What are the main differences between a wedding and an elopement? Enjoy this ultimate guide that will help you decide if you want to elope or have a traditional wedding.
Before we look at the main differences between an elopement and a wedding, let's first define eloping.
Elope Definition. What does Elope Mean?
To elope means to run away secretly in order to get married without the parents consent.
What is an Elopement Wedding?
What is an elopement wedding? The term elopement wedding defines an intimate wedding where the bride and groom invite a very limited number of guests (around 20) in order to save money. That may be a wise choice as couples decide to spend money on a new home, car or a vacation instead of a huge wedding.
Here are the main differences between an elopement and a wedding:
1. Elopements are Less Expensive
Considering that a wedding costs over $30,000 in Canada (over $40,000 if you live in the Greater Toronto area), many couples prefer to elope as they will incur about one tenth of the costs. Sure, you will still need a ring, an officiant, a wedding photographer and so on, but you will save on many of the large ticket items: venue, catering, wedding cake, etc.
In most cases, the couple keeps their elopement secret and tell their families and friends after the fact. The main problem with this approach is that your families and friends might be offended by your action, though they will have to accept it eventually. Your mother might shed a few tears when you come home and declare you got married.
3. Less Stressful as there is no Wedding Planning
A traditional wedding is massive projects that involve hiring a multitude of vendors: wedding venues, church/officiant, photographer, florist, wedding dress designer, decorator, baker, hair stylist, makeup artist, printer (for your invitations and thank you cards). Whew, that is a lot! But wait, there is more: you need to order favours, find a reputable limo company, a videographer, you need shoes, bridesmaids dresses, groomsmen's tuxes, create guest lists, send invitations and track which groups of people will attend and many more. Wedding planning takes a lot of time and energy if you plan having a traditional wedding.
In comparison to planning a wedding, organizing an elopement takes way less time and effort and feels like a stroll in the park so many couples prefer it. You can even search for elopement packages and have everything arranged for you.
4. No Friends or Family
By definition, the couple keeps their intention secret when they decide to elope. You generally never invite anybody to your intimate elopement and the only two other people present are the officiant and the elopement photographer.
5. Often Families are Opposed to the Union
In many cases when couples encounter their families opposition, the partners decide to elope. Often the two lovers have different religious backgrounds and families are completely against the marriage. In other cases, the cultural differences are too large for the parents to accept. In North America there are metropolitan areas that attract immigrants from all over the world and their children fall in love regardless of their backgrounds.
6. More Romantic
For the adventurous couples, eloping could make you feel like a modern Romeo and Juliet! Oh, the romance of getting married in a secret location is something we can only dream about ...unless we elope.
7. Small Weddings are Not Elopements
The meaning of the term elopement is clear and involves an element of secrecy. The bride and groom decide to run away and get married in secret. Weddings, now matter how intimate - on the contrary - are announced well in advance. The bride and groom send invitation to their guests and the friends and family members confirm their participation. I photographed intimate weddings (10-20 people) in a few occasions and I absolutely loved them!
8. Intimate Destination Weddings are Not Elopements
Intimate destination weddings require a lot of planning and are not considered elopements. Regardless of the number of guests, you will need to book a venue, wear a wedding dress, hire an officiant, a baker, makeup artist, hair stylist, etc.
On the other hand, if you elope, you can keep everything very simple: wear a beautiful dress (not necessarily a wedding gown), buy your wedding gowns, hire an officiant and a photographer and you are pretty much done!
9. Romantic Locations Abroad
Many couples chose to elope in romantic cities like Paris, Florence, Verona (after all, the world famous lovers Romeo and Juliet lived there), Las Vegas and Reno (Nevada), Niagara Falls (U.S. and Canada) and Maui (Hawaii). Exotic elopement destinations also include Fiji, The Bahamas, Seychelles, Mexico, Barbados, Antigua and The US and British Virgin Islands.
It is much easier for a couple to elope in Italy than orchestrate a whole wedding there.
10. Eloping is Fun and Your Big Day is Totally YOURS
Often the bride and groom families interfere and want to influence the course of your special day. Especial in multicultural cities like Toronto, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc., chances are that the bride and groom come from different cultural backgrounds. As such, traditional families what to include elements of their religion tradition in the wedding. In case of a fusion wedding (for example between a Christian groom and a Jewish bride) the parents will want the big wedding to unfold according to the traditions. As the customs are different, that is a reason for tension.
On the other hand, eloping is fun and you don't need to worry about floral arrangement ideas, colour schemes playlist, speeches, etc. Most important, you will spend the whole day with the love of your life!!!
While eloping can sound like fun, it is a good idea to also consider the cons.
First, your families are going to be disappointed or even offended if you don't invite them to be part of your wedding day. Your mother might be upset you did not have a real wedding.
Second, you could be missing a fantastic party. Weddings are great occasions to celebrate and the parties are legendary.
More important, you will miss the opportunity to see all your families together, which to me is the biggest downside of eloping.
Also, you will need to find a proper moment to break the news to your families.
Finally, you will not receive any gifts when you elope.
Tip: organize a party for your friends and family upon your return and that will allow you to have fun and share the news with the most important people in your lives.
How to Elope
Here is how to elope:
- Go to to the city hall and get married
- Hire an officiant and get married in a romantic location
- Self solemnize your marriage: you can travel to DC, Colorado or Pennsylvania and perform your own ceremony (the marriage is recognized in the US). You sign the marriage license, mail it and save money...a lot of it!
- Invite your immediate families and friends to your ceremony that will take place in a courthouse, chapel, outdoors, etc.
The number of couples eloping skyrocketed as you can see in the chart below. According to Google, in the last 5 years, the number of couples of couples opting to elope increased threefold. That is not surprising given the ever-increasing costs of weddings around the world. Elopement weddings are most popular in the United States, United Kingdom, India, Australia, Canada and Phillippines.
Table 1. Monthly Elopement Searches Worldwide
Please keep in mind that couples planning an intimate wedding often refer to the event as their elopement.
There is a worldwide surge in searches for the terms small weddings as you can see in the chart below. In the last 15 years the number of searches doubled.
Impact on the Wedding Industry
Given the increasing number of couples avoiding a large wedding, many vendors will feel the pinch. Here are the most impacted ones:
Large Event Space and Banquet Halls
If you are planning a 20 people event, you won't even consider that lavish banquet hall.
Planning a wedding is complicated and time consuming, but arguably anybody can plan a small event. While we found 125,000 monthly searches for wedding planners, there are only 300 for elopement planner. That is very bad news for the planners indeed.
In the last 15 years the number of couples looking for a wedding planner dropped by 66%!!! Ouch!
There are weddings where florists made a few tens of thousands of dollars that day. We talked with a photographer who showed us a wedding where the flowers cost $300,000. It looked splendid! Sadly for the florists, the amount is minuscule in case of an elopement.
In case of a decorator, chances are all their beautiful work will disappear in case of a dramatic shift in the industry.
No matter how big or small the event, you will need a professional photographer to document it, but we doubt you will spend money on a top artist for your 1-2 hours elopement followed by a quick photo shoot. As such, many professional photographers will have to change careers or start doing family, baby, pet, boudoir or other genres of photography.
Already many of my esteemed colleagues are looking for full time jobs as the income from photography dropped like a rock in the past five years.
Wedding Invitations and Thank You cards
As you will not invite too many friends and families, you will not need to print invitations and might as well opt for online options.
This industry has been hurt terribly in the last decade. To give you an idea how bad it is, couples don't pick up the albums they have paid for. After the wedding, life happens and after the wedding the album is no longer a priority.
Wedding Photographers Perspective
Often couples look elopement photography package. Many professionals do not offer them.
From a wedding photographer's perspective, the number of people that attend a wedding is irrelevant. It is not easier to photograph 20 people vs. 200 and in fact sometimes it is quite the opposite. When photographing a large wedding there is always something to document. When the bride and groom take a break, the photographer can immortalize grandma having the time of her life.
Intimate weddings are amazing if the couple and the family have fun!
For the typical wedding photographer, the cost of photographing a small wedding or an intimate elopement wedding if you want is the same as that of documenting a large one. The main variables impacting price are the number of hours of photography, the number of photographers and the print products included (wedding albums, large prints, canvases, etc.)
Elopement Photography Packages
Here is an example of an Elopement package
Florence: $600 (Elopement Package in the Greater Toronto Area)
- Saturday elopements can be booked 1-3 months before your special date
- For Monday to Friday events we have more availability
- 3 hours of photography
- 1 photographer
- About 100-150 edited high resolution photos uploaded onto your google drive
- Unlimited locations
If you are looking for an elopement photographer, please contact our vendors for the best photography prices.