Elopement vs Wedding

Difference Between Elopement and Wedding

Over the past few years eloping has become quite a wedding trend in the United States and abroad. Due to this, the question of having and elopement vs wedding has become a common question. As I’m sure you’re very aware, there are some pretty big, but also not so big differences between the two, and it’s all dependent on what you want and value in your wedding day. To get started, let’s talk about what the difference between and elopement and wedding actually is.

Iceland Elopement Wedding at a glacier in south Iceland


By definition, elopements are when a couple runs away secretly in order to get married, especially without parental consent. However, the modern meaning is quite different. In today’s terms and most circumstances, it’s a choice to have an intentional wedding experience with just you and your loved one. It’s not about running away, or getting married in secret if you don’t want it to be. It’s a choice to celebrate your wedding commitment with intention, in a way that feels authentic to who you are.


Traditional weddings are pretty straightforward. We’ve all been to a wedding before. In most cases, you know what’s coming next. Typically, a bride and groom will get ready separately, have a wedding party of 4-8 people, have a ceremony to express their vows and then have a party later on. Weddings are an incredible time and can be incredibly beautiful events full of intention. Personally, I still love photographing & filming weddings and have no bias on elopements vs weddings.

Wedding vs Elopement

Now that you’ve seen an overview difference, let’s talk in more detail about having a wedding vs elopement. There are a few main details to consider and we’ll go into more detail about them below. If you have questions, thoughts, or would like to talk through an elopement of your own head over to the ‘Contact & Booking’ page to contact me.

Benefits Of Eloping vs Wedding

Typically, Weddings Shift The Focus To:

Weddings typically shift the focus to the guests experience. Couples want their guests to have fun, so why would this be any other way? While this isn’t a negative, it’s something to consider when debating the benefits of eloping vs having a wedding. Do you want to have a larger focus on guests, or would you rather have the attention all to yourselves?

Being Rushed and On A Schedule vs Free Flowing Intentional Time Together

While some might find this process exciting, there’s an equal amount of couples who don’t and find it quite daunting. Planning a party for 200-300 people while managing family dynamics and outside expectations can be very difficult. The wedding industry is built to sell and encourage big events, which can oftentimes heighten these feeling even more.

The Wedding Industry Will Tell You:

The wedding industry will tell you that your wedding needs to look a particular way. It has to have specific items and be at a place that looks a certain way. The traditional wedding industry also tends to lean towards tradition at the expense of authenticity.

Who Would You Invite To Your Wedding?

With traditional weddings, invites can be a slippery slope. By inviting one person, you might feel obligated to invite another. Who makes the cut? By choosing the elopement & intimate wedding route, you’re lowering the amount of expectations from others. While it might seem harsh not to invite everyone from work, social circles, etc. you’d be surprised the amount of people who will understand and applaud your choice to be intentional.

How You Spend Your Time On Your Wedding Day

How you spend your time on your wedding day can oftentimes reflect who you are as a person. While extroverts might tend to lean towards larger gatherings, it’s very common for the opposite to value a smaller gathering. However, I want to encourage you to really think about how you want to spend you time on your wedding day. There’s no right or wrong answer, just your personal opinion and preference!

There’s Not Just Two Ways To Get Married

Another aspect that’s become very common is to split your day into two. For instance, one of my couples Alex and Derek had a morning of snowshoeing & exploring the mountains together. In the afternoon, they went back to their lodge rental with family and had a ceremony with their 10 closest family members. It was a truly special day that gave them a chance to have ‘just us’ time but also celebrate with family.

A Custom Mix For Your Elopement & Wedding

There’s not just two ways to get married, and I’ll stand behind that firmly. There’s a creative and personalized solution to each elopement day and I’m here to help you discover just that. In the end, your day should reflect who you truly are and what you value. Since no two couples are the same, no two elopement or wedding days should look the same either. I really love my family. There’s no way that I would have gotten married without them there (in some capacity). Like I covered earlier, your elopement day should be tailored to your values, wants, and needs. There’s no rule that says you have to elope and leave everyone behind. If you value your family and want them there, bring them along!

Elopement vs Micro Wedding

Typically, Weddings Two Day Weddings & Elopements

Who said your wedding day just had to be one day? Oftentimes, couples use their second day to explore a bit more for photos, and just have another fun, relaxed day. On the other hand, it’s an incredible option if you’re having family come but also want more time for just you two. It really gives you intentional time with your loved ones while also allowing you to go off and do your own thing on your own time and terms.

Bring Your Family Along!

Want to elope but also have some family? Consider having a Micro Wedding. This is an incredible option to have family with you, but also not have the planning obligations of a full wedding. Want to still have some traditional elements? Have a nice dinner out or still hire a dj into the evening! There aren’t any rules here that you have to follow, make it into your own experience.

Hold Another Celebration At A Later Date

Holding another celebration at a later date has become very popular as of late. Having your actual wedding day on your own terms while having a smaller celebration with more friends and family is a great way to authentically celebrate. You still get the ‘just us’ feels, but also knowing that your circle of friends and family will still be included. There’s nothing wrong at all with going this route and I still highly encourage it!

Split The Day & Take It Slow

There’s so much more to your wedding day than how much it costs. In 2023, the average wedding day costs $30,000 – $50,000. On the other hand, an elopement on average costs in the $6,000-$18,000 depending on your wants and needs. In the end, neither is better than the other. If you really connect with a traditional wedding, you should 100% go that route. On the other hand. if you’re questioning what you want for your wedding day, dig a bit deeper.

Do You Value The Process?

Do you value the process of planning a wedding? It can be quite the event and cause many different stressors leading up to your wedding day. While elopements aren’t completely stress free, they do eliminate many of the pain points traditional weddings carry. Your day should be a reflection of you, without any compromise.

Ultimately, What Does Your Gut Say?

Rather, think of your elopement day as an intentional time to spend the day with the ones your’re closest to. Whether that’s with your parents & siblings, or just your spouse, do what feels right to you. If you’re still undecided, on the traditional route or having an elopement, ask yourself the questions below, and see how they make you feel, and what comes to mind first will be what you value most. “Eloping Isn’t about leaving everything or everyone behind.”

How You Spend Your Money On Your Wedding Day

Think about it this way, do you value more time spent with a few close loved ones, or would you rather celebrate with a larger number? Would you rather have your wedding day look more like an everyday day in your life filled with the things you love most? Or would you rather having a traditional wedding day with all the happenings? In the end, make the chose that feels most authentic to you.

Overall, everyone doesn’t connect or necessarily want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on wedding decorations. Rather, you might want to spend that money to fly your loved ones to you or a destination and spend an unforgettable week or few days together. In the end, don’t ever let money drive your decision, whether it’s over spending more or less, do what feels right.

Do you value the process of planning a wedding? It can be quite the event and cause many different stressors leading up to your wedding day. While elopements aren’t completely stress free, they do eliminate many of the pain points traditional weddings carry. If you don’t see the value in one or the other, there’s your queue to the route you should go!

Does The Guest Count To Your Wedding or Elopement Matter?

Simply put: no.

It all boils down to intention. Intimate weddings and elopements give you the opportunity to spend larger amounts of time with those you value most. On the other hand, larger guest counts allow you to have smaller amounts of time with more of your loved ones.

While it’s oftentimes it’s assumed that elopements can only have the couple, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. While many couples opt to have their day just to themselves, there’s an equal if not larger number that still has family with them. Eloping isn’t about leaving everything and everyone behind.

Weddings can also bring on the assumption that you won’t be able to spend quality time with your closest loved ones. While this can be true in some cases, it’s not always 100% true. To make more intentional time during your wedding day, try spacing out your day a bit more to allow time with guests, or host a wedding welcome party, weekend, etc. that’s more laid back on the days before or after.

Elopements vs. Weddings

Let’s focus more on elopements vs. weddings. These are a few of the reasons that some couples might choose an elopement over a wedding.

Elopements Will Focus More On:

Not everyone connects with or values decorations, large gatherings, or an experience where all eyes are on them.This tends to allow elopements to focus on what you truly love. This can look like anything from hiking a mountain, to spending a day in the city doing your favorite things. In the end, it’s all about celebrating in a way that you feel comfortable, honest, and excited. Whether that’s filling your day with the one you love most, by doing the things that brought you together, or doing something new to celebrate the beginning of something new, do what feels right to you. Ultimately, you won’t regret it!

Planning An Elopement

Since most elopement photographers also act as planners, we can greatly help you identify the aspects of your wedding day that you really want, as most of us are big fans of keeping wedding days as minimalistic as possible! Rather than focusing on stress, let’s talk about how elopements can really help simplify, but also enhance your day. There are several points in this process where this really shows. Let’s dive in a bit deeper to see what you resonate with! Here’s a quick overview of some aspects of your wedding day that you might resonate with during a wedding vs elopement.

On Your Wedding or Elopement Day

As you’re very familiar, there are lots of moving parts on a wedding day. On the other hand, with the simplified nature, an elopement will allow you to remove most of these moving parts and really slow down the day. Instead of having a checklist of items to cross off the list, you can take your day at your own pace. Incorporating the thing you want, while not feeling obligated or rushed on your wedding day.

Summer Iceland Elopement at Glymur near Reykjavík

Being in the spotlight vs the freedom to truly be yourself

Weddings can oftentimes be built up to be big life events and milestones. Don’t get me wrong, they are! However, for some couples, the pressure of being in the spotlight isn’t comfortable at all. Elopements allow you to control a guest count, expectations, traditions and take the spotlight off of you. In addition, you release yourself of traditions and can really take your wedding day at your own pace. This is the number one reason that most couples elope, outside of the cost.

Do You Value The Process?

In the end, elopements allow you to eliminate many of the moving parts of a traditional wedding. Instead of coordinating those 14 items, you ultimately only need 2-3 (photographer, a location, a small celebration if you’d like). To me, your wedding day isn’t about a huge party or the objects that surround you. It’s about you, your story, and the celebration of what brought and has held you together.

Intentional Time Together On Your Wedding Day

Do you value just being together or being with others? This question will be vastly different between each couple and there’s no wrong answer here. If you value having a more personalized experience with just your spouse, have an elopement. If you still value time with your loved one, but also your family and friends, have a more traditional wedding. Just know, neither of these option is better than the other. This is simply a personal choice to what feels right and what you’ll look back on 50 years later and know that you felt yourself.

Final Thoughts

Do what feels right. What feels authentic, what feels true to who you are. You really can’t go wrong here!

Boulder, Colorado

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