Elopement vs wedding, which is right for you? How are they different? How you get married matters, and we’re answering all your q’s here with the most current info for 2024.
We’re gonna take a wild guess and say that you’re where we were a few years ago: recently engaged, hyped to get married, overwhelmed by planning a traditional wedding, anxious over the expectations of others, looking for something a little more *you*, but you aren’t really sure what your options are.
We’re positive you’ve heard of eloping and maybe it conjures the bright lights and Elvis officiants of Las Vegas, or maybe the only thing that comes to mind is a quick trip to the courthouse.
Maybe you love the details of a traditional wedding, but the guest list is out of control and you feel like it’s not even about the two of you anymore.
Or Maybe you just got engaged and you’re excited to plan your wedding day, but neither of you really see your values and vibe represented in the wedding industry.
After our engagement, we started planning what was supposed to be a small, simple wedding. But, then things changed. Expectations and our guest list began to grow, we got anxious about sharing private moments in front of a crowd, and found ourselves agreeing to traditions that we didn’t feel connected to, or that felt a little painful. So, we scrapped our plans and eloped instead…and it ruled!
As the popularity of adventure elopements continues to grow, you’re probably aware that elopements and weddings are two distinct paths to celebrate your love. But what are the key differences between them? And, more importantly, which option aligns best with your dreams and desires?
We’re here to help you discover the choice that will create an unforgettable celebration, reflecting your personalities, values, and love for each other.
Here are some big differences we’re chatting about
Elopement VS Wedding Cost
Elopement VS Wedding Experience
Elopement VS Wedding Focus
Elopement VS Wedding Planning
Elopement VS Wedding Guests
We’re Sam + Kyle your Oregon elopement photographers, Washington elopement photographers, and elopement day BFF’s. We also eloped and then 5 years later, we renewed our vows near a half-frozen lake, surrounded by waterfalls, mountains, and towering trees.
After renovating an old RV, we hit the road with and started our business helping couples plan intentional adventure elopements and taking badass photos of their day.
We’re here to empower our couples through the planning process and document all the sweet, small moments in big, beautiful spaces.
We’re here to help you dream and have the best damn day.
Probably one of the biggest differences between an elopement and a traditional wedding is the cost. Obviously this is a big one! A common misconception is that eloping couples don’t value their wedding day and just want to keep things cheap, but we totally disagree! If anything, we think it comes down to what couples want to spend their money on.
For example: hiring a private chef to cook you both a yummy meal on your wedding day instead of feeding 100+ folks, may feel more inline with your values.
A recent survey from ZOLA shows that the average cost of a traditional wedding in the United States clocks in at around $30,000. Here are some of the elements and predictive expenses you can anticipate with a wedding.
Venue: Traditional weddings usually require booking a venue, which can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands depending on the location, size, and demand.
Catering: Folks gotta eat! Providing food and drinks for a large guest list can be a V large expense, with costs averaging around $70-$150 per person.
Decorations: Traditional weddings often involve elaborate decorations, floral arrangements, and centerpieces, which can add up to several thousand dollars. These decorations bring a unique element to your day.
Attire: Wedding gowns, tuxedos, and bridesmaid dresses can get a lil pricey. Check out this guide on finding the perfect elopement wedding dress.
Guest-related expenses: Additional costs include invitations, favors, transportation, and accommodations for guests, which can definitely add up.
Other vendors: you’ll want to consider what other vendors you’ll want to include, hair and makeup, bar service (if it’s not included), officiants, and a D.J.
The Honeymoon: Recent statistics show that U.S. couples typically spend anywhere between $4,800 – $25,000 on their honeymoon with locations ranging from locations around the world.
In terms of spending, even if you go all out with your elopement day, you’re likely only paying a fraction of what you would for a traditional wedding.
|Soapbox Moment: We’re gonna share something with you because we never want you to make the same mistake we did. When we eloped, we didn’t have a photographer. We relied on the photos of our guests (a handful of our closest fam) and have two V grainy old iphone photos to look back on. That is our ONLY regret. When I say those memories fade crazy fast, I mean it. I remember very little about our day and truly it’s the reason we went all out for our vow renewal. Learn from our mistakes, invest in documentation of your day.
Location: Elopements allow couples to choose unique and stunning locations, including national parks, beaches, or mountains. While there may be travel expenses involved, elopement destinations can often be more affordable than traditional wedding venues. If you’re eloping on public lands, you’ll likely need a permit. Special Use permits depending on where you’re exchanging vows and range from $0-$500.
Travel and Accommodation: Depending on where you’re headed, when you’re traveling, and the types of accommodations you want, travel and accommodation costs can vary between $500-$3,000.
Photography: Next to travel, this is probably the biggest investment for most eloping couples. Documentation of your wedding is a BFD, and if you’re eloping just the two of you, it’s the only way you can share your day with other folks.
Your Adventure Elopement Photographers do a lot more than just show up and shoot. For example, we help our couples with every element of their day. From location suggestions to vendor recommendations to signing marriage licenses, we’re co-curating an incredible day with you. The average cost of an adventure elopement photographer is between $3,500-$4,000 for a full day of coverage, which is the average amount of coverage most couples opt for.
Other Vendors: There are so many incredible vendors that you may want to include in your elopement. Florals, hair and makeup, a private chef, officiant, luxury picnic service, or adventure guides– You can go all out or keep things super simple.
So yes, there’s a big difference in costs, but that doesn’t mean that eloping is just for the budget-conscious. It really comes down to the experience you want to create for your wedding day.
There’s no doubt that every wedding day, traditional or not, is totally unique to each couple, but there are some key differences we want to point out when it comes to the experience of weddings and elopements and choosing to get married without a wedding.
Traditional weddings do tend to adhere to a pretty tight schedule. Ceremony times have to be set for your guests, the only photos of just you and your partner happen during a brief moment during a cocktail hour, speeches occur during dinner, etc. A strict timeline is necessary as you have access to your wedding venue for a set amount of time.
On the flip side, adventure elopements tend to really embrace spontaneity and flexibility. Adventure elopements allow for unplanned moments, carve out time for exploration, down-time, or the need to adapt to unforeseen weather from mother nature.
As a whole, elopements are geared towards being more laid-back, and aim to allow couples to really soak in each moment of their day. You’re not bound by venue timelines and unless you schedule specific things during your day, or want your ceremony at a specific time, the day is yours for the taking.
Not sure what kind of experience you want?
Download our mini Choose Your Own Adventure Guide
As Oregon elopement photographers, our passion is to curate a visual narrative that allows you to feel totally immersed in your wedding day every time you gaze at your photos or flip through your album. Having photographed traditional weddings and elopements, there’s a large difference in the focus of how each day is captured.
Traditional weddings tend to focus on the experience of guests, traditions, and the shared joy of community celebration.
However, in the realm of elopements the focus is immersed in the experience and connection of the couples. Adventure elopements emphasize the experience of beginning an exciting adventure together as a couple. They offer opportunities to explore untamed landscapes, adventurous expeditions, or crafting moments for connection that make the day unique and memorable. The focus is on creating unforgettable moments and embracing the spirit of adventure, completely allowing you and your partner to get lost into each other. Check out this resource about how to make your elopement special.
Does that sound like what you’re looking for?
|PRO TIP: Imagine choosing a breathtaking mountaintop as your ceremony backdrop or creating a personalized culinary experience that tantalizes your taste buds. Elopements give you the flexibility to design an intimate celebration that speaks to your hearts.
After we got engaged, we originally started planning a “small” wedding. We quickly became overwhelmed and as our guest list grew, our budget shrank, and expectations grew, we quickly started to feel lost in a day that no longer felt like it was about us. This isn’t the case for every couple that plans a traditional wedding day, but it definitely was our experience. So, we decided to scrap it and elope. This was the best decision we could have made for ourselves. For us, planning an epic adventure felt more exciting and less anxiety inducing than planning a big party that we no longer felt connected to.
Traditional weddings are a whirlwind of coordination, with countless details to consider. From seating arrangements to catering and entertainment, it’s a grand production that aims to create an unforgettable experience for your guests.
Adventure elopements do still involve planning and coordination with chosen vendors. However, simplicity and freedom reign supreme. With the right team, the planning process becomes a breeze, allowing you to focus on what matters to you. The simpler logistics, allowing for a more relaxed planning process with a focus on the couple’s preferences and desires.
When you work with adventure elopement photographers that specialize in curating the exact experience you’re looking for, you’ll have a team in your corner helping you with all the details. While we don’t consider ourselves planners, we’ll give you location suggestions with important logistics, connect you with vendors, help you build a vision, and build you an elopement timeline that allows for freedom, adventure, and spontaneity.
See more of what we offer
Planning an elopement can also be done in significantly less time than a traditional wedding. While the average wedding takes about a year to plan, depending on the scale of your celebration.
PRO TIP: Pro Tip: If you want a shorter time planning, just be sure to give yourselves enough time to get any necessary permits approved, book vendors you connect with, and not feel rushed.
If you’re planning your elopement for a popular area like Yosemite or Glacier and for a busier time of year such as summer, planning a year out is an excellent idea and can make the entire process smoother. However, we’ve worked with couples to plan their day in significantly less time. The amount of time needed for planning is totally dependent on each couple, the way you envision your day, your desired location, and the season.
Who you involve in your wedding day is the biggest difference between elopements and traditional weddings.
Weddings typically have an extensive guest list in order to include friends, family, and extended family. There are also formalities that involve guests throughout the day, such as the wedding party. Traditional weddings, while still fostering connections, may have a more generalized interaction with guests due to the larger gathering.
In contrast, elopements are more intimate and focused on the couple. While many elopement days are just the couple, you can also include a few close friends and family to join you. If you’re craving an intimate and relaxed experience, but have a few clutch folks you cannot envision happening without, then bringing them with you can be a great way to have it all and still keep things private.
With a smaller guest count, you’ll be able to really focus on the folks you bring with you. Your attention can stay focused on each other and connecting with your crew. Think deep convos by the fire, a cozy picnic on the beach, a small star gazing during a nightcap after sunset. Elopements and the slower pace that accompanies them allow you to spend quality time, foster connections, and build lasting memories with your guests.
Check out this post about Eloping with Family
Traditional weddings often come with certain guest expectations, like specific dress codes, gift registries, and reception traditions.
On the other hand, elopements offer a refreshing sense of flexibility. They allow couples to craft a more personalized experience that deviates from the typical wedding traditions that they may not feel attached to. This means there’s more room to tailor the day to your preferences and create a celebration that feels authentic to who you are as a couple.
For guests attending an elopement, the vibe tends to be more relaxed and informal. There’s a certain freedom to let go of formalities and simply enjoy the intimate gathering. It’s a chance to connect on a deeper level, create lasting memories, and share in the joy of the day in a more laid-back setting.
So, whether you’re drawn to the traditions of a wedding or the relaxed vibe of an elopement, consider the expectations you and your guests have.
It’s your day, and ultimately, the goal is to create an experience that reflects your unique love story and makes everyone feel welcomed and appreciated.
Communication: Regular communication with guests is essential when planning a traditional wedding. This can involve providing updates on the wedding timeline, any changes in the schedule, and answering any questions or concerns they may have.
When including folks on your wedding day, you’ll want to prep them for expectations, events, important timelines, and make sure they know what to anticipate.
For a traditional wedding, couples typically send out formal save-the-date cards and invitations well in advance. These would include details such as the date, time, venue, and any specific instructions or dress code information.
Many couples choose to also create a wedding website which can be helpful for sharing additional details with guests. This could include accommodation options, transportation arrangements, gift registry information, and any pre- or post-wedding events.
Expectations: Given that traditional weddings while being unique to each couple, typically follow a traditional flow and have a set of expectations such as: formal attire, traditional ceremony flow, guest speeches, wedding parties, a set schedule, seating arrangements, a shared meal, gift registry.
Since elopements are more intimate affairs, you can take a more personalized approach when communicating with your guests. This can involve reaching out to them individually, either through phone calls, emails, or personalized messages, to share the exciting news and invite them to be a part of your special day. Some couples also choose to send out a smaller number of save the dates to their small guest list
Expectations: Given the adventurous nature of elopements, it’s important to set expectations for guests regarding the location, terrain, and any potential physical challenges they may encounter. Provide details on what they should wear, what to bring, and any necessary precautions they should take. You’ll want to include any important adventure information including locations, attire and footwear recommendation, helpful tips, and other important information.
Fun Gatherings: The flexibility that comes with elopements often provides opportunities for pre- or post-ceremony celebrations, such as a casual dinner or group activity. Let your guests know about these additional events so they can plan accordingly and join in on the fun.
PRO TIP: If you are hoping for a just us wedding day, but know you also want to celebrate with you you have that option! You can always spend your wedding day as a “just us” experience and then plan a post-elopement celebration with your friends and fam!
No matter how you choose to celebrate, keeping your guests informed, engaged, and excited about the upcoming celebration is key to ensuring they feel included and prepared for the experience.
Let’s Start Planning Your Dream Day
We know, thats the big Q! Here are our thoughts: How you choose to get married matters deeply and is incredibly personal to each couple. So who are elopements the best option for? Well, the quick answer is anyone that feels drawn to them! But, if you’re still deciding which type of wedding day celebration is most “you”, we have a few things our couples have shared with us.
Folks that are seeking intimacy on their wedding day: Couples who prioritize privacy and a deeply personal experience may find eloping to be more their vibe. Eloping allows couples to focus on their love and commitment without the distractions or expectations of a larger wedding. Maybe you also cringe at the thought of exchanging your vows in front of guests and would rather have more privacy during these sweet moments.
Adventurous Spirits: Couples who love adventure and nature may choose to elope in wild landscapes like mountains, beaches, forests, or other locations that inspire them. Eloping provides the opportunity to combine their wedding ceremony with an unforgettable adventure. In our opinion, there really isn’t anything quite like sharing those precious and private moments in a big beautiful landscape.
Folks that don’t like planning events: Couples who have limited time to plan a wedding due, or just don’t find the idea of planning a large-scale event exciting, may choose to elope. Eloping offers a more streamlined planning process and flexibility in terms of date and location. In our experience, it also may feel more exciting to plan an adventure and day full of the things you love than a traditional wedding.
Cultural, Religious, or family considerations: Couples who come from different cultural or religious backgrounds may find that eloping allows them to simplify the ceremony and focus on the core of their union. They can incorporate elements of their respective traditions or have a private ceremony that respects their beliefs. Or perhaps you and your partner don’t connect with the religious traditions that come with larger weddings and would rather have a ceremony or union that feels more in line with your intentions. Complicated family relationships, or family traditions that come with weddings are also a reason some couples may choose to elope.
These reasons and more were all big contributions as to why many couples (including ourselves) choose to elope!
Deciding between an elopement and a traditional wedding is such a personal journey for each couple. It’s filled with emotions, dreams, and a ton of considerations.
This is an opportunity to truly shape your wedding day into something that reflects your unique love story.
Here are some key factors to help you navigate this decision-making process and discover which path resonates with your vision:
Decide on your priorities:
Take a moment to reflect on your priorities. What matters most to you and your partner? Are you seeking an intimate, private experience that focuses on your connection? Or do you envision a grand celebration surrounded by a larger circle of loved ones? Understanding your priorities will serve as your guiding light as you navigate and plan your wedding day.
Discuss your vision:
Talk about the vibe you imagine, the feelings you want to evoke, and the overall experience you desire. Maybe you both have a shared love for adventure and crave a wedding that takes you on an exhilarating journey. Or, perhaps you love the idea of a traditional ceremony that honors your heritage and family traditions. Maybe you want a little bit of both. By aligning your desires and finding common ground, you’ll create a solid foundation for your decision.
Explore your own preferences:
Take a deep dive into your personalities and preferences. Reflect on your individual and shared interests. Are you adventurous spirits who find joy in exploring new places, chasing sunsets, and embracing the unknown? Or do you find solace in tradition, cherishing timeless rituals and formalities? Understanding your personalities and preferences will help guide you towards the style and essence that truly represents you as a couple. Take this should I elope quiz to gain a better understanding.
Define your budget:
Take a good look at your finances and determine how much you want and are able to invest in your wedding day. Explore the estimated costs of an elopement versus a traditional wedding to see which option aligns better with your values. Remember, the beauty of elopements lies in their ability to offer a more intimate and cost-effective celebration, freeing up resources for other adventures and future plans, or the opportunity to go big on your wedding day and treat yourselves.
Decide on guests:
Of course relationships may hold an immense amount of significance when making this decision. If having folks present and actively involved in your wedding day is something you hold dear, consider that. If you long for a more intimate and personal experience, an elopement can provide the space to focus solely on your love story and a small handful of guests you want to spend quality time with.
Think about planning:
Consider the amount of time you have available for wedding planning and your willingness to navigate the logistics involved. Traditional weddings generally require more time and effort for organizing vendors, coordinating with guests, and managing multiple details. If you have limited time or prefer a simpler planning process, or planning an adventure instead of a party, eloping might be a better fit.
Look for inspiration from real elopement stories, wedding blogs, or schedule a call with us for a free consultation. As adventure elopement photographers, we can provide insights, ideas, and advice that can help you make an informed decision.
Remember, there is no right or wrong choice—it’s about what feels most authentic and meaningful to you as a couple. Take your time to discuss, research, and weigh the options before making a decision. Trust your instincts and choose the path that resonates with your hearts and aligns with your vision for your special day.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to creating an experience that truly reflects your love story and makes everyone feel welcome and appreciated.
|Whether you’re leaning towards the traditions of a wedding or the laid-back vibe of an elopement, think about the expectations you and your guests have.
When it comes to involving your loved ones, communication is key. For traditional weddings, there’s the formal save-the-date cards, invitations, and wedding websites to keep everyone informed. Guests expect a certain flow, dress code, and shared moments that make weddings special.
On the other hand, elopements allow for a more personalized approach. You can reach out to your guests individually, sharing the exciting news and inviting them to be a part of your intimate day. You can set expectations about the location, terrain, and adventures that lie ahead, ensuring everyone is prepared and excited for the journey.
Most importantly, remember, it’s your day, and the goal is to craft a celebration that’s authentic to who you are as a couple.
Remember, no matter which path you choose, be it a joyful wedding or an adventurous elopement, the focus should always be on creating unforgettable moments and cherishing the deep connections you share.
So go ahead, follow your hearts, and create a wedding experience that’s as unique and beautiful as your love story.
Let’s Start Planning a Damn Good Time