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Is an elopement right for you?

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A male gay couple elopes and gets married in Upstate NY Adirondack Mountains

If you are in the process of planning your wedding, have you ever considered elopement as an option? It's a great way to have a meaningful and intimate wedding experience. Granted, I'm biased. I eloped and have made my career helping other couples elope and have wedding days that are unique and tailored to them. From ski weddings to multi-day backpacking elopements to intimate waterfall ceremonies, I've seen it all. Here are some things to think about as you consider an elopement versus a traditional wedding.

And if you are in a rush and just want the quick and dirty answer to whether an elopement is right for you...

A couple elopes in front of a waterfall in Upstate New York

TLDR: It depends! When it comes to tying the knot, there are two fundamentally different types of celebrations. An elopement typically involves the couple exchanging their vows in intimate surroundings without many guests, if any at all. On the other hand, a wedding is more about providing an unforgettable experience for all involved - with a focus on the guest experience. In my experience, it is very difficult to have a wedding day that centers the couple's experience once you have more than 10 guests. These events offer fundamentally different experiences that cater to varying preferences and styles! If you want to skip ahead, here are some questions to ask yourself when contemplating an elopement. Want to examine the nuances of your decision? Keep reading!

First, what is an elopement?

An elopement is a truly unique occasion offering something different from traditional weddings! It's an intimate and meaningful experience that captures the true essence of your relationship. Eloping can be whatever experience fits best for the couple - short or long, just you two or inviting some friends and family along. From having a quick legal ceremony to enjoying week-long celebrations filled with everything that makes up who you are as individuals and together.

An elopement is an intimate, meaningful experience, in which the focus is on the couple.

That's it. It means having time in which you do what you love to do together. It is an opportunity to focus on your relationship and your journey together. It is a chance to get married whenever and wherever you want! And it is certainly not just a two-hour photoshoot.

In short, eloping provides you with an extremely personalized experience in expressing your commitment to each other.

A backlit photo of two hikers during their backpacking elopement in Upstate NY

What is a wedding?

We know what an elopement is, so what is a capital "W" Wedding*?

To me a capital "W" wedding and an elopement are extremely different. A wedding is an event where the focus is on the performance of getting married and guest experience. A wedding will involve extra details needed for guests to feel included in your special day; things like entertainment, decorations, formal wear, inspiring speeches--it all helps make it truly memorable! So, can you have a 10 person elopement? YES! Can you have a 10 person wedding? Also YES! The difference is in where the focus lies. There are a lot more expectations when it comes to weddings and you will find yourself making decisions based on what others might want. And that's fine! If you want to throw a banging part, you do it! But if that feels really stressful and not in alignment with who you are, then you might want to consider an elopement.

Elopements versus Weddings- the Pros and Cons

Ultimately, each couple must determine what type of ceremony best reflects their individual needs and desires for such a special occasion. If privacy and emotional connection are high priorities for them then an elopement might be just perfect! However, if having all family members present is important then perhaps a larger wedding celebration would be more suitable. Ultimately couples will know when they find the right option for them - whatever it may be!

Pros and Cons of Eloping

Couples contemplating an elopement as opposed to a more traditional wedding should consider the pros and cons carefully. On one hand, elopements offer an intimate and meaningful experience focused solely on the couple, with no need to worry about accommodating numerous guests or adhering to certain customs. On the other hand, couples may miss out on the special moments they would have otherwise shared with their friends and family at a traditional wedding. Ultimately, it is up to the couple to decide what type of marriage ceremony best suits their relationship.

Pro: Your money goes to where it matters- an unforgettable experience! It's a myth that elopements are cheap and only for the budget conscious. That said, they do tend to be cheaper, even with a private chef, helicopter ride, and luxury home rental.

Con: Folks might not understand. It's inevitable that some people might have hurt feelings. We live in a culture where people expect to be invited to every wedding! But as my couples have vouched in the past, once family and friends see the pictures and how lovely their elopement was, they GET IT and are no longer butt hurt. Plus, as one mom told me after the fact: "seeing the pictures made me feel like I was there."

Pro: It's your day and your decision! No one giving their unsolicited advice or requiring you to work with a certain caterer or invite someone you don't know just because they are helping pay for the wedding.

Con: If you like gifts, you probably won't get as many. But maybe, if you are like me, you could care less about gifts.

Pro: The possibilities of where to elope are nearly endless! Whatever type of scenery you want, you can have! I'm partial to the mountains, but if you dream of a beach elopement, why not go to Greece or some remote island for a truly special experience?

Con: It's likely that you won't be able to decorate much if you are getting married outside on public lands. So if fancy soirees with top notch florals and decorations are what you dream of, perhaps a wedding is more your style.

Pro: VIPs only. If you do choose to invite anyone to your elopement, they are the ones you trust and love no matter what. That means that you can be fully yourself on your elopement day.

Con: Fewer witnesses to share memories with.

Pro: Privacy! When you get married with 200 people watching you, you are constantly "on". And even if you want to incorporate some alone time with your spouse, it will be really difficult to find true privacy. During a wedding, you are lucky if you can sneak away for more than 30 minutes. With an elopement, you get to spend the whole time together!!

Questions to ask when considering an elopement:

  • What is motivating us to elope in the first place?

  • Are we on the same page? What does my partner want?

  • What level of intimacy and privacy do we want on our wedding day?

  • What is our perfect date together? What do we love to do? How do we love to spend our time?

  • Do we have family expectations and/or traditions we need to navigate?

  • How do we feel about navigating negative feedback from family and friends?

  • Will we invite anyone to our elopement?

  • Where do we want to elope?

  • Do we want to combine our elopement with our honeymoon?

  • Will we host a before or after party?

  • When do we want to elope? ASAP or during a specific time of year?

So, is an elopement right for you?

For couples who want something unique and different from the norm, an elopement could be perfect for them. That said, the most important factor to consider is the level of intimacy you desire on their special day. With an elopement, you can focus on what really matters: spending quality time together! Couples should think deeply about how they want to express their love and commitment, and decide if an elopement or a capital "W" wedding is the best way to do that.

An elopement offers a private setting that allows you to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding and instead focus on yourselves and your connection with one another. It also provides an opportunity for you to exchange vows in any environment, whether it's out in nature, at city hall, or at home. On the other hand, a wedding allows you to have an epic party and celebrate in the moment with all of their friends and family.

No matter which type of ceremony you choose, it is important for you to remember why you are getting married in the first place: To celebrate your love and commitment and chose each other above all else. Whether that ceremony takes place in front of family and friends or is just between you two on top of a mountain doesn’t really matter; what’s important is that both of you agree on what will make their special day truly memorable and special for them both.


Are you ready to say "Heck YES!" to an elopement?

Mountain Elopement Photographer

I'm Molly and I'm an award-winning elopement photographer (and birth photographer, but that isn't quite relevant here😉). I photographed my first elopement way back in 2015 and never looked back. Since then, I've eloped myself and helped countless couples have truly amazing wedding day experiences.

If you think I might be the photographer for you, get in touch! I pride myself in only working in places where I have local expertise. Therefore, I specialize in Austrian Alps elopements, New York mountain elopements, and New Hampshire mountain elopements.



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