What is an elopement in 2024?

You’re recently engaged, and you’ve got wedding planning on the brain. This is such an exciting time in your life, but as you settle in to start planning your wedding, you realise there is so much more to this than just booking a wedding, and the costs are going to add up quickly. You’ve got all the vendors, the venue, food and alcohol, guestlists and accommodation. It can get pretty overwhelming. But don’t stress, there is a way around this. Elopements. But what is an elopement these days?

No matter how many times I tell people what I do, they look strangely at me when I say I’m an elopement photographer, unsure exactly what it is that I photograph. So, I figured why not make this easy for you. Why not clarify exactly what an elopement is, and even more so, what an elopement is not.

What was an elopement back in the day?

So back in the day, going all the way back to the 16th century, an elopement was an extremely taboo thing. The basic concept was that a couple would run away, in secret, without anyone knowing and get married. They would therefore forgo all the traditions that come with weddings. There were three major reasons one would elope. The first was a married person (often a woman) would run away from her husband, to marry her lover. The second was a woman would run away to marry a man her family did not approve of. And the final reason was a pregnancy that the woman did not want people to know about before being married. So with this in mind, what is an elopement in 2024?

What is an elopement in 2024?

This will probably come as no surprise, but what an elopement is in 2024 is vastly different to what it started out as. Yes, there are some similarities, but it’s morphed almost into a completely different thing. At the core of it, in 2024, an elopement is a wedding where the couple are at the centre of everything. There are no compromises with an elopement. It’s a day where you choose to be as true to yourselves as you can, and you only include things & people in your day who are on board with that. But there are some other aspects of elopements that tend to be more common than amongst traditional weddings. So what are they?

limited Guests

With elopements, yes, you usually have a much more limited guest count. Does this mean you can’t have any guests? Absolutely not. In fact, probably 85% of my elopements have guests in attendance. Some people try to suggest there’s a guest limit where an elopement becomes a wedding. It’s usually around 10-12 guests, but to be real, that’s a load of rubbish.

I have shot elopements with no guests. Elopements with 5 guests, and others with 20. If you push beyond 20, you’re more so having an intimate wedding, which actually shares more similarities with eloping than big traditional weddings.

So long answer short, are their limited guests at an elopement? Yes. But can you have guests? Of course. Invite your parents, siblings, best friends, grandparents, it is all good.


Does an elopement have to be a full on adventure? Does it have to be a trek through the mountains, or a journey to a cave in Iceland? As fun as all that sounds, the answer is a big and definitive NO. An elopement can be whatever you want it to be. It is supposed to reflect who you both are as people, and as a couple.

If your vibe is full energy and all about the outdoors, maybe a hiking elopement sounds great. If your thing is travel and new experiences, maybe a destination elopement would work for you. But maybe your thing is laid back, low-key, no stress. In that case, it’s all good. You can (and I will help you) design the wedding of your dreams, that suits you both.

So does an elopement have to be a big destination adventure? It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, most aren’t, you just don’t see them on your ‘for you’ or ‘explore’ pages.


One of the key elements to an elopement is the level of intimacy you get. If you wanted to reduce it down, it is simply a much more intimate version of a traditional wedding. With big weddings you have anywhere from 80 to 200 guests on average. That means you might spend 1-3 minutes on the day with each of them, and maybe no time with your partner.

Elopements are totally different. Even if you invite 15 or 20 guests, you’ll get to spend real quality time with them, and even more importantly, with each other. Instead of running around, doing the hand shaking and hugging and saying thanks to your guests, you can spend it together, really soaking it all in.

So in essence that is what an elopement is. A more intimate version of a wedding. A wedding where you get to spend quality, intimate time together, as well as with your guests if you choose to have any.

destination elopements

This is probably one of the most commonly thought things when it comes to elopements. Again, it’s probably because social media only serves you the most epic of material, so you never see local elopements, but you do see elopements in the Faroe Islands.

But do you need to get married in an epic location, far away from home in order to be technically having an elopement? No. Simple as that. You can elope in your backyard, you could hire a local venue, you could travel inside your state, country, and yes, even overseas.

So the idea that an elopement has to be a destination, or has to involve travel is not accurate. An elopement can be anywhere on the planet that you can get to, no matter how near or far.

Elopement myths & benefits

As we discussed above, an elopement is a pretty simple thing. There’s no need to overcomplicate it with rules and restrictions. Sure there are some defining features that clearly differentiate it from a traditional wedding, but honestly, it’s not so much the look of the day that is the true differentiating factor. It’s actually the benefits that come along with the choice to elope.

I don’t want to run through them all here, as I have an entire article on the top 10 benefits of eloping, but let me give you a few of the biggest benefits here:

  • Price (yes, it is cheaper)
  • Intimacy (spend more time together)
  • Less drama (weddings are often chaos)
  • Less stress (less money, less moving pieces)
  • Less Planning (less vendors, less guests)

What’s the difference between a wedding & elopement?

Let’s face it, we all know what a traditional wedding is. Most of us have been to quite a few, and we’ve seen our fair share on TV and in movies. Just like a wedding, an elopement has the same objective, for you to end up married to your best friend. But practically speaking, what is the difference between weddings and elopements?

  • People – As mentioned above, elopements will always be a lower guest count. Whether it’s no guests, or 20, it’ll be less than a wedding. But it’s not just the number, it’s the quality of guest you invite. You’re only inviting your favourite people, not ‘180 of your closest friends’.
  • Flexibility – Traditional weddings tend to follow a pretty familiar structure. Pretty standard ceremony times, reception & dinner times, and the formalities throughout the day are often pretty standard. When you elope, you can do whatever you want, however, and whenever you want. There truly is no ‘template’ for putting together an elopement.
  • Locations – Again, something we have mentioned. When you’re planning a traditional wedding, more often than not it’ll be located somewhere local to you and your guests. Nothing wrong with that! But with elopements, the world is your playground. Iceland? Italy? New Zealand? Maybe even your backyard, it is totally up to you.
  • Vendors – Generally speaking, when it comes to weddings, the average couple books between 14 & 20 vendors. That is a lot of vendors to research, book, pay for and coordinate on the day. With elopements, on average, my couples book between 3 & 5 vendors. That’s a lot less the deal with, leading to so many of the benefits mentioned above.
  • Price – We can’t ignore the elephant in the room. In 2024 the cost of living is skyrocketing, and so is the cost of the average wedding. Thankfully, elopements can come in at a fraction of the cost of a traditional wedding. So there is definitely a lot of money to be saved going down this route.

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