A bride walks toward the groom as he stands at the altar near the river at Piney River Ranch in Vail, Colorado during their elopement. Image overlaid with text that reads What is an elopement wedding? Photograph by Nikk Nguyen, an Austin, Texas wedding photographer.

What is an Elopement Wedding? (2022)

So, what is an elopement, actually? Elopement weddings are a less common and traditional way to get married. However, with COVID-19 preventing many typical wedding traditions, 2022 has been the best year to embrace non-traditional weddings, including elopements!

To learn more about what goes into an elopement wedding and why they are so special, keep reading!

What is an elopement?

Even if you’re wondering, “what is an elopement, exactly?” you may already have some preconceived ideas about this type of wedding.

You’ve probably heard people at least joke about spontaneously running off to get married in Las Vegas. This is the perfect example of how elopements are seen as casual, last-minute weddings that require little planning. There is also a common belief that people who elope do so because they are getting married under undesirable circumstances, such as little or no familial support. However, these ideas are outdated and tend to be inaccurate. 

It is true that elopements are very small wedding ceremonies, with just the couple, an officiant, and maybe a couple of guests. Yet, they don’t necessarily lack planning and intentionality. One of the biggest reasons to choose an elopement is that you can really focus your wedding around what you and your fiancé want. 

Elopements are unique and intimate

The small size of an elopement wedding allows you to really prioritize your wedding around what you want, versus having to plan for and cater to lots of wedding guests, family requests, etc. You get to plan a wedding that revolves solely around you and your fiancé and what feels special to you both. By nature, this makes an elopement wedding incredibly intimate and romantic.

Bride and groom embrace and kiss on the street of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico during their elopement wedding. Photo by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen as an example answer to the question "what is an elopement?"

Maybe there are certain common wedding traditions that just aren’t your thing. That’s totally fine! With an elopement, there’s no pressure to follow any traditions or fulfill any obligations.

As a wedding photographer, one of the most unique elopements I’ve gotten to photograph was a handfasting ceremony at Enchanted Rock in Fredericksburg, Texas. The fun hike to the top of Enchanted Rock paired with such a personal, emotional ceremony made this elopement especially amazing!

Luxury elopements exist!

A smaller wedding often comes with a smaller price tag, and that is why some people choose to elope. 

Yet, luxurious elopements are also on the rise. Just because you don’t have a large guest list doesn’t mean you can’t embrace other parts of a traditional wedding. In fact, many brides who elope still buy glamorous wedding gowns, utilize ornate wedding decor and choose upscale wedding venues. This gorgeous elopement at the Havana Hotel in San Antonio, Texas is a great example!

If you’re considering eloping, don’t buy into the lie that an elopement means cutting down on style and luxury. Make your elopement wedding whatever you want it to be! If you want a big ballgown wedding dress, buy one! Get that full size wedding cake. Want to be serenaded by a live band for your first dance? Do it! The beauty of an elopement is that you get to customize your wedding to fit your exact desires.

Elopement weddings often take place at non-traditional wedding venues

I think that another one of the coolest aspects of elopements are how they can be held at non-traditional wedding venues that can’t accommodate larger parties. You could get married on a mountain top, on a boat in a lake, at your favorite museum, or even on a busy downtown street. Basically, your wedding venue options are pretty much endless!

A bride laughs as the groom gets the rings out of his pocket as they stands at the altar near the river at Piney River Ranch in Vail, Colorado during their elopement wedding. Photograph by Nikk Nguyen, an Austin, Texas wedding photographer as an example of the answer to the question "what is an elopement?"

I recommend choosing an elopement location that has played an important role in your relationship. It’s always touching to see an elopement take place at a spot that is significant to the couple. 

Of course, a classic courthouse wedding is always an option, too!

Make sure to bring a photographer!

No matter what kind of elopement you choose, there’s one thing I recommend to any couple: make sure you bring a photographer to your elopement! This is going to be the most beautiful, perfect wedding day, and you’ll want to remember it. One of the best ways to do that is to have photographs taken of your special day. Plus, then you’ll get to enjoy sharing your photos with your loved ones who didn’t attend your wedding. 

Choosing the right few people to attend your elopement ceremony is a big decision. I know it may feel scary to invite a photographer you don’t know well (or at all) to attend your elopement. This is why I recommend working with an experienced elopement photographer. They will be able to capture gorgeous photos while also protecting the intimate feel of your day.

Celebrate with your friends and family after your elopement

One of the biggest worries that couples have about eloping is not being able to celebrate with their family and friends. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, couples may want to have a larger wedding but aren’t able to due to social distancing restrictions. Eloping may be the only option for these couples.

Whether an elopement is your ideal kind of wedding or the best options given outside circumstances (such as COVID-19), you don’t have to miss out on celebrating with your loved ones. You can still hold a reception with them after your elopement! This keeps your actual wedding day simple and romantic, while also giving you the opportunity to celebrate with all of your favorite people on a later date. It’s a win-win!

Bride and groom smile at each other while standing in the middle of the street in downtown Austin, Texas during their elopement. Photograph by Austin, TX wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen as an example of an answer to the question "what is an elopement?"

For couples getting married in 2022 during the COVID pandemic, many are choosing to elope now and hold a larger reception next year on their one year anniversary.

Is an elopement wedding right for you?

Now that you know the answer to the question, “what is an elopement?” you can decide whether this type of wedding is right for you. It’s important for you and your fiancé to think through what kind of wedding you want, what your budget is, and how many guests you want to invite.

If you decide that a small, intimate elopement is the right fit for you, it’s time to get to work! Don’t worry, this “work” is actually super exciting and fun. You’ll be choosing your elopement style, location, and all the unique elements that will come together to make this your dream wedding. Happy wedding planning!

Considering an elopement wedding and looking for a photographer for the big day? Let’s chat!

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