Small Wedding or Elopement – What’s the difference?

December 6, 2021

“Should I have a small wedding or elopement?”

What exactly is the difference between a small wedding and an elopement?

If you have recently got engaged to the love of your life and are diving into the nuptial planning process, you might be hearing a lot about small weddings and elopements. They may seem similar, but there are significant differences between the two.  

Understanding the difference between these two intimate events makes the wedding planning process a whole lot easier and enjoyable. There is a plethora of family and societal expectations when it comes to planning your special day, so before you decide how you want to celebrate, I will provide you with clarity.

This blog post will provide you with a comprehensive insight into these two events and highlight the major differences so you can select the one that suits you perfectly. 

What is an elopement?

In ancient times, the term “elopement” referred to a secret marriage or when a couple ran off to tie the knot covertly. However, in the past few years, wedding trends have changed drastically. Trust me, I have been working as a Europe elopement photographer for several years now and I have noticed a major shift.

The definition of “elopement” has also evolved. The old concept is now outdated and elopements have become hugely popular, with many couples opting for them due to their many advantages.

In today’s modern world, elopement can mean getting married abroad, without any guests or with a very limited number of guests. It’s all about the freedom to be with your lover without any stress or anxiety. This micro-wedding is intimate, more meaningful, and enables the couple to stay true to their authentic selves. Moreover, the bride and groom can choose from a plethora of different locations to make the whole event unique, amazing, and memorable.

An elopement wedding is one where the bride and groom choose an adventurous location and invite only their closest family members and friends to their nuptials. In some cases, the couple likes to keep it private with only the wedding photographer as the witness. No matter whether you choose the former or the latter, I can assure you both ways can be perfect and unique. In essence, it is a great option for modern-day couples who seek adventure and wish to celebrate their big day in a way that reflects their personality, instead of in a more traditional manner.

It can be a gorgeously simple yet fun way of celebrating your wedding day. If traditional wedding ceremonies aren’t for you, then take this opportunity to come up with something new!

What is a small wedding?

A small wedding is also an intimate celebration of the union, but one that obliges you to invite people. Approximately 30 to 50 guests! It requires a more substantial budget as compared to an elopement and is regarded as a more traditional way to conduct the nuptials. You need to be very strategic when planning a small wedding and be sure to hire planners, vendors, and book venues depending upon your wedding theme.

A small wedding or elopement? That’s completely your choice! However, the differences detailed below will help you to choose the one that suits you perfectly.

What are the major differences between a small wedding and elopement?

1.      Guest count

The number of guests at an elopement is intentionally limited. This means that you only get to invite the people closest to you, for example, your parents, siblings, and immediate family or friends. In some cases, the couples like to keep it private with just the two love birds and a wedding photographer (as their witness and to capture the surreal moments).

On the other hand, a typical small wedding includes a large number of guests (ranging from 30 to 50 people). The ceremony and procession take place traditionally.

2.      Planning time

“What requires more planning time- a small wedding or elopement?”

Here’s a general rule of thumb: an elopement requires much less time for planning as compared to a small wedding. Basically, it doesn’t require a venue or a wedding planner. You just have to marry at your favorite location with your beau and create a lifetime experience. This sounds simple but as an experienced Europe elopement photographer, I can assure you it can be quite adventurous too!

A small wedding, however, requires a strategic planning time of about 2 to 3 months. You have to organize the invitations, book the perfect venue, hire a wedding planner, organize a seating plan, think about favors, choose the ideal floral décor according to your theme and think about the vendors. There can be a lot of work to do!

3.      Budget

Having few or no guests, venues, or the hustle and bustle of finding the vendors automatically reduces the cost of elopements. This way you can save money to spend on something useful or fun, such as a luxurious honeymoon, a car, or even a dream house! Couples who choose to elope spend money on the things that matter to them.

A small wedding requires more budget as compared to an elopement (obviously!). Given the fact that it has a greater number of guests, a venue, food and drinks, entertainment, and décor.

Unsure about what to choose? Have a mix of both!

A lot of people are unsure whether to opt for a small wedding or elopement. I get it!

Being a Europe elopement photographer, I can say from my experience there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to nuptial celebrations. The BEST way to celebrate your special day is to include and opt for the things that make you and your partner happy, contented, and satisfied. 

If you are craving a touch of both- an elopement and a traditional wedding, you can do that too! Trust me, I have seen these work beautifully!

You can split the day into two halves- the first part you could hike for an elopement with the love of your life and exchange the vows, the second part you celebrate with your close friends and family members by hosting a post-elopement party. You can even have a series of mini parties and divide your day instead of hosting one big traditional celebration. Consider dedicating two days to your wedding: one for your elopement (hiking, mountain climbing, a time full of wild adventures) and celebrate the next day with your friends and family.


I hope these differences will help you to choose the option that fits you perfectly and brings you joy. A small wedding or elopement- in the end, the main goal is to have a special day full of beautiful memories, so pick the one that will provide that for you and your partner. Check out my elopement services – I would love to help you realize the day of your dreams.