What is an elopement — should we elope?
As Scotland elopement photographers, we are huge fans of elopement weddings! But we sometimes find that they are not fully understood. So, for anyone who is still a little unclear about what a modern elopement wedding is, what’s involved and whether it might be the right way to celebrate their love, this is for you!
What is an elopement wedding?
A few decades ago, elopements were often shrouded in an air of secrecy and scandal—running away under cover of darkness to secretly get married to someone who wasn’t ‘approved’ by your family. But in recent years, this has changed totally.
These days an elopement is conceived as a small, intimate, meaningful wedding day where the focus is on the couple, their love, and nothing else. No stress, no rigid timeline, no family pressure or sense of ‘performance’. They often take place outdoors where you can exchange your vows amidst the beauty of nature. In our experience, couples find elopements liberating because they can take complete control of their day, shaping it exactly the way they want; they aren’t having to stress over wrangling hundreds of people, a large budget and lots of family politics.
Ultimately, when a couple decides to elope, they throw away the wedding rule book and are free to craft their day around all the things that are most true to them—the things that bring them joy.
Couples can include as many or as few of the elements of a traditional wedding as they like (rings, beautiful dress, flowers, delicious food etc) and leave out any that they feel are extraneous (hours of formal photographs, cake cutting, speeches for example…)
“We had initially been planning a big wedding — we’d even told friends and family to save the date. But then we started to get cold feet — not about marrying each other, we just weren’t sure if a ‘big wedding’ was for us. We were certainly struggling with the idea of spending all that money on ‘one day’. One day that wasn’t entirely what we wanted, one day that we were trying to fit all, but would ultimately not fit some. So we cancelled. We eloped instead on the Isle of Skye. We put the money towards an amazing Scottish road trip; the holiday of a lifetime. We never regretted our decision. Do more of what makes you happy.” Claire & Daniel, Isle of Skye elopement
Your questions about elopements answered:
- Why is it better to elope?
- Does eloping mean excluding close family and friends?
- Are elopements cheaper than traditional weddings?
- How important is photography within an elopement wedding day?
- What should I take into consideration when choosing an elopement photographer?
- What happens if it rains on our elopement day?
- How long should we book an elopement photographer for?
- What are the advantages of an elopement over a big wedding?
- Where the best elopement destinations?
- Eloping in Scotland
1) Why is it better to elope?
In the past, elopements may have been perceived as somehow ‘less than’ a big, traditional wedding. This is definitely not the case now! As Scotland elopement photographers, we have seen for ourselves that elopements are every bit as romantic and special as larger, traditional wedding days. In fact, because elopements are centred around the couple and their love, they are often even more romantic, unique and special.
We have a lot of couples choosing to elope in Scotland as part of the trip of a lifetime. Many come from abroad and spend a couple of weeks touring Europe & the UK staying at all the most incredible, romantic places, going to amazing restaurants, seeing all the most breath-taking places — holding their elopement in Scotland along the way. If you think of how much the average UK wedding costs (estimates put it at around £30k), even just a fraction of that that equates to one heck of an AMAZING holiday!
2) Does eloping mean excluding close family and friends?
Not at all! There is a common misconception that couples have to elope on their own. This is not the case! The whole point of an elopement is that you can craft the day exactly as you wish — there are no rules. If you would like to have your parents, siblings or best friend(s) there with you, then go ahead and invite them along!
If you decide to elope on your own, there are lots of lovely ways to include your friends and family in your elopement without them actually being there on the day. You can celebrate with them at an engagement party or cocktails night. They can help you find your perfect elopement dress or outfit. They can donate a special family keepsake (perhaps a necklace, broach or watch for you to wear on the day). We often suggest that couples invite their loved ones to write a card or letter for them to open on their wedding day (you can also write them one in return), this can be really beautiful and moving.
After their big day, couples who choose to elope can share their celebration over following weeks and months with family and friends. So, essentially, couples have a very personal, private elopement ceremony and a day that’s totally focussed on them, then a meal/family gathering, then some form of kick-ass party with their mates. All the elements of a traditional wedding, just not all crammed into the same day—none of the stress, and three times the fun! It’s also a great opportunity for couples to share their elopement experience through their photographs.
3) Are elopements cheaper than traditional weddings?
Ultimately, yes, because if you are not wining and dining 100+ guests, that will make a big difference to your budget. However, choosing an elopement does not mean that your wedding is somehow ‘less than’ a big, traditional wedding or that you don’t value your love as much.
An elopement definitely doesn’t mean missing out on any of the beautiful aspects of a traditional wedding. You can still have a gorgeous dress, stunning flowers, get your hair and make-up done so you look amazing. You can still stay in a super-romantic place and have a delicious meal on your wedding night—either in a restaurant or a hire-in chef at your Airbnb. It’s just that all these things are a very intentional choice, and you can decide to dispense with any of them if they are not particularly important to you as a couple.
We estimate that a couple could elope in Scotland for around £5-6k. This includes: 2 nights high end accommodation; a ‘preloved’ (second-hand) designer wedding dress; dapper suit; celebrant; photography; flowers; hair & make-up; and dinner. But obviously, it can be less than this or a lot more than this depending on the couple, their priorities and their budget.
4) How important is photography within an elopement wedding day?
As elopement photographers, we notice that elopement couples value their wedding photographs extremely highly. In the absence of friends and relatives with iPhones at the ready, the images their photographers take will be their only lasting document of their day — their means of sharing their experience with friends and family, and re-living it themselves. We are always so excited to share elopement albums with our couples as we know that when their family see the images, and see how carefree and happy the couple were on their wedding day, they will understand that eloping was the right choice for them.
“We absolutely loved going through our elopement wedding photos, and reliving every moment of the day! Our families were so thrilled with the photos, and said that it felt like they were there – which was exactly what we were hoping for. Everyone has been blown away by the beauty that you managed to capture – at least one person even said the pictures moved them to tears! Honestly, you did such a perfect job and we are so grateful to have had you there with us! THANK YOU!! ” — Lauren & Matt, Cairngorms National Park elopement.
5. What should I take into consideration when choosing an elopement photographer?
As photographers we find elopements a real joy to capture. They are typically a lot more relaxed than large-scale traditional weddings. There is usually a lot more flexibility within the day, and it becomes more of a creative collaboration between us and the couple.
We always form close relationships with all of the couples we work with. But with elopements (where it’s just us and the couples, or the couple and a small number of family and friends) we are aware that our presence and personalities are going to inform their day, because we are much more noticeable than at a large-scale wedding. When couples are choosing a photographer for their elopement, we feel that it’s really important that they find someone whose photographic style they love, but also that they really click with on a personal level. Remember that your elopement photographer(s) will be the guest (perhaps your only guest(s) at your very intimate wedding!
“Choose your vendors carefully! With so few (or no guests) they will become a big part of your day. Everyone we picked, from hair and makeup, our wonderful celebrant, our caterer and of course our incredible photographers, really helped to make our day feel special. Having like-minded, fun and interesting people involved made the day even more perfect for us.” Melissa & Luke, Scottish Highlands elopement
6. What happens if it rains on our elopement day?
Probably the biggest challenge to covering elopements in Scotland is the weather, which as everyone knows is very changeable. But most celebrants and photographers are usually happy to be flexible with timings on the day — to dodge any downpours where they can. We find that most eloping couples are usually game for getting out and embracing the elements, and some of the most romantic ceremonies we have experienced (and some of our favourite images) have been captured in the windiest, wettest weather!
7. How long should we book an elopement photographer for?
The vast majority of couples booking a photographer for a traditional wedding will book them for 8–12 hours. We encourage elopement to couples to adopt a similar mindset. This is your wedding day—why wouldn’t you want the whole, momentous day—the day you promise yourselves to each other for life—to be beautifully captured and documented? It’s a big deal, after all!
Imagine being able to share the full photographic story of your entire elopement day with friends and family afterwards, so that they can experience what you experienced at the time. The morning dew and the early light in the landscape of your accommodation. Your morning preparations, the quiet anticipation; your ‘first look’ at each other in your wedding clothes; the winding road you travel to the ceremony location, and the breath-taking views you see along the way. Then your ceremony itself, filled with emotion and love. After that, some cute couple’s portraits capturing all your ‘just married joy’.
Then maybe an al fresco picnic on the shores of a loch, or stopping in a local pub to warm-up by the fire with a pub lunch. Then an afternoon spent doing something that you love as a couple, before some dreamy, romantic sunset photos—sunset is when you get the softest, most flattering light—it’s by far our favourite time of the day to shoot. Then heading back to your accommodation for champagne by the fire and a mouth-watering meal.
Sometimes couples worry about what they will do with the whole day without the structure of a traditional wedding. We always suggest couples think about all their favourite activities together and all the things that bring them the most joy, then weave as many of these as possible into their wedding day. This could be a mountain hike, boat trip (we had one couple who chartered a sailing boat around Mull for an afternoon, enjoying their first dance on deck to David Bowie). You could go wild swimming (a couple in Perthshire took a champagne picnic down to a waterfall and dived-in); have a BBQ on the beach; go dancing (one of our couples met at Salsa class, and they held their own private salsa dance in the woods after their elopement ceremony). You could go wine or whisky tasting…absolutely anything, really! The day is yours to enjoy!
Ultimately, your elopement is still your wedding day. It will be your wedding anniversary that you mark and celebrate each year, so filling it with all your favourite things will make it a really great memory to look back on.
8. What are the advantages of an elopement over a big wedding?
We specialise in intimate weddings and elopements. But we do shoot a small number of larger, more traditional weddings each year. As photographers, we are at the couple’s side throughout the whole wedding day, observing them closely. So we feel that we are well placed to reflect on the difference between elopements and traditional weddings.
We’ve captured some really awesome big, traditional weddings where the couple have obviously had the time of their lives, and for them it was clearly the right way to celebrate their love. However, we do notice that quite often with large, traditional weddings couples often seem quite anxious and stressed. We see them rush through their wedding day, desperately trying to stick to their timeline, having 5-minute conversations with every guest (without having ‘quality time’ with any of them). Often, it’s only after the couple’s ‘first dance’ that they seem to fully relax and let their hair down. Also, with traditional weddings, the couple spend very little of their wedding day alone together—often only the 15–20 mins when we whisk them away for couple’s portraits.
With elopements, the couple are usually super-relaxed as there isn’t any time pressure, or any pressure in general. They don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks, so there’s no ‘performance anxiety’. They are also in each other’s company for the entire day. Elopement couples always say to us, when we leave them at the end of the day, that they had the most amazing time and they’re so glad they chose to elope.
9. Where the best elopement destinations?
So many! Scotland is a very popular elopement location. In particular, the Isle of Skye and Glencoe (because the landscapes are so epic). We’ve also had a lot of couples have elopement weddings in the Cairngorm National Park recently.
Iceland is a very popular elopement destination, again because of the amazing landscape. Elopements are also becoming really big in America, especially in places like Colorado and the Pacific North-West. The Dolomites, Faroe Islands and Norway are also incredible places for a destination elopement wedding—places with scope for a secluded retreat.
10. Eloping in Scotland
Here in Scotland, we’ve noticed that Scottish elopements have been a rising trend for the past 5–10 years. Scotland is currently the only place in the UK where you can legally have an outdoor wedding ceremony anywhere (mountain, beach, loch) as long as you are accompanied by a registered celebrant – which is pretty awesome!
If you would like some more information about eloping in Scotland, you can find our guide on how to to plan a Scottish elopement.
For Scottish elopement location inspiration, read our list of the Most Romantic Places to Elope in Scotland.
Our elopement photography takes us throughout the UK, Europe and beyond, so if you think we might be the right photographers to accompany you on your elopement adventure, we would love to hear more about your plans!