Elopements VS. Weddings

Can’t decide between an extravagant, big wedding or a small intimate elopement? Saying “I do” on a glorious mountaintop while you whisper sweet nothings to your favorite person in the world or walk down the aisle in your gorgeous ballgown in front of your closest loved ones? How do you choose?

Maybe you only want to know why do people elope? Well, you have come to the right place! We’re here to help you choose the best way for you as a couple to say your vows.

Let’s explore the differences between elopements and weddings and how you can choose what is best for you two as a couple. 

Why Do People Elope?

When you think of the word elopement, you automatically think about a couple running to the courthouse to get married without consent. But with time, elopements have evolved into small, intimate ceremonies with only the couple or a small group of family and/or friends in attendance.

The meaning of elopement is an intimate and meaningful wedding experience that is authentic to you as a couple. Be true to yourself and have an adventure with your partner in an authentic, unique way by eloping. This day is all about you and the tender moments you get to share with your love when you say “I do.”

In contrast, a wedding moves the focus away from the couple to include other factors, such as:

  • Keeping your guests entertained
  • Infusing traditional elements
  • The event itself

The end outcome of both elopements and weddings is the same: you’re pledging your life to your partner. Whichever choice you make, make sure it’s for the right reasons. There are still ways for you to celebrate at a later stage with your loved ones if you choose to elope.

california elopement photographer

The Differences Between an Elopement and a Wedding

Elopements and weddings are different as they have different intentions. With the focus on elopements and weddings being different, there are also other differences to consider.

However, it’s so important that you know that you and your partner get to choose exactly how your wedding day should look – whether it’s an elopement, traditional wedding, or even a combination of both, at the end of the day, it’s all about you and your fiancé.

Let’s dive into the main differences between an elopement and a wedding

1. Authenticity

One of the main reasons couples choose to elope is because they want their big day all about them. With the intimacy, they also crave authenticity, to be true to who they are.

While there are couples who love the idea of a traditional wedding with glam, presents, and dancing, there are other couples who want the opposite.

It all boils down to who people are at their heart and what couples really want on their wedding days.

In some ways, weddings leave every couple with a wedding that may or may not reflect who they are. Couples who elope can firmly say that this is them and what they truly want for their special day.

2. People

Usually, a wedding consists of a long guest list, where you invite your mother’s best friend’s cousin. This can bring your guest list to well over 300, which comes with a hefty price tag! When eloping, you have more control over your guest list, and if you want, your day can consist of only you and your partner. The best way to decide who to invite is to make a list and ask yourself can I envision my wedding day without this person? If the answer is no, then invite them!

There are no rules for an elopement, and you are fully in control of who you want invited and how many. Your pets may also be your best friend and love adventure as much as you, so why not incorporate them into your dream day?

Elopements are all about the couple and how they want to build their own wedding experience meaningfully, so they have a lot more leeway when setting guest attendance limits.

Elopements can be a ceremony with you and your fiancé if you want intimacy, or you can invite your immediate family or close friends to witness your love. Typically, elopements will have around 10-20 guests in attendance. Numbers don’t matter, so celebrate your love with as many people around you as you want.

3. Stress

Planning a wedding can be stressful, especially if you’re going all out with a big venue and a never-ending guest list.

Because traditional weddings tend to be larger, you have to take care of transportation, accommodation, thank-you gifts, etc., for your guests. Elopements, on the other hand, provide you relief from family-related stress.

Don’t think of your elopement as leaving anyone out, but rather think of it as a day you want. Elopements are intimate, meaningful, and authentic, and if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get!

Whether it’s an elopement or a traditional wedding day, your wedding experience should be a joyous occasion. So relax and enjoy your day with as little stress as possible. 

california elopement photographer
california elopement photographer

4. Choices

Traditional weddings are similar, whereas elopements have no rules! Eloping opens you up to so many new choices, especially when it comes down to the location of where you will say your vows.

Can you imagine having a traditional wedding with 300 guests on a mountain top or next to a rushing waterfall? I bet your answer is “No!”

Elopements are adventurous, and you can make your marriage official on a mountaintop, next to a rushing river, or even amid desert dunes. The opportunities are endless! This all comes down to not having a guest list that goes on forever.

It’s all about you and your partner in the end, so if adventure, intimacy, and authenticity are what you’re after, then an elopement is for you.

5. Values

Traditional weddings and elopement experiences, in actuality, have pretty distinct ideals at their foundation. Don’t get us wrong: one is not better than the other. Instead, each experience shows what matters most to people in a unique way.

Usually, couples who genuinely want a large, traditional wedding value having their families and friends present on their special day, being in the spotlight, and creating a memorable, exciting celebration to commemorate their wedding. These big celebrations cost money, as you have to consider the venue, food, drinks, flowers, etc. The average wedding in the US costs $33,390 according to the Knot.

Couples who choose to elope, on the other hand, prefer experiences over physical items, large parties, and being the focus of attention on their big day. It’s all about investing in things couples value, such as awesome photos, intimacy and solitude, and adventure to start their lives together.

Opting to have an elopement over a wedding day does not imply that you do not want to invest in your wedding experience; rather, it indicates that as a couple, you value something other than what a large, traditional wedding can provide.

california elopement photographer

The Best of Both Worlds

When planning your wedding, there are no rules. Whatever you choose will be the best option for you and your fiancé. If you love the idea of an intimate wedding with a traditional flair, you can absolutely do this!

Here are a few ideas on what you can do to incorporate traditional elements into your elopement:

Bringing your family and closest friends to your elopement is not taboo. Remember, there are no rules when it comes to your wedding day! So get that pen and paper, write down the names of those closest to you, and send them an invite. And if you want to bring Ollie, your snorting bulldog, then go right ahead!

  • Split the day in half

There is nothing wrong with you splitting your wedding day into two parts. You can enjoy a private elopement ceremony as a couple only, go hiking or rock climbing, or say your vows on a mountaintop at sunrise. For the second half of your day, spend it with all your loved ones gathered together for a celebration. You can get the best of both worlds!

  • Have an elopement weekend

Why only have one day for your wedding when you can have two days? There might be a long list of activities you want to experience that can’t all fit into one day, and you may want to include your guests in everything. Alternatively, you can spend one day where it’s just the two of you, experience all the wild adventures together, and on the second day you can have the elopement experience with everyone you love.

  • Celebrate later with an extra party

Another option you can consider as a couple is having your elopement ceremony alone and inviting all your guests to join you afterward for a celebration party. If you’re having a destination elopement, plan your party for when you get back or before you leave.

You can also break tradition by having the party the day before your wedding and inviting all your friends and family to witness you signing the marriage license.

california elopement photographer
california elopement photographer
california elopement photographer

Do What’s Best for You

No matter what type of wedding ceremony you choose, it all comes down to personal choice. Remember, there are no rules, so plan your wedding day exactly how you want it. As a couple, you’re not there to please anyone but yourselves.

You’re committing to each other, and you want to ensure that how you tie the knot is a reflection of who you are as a couple.

Meet Your California Elopement Photographer

Hi, I’m Tiffany – a California elopement photographer who travels worldwide! I offer a variety of elopement packages that range from half day to full day coverage.

Not only do I help document your elopement, but I also help to craft it. I’m here to help make sure that you have the best experience ever. I help assist in finding the best location for you, handcraft your timeline, give you vendor recommendations/elopement guide and so much more! 

I’m a huge outdoors lover and adventure seeker which is where my passion for documenting adventurous elopements comes in. I firmly believe that your wedding day deserves to be intentional and focused on you. Elopements absolutely have my heart!

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