What Does It Mean to Elope? The Definition has Changed

Eloping often conjures up ideas of forbidden love in a bygone era (a la Romeo and Juliet), or hastily made decisions in Las Vegas (think Rachel and Ross), but like a fine wine, eloping has matured rather nicely with time.

Since the early 1800s, eloping has been a means for couples to escape arranged marriage, assert independence, skirt strict marital laws, buck tradition, and flee disapproving relatives. More commonly today, couples elope to thwart stress, spend less or keep it casual. Elopement weddings have long been seen as a solution to wed on the cheap, on the fly, or on the down-low.

History Elopement

But the notion that an elopement must be a covert operation, forbidden by family, or an impulsive, unplanned affair is passé in 2016. Nowadays, eloping can include anything from a small wedding with witnesses or handful of guests, to an intimate party-of-two commitment, or an impromptu courthouse ceremony.

Elopements are no longer relegated to the wedding of last resort either, saved for couples with little resources or support. Viewed as more personal and passionate than over-the-top ceremonies, many couples find this style of wedding better suits them. Increasing in popularity, eloping has become an intimate, unique and intentional way to say I-Do.

Many contemporary elopements incorporate any number of traditional wedding extras as well, like fancy cakes and bouquets, professional photography, and post-parties with family and friends. These blended elopements may be best of both worlds; a merger between a runaway wedding and a traditional ceremony. All of the pomp without the circumstance.

From Elvis to elegant, elopements continue their evolution, but what’s endured over time is that the emphasis is on the couple and their commitment. Elopements are all about the celebration of marriage rather than the hosting of an elaborate event. No need for fancy invitations, favors, floor runners, centerpieces, or seating charts here. Just two people in love, promising one another a shared future, somewhere special to them- all of the other perks are optional.

Elopement Flowers

So what does it really mean to elope then?

Is it to get married…

  1.      Defiantly, without consent or support
  2.      Hastily, without a long engagement
  3.      Secretly, without prior announcement  
  4.      Privately, without an audience
  5.      Spontaneously, without elaborate planning
  6.      Modestly, without great expense 
  7.      Simply, without excess or grandeur
  8.      Unconventionally, without rules or obligation

We’ll leave the literal meaning of the word up to Webster and embrace the more inclusive/less formal guideline of:  I) Any and All of the Above. If it walks, talks, or looks like an elopement in any of its many varieties, than let’s call it an elopement. Elope is not a four letter word, nor is eloping the controversial act it once was. But, if you’re more comfortable calling it an intimate wedding, a clandestine marriage, or a private ceremony, we support that too. A rose by any other name…right?
Remember, after more than 200 years, it’s still the focus on the couple and the commitment that makes this type of wedding so special- so that’s where we’ll turn our energy at EA.

Did you elope, or are you planning to elope? I would love to know what made your wedding an elopement! Let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email.


Need help justifying your decision to elope?
Check out our 7 Convincing Reasons You Should Elope post


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