What is an elopement?

I'm Rachel, your PNW and Ireland elopement photographer.

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What is an elopement, anyway? …Really though.

In the photography community, there’s a term floating around that tries to describe our weird blinders: Photography Land.

In Photography Land, everything we know about photography is “normal.” We’re so used to different terms, turns of phrases, events, etc. that we don’t think much about them. But sometimes other people have no idea what we’re talking about. And we forget that they don’t know what we’re talking about. It’s like we’re speaking a different language but don’t always remember that it’s a different language. 

Does that make any sense? 

Listen, my whole world is elopements. When I’m not putting in ridiculous hours for my couples and my business…I’m thinking about them. Constantly. I’m talking about elopements with other photographers, sharing tips and info, location scouting, etc., etc. I love looking at the photos from my elopement. The word “elopement” is so prominent in my mind that I often forget that some people have never even thought about it once. (Are you sick of the word “elopement” yet?)

I tell people that I’m an elopement photographer, and all too often they’ll say, “…what? You do what? I don’t…what is an elopement?”

So here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to discuss what in the name of pants an elopement is, because more likely than not, it’s not what you think.

What an elopement isn’t

Before we get into what elopements are, let’s get into what they aren’t. There are a lot of stereotypes out there, and we need to wade through them quickly so we can push them out of the way. 

Elopements aren’t…


Eloping doesn’t mean you’re “running away” or “hiding” your wedding from anyone. It’s a deliberate decision, and there’s nothing shameful about it! Eloping is brave: you’re choosing to spend your wedding day doing what matters most to you and your partner, not what anyone else expects you to do. 


Drunken Vegas trope, anyone? My, how times have changed. Elopements and intimate weddings can still be stunning. I mean, come on: with some of the most beautiful freaking places on the planet as the backdrop…?


…ok look, they totally can be (hands up for fewer planning demands!), but plenty of my couples book me up to a year out! An elopement is still very much an intentional wedding day with just as much meaning as a traditional wedding. The planning may look different, but there are still very deliberate decisions being made!


There are people out there who maintain that it isn’t a “true elopement” unless the couple runs off on their own. To me, it’s more about the intention. Yes, these weddings are small (usually maxing out at ~15-20 people), but you can absolutely invite some friends and family if that’s important to you! And who says sharing an epic day with your partner is lonely?


You may hear this from some people, and to be very honest, some of those people will never change their minds. They don’t understand why you would celebrate the first day of your marriage without them. They love you so much! Why wouldn’t you want them there?

The thing is: it isn’t about them. Not specifically. Couples don’t decide to elope because they want to exclude everyone. They elope because they want to include only the most essential parts of their relationship. They want to be themselves, without any external voices, or pressures, or expectations. 

You aren’t obligated to invite anyone

And if you think that’s selfish, you’re welcome to that opinion. 

I think it’s spectacular.

Whatever you think you know about elopements, whatever you’ve seen or been told… throw it out the window. The core tenet of an elopement is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Entirely unique. 

What is an elopement is

This “definition” has changed a lot over the years, and I’m sure it’ll be changing again in the future. As of right now, here’s what elopements are to me: 

“An elopement is an intentional wedding day that puts the focus on the couple getting married, not on the trappings of a traditional wedding celebration. It’s a reflection of the couple’s relationship, a celebration of their love, and the acknowledgment that the way they exchange vows and commit their lives to one another matters.”

You can go anywhere you want. 

You can do anything you want.

When my partner and I were planning our own elopement, I can’t even begin to describe how freeing it was to have all the doors of opportunity wide open. We could choose any location without worrying about whether a venue was booked or how expensive it would be. Then we could structure our day however we wanted to spend as much time together as possible. We could choose to keep our guest list teeny tiny so as not to distract from the whole point of our wedding: getting married. 

It was perfect. 

10/10 do recommend it, would absolutely do it again. And again, and again, and again. 

The most important thing is that you and your partner are happy. That’s what I’m getting at here. 

Like I said before: eloping isn’t for everyone. But neither are big traditional weddings. If you know in your gut that this was meant for you and your partner, let me know! I’m already stoked to help you plan your adventure. And if you’re on the fence? Let me know that too! Always happy to talk things through, even if that means you decide on a traditional wedding.

My inbox is always open. No pressure, no strings xx

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