Are elopements better than traditional weddings? – The ultimate showdown

Elopements vs Weddings – Top 5 questions to help you decide

If you’re planning to marry the love of your life, you might have doubts about how you actually want to do that…

I mean, obviously you can have a traditional wedding – a grandiose celebration of your love & joy with everyone you ever knew, there to share your happiness with you.

And sure, with a traditional wedding, you still have control over things like the length of your guestlist, the theme & style of your wedding, and the location of your wedding reception.

But ultimately, having a wedding will tend to shift the focus of the day from being just about you to include other factors – like the event itself, entertaining your guests, and incorporating a few traditional elements.

On the other hand, elopements – by my definition, at least – are intentionally small, intimate, and authentic experiences that are a true reflection of the relationship as a couple.

Basically, an elopement is a meaningful experience where the focus of the day is really about the two of you – and nothing else.

Now, the actual outcome of both elopements and weddings – committing your lives to each other – is ultimately the same. But the journey & experience of getting there and making it happen is what makes elopements and weddings wildly different.

So, which one should you have then? A wedding or an elopement?

While I’m not here to tell you what you should do for the happiest day of your life, what I can do is give you a few guidelines on what you should consider when choosing between having a traditional wedding and having an elopement.

I can share my unique insights as a wedding photographer to give you the most important questions to ask yourselves before deciding on how you want to plan the happiest day of your lives – the day you’ll marry each other.

So, grab a blanket, grab a cup of tea, and let’s dive right in!

1. How do you picture yourselves getting married?

Okay, so first things first: close your eyes, and imagine yourselves facing each other, hand-in-hand, saying your vows to each other.
– What else do you see?

When doing this exercise, don’t let any perceived expectations, judgements, or hurt feelings guide you! Nobody – and I mean nobody – should tell you how to get married. After all, you only get one shot at the happiest day of your lives – so make sure it’s a day that’s entirely about the two of you.

Basically, this means creating an experience that reflects who you are as a couple, what you both want, and how you want to celebrate this epic, amazing day. After all, the main difference between a wedding and an elopement is their intentions. So make sure the intention of the way you get married matches your intentions as a couple.

To do this, ask yourselves…

Do you want this day to be solely about the two of you and what you want?

Are you the adventurous types who have the courage to take the road less traveled?

Do you want this day to be filled with many meaningful, intimate moments that only the two of you share?

If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, then having an elopement might be the right choice for you.

But wait, there’s more…

Do you want all your family & friends to be there for you on your big day?

Are the beauty of wedding traditions and the magic of wedding decorations appealing to you?

Do you love to be the center of attention and put on a show to entertain the people closest to you?

If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, then having a traditional wedding might be the better decision for you.

Now, choosing which route to take might be slightly more complicated than answering these questions. I mean, you easily could have said yes to all of my questions!

Still, taking time to reflect on your preferences & intentions is the first step to choosing between an elopement and a wedding…

2. How many guests do you want?

Despite what some random romantic novel might have told you, having an elopement does not automatically mean running away in secret, and getting married without anyone knowing. (Unless you actually want to do that)

With that being said – due to their intimate natures – elopements do tend to have much shorter guest lists.

I’ve shot at elopements where it was just the couple, off on their romantic adventure to experience life & conquer the world together. Seeing them making the most meaningful day of their lives just about each other – without obligations, distractions, or stress – was truly beautiful, in the rawest and most authentic way possible.

But I’ve also shot at elopements where the couple decided to invite a few guests. Now, the guest list was still short – but in their case, having their parents, siblings, and 2 best friends there with them to share their joy made their special day just a bit more special, and infinitely more memorable.

My point is that there’s no set limit for the maximum number of guests you can have for your elopement. You can choose to have none, or you can choose to have a few – depending on your preferences & intentions. Either way, your elopement will be a special, intimate, and emotional experience.

But you can’t have a hundred guests and call it an elopement (not even 50…). It just doesn’t work that way. It’s perfectly normal to want a big celebration with many guests – but you can only do that with a wedding. But if that’s what you want, then your wedding is bound to be beautiful and truly memorable for both you and your guests.

So, discuss who you’d like to invite to be there with you on your special day. Who do you want to share your love & joy with? Is it just each other? Is it a small handful of your nearest & dearest? Or is it a large group of all your friends and extended families?

There are no right or wrong answers here. But knowing the people who you can’t imagine getting married without might just tip you in the right direction for you.

3. How much time & energy can you invest into planning your wedding?

Planning the happiest day of your lives is no easy task – regardless of whether you choose to have a wedding or an elopement.

But planning an intimate adventure for yourselves (and maybe a small handful of your closest circles) is a lot easier than planning a grandiose event for everyone you’ve ever known.

It just involves fewer moving parts – like, a lot fewer. And this means you’ll have to make fewer decisions. You’ll have to spend less time on the operational & logistical aspects of your big day. And you’ll be under less pressure to coordinate everything to make sure nothing goes sideways.

Now, some couples I’ve met loved planning their wedding. They genuinely enjoyed taking the time to discuss and define their vision – and they delved in every moment of bringing it all to life. They planned, coordinated, and rehearsed – and they made it happen. And it was apparent that they were having the time of their lives all throughout their wedding planning process.

But for other couples, planning such a huge event can quickly become stressful. The tiny conflicts of having slightly different preferences, or the micro-frustrations of bringing everything together (and all the hiccups along the way) can easily overwhelm anyone. And this can turn what could have been a pleasant experience into an unpleasant one.

So, it’s time for some self-reflection: which type of couple are you? Do you enjoy planning & coordinating together to bring your dreams to life? Or would the immense pressure & stress from planning such an important event overwhelm you?

Again, no right or wrong answers here, but you should know that planning a wedding is not for everyone. And that’s okay.

4. What’s your budget for celebrating your love & joy?

When you’re planning the day you’ll get married, you’re investing into having the best and most unforgettable experience possible.

And this could mean many things…

Like saying your vows at your dream location, or having your dream dress & decorations. Or indulging your taste buds with some of the best meals & beverages ever. It could mean hiring the best wedding photographer to capture all your favourite memories. Or even filling your day with unique and special experiences, or throwing a huge party to celebrate your love & joy.

But did you know that regardless of the level of luxury you’re aiming for, an elopement will always be a smaller investment than a wedding.

With an elopement, there are just a few things you need to fit into your budget:

  • Travel & accommodation costs: for yourselves, a small handful of guests (if any), your photographer, and your celebrant
  • Any experiences you might want to have (optional): helicopter rides, hot air balloon rides, boat trips, or entry tickets
  • A small handful of vendors: a celebrant, a photographer, and maybe (just maybe) a videographer

Now, with traditional weddings, you’re looking at significantly greater investment.

I mean, you still have the same vendors as you’d have for an elopement – but you also have other vendors, like a make-up artist, hair stylist, DJ, or wedding planner. You still have to pay for travel & accommodation, but you might have more guests who require accommodation. And you still have to pay for experiences, like if you want to arrive on a helicopter to your reception, for example.

But with a traditional wedding, you also have to factor in your wedding venue, the food & drinks for all your guests (and you’ll have A LOT more guests), decorations, and more.

Now I’m definitely not saying you should cheap out on the most important day of your lives (that would be terrible advice). But keep in mind that if you’re on a slightly tighter budget, then having an elopement might allow you to experience care-free luxury – at the fraction of the cost of having a traditional wedding. 

5. Where do you want to commit your lives to each other?

Finally, you’ll have to decide where you want to say ‘I do’.

For traditional weddings, it has to be somewhere nearby – or at least not too far away. After all, you can’t realistically expect all your wedding guests to travel halfway across the world. Not even if it’s for your wedding.

So, if you’re planning a normal wedding, then you have to find your dream venue at a reasonable distance. Not only do you have to fall in love with the place (duh), but it also has to be available on your date, and it should be able to host the number of guests you’ll be inviting.

Now, there are plenty of fantastic wedding venues in the Melbourne area (and I assume this is true for the rest of the world too), but finding your perfect venue takes time & effort. And if you can’t find a perfect venue nearby (for any reason), then – since, remember: proximity is a top priority – you’ll just have to settle for something “good enough”.

But with elopements, the world is your oyster. You can decide to go to any of your fantasy destinations: like Scotland, Greece, the Grand Canyon, Paris, or Rome. It’s just the two of you, maybe a few of your closest loved ones, and a photographer and a celebrant. You can go anywhere.

Now, you can have just as much of a magical experience here in Australia, closer to home. And being closer to home means you’ll get to invite more guests. But just know, that if you’ve always dreamed of getting married somewhere far, far away – eloping just might be the way to make it happen.

And there you have it, the top 5 questions you need to ask yourself to find out if having a wedding or an elopement is the better choice for you. Now, in case it wasn’t obvious from my blog post, I love elopements. But being pro-elopement doesn’t mean I’m anti-wedding. Your wedding day should be everything you want it to be – no matter what that looks like.

So, if choosing a big, traditional wedding makes you happy, that’s perfect! Do that and love the heck out of your day, you deserve it! But if throwing tradition out the window and embarking on the adventure of your lives sounds more in tune with you, then that’s okay too.

I’m here to help and support you the whole way, either way. So feel free to get in touch with me to see if I’m the right wedding photographer to capture your special day. After all, your love story deserves to be told, and echoed through eternity – and I just might be the one to help you make that happen…