Wedding Vs Elopement - Couple Standing In Field. Photo By Charles Moll Photography

Wedding Vs Elopement – Which will give you the wedding you REALLY want?

Last updated on May 28th, 2024 at 04:46 pm

Wedding Vs Elopement – Which will give you the wedding you REALLY want?

Let’s be honest for a sec at some point in any couples wedding planning journey after getting numerous high priced quotes, arguing with family and planning all the logistics many couples get to a point where they say F#$% this why don’t we just elope! Every year more couples are moving towards a smaller more intimate wedding, but before you jump on the band wedding let’s break down the pros and cons of wedding vs elopement.

As a wedding photographer, I have photographed a huge number of each and have experienced both great stress free large weddings and stressful, boring elopements. Neither one of these is intrinsically better, it just depends on what you REALLY want from your wedding.

What is an Elopement and What is a Traditional Wedding?

Elopements have evolved from secretive affairs to represent intimate, meaningful celebrations that prioritize the couple’s unique story and desires. These can range from a quiet exchange of vows in a scenic locale to a small gathering in a place of personal significance. Traditional weddings, conversely, are larger events that often follow more conventional rituals, involving extensive guest lists, elaborate venues, and detailed planning to share the joyous union with as many family and friends as possible

Why Elope?

The biggest advantage of an elopement is simplicity. When people hear wedding they have a very ridged definition of what that means. Elopements on the other hand are limited to very few people, sometimes only the bride and groom. This means you have maximum freedom! With this freedom couples can focus on what truly matters to them, selecting venues that traditional weddings might not accommodate, like secluded beaches or forest clearings. Elopements also offer couples the freedom to combine their wedding and honeymoon into one epic adventure!

Why Have a Traditional Wedding?

When it comes down to it, friends and family want to come to your wedding. The traditional wedding allows friends and family to come and celebrate alongside you. For many couple’s a big wedding turns into a reunion of friends from across the country and family you don’t get to see very often. These big celebrations are often the only time you will see these people together. They are also sometimes the last time you will get to see some family memebers.

Pros and Cons of a Traditional Wedding Vs Elopement

With a brief argument for wedding vs elopement out of the way, let’s break it down to a pros and cons list.



  • Cost-effective: Elopements generally cost significantly less than traditional weddings, with budgets ranging from $5,000 to $10,000+ for more elaborate plans​​.
  • Flexibility in location: Couples have nearly limitless options for their ceremony location, offering a unique and memorable setting​​.
  • Intimacy and personalization: Elopements allow for a more intimate celebration, focusing on the couple’s relationship and preferences​​.
  • Reduced planning and stress: With fewer details to manage and less emphasis on guest coordination, elopements can be less stressful to plan​​.
  • Adventurous and unique: Elopements offer the opportunity for couples to incorporate adventure and unique experiences into their special day​​. You can turn your wedding into a simple multiday event.
  • Honeymoon: Often couples will choose to head to a honeymoon destination to elope.


  • Limited guest list: Elopements typically involve fewer guests, which may lead to disappointment among family and friends not included.
  • Perception issues: Some family members or friends might have misconceptions about the significance or seriousness of eloping.
  • Fewer traditions: Couples may miss out on certain wedding traditions that are important to them or their families.
  • Photography: While you can have stunning photos, the range of captured moments will often be less diverse than in a traditional wedding setting​​.

Traditional Weddings


  • Community celebration: Weddings offer the chance to celebrate with a wider circle of family and friends, creating shared memories​​.
  • Embracing tradition: Couples can incorporate traditional elements, rituals, and customs that hold personal or cultural significance.
  • Comprehensive documentation: With more extensive photography and videography, all aspects of the day, from preparations to reception, are captured.
  • More support: Having a larger guest list often means more help and support from loved ones in planning and celebrating the event.


  • Higher costs: Traditional weddings have higher average costs, with budgets typically around $33,900 due to larger guest lists and more elaborate plans​​.
  • Increased planning and stress: The complexity of organizing a larger event can add significant stress and time commitments.
  • Venue and vendor limitations: The size and scope of traditional weddings might limit venue choices and require early booking of vendors.
  • Compromises: Balancing the wishes of family, friends, and cultural expectations may lead to compromises on the couple’s ideal vision.

Remember how you felt. Not how you were posed

Cost Considerations of Weddings vs Elopements

Traditional weddings can be expensive, with average costs reaching about $33,900. This includes big expenses like photography ($6,000), outfits ($3,000), venue ($7,000), and food ($10,000). These weddings are big, with lots of guests and detailed planning.

On the other hand, eloping in 2024, adventure elopements can be much cheaper, ranging from $5,000 to over $10,000. Obviously, if you just go to the courthouse or your church it will be a lot cheaper. The Costs depend on where you go, how far you travel, and what you choose for your ceremony and party. Photography for elopements will be one of your biggest expenses and can cost between $4,000 to $10,000, Other costs might include outfits, a marriage license, and extras like flowers and makeup.

Eloping allows couples to focus on the experience and choose a location that means something special to them, from quiet natural spots to exciting global destinations. It’s seen as a stress-free option that skips all the big wedding planning to focus on the love and commitment between the couple.

Ultimately, the choice between a traditional wedding and eloping comes down to personal preference, values, and budget. Both options have their pros and cons, like the grandeur of a traditional wedding versus the intimacy and adventure of an elopement. Couples should think about what’s most important to them and choose the option that best fits their dreams and finances.

Enjoy a custom experience tailored to your wedding.

Planning Requirements and Timelines

For traditional weddings, the planning phase is often extensive, spanning months to over a year. (I have worked with couples that are planning a wedding up to 2 years in advance) This involves booking venues, hiring vendors (such as caterers, photographers, and entertainers), selecting attire, sending invitations, and more. The complexity and scale of the event necessitate early and detailed planning, which can be a full-time job in itself.

Elopements, by contrast, are generally considered to require less planning, given their smaller scale and the fewer logistical elements involved. However, this does not mean they are without their own set of requirements. Choosing a location, obtaining permits if necessary, arranging travel, and deciding on the few vendors (like photographers who often double as planners and officiants in elopement packages) still require thoughtful consideration and time. The timeline for planning an elopement can be significantly shorter, ranging from a few weeks to several months, offering more flexibility and spontaneity. However, in the event you are looking to get married in a national park, you will need to obtain a permit ASAP. These go quickly!

Stress Levels & Expectations – Wedding vs Eloping

The stress associated with planning a traditional wedding is well-documented, stemming from the pressure to satisfy family expectations, manage a budget, and coordinate the details of a large event. This stress can be compounded by the emotional weight of wanting the day to be perfect.

Elopements, while potentially less stressful due to their simplicity and the reduced pressure of pleasing a large guest list, can carry their own emotional and logistical stressors. Decisions about who to include, if anyone, and managing potential disappointment from family members or friends not involved, can be challenging.

Unfortunatly, weddings always seem to surface messy family or friend dynamics. Even with the “easier” elopement, things can still get messy.

Addressing Misconceptions between weddings and eloping

A common misconception about elopements is that they are impulsive, lacking in thought or significance. This couldn’t be further from the truth for many couples who choose to elope. Elopements can be deeply meaningful, allowing couples to focus on their love and commitment without the distractions of a large event. They often involve deliberate planning and intention to create a day that truly reflects the couple’s relationship and values.

Additionally, the belief that elopements are a ‘lesser’ choice or that they cannot involve family and friends is outdated. Many couples now opt for intimate elopements (technically micro weddings) that include their closest loved ones or plan celebratory gatherings post-elopement to share their joy.

Enjoy your wedding day fully immersed in all its joy and beauty.

How to include those who can’t make it to your elopement

Thinking about eloping but worried about family or friends missing out. Here are a few tips on how to bring others into the celebration.

For the Elopers:

  • Video Calls: Some couples will choose to do a live stream or video call for those who can’t make it. This way family can still watch the ceremony while you celebrate with just your spouse
  • Bring close Family & Friends: Elopements are all about doing what you want. Just because they are traditionally just the couple, this does not mean yours needs to be. You can still bring family and even have a bridal party.
  • Post-Elopement Party: Just because you elope doesn’t mean you can’t have a celebration later. Rent out a local park or pavilion for an easy and fun celebration.

Bottom line: Whether you’re high on a hilltop or dancing in a ballroom, there are tons of ways to make sure your loved ones are part of your “I do” moment. Just get creative, stay true to yourselves, and let the love spread!

Photography for Elopements Vs weddings

The role of photography in both elopements and weddings cannot be overstated. It’s all about capturing those fleeting moments, the raw emotions, and the unique story of the day that you’ll want to remember and share for years to come.

Elopements: Photography in elopements tends to be more intimate and personalized, focusing on the couple and the scenic backdrop of their chosen location. When working with couples for elopements I often double as a planner, helping you find the right spot for your elopement, especially if you are doing something out in nature. The approach is typically more flexible, allowing for spontaneous moments and a focus on the interaction between the couple. Elopements offer the chance for more daring and unconventional photo ops. Imagine exchanging vows on a secluded mountaintop or in the heart of an ancient forest. The smaller scale often means more time for us to experiment and capture those breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime shots. We are also able to hit up more locations to get a larger variety of portraits.

Weddings: When photographing a wedding the story we are capturing is much more elaborate. It’s about capturing moments between friends and family. Getting ready details, the ceremony, the reception and the after party. Weddings often offer the opportunity for more powerful candid moments. Our wedding photography approach is all about letting you celebrate and enjoy your day rather than being stuck in a generic mold.

Common Concerns and Regrets Wedding vs Elopement

Elopements: Some couples worry they might miss the presence of family and friends or regret not having a traditional ceremony. The intimacy of an elopement offers a deeply personal and meaningful experience but can lead to feelings of guilt or sadness if important people in your life are not present. My wife and I had a micro wedding with 48 people in attendance. honestly, we enjoyed the stress free nature of wedding planning. While some of our loved one’s could not make it the overall experience was very positive.

Weddings: On the other hand, those opting for a traditional wedding might regret the stress and financial strain that can accompany large celebrations. While weddings provide an opportunity to share your commitment with a wider circle, they can sometimes divert focus from the couple to the event’s logistics. Couples might later wish they had allocated their resources differently, valuing experiences over material aspects of the day.

The Decision: Elopement, Wedding, or a Mix of Both?

Increasingly, couples are finding ways to blend elements of elopements and traditional weddings, tailoring their celebrations to best suit their personalities and dreams. For instance, some choose to elope privately before hosting a larger reception with friends and family. This approach allows for the intimacy and adventure of an elopement while still celebrating with a wider community at a later date.

Alternatively, couples might opt for a small, intimate ceremony (akin to an elopement) with only their closest loved ones present, followed by a larger, more traditional party. This hybrid model addresses the desire for a personal, meaningful ceremony while also honoring the joy of sharing the milestone with a broader circle.

Encouragement for Couples

Ultimately, the choice between eloping and having a wedding should reflect what feels most true to you as a couple. Consider your priorities, your values, and the kind of memories you wish to create. Communication with your partner and with loved ones about your decision can help manage expectations and ensure that, regardless of the path chosen, it celebrates your unique bond and journey together.

In making your decision, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each couple’s story is different, and your celebration should be a reflection of your love, your way. Whether through a quiet elopement in a place that speaks to your heart or a joyous wedding surrounded by those you love, the day is ultimately about your commitment to each other.

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Wedding Vs Elopement By Charles Moll Photography

Additional Elopement Resources

Beehive-Basin-Elopement // Best Places To Elope In Montana
Wedding Planning | Elopememts

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