What is an elopement? Traditional and modern take on elopements

During and after the COVID-19 pandemic the wedding industry have noticed more and more couples taking a step back from the idea of a big, traditional wedding. 

Step away from a big wedding became a step towards micro-weddings and elopements.


What is an elopement? Eloping in Scotland


What is an elopement and what does it mean to elope?

Traditionally, elopement referred to a secret marriage ceremony. Often also involved a quick decision and escape from parental disapproval. 


Romeo and Juliet – the most famous elopement story

Have you ever heard of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? It’s definitely the most popular tragic story! Which is also a story of love and secret marriage – elopement. 

Romeo and Juliet tells a story of two people coming from two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, who hate each other. And as they come from families being each others’ arch-enemies, they can’t be together despite being in love. Therefore, as their families would disapprove of them being together, Romeo and Juliet decide to escape and get married in secret – elope. 

Romeo and Juliet’s marriage is without a doubt the most well-known elopement story. But it also shows that centuries ago people were eloping because of completely different reasons that today.

Five centuries ago, in Shakespeare’s England, boys could marry at only 14 years old and girls at 12 – they were already considered men and women at that age. And most marriages were arranged and decided on by families of the future newlyweds. There were various reasons for that. But the some of the main ones were tying two families together to get more influence in the social or political sense, or because of financial reasons. Back then, marriage was more of a political and legal institution other than anything else. People would hardly ever marry someone outside of their own social class. And the parents always had to be consulted about marriage. In the highest social classes, marriage was often a tool used to strengthen alliances or guarantee the longevity of dynasties and lineages. 

Often though it wasn’t just the parental consultation that was required. But parents were the only ones involved in the decision-making process. Which, as you might imagine, was often the reason for couple’s despair and disappointment.

Which is why they would sometimes choose to escape. And, if their genuine love interest was aware of the circumstances, they might have decided to elope in secret.


What about the history of elopements in Scotland?

Lord Hardwicke’s 1754 marriage act changed a lot for weddings in the UK. The new law required partners to be at least 21-years old to be able to marry. Otherwise marriage was allowed only provided that the couples’ parents or guardians agreed as well.

Nevertheless, the new law was not adopted in Scotland. And it required solely two witnesses and declarations that both partners are free to marry without reservations.

This led to more and more English couples travelling to the little village to Gretna Green to elope at blacksmith’s hut. 

Gretna Green became the first romantic destination wedding location, conveniently situated on the border between England and Scotland. And when travelling from London it was the first village to travel through on the way to Scotland.

And this is when Scotland became such a popular and convenient elopement locations for lovers. Scotland still offers much less bureaucracy when it comes to the wedding-planning process. Nowadays, couples from abroad will still have much less difficulty marrying in Scotland than in England. It’s much easier!

And when it comes to Gretna Green, it’s still a popular Scottish elopement location. The famous blacksmith’s shop is still there. Also, hand-fasting ritual and the anvil blessings are still performed at Gretna Green. These days though a lot of couples prefer to elope further up north in Scotland because of the stunning views and breathtaking scenery. To find more about Gretna Green elopements in Scotland click here.

Scotland is a home to hundreds of elopements, of both local and foreign couples, and continues to be one of the most popular elopement destinations in the world.


Elopements now – eloping in the 21st century

Nowadays, elopements have changed drastically compared to elopements from centuries ago. 

Of course modern marriages are unlikely to be arranged by parents and no consent of the guardians is required. In most part of the world people are thankfully free to decide about who they are willing to marry. 


What are the most popular reasons for eloping today?

We have now learnt about the reasons for eloping back in the days, but what are the reasons why people decide to elope today?

  1. To have a small, intimate and more heartfelt celebration.
  2. To focus more on each other and less on pleasing everyone around them.
  3. To reduce the cost of the wedding or simply put the saved funds into something that feels more important, such as buying a house or travelling around the world.
  4. To be able to be together – especially if partners come from different countries and immigration restrictions make it hard for them to settle down in the same location.
  5. To avoid family’s interference or complicated family relations.
  6. Busy lives and not enough time to plan a big wedding, which might also end up being quite stressful.


Elopements today

Although the Oxford Dictionary describes elopements as the act of running away with somebody in order to marry them secretly… we know that elopements are now much different than what they used to be. But what exactly does it mean to elope in modern sense?

Elopement is an intimate wedding, usually with an outdoor ceremony, often only in the presence of two witnesses, celebrant and a photographer. Elopements are often planned weeks, months or even a year in advance. And they often aren’t secret – some eloping couples do share their plans to elope with some people in their lives. Such as a best friend or parents.

Today elopements guarantee the freedom to get married exactly however you want, and nothing is off-limits. Especially in Scotland when you can get married whenever and wherever you want!

Elopements in Scotland became particularly popular in the times of COVID-19 pandemic. As couples didn’t want to delay their big wedding forever when facing never-ending uncertainty, a lot of them chose to elope. However, some couples ended up deciding to do both! Some engages couples decided for a city elopement or elopement in the Scottish highlands, not ruling out a big celebration for their friends and families later.


If you’re planning to elope in Scotland…

I’m here for you! I have created a range of valuable resources that will help you plan your dream Scottish elopement.

And if you are in the search of Scotland elopement photographer get in touch!

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