Why is it called an elopement?

Why is it called an elopement

The term “elope” is often used in the romantic context, referring to couples who run away together frequently to get married in secret. The notion of elopement inspires images of star-crossed lovers running off into the night to pledge their vows without societal constraints or familial interference. But why is this concept known as an “elopement”? The evolution of the term “elope” and its societal implications provides an intriguing look into linguistic development and changing societal norms.

Origins and Etymology

The term “elope” is derived from the Middle English term “loper,” which means “to run, to leap.” It was combined with the prefix ‘e-‘ (a variant of ‘ex-‘, meaning ‘out’) to create the term “eloper,” signifying “to run away or escape.” Originally, the word had no romantic connotations and was more about escaping or running away from something.

The term’s application changed dramatically during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. During this period, “elope” began to be associated more commonly with married women who left their husbands to be with their lovers. It still carried negative connotations, and the act was seen as scandalous and disgraceful.

Gradual Transformation in Meaning

It wasn’t until the late 18th and early 19th centuries that the concept of elopement began to evolve towards its modern connotation. The term began to be applied more to unmarried women who ran away to marry men against their parents’ or guardians’ wishes. Strict societal norms and family expectations, including arranged marriages for strategic alliances and consolidation of wealth, characterized this period. Against this backdrop, elopement became associated with defiance and rebellion, a romantic act against societal norms and expectations.

In the Regency era in England (early 19th century), the idea of “Gretna Green marriages” became popular. Gretna Green was a Scottish village where English couples would flee to circumvent England’s stricter marriage laws, hence ‘eloping’ to get married. This specific cultural phenomenon played a significant role in solidifying the current definition of elopement.

Elopement in Contemporary Times

In the 21st century, the term elopement maintains its romantic connotations, but its stigma has largely dissipated. Nowadays, elopements are seen as a legitimate, often desirable, alternative to traditional weddings. Eloping doesn’t necessarily signify rebellion or secrecy but can mean a desire for a more intimate, personal, and less expensive ceremony.

Elopement today could mean a city hall wedding, a small ceremony in a natural park, or even a destination wedding with just the couple and the officiant. The focus has shifted from running away from something to running towards something – a meaningful, intimate celebration of love that centres the couple’s wishes over societal expectations or conventions.


Elopement has become increasingly popular in recent years, influenced by various cultural, societal, and economic factors. Here’s an insight into the rising trend:

  • Increasing Value on Experience: More and more people, particularly millennials and Generation Z, place a high value on experiences over material possessions or traditional societal norms. This perspective extends to weddings as well, with many couples opting for the unique, personalized experiences that elopement offers. This trend reflects the growing focus on individuality, personal preferences, and meaningful experiences.
  • Rising Wedding Costs: The average cost of weddings has steadily increased over the years, prompting many couples to seek less expensive alternatives. Elopements can significantly reduce the financial burden associated with traditional marriages, making them an attractive option for many couples.
  • Social Media Influence: Social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have played a significant role in promoting the idea of elopements. Picturesque elopement ceremonies set in exotic locations, beautifully captured and shared online, have provided inspiration and increased the appeal of such weddings.
  • Covid-19 Pandemic: The global pandemic has been a significant factor in the recent elopement surge. With limitations on gathering sizes and travel, many couples have eloped instead of postponing their weddings. Elopements became a pragmatic solution, allowing teams to honor their original wedding dates while ensuring safety and adherence to public health guidelines.
  • Desire for Intimacy and Privacy: With the hustle and bustle of traditional weddings, many couples feel that the focus on celebrating their love can sometimes get lost. Elopements allow for a more intimate and private celebration, appealing to couples who prefer a low-key but highly personal wedding.

The popularity of elopements is being driven by a combination of societal trends, financial considerations, and the unique, personalized experience that elopements can offer. As modern couples continue to redefine what a “perfect” wedding looks like to them, the popularity of elopements will likely continue to rise.


Elopement has gained traction in recent years due to the several advantages it offers compared to traditional weddings. Here are two prominent ones:

  • Financial Savings: Traditional weddings can be expensive affairs. According to The Knot’s 2020 Real Weddings Study, the average wedding cost in the United States, excluding the honeymoon, was around $19,000. This includes expenses for the venue, catering, photography, event planning, attire, entertainment, and more. Elopement dramatically reduces these costs. Some couples even opt for a destination elopement, doubling the event as their honeymoon and reducing costs further.
  • Intimacy and Personalization: Traditional weddings often involve numerous guests, making it a large-scale event that may leave little room for the couple to enjoy their day intimately. Elopements, on the other hand, typically involve only the couple and a few close people, or even none at all, allowing for a more personal and intimate experience. The focus is solely on the couple, their love for each other, and their unique desires for the day. Elopements offer more freedom for customization and personalization, enabling couples to tailor the entire day to reflect their relationship and preferences.

However, it’s crucial to remember that choosing between a traditional wedding and an elopement should reflect what is most meaningful and comfortable for the couple. What works for one couple may not work for another, and each choice brings unique benefits.


Despite the many advantages that elopement offers, there are also a few disadvantages that couples need to consider before making their decision:

  • Limited Guest List: One of the main reasons couples choose to elope is to have a more intimate ceremony. However, this can also mean that many loved ones, including family and friends, may not be able to attend or take part in the celebration. This could potentially lead to feelings of disappointment or resentment from those who were looking forward to celebrating the momentous occasion.
  • Lack of Traditional Elements: Eloping can mean foregoing some traditional wedding elements that might be important to some individuals. These can include walking down the aisle, a large reception, or other cultural or religious traditions associated with a wedding. For those who have always dreamed of a traditional wedding, eloping may not provide the same satisfaction.
  • Potential for Regret: While an elopement may seem like the perfect idea, there’s always a potential for regret down the line. Couples may later wish they had a traditional wedding with all the associated fanfare and memories. The feeling of missing out on the “big day” experience can sometimes lead to regret.

Deciding to elope is deeply personal and will differ greatly from couple to couple. It’s important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner about what you both value most on your wedding day to ensure that whether you decide to elope or have a traditional wedding, it’s a decision you’ll both be happy with.

Why is it called an elopement
Why is it called an elopement


The term “elopement” has travelled a long journey, from a general concept of escaping to a scandalous act to a romantic rebellion and now a desirable alternative to conventional weddings. This linguistic evolution reflects the changing societal norms and attitudes towards marriage and individual autonomy. It’s fascinating how one term can encapsulate a significant part of social evolution over centuries, transforming and adapting to the changing times. While the historical essence of elopement might be rooted in secrecy and rebellion, today, it signifies freedom, personalization, and the intimate celebration of love.

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