Making the decision between having a big traditional wedding, intimate wedding or eloping is something that a lot of couples struggle with when beginning their wedding planning journey. There are so many factors that are not considered because let’s face it, if you’ve never been married you probably haven’t experienced what a wedding day is like from the couple’s perspective. I am here to shed some light on the different aspects of each of these weddings so that hopefully you will be able to choose which path is best suited for you!
When I think about a big traditional wedding the first thing that comes to mind is how fast paced they are. The timeline of a larger wedding is typically much more jam-packed and the couple usually has a larger group of people surrounding them throughout the day. They have to get to the venue on time, their friends and family all want to hug on and talk to them, brides are getting makeup done, hair done and putting their dress on all while trying to stay on track with the timeline! For some personalities this is great, if you love being around people and thrive in a fast-paced environment it can be a win win. But it's not the perfect scenario for everyone. Even if you are very extroverted and love the fast pace one big thing to take into consideration is the fact that you and your partner will most likely be getting ready separately. While it’s your wedding and you can do whatever the heck you want this is how most traditional weddings play out. Say your wedding is during spring and your ceremony takes place two hours before sunset. You’re looking at a 5:00 ceremony. That means you won't be seeing your fiance on the day of your wedding until 5:00pm. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, hanging out with friends and loved ones all day can be ideal for some! But if you’d rather spend a majority of the day with your partner then keep that in mind when selecting the type of wedding you want to have. Big weddings with large guest lists usually means very little opportunity for the couple to actually have an intimate moment together. Another aspect of these weddings is getting to see all of the people you love in one place and having a huge party together. If you are someone who enjoys hosting parties, is very extroverted and has a big group of family and friends that you can’t imagine your wedding day without then heck yeah a big wedding is probably going to be right for you! For some couples your friends and family are a huge part of your love story and it just makes sense for everyone to be together on your wedding day. But keep in mind that the more people you invite to your wedding the less time you will have to spend with each person. Then there’s the planning. A whole lot of planning and design goes into traditional weddings. From the more extensive guest list comes having to feed a larger group of people and create a more in-depth seating chart. You have to select table linens, centerpieces, ceremony decor, lighting, music and so on. Again, if you love planning and hosting parties then you’ll probably have a lot of fun during this stage! But if the thought of all of this is making you sweat then you may want to think about a more intimate wedding or an elopement.
Going the intimate wedding route does offer some more freedom for your wedding day though there will be some hoops for you to jump through that a traditional wedding or elopement may not have. On one hand the cost of an intimate wedding can potentially be much less than a traditional wedding. A smaller guest list means less people to feed, not as many invitations to send out and you aren't limited to specifically venues that can host a large number of people. With that being said if you are looking more at the backyard wedding route and you are wanting chairs, tables, tents and so on then you are probably going to have to pay for more rentals. Rental prices tend to pile up pretty fast, most venues come with those kinds of things already so be careful when opting out of the venue and trying to do something with rentals. A smaller guest list means more quality time with each guest and the freedom to have your wedding in more unique locations. A smaller number of guests opens up smaller venues, art museums, outdoor spaces like state or national parks and more. You can be more creative with your location this way! Not everyone has a lot of family members nearby or healthy relationships with their family. Opting for an intimate wedding means only having guests who lift you up, guests you love and want to spend that quality time with. Though this is where some issues with other family members might come in. They may be offended that they are not invited to your wedding or parents may pressure you to invite extra guests. My advice for when this problem comes up is that this is YOUR wedding. This day is about the two of you getting married! You shouldn’t have to worry about pleasing others or making everyone happy. Easier said than done I know.
If people are offended, assure them you’ll have dinner together after the wedding and share your wedding photos with them so they can re-live the moments with you. If they continue to stay mad at you for doing what makes you happy on your wedding day then BYE FELICIA. People like that would probably cause drama on your wedding day anyways and no one needs that!
With an intimate wedding you might have the option to space out your timeline a bit more so that the day is not as fast paced! Though you probably will not be seeing your fiance until ceremony time so the whole “spending half the day apart” factor can still be relevant for intimate weddings. And, while an intimate wedding still requires planning, it can be much less extensive and stressful than planning a huge elaborate wedding day. Keep in mind that if you are looking at taking on a lot of DIY projects they can add on to the stress and lengthen your to-do list pretty quickly.
An elopement is no longer running off to Vegas or saying “I do” in a courthouse. (though it can be if you want it to) An elopement is truly whatever the heck you want it to be! I tell my elopement couples to imagine their perfect day together, from the moment they wake up to the moment the go to sleep and that's what we use to plan their elopement. Where traditional weddings have jam-packed timelines and extensive guest counts, elopements are laid back “just us” experiences that allows you to spend almost the entire day with your partner and do whatever it is that lights your soul on fire.
You can still have those big moments like a first look, first dance and vow reading. You can still have an epic wedding dress and beautiful flowers for your elopement. But you get to do all of those things while having an adventure and without being concerned about the guests around you. If you are more of an introverted person who doesn’t really like big crowds or being the center of attention than an elopement would be perfect for you!
If you choose to elope you will likely not have your family there with you on your wedding day, while you can still elope with a small number of people by your side the guest list is still considerably smaller than a traditional or even an intimate wedding. Choosing to elope can be a very difficult decision to make for those who would love to share this day with friends and family.
Making the decision to elope without family makes your photos even more meaningful because that’s the only way to show your loved ones what your wedding day was like! So if you do go this route I highly recommend doing a lot of research on your photographer and making sure it is someone who can guide you through the elopement process as well as taking gorgeous photos on the day of. I do have resources that can help you choose a photographer if you scroll down to the bottom of this blog!
There is a myth that elopements cost substantially less than big weddings, and while that can be true the cost does still add up pretty quickly. Instead of purchasing table linens, renting chairs and feeding 100+ people you are investing in an experience. You are taking the money that would be spent on material objects being used for one day and instead you are spending it on travel, lodging and a one of a kind adventure!
Weather is going to be a bigger factor on your elopement day than it would be if you had a venue with a rain plan as most elopements do take place outdoors. You’ll also have to consider that you’ll need to dress accordingly! Yes get that epic wedding dress and suit but the day’s activities will have more of an impact on what you choose to wear. But! With elopements being more laid back they are a lot easier to reschedule or push the timeline back due to weather.
Unlike traditional weddings held in venues elopements do require permits. Most state and national parks require wedding permits as well as photography permits which is where an experienced elopement photographer can be extremely helpful! So keep that in mind and don’t assume that just because you are eloping doesn’t mean that you don’t have to plan ahead. The planning process is more like planning an exciting trip for the two of you and considerably less stressful than planning that big traditional wedding but still planning nonetheless! Overall an elopement offers a slower pace, more intimate moments with your partner, an intentional day spent focusing on just freaking getting married and having a good time. It’s not going to be a big party with all of your friends and family but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw an epic “Just married” party later down the road.
I hope this has given you some more insight to what each of these weddings has to offer for your big day! I have listed some additional planning resources below that you might find helpful in moving forward!
Or you can contact me! I’d love to help you narrow down what it is you are wanting to do on your big day to ensure it’s the wedding of your dreams.
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