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Elopement vs. Intimate Wedding: The ONE MAIN difference!

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

There is a fine, faded line between elopements and intimate weddings. What is the difference between the two? Here at New Land Weddings, we classify elopements versus intimate wedding because of ONE MAIN difference

(Among many other things... did I confuse you yet?)

The ONE MAIN difference: Ceremony Seating

Intimate wedding: If there are places for guests to sit during the ceremony, this will most likely be considered an intimate wedding.

Elopement: If there are guests and they are free-standing, this will most likely considered an elopement.

People often use these 2 terms interchangeably, because they are very similar, but understanding the difference between these two types of ceremonies is very important to the booking and planning process. Companies charge differently between the two services so you need to know what you are getting into and purchasing!

Differences between an elopement and intimate wedding.

There are a plethora of other differences between these 2 types of ceremonies.

Elopements usually:

Only have 2 people - the bride and the groom.

  • Often 3 including the officiant or celebrant.

  • No ceremony seating

  • Does not have a large reception or celebration immediately after.

  • Is more spontaneous and last minute then an intimate ceremony

  • Has a more informal, laid back, unscripted ceremony

  • Minimal Ceremony decoration due to the nature of the location

  • Adventurous location

  • Doesn't have a bridal party

Intimate Weddings usually:

  • Has ceremony seating

  • Has an officiant

  • Is between 4-40 guests

  • Includes a reception, dinner, or after ceremony celebration

  • Has a more formal, scripted ceremony

Can I have guests at my elopement?

The modern-day elopement says yes! This is the confusing part because elopements have been notoriously known for being a secretive ceremony between only the bride and groom.

Usually, the parents are uninformed, the couples run off to wed, and it’s spontaneously done. The modern-day

elopements are usually well planned (still more spontaneous than an intimate wedding), last many hours, revolve around picturesque backdrops, and sometimes have a small number of guests. We learned in the previous paragraph that these guests are not going to be sitting at the elopement, which would be considered an intimate wedding. At New Land Weddings we allow up to 4 guests with any elopement package.

Why does ceremony seating and guests bring a whole new element to the intimate wedding?

Ceremony seating is one thing, then there's, renting seating, hauling it to the ceremony site, possibly paying for permits and fees because now this is an “event,” finding a ceremony site that is ideal for seating or guest (space, level, and dry), less flexibility to alter event whereas elopements can be up and moved effortlessly, photographers have to work around seated guest, plan now needs to involve multiple people instead of just the planner and couple, parking to accommodate all guests needs to be considered, fewer options with guest as far as hiking to an epic location, are bathrooms needed? … and I know that after I published this blog I am going to think of 5 more tradeoffs!

Speaking on “photographers have to work around seated guests” for intimate weddings. This is one huge reason why I favor elopements, because I can get a bit more up and personal with my couples to really capture those special, tearful moments, while not blocking the view of seated guests. Without guests, I also get better angles with unobstructed views. And if the best angle is sideways squatting doing the limbo, there is no one there to judge me. :] There is much less pressure for vendors when guests are not present!

Why are intimate weddings more work to plan?

Besides the reasons mentioned above about catering to guests and how that complicates the planning process, there are other reasons why intimate weddings are more work to plan vs. elopements. If you are having an intimate wedding you will most likely have some kind of dinner or reception afterwards. The ceremony location will have to be planned in close proximity to the afterparty. Location will now have to be planned around guests lodging. For an intimate wedding you might have to think about those extra elements like hiring an officiant or ceremony music.

How many guests to be considered an intimate wedding?

We have seen intimate weddings as small as 10 people, the couple and their intermediate family members, and up to 40 guest. We consider 40 guests or less an intimate wedding. Anything over a 40 person guest count, is considered a traditional wedding.

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