Elopement Vs Wedding? Which is Best for You?

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Are you contemplating whether to elope or have a traditional wedding? This comprehensive guide will delve into the intricate distinctions between an elopement and a wedding, helping you make an informed decision about your big day. As a seasoned wedding photographer with Ethan Film and Photo, I’ve had the pleasure of capturing both elopements and traditional weddings, so I’m quite familiar with the unique attributes, pros, and cons of each.

Defining Elopement and Wedding

Before we delve into the differences between the two, we need to establish what each term means.

Elopement: This term has evolved over the years. Previously, it suggested running away and getting married in secret. Nowadays, an elopement is a planned, intimate wedding that focuses solely on the couple. It could be just the couple and a few close people in attendance, or merely the couple and their officiant. Elopements offer a great deal of flexibility and can take place at any venue – either indoors or outdoors.

Wedding: A traditional wedding is usually a large event that follows a structured format, including a ceremony followed by a reception. They are typically held at designated venues such as estates, ballrooms, or farms, and are designed to accommodate larger numbers of guests. However, the concept of a wedding has evolved, and it’s no longer confined to the traditional format.

Key Differences Between an Elopement and a Wedding

Planning Time

One significant difference between an elopement and a wedding is the planning time. Elopements, due to their intimate nature, take less time to plan. Some couples may opt to elope within a few days or months, making the process swift and spontaneous. On the other hand, traditional weddings can take anywhere from six to eighteen months to plan due to their larger scale.

Guest Count

The guest count markedly differs in an elopement vs a wedding. Elopements are intimate, often involving only the couple and perhaps a few select others, making for a truly personalized experience. Weddings, on the other hand, are more extensive, usually involving anywhere from 80 to 200 guests, or even more.


Cost is a significant factor to consider when comparing an elopement vs a wedding. On average, elopements are less expensive than traditional weddings, with the average cost of an elopement ranging from $5,000 to $15,000. In contrast, the average cost of a traditional wedding in the U.S is about $34,000.

Venue Options

Elopements offer endless possibilities for venue options. Couples can choose to elope in their backyard, a national park, or even a different country. This flexibility allows couples to design their day exactly how they want it to be. Traditional weddings, though diverse in venue options, are typically held at more established venues capable of accommodating larger guest numbers.

Stress Levels

While planning any event can be stressful, elopements tend to be less so than traditional weddings. With fewer vendors and logistics to worry about, the planning process for an elopement is generally smoother and less taxing. However, it’s worth noting that elopements can sometimes lead to disappointment among family and friends who were hoping to be more involved in the wedding.


As a wedding photographer, I can attest that both elopements and weddings yield stunning photographs. However, with an elopement, there’s more room for unique photo opportunities and the timeline is less rigid, allowing for more spontaneous shots. A traditional wedding, on the other hand, has a more structured schedule, but with a larger guest count, there’s a greater variety of candid moments to capture.

Personal Touches

Both elopements and weddings offer ample opportunities for personal touches. With fewer people involved in an elopement, the ceremony can be more authentic and tailored to the couple’s preferences. On the other hand, weddings, though larger and potentially influenced by others’ opinions, can incorporate personal touches through elements such as seating tags, centerpieces, and the choice of venue.

Adventure and Spontaneity

Elopements often embody more adventure and spontaneity than traditional weddings. They can be planned last-minute and offer more flexibility on the day of the ceremony. While weddings can also be adventurous depending on the location, they lack the spontaneity in planning due to the time it takes to organize everything.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between an Elopement and a Wedding

While deciding between an elopement and a wedding, consider the following factors:

  1. Affordability: If budget is a significant constraint, an elopement can be a cost-effective option.
  2. Convenience: Elopements generally involve fewer logistics and are therefore less stressful to plan.
  3. Regret: Consider whether you may regret not having a traditional wedding. If you’ve always dreamed of a big wedding, an elopement may not fulfill your expectations.
  4. Length of Marriage: Studies suggest that elopements can lead to longer-lasting marriages due to lower financial stress and heightened intimacy.
  5. Combining Elopement and Wedding: You can always choose to elope and then host a wedding reception later. This allows you to enjoy the intimacy of an elopement and the celebration of a traditional wedding.
  6. Legalities: Elopements are legally recognized as weddings. However, you need to ensure you have the proper documentation and follow the legal procedures of the country where you choose to elope.
  7. Consequences of Eloping: Eloping can lead to disappointment among family and friends who were hoping to participate in your big day.
  8. Venue and Timing: Consider when and where you want to tie the knot. With elopements, the options are boundless.


Whether you choose to elope or have a traditional wedding, the most important thing is that your big day reflects your relationship and values as a couple. As a wedding photographer at Ethan Film and Photo, I’ve witnessed countless beautiful elopements and weddings, each unique and meaningful in its own way.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer when choosing between an elopement and a wedding. It’s about what feels right for you and your partner. Take your time, weigh the pros and cons, and choose the celebration that will make your day the most memorable. Whether you decide on a secluded beach elopement or a grand ballroom wedding, your day will be beautiful because it’s a celebration of your love.

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