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Eloping vs Wedding: What’s the Difference?

Eloping vs Wedding: What’s the Difference?

There’s a lot of shop talk out there on eloping vs weddings: what makes your day an elopement versus a wedding? What’s the difference between the two? Are there other kinds of wedding alternatives (spoiler alert: yes, a few of which we’ve talked about!)? But there’s so much to talk about on the subject that typically, conversations about eloping vs weddings usually focus on one type of ceremony or the other. We’ll help you determine the comparisons and differences between these two types of ceremonies to help you make an informed decision about which ceremony may be right for you. 

Eloping vs Wedding: The Differences


This is one of the biggest contrasts between a traditional wedding and an elopement ceremony. Most traditional weddings have guest lists in the upper double or even triple digits. But for elopements, it’s not uncommon to have 20 or fewer guests, or no guests at all. While both have their advantages, ultimately, choosing how many guests you’d like to celebrate with you on your big day will help shape whether you’re looking at an elopement, an intimate ceremony, or a more traditional wedding. 

Planning Time

Traditional weddings generally involve more planning time than an elopement, and having a higher guest count is a big part of why. Creating seating charts, organizing dinner for upwards of one hundred people, and selecting the right entertainment are all things that couples typically oversee in a traditional wedding, but may appear on a much smaller scale for an elopement — or not even appear at all. 


An elopement can happen almost anywhere you can think of — score! Exquisite mountain tops, quaint local parks, gorgeous beaches are just a handful of spots where an elopement can occur, primarily due to smaller ceremony sizes and reduced amounts of set-up. Whether you want a Hawaiian beach ceremony or a romantic exchanging of vows with the Chicago skyline behind you, your options open up quite a bit when you’re traveling solo! Traditional weddings tend to take up more space, so venue options are generally more limited to places that can handle the needs of the ceremony. However, there is an increased privacy factor for these traditional types of venues that elopements that happen in public and populated spaces don’t always get.


The other biggest difference between a traditional wedding and an elopement is the price. Weddings can be expensive, and the numbers that get thrown around can be daunting. But there is a lot you can do to decrease the overall cost of your wedding. Plus, you have to remember what you’re paying for — a big party with all your favorite people, to celebrate you and your partner’s love. Elopement ceremonies are typically less expensive, as you’re paying for a more concentrated experience, but that does not mean that you are getting less from your celebration. Elopements can be deeply personal and breathtakingly beautiful — not to mention you can totally party afterwards!

Eloping vs Wedding: The Similarities

Planning ahead

Both traditional weddings and elopement ceremonies call for some same basic planning ahead. Both ceremonies require an officiant to marry you, and a legally binding marriage license. We have some resources about how to get a marriage license on our blog, but you can call up the local county clerk for more details specific to your location.

Family and Friends

No matter which ceremony you choose, the people closest to you will want to be a part of it. They can be a physical part of your day, such as attending your wedding or reception, or they can celebrate more remotely, depending on you and your partner’s preferences. You can send them personalized elopement announcements, or ask for their input on ceremony or honeymoon locations. Whether you’re having a hundred guests or are doing something privately, you can always find a place in both types of ceremonies for your loved ones. While a traditional wedding is more straightforward when it comes to including loved ones, if you choose to elope, you can host a celebration back home with close friends and family, get everyone together to share a video of your wedding day, or even FaceTime those you love as you recite your vows.


The biggest and most important parallel between weddings and elopements is the love you share with your partner. Whether you want to be surrounded by every person you love in your life in an elaborate ceremony, or just be there with you and your partner, your wedding is about how you want to commemorate your day. And whatever way you want to express your love on that day is going to be perfect for you.

No matter if you decide to elope, have a more traditional wedding, or something in between, remember that there is no “right” option. The choice between eloping vs wedding is a decision that you and your partner get to make, and if you keep your love at the top of your priority list, there’s no way you can go wrong. 

Article written by Tori Ward
Victoria Ward is a writer at Simply Eloped as well as a Keats Marginalia scholar and Storyfort finalist for her fiction and creative nonfiction. When she is not writing about elopements, she writes grants for her research and non-profit work.

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