Should We Elope? Will I Regret Eloping?
Updated: Apr 12
What it's Really Like to Elope - Stories & Advice from Couples who Eloped
Are you deciding whether or not you should have a traditional wedding vs. an elopement? Maybe you've started planning a big wedding and have decided that you should just elope instead, but you're asking yourself "will I regret eloping?" or "what's it really like to elope anyways?".
Look, I totally get it! Choosing the way in which you get married is a HUGE decision- the day you say your vows is important! You deserve to have a wedding experience that is everything you've ever dreamed of and is a unique celebration of your love. Everybody should get married in a way that feels like them and shouldn't be pressured into something they don't want. If a large, fancy, traditional wedding doesn't align with who you are or what you want- it's okay! Elopements are such an incredible way to get married. However, since it's still a relatively new concept (at least how they are done today) there is a lot of confusion and questions about what an elopement actually is, what it looks like, how it feels, and how it goes.
While eloping may used to have meant running away in secret to get married (or conjure up images of Elvis in Vegas), that's definitely not what it means anymore. I define an elopement as an intimate, experience-driven, intentional celebration of your relationship that focuses on what matters most- two people exchanging their vows and committing their lives to one another. There are many types of elopements, but adventure elopements are typically outside in nature and involve some element of adventure. Eloping allows you to set aside stress, expectations, and throw out any traditions you don't feel connected to. You can elope just the two of you, or you can elope surrounded by your very closest family and friends. The beautiful thing about eloping? There are no rules.
One of the beautiful parts about eloping is how intimate they are. Elopements are really unique from traditional weddings because they generally don't have very many guests present at them, if any at all. Most people have attended at least one traditional wedding at some point in their lifetime. However, a lot of people have never attended an elopement before! So you may know how the events of a traditional wedding normally goes, what it looks like, what it feels like, and probably know many people who have gotten married in this way before. But, even if you've seen photos and read blogs, it can be hard to know what an elopement is actually like and how it truly feels if you've never experienced it for yourself before. (Hint: It's pretty magical!) And while this resource doesn't focus on the events of an elopement day and all of the activities you can do during it (for that, check out What do you do on your elopement day? 80+ fun elopement activity ideas), it does focus on the emotions & feelings an elopement day brings and talks about what it's truly like to elope!
These are some of the most frequently asked questions that I see asked SO often in Facebook Groups, blogs, forums, and to me personally when couples inquire with me! I wanted to create a helpful resource full of tangible information to 1. help couples decide whether eloping was right for them and 2. give helpful advice from couples who've already eloped to couples just beginning the process. So, I surveyed a bunch of real couples who eloped from a Facebook Group & from my past elopement couples to ask them what it was really like to elope, what their best elopement advice was, and if they regretted eloping. Then, I compiled all the data into this helpful resource for couples like you!
What it's Actually Like to Elope & Elopement Stories
This was probably my absolute favorite part of this "research project". I'm a complete romantic sap, so reading through people's stories of their elopement days was so much fun for me! Even though couples had wildly different experiences, they all tended to use the same key words to describe their day. Here are some most frequently used words people used when talking about what eloping is actually like:
This was hands down the most frequently used word couples used when talking about their elopement and why they loved it. When you elope you have significantly more time to spend with your partner than you would at a traditional wedding. You two can spend the entire day together, doing all your favorite activities (or trying something completely new), celebrating your new marriage and the fact that you get to be together for the rest of your lives!
If you don't like being the center of attention, don't want a big party where the focus of the day is completely on you, or feel uncomfortable saying your vows in front of a bunch of other people, it's alright! Elopements provide a much more intimate experience to get married where you can just focus on each other and the love you share.
What brings you peak happiness? The thing that fills you up so full with joy, where simply thinking about it brings a smile to your face? The thing that no other words can adequately describe it upon request besides simply "amazing"? Yeah, that's pretty much an elopement. It's hard to put into words how powerful it is to exchange your vows in a breathtakingly beautiful area, with either no one else around or just your closest loved ones, on a day that's completely tailored to your unique relationship, having the most fun imaginable with the person you love most in the world by your side. Honestly every single time I have the honor to witness it I either tear up or it feels like my heart is glowing. Other words couples used that I've lumped into this category to describe their days are: the best decision ever, perfect, and magical!
Elopements are much less stressful than traditional weddings- they truly allow you to take away every obligation or expectation of what a wedding day "should be" from societal (and the wedding industry's) standards. Not to mention, planning an event for 150+ people is a LOT of work and comes with a bunch of logistical considerations (even if you have a planner). For most people, their wedding will be the largest event they plan in their life and it can cause a significant amount of unwanted stress. Additionally, traditional weddings can turn into more of a "production" with all of the things you *have* to have and do building up and turning into something you may not even want. Elopements turn it back into what a wedding day should be- celebrating the love of you and your partner in an intentional, authentic way. There's so many couples who initially started planning a traditional wedding and then part of the way through switched to an elopement that said it felt like such a relief and like a giant weight was lifted! Planning your wedding shouldn't be something you dread that eventually works itself into an event that you can't wait for it to just be over. It should be something that you actually enjoy!
When you elope, you can do whatever you want to do and design a wedding experience that you will truly enjoy! Maybe your idea of a fun time isn't having a big dinner & dance party with 100+ people, and that is totally okay! Maybe you want to spend the day hiking in the mountains in Washington, or exploring the desert in Utah, or kayaking among icebergs in Alaska, or traveling to a different country like Patagonia or Iceland! Or doing something more lowkey like dancing in front of a campfire on the beach, having a picnic among wildflowers, reading letters from loved ones by a river, or watching the sunset in a hammock. Whatever sounds like the most fun wedding experience to you, you should do it!
I always suggest to design your elopement day around what you and your partner enjoy doing the most. Think about what some of your favorite memories and adventures you've had together are and consider incorporating elements of those days into your elopement day. Or, maybe you want to do something you've never done before together and have a completely new & wild experience on your wedding day! As long as you create a day that will make you both feel relaxed, happy, in-love, and that you will enjoy- you really can't go wrong. A lot of couples also described their elopement experience as exciting, exhilarating, and liberating!
Because of their intimate and authentic nature, elopements are very emotional experiences. It can be hard, especially if you're more introverted or private, to really let your emotions show and be vulnerable during your ceremony while saying your vows in front of 150+ people. In fact, you may not even want to say personalized vows at all in front of that many people because it feels too personal! Additionally, traditional wedding timelines tend to have a more packed timeline and don't have the time for relaxed, intimate moments, spontaneity, or moments of genuine raw emotion. This is why a lot of times in traditional wedding photography it is very rushed, posed, or prompts are utilized to generate an action and produce forced, simulated emotion to get "the shot". You can also feel like you're being pulled a million different directions between your guests, the events of the wedding, and trying to play host that you don't actually get to enjoy yourself or spend time with your brand new spouse.
Elopements and intimate weddings on the other hand, are so much different. When you strip away everything that doesn't matter and bring a wedding to it's core, two people exchanging their vows and celebrating their love for one another, there is so much more space for emotions. It's so much easier to say everything you truly want to say in your vows to one another when it's just the two of you (or your closest loved ones that you whole-heartedly trust) there. You can hold nothing back and say everything that's in your heart to one another. I once had a couple that took nearly an hour saying their vows!
Besides just the ceremony, everything about an elopement allows more emotion and real moments between a couple. There's so much more time to dedicate towards doing whatever you want to do, and when you're completely relaxed, having the time of your life, filled with joy & happiness, the space for those emotions is more readily present. There's also a lot more time for you to get comfortable in front of your photographer so they can truly capture who you are as a couple and tell your story in an authentic way!
Elopement Stories from Couples who Eloped:
"Eloping was the best decision we have made. There was so much more emotion with it being so intimate. We eloped with just our closest friends and photographers. Everyone was crying because of the love being spread. I don’t think we would’ve been able to have so much of an intimate experience if we had a big wedding." -Esha & Jamie
"Liberating. Amazing. Authentic. It was everything we ever dreamed of and it was so true to us. We both love to hike, love to travel and LOVE our two fur babies and we were able to combine all of those things to become ONE. It is something we will be able to talk about for the rest of our lives." -Ashley & Michael
"Eloping felt magical. We eloped at Redwood National Park with our immediate family. The day started off with both of us in separate Airbnb's with our families to get ready and met at the ceremony spot a bit after. My father walked me down “the aisle” to my husband. See him standing there with our families in a forest felt surreal. It was everything I could imagine! After the ceremony we took family pictures and enjoyed a homemade charcuterie board. Once we finished with that our families went out to explore the park while my husband and I went on an adventure hike with our photographer that ended with sunset at the beach. We then met with everyone at a local restaurant for dinner and enjoyed the night looking back at what we did that day. I recommend eloping to everyone thinking about it. I would do it again In a heartbeat!" -E & K
"Perfect, private and exhilarating. We eloped in Maui, Hawaii. Our families knew of our decision and incredibly supportive. We had an adventure elopement where we exchanged vows in the jungle, went hiking, ate at local food trucks, and jumped in the ocean in our wedding dress and suit." -C & R
"It was such a beautiful day! I loved that it was just him and I and we got to talk and really let our vows soak in. We went hiking and got to see some beautiful views. My husband was such a gentleman too helping me climb things etc. We drank most of the day and started a fire with some friends after our ceremony! I felt like the day revolved around us and it was such an amazing feeling!" -Cheyenne & Kellam
"The process was so easy and it was way cheaper than a traditional wedding would have been and we got to spend a peaceful day outside, taking our time to really connect on our first day being a married couple. I love that the only expectations we had for the day was to enjoy each other’s company and make our commitment “official”. We brought our dogs along and I wouldn’t have wanted to get married any other way!" -Emily & Fred
"We had so many butterflies and emotions exchanging rings and saying our vows to each other. Eloping let us spend our day giving each other our full attention and feeling joy and gratitude for the life we're starting together." -Chellie & Blake
Elopement Advice from Couples Who've Eloped
Do you ever wish that you could transport yourself back in time and tell yourself a piece of advice at the beginning of a really important decision or stage in life? While I can't make that happen yet, I can give you the next best thing! I asked couples if they could go back and tell themselves anything during their elopement process, or if they had any advice in general, what would they say? After combing through all of the survey answers, I compiled the top pieces of advice that couples had to give (surprisingly, there were a lot of common themes!). Here are the five most frequently reported answers:
1. Don't worry about the small stuff
One of the most common themes of advice from answers in the survey was to not sweat the small stuff! Ultimately, things are bound to go wrong (especially with outdoor elopements) and that's okay. Just roll with it, and enjoy your big day! The more flexible you are and able to take things as they come and not stress about it, the more enjoyable of an experience you will have. Whether it's fog, wind, or rain (which honestly looks amazing in photos), a last minute location change due to an unexpected road closure (always plan for a backup location!), or something you won't remember a year from now- take a deep breath a remember at the end of the day you get to be married to your best friend and the love of your life! The more fun you can have the better (plus it'll radiate throughout your images)!
2. Take time to soak everything in
Your elopement day will go by really quickly. It may sound cliché, but it truly does go by in the blink of an eye. So, don't rush through it! I mean, you did choose to elope for a reason right? Take time to relax and soak in every last moment. Enjoy a really nice cup of coffee or tea in the morning. Take a little extra time walking the trail to feel the bark on the tree or the sunshine on your face, and smell the wildflowers or ocean air. Watch every last drop of the sunset while being cuddled up to your new spouse. Make time for your favorite activities, whether that's reading poetry, listening to or playing music, playing board games, having a picnic, cuddling in a hammock, or reading letters from loved ones. I also suggest leaving time for spontaneity too! Maybe you want to have a snowball fight with the snow that hasn't melted on the trail yet, or jump into the lake or ocean, or have a first dance up in the mountains, or skip rocks on the riverbed, or stop at another location you see driving by that looks amazing. Elopements are meant to be relaxed and stress-free, so give yourself enough time to do everything you want and don't try to fit everything in to little amount of time- that will leave you feeling rushed and frustrated.
3. Invest in a good photographer
This one was mentioned several times, and while I may be biased, I 100% agree with them! Your elopement day will only happen once. Those memories are SO incredibly important! Plus, unlike a traditional wedding, you probably won't have very many guests (if any) so the photographs your photographer takes could very well be your only physical memories of your wedding day that you have.
Choose someone who you both connect and get along with. You'll be spending a lot of time with them- especially for an elopement! If your personalities clash, it'll probably be awkward and reflect in your photos. Ask about what their posing style is and how involved they are during your day. If you want natural, relaxed, unposed, storytelling photos and book someone who shoots very posed, stiff photos, and takes a very involved, directed or invasive approach- you will probably be unhappy. Choose someone who's photos and style you love! Additionally, with elopements, most photographers should help you with the planning process. When searching for a photographer be sure to ask how much they help you when planning (do they help you find a location, help you get permits, help find other vendors & lodging, give you helpful advice, and help you plan a timeline). This is one element of your elopement I highly, highly suggest investing in and not taking the cheapest or first option you find.
4. Don't have guests if you don't want them
If you want to elope just the two of you, don't let anyone talk you into having guests if you don't want them. It's your wedding day and honestly no one "deserves" an invite to your wedding if you don't want them there! Even if you love your family dearly, it's perfectly okay to want to elope just the two of you. Your wedding day is about celebrating your love, your way. There are many ways you can celebrate with family & friends after the fact if you want to keep your elopement just the two of you, so don't feel pressure to do something you don't truly want! On the other hand, if you can't imagine getting married without certain people by your side-don't! It is perfectly alright to elope with your closest loved ones as well. When you only invite the people that are closest to you, it becomes so special because you can truly spend a meaningful amount of time with them and it is a more intimate, emotional experience. Bottom line: it's your elopement- whether you want guests or not is completely up to you!
Another piece of advice that many couples brought up was to not tell anyone about your plans, and to keep all of the details to yourself. I think this is a complicated topic and can vary from couple to couple as it depends on your family, friends, and support system that you have in place. I believe that this is something only you can decide for yourself based on how you think your loved ones will react. Let's face it, not everyone has a supportive family that they can lean on and that sucks. So if you think sharing your plans will bring unwanted opinions, drama, coercion to add guests or change plans, and will make you feel less excited about your day, then by all means- wait until after you elope to share your plans (or be selective with who you tell!). However, if you're lucky enough to have a family who does support you (whether they'll be physically present on your day or not), feel free to share your plans with them and include them in the planning process as much as you'd like- I'm sure they would absolutely love it!
5. Try not to get overwhelmed while planning
Try not to let the process overwhelm you, even planning a small wedding can feel like a lot at times, so try taking it in small manageable chunks instead of all at once. Start with the bigger things that are the most important to you and once you have those sorted out, then deal with the little stuff. Many people noted that lists, planners, and spreadsheets were helpful for them. But overall, remember to have fun with it! Focus on creating a day that will be the *perfect* day for the both of you and will be a fun celebration of your unique relationship. No two elopements look alike, so plan a day that you'll truly enjoy!
Hear it from real couples who eloped:
"Do it and tell NO ONE until after the fact! We made the mistake of running it by friends and families beforehand and we almost got talked out of it. We were absolutely pressured to do SOMETHING so now we are doing a micro wedding in addition to our elopement!" -Ashley & Michael
"Things will definitely go wrong, don’t stress about it everything will turn out beautifully at the end of the day. The day will also go by in a blink of an eye. Take a moment to stop and enjoy it." -E & K
"Don't over think things. Keep it simple and just have fun." -Jessica & Victor
"The best advice I could give is to start with the bigger things that are most important to you first! For us it was location and a photographer. But if you’re most important thing is your dress, I definitely recommend giving yourself the most amount of time to find those things or vendors so you are happy with your decision and aren’t stressed about it last minute!" -Charlotte & Skylar
"Try not to let the process overwhelm you. We decided to elope to avoid the typical wedding stress. Planning the elopement was easy and relatively stress free. Imagine your ideal day and you can make it happen- there are no “normal” elopements, so that took a lot of the stress away as well. We didn’t feel pressured to pursue normal wedding traditions which opened up so many opportunities for the elopement day." -Emily & Freddy
"If struggling between the idea of a "traditional" wedding vs. eloping: identify the things you actually want from the experience, and take away everything else, and see how that feels. We wanted to be in nature and to get dressed up and have pictures for the day, all of which was possible with eloping! One other tactical piece of advice is to still go through the process of collecting friend/family addresses early on, e.g. for announcement cards after." -Chellie & Blake
Do Couples Regret Eloping?
When I asked couples from my survey "Do you regret eloping?", the answer was a clear and resounding NO! Additionally, none of the couples I have personally worked with have regretted eloping either! Many of them said it was the best day ever and they would relive it over and over again. Interestingly enough, if you Google Search "Do couples regret having a traditional wedding", or "wedding regrets" a LOT of results pop up, with a common theme being that couples who had a traditional wedding wished they eloped!
Want to know more reasons why couples choose to elope? Check out the 6 most common reasons why couples elope vs. having a traditional wedding!
But of course, eloping is not for everyone and it would be wrong of me to say that it is. Even though I think it is the best, most intentional way to get married possible, there are couples who it wouldn't be the right choice for. And that's okay!
If you've always wanted a big wedding, surrounded by every single person you know and care about, having a big party to celebrate afterwards and dreamed about it your entire life- eloping is probably not the path for you. Be true to yourself. Take some time for introspective reflection and think about what you really want for your wedding day (both separately and together) before coming to a conclusion. If you're really honest with yourself, think through it intentionally, and plan a fun day that is authentic to your relationship and self, I can *almost* guarantee that you won't regret it.
Do Couples Who've Eloped Regret it?
"Absolutely not. I would do it again and again and again!" -Ashley & Michael
"Absolutely not!! Our day=our way!" -C & R
"Not at all!! I was very lucky to have a supportive family and can’t imagine if they were to guilt me about it but it was so incredibly special for me and my husband and I would highly recommend eloping to anyone who is interested in it!" - Charlotte & Skylar
"Not at all. Best decision we've made" -Cheyenne & Kellam
"Absolutely not. We had so much fun making the day ours and wouldn't have wanted it any other way!" -Chellie & Blake
"No, not at all. Had so much fun from beginning to end. Didn't want the day to end. Best part was getting married while hiking!" -Jessica & Victor
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Want More Resources?
Get a budget breakdown and learn how much an elopement costs in comparison to a traditional wedding.
Get ideas for your elopement & be inspired by this Romantic Olympic National Park Elopement!
Learn How to Elope in Alaska step by step with this Ultimate Guide full of helpful advice such as the best time of year to elope in Alaska, location ideas, activity suggestions, and example timelines!
Hire Your Elopement Photographer
Hi! My name is Kathleen and I'm an adventure wedding and elopement photographer (and your new friend!). I'm here to help guide you to having the ultimate wedding day experience, and to document every single moment of it. I would love to help you plan your elopement and answer any questions you may have! I photograph elopements primarily in Washington, Alaska, Arizona & Utah, but am always available for travel.
Check out my elopement packages to get started planning your dream adventure, and then get in touch with me- I'd love to hear from you!