Woohoo, you’re officially engaged! Now it’s time to decide what type of ceremony you should have. This post will explain an elopement vs wedding.
There are so many questions that go into planning a ceremony and in the industry, a lot of terms can get thrown around, like intimate wedding, traditional wedding, elopement and more. What’s the difference between elopement and wedding? Should you have a big ceremony or a small and intimate one? Should it be a destination wedding or somewhere local?
Keep reading to learn all about the difference between an elopement vs wedding, so you can at least get one of those questions answered!
In order to discuss if you’d rather get eloped vs married, it’s essential first to address what an elopement actually is.
Eloping used to mean running away and getting married without telling anyone, but that’s not really the case anymore. These days, eloping entails planning a small wedding day that’s entirely and only about the couple. They are typically smaller ceremonies and can take place at any venue, including outdoors. Just the couple and their chosen few are present, or often, just the couple and their officiant. This can be a more intimate experience, giving the couple more time to connect and reflect on their relationship and upcoming marriage.
Meanwhile, weddings are a bit more “traditional” because they are generally day-long celebrations with huge guest lists. While weddings can still take place anywhere and don’t actually have to be traditional by all means, they do still tend to feature the more traditional structure of a ceremony followed by a reception.
Weddings can take months in advance to plan and tend to be a lot more detailed due to the complex logistics of a larger guest count, a wedding party, families, etc. They also tend to be a bit more expensive than most elopements would be.
Now that you know what an elopement is and what a wedding is let’s get to the nitty-gritty and start discussing the key differences!
One of the main differences between an elopement vs wedding is the amount of time spent planning.
When it comes to an elopement, the couple getting married can decide that they want to elope fairly quickly! That’s because the time spent planning an elopement can be relatively minimal.
Some super spontaneous couples may plan their entire elopement in just a few days (if they can find a photographer), while others may take a few months. However, this is still significantly less than how long it takes to plan a wedding.
Wedding planning typically takes anywhere between six and eighteen months. Yes, you read that right! That’s because weddings are usually a lot larger of an event than an elopement, and the couple has a lot to sort out.
They have to send out invitations, get their outfits, book a venue months in advance, find caterers and other vendors, etc. It can take quite a long time, which is why many couples choose to work with a wedding planner.
When deciding whether to elope vs get married, the guest count is a major factor.
If being the center of attention or in front of 150+ people sounds like a horrible way to celebrate, then maybe an elopement or more intimate affair makes more sense for you. Elopements can range from just the couple to around 15 or 20 people, often family and very close friends.
Couples who choose an elopement typically say that they love how authentic it makes the day since they didn’t just invite their cousin’s best friend’s uncle just because they were told they should. Instead, they took the time to choose everyone who would be attending their event carefully.
With the smaller guest count, this can open up the possibility of doing a destination elopement or intimate wedding, since you’ll be asking fewer guests to travel far distances.
But if being around 200 of your closest friends and family sounds like the definition of the party of the century, then a “traditional” wedding may be the way to go! With more guests comes more pomp and circumstance, more gifts, and more energy around you on the big day.
Weddings typically will have anywhere between 80 and 200 guests, sometimes even more. It entirely depends on the couple and how many people they choose to invite.
This may be one of the more apparent differences between an elopement vs wedding, but elopements tend to cost significantly less. This is due to many factors, including having fewer guests and smaller venues.
In the U.S., couples spend an average between $5,000 to $15,000 for an elopement. In comparison, in the U.S., the average cost of a full-scale wedding is $34,000. Of course, pricing can vary based on a couple’s location, venue, guest list, wedding date, and more.
For weddings, the largest expenses are typically the venue and catering while for elopements, travel and accommodations and photography are the largest expenses.
If budget is a significant factor in planning your big day, it may be worth considering having an elopement instead or even a small wedding.
The venue options also are reasonably different between a wedding and elopement! Wedding venues tend to be relatively large and can include estates, ballrooms, distilleries, farms, and more. These venues are large enough to accommodate a higher number of guests since, as mentioned before, weddings usually have an extensive guest list.
Wedding venues can still be pretty creative, too, especially if you want a destination wedding (which can still be within your country or even state).
Meanwhile, elopement venues are truly endless. People elope in national parks, in their backyard, in other countries, and even right next to their favorite beach. This gives couples the creativity to truly craft their day exactly how they want when it comes to the “venue”.
Okay, so truthfully, even though it shouldn’t be stressful, some stress is involved in planning a wedding or an elopement, and that’s because you’re bound to want the day to be as perfect as possible! Whether you plan a wedding or an elopement, you’ll be making a lot of decisions, balancing vision and priorities with budget, family wishes, and more.
Planning an elopement can be a lot less stressful than planning a large wedding event since less vendors and guests are involved. That being said, elopements can lead to disappointment with family and friends that want to be more involved in your wedding, and telling your parents you’re going to elope is not always easy.
Meanwhile, a wedding has a larger guest list, can take almost a year to plan on some occasions, and can potentially come with drama of its own. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but with more people means a higher potential of some butting heads and needing to keep more family and people happy with your decisions. .
On the actual day, an elopement becomes a lot less stressful because you’ll most likely only invite close friends and family, you won’t be on a tight schedule and there’s simply less to worry about. This is especially the case if you and your soon-to-be-spouse choose to be the only ones in attendance besides your photographer and officiant!
Whether you prefer black and white wedding photos or those in full color, elopement or large wedding, the photography on your big day will be immaculate. However, there are a few differences between elopement photography and wedding photography.
With wedding photography, your photographer will most likely have a list of shots in their mind they will be trying to get through throughout the day and a schedule in place to ensure all of those photos are taken.
These include photos of the details, guests, wedding party, families, the couple, venue, food, ceremony, reception, getting ready, and more. That’s not to say there’s no creativity and space for spontaneity because there is! It just means there are more “to-dos” for you and your photographer and you’ll be on a timeline to ensure the day runs smoothly and everything is covered.
On the other hand, with fewer formalities to be photographed, there’s more room for unique photo opportunities, more couples photos, and the timeline won’t be quite as tight.
One of the best parts of celebrating your marriage is having some personal touches on how it goes.
However, when it comes to a wedding, there may be many different opinions on the big day, so it can be hard to choose which one to listen to. These opinions can be about the clothing, wedding theme, decor, or even the venue.
That said, though, it’s relatively easy to add personal touches in some ways to a wedding. It could be as simple as fun seating tags letting people know where to sit with a handwritten touch or even the centerpieces accompanying each table.
While elopements don’t necessarily have as large of a celebration, personal touches can also be added differently. Because they’re smaller, there are not as many opinions to listen to, making the event seem more authentic.
Personal touches for an elopement could include the location (maybe it’s the place you met each other!) or something else along those lines.
Last but certainly not least, one of the critical differences between an elopement vs wedding is that an elopement features a bit more adventure and spontaneity. This isn’t always the case because some elopements are planned just as far in advance, but truthfully, they can be a little bit last minute if you want them to be and there’s more wiggle room on the day of.
For instance, maybe you decide at the last minute that you want to get married in a month at an Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas. That’s 100% possible and allows you to be super spontaneous. This can also be a fun way to show your authenticity if that’s what you’re like as a couple.
Weddings can still be adventurous with the location but overall lack that spontaneity in the planning aspect because they take so long in advance to plan and book everything. With an elopement, you can plan the day to be exactly what you want. Want to say “I do” in the mountains of Yosemite? You can do that. Or maybe you want to go to Bali. That’s possible.
This post was all about the main differences between an elopement vs wedding. Like a lot of things in life, it’s about choosing what’s right for you, your partner and what feels like the most authentic way to celebrate your marriage. For some, that’s just the couple and an epic international location.
For others, it’s all of their favorite people together in one room in their hometown. And of course, things like family wishes and costs play a huge part in figuring out what your dream wedding day looks like.
Hopefully, this brought to light some of the not-so-obvious key differences between a wedding and an elopement, and you can decide which one is perfect for you!
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