape, others imagine a quick and tacky chapel in the middle of the dessert. Eloping is equal parts romantic and scandalous.
A modern elopement looks a lot different than the elopements of old, with incredible adventures and elaborate displays of love all wrapped up into a wedding day. Couples often spend several months and thousands of dollars planning, with full wedding attire, photography, and sometimes even guests. That’s right, depending on who you ask, an eloping couple might be able to bring along children, parents, or best friends and still claim the title for their nuptials. So what differentiates an elopement from other methods of tying the knot? Perhaps we can look at the word itself for answers.
According to Merriam Webster, the original meaning of the word elope meant “to escape”, which is where we get the image of the couple running away in the night (instead of going to the courthouse on their lunch break). Even now, much of that escaping sentiment is still there for most eloping couples. Some are trying to escape the astronomical costs of a wedding, others are trying to escape from familiar obligations, others are eager to escape their unmarried lives- many are attempting to escape all three.
I notice most eloping couples have three things in common: they want to get married for practical as well as emotional reasons, they are spontaneous/adventurous, and they are excited to celebrate but more excited to get onto married life. The idea of planning a wedding for two years or going into debt seems as absurd couple as eloping does to the couple planning a big, expensive wedding. That isn’t to say eloping couples don’t care, on the contrary many couples care deeply about many aspects of their day, but they dream a little differently. Photography, for example, is often the star of the show, and couples will literally climb mountains for the sake of the perfect backdrop. Finding the perfect venue is less appealing than the perfect view. Instead of creating a perfect day from scratch, more eloping couples are happy to have some surprises on their wedding day and just live in the moment.
How does a micro wedding differ from an elopement? Micro wedding couples are all the wedding experiences, just on a smaller scale. They are romantics at heart, and want to take the time to make sure they tell their love story a certain way. Whereas the eloping couple dreams about mountaintops and freedom from stress, micro wedding couples dream about magical moments and pampered experiences (with less spectacle and expense than a traditional wedding).
If you are considering eloping, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. You *can* keep many of the wedding staples you care about. The aisle, the white dress, the cake- you don’t have to go without most traditions you were excited to experience! Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean it’s not your wedding day.
2. You might still have some planning to do! Even for a very simple and stress-free elopement, consider what you will wear, the marriage license, your vows, and whether or not you want photos. For you adventurous types, consider park permits, wedding attire-appropriate hiking gear, and plane tickets. The more pampered elopements can include things like a honeymoon suite, transportation, music, and announcements.
There are so many ways to elope, from escaping in the middle of the night to Vegas chapels, to hiking adventures, to private dinners with hot air balloon rides. An elopement isn’t so much about the style or the number of guests as it is the heart and spirit of it. Eloping couples want to escape the traditional trappings of a wedding and do something intimate, quick, and adventurous (even if the adventure is a spontaneous trip to the courthouse). At the end of the day, what you call your celebration has little weight compared to the joy it can bring you. Call it whatever you want, but however you choose to celebrate, don’t be afraid to be unapologetically you.