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7 Signs You Want to Elope Instead of Planning a Traditional Wedding

April 14, 2021



Happy couple embraces under a Joshua Tree at sunset

You and your partner are engaged and couldn’t be happier about spending the rest of your lives together! However, what you have heard or experienced from friends’ weddings just doesn’t sound like what you want on your wedding day. 

I’m here to tell you – that’s entirely okay. No two relationships are alike, so why should your wedding be just like everyone else’s?

If you are starting the planning process and you find yourselves thinking “we HAVE to” instead of “we WANT to” or “we’re EXCITED to,” you may be getting yourself into an expensive celebration that other people want, not you.

You’ve talked to your friends who have had a traditional wedding and reception. What do they remember about the day? What do they say?

  • “It went by so fast.”
  • “We barely got to spend time together!”
  • “We didn’t get to talk to everyone because our schedule was so hectic!”
  • “We spent the whole morning getting ready and things were stressful and hectic.”
  • “I wish we spent less time doing ___________ and more time _______________.”
  • “It was so expensive!”

If hearing these kinds of statements from friends makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Many couples are saying goodbye to the pressure and expenses of planning a traditional wedding to focus on what’s most important to them.

The fact of the matter is, at most “traditional” weddings, the majority of the day is spent on and with other people. By the time it’s over, you’ll be lucky if you’ve spent more than an hour alone with your new spouse. For some, it’s amazing to have all their friends and family in one place and weddings are a great reason to do so. But for others – it can be draining and overwhelming.

All you and your partner REALLY need is something to wear, your rings and an officiant (and in some states, you don’t even need that). Everything else about your day is entirely up to you. 

As a wedding photographer, I’ve witnessed so many unique kinds of weddings. I truly believe that you can have a perfect, beautiful wedding day just about anywhere, doing just about anything. Instead of hating the planning process now, or complaining 10 years in the future about an expensive wedding that was someone else’s vision, why not make your wedding day an epic experience you are EXCITED to plan? 

here are the top 7 reasons to elope:

Couple faces back to back and cheers with their fists in the air at blue hour

1. freedom to elope in the location of your dreams

First things first: If you could get married ANYWHERE in the world, where would it be? And how much more fun is that question to answer than “What venue do you want to get married at in your town / city” (which will cost thousands of dollars just to rent the building, not counting decorations, catering, etc.)?

Your wedding day is a once in a lifetime occasion, it should be somewhere that EXCITES you!

Fun fact: Most national parks only require a small Special Use permit to host your ceremony there: $25 (White Sands National Park), $120 (Joshua Tree), $240 (Grand Canyon), $150 (Yosemite).

Looking for ideas? Explore this list I put together of unique destination elopement locations in the U.S. and abroad!

2. Prioritize what you and your partner really want: it’s your day

It’s easy to get swept up in what everyone else wants for your wedding day, or get caught up in the expectations instead of connecting with what you truly value on your wedding day. Maybe you’d rather be outdoors somewhere beautiful instead of trapped in a building “hiding” from everyone until the ceremony. Maybe you don’t want to spend a small fortune on renting a venue, buying expendable favors, or having a big party. Eloping allows you to scale back and focus on a few quality vendors and take away the extras that you feel obligated to have, but ultimately don’t want or need.

Not sure where to start planning your elopement? I love this article from JuneBug Weddings – The Ultimate Elopement Planning Checklist!

3. Invite who you want, not who other people want you to invite

A guest list of 100+ people at $125/plate for dinner??? If you’re like NO THANKSSSS then you should definitely elope. Invite your officiant and a few witnesses, splurge on a good meal for the few of you (or carry a pizza up the mountain) and call it a day.

Struggling which few people to invite? Who would you call if your house was on fire, if your pet was locked in the house alone, or if you had great news you needed to share? Invite the people who you know you can count on, or who you couldn’t bear not to see on your wedding day.

Wondering how to break the news? This article from WeddingWire shares ideas for couples to let their family and friends know they plan to elope!

4. Spend the day doing things you enjoy

Which sounds more appealing?

Scenario A: Spend the entire day getting ready, setting up, talking to guests, making speeches, being around people nonstop. Try to talk to every single person at your wedding while simultaneously trying to eat, drink, and enjoy time with your spouse with everyone watching.

Scenario B: Get ready for a small fraction of the day, do something relaxing or adventurous and say your vows in the beautiful, breathtaking destination you chose. Zero obligations. No being bombarded by people afterwards. Enjoy the entire day with your spouse and a few close friends if you choose to. Kick back and relax, watch the sunset, or go to a good bar afterwards.

Here are some fun ideas of things to do on your elopement day: Have a drink at a bar, enjoy a picnic at sunset, go rock climbing, skydiving, kayaking, or zip lining, play guitar and sing, lay in a hammock, see a concert, lay on the beach, have an intimate catered dinner, plan a scavenger hunt, etc.

5. Turn your wedding stay into a honeymoon adventure

So many people leave right after their long wedding day for the honeymoon – that can be so exhausting! Instead, plan your elopement in or near somewhere epic because first of all, your photographer can get some amazing pictures of you there and take you to the best spots! 
The whole concept of an elopement is way more adventurous and fun than a traditional wedding, and I guarantee it will be so much more enjoyable to plan than a wedding!

6. Invest in an unforgettable experience, not temporary “fluff”

If we’re being honest, most weddings are extremely wasteful! Invitations and programs, party favors, signage, food uneaten, so many things that end up getting trashed or in a box in your garage after wedding day because you can’t get anyone to buy it on Facebook Marketplace. 

Eloping significantly cuts down on the number of vendors you “have to” book. It also cuts down on the amount of things you buy that are used once and never again. Your would-be wedding party will thank you for not making them buy an outfit they may not ever wear again. You can also be mindful of other people’s money by saving them a trip out to your hometown, the money for a gift, paying for hair and makeup or a new outfit to celebrate your day.

7. Include your loved ones in your elopement, and throw a party when you get back!

Many people are concerned that by eloping with few to no guests, they are being selfish or excluding people. Livestream and videography are amazing options now to include relatives with mobility issues or share your celebration with people you love. Once you get back, put on your wedding outfits again and have a party if your backyard or rent a small local space! People will be happy to celebrate with you and hear that your elopement is exactly what you dreamed it would be.

Couple closes eyes and places foreheads together at sunset in front of Joshua Tree

Ready to elope?

Looking for a local Kentucky wedding photographer for your in-state elopement? Or a local photographer who is willing to travel to capture your special day? I’d love to assist you with the elopement planning process and talk more about what you envision for your wedding day. Fill out a contact form below and let’s plan an unforgettable day for you and your partner!

Disclaimer: If you’re reading this and thinking – it’s not for me. I want my family and friends to be there. I don’t want to anyone to feel left out. I want the big celebration with everyone around us, the church wedding, the DJ and bouquet toss. Then by all means, YOU DO YOU 🙂 If you feel firmly about what you want, don’t let anyone stop you. Make your wedding experience what feels true to you as a couple. I hope you can still take some tidbits from this blog post to reduce the stress of the wedding planning process.

happy planning,

johanna elise

A photo of Johanna (owner of Frames and Letters Photography)

Johanna Hribal is a wedding photographer based in Louisville, Kentucky. She enjoys traveling to other states and countries for weddings and elopements whenever possible! People love her colorful and vibrant edits and the way she captures their love in a natural and non-intrusive way. Click here to visit her website to learn more about current wedding collections. Follow me on Instagram to see more engagement sessions, weddings I’ve been photographing!

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