Elopement vs. Wedding: Which is Right for You?

We know there’s a lot of talk out there about why elopements are better than weddings, or why you might regret the way you celebrate your day by choosing one or the other. We’re here to tell you that it’s not about what everyone else thinks or says. Because when it all comes down to the basics: your wedding day is about you two.

Our team at Skyewater believes that whatever you decide, you should feel 100% supported, excited, and comfortable with your wedding day without any regrets. But if you aren’t sure whether an elopement or a larger, traditional wedding is right for you, we’ve put together some insight below to help you decide what feels like the best fit.

what is an elopement definition

What is an elopement?

Not everyone has the same opinion of what makes an elopement, but here are the basics of our definition: authenticity, freedom, and comfort. At the core of the elopements we help create for our couples, we focus on making sure the day feels authentic to their love story and personalities. We also want to encourage them to think outside of the box, to feel free to express who they are, to have the freedom to keep the traditions they want and do without the ones they don’t.

We also believe in providing a safe and supportive space for each unique couple to choose which activities they’d like to incorporate into their day, what type of scenery they feel most comfortable in, and feel relaxed or at ease, knowing they won’t regret a single minute of it.

elopement myths

Busting Elopement Myths

By our definition, it’s not about making some last-minute decision to elope to the courthouse or take a trip to Vegas (although those are always on the table if that’s what you really want!). It’s about being extremely intentional about where you want to get married, who (if anyone) will be there, and how you want to celebrate outside of traditional norms.

This means that:

  • Yes, you can elope by yourself without anyone there or you can invite a few people to join you. Eloping with friends and family is totally okay!
  • No, it doesn’t have to be a secretive, last-minute plan. Many of our couples plan their elopement experiences 6, 9 or even over 12 months in advance!
  • No, you don’t “have to” elope in a specific place. While there are a lot of people opting for hiking elopements these days, there are plenty of other ways to elope in the outdoors: on a boat, on a 4WD road, in a helicopter . . . the ideas are endless.
  • Yes, you can still keep some (or all) of the traditions from a larger wedding. From first dances to hearing toasts from your parents, nothing is off the table.

Pros + Cons of Eloping

If you’re the kind of person who loves weighing all the benefits or downsides to a big decision, this list of pros and cons is for you:


  1. You can elope almost anywhere in the world.
  2. You can say your vows with as few witnesses as you’d like.
  3. You can potentially save money! Instead of the national average of a $35,000 wedding, you can spend a third or half that on a kick-ass elopement adventure.
  4. You can spend the day (or multiple days) doing what you love most.
  5. You can have a lighter footprint on the environment.


  1. Eloping to some destinations may not work for you if you want family members there who can’t travel.
  2. You’d have to keep your guest count extremely small.
  3. Some friends/family may feel excluded and could get upset.
elopement and wedding differences

How are elopements and weddings different?

A few of the biggest differences between elopements and weddings might be obvious to some, but in case this helps you:

Guest Count: Elopements are often considered to be either just the two of you, or a small group of no more than 10 people. Weddings on the other hand can be from about 15-20 people to events as large as 200-300.

Location: Elopements give you the freedom to be almost anywhere, like the top of a mountain, beside the ocean, out on the water, inside a canyon, you name it! Larger weddings require a designated space where there is room for your guest count. This means you’d need a venue space like a ranch/barn, ballroom/hotel resort, botanic garden, rooftop, etc. for all of your guests to come together.

Stress: It’s no secret these days that planning large events creates a helluva lot of stress. Some couples even start to plan a full wedding day and partway through realize it just doesn’t feel authentic or worth it to them and opt for eloping instead.

elopements vs weddings

5 Ways to Compromise with Your Wedding Celebration

If you can think of marriage celebrations as being on a giant scale with a range of options, elopements with just the couple can be one side of the spectrum, and bigger weddings with 100-200+ guests sit on the opposite side of the spectrum. In the middle is a large gray area: one with several amazing options you might not have even considered yet. Here are some ways to think outside of the box:

Have a Small Wedding

Maybe you can’t imagine not celebrating with your closest friends and family. Or maybe you are feeling the pressure from your parents, siblings, or others you love who would be devastated to not be there to witness your special day. Small weddings can be one of the best ways to compromise!

If you already know the big countryside ranch or elegant ballroom space that fits up to 300 people doesn’t feel right to you, maybe it’s better to find a more intimate venue space where 40-75 people can fit comfortably and spend more quality time together.

Plan a Destination Wedding

Still want several other people there with you on the big day, but can’t imagine celebrating somewhere locally? Consider having a destination wedding, where you can have the perks of an elopement (scenery, adventure, fun activities, etc.) in a new and exciting place while also inviting guests to join you. There are many great rental properties that allow events on VRBO, or you can book a trip for the whole group to all-inclusive resorts in places like Costa Rica, Hawaii, or Mexico.

Elope Without Guests, Celebrate with Family After

Full day or two-day elopements are not uncommon for this exact reason! This type of plan gives couples the chance to say their vows in private on their own adventure, and either meet up with family and friends later in the day or the following day. It’s a great way to compromise having an elopement in private while also celebrating with people you love.

Elope and Celebrate with a Large Reception Later

Several of our couples at Skyewater Photo + Film come to Colorado either by themselves or with a small group of 5-10 people, and then opt for a larger reception back at home a few months later. And if you have us booked for both photo and video, this is a fun way to show off your photos and/or highlight video to your guests at the dinner reception later in the year.

Add-on an Adventure Session in Your Wedding Attire

Last but certainly not least, another exciting way to think outside the box is to have a small wedding or larger, traditional celebration, but then schedule a fun adventure session with your photographer and/or videographer separately. You can use this as an opportunity to do a first look and/or say private vows before a larger wedding later, or you can plan to get back into your wedding attire for one of your anniversaries.

why elope vs have a wedding

Chat with Our Elopement Photo + Video Team

With experience capturing elopements and weddings of all sizes, we’re here to guide you and offer any insight and advice we can throughout the planning process. Our ultimate goal is always to help you find what feels like the right fit for such a special day in your life.

Skyewater Photo + Film is an adventure elopement and destination wedding photo and video team based in Washington. We help couples plan elopements all over the US, and offer insight for more than just photography: from planning assistance, finding and booking locations, vendor references and more! Reach out to our elopement photography and videography team today to get more info!

Similar Posts