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  • Rev. Brandon Rich

What does elope mean?

In the past few years, many things have led couples to choose to elope instead of having a traditional wedding. Before diving into details, it is worth posing some common questions. What does elope mean? What is the difference between a traditional wedding and an elopement? If you are of a certain age, you probably think that eloping involves a young man putting a ladder on the side of his girlfriend’s house and whisking her away to two towns over for a courthouse elopement with the justice of the peace. For others, eloping brings up ideas of flying to Las Vegas and finding an all-night wedding chapel. For those in England, eloping conjures up images of running off to Gretna Green in Scotland. For some, eloping simply means getting married privately without any friends or family present. One might say that all of these descriptions are of elopements in the past. So then, let’s look at elopements of today.

In the last 15 years, there have been two big drivers behind many elopements. The first is money. Traditional weddings are very expensive. Elopements are far easier to plan and much less costly. Many couples who don’t have a lot saved up and who can’t get family funding for a traditional wedding will opt for an elopement. That doesn’t mean they have to exclude their family and friends, at least not all of them. During the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, many couples got married, but they had to scale back their plans to something more affordable. The second big driver behind many elopements in recent years has been the pandemic. Starting in March 2020 and extending many months, large weddings just were not possible due to social distancing measures. Thousands of couples had to make the choice to delay their large wedding or elope, and many of them chose to elope instead. These were couple who had the means and the desire for the large wedding, but the pandemic made that impossible. I can say from personal experience, that many of these couples saw the value in a more intimate ceremony, not to mention the financial relief with the lower cost. The benefits of eloping are numerous. Not only does an elopement require less planning and less money, there are fewer people to please. There are fewer vendors to coordinate, fewer friends and relatives to juggle. The actual ceremony is a much more intimate with the focus on the couple, and not on a big show.

There are different types of elopements. There are destination elopements in popular tourist attractions all over the world. There are simple courthouse elopements in many if not most cities. There are all-inclusive elopement packages that bring together the venue, officiant, photographer and other things such as flowers, limo and professional hair and make-up. There are tiny elopements with just the couple and officiant. There are small elopements with a venue, officiant, photographer and even some guests. There are larger elopements which may have all of this plus music, video and the bride’s father walking her down the aisle. Some of these largest elopements are actually called micro weddings, which are a bit of a hybrid between an elopement and a traditional wedding. For more information, visit

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