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I capture the unspoken — the glances, the silences — drawing from New York's pulse and the richness of global cultures. Every wedding is its own intricate narrative. Rooted in theatre and life's everyday rhythms, I document moments both transient and timeless. 

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Elopement vs Wedding: What Are They and Which One is For You?

As you are planning your big day, you and your partner may be throwing around the idea of having an elopement vs wedding, but what does that actually mean? What is the difference between the two and how do you actually decide what is right for you? 

Well, as a New York City wedding photographer, I have been a part of my fair share of weddings and elopements and both options are equally as beautiful. It ultimately comes down to each couple’s own preferences for how they want to celebrate this special day. 

So, if you are questioning elopement vs wedding, let’s take a look at what the difference actually is between them and how to choose which one is right for you.  

What is the Difference Between an Elopement vs Wedding?

Before you actually decide between an elopement vs wedding, it’s important to understand the differences between them. At the end of the day, both options are going to end up with you married to the love of your life. However, the difference is how that marriage and celebration actually takes place. 


In general, weddings are going to be categorized as any ceremony that has more than about 50 guests and includes things like a ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. These are generally going to be bigger celebrations and can be anywhere from about five to seven or eight hours long. 

The receptions are normally big events with entertainment, food, and dancing. And, in general, you are going to have a lot more details when it comes to the wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, etc. 

Now, there are also micro weddings. These tend to be weddings that are under 50 people and are a bit smaller in scale. Normally these weddings will last about four or so hours and may include a much smaller reception or just a more intimate dinner. 

You can think of this as almost the middle ground between an elopement and a wedding. There are some of the aspects of an elopement (like a smaller guest list, shorter day, etc) but still include pretty much everything you would have in a wedding. 


A newlywed couple walks hand-in-hand in a black and white forest scene, sunlight filtering through the trees to create a dreamy atmosphere.

An elopement, on the other hand, is a much smaller event. Normally people think of elopements as just the couple and no one else and while that can be true, it is not always the case. 

Generally an elopement is anything that is under about 10 guests. So, if you do want something more intimate, but have a few people that you want to be part of your special day, you can have the best of both worlds. 

When it comes to elopements, you will normally see that there is just a ceremony. This is oftentimes a shorter ceremony with less flair than you would have in a wedding ceremony. 

Full receptions aren’t really something you see with elopements. Instead, you may find that people will have an intimate dinner with just a few close people. However, if you do still want that big event that comes with a reception, but want an intimate ceremony, you can always elope alone and then throw a reception with all of your friends and family. 

How to Choose Between a Wedding or an Elopement

So, now that you know what the difference is between an elopement vs wedding, how do you actually choose between the two? Well, these questions are a great place to start when it comes to making your decision! 

Do you want all of your friends and family there? 

A father, playfully gesturing a thumbs-up, receives an adoring glance from his bride in a luminous room while a woman in traditional Korean attire smiles on.

First, do you want a wedding with all of your friends and family or do you want something a bit more intimate? This is something that you really have to listen to yourself on and not anyone outside of your relationship. 

While the people close to you in your life may want to be a part of this, your wedding is ultimately for you and you alone and if you want something that is more intimate, you can absolutely have that. 

Again, you can also do a mix and have an intimate ceremony with just your partner or a few select people and then throw a larger reception that you can invite more people to! 

Are you looking for a destination ceremony? 

A monochrome image of a smiling bride playfully dancing with her groom outdoors, with trees softly blurred in the background.

Another great question to ask yourself is if you are looking to have a destination wedding or a local one. In general, it is going to be much easier to plan a destination elopement than it is a destination wedding. 

Doing a smaller ceremony in a different place allows you more flexibility when it comes to where and when you are able to do it. It also relieves some of the stress of having to coordinate accommodations for everyone, travel, food, etc. 

Plus, if you are planning a destination ceremony, you may be able to plan a more elaborate elopement or elopement in an even more amazing place because you have a bit more of your budget free (as opposed to paying for a large venue, food, drinks, etc). 

What does your budget look like? 

Speaking of budget, that is a consideration you can make when you are trying to decide between the two. And, there are two different ways you can look at your budget. 

First, if you do have a smaller budget, an elopement (or micro-wedding) may be the best way to have an incredible wedding without feeling like you are spending too much. A big reason why you are going to find that elopements have smaller budgets comes down to the venue and the reception. 

Most of the time, you are either able to get a ceremony site for free or for a very small investment (as opposed to a full wedding venue). There are also a ton of different costs associated with a reception so completely forgoing that as a whole can make the overall cost of your wedding significantly less. 

The other way you can look at your budget when it comes to your wedding is deciding what you actually want to spend your money on. Even if you do have a larger budget, you may decide that it is worth it to elope because you are able to spend your budget on other things like photography, videography, and travel. 

So, while most people will say that elopements are a great way to have a lower cost wedding (and they are definitely right) it is also a great option for anyone who is looking to invest in other parts of their wedding besides the actual venue and reception. 

Do you want something more adventurous or more traditional? 

In a heartfelt black and white photo, a bride and groom share a touching moment as the groom wipes away a tear.

Finally, are you looking for something that is a bit more adventurous or a bit more traditional? 

One of the biggest benefits of eloping is that you can pretty much elope anywhere you want to. There are very few places that are completely off-limits and this is even more true if you are going for a really intimate elopement with just your partner and a few vendors. 

So, if you are looking for something more adventurous, like a mountainside or forest wedding, an elopement may be a better option and will open up the doors to endless possibilities of where you can actually say your vows. 

On the other hand, if you are looking for something a bit more traditional, a full wedding is going to be much more your speed. This way, you can make sure everyone you invite is completely comfortable and taken care of (and you’re not making them hike up a mountain). 

Final Thoughts: a Wedding vs Elopement

So, which options should you choose, elopement vs wedding? It really is a personal decision and something that you and your partner should choose together. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer for which one to choose and both of them are incredible ways to start the next chapter of your lives. 

Now all you need is someone to capture this amazing day for you and everything it entails. Whether you are looking to have a grand wedding, an intimate elopement, or anything in between, I would love to be a part of telling your story. 

You can click here to learn more about my wedding and elopement/micro wedding packages or you can head over here to get in touch and talk about how we can make your dream come to life! 

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