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Eloping vs Wedding: What to Know Before Choosing

Elopement vs wedding
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Remember those fairytale visions of the perfect wedding day? The overflowing guest list, the towering cake, the awkward uncle’s dance moves (we’ve all been there!). While those big weddings still happen, the good news is that weddings come in all flavours now, and the script is wide open.

Elopements can be a chance to ditch the expectations and design a special day that reflects YOU. But wait, does that mean saying “adios” to family and friends altogether? Not necessarily! Whether you envision exchanging vows on a mountaintop with your closest confidantes or having an intimate wedding with your favourite family members, there’s a path that fits your vibe.

This article is your guide to the eloping vs wedding journey. We’ll ditch the wedding-planning stress and help you figure out what truly matters: intimate vows under the stars or a joyous celebration with loved ones. Budget-friendly elopement adventure for two or dream big wedding day splurge? We’ll explore it all, helping you discover the melody that makes your heart sing.

So, grab your partner and get ready to explore. Whether it’s an elopement day for two or a big day filled with laughter and cheers from close friends and family, remember: your special day is YOURS to create.

What is an elopement?

Eloping used to mean running away and getting married without telling anyone, but that’s not really the case anymore. Today, it’s a conscious choice for couples seeking a more personalised and intimate celebration. 

But what does it really mean to elope? And how does it differ from the classic big wedding? 

Modern elopements are all about ditching the traditional wedding script and crafting a special day that reflects your unique love story. It’s typically smaller than a traditional wedding, with 20 guests or less (or sometimes none at all), allowing for more intimacy and flexibility. It’s not about secrecy or rebellion; it’s about prioritising what matters most to you and your partner.

Here’s what elopements can look like:

  • Intimate elopement: Imagine a cosy ceremony with your nearest and dearest, maybe in a backyard garden or a charming restaurant. It’s a warm way to celebrate with loved ones while keeping things close and personal.
  • Adventurous elopement: Calling all explorers! Picture exchanging vows on a mountaintop, beside a cascading waterfall, or even on a secluded beach. This option is ideal for couples who love adventure and want their special day to be a one-of-a-kind experience.
  • Destination elopement: Whispering vows on a foreign beach, saying “oui” in a Parisian café, or exchanging rings amidst ancient Roman ruins – the possibilities are endless! This type of elopement combines your love story with a dream vacation, creating lasting memories.

What is a wedding?

Now, about weddings. Don’t let the single term fool you – there’s more variety than you might think. While weddings can still take place anywhere and don’t actually have to be traditional by all means, they do still tend to feature the more traditional structure of a ceremony followed by a reception.

Here are a couple of common, different types of weddings:

  • Traditional wedding: This is the classic picture – grand ceremony, many guests, formal attire, and all the trimmings. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate with loved ones and create lasting memories.
  • Medium wedding: Imagine a guest list hovering between 50-100, offering space for close friends and family while maintaining a manageable scale. You can enjoy some traditional elements like a formal ceremony and reception but with a more personalised touch.
  • Micro wedding: Think of this as the “in-between” option between eloping and a big wedding. It’s smaller than a traditional wedding (usually around 30-50 guests) but still involves some familiar elements like a ceremony and reception. It’s a great choice for couples who want a more intimate celebration while still including some traditional touches.
Eloping vs wedding

Eloping vs wedding: What are the differences?

Love stories come in all flavours, and so do “I Do” celebrations. But when it comes to elopement vs wedding, navigating the main differences can feel tricky. So, let’s break down the key pros and cons of each option, helping you compose the perfect harmony for your special day.

Guest List

Elopements: Elopements offer the magic of an intimate ceremony, allowing you to exchange vows with your loved ones in a beautiful setting, whether it’s a breathtaking vista or a cosy space for just the two of you.

    • Pros: No pressure to please everyone, just pure emotional connection with your favorite people and immediate family (or none at all!). Cherish the privacy and avoid navigating tricky family dynamics.

    • Cons: Facing the disappointment of loved ones who miss out can be tough. Can feel bittersweet to skip certain family traditions or shared memories with a wider circle.

 

Weddings: Picture joyous laughter, cheers, and heartfelt tears from the people who love you most. Weddings offer:

    • Pros: Celebrate with loved ones, creating shared memories that will last a lifetime. Feel the warm embrace of community and support as you embark on your new chapter. Witness the joy on the faces of those who cherish you both.

    • Cons: Navigating guest lists of a lot of people can be stressful, potentially leading to pressure and hurt feelings. Logistics with a large group can feel overwhelming. The cost can skyrocket with a bigger guest count.

Planning

Elopements: Imagine ditching the spreadsheets and timelines, opting for spontaneity and flexibility:

    • Pros:
      • The time spent planning an elopement can be relatively minimal – you can choose to elope anytime you want!
      • Streamlined planning process – ditch the stress of managing hundreds of guests!
      • Flexibility to choose unique locations and tailor the experience to your desires.
    • Cons:
      • DIY elements can add unexpected work and stress.
      • Might miss out on the expertise and guidance of experienced wedding professionals.
      • Travel logistics and legal details require careful planning, especially for international elopements.

 

Weddings: Imagine having a team of experts orchestrate your special day, taking the reins on logistics:

    • Pros:
      • Access to skilled vendors like a wedding planner, photographers, and caterers to ensure everything runs smoothly.
      • Established venues offer predictable costs and amenities, reducing planning uncertainties.
      • Delegate tasks and enjoy a stress-free planning experience, allowing you to savour the engagement period.
    • Cons:
      • Wedding planning typically takes anywhere between six and eighteen months; Lengthy planning and coordination can feel overwhelming.
      • Potential for overspending with various vendors and hidden costs.
      • Less flexibility with established venues and traditions, potentially limiting personalisation.

Budget and Cost

Elopements: Imagine cost-effective celebrations that focus on experiences rather than grand gestures:

    • Pros:
      • Significantly lower overall cost compared to traditional weddings, with fewer guests and minimal vendor fees.
      • Flexibility to choose budget-friendly locations and activities, prioritising experiences over elaborate details.
      • More freedom to allocate funds towards a dream honeymoon or other post-wedding money goals.
    • Cons:
      • Might require additional budgeting for travel and accommodation if your chosen location is far away.
      • DIY elements can incur unexpected costs if not carefully planned and budgeted for.
      • Depending on the location, access to certain vendors or services might be limited, potentially driving up costs.

 

Weddings: Imagine a well-managed budget that prioritises value without sacrificing your vision:

    • Pros:
      • Access to a wider range of vendor options and services, allowing you to find the best fit for your needs and budget.
      • Established venues often offer packages or bundled services, streamlining costs and simplifying budgeting.
      • Potential for economies of scale with bulk purchases for catering, decorations, and other supplies.
    • Cons:
      • At $29,000 in the US and £20,700 in the UK, the average cost of a wedding in 2023 wasn’t exactly a budget-friendly affair. That’s a lot of money that could be put towards other dreams or financial goals.
      • Larger guest lists significantly increase costs across all categories, from a bigger wedding venue to catering.
      • Potential for impulse spending or exceeding initial budget due to social pressure or emotional attachment.
      • As traditional weddings often come with hefty price tags, wedding loans might seem tempting. However, starting your marriage with debt could impact your financial future as a couple.

Related: How I saved thousands on my wedding dress

Location and Ceremony

Elopements: Imagine an elopement ceremony on a mountain peak at sunrise, exchanging vows on a secluded beach, or exploring a foreign city hand-in-hand:

    • Pros: Endless flexibility! Choose unconventional locations that resonate with your story. Create an unforgettable backdrop for your vows in a private ceremony.

    • Cons: Travel logistics and legalities, including obtaining a marriage license in a different location, can add complexity. Remote locations might limit available vendors or services.

 

Weddings: Imagine exchanging vows in a cherished family church or a picturesque garden venue:

    • Pros: Familiar and comfortable surroundings can add a sense of tradition and meaning. Established venues offer amenities and infrastructure for a smooth ceremony.

    • Cons: Limited flexibility with established venues and traditions. Might feel restrictive for couples seeking a unique experience. Venue costs can be a significant expense.

Celebration and Reception

Elopements: Imagine an intimate candlelit dinner for two, a first dance under the stars, or a private yoga session under the Tuscan sun:

    • Pros: Focus entirely on the connection between you and the love of your life. Personalise every detail to create a truly unique and meaningful experience. Avoid the potential chaos of large gatherings.

    • Cons: Might miss out on traditional elements like dancing, speeches, and a big party. Can feel isolating for couples who value celebrating with a wider circle.

 

Weddings: Imagine a joyous dance floor, heartfelt toasts, and laughter echoing through the room:

    • Pros: Share your joy with loved ones through traditional elements like reception and dancing. Create lasting memories with family and friends.

    • Cons: Potential for chaos or family drama within large groups. Balancing guest expectations with your own desires can be tricky.

Eloping vs wedding: What are the similarities?

While eloping and a wedding can have big practical differences, beneath the surface lies a shared essence – two souls joining hands and hearts. The celebration might differ, but the core remains the same: celebrating love and commitment. Let’s dive into the surprising similarities that bridge these seemingly different paths:

1. Commitment and legality: Both elopements and weddings culminate in the same momentous step – legally becoming a married couple. However, requirements for legality of different ceremonies can vary depending on location on country. Double-check your local marriage laws before eloping to avoid needing a separate ceremony later.

2. Declaration of love: At the heart of both lies a passionate declaration of love, shared vows with promises and aspirations. Whether intimate or surrounded by loved ones, the exchange holds equal weight, sealing your forever journey.

3. Symbolic traditions: Regardless of scale, both often incorporate meaningful traditions. Elopements might involve exchanging rings under a waterfall, while weddings may offer sand ceremonies or unity candles. These rituals, big or small, symbolise your journey and shared values.

4. Celebrating with loved ones: While the scale varies, both acknowledge the importance of loved ones. Elopements might involve close family or a best friend, while weddings gather a larger support system. In both cases, sharing your joy with those who matter creates lasting memories.

5. Memories to cherish: Whether captured by a photographer or simply in your heart, both create cherished memories. From the awe-inspiring landscapes of an elopement to the heartfelt speeches at a wedding, these moments become treasures you revisit throughout your life.

Ultimately, the choice between elopement and wedding boils down to personal preferences. Whether you yearn for an intimate adventure or a joyful celebration, remember that the similarities resonate most deeply – two hearts embarking on a shared journey, and the profound meaning of saying “I Do.” If you are still unsure about the perfect choice for you, let’s discover some questions you can ask yourself and your partner to make the right decision.

Should we elope or have a wedding?

So, after exploring both elopements and weddings, you’re probably wondering: which one resonates most deeply with your love story? Ultimately, the “right choice” lies not in societal expectations or trends, but in what truly aligns with your values, priorities, and preferences. Here’s a framework to help you make this exciting decision:

Values & priorities:

  • Intimacy vs celebration: Do you crave a deeply personal experience with just your partner, or do you envision sharing your joy with a larger circle?
  • Adventure vs comfort: Does the thought of exchanging vows in a national park ignite your spirit, or do you prefer the familiarity of a traditional ceremony?
  • Budget: Is minimising costs a priority, or are you willing to invest more in a larger celebration?

Addressing concerns:

  • Family expectations: Communicate openly with loved ones about your decision. Share your reasons and explore alternative ways to involve them, like a post-elopement celebration or virtual ceremony attendance.
  • Regrets: Remember, your wedding day is just one chapter in your love story. Focus on creating a meaningful experience that reflects your values, and any potential regrets will fade in the face of a lifetime of shared happiness.

Crafting your unique celebration

If you can’t decide between eloping vs wedding, don’t feel confined to two rigid options! Consider these alternatives:

  • Micro wedding: A smaller version of a traditional wedding with 30-50 guests, offering intimacy while incorporating familiar elements.
  • Post-elopement celebration: Host a gathering after your elopement to share your joy with loved ones, incorporating elements like a cocktail hour and speeches. Some couples even choose to incorporate a small vow renewal ceremony, allowing couples who eloped to share the experience with a wider circle.
  • Courthouse wedding: A simple and legal ceremony at a courthouse, often with just a few witnesses. Perfect for couples who prioritise practicality and intimacy or want a low-key and budget-friendly start to their married life.
  • Vow renewal: If your original choice wasn’t quite what you dreamed about, why not celebrate your love later with a ceremony that reflects your current life and priorities?

Remember:

  • It’s not about the number of guests, the venue grandeur, or the amount of money spent.
  • The most important thing is celebrating your love in a way that feels authentic and meaningful to you as a couple.
  • Whether you choose an elopement photographer to capture your vows in a small chapel or a big wedding filled with laughter, prioritise experiences that will become cherished memories.

Ultimately, the decision is yours as a couple and only you can choose the best option for you. Trust your hearts in planning your own dream day whether it is a large event or a smaller wedding with fewer people.

Conclusion: Eloping vs wedding

So, elopement or wedding? The confetti settles, and the truth remains: there’s no single “right” answer. Forget societal or family expectations and trends; this is about crafting a celebration that reflects your unique love story and values.

Do you envision whispered vows under a starry sky, or laughter-filled moments with loved ones? Does adventure call, or does sharing your joy with a wider circle hold more meaning? Remember, intimacy and commitment are not defined by guest lists or grandeur.

Prioritise what truly resonates with you as a couple. Explore resources for both elopements and weddings, gather inspiration, and remember: At the end of the day, the most meaningful celebration is the one that feels authentically yours.

Related: Are weddings worth the money: Money bloggers discuss their experiences

Eloping vs wedding which should you choose

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