Elopement Vs. Intimate Wedding

In the wedding world, there are a lot of terminologies that you need to know. Especially if you're newly engaged and not familiar with the wedding industry, this may become very overwhelming... very fast. If you're in the beginning stages of wedding planning, you may have heard of two different terms. Elopements and intimate weddings. Nowadays, you see them used interchangeably, when in fact they are vastly different. While they can fit into the category of "smaller weddings", it's important to know the difference between the two and see if they fit what you envision for your wedding day.


Back in the day, elopements were those moments when you would run off with your lover, and get married in Vegas with Elvis Presley as your officiant. Honestly, that sounds pretty cool if you ask me! Over the years, elopements have become more and more normalized in the wedding industry and I am 100% here for it.

Elopements are typically 10 guests or less and are more centered on an intentional and memorable experience and location above all else. Typically when a couple is looking to elope, they are looking to go to an epic location, do something fun and adventurous, and are looking for a bit more intimacy, intentionality, and privacy on their wedding day.

Elopements can take place just about anywhere and at any time, you get to make the rules! Whether you are hiking to the tallest mountain or in seclusion in a cabin in the forest with just you, your partner, and some of your closest peeps. Truly the sky is the limit and is one of the many reasons why couples love to elope over a traditional wedding.

When it comes to actually getting married, however, keep in mind that oftentimes couples will not be legally getting married at that destination location. Especially if you're planning on eloping outside of the country, there is a lot of technicalities, rules, and regulations that you need to follow that ends up being more work than what you wanted. Instead, most couples will choose to get married by an officiant in their hometown or in a courthouse and have a recreation of their ceremony in a far-off land. That way you still get all the beauty of an epic location without all of the hassles.

If you're wondering if eloping is for you and why I believe couples should elope, then check out this blog here!

I have also had the opportunity to capture many beautiful elopements over the years as a destination wedding & elopement photographer. Here are just a few that I have blogged that I think you're going to love.

Redwood Forest Elopement

Arizona Desert Elopement

Big Sur Elopement

Intimate weddings

Although intimate wedding and elopement are used interchangeably, there are some slight differences. One of those is, the guest count. While an elopement can technically be just you and your partner, an intimate wedding is a wedding with about 30-50 guests. The guest count is a little bit larger than an elopement and gives you the opportunity to invite more of your friends and family to join in on the celebration.

An intimate wedding, similar to an elopement, gives you endless opportunities. While technically you will have more guests to entertain and feed, this doesn't mean that it takes out all the fun.

Differing from an elopement, an intimate wedding you are typically going to get married on-site and have an officiant there to legally marry you. Whereas in an elopement you get married before the adventure and then have a private moment with just you and your partner, in an intimate wedding you are more likely to get married at the time of your ceremony in front of your guests.

I've also had amazing opportunities to document beautiful intimate weddings over the years, and here are just a few that I feel really hit home.

Gabrielle & Chris

McKenzie & Kelly

Hailey & Jacob

so which is for you?

So now that you know the difference between an intimate wedding and an elopement, now you have to determine which is right for you.

You should elope if:

  • You're wanting more privacy on your wedding day
  • Are wanting a more intentional and sentimental day
  • Wanting to not be the center of attention/in front of a large crowd
  • Are wanting to travel somewhere epic (in your country or internationally)

You should have an intimate wedding if:

  • You're wanting to include more of your family and friends
  • You're not wanting to spend the $$ or time to travel to some far-off location
  • You're wanting to keep things still intentional & intimate, just with a bit more *oomph*