What's the Difference Between and Elopement and a Small Intimate Wedding?

In the era of social distancing, the terms "elopement" and "small intimate wedding" are being used interchangeably. How do they differ? Does this distinction matter? Will it affect the prices I receive from wedding vendors? Let's take these questions one-by-one.


A small intimate wedding is typically seen as a traditional (or modern, depending on your style) with a smaller guest count, typically around 30-50 people or less. While elopements are both small and intimate in nature, they can have a different meaning depending on who you speak to. An elopement is typically associated with adventure, or going somewhere out of your residential region, accompanied with a limited guest count. For most photographers, elopements must have a guest count of 25-30 people or less. Elopements don't usually have a huge amount of time reserved for a reception, but again, this could vary according to the couple and location.


Depending on the photographer or wedding vendor, "elopement" and "small intimate wedding" could be interchangeable terms. For others, this distinction could affect the photography packages available to you if your guest count is over their designated quota. The photographer's approach to assisting during your day-of timeline planning and capturing your wedding day might also look different.


Things to keep in mind when approaching elopement planning and wedding vendors:


  • When considering an elopement in a state or national park, public beach, or other epic location of your choice, be sure to find out what permits may be required for you to legally hold a small ceremony in those locations.

  • The number of witnesses required for your wedding license can vary by state, and many times, your photographer can also double as a witness.

  • If you're looking to get married in a popular spot, weekdays may be better than weekends to avoid the crowds.

  • I saved the veggies for last; planning an elopement or small intimate wedding won't necessarily mean that you will spend less money on wedding vendors. The smaller guest count will help you spend less money overall, but prices for wedding vendors may not see a dramatic decrease for smaller ceremonies. This isn't said to discourage anyone, but to put the cost of planning an elopement in perspective.

I hope this helps clear things up as we adjust to this new world of events amid safety and social distancing protocols. No pandemic can stop your love, so plan the wedding that you truly want, and trust your wedding vendors to make your safety a priority.


If you're looking to plan an adventure elopement or small intimate wedding, I'd love to be your photographer! Be sure to check out my work and see if I have your day or time frame available!

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