Should I Elope or Have a Wedding? Pros & Cons in 2024

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Hi, I’m Megan and your story matters to me. You deserve to break your wedding day from the traditional mold into something that is uniquely you.

I specialize in intimate mountain weddings and elopements and love working with people who are stoked to get married in nature surrounded by their closest family and friends. I am here for you and to organically tell your story. 

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couple walking in the redwoods for their elopement

So you are engaged! If you’re planning on tying the knot, you might be wondering: should I elope or have a wedding? It’s a big choice, and it can feel a bit scary because it’s all about how you want to celebrate one of the most special days of your life.

In this blog, we’re going to talk about the good and not-so-good parts of both options. This way, you can choose what fits you best. Maybe you like the idea of getting married in an intimate nature setting or maybe you’d prefer a large party with all your family and friends. Either way, I’m here to help you figure it out!

Why Should You Elope?

An elopement is typically characterized by a small, intimate ceremony where only the couple and possibly a few witnesses are present. Its focus is entirely on the couple’s love for each other.

Choosing to elope can be a wonderfully intimate and personal choice. It allows you and your partner to truly focus on each other without the distractions or pressures that can come with a larger, traditional wedding. Eloping can also be significantly less stressful and more cost-effective, freeing you from extensive guest lists, pricey venues, and elaborate decorations. Instead, you have the freedom to say your vows anywhere. Sometimes a city hall, a mountaintop, or a quiet beach at sunset. This choice can make your wedding day a deeply personal experience that’s all about the love between you two.

Why Should You Have A Wedding?

A wedding is a formal ceremony where two individuals unite in marriage. It’s typically a public declaration of love and commitment, often marked by a celebration with family, friends, and a larger community.

Having a traditional wedding can be an incredibly joyful and memorable experience. It provides an opportunity for you and your partner to celebrate your love surrounded by family and friends, creating memories that you all will cherish for years to come. A wedding also allows you to honor traditions, engage in meaningful rituals, and share your commitment publicly in a way that eloping may not. Plus, the planning process. From choosing a venue to picking out your attire, it can be exciting and fun. Having a wedding can truly make your special day a celebration of love, bringing together the people who matter most to you.

Elopement Vs. Wedding

Deciding whether to elope or have a wedding is a major life decision! Below I have some important factors comparing and contrasting both options.


Elopement: Eloping can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional weddings, with most couples spending significantly less than they would on a conventional ceremony. Costs can vary widely, depending on factors such as location, travel expenses, and whether professional services like photography or officiating are used. On the lower end, an elopement might only require a marriage license and a celebrant, making it possible for some couples to elope for a few hundred dollars. However, more elaborate elopements that include elements like a special venue, professional photography, and travel can run into the thousands. Despite these potential costs, elopements generally remain a more economical choice compared to traditional weddings. The average cost of an elopement is $5,000-$15,000.

Wedding: The cost of a wedding can vary dramatically depending on similar factors like location, size, and style of the event. Your budget typically covers the venue, catering, photography, attire, flowers, music, and decor. However, in larger cities or for more extravagant celebrations, costs can easily escalate into the six figures. Also, it’s important to note that many couples successfully plan beautiful weddings on both smaller and larger budgets. The key is careful planning and prioritizing expenses that are most important to the couple. On average, weddings in the United States cost around $28,000 to $34,000.

Guest List

Elopement: An elopement traditionally involves just the couple getting married, often without any guests. However, modern elopements have evolved and some couples choose to include a handful of their closest family and friends. The guest list for an elopement is typically very small, often limited to less than ten people. This can include immediate family members, best friends, or even the couple’s children. Additionally, the primary focus of an elopement is the intimacy between the couple, so the guest list is kept minimal to maintain this intimate atmosphere. If you want more information about how to include family into your elopement check out my blog here!

Wedding: Creating a guest list for a wedding can be a complex task, as it involves balancing the couple’s desire to celebrate with all their loved ones and practical considerations like budget and venue capacity. Typically, a wedding guest list includes family members from both sides, close friends, and often, colleagues or acquaintances. It’s common for the list to be divided equally between the couple, allowing each partner to invite the same number of guests. Some couples also consider whether to include plus-ones or children in their guest list. Overall, creating a guest list is a personal process and varies greatly depending on the couple’s preferences and the size and style of the wedding they’re planning. You could even choose to have a micro wedding! Here is an example of a micro wedding I captured that included family and a shorter guest list.


Elopement: The elopement experience allows the couple to focus solely on their commitment to each other. An elopement is typically characterized by simplicity, spontaneity, and deep romance. Whether it takes place in a courthouse, a scenic outdoor location, or a foreign city, the emphasis is on the couple’s love story. Elopements can also offer more flexibility, freeing couples from the constraints of guest lists, seating plans, and schedules. Yet despite their simplicity, they can be just as special and memorable as larger weddings. After all, the heart of an elopement is the celebration of love between two people, and that in itself is incredibly meaningful.

Wedding: Weddings today are increasingly focusing on the guest experience. It’s no longer just about the couple’s union, but also about creating an unforgettable event for those in attendance. From the moment guests receive their invitations, every detail is carefully planned to ensure a memorable experience. The venue, food, and entertainment are selected not only to reflect the couple’s taste but also to cater to the comfort and enjoyment of the guests. Personalized touches, such as interactive activities, unique favors, or thoughtful arrangements, can enhance the guests’ experience further. Overall, a wedding is also about sharing one’s joy with loved ones, and a focus on guest experience ensures that everyone leaves with memories of the special day.

bride and groom taking photos at their elopement


Elopement: Elopement offers you the freedom to choose a location that is intimate, personal, and meaningful. Preferred locations can range greatly depending on your taste and sense of adventure. Some couples might choose a scenic mountain top, where they can exchange vows against a stunning view. Others might prefer a beach at sunset. Urban couples might love the idea of eloping in the city. Maybe in a charming park or near an iconic landmark. For those who value privacy above all, a backyard ceremony or a quiet spot in a forest might be the perfect place. Overall, the beauty of an elopement is that the location is limited only by the couple’s imagination and desire.

Wedding: The location of a wedding often depends on your personal style, family traditions, and practical considerations. For some, a classic church wedding might be the ideal choice, offering a sense of tradition and spirituality. You might prefer a beach wedding, where you can exchange vows barefoot on the sand. Some couples might go for a city wedding in a hotel close to home. Alternatively, destination weddings are an exciting choice for those looking to make a memorable trip. Ultimately, the best wedding location is one that feels true and ideal to your personality and love story.

bride and groom walking at a waterfall for their elopement


Elopement: Elopement planning is often less stressful than traditional wedding planning due to its simplicity and intimacy. With fewer guests or none at all, there are less logistical considerations, such as seating arrangements, catering for large numbers, or coordinating travel and accommodation. This allows for more flexibility in planning. For instance, the couple can choose a date and location that suits them without worrying about the availability of multiple guests. Elopement also eliminates the pressure of staging a big event, which can reduce financial stress. Instead of dealing with multiple vendors and a hefty budget, the couple can concentrate on what truly matters to them.

Wedding: Wedding planning can be stressful due to numerous decisions and expectations. The number of tasks from selecting a venue, to finalizing the guest list can be overwhelming. Coordinating with various vendors within a budget, managing family dynamics, and the pressure to create a memorable experience for your guests can add to the stress. Time constraints further increase the anxiety, making wedding planning a potentially high-pressure task.

Overall, whether you choose to elope or have a traditional wedding, your decision will be a reflection of your unique love story. If you elope, you’ll enjoy the intimacy and simplicity that allows you to focus solely on each other. If you go for a traditional wedding, you’ll celebrate your love surrounded by family and friends, creating shared memories. Both choices are special and meaningful in their own way, making either decision a great one.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

What if the weather is bad for your elopement or wedding?

I always lean on the side of embracing whatever the weather gives us, because it truly can make for some epic photos. Backup plans will always be in place and safety is always first priority!

What if you don’t have a location or date yet?

This is super common, and don’t let this stop you from reaching out! I can help with this process. Together we can find a date for your elopement or wedding to have saved on my calendar and after officially booking we can find the perfect location for your dream wedding!

What if your family doesn’t want you to elope?

If your family doesn’t want you to elope, it’s likely because they want to be a part of your big day. Talk to them about why you want to elope and reassure them that they’re still important to you and can attend! You could think about having a small party or get-together after you elope. But remember, it’s your special day and you should do what makes you and your partner happiest!

What if I want both an elopement and a wedding?

A great alternative to wanting both is a micro wedding! You can still enjoy the intimate nature of an elopement and include your closest families and friends. I wrote a blog all about how to choose between an elopement and micro wedding.

Can I have a reception after eloping?

Absolutely! Having a reception after eloping is a great way to include the traditional wedding celebration into your elopement. This way everyone can be happy and you won’t regret your decision to elope. Overall, it is all about your preference and budget.

Let’s Chat About Your Elopement Or Wedding

In the end, your wedding day should reflect what you and your partner truly want. Whether it’s eloping or having a traditional ceremony, the most important thing is that it’s a celebration of your love and commitment to each other.

If you are ready to take the next step, fill out my contact form on my website. From there, we can set up your free consult call and dream up your perfect elopement or wedding!

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