Being engaged and planning a wedding are two of the most exciting, stressful things in life. As a full-time elopement and intimate wedding photographer (and a current BRIDE), I know firsthand just how many things get thrown your way as you try to just enjoy this season. From the dress, to the guest list (or lack of one), and every detail in-between, it’s a lot. Over these past couple of years, it seems like elopements have taken couples by storm. And as much as I am “team elopement”, I know it’s not for everyone! I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, “should I elope or have a traditional wedding?” at least a couple of times. No worries, friend, I’ve gotchu! Let’s dive in and help take this piece of the puzzle off your plate.
Elopement vs. Traditional Wedding
Before you can decide if an elopement or traditional wedding is right for you, defining both is a good place to start. In the past, an elopement was referred to as running away secretly and without the consent of parents. Let’s just say, that is an outdated definition. My definition of an elopement is an intimate event with less than 30 guests (or just the two of you) that focuses on your love story. You and your person get to do exactly what you want to do – whether it’s an activity, an adventure, or traveling to a new place.
When picturing a traditional wedding and defining it, they typically involve the same basics. A lot of planning, many guests, the whole shebang! So when comparing an elopement to a traditional wedding, it really comes down to the number of guests. Having less guests (or opting for none at all) creates an incredibly intimate atmosphere. The more intimate the atmosphere, the more intention and emotion each moment holds. Think of an elopement as less hustle and bustle, and more intimacy.
BUT, I promise this blog is not going to be about persuading you to have an elopement over a traditional wedding (even though I might be biased!). This blog is full of questions to ask yourself to help you understand the main differences, important aspects of your ‘wedding day’, and how to decipher the best option for you as a couple.
Should I elope?
When looking at eloping, I’m sure you’ve come across many of the same “pros” or “positives”. While there’s definitely a reason so many wedding gurus hype up elopements, I want to remind you that any wedding can make you feel full of love, peace, and joy. I also want to encourage you to make the best decision for you two – because you’re the ones who will be planning it. Okay, enough of that. 😅
Why an elopement is the way to go:
Less people = less expenses! BUT, keep in mind that you still can ball out with your budget. If you really want to treat yourself + your guests, do it!!
No family/friend drama. Let’s be honest, it happens. Breathe a sigh of relief with keeping your guest list small (or keep it to just your immediate family).
Intimacy. Whether you opt for a small guest list, or just you two, the intimacy and intentionality surrounding your day will blow you away. There’s something so wholesome about only your favorite people cheering you on.
Easier to plan. Take this one with a grain of salt, because depending on the kind of elopement you are dreaming of, there can still be a lot of logistics to factor in.
Flexible dates. Because there are less moving parts and people to factor in, you may have some flexibility when it comes to your date. This is especially important if you are eloping in a National Park.
Can be planned quicker. On a vacation and decide to get married? It’s pretty easy to do so if you don’t have a plan in mind. But if you do have a plan, it’s still quick to plan. This is because you don’t have a lot of other vendors to consider.. so if time is of the essence, eloping may be best!
Infuse your personalities. If making your special day unique is a huge factor for you, eloping is awesome for that. Is a mai tai your favorite drink? Great, serve it during the ceremony if you want. There are so many more options when it comes to infusing your personality during an elopement.
No entertaining guests. Uff, this is a huge reason many couples elope instead of having a traditional wedding.
Activities galore. One of my personal favorite parts of elopements are the number of activities you can do as a couple! Hiking, kayaking, fishing, you name it! Because you can structure your day however you wish, you have the opportunity to include your favorite activities.
You don’t have to be the center of attention. This is a big one for many couples! The idea of a wedding can definitely be daunting if your guest list is looking to have 300 pairs of eyes fixated on you during every second of the day. Elopements are often more low-key and a perfect option for more introverted couples.
No box to fit into. Another personal favorite of mine… when you elope, there’s no pressure to have a wedding just like your cousin’s. You and your person are able to combine your values and love story to make for a perfect day – for you two.
Should I have a traditional wedding?
Most 5 year olds probably don’t dream of running away to lands far away to marry their Prince or Princess. What most of us dream of when growing up is a traditional wedding with all the bells and whistles. But it seems like when we grow up, our values shift and we realize what we really want. Some of us suddenly dream of running far far away to get married on a cliffside, while others still dream of a ballgown, 5 course meal, and tossing the bouquet. And that is incredible. If you still dream of feeling like a traditional bride or groom, DO IT! At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you get to marry the love of your life.
Why a traditional wedding is the way to go:
You have time to plan. If you’ve always envisioned taking your time planning your special day, a traditional wedding will really give you the full experience.
You want your family involved. Family is a huge factor in a traditional wedding. It’s definitely the way to go if you can’t imagine your day without them.
You envision a wedding party. I’m talking bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring-bearers. Traditional weddings are an incredible opportunity to really highlight your friendships and have your people close by your side.
You want a BIG PARTY. Dreaming of bright lights, a sick DJ, and dancing the night away? Say less!
You want to invest into your wedding day. It’s no secret that weddings cost a pretty penny. If you are comfortable spending money to create your dream day with your guests, this is the time!
You love the idea of an all-day event. From the second you open your eyes on your dream day, you will hit the ground running! All the way from getting ready with your girls to that dreamy sparkler send-off.
Should I elope or have a traditional wedding?
If you still haven’t had a clear sign that tells you one way or another, don’t sweat it! Here are some questions to help you decide once and for all.
Do you have a huge family that you want involved, or lots of friends involved in a wedding party? Maybe a traditional wedding is right for you.
Do you have some tricky family issues that you don’t want to deal with? Maybe an elopement is right for you.
Have you dreamt of bridal showers from both sides of the family? This is an option for both!
Are you more introverted and do not like being the center of attention? Maybe an elopement is right for you.
Are you dreaming of a destination wedding but don’t want to foot the bill for lots of guests in that destination? Maybe an elopement is right for you.
Are you wanting a DJ and a big party with your people? Maybe a traditional wedding is right for you.
Have you dreamt of being immersed in nature, or doing something unique on your wedding day like saying your vows at sunrise, pack-rafting an alpine lake, fishing your favorite stream, or having a fancy picnic at an overlook, but don’t know how it would fit into a schedule? Maybe an elopement is right for you.
Do you picture it just being you and your significant other saying your vows privately and spending the day together, just you? Maybe an elopement is right for you.
Do you picture private moments, but still want to reconvene with family and friends for a ceremony and reception? Maybe a traditional wedding is right for you.
Do you want a small wedding party or your immediate family there? This is an option with both!
Do you not want to spend the money on a venue, caterer, etc. for a large number of guests? Maybe an elopement is right for you.
Do you want to dance? This is an option with both 🙂
Do you hate planning and want a stress free experience? This is an option with both. For a larger wedding, hire a planner. For an elopement, there is less planning involved!
What do you picture on your wedding day? Is it an all day, formal event with drinks, lots of people, and a party? Or is it your favorite people surrounding you in your favorite place (or a new place) and enjoying the day with your love, doing exactly what you want to do, with no set schedule (or have one, that is okay too).
Eloping vs. Traditional Wedding
I hope you know that whatever you are picturing, whether it be an intimate day or a huge party, sit down and DREAM. Write down every single dream you have for your special day. Whatever is on that paper, can happen. There is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to weddings. The only “wrong” is doing what others expect of you, rather than doing exactly what you want to do.
If you still are struggling to narrow down the choice, compromise! It doesn’t need to be a black and white decision. It can be a little big gray. Open your guest list to 50-60 guests maybe. Invite your favorite people and make it as unique as your love story. Or, choose a wedding weekend and invite as many guests as you want to bring everyone together!
Looking for additional wedding and elopement planning tips? Check out the additional resources down below. And as always, I’d love to be friends over on Instagram (@sydneybreannphoto). Are you ready to wander?
[…] for some couples, it’s not the case for every couple. (Not sure if you should elope? I have a BLOG to help you decide!) But if you happen to already know you’re eloping with the love of your life, […]