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 Elopement vs. Wedding: Differences and Pros & Cons

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elopement vs. wedding

 Elopement vs. Wedding: Differences and Pros & Cons

 Elopement vs. Wedding: Differences and Pros & Cons

As you dive into wedding planning, there are a lot of decisions to be made!

And one of those decisions might be whether a wedding is right for you at all – some couples love the idea of a big party with everyone they love, but others aren’t so keen on the idea.

The good news is that the day you get married is about you, and it can be whatever you want it to be! You should love your wedding day, and the right choice for you might be to downsize, or it might be to have that big celebration.

This guide will compare elopement vs. wedding, tell you about the differences between the two, and some pros and cons of both, to help you decide how you want to tie the knot!

Elopement vs. Wedding: The Definitions

First things first, you need to know what an elopement actually is – so let’s start with a brief overview of elopement vs. wedding.

“Wedding” is a broad word – any way you get married can be considered your wedding day! But in this guide, we’ll use wedding to describe a bigger celebration, a more traditional wedding day that includes a ceremony and reception with guests.

An elopement is a kind of wedding, but one that’s intentionally kept small. It can include zero guests or it can include a few, but the focus of the day is on the couple! Elopements are more customizable, and couples can get married in all kinds of unique ways.

Elopement vs. Wedding: 5 Main Differences

Once you’re ready to start looking for a wedding photographer, the first step is knowing where to look! In this day and age, the Internet is usually where most couples turn, and it’s a great way to find lots of different photographers and get different options. If you know someone who’s gotten married, you can also ask them for a referral to their photographer (if you like their wedding photos), and ask them if they had a good experience!

Instagram, Google, and Pinterest are all great places to start looking for a wedding photographer, and you can search for your location – for example, look up the hashtag #HudsonValleyWeddingPhotographer on Instagram!

Providence Barn of Stone Arabia

Guest Count

One of the biggest differences is the number of guests. Elopements are much smaller, with 0-10 guests present, while weddings can be any number of guests. The average number of guests is around 130 for a wedding!

Wedding Pro: You can spend time with your loved ones and celebrate with friends and family.

Elopement Pro: The day is all about you, and you can spend more time with your partner.

Wedding Con: You have to worry about all of your guests and it can be stressful making sure you say hello to everyone and that everyone is happy.

Elopement Con: You can have a few guests, but you may miss out on sharing these memories with a lot of your loved ones. 


Budget is a big factor for couples deciding between elopement vs. wedding. While elopements tend to cost less, this is often because couples are saving money by cutting down the guest list, and you get to prioritize how you want to spend your money.

Wedding Pro: Investing money in you and your guests’ experience.

Elopement Pro: Spending less, and having more flexibility with what you spend money on.

Wedding Con: A lot of money goes towards things you’ll never see again, like decorations or food for your guests.

Elopement Con: Saving money but feeling like you aren’t getting the experience you want.

elopement vs. wedding


When you have a big wedding, you’re more limited to traditional wedding venues, like vineyards, barns, hotels…. Because of the smaller guest list, elopements can take place in more unique places, like parks, gardens, beaches, and other outdoor locations!

Wedding Pro: A venue designed for weddings that can accommodate your guests.

Elopement Pro: Tying the knot outdoors or finding a unique place to get married.

Wedding Con: Less options for where you can tie the knot.

Elopement Con: If your location isn’t an official wedding venue, you won’t get any of the perks that venues offer, like a coordinator, catering, and help with planning.

Click here for my list of 16 Hudson Valley Locations for an Intimate Wedding or Elopement


With a big wedding, you won’t be going on a hike with all of your guests, but that’s totally possible if you have an elopement instead! Wedding activities can definitely be personalized, but will typically include fun games during the reception, dancing, and other ways to involve your guests in the festivities. On the other hand, an elopement gives you a lot more flexibility with what you can do! Couples can personalize their elopement days to be their own, with adventures and fun things that reflect who they are as a couple.

Wedding Pro: Activities include your guests and are fun for everyone to do together.

Elopement Pro: The day is all about the couple, and you have more flexibility to do what you want!

Wedding Con: You need to think about your guests, and are more limited with what you can do.

Elopement Con: More flexibility and freedom, but you also miss out on celebrating with loved ones.

elopement vs. wedding

Environmental Impact

In general, the smaller your wedding is, the smaller the carbon footprint will be. Big weddings often have a lot of waste, and with more guests, there are more emissions from transportation, electricity used at the venue, and more. Elopements are typically more eco-friendly, taking place outdoors with minimal waste.

However, it’s definitely possible to reduce the environmental impact of your day no matter what size your wedding is! You can choose farm-to-table wedding venues, rent items instead of buying, choose vendors who are environmentally aware, and take more steps towards reducing your carbon footprint.

Wedding Pro: Even with a big party, you can think about the impact of your day and take steps to minimize its effect on the environment.

Elopement Pro: With a small celebration, it’s easier to have an environmentally friendly day.

Wedding Con: More guests often means more impact, from single-use items, decorations, and more.

Elopement Con: Getting married outdoors can impact that location, and even a small ceremony can be harmful to the environment if you aren’t aware of Leave No Trace.

Choosing Between Elopement vs. Wedding

The most important thing when it comes to elopement vs. wedding is that you choose the one that truly feels right for you! There’s no right or wrong way to get married, and every single couple is different and unique. Think about what you want for your day, how you want to tie the knot, and what feels more like you! 

And remember – there are plenty of in-between options too – you might choose to have a small wedding, or to have an elopement ceremony that’s just the two of you followed by a reception for friends and family. 

Whether you decide on an elopement vs. wedding, you’ll need a photographer to document your day – so contact me to get started!

Christine Ashburn Wedding Photography


Award winning Hudson valley wedding photographer
award winning wedding photographer




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