Elope /əˈlōp/ verb

  1. to choose a wedding laser focused on you as a couple, your relationship, and your commitment to each other. Can be with or without close friends and family who are integral parties to the success of your marriage. “They chose to elope and begin their marriage intentionally strengthening their bond by doing something special together.”
Groom spinning his bride as they run and play during their Colorado elopement

So… what exactly is an Elopement?

An elopement is an intentional wedding day focused specifically on the couple’s relationship and building their bond.

The definition of elopements has grown to encompass many of the intimate ceremonies that people who prefer privacy and small gatherings over large parties tend to prefer.

*With the changing limits on outdoor spaces, elopements on public lands are generally limited in size to be between just the two of you, and up to 15 guests according to most land managers. More than this usually requires a space rental of some sort- even if it is a dedicated outdoor area.

and what it is not…

The old answer of a couple running away in secret to the local courthouse is on the way out. We are working to de-stigmatize the term as we move back towards a culture more accepting of small, intentional unions without all the added party planning obligations that cause stress for more private couples.

An elopement is also not couple’s portrait shoot. Yes we will get gorgeous pictures of your day, but no, an elopement is not a 4- 8+ hour photoshoot. That sounds like the absolute worst day ever to me, and I’m guessing if you are here, it does to you too. An elopement is about crafting a wonderful experience, and as an elopement photographer, I am there to capture you enjoying that experience.

How are Elopements different from a large traditional wedding?

Traditional weddings are focused on joining large family groups. The bride and groom become hosts to their guests, and the intent is to put on a great event for all the people invited to join in on the celebration of their marriage.  The main emphasis of the event is the guest’s experiences.

Elopements, on the other had, are focused on the couple, and sometimes their core household and immediate support system.  Their experience is prioritized as the focal point, with only the people who are integral in the success of their marriage as witnesses and advocates for their union.

Elopement Synonyms

  1. Intimate Wedding
  2. Micro wedding
  3. Mini-mony
  4. Adventure Wedding
  5. Backyard Wedding
  6. Commitment Ceremony
  7. Small family wedding
  8. Alternative Wedding
  9. Destination Wedding 

Whether you call your day an intimate wedding, a micro wedding, a simple backyard wedding, a commitment ceremony, or any of the other interchangeable names- if the focus of the day is specifically on activities that bring you closer to your partner, they all fall under what is now widely classified as an Elopement!

Who are elopements for?

Absolutely anyone who doesn’t feel a larger wedding fits their idea of a perfect wedding!

Not everyone enjoys larger gatherings and party planning- and that is ok! If saying your vows in front of a large group brings you stress instead of joy, give yourself permission to create a wedding around what feels right to you and your partner.

Choose a day focused on the two of you above all else. It is not selfish to devote time, consideration, and intent into your wedding day, it is an investment in your marriage.

If you aren’t sure an elopement is right for you, here are a few questions that may help you decide:

  • Does the idea of throwing a big party make you happy or send you running for the hills?
  • Do you find yourself spending more time dreaming about your honeymoon than your wedding day?
  • Does the idea of hiking, camping, off-roading, trail riding, sailing, kayaking, or any other number of fun activities sound more like “you” than a traditional wedding?

If you answered “YES” to one or more of the questions above, an elopement might be in your future! Still not sure? Take this fun quiz to see what kind of wedding you should have!

So what does a full day elopement look like?

Not sure what you would do on a full day elopement? Does a full day with a photographer sound crazy?

Check out a few sample timelines below to get a feel for what your day could look like!

  • 9:30 am – Photographer arrives at airbnb to capture detail shots & getting ready photos
  • 10:45 am – First look outside airbnb
  • 11:00 am – Head to ceremony location, stop along the way for photos at scenic overlook
  • 2:30 pm – Arrive at location; ceremony followed by exploring & portraits
  • 5:00 pm – Head back to airbnb (30 min drive)
  • 5:30 pm – Arrive back at the airbnb for dinner by private chef overlooking the creek
  • 7:30 pm – Photo coverage wraps up- we say goodnight!

3:00 am – Meet at the trailhead, gear up
3:15 am – Begin hike in the dark with headlamps (1.8 miles)
4:45 am – Arrive at first look location, alpenglow begins, change into wedding apparel
5:30 am – Sunrise first look followed by portraits & exploring
8:00 am – Begin hike back to trailhead, portraits along the way (1.8 miles)
9:30 am – Arrive back at trailhead, head to cabin (30 min drive)
10:00 am – Arrive at cabin for ceremony
10:30 am – Ceremony
11:00 am – Family photos
11:30 pm – Brunch party with champagne popping & Pancake Bar
12:30 pm – Detail shots
1:00 pm – Photo coverage ends

5:30 am – Meet at location one & set up for first look
6:00 am – Sunrise first look in location one followed by portraits
7:00 am – Head to location two (15 min drive)
7:15 am – Arrive at the trailhead, gear up
7:30 am – Begin hike, taking portraits along the way (2.0 mile hike in)
9:30 am – Arrive at alpine lake for ceremony & picnic brunch
12:00 pm – Hike back to the trailhead, taking portraits along the way (2.0 mile hike out)
1:30 pm – Arrive at the trailhead, head to location three (30 min drive)
2:00 pm – Arrive at location three for exploring & kayaking
5:00 pm – Return kayaks, photo coverage wraps up

1:30 pm – Photographer arrives at Airbnb to capture detail shots & getting ready photos
2:30 pm – Head to ceremony location in separate vehicles so couple does not see each other (30 min drive)
3:00 pm – Meet at the trailhead with walkie-talkies for first look
3:15 pm – First look on location followed by portraits
3:45 pm – Gear up for hike to ceremony location
4:00 pm – Hike to Ceremony location (1.5 miles)
5:30 pm – Arrive at Ceremony location for ceremony & pop champagne to celebrate
6:00 pm – Exploring & portraits
6:45 pm – Hike back to the trailhead, taking portraits along the way (1.5 mile hike out)
8:00 pm – Head to stargazing location (30 min drive)
8:30 pm – Arrive at stargazing location- couple’s portraits with stars
10:30 pm – Photo coverage wraps up

Shannon Durazo- Arizona Elopement Photographer

Hello! I’m

Shannon Durazo

and I want to be your Elopement or Wedding Photographer!

I love helping couples visualize and craft an experience that feels true to you. The way your marriage begins matters, and I would love to help you tell your story. Set your marriage up for success by allowing yourself to get married your way!

What to read next:

Resources and Inspiration

Jen & Orin’s Western meets Boho Sedona Elopement

An Adventurous Sedona wedding Jen and Orin travelled all the way from Missouri for their western meets boho Sedona Elopement. They said their vows surrounded by their immediate family and Sedona’s famous red rocks. Jen and Orin’s improbable relationship began after sharing a shuttle at the end of a friend’s wedding they both attended. Something…

Moira & Jake’s Sedona Heritage Museum Micro Wedding & Scottsdale Reception

Springtime Sedona Heritage Museum wedding Moira & Jake chose a Sedona Heritage Museum Wedding, followed by a more traditional reception the following week at her father’s home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Wedding Day Getting Ready We began the day at their Sedona vacation rental with detail and getting ready photos. Moira and Jake chose to get…
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  1. I appreciate the sample timeline you laid out! Gives me a good idea of how to plan out my day better.

  2. I love this! There are so many stigmas still floating around about elopements, so this is a great resource for your couples to let them know that times are a changin’! I love it.

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      100%! I am on a mission to let couples know **IT’s OK** to choose something non-traditional, it’s their wedding day!

  3. I really enjoyed the choices you gave for different types of elopements. Very helpful for anyone considering doing this!

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Thank you so much! *Choices* is what an elopement is all about 🙂

  4. 1This is super informative and absolutely wonderful. It is great information and those sample timelines are so helpful!

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Sometimes we have to see it. I used to be part of the “what would I even do all day with a photographer” crowd. Especially with a husband who dislikes having his picture taken. And of course the answer is- exactly what you would do without a camera person there (but PG-13 haha) I think that is what is so great about elopement photography in general. It’s way more hanging out with an old friend, or at times, having a fly on the wall documenting your day.

  5. so many cool and useful information in here. Especially giving a few timeline examples , so that everyone can have it clearer in mind what it really means . So cool!

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Thank you Rita! The way the definition has morphed over the years is fun. I’ve always been more of a backyard/ farm wedding kind of girl- I’m so lucky that I now get to incorporate wild adventures as well!

  6. This is such a great explanation, and I love that you included all the synonyms! So many names for what it is!

  7. I love the timeline examples! This is always so helpful for couples! And including the synonyms was a great idea too!

  8. Afton Flynn says:

    Super informative for anyone just starting to consider an elopement (or adventure wedding 😉 )!

  9. Erica Swantek says:

    I love this informative post about what an elopement is and I love the sample timeline you included! Such a helpful post for inquiring couples.

  10. These info are so helpful. I love that you also include some mock timelines so people can understand elopements a bit more

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