June 10, 2020

Elopement vs. Wedding | What is an elopement?

How to decide which is right for you

If you’re struggling between the options for your wedding day, you might have a lot of questions … What is an elopement? What is considered a “traditional” wedding What’s the difference? How do you choose? Why should I even consider an elopement vs wedding?

A lot of couples I talk with are asking these same questions and are wondering if a traditional wedding is right for them, or if they want to do things differently. Elopements have skyrocketed in popularity lately and have given many couples an alternative to traditional weddings, but what’s so great about them? What’s the difference, and more importantly, which is right for you two and your wedding day?

There’s been a ton of stigma surrounding elopements before they started becoming popular in blogs, and it seems some of our families still envision an elopement as being married by Elvis in a drive thru wedding chapel (which sounds pretty cool if we’re being totally honest.) I’m here to shed some light on the differences between weddings and elopements, and to hopefully get you and your partner to question your intentions on your wedding day in regards to traditions. Should you have a wedding just because everyone says you should? Or do you want a big wedding day? Identifying your intentions and what YOU want is the first (and sometimes toughest) step to having your dream wedding day. So let’s dive in!

How do I figure out what’s right for us? What are the pros and cons?

Let's make a very crude, quick pros and cons list. I'll dive into more details below.





- Go wherever you want, including scenic locations

- Typically less $$$, or better spent on items you want

- More privacy

- More time spent with your partner overall

- Geared to be more adventurous/flexible

- Get to invite more family and friends

- Get to decorate more elaborately

-Get a bigger space to do more things (venue)



- No guests

- Potential of family and friends not understanding

- Possibility of being stung by a bee (which happened to me)

- Typically in the elements, so need to arrange lodging

- Not as much privacy

- Typically more $$$

- Need more time and more people for set up

- Have the venue for a limited amount of time

- Typically spending more time and money on guest experience

Ultimately, the decision between which type of wedding is best for you is also dependent on you and your partner’s personalities. Are you nervous about the idea of sharing your private vows in front of a room full of your guests, or do you feel “the more, the merrier” applies? Would you prefer to spend more time mingling with your guests, or would you rather have more private time with your partner on your wedding day? Dance in front of guests or through a field? These are all things you should consider when deciding on an elopement vs. wedding.

Elopement vs. Wedding:

From a flexibility standpoint

From a privacy standpoint

  • The natural, intimate nature of elopements allows you to have lots of privacy on your wedding day.
  • Allows you to maximize the amount of time you spend with your partner, exploring, exchanging vows, having a journey together.
  • There is a certain “publicness” to a traditional wedding day.
  • Traditional weddings are typically focused around your guest’s experience.
  • Mingling with guests typically takes up the largest amount of time during the day.
  • You’re reading your vows in front of a large group of people. Take a moment and consider whether that’s something that excites you or makes you feel like you’ll need to curate or censor your vows.
  • Because of the virtually non-existent guest list, there is more freedom and flexibility to explore, not be stressed, to relax, and take in the day in your own way.
  • Wedding traditions aren’t the primary focus of the day: you could plan any activities you wanted, or none at all, besides the ceremony!
  • Guests aren’t worried about where you ran off to -- enjoy the day freely, without a strict timeline.
  • Traditional wedding days typically require sticking to a timeline.
  • If the timeline falls behind, typically this is less time spent with your partner, and less flexibility throughout the day.
  • If you’ve rented a venue, you have it for a certain number of hours, things need to be set up and taken down at certain times -- lots of coordination is involved.
  • from a money standpoint

    Elopement vs wedding…. Perhaps the biggest difference is where exactly you spend your budget.
    When you’re working on your budget for the day, the difference becomes obvious. While elopements don’t typically require as big of a budget as a typical wedding day, even if your budget for both types of events was the same, the way you spend would be very different, and this is one of the areas where you should be asking yourself “what’s the absolute MOST important things to me and my partner?”

    Weddings are expensive. It’s no secret, it’s one of the largest industries in the world, and according to the Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is roughly $34,000. Yes. That is real. Could you imagine how much cheese and wine that could get me?

    In Oklahoma, that’s a pretty good chunk of change. That’s a downpayment on a house, or a few years living in Deep Deuce downtown. And that number is an average -- some are a lot more or a lot less.

    So when keeping in mind the already higher price tag of a traditional wedding, keep in mind that you’re typically spending most of your money on guest experience aspects of the day, like favors, table settings, venue, food, DJ, etc. What typically happens when couples are spending lots of money in lots of different areas of the day, it leaves less to be dedicated to splurging on one thing in particular that they may really want. A lot of couples I speak with after their day tell me that they typically don’t regret having a big wedding day, but wish that they could have focused the budget on things they would enjoy more, instead of things they thought they needed to have.

    Elopements are just naturally much more simple, and so are their budgets. In no way does this mean your marriage is more simple! Elopements are still YOUR wedding day. You’ll need something to wear (this could even be non-traditional, too!), you need a location (permit fees for national parks or even state parks are usually no more than a few hundred dollars compared to thousands spent on a venue), and you’ll probably want an amazing photographer (hey, that’s me!) or a videographer to capture it. If you travel to your elopement destination, you’ll also want to factor in lodging.

    If you planned to spend just half as much on a small elopement as you would on a large wedding, think of the things you could splurge on. Think of the things that are most important to you that you could focus your budget on. When I got married and asked myself this question, it was most important for us to find a place in the mountains where our friends could stay with us. Thus, most of our budget went to an amazing AirBnB with mountain views, and that budget for an entire weekend was WAY less than what we would have spent on a venue.

    Your budget in an elopement naturally stretches further, since there are less vendors and naturally less things to pay for.

    Elopements vs weddings… Why do people choose one over the other?

    Now that we’ve talked budgets, let’s talk about some of the reasons MY clients and friends decided to elope or have a traditional wedding day.

    Doing something different

    Since pretty much forever, weddings have been ripe with tradition, and for many couples, many of those old traditions just don’t feel right anymore, even the tradition of a large wedding itself. So they opt for an elopement vs wedding, because they’re drawn to the idea of doing something different together, and planning an intentional day that is entirely about them. The huge surge in elopements has really given an outlet to couples who want to buck tradition and celebrate their relationship in a different way than what’s typical.


    They want a private vow reading, without worrying on curating their thoughts or their vows. Some couples want the privacy that an elopement brings, and the intimacy to be completely open with their partner without worrying about many guests listening in.

    More time spent together

    Many want to spend more time together on their wedding day.
    Elopements aren’t about any guest experience. They’re entirely about you. No cocktail hours, reception games or bouquet tosses. A large wedding day may be spent chatting with each table instead of spending time with your partner.

    Spending your budget on what's most important

    I talked about this a little bit above when describing elopement vs wedding budgets, but this can be a huge reason why couples choose to elope versus have a traditional wedding day -- it’s easy to feel like your wedding budget is being stretched incredibly thin when planning a large wedding -- couples feel like they have to haggle and negotiate lots of things to stay within a set budget. Like I’ve said with an elopement, you can splurge a bit on a smaller number of things you value most while still spending a fraction of the price you would compared to a traditional wedding (like planning your dream day at an amazing destination!).

    Should I be worried about eloping?

    Elopements have changed a lot. Modern-day elopements aren’t really seen as secretive events, but rather customized, one-of-a-kind experiences that allow couples to really do things their way, and to put intention and personality into their wedding day. When it comes to elopements vs weddings, a big difference is that elopements have really empowered couples to take back their wedding day and make their own rules. They get to define what their wedding day should look like to them!

    It really all boils down to this: the day you get married is about you and your partner, and it should be celebrated in a way that feels authentic to you.

    It’s a celebration of your love. There’s nothing shameful or selfish in wanting to celebrate it in a way that honors your relationship. Whether that means hiking up your favorite trail before the sun rises to say your vows, or bar hopping in your wedding clothes and making your promises in the middle of a city, the wonderful thing about eloping is that the power is truly in your hands. No rules or traditions to be beholden to -- it’s your day!

    It is a pretty crazy notion that some people out there find elopements selfish. I think the industry and tradition has really been ingrained in us to think that NOT throwing a big party is selfish. But isn’t it arguably more selfish to ask your family to chip in on average $30,000 to plan a large event simply because that’s what everyone expects of you? Especially if that type of event doesn’t feel like your vibe or really authentic to you two?

    Listen, If a big wedding speaks to you and you see the value in that, you should absolutely have one. There is absolutely no shame in that, and there’s nothing wrong with investing your money in something you totally value and will look back happily on for decades to come. But let’s get one thing clear: it’s not wrong to have a day that feels like “you,” and if that means eloping or doing things differently…you should do that. Anyone who tries to shame you for doing something that speaks to you and your partner and your love really shouldn’t have any say in your wedding planning. This is your day!

    So. Are you thinking an elopement might be right for you?

    Good call. They’re really fun. All jokes aside, I think it takes bravery to choose to be different, especially when you dive into an incredibly image-saturated wedding industry. There is no wrong way to have a wedding if you’re planning it based on what you think is special to you two. If your gut is telling you it feels right, at the end of the day you won’t have a single regret doing things your own way.

    Maybe you love the idea of eloping, or even having a small, intimate wedding vs a traditional wedding day, but just aren’t sure where to start. Maybe you love the idea but just aren’t sure what that would look like. I’m here to help! Get in touch here so we can start chatting about your kick ass wedding day.