Elopement vs. Wedding – the Pros and Cons

bride leading groom by hand up a hill during golden hour at hilltop wedding center in sylvan lake alberta

Here’s the truth - when it comes to comparing elopement vs. wedding, there’s no one answer to which one is better, or which one is right for you.

Some couples find that the intimacy and privacy of an elopement is perfect for them, others love the hustle and bustle of a big wedding with everyone they love. 

The day you get married is a pretty big deal - so you should absolutely make sure that whatever you’ve got planned feels true to you, and that it’s a day you love!

So, to help you decide, we’ll talk about the biggest differences between an elopement and a wedding, and some pros and cons to both.

Elopement vs. Wedding - What’s the Difference

First, what’s the difference between an elopement and a wedding

All elopements are weddings, but most weddings aren’t elopements!

An elopement is an untraditional day, where a couple gets married, usually outdoors, with just a few guests - or even no guests at all.

A more traditional wedding is bigger, usually between 50 and 300 people.

They usually take place in a venue, but weddings on the smaller side can also be held in unique spots, like a backyard, a cute cabin, or in a park or bigger outdoor space!

Deciding between elopement vs. wedding, and which one is right for you, really comes down to the two of you, what’s important to you, and how you want to get married.

Elopement vs. Wedding - Pros and Cons

Now, there are lots of pros and cons to both weddings and elopements, but many of these can actually go either way, depending on the couple.

Something that’s a pro to you may be a con to someone else, and vice versa - so we’ll talk about some elopement pros and cons, some wedding pros and cons, and you can decide which side resonates with you!

Pros and Cons: Guest List

Since the guest list is one of the biggest differences between elopement vs. wedding, these pros and cons are one of the biggest deciding factors for many couples.

Elopement Pro - Fewer guests means a more private experience, and you can celebrate with just the two of you, or with just a few loved ones.

Wedding Pro - A wedding allows you to invite more people, so you get to spend time with your loved ones! 

Elopement Con - With fewer guests, you may not be able to invite all of your loved ones.

Wedding Con - With a big guest list, it can be hard to find time to yourselves, and it can feel like a lot of pressure to say hello to everyone and be able to spend time with each guest.

Pros and Cons: Venue

An elopement typically gives you more freedom when choosing a venue - with fewer people, you can get married outdoors, rent a small cabin, or get creative with where you get married!

Bigger weddings usually are held in more traditional venues, but these can include vineyards, ballrooms, and more, so there are tons of options.

Elopement Pro: You can get married outdoors, go for a hike, and have more options for venues.

Wedding Pro: A big venue can feel more right for some couples, and it also provides temperature control, won’t get your attire dirty, and can be more comfortable.

Elopement Con: Eloping outdoors often means more logistics, and things like weather, trail or park closures, traffic, and other factors can have more of an impact.

Wedding Con: You’re more limited in your options, and the bigger your wedding, the fewer options you usually have.

Pros and Cons: Cost

Weddings tend to be pretty pricey, and elopements are usually much less expensive!

But this doesn’t mean elopements are “cheap” - you just prioritize differently.

Elopement Pro: Less expensive, you have a little more freedom with how you spend your money so you can decide what’s important!

Wedding Pro: Though it’s more expensive, if you’re investing in an experience you’ll really love, it’ll be worth it!

Elopement Con: For some couples, investing more money in their wedding day can feel important, for cultural or personal reasons.

Wedding Con: It’s definitely a big investment, and a lot of the money goes to things like feeding guests or decorations - things you won’t see again after the day is over.

Pros and Cons: What You’ll Do

When it comes to elopement vs. wedding, one of the huge differences is what you do on the day!

Elopements allow for more adventures - whether that means hiking or just having a relaxing day together, while weddings tend to be focused more on spending time with guests and sharing the moment with loved ones.

Elopement Pro: More flexibility, more time spent with your partner, more options for things to do to celebrate getting married.

Wedding Pro: More time with the people you love.

Elopement Con: If family and friends are important to you, spending more time with them on the day you get married might be more of a priority!

Wedding Con: Hard to get time to yourself, with more guests it can be difficult to spend time with each person.

Pros and Cons: Planning and Stress

Wedding planning is stressful, and there’s a lot to do! But, elopement requires plenty of planning too - so while it’s a different kind of planning, eloping may not completely get you away from having to figure out logistics.

Elopement Pro: It can be easier to plan when you have fewer guests, and if you’re excited about the adventure, planning can feel more fun. There can also be less stress if you aren’t worried about making sure that all 100 of your guests are happy.

Wedding Pro: Some people just like planning! The end result is also totally worth it if you really want a big wedding - and hiring a wedding planner will eliminate the stress!

Elopement Con: You still need to plan, but there are just different things to think about when you’re outdoors, like weather, closures, and other considerations.

Wedding Con: Trying to coordinate everything can be stressful, especially if you feel pressure from other people.

Pros and Cons: Attention and Celebration

This one definitely depends on the couple!

Some couples find that eloping gives them so much relief, because they don’t have to worry about being the centre of attention or having all eyes on them.

Other couples love that a big wedding allows them to really celebrate and to feel celebrated, and the party aspect is something that’s a pro!\

Elopement Pro: More privacy, less being the centre of attention.

Wedding Pro: People are there to celebrate you!

Elopement Con: Can feel less special or important if you like the idea of being the centre of attention (nothing wrong with that!), and might feel less “real” without your loved ones there with you.

Wedding Con: You’re the centre of attention all day, which can be nerve wracking.

Elopement vs. Wedding - Which One is Right for You?

Ultimately, it comes down to this - what feels right for your day?

Do you have a gut feeling that tells you one is more your jam than the other?

When comparing the pros and cons of elopement vs. wedding, which ones resonated with you more?

Your wedding day should be exactly what you want it to be - so put aside the pressure, traditions, and expectations, and think about what you truly want!

And remember, no matter how big your wedding is, there’s always room to personalize it and make it your own.

If you're in Alberta and are looking for a fantastic officiant- I can highly recommend Married by Cole!

No matter what you decide and what kind of day you’re dreaming of, as a photographer, I’m ready to help you bring it to life! Contact me to get started.


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If you like unconventional, honest, friendly and real photos, I’m your person.

Sam Wildridge is a candid + lifestyle photographer / filmmaker based in Wainwright, Alberta. Sam has been capturing wedding, family + corporate photos for 9 years and defines her style as "organic storytelling".


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eloping bride and groom walking hand in hand
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