What Is Eloping and Why Do People Do it?

According to Oxford Languages, an elopement is defined as “running away secretly in order to get married, especially without parental consent.” While elopers in 2022 still do this from time to time, the term has taken on new meaning in recent years.

In 2015, the Supreme Court announced that same-sex marriage was legal under the 14th Amendment. That same day, social media accounts everywhere exploded with posts about the amazing and far-too-late declaration of legalized love. One such account was Joshua Tree National Park.

Believe it or not, it never occurred to me that I could get married in a national park. I knew I wanted to get married outdoors. And I knew I wanted a small wedding. But this was just perfect for me. That’s when I learned about adventure weddings and outdoor elopements.

The connotation of eloping is forgoing the formal, traditional, and typical wedding ceremony in favor of an adventurous, authentic wedding experience that’s all your own. It’s still a small ceremony in line with your personal values. But nobody needs to get hitched in secret (unless that’s your thing).

There’s a lot of reasons people may elope, both for practical and personal reasons:

  • Experience First: Some couples value new or fun experiences on their wedding day; like hiking to an elopement spot or visiting a national park. 
  • Impatience: We love this one—the idea that you can’t wait any longer to be married to your fiancé is so romantic!
  • Values and Authenticity: We adore couples who know exactly what they want and go after it. Your wedding day should be totally about you and your love!
  • No Stress or Drama: Let’s be real—planning a wedding is a lot of work! It can bring a ton of unwanted stress and family drama, so some couples opt to elope instead!
  • Perfect for Introverts: Not everyone wants to be the center of attention, even on their wedding day!
  • Epic Experiences Deserve to be Documented: Some couples want that epic experience, with the awesome photography to match. 
  • Family Isn’t First: There’s a lot of reasons someone may not want family members at their wedding. Maybe the family can’t attend, or maybe they won’t attend. An elopement takes that pressure off you and your special someone.
  • More Bang for Your Buck: Weddings are expensive compared to elopements! The Knot reported that in 2019, the average price of a wedding was $33,900! The trend is climbing every year. Eloping keeps costs low without losing that special touch.

Where Do People Elope and How Do They Choose?

If you read through the above reasons for eloping and thought, wow that sounds like me, then it’s time to plan your elopement!

The next question that comes up is where? Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to find the perfect elopement location for you and yours!

  • Importance and Meaning: Choose a location that’s important to you and your fiancé. What places did you visit often as a child? Do you have a location where your favorite memories took place? What location calls to you? 
  • Pretty Views Are Enough: It’s totally cool to pick a spot because you love the scenery! What views do you want while you say your vows? What kind of vibe do you want—desert, forest, mountains, waterfalls, beaches—or a combination? 
  • Accessibility: Some people choose to elope with a small collection of family and friends, so it’s important to keep the accessibility of you and your guests in mind. How many guests are coming, and does a certain location allow for that headcount? Do any of your guests have special accessibility requirements? 
  • Weather the Storm: Consider how the weather might affect the access and comfort of you and your guests. Or don’t—getting married in the snow would be just as beautiful!
  • Consider Your Vibe: What’s your vibe? Are you down to get funky and weird in the desert, or do you want a roaring fire in a cozy cabin?

Permits & Licenses: The Legal Side of Eloping

Getting married is a celebration of your love. But it’s also a legal ceremony. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to reach out to your county clerk’s office to request the forms. Be sure to check the rules of your state or the state you’re traveling to. You can either sign those at the moment with one witness or sign them during the ceremony where the officiant acts as a witness. Speaking of officiants, we have one on staff! For more information on the legal side of eloping, check out our blog on the topic.

In addition to a marriage license, you’ll likely need to get a permit to elope in a specific location. Permits are typically needed on public lands, such as state and national parks. You’ll need to check before setting any hard and fast plans. Luckily for you, elopement photographers double as elopement planners, and can absolutely help you through the process of applying for permits. Check out our blogs on eloping in Death Valley or Joshua Tree to see examples of obtaining permits.

Finding Vendors for Elopements

Finding vendors for your elopement is similar to finding wedding vendors. Just easier. One of the biggest differences is that you’ll often need to pick things up in advance of the ceremony or reception. Examples include cakes, florals, food, and chairs. Designate who will get these important items or pick them up yourself. Pro tip: Keep the weather in mind—flowers will wilt in a hot car!

Remember that an elopement is still a wedding day, so wear wedding attire! But since you’re already breaking traditions by eloping, wear whatever dress you want to wear. Down to wear white! Go for it, just don’t be afraid for your dress to get dirty and wet—that’s part of the fun! Or wear a black or color dress. If there’s hiking involved in your elopement day, consider bringing comfortable shoes and packing your dress to put on once you get to your location. Your photographer won’t mind zipping you up! You can even wear your wedding outfits with hiking boots, cowboy boots, Converse, or any other fun shoe!

If you aren’t hiking, consider the decor. Rugs, floral arrangements, and arches are all awesome ways to spice up your elopement location—as long as permits allow for these and you clean up afterward. Remember to Leave No Trace!

Think Out of the Box For Your Elopement

When you nix expectations for what your wedding day ought to be, you discover everything that your wedding day can be!

Here’s a shortlist to get some ideas going for your perfect elopement or outdoor wedding:

  • Start the day with an intimate at-home photography session
  • Keep the “first look” tradition alive—capturing the moment during a hike
  • Read your vows in private, tucked away in a forest of redwood trees
  • Choose your sport—go kayaking, mountain biking, paddle boarding, snowboarding, or rock climbing in your wedding gear
  • Have a picnic at an astonishing natural overlook
  • Get a tattoo together
  • Celebrate your union with champagne, cannabis, or kombucha
  • Drive into the sunset in a classic car or your own camper van

Have You Decided to Elope?

Are you and your fiancé ready to start on your adventure wedding? Book your elopement photographer with Love and Latitudes. We’d love to celebrate with you!

Elopement Packages

+ Full or half day photography coverage.
+ Planning and vendor services included.
+ Assistance choosing locationa, with you and your guests needs in mind.
+ Online gallery with 500+ high-resolution photos.
+ Option to download all images, purchase prints online for personal use.
+ Photographer travel fees included, minus permits.
+ Up to 25 attendees for elopements, 100 attendees for weddings.
+ Optional officiant services.

Learn More

Are You Ready to Start Planning Your Elopement?

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