Elopement vs. Micro Wedding: Choosing Your Intimate Celebration
Your wedding isn’t just a celebration of your love. It’s an opportunity to showcase your personality, share intimate moments with your soon-to-be spouse, and symbolize the start of an enduring, joyful marriage.
And if the wedding of your dreams is a small one, you might be considering hosting a micro-wedding. Or, maybe you’re dreaming of an intimate elopement with no one but an officiant present. How do these two wedding types compare? Which one is right for you and your intended?
In this guide, we’re breaking down the entire elopement vs. micro-wedding conversation in detail. We’ll explore some advantages of each model, talk through the planning processes for each, and help you choose the celebration that’s right for you and your partner.
Defining Elopements and Micro Weddings: What Sets Them Apart?
So, what’s the difference between a micro wedding and an elopement?
By definition, an elopement is a wedding without any guests present.1 Historically, elopements were often secret marriages—when couples snuck off to the courthouse without their parents’ permission. But now, it’s a way for couples to experience their marriage as a private, intimate moment between the two of them.
“Micro-wedding” is a newer term in wedding parlance, and it typically describes a small, intimate, and unconventional wedding ceremony. The hallmark of the micro-wedding? A short guest list.
These days, people mostly use the terms interchangeably to describe all kinds of weddings, like:
- Courthouse ceremonies where couples sign marriage paperwork all by themselves
- Secret weddings where only the couple and an officiant are present
- Ceremonies and receptions with very few guests
But, for the sake of this guide, we’ll use strict definitions: while micro-weddings have very few guests, elopements don’t have any at all.
Advantages of Elopements: Embracing Intimacy and Spontaneity
Getting married only in the presence of an officiant (and a witness, if your state requires one) is a draw for tons of couples. Perhaps because there are certainly advantages of the no-guests model:
- Planning ease – Especially if you opt for a courthouse-only wedding, elopements are incredibly simple to plan. With no guests to please, there’s no need to embark on a lengthy, traditional planning session.
- Financial accessibility – Technically speaking, your marriage license is the only thing you need to pay for in a traditional, courthouse elopement. Even if you opt for a guest-less wedding in a different venue, your costs will be low. Simply put, elopements are cheap.
- Romance and intimacy – If the idea of voicing your devotion to your partner in front of 100 of your closest friends doesn’t strike you as romantic, elopement offers a private, intimate alternative to the traditional ceremony. In a world where big weddings are still the norm, there’s something special about getting married without an audience.
Advantages of Micro Weddings: Sharing Your Special Day with Loved Ones
Micro-weddings offer similar advantages to elopements: they’re simple to plan, affordable, and potentially more romantic than a mega-wedding might be.
But there are also advantages to expanding your guest list—even if you keep it in the single digits:
- Family inclusion – If you’re close with your family, it might be important to you to have them present on your special day. Even if you only choose to invite your closest family members, having your loved ones, relatives, or chosen family there to witness your marriage can make your day that much more meaningful.
- Chances to honor tradition – If your wedding daydream has always included walking down the aisle, a first dance, and speeches, you can certainly have these at a micro-wedding. Micro-weddings offer as many chances to embrace tradition as they do to break the mold.
The Planning Stage: Elopement vs. Micro-Wedding Considerations
When it comes to planning an elopement vs. micro wedding, there are certainly major differences. Let’s break some of these down in more detail to help you envision your wedding planning process.
Planning an Elopement: Creating an Unforgettable Experience
If you want to have an elopement wedding in the most traditional sense at the courthouse, your planning demands will be limited. You’ll need:
- Something to wear
- Transportation to the courthouse
- Any legal documents your state requires
- Money to cover any courthouse fee
Traditional elopements can be just that simple. But, many of today’s elopements are more complex. If you’re looking to elope outside of a courthouse setting, you’ll need everything on the list above as well as:
- A venue
- An officiant
- A witness (if applicable in your state)
If you want to immortalize your elopement via photo or video, you also may want a photographer and/or videographer. And, if you want to formally notify your family and friends, you might choose to print and mail cards after the wedding.
Planning a Micro-Wedding: Curating an Intimate Celebration
While micro-weddings are certainly less traditional than big ones, most couples still fulfill some wedding expectations like offering their guests food and drinks or letting them choose the micro wedding decor at the venue.
If you’re looking to keep your ceremony small while still embracing some traditions, you may want to:
- Choose a venue
- Send out invitations (physical or digital)
- Coordinate food and drinks
- Organize and arrange seating
- Find an officiant
- Plan the order of your ceremony
- Arrange transportation
Micro-weddings certainly require more planning than elopements. But, micro-weddings pose a significantly lower planning burden than big, traditional ceremonies.
But there are ways to lighten your load, like working with a micro-wedding planner: an expert in organizing intimate gatherings. A micro-wedding planner can offer:
- Planning assistance – Unless you’re an event planner yourself, you likely don’t have experience organizing a wedding (even a small one). Micro-wedding planners often have hundreds of events under their belts to be able to guide you seamlessly through yours.
- Emotional support – Wedding planning can be time-consuming and emotionally exhausting. A micro-wedding planner can help you navigate turmoil and stay positive on your way to “I do.”
- A stress-free experience – Why stress about your vendors, wedding venue, and videographer when you can let an expert handle the nitty-gritty planning? When you work with an elopement or micro-wedding planner, you drastically shorten your to-do list.
Elopement vs. Micro Wedding Timeline: How They Differ
Elopements don’t require too much prior planning. Theoretically, you could show up at the courthouse on a weekday whim.
But, if you opt for a non-courthouse elopement, you’ll need to give the other people involved (your officiant and witness, if you need one) a little notice. Depending on where you live, finding an officiant might take time, and some officiants might have a backlog. We recommend giving yourself at least a month to plan a non-courthouse elopement.
Since micro-weddings have more elements than elopements, they typically require more time to plan. Depending on the size and complexity of your celebration, your micro-wedding timeline may take anywhere from three months to a year to plan.
The bottom line: give yourself as much time as you can to plan your wedding. While you might be tempted to speed up the timeline, remember that curating your dream event is time well spent.
Guest List Considerations: Who to Invite to an Elopement vs. Micro Wedding
If you’re eloping, your guest list is a non-issue. But, if you need a witness, you might need to put some thought into choosing one. Your witness should be:
- Willing to maintain secrecy if you’re eloping without notifying your friends and family
- Able to attend and navigate your ceremony site
- Available on your ideal wedding day
Your witness could be someone you know or a complete stranger you meet on your way to your ceremony site. It’s up to you.
If you’re hosting a micro-wedding, you might encounter some guest list tension. If you’re unsure who to invite to a micro wedding, just remember that:
- Your guest list is up to you and your spouse—no one should be pressuring you to invite unwanted guests.
- It’s okay to invite more (or fewer) people than you expected. Your vision of your perfect day might change during the planning process.
- The people who care for you most will want to wish you well whether or not they received an invitation.
Making Your Choice: Factors to Consider When Deciding Between Elopements and Micro-Weddings
So, elopement vs. micro-wedding—which one is right for you?
An elopement might be the best choice if:
- You’re looking to be spontaneous
- You’re trying to limit your planning stress
- You’re trying to limit your wedding spending
- You’re not interested in involving anyone but yourself and your spouse in your wedding
But, a micro-wedding might be more up your alley if:
- You envision a small wedding with guests
- You want to honor some traditions: a reception, toasts, or a first dance
- You want to save on wedding expenses
- You’re looking to plan a more intimate, unique ceremony
The key difference between elopements and micro-weddings is the guest list. Ultimately, if you want people at your wedding, a micro-wedding fits the bill. If you don’t, consider elopement.
Plan an Unforgettable Micro-Wedding or Elopement with Simply Eloped
Whether you envision an intimate elopement (a ceremony with just you, your spouse, an officiant, and a witness), or a unique micro-wedding (an event with a limited guest list), you deserve a wedding as one-of-a-kind as your love story.
Simply Eloped is a go-to resource for today’s couples planning romantic, unconventional weddings. We offer elopement packages, micro-wedding planning services, and so much more. nce you partner with us, all that’s left to do is say “I do!”
We’ve helped plan over 11,000 micro-weddings and elopements. And we’d be thrilled to lend our expertise, vendor contacts, and planning prowess to yours, too. Explore our destinations and start planning your dream ceremony now.
1 Rocket Lawyer. Legal Guide to Elopement. https://www.rocketlawyer.com/family-and-personal/family-matters/marriage/legal-guide/legal-guide-to-elopement