What kind of weddings are there?
One of the questions I get asked most often by my brides is the difference between an elopement, an intimate wedding, and a traditional wedding. Many people use those terms fairly interchangeably, which can be super confusing when researching, Pinterest pinning, and trying to nail down a specific type of wedding that best reflects a couple and their dream day. It can be tough to balance the pros and cons, budget considerations, and logistics of planning a wedding. Determining what suits you the best early in your planning will help to navigate with precision the endless lists of vendors, venues and options. This post will look at the differences and advantages of each type of wedding, and how they could each be a perfect choice.
So, by the strictest traditional definition, an elopement is when a couple runs away and gets married in secret. That's not necessarily true. The term historically has conjured up this image of only the two people, a spur-of-the-moment decision, and more ceremony focused with no details of a larger wedding (seating arrangements, reception menus, invitations, you know the drill). Elopement weddings rose to some notoriety and popularity in 2012, when a handful of bold couples emerged on Pinterest and in travel blogs saying their vows in amazing places. Make no mistake - people aren't eloping to be sneaky, or because they're broke, or because their families disapprove of their marriage anymore. The elopement trend is refocusing weddings back to being about the couple and their promises to each other, rather than impressing all of their guests with some fancy reception and a really good band. Elopements can be done anywhere - In your home town, at your dream destination, with a spiritual ceremony or with a legal ceremony, and can be as fancy or casual as you like.
Elopements can usually happen quicker than any other type of wedding, which makes them attractive to those who intend to travel, are soon to be deployed in the military, or who would like to get married now and have a large ceremony later.
Elopements may also be favored by couples who prefer to be more minimal and wish to avoid complications like family interference, overwhelming expense, lots of small details, and logistics. An elopement is an opportunity to regain control of the wedding day and refocus it back to what is truly important.
If having a big, lavish party and being the center of attention for ten hours straight is just NOT you, then an elopement would be a perfect solution. It's about having a beautiful, intimate wedding with just your significant other and your witnesses, in an incredible location.
Usually elopements consist of your officiant, your photographer, and one or two witnesses to sign the documents. Elopements can last anywhere from 3-6 hours, depending on where you're eloping, and require nothing but two people in love and the necessary paperwork: marriage license, vows and maybe a permit if you're getting married in a state-regulated park.
Usually, the biggest advantage for elopements are in pictures. Having just the two of you really lets you explore your ceremony location, often gives you time for extended portrait shots, even some more intimate and romantic ones, and less pressure to take pictures quickly and move on. Since you don’t have a dinner reception and band starting at a set time waiting for you, you really have this incredibly flexibility to work with your photographer as long as you like to get lots of incredible photographs of the two of you in your dream locale.
Intimate weddings are exactly what they sound like - weddings, with a small guest list, usually 30 people or less. Intimate weddings will include a ceremony, followed by a reception with the same schedule and details of a large wedding tailored to suit a more exclusive guest list.
Intimate weddings offer some of the privacy and relaxed atmosphere of an elopement, but still involve a lot of moving parts. There are still invitations to send, logistics to plan, a ceremony attended by guests, a reception to plan, and the etiquette that goes along with a traditional larger wedding.
Couples who choose to host an intimate wedding as opposed to a larger wedding may be financially motivated, or simply seeking to focus on the quality of their dream day rather than quantity. Intimate weddings are an excellent choice for those who have a preferred venue that does not accommodate a large party.
If you prefer to spend your wedding day enjoying the company of your close family and friends, rather than entertaining a large group of people, an intimate wedding is much preferred to a traditional wedding. It would still be conducive to a destination wedding, as you can build in some sight-seeing time, adventuring and other activities leading up to the wedding day.
Intimate weddings can offer greater personalization of your details - customized menus, meaningful personalized gifts, and top shelf wedding favors. Your guests will also be brought closer into the ceremony itself, and may take part in things like readings, candle lightings, etc.
Having a smaller guest list allows you to splurge on the quality of the details.
While planning a wedding can be incredibly exciting, it can be simultaneously stressful. One thing is for certain, though: Wedding planning is an excellent testing ground for any relationship! You and your partner will have to work hard, negotiate, compromise and delegate, and a marriage that can survive planning a large event will be pretty strong!
A traditional wedding is the biggest party you will probably ever throw, and everyone gets involved - Your family, your future spouse's family, your cousins, their cousins, your grandma's church friends. A wedding is a good environment to get to know the people that belong to your significant other's extended family and friends list. Hosting a wedding truly makes it feel like the momentous occasion that marriage is, and means you will get to revel in being the centre of attention – if that is your thing.
For couples who love to entertain, and want that feeling of having all of their family, extended family and friends around to celebrate with them, a traditional wedding may be the best choice. You may also choose to get married in a church or more traditional venue for sentimental or religious reasons.
It's a huge financial commitment to put on a wedding that accommodates 100+ people, and takes months of planning, and for many couples, the joy of having those 100+ people participate in their wedding is well worth that investment. If you can't imagine not having all eyes on you when you walk down the aisle, then a traditional wedding may be for you!
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, there's not a wrong answer, here. Close your eyes and picture yourself in each of these scenarios.
Ask yourself, how much stress and anxiety am I equipped to handle? Do we like being the center of attention, and do we want our attention to be on other people? Would we be relieved if our wedding were an intimate affair, or would we be disappointed that there weren't a lot of people there to share it with us?
Since the introduction of the modern adventure elopement wedding, society has begun to realize that commitment and love have nothing to do with the size of your ring, the length of your guest list, or the amount that you spend on your venue. Elopements and intimate weddings are environmentally conscious, more cost-effective, and less stressful, but they aren't for everyone. When your wedding day, however you decide to shape it, is over, you'll have the pictures and the memories and your new spouse left to show for it.
Ultimately, make your wedding about the two of you, and do what makes your heart sing - Nothing more, nothing less. Make sure your wedding reflects what kind of life you want to live together - and make sure you have the right photographer there to document it for you.