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ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHY: What is it, and why is it taking over?

Sometime back in the 40s or 50s, my grandmother and the man she loved walked into a courthouse on a Tuesday afternoon, and exited 30 minutes later as Mr. & Mrs.

Their parents didn't know, and their families most likely would have had a heart attack given the ceremony didn't take place in a church.

Sure times have changed, but marriages in secret or on-a-whim haven't exactly fizzled out.

The United States Wedding Industry is estimated to be worth about $54 billion and growing, while the average bride and groom spend about $26,000 on their own-- a hefty price tag for a one-day event!

It's no wonder engaged couples are looking for new and improved ways to say their I do's, but still have timeless captured memories to outlast their years of togetherness.


Elopement literally means to run away and not return. Elopement and marriage typically refers to the couple running off and marrying suddenly and in secret; usually involving no friends or family; just a witness and the officiant.


Now that the term "elopement" has been used loosely within the wedding industry, engaged couples are seeing this term as an open door to ask for a discounted wedding package.

An elopement does not involve guests, family members and friends to witness your nuptials. Whether your ceremony is taking place at the beach or park; or anything outside of a church or venue-- location isn't the defining characteristic of an elopement.

However, an "intimate wedding," which is commonly intertwined with the term "elopement-- is a great alternative to the large and expensive events that the wedding industry has now displayed so eloquently through Pinterest and Instagram.

In leu of venues, hundreds of guests, prime rib and cocktail hour; intimate weddings often take place with 2-3 dozen of your closest friends and family members involving far less of a production.


Often times, elopements take place in a courthouse where the photographer serves as the witness. Following the small ceremony, the couple and photographer will then take about two hours to do an intimate photo session capturing the couple's intimacy and romantic getaway gesture. The elopement will typically take place during the week (M-F) and does not involve any form of reception.


As a photographer, there are many clear and defining lines that will separate the two terms when choosing a photo package. Here's a simple check list to help you distinguish which type of package you and your future partner will be choosing:

1. Do you have a bridal party?

2. Do you have a venue?

3. Do you have a guest list?

4. Are you having a reception?

5. Did you send out invitations?

6. Is it more than two months away?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you will most likely fall into the "intimate wedding" or standard wedding coverage category.

Not to worry! This doesn't mean your photographer doesn't want to capture your big day-- it actually may even mean the opposite! Personally, I love the intimacy of smaller weddings AND elopements, and often times those clients pay more attention to detail and have a greater focus on the couple, rather than trying to please their large guest list.


If you are doing any sort of planning that exceeds about six weeks time, you are planning a wedding. Elopements are done on a whim, secretly, and have little-to-no organization involved.

Knowing the difference between an intimate wedding and elopement-- or a regular sized wedding! Will help keep your goals and ideas realistic, as well as keep your planning on track.

As a wedding photographer, I do also understand that some couples cannot afford a grand production, or are just simply looking for a small amount of wedding photography coverage. However, in our industry it is hard to reserve hot dates (like a Saturday afternoon in prime wedding season) for an elopement package that won't pay the bills.

Each photographer runs their pricing system differently, however standard procedures for wedding days typically stay the same. This article is meant to help educate brides (and maybe some photographers) about the chronically misused term "elopement" to hopefully guide them in the right direction when choosing and planning wedding vendors.

For A.Marie Productions, our pricing for weddings start at a flat-rate, full day coverage. Elopement packages rates are separate.

For more information about our pricing structure, please feel free to email us on our contact page.

(760) 420-1248

Wilmington, NC