What Elopements Are and Why You Should Have One

Elopements 101: What They Are and Why You Should Have One

Often when people think of elopements, they think of a couple running off to the courthouse to quickly get married, and often doing it in secrecy out of shame. Or at least, that’s a definition you’ll find in the dictionary. But in recent years, elopements have taken on a new life, and I’m really excited about it! If this is all a completely new concept to you, this is the post for you. I’m going to be diving into what elopements are and why you should have one!

Two couples sit at a table outside sharing dinner, and are clinking glasses over candlelight. One woman is wearing a wedding dress. This page details what an elopement is and why you should have one, so be sure to give it a read if you're curious about them!

There’s definitely a lot to cover when it comes to elopements, but let’s start at the basics. Everyone will have their own slightly different definition of them, but this is mine!

What is an elopement?

An elopement is a wedding day that feels real and authentic to you. It’s your perfect, ideal day filled with all of your and your partner’s favorite activities. It’s choosing to be true to you and your partner, and letting go of anyone else’s expectations for your wedding experience.

You’ll notice that I used the phrase ‘wedding experience’ instead of (what you may have expected) ‘photo shoot.’ And that’s because an elopement is an actual wedding DAY! A lot of people envision an elopement as just a 1-2 hour thing. I believe that elopements should be treated like traditional weddings and have the entire day documented; beginning with the couple getting ready and through their entire day of celebration! Elopements are just as much a celebration and experience as a traditional wedding, and couples who elope deserve to have their entire day documented just like any other couple.

Speaking of a photoshoot, people often have a misconception that that’s all an elopement is: a photographer posing a couple for hours on end and then calling it a day. In reality, a photographer is there to be a fly on the wall for 85% of the day, literally just documenting how it all naturally unfolds!

Figuring Out What To Spend Your Elopement Doing

You’ve probably heard or read something that asked you to imagine your ideal day off, and what that would look like. Would you walk to the coffee store around the corner for a latte and work on writing your book? Have lunch already prepared for a picnic on a bike ride? Go out for margs and queso with your boo at the hip place in town?

When I’m helping couples plan their elopement I ask them the same question. What does your perfect, dream day look like? Would you go for a horseback ride through a vineyard (hi I know a place that offers that so HMU if you want to include that)? Rent a room at a 5 star BnB with a hot tub on the deck? Go zip-lining in the forest? Take a jeep four-wheeling up a mountain you haven’t explored yet?

My favorite part of elopements is how absolutely untraditional they often are. You’re able to plan the perfect dream day for you and your partner filled with all of the things that you love and light your soul on fire — free from the restrictions of what a “traditional” wedding timeline might entail. An elopement puts the focus on YOU as a couple, instead of the dozens of guests that would attend a wedding. And yes — if you haven’t thought of it like this before, a traditional wedding is mostly for the guests: you’re literally paying for other people to come to your party and have a good time, and enjoy all the accommodations you’ve bought. Sounds kinda cringy when you think of it like that, yeah? 🤣 So if that idea doesn’t sound like a good time to you, an elopement is a great option to consider.


Interested in learning about eloping in Sonoma County? Check out sample timelines, activities, galleries, pricing, and more all in one place.

A groom holds his bride's face as he leans down to kiss her in front of a sunny grove of trees. This page details what an elopement is and why you should have one, so be sure to give it a read if you're curious about them!

How much does an elopement cost, anyway?

This can vary incredibly widely so unfortunately I can’t give you a concrete answer. Some people opt to spend as little money as possible and only buy the expected things like attire and a meal. Others want to go all out on their experience like I described above and have an epic experience. But one thing’s for sure: almost every elopement is cheaper than the average cost of a wedding day, which is roughly $33,000. That alone makes it a pretty appealing choice for couples! The short of it is that your elopement can cost as much or little as you want it to. To give you a ballpark, most couples spend between $5,000-$15,000.

Can my family attend my elopement?

Absofreakinlutely!! This is another misconception about elopements, that it’s only an elopement if there are zero people in attendance. Different photographers have different guest limit definitions (of where to draw the line between an elopement and a wedding), but it’s usually around 15-25 people. If you absolutely CANNOT imagine your wedding day without your closest peeps (whoever they are — don’t feel the need to invite the “expected” people if you don’t want to!), bring them along! The key thing about an elopement is that it puts the focus on YOU as a couple, and not the guests, however you decide to spend your day. The scales start to tip in the other direction once you have a couple dozen guests, which is why elopements are classically small.

Sample All Day Elopement Timeline

The last thing I want to offer is a sample timeline so you can get an idea of what an elopement might look like! Again, the beauty of elopements is that there are ENDLESS iterations, so this is only one. But I wanted to show you how flexible and creative they can be! It’s all about doing what makes you and your partner happiest.

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9:00 — catered/delivered breakfast in bed

10:00 — get ready/hair + makeup

11:30 — drive to first look location

12:00 — first look + portraits

12:30 — picnic (activity ideas could include Facetiming your friends/family, reading letters from your closest people, a mini painting session of the view, playing guitar)

1:30 — two mile hike to a vista for the ceremony + portraits

4:00 — return to hotel/Airbnb to freshen up

4:30 — drive to winery

5:00 — private wine tasting

6:30 — return to hotel/Airbnb for privately catered dinner with your besties

8:00 — last dance under the stars

Elopement Galleries/Days

And of course, what would an Elopement 101 post be if it didn’t have a couple elopement blog posts included?? These blogs are mini galleries with a brief summary of the day, so you can get a taste of what different elopements are like from start to finish. I’ve included a variety here so you can really see that there’s no single “right” way to elope!


I hope this post was helpful in shedding some light onto what elopements are in this day and age! Elopements are an amazing way to help you create your dream wedding experience. No matter what your wedding day ends up looking like, the most important thing is that it’s created in a way that’s as meaningful as possible to you and your partner.

If you’re thinking that creating a unique elopement day might be the right choice for you and your partner and you want to chat about options, send me a note so we can start planning your dream day! ☺️

What do you even spend an elopement day doing? The possibilities can feel overwhelming, so let me give you somewhere to start!

So you're curious about eloping, but...

Get access to my free PDF guide walking you through three real-world elopement timelines. 5, 8, and 12 hour days are included to give you broad examples across all kinds of days and activities.

Download the guide

Wondering what an all-day elopement looks like?
Download my Elopement Timeline guide to get real-world examples of 5, 8, and 12 hour elopement days!

p.s. This is a great resource even if you aren't totally sure you're going to elope! Download this just to see the possibilities that are out there.

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And if you run into any issues accessing this, please don't hesitate to email me at hello@megcooperphoto.com so I can help! 

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