March 17, 2020

10 Reasons to Elope (and One Reason Not to)

WASHINGTON, OREGON AND DESTINATION ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER

wide landscape photo of eloping couple in Hawaii

10 Reasons to Elope (and One Reason Not to)

Post Summary: What are some of the reasons why you should elope? Aren’t “traditional” weddings the way you’re always supposed to go? Well, I’m here to tell you that a) there are a TON of ways to get married and b) it’s all about finding what fits YOU. While this blog doesn’t go into all of the different ways to get married (that’s for another day) this blog does go over why I sincerely, deeply and in my soul of souls truly believe that eloping is the BEST way to get married. Continue reading for the top 10 reasons why!


What do you picture when you hear the word “elopement”?

Really, what are the first things that come to your mind?

Is it an Elvis impersonator rocking a rhinestone bodysuit, in a neon Las Vegas chapel? Is it a pregnant bride running from her angry father and getting married in a small town courthouse?

Myths, misconceptions and full on untruths on the reasons why people elope have been circulating through popular culture for decades. While there may have been some truth to these clichés in the past, they do not apply anymore. Shake your brain (lightly, please) and try to remove all these outdated images and stereotypes. Elopements are not the last resort for regretful benders, runaways or shame-filled lovers trying to escape judgement. 

Choices

Elopements are a choice. And more and more couples are choosing to elope. Nowadays, the modern elopement means choosing a wedding experience that reflects you and your relationship. It means choosing an intentional, intimate, and meaningful celebration of your love on your terms. Everyone deserves this kind of wedding experience — because how you get married matters! 

ONE wedding day, that’s all you get. One shot to say your vows and see your partner’s face as he or she says: “I do.” You only get one magical experience of watching your bestie, your BFF, your person, become your husband or wife. On that day, what do you want to see as your backdrop? How do you want to feel? Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be standing beside you? And, most importantly, why sacrifice even a drop of your pure vision to fit someone else’s ideas of what a wedding should be?

Only you can answer these questions. No one else. Boil it down to the purest essence of your love. What’s left? Nothing but the two of you committing your lives to each other.

Traditional Weddings Vs. Elopements

Turns out, a lot of people are turning toward the freedom of eloping. Traditional weddings are giving way to elopements. In fact, a study found that 91% of millennial couples considering marriage are looking to eloping as an option. And they say hindsight is 20/20, so it makes sense that three out of five married couples would elope if they could go back in time. Why?? Well, I’m going to get into all the main reasons, but it really comes down to 3 things that big weddings tend to bring: stress, cost and drama.

[For too many couples planning that big, traditional wedding, what starts out as a dream come to life quickly turns into an anxiety-fueled nightmare with burdens that build and build like a pressure cooker. Too many couples suffer through the stress and drama because they think it’s what’s expected of them, and never even realize that there are other options until it’s too late.] 

Eloping may not be for everyone and not every large wedding turns into a circus, but one of my main missions in life is to let people know that you have a choice. 

Here are 10 reasons why you might want to choose to elope.

dad walking the eloping bride down the aisle in Canyonlands National Park
close up detail shot on wedding flowers and elopement invitations

1. That once-in-a-lifetime “just the two of us” experience 

Do something for yourself really quick. Close your eyes. [Yes, I know it sounds weird to tell you to close your eyes while you’re reading a blog, but] trust me. 

I want you to time travel. Go 5, 10, 20 years into the future. You’re on the patio, watching a gorgeous sunset with your boo. Maybe you have a drink in hand. Life is good. You’re still just as in love as you were on your wedding day. And you’re remembering that day. What do you remember? Do you remember the flower arrangements that cost $2,500? The table settings? The oyster bar? The DJ’s set? 

Probably not. Now, the bigger question comes: What do you want to remember? Let this be the question that drives the choices you make when you consider your wedding experience.

All right, hopefully you took some time to really imagine yourself looking back. I can never express this enough – how you get married MATTERS! It’s a big deal! The biggest deal in the world because your wedding is truly, literally, [in the strictest sense,] a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

The truth about big weddings is that they will always end up revolving around others. No matter how much you make each other a priority, it will inevitably become about others, their feelings, needs and comfort. It’s not selfish to want the day to be entirely about you, but with a big wedding day, the chances are high (if not guaranteed) that your wedding will become about everyone else.

The beauty of eloping is that you get to make every moment about you. No signing over your dreams. No sacrificing your vision. Every single second is yours. It’s about your intention, your intimate connection, your memories. You get to custom build a fantasy that sets the stage for the rest of your lives together. Want to get married among the towering redwoods? A tropical beach with turquoise waters? The sand dunes of Morocco? It’s all in your hands when you choose each other over tradition. 

When you hear “once-in-a-lifetime” as an urgent call to make a radical leap into your partnership, you may just find yourself falling deeper in love than you ever could have imagined.

2. Being authentic + intentional

Another reason to elope? Well, eloping is freedom. You are free from all the feelings of anxiety, stress, pressure, distractions and obligations of a chaotic wedding day. You are free to do away with hosting a go-go-go event that should be your special day, but instead it ends up being an expensive party for everyone else.

[For some people this type of wedding is exactly what they want. But if your heart is leading you to something more authentic and intentional, an elopement may just be your ticket.]

When my couples elope we spend a lot of time discussing who they are, what they love and what is unique about their relationship. With this process and intentionality we come up with a day that wildly reflects them, not a cookie-cutter version of someone else’s dreams. The driving force behind your elopement should be your intention. 

What is your intention? 

If you’re eloping, chances are that your intention is to focus exclusively on each other, to cut out all the noise and distractions so that you can breathe and just be together. Intentionality transforms one day into magical moments of reflection, presence and openness. Your intention will set this day apart from all other days. 

Intention creates authenticity and authenticity creates intention. You can’t have one without the other. And so, as you consider what you want your wedding day to look like, you are also considering who the two of you are and what makes you you. Again, weddings can often force us into a mold that doesn’t fit who we are. Your parents have their ideas of what your day should look like and your friends have their ideas. Your grandparents and co-workers and even randoms on the street will tell you what your wedding day should be. Don’t let them!

Listen to your own story. Follow your fantasies. Stay true to your authentic self. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it. When you are up there, on top of a mountain, looking at your reflection in an alpine lake, breathing in that holy moment with each other, you will feel all doubt and guilt wash away. 

This is your day. Let it be true to you.

eloping bride and groom say there vows in national park field

3. If family drama is NOT for you

OK, you love your family. Where would you be without them? Buuut those family dynamics can often times be anything but copacetic. Whether it’s your divorced parents, your needy aunt, the step-sister who always seems to end up screaming at someone or narrowing down your cousin and second cousin list to see who makes the cut, the drama is real.

If thinking about family dynamics and in-law wrangling elevates your blood pressure and twists your stomach into knots, guess what? It doesn’t have to be like this.

Elopements are the perfect way to protect everyone’s feelings and save your own sanity. Plus, you could always just have a big party after the elopement and invite everyone. 

You can’t make everyone happy, but in a big wedding you sure will try. You’ll try to give everyone an equally enormous slice of yourself and your wedding day, all while tiptoeing on eggshells and managing everyone else’s emotions. What about your own emotions? 

Ugh! All the feelings…all the opinions…all the crises. What happened to this being the happiest day of your life?

All the family members who don’t approve of you, your partner’s, your guests’: sexuality, ethnicity, religion, body choices in drinking, dancing, eating, and being! 

Breathe it out. Shake it off. I hope I didn’t trigger you too much. But I really want you to picture and feel the stress and neediness. Just think of the hardest family gathering you’ve ever had and multiply it by 10 or 1,000. 

I think you get the point. I’m not trying to say everyone’s family is dysfunctional or that you are guaranteed to have a distressing day. But you know your family. So just keep it in mind.

[And, hey, since we’re imagining things, let’s imagine a day without the drama. You’re able to focus on your one and only dreamboat. He/she is right in front of you and that cute little nose and pouty lip is all you can focus on. There’s no one else in the whole world. It’s just you, your love and the most epic scenery you can imagine.] 

Less people means more time to pause and take it all in. Fewer dramatic situations means more energy to focus on your vows and your heart throbbing and growing to ten times its size. 

With an elopement, less truly is more.

newlyweds look at each other and clink glasses of champagne while standing in front of a table
eloping bride and groom sit on the ground together while the groom wraps his arm and his bride
groom says something funny in brides ear and makes her laugh

4. Stress less, love more 

As if family wasn’t stressful enough. Let’s talk about wedding planning. I’m sure you’ve seen the movies and tv shows (Bridezillas, anyone?), which are usually extreme examples of how a wedding can be, but real life weddings are nerve-wracking in a whole different way.

Here are just some of the details you will have to plan and manage (and pay for):

photographers, florists, catering, venues, videographers, hair and makeup, etc., etc.

Here are just some of the questions you will have to answer (and pay for): Where will you get married? Who do you invite? Plated dinner or buffet? Full bar, just wine and beer or no alcohol at all? Band, DJ or playlist? Circle tables or rectangle? White napkins or color? Roses or lilies? What kind of cake? How do I possibly create a seating chart for everyone? Why can’t I sleep? Etc. etc. etc.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. And it’s easy for that overwhelmed feeling to last for weeks and months. A full-time job on top of your full-time job? Can you imagine having tense, stress-shoulders for the 6 months leading up to your wedding?

OK, now roll your shoulders down your back, inhale, find a moment to be present. 

I’ll give you a second…

Let it go. Now, surround yourself with the person or people you love the most in the whole world and make you feel like everything will be all right — always. Be in the place that makes you feel complete serenity or excitement or awe — whatever it is you most want to feel. 

Picture your dream wedding.

Then picture planning your dream wedding. 

How does it look? How does it feel? And, maybe most importantly, how much stress is present in your mind and body?

close up of eloping bridal bouquet

5. Lower cost

Let’s review some facts…

  • Weddings cost, on average, $33,900.
  • Weddings produce 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide. 
  • 2 people is 198 less than 200 people . 
  • The venue alone can sometimes be half the cost of a wedding. 
  • Elopements can range from $1,000-6,000. You could even go crazy and spend $10,000 (think about what that could get you).

And some questions worth considering: 

  • What is your sanity worth?
  • How many massages will you have to pay for to relieve all that stress?
  • How much will it cost to feed all your guests who may or may not like the food you chose and how many of them will remember it, even a day later?
  • Can you possibly justify spending a new car’s worth of money on a single day?

Heck, even Forbes agrees on eloping. They say eloping might be the best start to your financial future. Travel, have an adventure, live large, love huuuge and not only save money but have a better financial future? 

The numbers speak for themselves. An elopement is far cheaper than a wedding. And when you think of the possibilities that tens of thousands of dollars can provide, it’s hard to justify investing all that cash on one single day.

One. Single. Day. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. It’s all you get.

elopement newlyweds stand in front of floral ceremony site in the mountains

6. Experience > Stuff 

What are you going to remember years down the line, experiences or things?

Do you think the themed decorations are going to make you smile for decades, or will it be the feelings of bliss and togetherness, not to mention the epic backdrop of a waterfall in the rainforest? 

What is truly valuable to you? This question gets at the heart of your wedding experience and the reason why a lot of couples choose to elope.

Let’s be real, big traditional weddings are a production. For hundreds of years, and especially in the last several decades, this idea has spread like a virus: the more opulent and over-the-top a wedding is, the more momentous, or it somehow shows that you are more in love. Just take a look at the bridal magazines, registries, tv shows, movies, stores, Pinterest. It’s sold to you like you only have one option for a romantic wedding and a happy marriage. 

Please, please, please don’t believe it! The size and price tag of your wedding do not reflect your love or your worth. [I want to encourage you to consider the exact opposite.] The less frills and fuss, the more meaning and romance. It’s a simple equation. The less energy and money you spend on a massive production, the more love, experience and memories you get to keep forever.

Elopements emphasize the experience over the stuff. [Go take a look at your closet or the storage unit. Who needs more stuff? NO ONE!]

Do you want… 

Option A) a gaudy ballroom filled to the brim with: a chocolate fondue fountain, an ice cream sandwich buffet, aisle runners, chair covers imprinted with your faces, a hipster photo booth, monogrammed bubble wands and a steak dinner at $75 a head for 150 guests (cough, cough, that’s $11,250 just for dinner). 

or 

Option B) your passport, a plane, the love of your life, and saying “I do” on the velvet moors and colossal sea cliffs of the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

What will you value more as the years go by? Keep asking yourself the tough questions.

7. If the environment matters to you

That wedding production we talked about earlier, do you know how much waste it creates? 

Wait for it…

Here it is: 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide. And the average cost of a wedding is $33,900 ((not even including the honeymoon!).

Multiply all that trash by the 2.13 million weddings that happen each year in the U.S. alone and you end up with over 800 million pounds of garbage being added to the landfill. Yuck (and may I mention, imagine the children that you may, one day, bring into this world)!

Picture it. All that frilly splendor, all those plastic party favors, disposable plates, wasted food becoming nothing but garbage in a dump. Would you say that one day is worth that amount of waste?

Even if you “go green” at your wedding, the amount of waste is still going to be exponentially greater than an elopement. Two people vs. 20, 100, 200. It doesn’t take a mathematician to add it up. 

If any of these thoughts turn your stomach, it may be time to plan out that elopement. Skip the huge wedding for something low impact. It will make your conscience and your heart lighter. 

man reaches for eloping brides hand as she climbs down red rocks
eloping couple hold hands while they look out over Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona

8. If tradition isn’t your thing

Do we know why we have traditions like cake cutting? The garter and bouquet toss? Throwing rice? The old, new, borrowed, blue thing? And the list goes on.

There are reasons for most of them, strange as they may be. But can you cite the history  behind even a single tradition? (Cue Jeopardy music) 

Some are cute, some are quirky, some are downright dark (ever hear the history of the diamond ring?). Since this isn’t a blog on the history of wedding traditions, I’ll give you just one custom’s background.

The wedding cake owes its tradition’s origins to ancient Rome. There, a husband would break a loaf of barley bread over the bride’s head to symbolize fertility, then guests would scramble for the scraps, hoping to capture all the crumbs of good luck. It evolved from there. This tradition turned into standing in a line where the bride would pass tiny morsels of cake through her wedding ring to guests. It transformed into giving a slice of cake to each guest, not to be eaten, but to be placed under their pillows at night for good luck. In one culture, if the bride eats the wedding cake before the groom, she will lose his love. In another, the cutting of the cake symbolizes the loss of the bride’s virginity. There are so many superstitions it’s hard to keep track. 

And now we find ourselves keeping these traditions alive, even though we have no idea why. We plan it, pay for it and photograph it, simply for the sake of “tradition.” 

The purposes of these traditions (or, maybe superstitions is the more accurate word) are completely unknown to us (and let’s face it, when you learn about them, they’re pretty strange, sexist, or just nonsensical), and yet we buy into them. 

My point is this: traditions can be touching, beautiful, even magical when we know what they mean and why we are doing them. 

So, have your cake, if that’s what you want, and eat it too. 

But choose your traditions with intention (remember #2?). Or maybe you could create your own traditions.

sweethearts embrace at TreeHouse Point in Issaquah, Washington
bride and groom reach for each other while standing on a cliffside in Waimea Canyon in Kauai, Hawaii

9. The honeymoon

If you could elope and honeymoon anywhere in the world, where would you go? Maybe you’re a Bali beach kind of couple. Or the hot springs of Iceland are calling to you. Would you choose the Azores? The surreal natural formations of Antelope Canyon? Or the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar?

The world is yours. 

The beauty of an elopement is that the transition from ceremony to honeymoon is pretty much seamless. You could make a whole epic trip out of your wedding and make your honeymoon last for days or even weeks. You could get married on a cruise ship and see a dozen countries. Or you could tour across Southeast Asia, Europe, New Zealand and ride that “just married” high on adventure after adventure. 

Just imagine the possibilities.

All that money you will save from not having a traditional wedding can go to travel! With all the freedom that an elopement brings you can set your sails for any destination. 

Elope, honeymoon, adventure, near, far, anywhere, everywhere. See where your love takes you.

close up of couples matching tattoos
barefoot woman sits in boyfriends lap kissing him while her white dress blows in the wind
newlyweds celebrate in front of their Best Day Ever ceremony panel

10. Mind-blowing, Memory-inducing, Passion-filled photos

A private photo shoot in a dream location with the person of your dreams. You will basically be at the top of your game, looking amazing with a backdrop that other people only see in movies. The jealousy will be real. Be prepared for so many friends and family members to swoon, drool or turn green with envy.

As a photographer, I have to admit my obvious bias, but most of my clients walk away saying that the pictures were the best part about the whole elopement. The photos are really the culmination and embodiment of all the reasons to get married.

Let’s review. 

Remember #1? That’s once-in-a-lifetime experience with just the two of you. Yeah, now it’s framed, hung on the wall, or sitting on a coffee table in an album that you will treasure more than life itself.

And #2, your authentic self will shine through in your photos. You will “ooh and aww” over how much your true personality and love was brought to life. And your wedding day intention will be immortalized forever.

#3. This is the one place where stuff matters. The pictures will be something physical that you can hold onto and cry/laugh/reminisce over for decades.

How about #4? You did your part to save the world! Yay you! Pictures are how you commemorate your superhero-ness. 

#5 is going to be a point of contention because every single member of your family is going to wish they were there with you or that they had had a similar experience for their wedding. So, you may just get some post-wedding drama because your pictures are too amazing. Sorry.

If stress is a big deal to you, then #6 is a good reminder. My couples walk away feeling like they were in their own exclusive bubble and somehow I managed to be there through it all and capture everything. Pure comfort and ease. Completely themselves. Stress? Never heard of it.

#7, the cost? You are saving thousands of dollars on your wedding. Put that in perspective with your few remaining costs: airfare, accomodation and your photographer. You’re practically walking away rich after having the experience of a lifetime.

#8 means you get to record in photo only the traditions that matter to you.

And #9. Most people don’t get professional photos of their honeymoon. You will be on your honeymoon even as you say “I do”! Congratulations!

The photos are for you, forever. They are also for everyone else. This is how you share your love and your one and only adventure of a lifetime. 

Ready to see what kind of elopement packages I offer? I can’t wait to share this adventure with you. 

bride and groom look out into Yosemite National Park
engaged couple lean in for a kiss

Where to from here?

And here we are at the end. I hope I have made my case for why you should elope, or at least consider it as an option. If you have any questions, feelings, fears, you name it, I am here to help. Ask away or just unload. I’ve been there. My husband and I chose to elope, so we dealt with all the worries and guilt. And we also got to see all the unbelievable awesomeness.

But, wait, I promised you one reason not to elope. We can’t forget that because it’s just as valid as all the other reasons. Here is the one reason not to elope: because you choose not to.

Seems simple, huh? But whether you choose to elope, have an intimate wedding, or a big traditional ceremony, it will be one of the biggest decisions of your life. Everyone will have their opinion (including me), but you have to listen to yourself and your partner. Whatever you choose has to feel like you. Don’t do anything just because it’s trendy or because you’re pressured into it. Do it because it’s what you want. And do it because you are choosing to do it.

Well, I truly hope this has helped you come to a better understanding of what you want and don’t want in a wedding. I really do wish you the best in whatever you choose. Just remember that you only get one day, so make it memorable. 

Goodbye for now, or should I say bon voyage?

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SUCH great insight, and I’m always so impressed with how much value you add to your clients experience! Amazing work and very inspirational!

Your photos are so beautiful!! Especially that first one omg! this blog is such a great resource for brides who are on the fence about eloping. There are so many great reasons to do it!

katie, this is such a good resource! I love all the points you made and your photos are stunning!!

Great info here and incredible images!

This is such a CONCISE and well done blog about why a couple should elope instead of the traditional wedding. Great job! If Forbes agrees, we all must take note!

so much Yes to all of this! elopements are so incredible and can be the perfect fit for an adventurous couple. You nailed each of this points!

Mhm mhm! Couldnt agreee more! Also love Your work!

Wow. this blog post right here! So many great reasons why eloping might be the best option for you. especially regarding how much waste large weddings produce. that alone would be a huge factor in me personally making this decision. Great read friend!

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