What Is An Elopement: An Adventure Lover’s Guide

couple standing in front of an ice cave, other photo of couple on a mountain top

Eloping, it seems to be the new hot thing to do instead of having a traditional wedding, but what is an elopement, exactly?

According to Wikipedia (and, well, what many people understand it to mean) is running off with your beloved to get married without your friends and family knowing about it. However, can I put on the brakes here? This is what eloping used to mean

Welcome, friend, to the 21st century where marriage is more of a lifelong commitment to each other rather than a symbolic religious event or simply a legal agreement – though it can still be either of these things.

We live in this beautiful age where, at least here in America, we get to make a lot of our own rules and traditions. We can keep the “something borrowed, something blue, something old, something new” traditions for our weddings, but long gone are the days where a priest or pastor had to officiate your wedding and your ceremony was performed inside a dreary church building— well, at least, a lot of the church sanctuaries are dreary in Colorado. 😉 

So, what really is an elopement? Let’s take a look together to really understand the beauty of this new way to get married for couples wanting to include their love of the great outdoors or create a wedding more around their story rather than the traditions they may no longer align with as adults.

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Emmy, elopement photographer at Celebrate Again in a beautiful location

Hey, I’m Emmy, one of the Oregon elopement photographer and guides here at Celebrate Again. We believe that your wedding day should be about you and your stories, your love and the story beginning to be told on your wedding day. We are here to empower you to choose the traditions you want to keep. Choose when, how, and where you get married.

Providing you with the resources and tools needed to live out your greatest dreams for your wedding. All the while making sure you understand the laws and requirements for where you’re going.

While it would be exciting to say we’re “rule breakers,” we instead like to be called innovators: guiding you to create an unforgettable wedding day experience, crafted for you.


Let’s hop in!

Defining Elopements: What Is An Elopement, Really?

Elopements are a handcrafted wedding day experience centered around a couple. That’s it. Traditional weddings usually get centered around extravagance, tradition or even obligations, but elopements put the couples’ desires and story above or alongside the traditions they choose. 

So, really, there isn’t a difference between getting married and eloping? Elopements are more focused on the couples’ experience as opposed to catering to your guest list or hosting a big party, though an elopement could have both

Table of Contents

Why Do Couples Elope?

We really could be here for days explaining why couples elope, but I’ll start by sharing why our couples have chosen to elope.

Less Stress & Love Travel

Couple “traveling” smiling at camera

Many of the couples we’ve worked with over the years want a stress-free wedding, outdoors in someplace beautiful. They usually have a smaller guest list (under 50 people though could be up to 75), and want their wedding day to be focused on them, not decor, not being in a church building, but rather doing something that resonates with their hearts and story. Many of our couples are travelers. They’ve got the travel bug and have been all over the country if not all over the world. They want to get married without the fuss of dealing with cakes, flowers, large groups of people, etc. and simply get married in a place that makes their hearts feel alive.

Sometimes couples want to just get married someplace beautiful and have an epic party after. This is our jam here at Celebrate Again – choosing the best of both worlds – epic ceremony in a stunning location spending your wedding day exploring and enjoying the great outdoors, then a few months later, have a killer dance party with all your childhood friends back home.

Elope Just The Two Of Them

Couple saying vows just them two

At times, our couples have eloped because they want to get married with just the two of them. This may seem odd to some, but in many ways it is extremely romantic. Though, you know, these couples were still considering their families because they hired us to take photos to send back to them.

Elope To Save Some Bucks

While many couples may not initially elope to save money, they do come to find that the cost of eloping is less, even having a relatively extravagant elopement. Booking high-end hotels for a couples’ stay, a private chef to cook for them and their guests, and ordering beautiful flower arrangements is typically half the cost of an average wedding. I kid you not friend: yes, half the cost of a traditional wedding.

To be clear though, you certainly could have an elopement cost as much as a traditional wedding, but that’s rarely the case.

Should You Elope?

Still wondering if eloping is for you? We got your back friend, head on over to our Should I Elope? Quiz and we’ll get into more details. Take our quiz to see if eloping is for you!

What Do You Need To Elope?

Yourselves, maybe an officiant (or friend who becomes an officiant online in 30 minutes works too), a marriage certificate and a physical location in which a legal ceremony can be held. The rest is up to you. Though this is where we highly recommend working with vendors who can help you along in the process. 

Insert shameless plug to hire elopement photographers and guides: us! Haha.

Elopement Photographers And Guides

Ok, but for realsies: We get it, eloping is such new territory for most people, you’ve likely never been married before, let alone know how to go about an elopement. That’s exactly why we’re here.

While we aren’t wedding planners, we are elopement guides.

Brittany and I have been in the wedding industry for over a decade now and have adapted to creating eloping experiences for our couples the past 4+ years.

We help couples find “off the beaten paths” to exchange their vows, include the family members that you do or don’t want to come, including finding access to amazing locations that your “nanna” (aka grandma) can get to while choosing adventure and the traditions you both honor. Not to mention, helping you understand the wild environment of the Rocky Mountains here in Colorado, in Oregon or whoever your heart leads you  to capture the best light on your wedding day and enjoy your experience no matter the weather.

We’ve got you covered, friend.

Other Elopement Vendors

Officiant:

 If you’re not getting married in the state of Colorado you’ll want an officiant for your wedding to sign your marriage license. This is a law that changes depending on the state you want to marry in or even the city. If you are getting married you don’t need an officiant or witnesses! One of them can be us, another could be a friend/family member or even a random hiker we pass by.

Florist: 

edding flowers outdoors

While flowers aren’t required it can help you feel the part as a wedding couple to have a bouquet and or corsage.

Depending on how big your elopement is you could also have flowers for your ceremony or small reception.

The best part is, it’s up to you, there’s no rules here so you can make things what you want.

Pro tip: make sure to talk to your florist about having flowers that are safe for the environment you’ll be in. Some species of flowers are hazardous to sensitive environments.

If you’re florist isn’t sure, have them talk to the ranger of the area you’ll be in. Or go with silk flowers, our current obsession, really with the right florist you’d never know they aren’t living plants.

Here are some of our favorite florists here in the Denver and mountain area:

Compass Rose Floral 

Vintage Magnolia

Caterer

While you could certainly find a brewery or restaurant to show up to if it’s just the two of you on your wedding day, you can also go all out for your reception. 

Having a sunrise elopement? Rent out a section at a nearby breakfast spot, or reserve a table for you two.

Love camping? Bring camping supplies to start a campfire (checking local fire restrictions of course) and some food to cook up some of your favorite treats.

Yummy food on a wedding day

Hire out a private chef to pack you an epic picnic while out on your adventure or for when you return back to your rental home.

You get the picture. The sky’s the limit! The most important thing is a happy belly is a happy heart. If that’s not a saying, let’s make it one. No one should get hangry on their wedding day.

For a full list of our favorite Colorado elopement vendors check our our vendor list!

Debunking Elopement Myths

Couple doing religious ceremony

 

Eloping Is A Short Ceremony 

Often times, couples think that when you elope you have a short wedding ceremony, maybe toast a glass of champagne and call it good. While it certainly could be that simple it totally doesn’t have to be. Your ceremony could include a full rigamarole of religious practices or classic wedding traditions if you choose. We’ve had couples take communion, build ebenezers, have a knotting ceremony, pour sand, exchanging gifts, parents doing a reading during the ceremony and so much more. Your ceremony can be as symbolic and simplistic as you prefer.

Eloping Means You Have No Reception

We’d like to completely debunk this one for all time. In fact, eloping has nothing to do with what kind of party you have after, let alone when you should have a reception. Many couples we’ve worked with still have a wonderful dinner in a private room at a restaurant with their family and friends, bringing along a bluetooth speaker to have their first dance in the dining area and enjoying yummy cake from the dessert menu!

Wedding reception table

We’ve also worked with couples who have had a romantic outdoor catered dinner in the backyard of the Airbnb (vacation rental database) or Turnkey home they were staying in, complete with space heaters, string lights, and romantic intimate table settings. 

And to go along with the Celebrate Again tradition, many of our couples come out to Colorado to elope with just the two of them or their immediate family, then have a huge epic dance party a few months later back home with everyone they’ve known their whole lives.

You see, the point of elopements is that you get to make the rules. Celebration can look like what it should for you two, that’s it!

Eloping Is Done In Secret

While we’ve already talked about this, I’d like to touch back on this point because it can be done as a secret, but could also include your closest family and friends, or your friends and family could be informed of the elopement without participating. The point being, eloping is about you and your decisions as a couple, so you can make the rules here. 

Eloping Only Happens At A Courthouse

While you can do this to elope, you certainly don’t have to anymore. Since anyone can become an officiant online, or in states like Colorado you have the option to marry yourselves, you can get married anywhere land owners permit you to!

Eloping Only Is For Cheap Weddings

While eloping can save you some cash, it can also be as extravagant as you want it to be. Many couples treat their elopement experience as an extension of their honeymoon, staying in a 5 star hotel someplace epic for a week to play tourist or be a beach bum. The beauty of eloping is that you can have a destination wedding and your ideal honeymoon spot in one location, or go to two different dream locations for each. It’s really up to you!

Eloping Is What Couples Do When They Are Pregnant

While I’d say this probably does happen, it certainly isn’t the rule. Thankfully, our culture has mostly matured from times past of shaming couples for rearing children before wedlock. Most of the couples we’ve worked with want to elope because they want an epic wedding day experience, not just because they have to get married soon.

Hire us to plan your epic Colorado elopement experience!

Eloping Is For Only When You Don’t Have Parental Approval 

Again, while eloping can be done just the two of you without parental approval (unless you’re underage), most of our couples actually have their family with them on their wedding day! Though we do love the pressure it takes off families to elope, because it’s a naturally less stressful wedding experience, it can be a lot more fun for everyone involved.

Eloping Is For Escaping Families

Some couples eloping do get married by themselves, but many of them involve family. We’ve had couples read letters from their families that couldn’t be with them on their wedding day. So if you want  your family involved, they can be, but elopements also give couples the freedom to set the rules for what involving their family does without the pressure a traditional wedding may bring.

Eloping Couples Don’t Have Wedding Parties

This one is almost true. Most eloping couples don’t have a best man or maid of honor or groomsmen or bridesmaids, but they certainly can! We haven’t worked with many couples with a full wedding party before, but many will have their “besties” there doing the roles of best man or maid of honor. The bottom line, you get to decide what that looks like when you choose to elope.

Eloping Etiquette

While this topic seems a bit silly to me since eloping tends to break convention, it’s something to discuss since it’s such an unknown subject. I’ll clarify that none of these are “rules” to be followed in eloping, only ideas to help you consider every relevant factor in order to set yourself up for a smooth and successful elopement.

Inviting Parents Or Not

bride and groom with their family eloping in colorado

You may want to invite your immediate family, or you may not want to. This is the beauty of eloping, it’s not at all strange to get married without your parents present if you feel estranged from or have a complicated relationship with them, and it’s also not odd to have them there if your relationship with them is healthy. It’s up to you!

 

A fun idea is to have your immediate family write you a letter to read on your wedding day if they cannot join you.

White Dress & Tux

Bride wearing a red dress on her wedding day
Bride wearing a red dress on her wedding day

You do you! If you want a fairytale princess dress, wear that on your wedding day! If you want to look dapper in a traditional full tux, go for it! If you want to wear a bright red dress from your favorite designer, do it! If you want to wear your favorite hiking boots on your wedding day, you keep those feet warm and safe for your adventure! There are no rules here, only what you want!

To help you find your elopement wedding dress check out our guide!

Announcing Your Elopement 

You can send out save the dates, invites to your selected guests or send out announcement cards after your elopement. You can also send your online photo gallery from your photographers to your family and friends announcing your elopement. Or send a singing telegram video announcing to your family friends that you’re married. Haha, you get the idea here!

Have A Reception Or Not

If you want a grand party after, you can with just you two, or your whole crew along with you. You could set up tables in the forest with string lights and have a private caterer provide a delicious spread for you all. Invite a local DJ and have your own mini dance party in the woods. Make it what you want!

 

Unique Ideas For Eloping

Since we’ve been elopement photographers for so long now, I thought it would be fun to send you off with inspirational ideas to get you started daydreaming about your elopement!

Elope Someplace Epic

We’ve rounded up 20+ adventure elopement photographers to bring you the best places to elope

 Or if you’re already sold on Colorado, check out Brittany and I’s personal list of the Colorado’s best elopement locations!

Have An Epic Ceremony & Party Later

If you’re anything like me, then you want a little of both worlds: the epic ceremony on a mountaintop (or anywhere breathtaking) AND you want a dance party with all your faves from highschool and college. Why not have both? Have your elopement with your immediate family and besties, then a few months later, book out a local ballroom or community center, hire the best DJ in town and host a reception or dance party!

Go Camping For Your Elopement

For all you camping lovers out there, why not go someplace you’ve fallen in love with and camp for your wedding day! Hire a private chef to make you a premade picnic basket or meals already prepped for camping so you have one less thing to worry about and enjoy an epic getaway!

Go Swimming On Your Wedding Day

Bride and groom going swimming on their wedding day in an alpine lake

If you’re part fish and part human then why not include your love of the water on your wedding day. Have your ceremony, then slip into your suits and go for a swim, boat ride, paddleboard on your wedding day! The best part of elopements is that your wedding day can include all your favorite things, not just a formal ceremony!

Have A Rock Climbing Ceremony

Eloping couple getting married on the side of a cliff face while rock climbing

Avid climber? Harness up, make sure to put a slit in that dress and get married cliff face side, because why not!? We’ve done this very thing before with a couple! Being a former rock climber myself, it is such a fun and unique wedding experience. It’ll put a new meaning to “tying the knot” (haha I know, cheesy, but I couldn’t help myself!)

See more of this rock climbing elopement!

Eat/Drink At Your Favorite Restaurant/Brewery/Tasting Room

I know all you foodie/beer/wine lovers out there, why not head to your usual digs to enjoy your favorite delights on your wedding day. If it’s just you two, no reservation required, just show up in your wedding clothes and you’ll see how excited complete strangers are for you on your wedding day too! 

Hire A Stylist

Say, what? I know this can seem SUPER random, but if you don’t want to hire an elopement planner (which you can, they exist and can be extremely helpful to take over all the planning if you’re busy) you can hire a stylist to help you find the right dress, work with a florist for you and stylize out a beautiful lakeside picnic or whatever other experience you want to have that requires a little more of a curated touch. 

 

Pro Tip Check out Etsy for some amazing handmade items for your wedding day! Bonus you’ll be supporting a small business too!

Plan the wedding of your dreams

Wedding
P.S. We know an amazing Denver Stylist who would be PERFECT for this, especially since she’s worked with us a lot on some elopements!

Snowmobile, 4×4 Jeep Tour or OHV On Your Wedding Day

Eloping couple getting married by driving on a snowmobile to a remote location in Colorado

Some of you are just so excited at this idea but others are like, what is an OHV? I know, I had to Google it too. OHV is an off-highway vehicle, basically it means you can go a lot more places because your vehicle can handle more intense terrain. The best part of OHV’s is that they are more enclosed than ATV’s, so you don’t have to worry about getting super dusty before your wedding ceremony! 

If you aren’t already trained or experienced in any of these, many places around Colorado have tour guides that can take you places for your elopement day! 

Want to see how we did this on a snowmobile and kept our bride warm? Check out this snowmobile elopement!

Heli Ride or Hot Air Balloon Ride On Your Elopement Day

Hire a private helicopter tour to get to some of the amazing peaks around Colorado or catch a hot air balloon! The best part of this is you get to go places where you will most definitely be able to avoid tourists and will require little hiking. The elevation may be your nemesis, but crowds will not be. In the Fall, Colorado is full of amazing balloonists too, so it could be a VERY unique wedding day experience! 

Rent Out A Vacation Rental

Get married where you stay, find Airbnb or Turnkey rental that would allow you to have a wedding celebration in the backyard or someplace super beautiful depending on your rental property! No traveling or crazy adventures required, only chill fun with your people. 

Well, friend, now that you know what an elopement is, will you consider it? Better yet, head on over to take our Should I Elope? Quiz to help you decide! 

Or if you’re ready to take the plunge learn how to elope in our 5 easy steps! Or check out our how to elope in Colorado guide!

If you’re completely sold you can head to our elopement checklist + free elopement checklist pdf to get you started!

Should You Elope?

Still wondering if eloping is for you? We got your back friend, head on over to our Should I Elope? Quiz and we’ll get into more details. Take our quiz to see if eloping is for you!

Happy wedding planning!

Ready to hire us to help you plan your Colorado or Oregon elopement? Let’s Chat! 

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More Resources

Real Colorado Elopements

Loveland Pass | Anniversary Photos | Colorado Anniversary Photographer

Around 515am we arrive at our beautiful Colorado mountain location just before the first light started to shine above the peaks snow capped and ready to sing their glorious mornings songs. Sammi & JT switched into their shoes and we trekked out to our adventurous anniversary photography location…

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