Eloping vs Wedding: What’s the Difference?

Eloping vs Wedding: What’s The Difference?

A couple of years ago, you may not have considered the eloping vs wedding dilemma. Back then, eloping probably wasn’t even on your radar.

Chances are that you’d already dreamed up what your perfect wedding looked like before you even met your spouse-to-be. Heck, you probably already had an idea of where you want to have your reception. However, as the wedding industry has evolved, couples are starting to question their assumptions about traditional weddings. Eloping is getting more and more popular.

There are just so many benefits to eloping that it can’t simply be dismissed anymore. The simplicity and freedom of elopements have always been a draw, and now even health risk considerations have sparked a renewed public interest in elopements. Because of this, eloping has slowly inched its way into the list of mainstream options for couples wanting to get hitched. 

So, if you’re currently facing this dilemma between eloping vs wedding, we wrote this piece for you. In it, we dive into the pros and cons of each type of celebration and who these different events are for.

By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly where you stand in the eloping vs wedding question.

Pros and Cons of Having a Wedding

There isn’t a strict list of requirements that define what a wedding is exactly, because marriage celebrations vary widely depending on the couple’s culture, religion, family, and other factors.

What most weddings have in common, however, is that they’re usually attended by the couple’s family and friends who gather to witness their marriage. After the ceremony, a reception usually follows.

But let’s face it, couples host weddings to enjoy good company and a little bit of a party. Naturally, weddings tend to be large festive gatherings. The chance for hosting an epic party can be enough to carry the conversation for weddings in the eloping vs wedding dilemma.

As you might expect, weddings are usually big events that require meticulous planning, plenty of blood, sweat, and tears, and a whole lot of cash. The payoff, on the other hand, is one extraordinary event that the couple and their guests are certainly going to remember.

Pros of a Wedding

  • There’s an entire industry built around weddings so packages and promos abound.
  • Where else can you find your parents, relatives, and friends drinking and dancing at a massive party together?
  • You may have already been dreaming of the perfect wedding. So, why not go through with it? We’re pretty sure that finally holding that fairytale wedding is going to feel so satisfying.

Cons of a Wedding

  • The planning stage often gets so stressful that they can turn even the most reasonable woman (or man) into the dreaded Bridezilla.
  • The pressure to invite friends and relatives that you might not necessarily want to see is also a principal driver for the eloping vs wedding argument.
  • You’re basically throwing a party for all your friends and family, so it can be very expensive. Average Americans usually spend $30,000 on a wedding. A major dent in the budget like this one is often what leads the conversation to elopement as an option. 

Pros and Cons of Eloping

In recent years, elopement ceremonies have risen in popularity. It’s no longer looked upon as the default option for couples with disapproving parents or introverts. Instead, it’s seen as a more intimate option that’s more focused on the couple rather than the celebration.

Couple running through the empty highway while holding hands and smiling at each other during their elopement shoot with Off Path Photography

Elopements typically involve very few guests. One or two of the couple’s closest friends and family as witnesses are often enough to celebrate an elopement. 

In some cases, photographers can also serve as witnesses. So, elopements can be even more of a “just the two of us” kind of experience. We’ve done it in the past for some of the couples we photographed, and it’s always such an honor to get to be part of someone’s story like that!

Pros of Eloping

  • An intentionally crafted guest list can make for a very intimate and authentic experience for both the couple and their guests.
  • One major consideration in the eloping vs wedding debate is the budget. In this particular point, eloping has a significant lead because a short guest list often also means lower overall costs.
  • Planning for an elopement is typically the same as planning for an outdoor adventure, with a few added logistical considerations such as officiant and photographers. 
  • You can design the day specifically how you want it doing the things you love. There’s no need to follow old traditions. Want to start the day with a hike up an amazing trail and get married at the most beautiful spot you find? You can only do that with elopement.
  • You can focus on what really matters. You won’t be distracted by the shyness of being in front of a crowd. You won’t be worrying about all the moving pieces of a wedding day. You can be fully present in the moment with the love of your life.
Eloping vs Wedding: What’s the Difference. Close-up shot of couple wearing their hiking boots and their elopement attire during their elopement.

Cons of Eloping

  • You can’t have big after-parties as weddings tend to have.
  • The limited guest list can leave some of your friends and family upset that they weren’t invited.
  • The economy of scale isn’t on your side. The small number of people can drive prices up a little bit per item.

Which One is for You in the Eloping vs Wedding Debate?

The debate on eloping vs wedding is pretty new in the mainstream considerations for couples planning to get married. But it’s become one of the most important questions that they need to answer before they say their I dos.

It’s a matter of knowing who you are as a couple and what you want out of the experience of getting married. For some couples, being the center of attention at a huge wedding is what they truly want. And that’s okay! Weddings can be so fun and special.

However, the increased interest in the eloping vs wedding debate has shown the many benefits of elopements that many couples have never considered before. 

For one thing, because of the small number of people involved, elopements can be accommodated in places where weddings usually can’t. For adventure-loving couples like Sophia and Tom, this allowed them to get married with the picturesque mountains of Sedona as a backdrop. 

Couples often choose to elope because they want to be in their element when they get married. Awe-inspiring meadows and picture-perfect mountaintops are often available for elopements specifically because of the short guest list.

For a lot of couples, eloping allows them to be authentic. This is because they’re in a place where they feel most at home wherever that is. It also helps that the people they choose to be with often also share the same passion for what they do.

Final Thoughts on the Wedding vs Eloping Dilemma

Crafting an elopement experience is significantly less meticulous than a wedding. It’s not going to require much more planning than it takes to plan a trip to the venue. For couples who already visit places like their chosen destination, this part will be a cinch.

So, whichever side you end up on in the eloping vs wedding debate: at the end of the day, your wedding should be what you want it to be.

Did we persuade you to consider going for an elopement? If you’re thinking about it, make the planning stage even easier by reading this piece we wrote called Planning Your Elopement in 2021. It has even more details on how to make your dream elopement become a reality.

Happy planning!


Collage of photos of couples during their elopement and wedding shoots with Off Path Photography; image overlaid with text that reads Eloping vs Wedding: What's the Difference?
Bride rests her head against the groom's shoulder during their wedding shoot with Off Path Photography; image overlaid with text that reads Eloping vs Wedding: What's the Difference?

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