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Elopement vs. Wedding – Pros and Cons

Wedding vs elopement

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There’s quite a difference between an intimate wedding and an elopement and knowing this difference makes the process of planning much easier for everyone.

Everyone knows what a traditional wedding is, but there might be some misconceptions about elopements. Before we look into the pros and cons of eloping vs. weddings, let’s quickly take a look at eloping.

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The word ‘elopement’ has changed over time and now means something quite different from when it first was used in the 1300s. For example, back in 1338, the definition of elopement was the act of a wife leaving her husband in order to run off with her lover. Later on, in the 1800s, this definition slightly changed, and it meant lovers who ran away to get married in secret without parental consent, and not just to get away from a spouse.

Today, to elope means to forgo having a traditional wedding and instead to have just a small ceremony with either a few or no guests. Some couples who decide to elope inform their families before the ceremony that they plan to elope and they may decide to do so without inviting their families to attend. 

If you’re on the fence about whether to have a traditional wedding or to go for an elopement instead, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a look at the differences between these two ways of tying the knot.

The Guest List

Couples exiting with bubbles in their wedding day

A big guest list means big expenses!

A traditional wedding usually ends up with a large guest list. Of course it is common courtesy to invite your wedding party, the officiant and your immediate family members to your special event, but what mostly happens is that the guest list tends to grow larger and larger. With a larger list, you need to have a larger budget and this takes more planning as well.

With an elopement, there are no hard and fast rules for inviting guests. The general rule that most people follow is to keep the list at around 12 guests or fewer. More than this and the elopement starts morphing into a smaller wedding. Some couples decide to have only the officiant and the witness, eliminating their guest list completely.

The Cost

Indoor wedding venue

Receptions use up most of a wedding budget

One of the biggest differences between an elopement and a traditional wedding is the cost. The average cost of a wedding is quite high with most of the cost going towards the reception – food, alcohol and entertainment. In addition to this, you also have to pay for the venue and the decorations and this is leaving out the wedding party’s attire and accessories, not to mention the rings. No wonder that the average wedding costs about $35,000 in the US.

Elopement ceremonies, on the other hand, are much less expensive since you will be focusing more on you, your partner and just the few people you’ve chosen to invite (that is, if you have chosen any). If you’re on a tight budget, you may prefer this option rather than a large scale wedding. And the good news is saving money on the wedding means more for an extravagant honeymoon that you can plan just the way you like!


Planning a wedding can be extremely stressful especially for someone who has never had the experience of planning a large event. There are many aspects to look into such as the photographer, the cake, the flower vendor and the hair and makeup artist, to name a few. Most couples say that although their wedding day was the happiest day of their lives, the stress they felt from the moment they started planning until the actual day was too much for them to handle.

With an elopement however, it’s quite the opposite. An elopement eliminates vendors and guests which can do a great deal to reduce stress as there are fewer details to pay attention to. When compared to a planning a wedding, an elopement takes much less effort and time. And guess what? There are now ‘elopement packages’ available which means that everything will be arranged for you, including transport, flowers and makeup. All you have to do is just show up.


altar marriage

A wedding is a great way of providing an environment for your families to meet, interact and strengthen bonds. It also makes it a true celebration of your union that you will be experiencing with your family and friends. However, most couples find that they hardly have time to be with others and enjoy the day together as they spend more time checking on their guests, talking to each and every one of them.

This is not the case with an elopement which is more intimate, romantic and personal than a regular wedding. This means that you and your other half can relax, spend more time together and with the people who really matter to you.


Destination wedding

Elopements can take any place anywhere because your requirements are lower.

Finding a venue for a traditional wedding can be restrictive, especially if you have large numbers of guests attending. The venue will need to be able to cater to the needs of bigger groups. Whether indoors or outdoors, there are basic requirements that you’ll have to consider.  Typically, hotels and resorts are the favored options because they tend to have all the furniture, décor and equipment necessary for such events.

If you decide to go for an elopement instead, your options are more varied. Because your focus is just on the two of you, you can choose to exchange your vows on the beach, on a mountain peak, on a tropical island or practically anywhere you can get a celebrant. Elopements do tend to have a magical feel to them which traditional weddings with hundreds of guests in a hotel or reception don’t always allow for.

The Photographer

Bride and groom being photographed by a professional photographer

One of the most important features of a traditional wedding is the photographer who you will be spending a great deal of time with during the day. The best part about having a professional photographer is that they will be capturing the moments, the happiness and the joy that you will cherish for the rest of your life in pictures. This is a once in a lifetime occasion and you need to save every special moment of it.

 This is something that couples tend to forgo by eloping. This could be a cause for regret later on in the future since your elopement is still one of the biggest days of your life just like if you have a traditional wedding. You can have your witness be the photographer or you can still hire a professional photographer and have a short photo shoot. Whether you go for an elopement or for a traditional wedding, you won’t regret having a collection of beautiful photos to look back on. 

Wrapping Up…

Both weddings and elopements have their benefits and disadvantages. But it’s important to remember that after all, the ultimate decision is yours and it should be one that makes you both happy. When you look back on your special day down the line, the last thing you’d want is to regret having a grand, lavish wedding or ‘running away’ for a destination elopement.

Before you decide, consider the people who mean the most to you. You may find that a traditional wedding is a better option rather than hurting others’ feelings by eloping and not allowing them to be involved in it.

However, don’t let others affect your choice of ceremony. You also need to think about yourselves and put yourselves first since this is your special day and one of the biggest steps that you will be taking in your relationship. While it can be extremely difficult to make everyone happy, there are ways you can work around the issues and still have your ceremony the way you want it.