Eloping, once considered a bit scandalous, is now gaining popularity as an alternative to the traditional big, white wedding.
To be honest, it is easy to see why. From our experience as elopement photographers in Scotland, we have found that couples are opting for a more intimate and personal way to celebrate their love, one that truly resonates with them.
But why is eloping becoming increasingly popular? And whilst Covid has certainly been a factor, in our opinion, it is not the main factor as elopements were on the rise before Covid hit.
Eloping has its roots in ancient times when young couples would run away together to escape disapproving parents and societal norms. The term “elopement” originates from the Middle English word “lopian,” which means “to leap.” This described how couples would jump over boundaries or obstacles to secretly marry, evading the watchful eyes of their families and communities. In the Middle Ages, elopements often resulted from class differences, as couples from different social backgrounds were prohibited from marrying.
During the 1700s, English law stated that couples under 21 years old needed parental or guardian consent to marry. Scottish law, however, had no such requirement; couples over 16 could marry without parental consent.
This led to the popularity of Gretna Green, just across the Scottish border, as a favoured destination for young couples seeking to elope.
Gretna Green’s appeal lay in its accessibility from England, as the main route to Scotland passed through the village. The locals were known for their welcoming attitude toward eloping couples, often providing assistance and serving as witnesses for their weddings. In fact, whole businesses sprung up, and continue to thrive til this day, in the elopement industry.
The relaxed marriage laws in Scotland persisted throughout the 19th century, and Gretna Green remained a go-to destination for eloping couples. The village’s iconic “blacksmith shop” frequently served as the venue for these clandestine marriages because blacksmiths were authorised to perform marriages under Scottish law.
In literature and theater during the 18th and 19th centuries, elopements were often portrayed as romantic and adventurous. Iconic works like Jane Austen’s novels explored elopement as a way for young couples to break free from societal constraints and follow their hearts, even though society viewed elopements with disdain. For example, in “Pride and Prejudice,” Lydia Bennet’s elopement with Mr. Wickham caused a scandal in her family and nearly ruined her reputation.
Despite societal pressures, the romantic allure of eloping persisted into the 20th century. Notable examples include actress Olivia de Havilland’s elopement with author Marcus Goodrich in 1946. The counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s further popularised non-traditional weddings and elopements, with many couples choosing unconventional locations for their ceremonies.
We’ve written a whole blog on the history of eloping in Scotland – go check it out!
A Timeless Tradition in the Modern Day
In recent years, elopement weddings have surged in popularity for several reasons.
Couples today are seeking a more intimate, personalised and modern experience. Traditional weddings can be stressful and (very!) expensive. Couples often feel like they are losing control and trying to rein it in is like taming wild horses. Eloping offers the opportunity to craft a unique ceremony that reflects the your personalities and values, free from traditional expectations (if you want!) and family pressures.
Eloping can also give you an escape from any potential family conflicts. Families often have strong opinions about wedding planning (often from those people who are a couple of degrees removed!), which can create tension and stress. By choosing to elope, you can sidestep these issues and focus on what truly matters: your love for each other. Obviously there can be some issues with telling family you are eloping but, in our experience, families are overwhelmingly supportive.
Additionally, elopements tend to be much more budget-friendly. Traditional weddings are expensive (and can be very expensive) with the average UK wedding exceeding £20,000 as of 2022. Choosing to elope allows couples to spend their budget on the parts that matter most to them, such as photography (ahem!), location, and travel.
For less than half the price of a traditional wedding, you can have a built-in honeymoon, stay in luxury accommodation and have the experience of a lifetime. When you put it like that, it seems to be a no-brainer!
In conclusion, elopements are an emerging trend in the wedding industry, and their popularity shows no signs of waning.
While the history of elopements may have been marked by societal pressures and stigmas, today’s couples are choosing to elope to Scotland for various reasons.
Some of the advantages of eloping include the large cost savings, the freedom to create a personalised wedding, and avoidance of family conflicts. If you’re considering eloping, remember that it’s a celebration of your love and you guys should do what you want to do.
Thanks for reading. Thinking about eloping to Scotland? Check out our page or download the free guide.