How to Choose Between an Elopement, Intimate or Traditional Wedding
Maybe you just got engaged and are starting to envision your big day. You may be thinking about planning your wedding taking into account those big wedding details, like your venue and guest list. But did you know that there are actually different types of weddings that you can plan? In fact, this is the very first step in wedding planning - figuring out what type of wedding is right for you.
When you share with friends and family that you're getting married, most people jump to envisioning the traditional wedding: 100+ people, a full seated ceremony followed by a reception dinner and dancing. But this day and age, couples are typically deciding between three different types of weddings: elopements, intimate weddings, or traditional weddings. They each have their own pros and cons, so read on to learn more about the wedding that is best for you and your partner.
As an elopement photographer, I may be a little biased, but I believe an elopement is one of the most intimate and romantic ways to tie the knot. An elopement is a private wedding between two individuals. In the past, elopements were known to be done in a secretive, hurried fashion, deciding to escape the very next day or weekend to tie the knot. These days, an elopement can be planned more intentionally and thoughtfully and even include a small gathering of a few family members or friends.
Pros of an Elopement
The small scale of an elopement allows for a lot of flexibility and opportunity. Whereas larger weddings often become more about the guests than the newlyweds, an elopement creates an opportunity for quality time spent with your partner, just the two of you.
Elopements are also much more relaxed and therefore a relaxed vibe and timeline of events. With an elopement you may not be doing some of the usual wedding traditions like cake, throwing the bouquet, family pictures, cocktail hour, etc. so there is plenty of time to plan adventures like hiking or canoeing in a beautiful setting.
Another great thing about elopements, is you have the option to bring a select few along with you. If the thought of leaving your parents, siblings or best friends out of your wedding day isn't sitting right for you, then bring them along for the adventure!
Elopements are also incredibly budget friendly. No need to pay thousands of dollars for a band, caterer, decorations, flowers and more. Keep things simple and save your money for the adventure-packed honeymoon of your dreams instead! Overall elopements are more intimate as they allow you to focus on you and your partner, versus 200 guests to please and keep happy all night long!
Cons of an Elopement
Although an elopement can save you a lot of money, it is a much different experience than a traditional wedding. For those that want the traditions they have been dreaming about their whole life, an elopement may not be the best choice.
An elopement also doesn't allow you to gather all the special people in both you and your partners lives. This is often the one time in your life that you will be able to have all of theses people in one room or under one tent. Consider what is most important to you and your partner and decide which parts of a traditional wedding you can live without.
Additional Elopement Resources: How to Plan an Elopement Ceremony
An intimate wedding is a newer trend that became popular during the beginning of COVID. With the risk of putting large groups at risk, many decided to downsize their wedding. Intimate weddings can have up to about 50 people and usually consist of immediate family and closest friends. Intimate weddings are almost like a cross between an elopement and a traditional wedding because they stray away from tradition but create and opportunity to still follow a traditional wedding timeline.
Pros of an Intimate Wedding
The intimate wedding is a bit of a sweet spot and provides a lot of room for flexibility due to its smaller size. The smaller guest list can create a more intimate setting and cozy feel. It also provides more time to spend with each guest, versus feeling disappointed when you realize you never even said hi to that one aunt or uncle the whole weekend.
An intimate wedding is amongst a smaller group of people that are closest to you and this just creates a more intimate experience. Again, intimate weddings are a great way to save on costs, but can still include the traditions, customs, and rituals that so many long for their whole lives. With an intimate wedding you can still have a ceremony and afterparty while also enjoying more meaningful conversations and creating memories to last a lifetime.
With a smaller guest list you will have more flexibility for diverse venues. No longer needing to accommodate 100-200 people, creates an opportunity to have a backyard wedding or maybe at your favorite small restaurant or bar. Large groups can be overwhelming for many, especially introverts, therefore an intimate wedding is a good option for deeper connection. Not to mention, you can save money or splurge on something special.
Cons of an Intimate Wedding
For those that have dreamed of a large traditional wedding their entire lives, an intimate wedding might feel like a bit of a letdown. You won't have the same energy of a 100-200 person wedding and you also won't be able to include extended family. For some with big families and lots of friends from all stages of life, trying to create a guest list for an intimate wedding can feel impossible. Large weddings have a feel to them that simply cannot be created with a smaller intimate group. When deciding on your wedding type, consider these things and what is best for you and your partner.
A traditional wedding is the classic wedding we grew up going to and envisioning. It consists of 100-200 guests and includes all of the customs and rituals that have been practiced at weddings for centuries. A traditional wedding usually spreads across days with events like a welcome party, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, cocktail hour, reception, dancing, after party and even a brunch the following day. Getting ready with the bride and groom, cutting the cake, pictures with the wedding party, first dances and speeches are all traditions that have been part of our wedding culture for a long time.
Pros of a Traditional Wedding
A traditional wedding has many benefits and there is good reason why so many choose this option. A traditional wedding is one of the only times in your life when all of your loved ones will gather in one space. It is a really special opportunity to have everyone you love together.
For those who are outgoing and social butterflies, not having a traditional wedding is out of the question. You can't even imagine not having a huge celebration with all the people you love gathered together. A traditional wedding also allows for you to participate in all of the customs, rituals and traditions that come along with this type of wedding. If you have a large family and many friends, a smaller wedding might be out of the question. In order to include everyone you want there, it might be necessary to go the traditional route. Traditional weddings are grand and magical and make beautiful memories that will last a lifetime!
Cons of a Traditional Wedding
One of the hardest things about a wedding is it just goes by so gosh darn fast. It feels like in the blink of an eye and everything you planned and paid for in the last year + is over. To have such a grand event that ends so quickly, can feel like a waste of time and money planning.
The expenses of a traditional wedding are much higher and can leave people completely broke. Traditional weddings often require hiring wedding planners to help with the time-consuming task of extensive planning. This can be pricey and feel like too much for some.
Unfortunately when you involve 200 people in a wedding the focus goes more on the guests and is less about the couple. Trying to make 200 people happy with food, seating arrangements, music and so on can be really overwhelming and stressful. If you are thinking about having a traditional wedding decide whether having a large party with all your favorite rituals and traditions is worth the expense and time it takes to plan it.
Still not sure what wedding type is best for you?
Check out our post: How to Decide Between an Elopement or Wedding.
Ultimately, the type of wedding that's right for you depends on your personal values, preferences, budget, and the kind of experience you want to create. It's important to have open conversations with your partner and consider what matters most to both of you. You might also want to think about factors such as your guest list, budget, venue options, and the overall atmosphere you want to create. No matter what you decide, each type of wedding is beautiful and unique in its own way!
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