As a wedding photographer I know how important and special your wedding day is. It doesn’t matter if you have 200 guests and throwing a big reception celebration or just a handful of friends and family that are by your side for the most intimate and relaxing wedding. At the end of the day you are getting married to the love of your life and your wedding experience and happiness together is what’s most important.

But how do you choose to have an elopement or a wedding?

My definition of an elopement is an intimate and personal wedding experience focused on your relationship and the love you have for one another. It is the day you commit your love to each other however the heck you want with nothing holding you back!

When it comes to elopements VS weddings most people don’t understand how an elopement can be as special as a big wedding. They view elopements as a less special alternative where you ditch fun traditions and lose all meaning of a wedding experience.

Let me put this kindly… They’re wrong for thinking that!

Elopements are as special and important as a big traditional wedding. In my opinion, they’re more special when it comes to the intimate, one-on-one, meaningful, and personal experience most couples sacrifice when having a big wedding.

Unlike elopements, weddings usually:
– Involve dancing, blasting music, and celebrating the couple’s wedding day as one big party.
– Cost A LOT more than elopements.
– include traditional wedding activities that like the shoe game, the bouquet or garter toss, and the dollar dance.

Like I said before, the most important thing about your wedding day is how you feel. Your wedding day should be everything you want it to be. If having the people you love celebrating your marriage with you or the activates and experiences you participate in together as a couple fills your heart and creates happiness, then go for it!

Elopements and traditional weddings are both so special and I enjoy photographing and planning both! It’s one of the most important days of your life where you’re committing your love to be with your partner forever.

It’s the adventure, the experience, and the journey that make elopements uniquely different from weddings.


In no specific order, here are some important differences between an elopement vs having a wedding I think are important when planning your wedding day!

1. personal EXPERIENCES – breaking traditions

When you think of a wedding day I’m sure you think of the same “cookie cutter” timeline every wedding follows:
– Ceremony
– Cocktail hour (bridal and family portraits)
– Grand entrance of bride and groom
– Dinner + toasts
– First dance + parent dances
– Shoe game
– Bouquet toss
– Garter toss
– Cake cutting
– Open dance floor
– Fancy send off

Looks pretty familiar, right? Unless you have a good wedding planner that gives you room to socialize and spend time with your partner alone you will be on the go for your whole wedding day. Now not every wedding follows this timeline but your day when you plan a wedding it will look very similar to this.

When you choose to elope you get the creative freedom to do whatever your heart desires. You get to create your own timeline and go at your own pace, pick from an endless amount of locations to adventure around, and have so many other choices you get to decide on when planning your wedding day.

Elopements are focused on your relationship and about having intentional and meaningful experiences with your significant other. If you want to experience playing in the sand dunes, exploring slot canyons, exchanging vows on top of an iceberg, or getting married at the edge of a cliff screaming with excitement then eloping might be the perfect choice for you.

If celebrating your marriage by dancing with a group of friends and being surrounded by the important people in your life by your side sounds like your dream wedding, than planning a wedding is perfect for you.

2. people

Besides having an intimate and intentional wedding day focused on your relationship and the love you and your partner have for one another, the amount of people you invite to your wedding is another important difference between an elopement vs a wedding.

Having a traditional wedding to celebrate your marriage often leads to having a guest count of 100+ people. With that many people attending your ceremony or reception, there will without a doubt be loads of excitement for you as you walk down the aisle and feel loved and celebrated by many.

Choosing to elope, you are limited in how many people you can choose to invite. Why is that? Because elopements are a more intimate way to celebrate your wedding day. You can sit down with your partner and have the choice to invite the people who make you the absolute happiest.

This list can include your parents, siblings, or closest friends. For some couples it means having a “just us” wedding day with no one else but their significant other. Elopements give you the freedom to invite as many people as you want that are intentional to making your wedding day full of happiness and love.

It’s your wedding and you deserve to celebrate the way you want — and if that means to have a big, traditional wedding because it makes you happy, then go for it! You deserve all the happiness. If having a small and intimate wedding with a few people joining you on your adventure makes your heart happy, then choose that happiness. I am here for you in whatever happiness you choose.

3. intimacy

Let me put this out for the world to hear real quick. Intimacy means more than just kissing! It is all the times you spend together physically, emotionally, and even vulnerably. It is the moments you spend together laughing, crying, and even experiencing epic adventures together.

As you saw previously in the example wedding timeline, having a traditional wedding gives you no alone time to spend with your partner. You are always on the go doing different wedding activities and busy running around trying to socialize with everyone who is attending your wedding.

Eloping gives you the opportunity to experience a “just us” wedding where you can create your own timeline and give you and your partner as much alone time as you want with each other. You can spend the afternoon taking a bubble bath or a nap on a hammock in the middle of a forest. You get the chance to catch your breath and take in the “we actually did this” experience.

4. stress & flexibility

Weddings have a non-stop schedule with not a lot of time between events; you are always on the go. Once you seal your vows with a kiss and walk down the ceremony aisle it is immediately time to take family and bridal party portraits. There’s so much going on everywhere you turn you don’t the chance to grab yourself a drink and relax.

Eloping will minimize any stress from family or wedding planning anxiety you may have. You get to create your own timeline and have unlimited flexibility to plan a day with activities that make you happy. Don’t worry! I’ll be by your side helping you plan your wedding day and taking away any worries you may have.

You could spend the afternoon building a snowman & playing in the snow then cuddle up by the fireplace drinking hot cocoa afterwards before your ceremony in the forest with your family. Or if you want to give yourself a nap after your ceremony before dinner and cocktails or spend more intimate time together after exchanging vows, then do it!

You have the freedom the adjust your timeline as needed without a venue planner telling you you have 10 minutes before you need to go somewhere or else you will be late.


Now when it comes to the cost between elopements vs weddings, elopements save you WAY MORE money than you would having a traditional wedding.

According to the Knot, the average cost of a wedding is $33,930. That total is for spending money on table decorations, food, the amount of people you have at your wedding, venue packages, vendors, attire, party favors, and so much more! If that is in your budget and something you want to do, GO FOR IT!

For some couples they would rather invest their money in experiences and other things they value like activates, vendors who will help take any stress away and value their time, or outfits that reflect their personalities (like a non-traditional wedding dress), which in total can cost as little as $5,000.

Choosing to elope instead of having a wedding doesn’t mean it is any less valuable or special. It just means you value your intimate time together as a couple more than what a big traditional wedding offers (and saves you a little bit money too).


An elopement is an intimate and personal wedding experience focused on your relationship and the love you have for one another.

A wedding (traditional or big) is a big celebration for your marriage with friends and family by your side and a not so very flexible schedule and no time to spend intimately with your partner.

If you are a family oriented person and want your friends and family to celebrate your wedding day but would rather elope than experience a big party for your marriage, here are some creative ideas you can use to have the wedding day you want!

Elope with your family:
Just because you are wanting an intimate wedding experience doesn’t mean you can’t include your family in your elopement plans. There are NO RULES to how you want your wedding day to look like. You can have your family join you on your adventure and spend the day with them the way you want.

– Split your day in half:

If you are wanting to include your family in your wedding plans but still want to dedicate your day to you and your partner, have you thought about splitting your wedding day in half?! You can spend the first half of your elopement hiking to the top of a mountain, kayaking, off roading, rock climbing, building a snowman, bungee jumping, or having a picnic! After spending personal time together you can meet up with your family at the end of the day and start your ceremony with them as the sun sets.

Have a multi-day wedding:
Just like the splitting your day in half, if you want to spend all day adventuring with your partner without having to worry about a timeline you can celebrate your wedding in more than one day – fun fact, I helped a friend photograph a 4 day long wedding celebration! You can spend one day full of adventure with your friends and family and maybe a reception and dinner at night if you’d like – then another day without any guests and spend the day with a private vow exchange, a “just us” ceremony, and endless adventure!

Celebrate your marriage in both ways (wedding and elopement):
You can do whatever you want on your wedding day! If having a wedding AND an elopement is something you are struggling to decide on, why not have both?! There are a lot of couples (including myself) who’ve had two celebrations because they wanted the “party” and intimate wedding experience. You can have a wedding with your friends and family where you can celebrate together and they can be your witnesses when you sign your marriage license, then head off to your destination for your intimate elopement! Or have a just us destination elopement then host a wedding to celebrate! The opportunities are endless!

When it comes to planning your wedding day it doesn’t matter if you choose to have hundreds of guests celebrating your marriage or if you want a “just us” wedding experience. There are no rules on how your wedding day should look!

What matters most is what makes you the happiest and what experiences you want your wedding day to have.


Hey, I’m Kelcee!

As a destination elopement photographer I know everything from the secret hidden elopement locations that aren’t overpopulated with tourists to the best time to elope!

I’m here to help you with all things adventure & elopements. From scouting out your ceremony location to planning your adventurous elopement timeline, I’ll help you plan your best day ever, take away any stress you are experiencing, and support you as your new best friend.

Your elopement is the experience of a lifetime and you deserve not only the support for doing what you love but also the best quality photos that tell your love story that will last a lifetime.


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