Elopement vs Wedding, What’s Best for You?

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When it comes time to tie the know with your significant other, there’s a lot to consider. But one of the most important decisions you need to make early on is how exactly you’re going to say I do.

Are you going to plan a traditional wedding and invite dozens, if not hundreds of guests? Or do you want to break away from tradition, save lots of money, and plan an elopement for just the two of you?

In 2022 alone, there were about 2.5 million weddings, with couples inviting an average of 178 guests per celebration. But elopements are growing in popularity, too, for a number of reasons.

Keep reading below to learn the key differences and see which type of marriage ceremony is right for you. 

Number of Guests at a Wedding vs Elopement

So what exactly is an elopement? In the past, it meant getting married to your beloved quickly and secretly. It often meant driving or flying somewhere far away, like Las Vegas, to get married in private, away from anyone that you know.

But today, elopements aren’t as secretive. It’s not about keeping your marriage a secret. Rather, it’s about intimacy.

A modern elopement is simply a marriage ceremony where only the couple is present. Maybe there’s a select friend or family member there to witness the ceremony as well. In fact, you can consider it an elopement when there are less than 20 guests in attendance, meaning only your closest friends and family will be there with you.

This is very different from a traditional wedding where there might be dozens, if not hundreds of guests in attendance, watching as you recite your vows, say I do and share your first kiss as a married couple. 

For younger couples, it’s often necessary to invite as many guests as possible in hopes of receiving lots of gifts, which can help them acquire the things they need for their first home or apartment together.

Many older couples, whether they live together already or not, don’t find this necessary and so don’t feel the need to invite the masses. 

The Cost of a Wedding vs Elopement

The other big difference between weddings and elopements is the cost. It’s common for couples to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a traditional wedding celebration.

This includes the cost of a venue rental large enough to accommodate their guests. It includes the cost of catering and drinks to feed everyone. And there are many other services that are normal to include in the wedding budget, such as a wedding photographer, a DJ, a florist, a wedding planner, a baker, and others.

For elopements, none of those things are needed. With only a few guests, the couple can get married anywhere. They don’t need to rent a large venue. They can have their ceremony on a public beach, or on top of a mountain. 

They can rent out an Airbnb in the woods and host their ceremony there. Or they can do it in their backyard.

Couples who elope may still hire a photographer to capture photos of their special day. But other than that, there’s very little cost, allowing couples to save many thousands of dollars. They can apply those savings to a honeymoon, a home, or anything else that they deem important. 

Planning a Wedding vs Elopement

When planning a traditional wedding, planning often needs to start a year in advance (or more in some markets). The best wedding venues book up quickly, as do the best wedding planners and photographers.

Plus, you have to send out invitations and give your guests enough time to make arrangements for your big day.

With an elopement, you can plan one in as little as 24 hours. Most couples put a little more planning time in their day, however. But with so little need for a successful elopement, it takes only a few weeks, not months. 

No Permits Needed

Say you want to get married on the beach. If you want to host a large wedding, you’ll need to find a wedding venue that offers this service. This is often seaside resorts or restaurants with their own private stretch of beach.

However, if you want to get married on a public beach, you’ll only be able to do so in certain areas. And you’ll often need a permit if you’ll be gathering large crowds, placing out chairs, and setting up decorations like an altar or arch.

However, if you don’t plan on setting up chairs or decorations, and you just plan on standing on the beach as you recite your vows and say I do, you might be able to bypass a permit altogether.

This is just another reason why elopements are so much more flexible, and why couples are opting for an elopement over the hassle of a larger wedding. 

Choosing What Works for You

Wedding vs elopement, what’s right for you? Only you can decide. It’s such a personal decision, and what works for one couple might not work for you.

You and your partner will need to decide on what is most important when it comes to your wedding day. Maybe it means getting eloped and having a private marriage ceremony. Then, later on, you have a party with friends and family as a form of a wedding reception, to get the best of both worlds.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are excited about it. It’s your day, after all.

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