I’m going to give it to you straight. Making the choice to elope can be scary and intimidating and nerve-wracking. I know, because I’ve been there. I was knee-deep in planning my own traditional wedding, constantly weighing the pros and cons of eloping, and trying to figure out if an adventure elopement made more sense to me.
Spoiler alert: it did. I personally fell in love with the idea of eloping, and had the absolute best time ditching my traditional wedding for an elopement instead. But I’m also fully aware that elopements aren’t the right choice for every engaged couple out here. Which is why I’m sharing the pros and cons of eloping that I considered when making my own choice to elope. And it’s also the same list of pros and cons that the couples I work with talk through when making their choice too. Let’s get into it.
If there’s one thing I hear most frequently from couples who opted for a traditional wedding it’s this: the day went by so quickly, and they barely had any alone time together. Traditional weddings by their very nature require a lot of mingling with guests. There isn’t much time (if any!) built into the timeline where it’s just the two of you.
On the other hand, one of the pros of eloping is that you and your partner get to spend pretty much the whole day together…and it can just be the two of you if you want it to!
In fact, when it comes to discussing the pros and cons of eloping, this reason is one of the biggest reasons that couple will opt to have an elopement instead of a more traditional, big wedding.
First things first, let’s just clear up a little misconception about elopements. Just because you elope, doesn’t mean you can’t invite friends and family. Yes, some couples choose to elope with no one else present, but that isn’t a requirement.
That said, when you elope, you’re also not inviting a room of 150 people along. Depending on who you are and what you value in your day, this can be considered a con of eloping. If you and your partner love the idea of a giant party with everyone you’ve ever known, then a traditional wedding might be a better option. On the other hand, if you prefer more privacy and intimacy on your day, an elopement might be a better fit. Ultimately, when it comes to the pros and cons eloping, your mindset and preferences play a big role in what you define as a benefit versus a downside.
One of the biggest pros of eloping is that you don’t have as many moving parts, which means you get to be way more intentional about what you spend your money on, and how much of it you choose to spend.
This means that when you choose to elope, you can splurge on what’s important to you, without breaking the bank. Even going all out on your elopement, you’ll likely spend less than what it’d cost you for a traditional wedding. If you’re curious about the difference in cost between elopements and weddings, I’ve written an article that does a full cost breakdown and total calculation.
Not every couple has family who offers to help them with the financial aspects of their wedding day, but if yours is helping, there’s a good chance they feel like they are entitled to have a say in what the day looks like.
And while I personally don’t agree with this mentality (I’m a firm believer that you and only you should choose what your wedding day is like…it’s YOUR day, after all), this is a con of eloping that you do have to take into consideration. If you are financially indebted to family, there’s a chance that having the elopement of your dreams won’t necessarily be possible, because you have to factor in every one else’s preferences too.
But as I mentioned earlier, elopement are also much more budget friendly, so if you truly want to elope, it’s much easier to foot the bill on your own without family assistance. The same can’t always be said with more traditional weddings.
When you choose to elope, you can customize your day to look however you want. If you want to throw all tradition out the window and have a day of hiking and exploring outdoors, you can.
In many respects, the elopement planning process is more of an adventure planning process. Yes, you’ll still have a timeline, and you can even hire elopement vendors, but you have an opportunity to truly customize your elopement in a way that wouldn’t really be possible with a traditional wedding.
While the flexibility and customizability of elopements can be seen as a pro, it can also be seen as a con of the process too. Traditional weddings come with a generic template, checklist, and a whole list of expectations.
Personally, I’d argue that this is one of the reasons that traditional weddings are so stressful and not nearly as creative as elopements. But for some people, the idea of this fully built out structure is ideal. And while I can attest to the ability to give elopements structure (Type A planner-type over here!), the adventure elopement space is much newer and not as strict as the traditional wedding space.
The family pressure so many couples deal with for traditional wedding isn’t an inevitable part of the elopement process. While unsolicited opinions will probably still happen, whether you choose to elope or have a big wedding, because elopements allow you to be super intentional about who (if anyone!) you invite, you put the power back in your own hands to call the shoots.
Family pressure can be intense during the wedding planning process, but elopements dare to free you of that.
This isn’t to say including cultural traditions is impossible with elopements. They can certainly be incorporated. But it can be difficult, depending on the elopement location you choose. For example, I’m Persian, and Persian weddings can be very elaborate and detail-oriented.
A lot of the activities you’d include in those types of weddings literally are not possible on hiking trails and other remote outdoors destinations, partially because of public lands regulations and partially because even if you could bring every element of a Persian wedding up the trail with you, you’d be lugging a lot of stuff up the trail.
That said, if cultural traditions are important to you on your wedding day and you want to elope, I recommend two options: bring along what cultural traditions you can, and save the rest for a post-elopement reception when you get back home!
Ultimately when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of eloping to figure out whether this type of wedding is right for you, there’s really only one thing you have to consider: what you and your partner feel in your gut is the type of wedding that feels right to you.
We could run through endless lists of the pros and cons of eloping compared to having a big, traditional wedding, but I’ve noticed most couples already know deep down which type of wedding would make them happiest. The wedding industry has done a good job of historically making couples feel like eloping isn’t an option, but that reality is changing. For many couples who feel like the wedding industry has failed to meet their sense of adventure and desire for a low-key and intimate celebration, an elopement can be the perfect celebration. I know it was for me, personally.
P.S. As an adventure elopement photographer who planned her own traditional wedding only to ditch it and elope instead, I’ve been in your shoes. And I pride myself on not just documenting your elopement, but also helping you navigate the details as well — like helping you look at the pros and cons of eloping to determine whether this type of wedding is right for you in the first place.
I know that elopements aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay! That’s the way it should be. I don’t believe weddings should be cookie-cutter replicas of each other, whether that wedding is an elopement or not. And if you’ve decided, after looking at the pros and cons of eloping, that this type of wedding is what you want, then I’d love nothing more than to help you document that story.
Check out some of our favorite elopement and adventure wedding planning resources:
Not everyone loves tradition, but that doesn’t make your adventure wedding or elopement any less important.
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