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Why Do People Elope? 6 Reasons To Have An Elopement

Updated: Feb 8


A couple dances on a mountaintop on their elopement day by Mount Baker at sunrise

Why do people choose to elope instead of having a traditional wedding? What is eloping actually like? Is having an elopement right for you and your partner?


As an elopement photographer, I get this question a lot. It can be hard to decide whether or not an elopement is right for you and your partner. There are so many answers to these questions, and different people are going to tell you different things. It truly boils down to what matters most to you and your partner. What are the things that are most important to you? How are you going to have the BEST wedding day possible for you?


*Disclaimer: there is no "right" answer.* The answer will be different for everyone! No one deserves to feel pressured into a type of wedding that doesn't feel like them and that they don't want. Everyone should have a wedding day that is an authentic, meaningful representation of their relationship and is perfect for them- whether that's a traditional wedding or an elopement. The experience in which you say your vows to your partner, when you commit the rest of your life to them, matters. Your wedding day should be everything you've ever dreamed of (and more).


But first, what even is an elopement? There are a lot of misconceptions and confusion around the idea of what an elopement truly is.

 

An elopement is 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.

 

So... to help you decide if having an elopement is right for you, I compiled a list of 6 really great reasons to ditch the big wedding and to have an adventurous elopement instead.

A couple is reflected in a pool with a mountain behind them at alpenglow at sunset in Mount Rainier National Park on their elopement day
A couple embraces and goes in for a kiss in front of a stunning range of snow capped mountains during their Alaskan elopement

1. Elopements are an intentional and intimate experience


When you elope, you have the freedom to be your truest self. There's no pressure, obligations, or stress. Many couples who elope want to escape the "production & performance" a big wedding often brings in exchange for something simpler and down to earth. Elopements allow you and your partner to have an authentic celebration of your love that truly represents your relationship. For many people, having a huge, traditional wedding isn't what they want. And that's totally okay. (Just like it's okay to want a traditional wedding!)


If you don't like to be the center of attention and the idea of having a big party with the focus of the day solely on you makes you break into a sweat- you don't have to do it. If you feel uncomfortable expressing your deepest emotions and most intimate promises to your partner in front of other people- don't. Instead, you can elope! Elopements create the opportunity to be incredibly comfortable and creates the space to say what you truly want to say in your vows. It takes away the pressure of people watching you and takes away any fear of judgment. Elopements strip everything away down to what really matters- two people exchanging their vows and celebrating their love for each other.


When you elope, you have WAY more time to spend with your partner. On a traditional wedding day, there is so much going on that it can be incredibly hard to have just a moment alone with your partner to soak in the day. With a hundred or so guests vying for your attention, time can quickly fly by. Elopements allow you to be with your partner the whole day. You two can spend the day together having the best time ever, reveling in the fact that you just got married and you get to spend the rest of your lives together!


Your wedding day should be reflective of the two of you- of the love you share and of the life you want to lead together. When you elope, you can have no distractions, no stress, no drama, regrets, or expectations- just two people committing the rest of their lives to one another.


Hear it from real couples who eloped:


"We wanted the day to be about us and not our guests. We've been through a lot of hard times already in our relationship, and we did all that just the two of us. We would love to celebrate our marriage selfishly." -Beth & Andrew


"Neither of us wanted a big wedding and so something small was always the goal. There are also issues with our families and so we don’t want to include many of them because they are not supportive of us being together. An elopement allows for a more intimate moment for a wedding and allows us to focus on the things that are most important to us on that day and that is us and celebrating our relationship." -Kayla & Tucker


"We always thought about eloping but settled on a traditional wedding when we finally started planning. COVID cancelled our original plans and it made us reconsider what we REALLY wanted. Watching our friends spend their whole wedding making sure things ran smoothly, made us realize we just wanted to focus on each other." -Kaitlin & Derek


"We decided that something private and stress free better fit our lives and personalities. Neither of us want to spend a year planning for other people, we would rather have a day that involves things we love doing together." -Sarah & Chris


"After a lot of reflection, we realized we did not want to have a big ceremony. We really grew closer over the pandemic, just the two of us, and an elopement reflects this intimate togetherness we've shared over the past year. The more we envisioned a "traditional" ceremony, the more stressed out we felt about the idea. Taking a step back and allowing ourselves to imagine being married (and not focus on a wedding) felt exciting and like a relief. Definitely more "us"!" -Chellie & Blake


2. Eloping focuses on experiences and adventure


People who elope tend to value experiences over material items. They would rather dedicate their time and money into having an intimate adventure, versus a big party. It's not that people who elope are unwilling to invest money into their wedding day, it's that they want to invest it in other ways. For some, its more important to spend their wedding day having an adventure (like hiking in the mountains, kayaking in a lake, traveling to a new country, exploring the beach or desert, or even taking a helicopter tour!) than it is to have a big party.


Life is meant to be an adventure. So, why not start off your marriage with an epic day full of new adventures? Just because having a big, traditional wedding seems like what you "have" to do, doesn't mean that's the case at all. If you're someone who dreams of new experiences and is constantly seeking new thrills- an elopement may be perfect for you.


Being adventurous isn't just skydiving and mountain climbing. It's a mindset. It's constantly striving to be better, learning from your mistakes and pushing yourself to grow. It's challenging the "norm", and forging your own path through life, no matter how hard that might be. It's following your heart and staying true to what you believe in. It's being brave and having a wedding day that is exactly what you want to do, even if it may be different.


If you could go anywhere in the world and do anything you wanted to do, where would you go and what would you do? What does a "perfect day" for you and your partner look like? Do you both love nature and love exploring outdoors? Are you foodies who love cooking and eating delicious meals? Are you always planning trips to new, far-away places? When you elope, you can go anywhere and do anything. Maybe there's a place that has an indescribable pull on you, it's fundamental to you and your relationship and you could go there countless times- without ever growing tired of it. Maybe there's a place you've been dying to explore and dream of visiting. When you elope, the possibilities for your wedding day are endless.


Hear it from real couples who eloped:


"We decided to elope for many reasons, but mostly because we wanted adventure. Our whole relationship has been an adventure from day one so why stop here? Plus we wanted our family and friends to enjoy an adventure with us!" -Amanda & Roe


"We both love hiking and exploring new places and with an elopement we could fit all of that into one experience! We also wanted out ceremony to be quiet and intimate with just a few family members." -Maggie & Nick


"A traditional wedding is just not our style. We take every vacation day we can to go on adventures to amazing places in nature so it just seemed natural for us to get married in an equally awesome & amazing place!" -Jess & Joe


"We wanted a small, low-key wedding that was private and intimate while still having an adventure!" -Kat & Michael

A couple snowshoes in the mountains during their adventure engagement photo session at Hurricane Ridge
A couple cuddles on an airplane wing in Sedona at sunset during their Sedona elopement

3. Eloping eliminates expectations, obligations, stress, and drama


Elopements allow you to strip away every expectation and obligation that other people have of how your wedding day "should" look like. Let's face it- when you are getting married, everyone is going to have an opinion and tell you what you should and shouldn't do. Plus, the wedding industry makes you feel like there are so many things you *have* to do in order to have a successful, beautiful wedding. No matter what you decide, there's bound to be someone telling you it's the wrong choice. But guess what? That doesn't matter. Your wedding day should be exactly what you and your partner want- it truly doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. When you decide to elope, you are relieved of so much pressure and stress that comes with planning a large wedding. No longer are you conformed to complying with things that seem forced to you (goodbye standardized, cookie cutter traditions!!). Instead, you can design your day however you want.


Eloping also avoids any family drama. Not everyone has a family that they feel safe or comfortable being around or a family that supports them (not something you want on your wedding day!). Everyone deserves to be the happiest they can possibly be on the day they get married and feel completely comfortable while saying their vows. Even if you DO have a family that you love dearly, you can still choose to have an elopement and that's okay! If family drama is something you're concerned with, it doesn't have to be that way.


Plus, planning a wedding is incredibly stressful and can be very overwhelming! Not everyone wants to plan a huge party for 100-150 people, it's just too much. Too much logistics. Too much stress. Too much anxiety. Planning your wedding doesn't have to be a logistical nightmare that you end up dreading. (How many times have you heard a couple say that they "couldn't wait for this to be over"?). Believe it or not, you can have an experience that is 100% enjoyable without a hint of stress. Plan an elopement instead! Elopements aren't rushed, stressful events. Instead, they're relaxed, easy-going, and allow you to be fully present on your day. Instead of being about what everybody else wants, your wedding day becomes truly about celebrating the love you and your partner share. You have the ultimate freedom to decide what the day in which you exchange your vows looks like.


Hear it from real couples who eloped:


"I did not want to spend my day pleasing everybody and being told how to put on a great show. The venues were never booked because I hesitated. Eventually, I discovered adventure weddings and everything clicked: it was us, and it was for me. So we booked Kathleen and got married on the peak 3 months later. If you hate the traditionally elaborated weddings like I do, and you're not sure if you want people to point fingers and tell you what to do, then perhaps an adventure wedding is for you. It’s a wonderful feeling when two people join hands to plan their first milestone together, free of remarks and unhappiness, filled with details that tug at their heartstrings. We are incredibly happy to start this new journey together with nonexistent debt and leftover savings for our honeymoon." -Trang and Uriah


"We were looking for a day to celebrate us without the pressure of having the perfect day that everyone else dreams about. Eloping will make our wedding day be about us and not a party that we had to stress about for a year. We are both very simple people who love the outdoors." -Mary & Connor


"We don't like being in the spotlight. We wanted it to be private so we could enjoy the day the way we wanted." - Emily & Freddie


"We both have huge families and lots of friends and we didn't want any drama to ruin our day. We also realize that our love is our love alone and we want the wedding to be intimate and special and not just a party for everyone else." -Megan & Jon


"COVID ended up canceling our original big wedding plans which was a blessing in disguise because it wasn't what we ultimately wanted or dreamed of. We are both kind of shy people around big groups and so it's just more us to do an elopement style and we are excited that we're still able to have our immediate family which means the most to us."-Holly & Kody


4. Eloping saves money and creates much less waste


Big, traditional weddings are becoming increasingly more expensive- the average cost to have a wedding in 2019 was $33,900. Now, let's break it down hourly. The average wedding timeline is around 8 hours, from getting ready, the wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, and the reception. That breaks down to it costing about $4,200 an hour! Crazy, right?!


Weddings also create a lot of waste. For a wedding with a guest list of around 100-120 people, there can be an average amount of 400-600 lbs of waste! Sound's pretty unbelievable right? But between invitations, name cards, programs, uneaten food, gift wrapping, decor, disposable dishes, etc (the list goes on and on), it can add up shockingly fast.


Not only are elopements more wallet-friendly, they are more environmentally friendly too!


Hear it from real couples who eloped:


"We are both simplistic and neither of us have an interest to spend money on a huge wedding. We prefer a more intimate ceremony for us to celebrate with our closest friends and family!" -Bianca & Harper

A couple kisses after exchanging their vows in front of Mount Rainier during their elopement
A couple runs in front of a moody alpine lake in the rain during their North Cascades elopement

5. Avoid the "wedding day blur", instead remember and appreciate every moment


Research has shown that 1 in 4 people don't remember exchanging their wedding vows. Many people say that their wedding day went by in such a blur, that's it's hard to remember it. This is a completely understandable problem. In a big wedding, there is so much going on- there are so many people to see, things to do, logistics to manage, and about a million different things calling for your attention. In a state of constant stimulus, it is extremely hard to focus and make lasting memories.


It doesn't have to be that way! Your wedding day doesn't have to be a stressful, busy event. Instead, it can be a day full of intimacy and intention, focused on celebrating your relationship and love. Eloping allows you to be fully present on your wedding day, soaking in every single moment and experience that the day brings.


At first glance, having every single person you care about in the same room on your wedding day sounds fantastic. However, it can be hard to actually get the chance to be with every single one of them for any meaningful amount of time. The average wedding reception is four to five hours, and the average wedding guest count is 120 people. So let's say your reception is five hours and you want to spend an equal amount of time talking to each person, that gives you 2.5 minutes per person (that's not counting speeches, dinner, cake, dancing, and any other activities you have planned). With an intimate wedding or elopement, you can still invite people (just typically a lot less). When you invite only your closest friends and family, you have so much more time to spend with them and to talk with them-making every moment count.


Hear it from real couples who eloped:


"It's crazy how some days in life you forget. Then others like our elopement day you can remember every second. Amazing day and even more amazing memories." -Holly & Kody


6. Photography


Elopements produce beautiful photos full of true, raw emotion and showcase intimate, real moments. Elopement photography captures the true essence of a relationship and love that two people share. There's no rushed, awkward poses, or forced emotion just to get "the shot". No faked laughter. No "okay, now look at me and smile... now look at each other". No feelings of discomfort.


How is it so different?


Elopements allow you the opportunity to be your truest self. You have the time and the freedom to feel every emotion and are able to not hold anything back. Elopements allow your photographer the time to capture beautiful, authentic moments (without having to fabricate them). When you elope, there's a lot more time for you to get comfortable. There's more time to capture the little cheek kisses, the hand holding, the soft smiles, and genuine laughter. Elopements are much more relaxed and you can truly enjoy the moment. When you are stress-free and having a blast, amazing photographs naturally follow. As your photographer, I'm your adventure buddy- along for the ride, documenting the two of you having the time of your lives. Contact me to get started in planning your elopement!


Photographs are powerful. They have the ability to transport you to the moment they were taken- allowing you to relive that particular memory over and over again. Elopements allow for the opportunity to have photographs of real, genuine moments that reflect all of your emotions and can be cherished forever.


Hear it from real couples who eloped:


"We are not good about taking pictures together on a regular basis and so it is important to us to have some great pictures from our wedding. This is what drew us to the idea of a photographer to help plan an elopement and capture the whole day." -Kayla & Tucker


The most important thing to remember when planning your elopement or wedding is to do whatever you and your partner want! Seriously. As long as you plan a day that makes both of you happy, I promise it will be perfect. I mean at the end of the day you're marrying your best friend and love of your life. And what could be better than that?

 

Want More Resources?


Get a budget breakdown and learn how much an elopement costs in comparison to a traditional wedding.


Learn what it's really like to elope with these stories & helpful advice from couples who've previously eloped!


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!

 
A couple stands in front of a magnificent mountain peak during their adventure engagement session in the North Cascades
A bride laughs on her adventure elopement day in the Washington mountains
A couple hugs and looks at the serene reflection of a mountain in the lake during their sunrise elopement in North Cascades National Park
A couple hugs on the beach and takes a moment for reflection during their Olympic National Park elopement
A couple hiking in the rainforest during their Olympic National Park elopement

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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!


CONTACT ME HERE!

Alaska elopement photographer in front of the Matanuska glacier

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