Elopement definition

Couples nowadays choose to elope for several reasons: some want an adventure and wish to get married in a different state or country that is meaningful to them, others decide to avoid religious, parental, or community objections. Elopement is also often favored by couples on a budget who do not wish to splash on a big ceremony.

In general terms, we now think of eloping as a small and private wedding that often involves traveling to a different location.

Eloping does no longer come with the negative connotations it had in the past. It is a consensual, legal marriage that may or may not be celebrated with the knowledge of the couple’s families and social circle.

It is sometimes sudden and the marriage may be officiated away from one’s usual place of residence (although this is not a requirement for the marriage to be considered an elopement.)

In order to not only be a legal practice, but also recognized as a marriage by law, the elopement must follow the local marriage regulations.

What documents do you need to elope?

In the United States, requirements to obtain a marriage license to wed and for the union to be recorded with a marriage certificate depend on the state where the elopement or wedding takes place.

Normally, basic requirements include but are not limited to:

  • A government-issued ID
  • Your social security number/card to link the marriage records to your identity
  • Your birth certificate
  • A completed marriage license application

However, some states may require you to have one or more witnesses and a wedding officiant (even during a private ceremony) and provide additional documents.

Whether you plan on eloping in another state or abroad, you must check the local laws and regulations well in advance so that you can gather the necessary documents and meet all the requirements.

Eloping: History

In the past, the secretive and sudden nature of elopement was certainly at the heart of the practice. Couples hurried to get married without parental approval.

Couples used to elope mostly because the groom (or bride) would not be accepted by their partner’s family because of, among others:

  • Social status
  • Poverty
  • Disease
  • Criminal history
  • Poor character

Even in the past, elopement was consensual — it should not be confused with abduction (a kidnapping marriage to which the bride or groom has not agreed.)