Is eloping right for you?

Eloping: it's arguably one of the biggest wedding trends right now, but is it right for you?

Eloping with your loved one ditches the formalities of the traditional wedding, offering many benefits... and a few drawbacks. While it can be glorified and romanticized, it's not for everyone.

As special as eloping can be, we want to help you make the right choice. In this post, we share the pros and cons of eloping versus having a traditional wedding.

For the record, when we say "elopement," we mean a “true” elopement. Just you, your spouse and your witness, officiant, or photographer, and maybe a few others who are near and dear to you.

Ready to see if eloping is right for you? Let’s dive in.

The Pros of Eloping

It costs less: If you're trying to save money on your wedding, eloping is definitely in your favor. Most couples with a more formal and elaborate elopement can spend up to $6,000 or more, but you can spend as little as $200 if you go and get your marriage certificate from your local county/courthouse and celebrate with a nice dinner afterwards.

That sounds pretty nice when the average cost of weddings in the U.S. with an average of 150 guests is $35,000...

It’s very intimate: There are few things more special than sharing your wedding day with your spouse. Duh, it's your wedding day! However, between mingling with guests, family, dancing, and formalities, most couples hardly spend any time together on their wedding day.

If you decide to elope, it means the day is entirely yours from beginning to end. You have the undivided attention of your new spouse, you can share your vows and be as vulnerable and honest as you want, and you can choose to do whatever you'd like with your day.

It’s all yours: There's a little bit of internal rebellion that you might feel with eloping, and it's incredibly fun. David & I eloped for our wedding, and we loved every second of it.

Wear whatever you want, choose whatever location you want, heck… run away to Vegas and spend the rest of the night playing slots and boozing it up on the strip! Or, if you’re more outdoorsy, spend it hiking to a crazy mountain top just to say your vows… then spend the rest of the evening snuggling up in a cabin.

Elopements are kind of crazy and most of your family might think you're a little rebellious, but it’s all yours. And that’s special.

It helps you prioritize your budget: If your dream dress costs $3000, chances are you can afford to buy that dress because you won't have the insanely high costs of a wedding to also factor in if you're eloping.

You can also invest much more into a photographer and videographer to capture the special moments of your day. When you elope, you can choose what is most important to spend money on, whereas having a traditional wedding means having to make sacrifices just to cover the costs of guests, a venue, catering, a DJ, and much more.

It’s way less stressful: Elopements are a beautiful, stress-free way to celebrate your commitment to marriage. You don't need to think about all the crazy details to organize or if your family from out of town will make it on time!

Elopements are so carefree you'll probably constantly feel like you've forgotten something, and that helps you focus on what’s most important on your wedding day: the commitment you’re making to your spouse.

the cons of eloping

Not having your entire family with you: We love elopements and specialize in coverage for them, but we understand that eloping does come with drawbacks.

One that we typically see (and experienced ourselves) is not having all of your family or friends to celebrate with you. Most couples who have eloped will tell you that as much as they loved their elopement and would never change their decision, it was still hard to not have your family with them.

The solution? Remind yourself that your elopement is for you, and plan a date in the future for a reception with all of your loved ones. This way, if you decide to elope, you can still celebrate with your family and friends and make incredible memories in the first few months of your marriage.

They happen quickly: Elopements happen in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, you're married and your intimate wedding has passed. This is in contrast to a traditional wedding, which is usually a weeklong event complete with rehearsal dinners, venue set up, partying at the reception, and breakfast after the wedding with family.

Most elopements, complete with portraits and even some quirky in between moments like a fun meal or a hike through a forest don't take much more than 5 hours. And with all of that emotion and adrenaline, 5 hours can feel like 5 minutes.

The solution? Build special moments into your elopement day that can be captured by your photographer and videographer. Besides our elopement in Joshua Tree, David and I had our rings tattooed on together before the ceremony, celebrated special traditions during our ceremony, and afterwards, had dinner together at a diner with our photographer. We wrapped up our evening at a resort together, cuddled by the fire next to the pool in Palm Springs, reminiscing in the beauty of our special day, making hours feel like years.

pros of a traditional wedding

You get to revel in the details: If you're a “details” kind of person, then you’ll love having a traditional wedding. They’re jam packed with special details like the amazing wall your father helped your build for your photo booth backdrop, or the doughnut table you helped decorate, the peach linen you used for the table-scapes and the overwhelming amount of foliage and flowers you have decorating your venue.

Details are what makes a wedding unique, and elopements don't always have that same level of complexity and detail that so many people love.

You get to make many memories: Traditional weddings are basically one giant party. If you're an outgoing and sociable person, you’ll probably love hosting a wedding. You create so many memories with friends and family… like the way your grandma and grandpa were dancing together, or how your brother smashed cake in his wife's face.

Weddings help craft family memories, and chances are your entire family is going to appreciate those memories for years to come. It might be your grandmas last chance to boogie with you on the dancefloor, and she'll probably hang that wedding photo of you above her mantle piece for the rest of her life.

You get a TON of gifts: Okay lets be honest here. While a wedding is certainly not just about the gifts, it can be especially luring to have one when you hear how much a couple gets gifted on their wedding day. Sometimes it's enough to cover the entire cost of their wedding and more!

In contrast, having an elopement means you go into marriage with very little gifts or none at all. This was the story for David and I, and we happily accepted that this was the case. When you elope, you often have to start from scratch and buy yourself all the necessities for your home.

With a wedding, your registry can be set up to ask your guests to purchase items that will help you start your life with the things you need most. And, FYI - the average cash gift amount is $160 per couple who attends your wedding.

You’re treated like royalty: On your wedding day, you will likely have everything done for you. You’ll never be hungry, you’ll constantly have drinks handed to you, people will fix your clothes for you, and most everyone will go out of their way just to make sure your day is perfect.

Who doesn’t like being treated like royalty? Your wedding day will give you this, and it’s certainly a wonderful experience to consider when making your decision.

cons of a traditional wedding

They require intense planning: Weddings can take months or even years to plan, especially if you don't have a planner. That means a lot of time, stress, emailing and decisions to make about things you need to have for the day.

Planning a wedding out of state can make this process even more difficult. The solution? If you decide to have a traditional wedding, hire a planner. Your life will be so much easier, and they’re worth every penny.

(P.S. - If you’re getting married in Portland or the surrounding area, check out our Portland Wedding Guidebook - we give you all the information you need to have an amazing wedding day, including our favorite wedding planner! Click here for the Guidebook)

They’re exhausting - This ties in to everything else we've spoken about for weddings. Simply put, weddings are exhausting. You'll probably want to fall asleep by the time you say "I do", so don't be surprised if the adrenaline rush of your vows coincides with completed exhaustion.

The Solution? You usually NEED a honeymoon by the time your wedding is over, just to recover from how socially and mentally draining it is to host 100+ guests. Plan accordingly and take some time off with each other following your wedding day.

so… what should you choose?

Between David and I, we've figured out the perfect way to have the best of both worlds.

Have you ever seen The Office? If yes, we're immediately friends; if no, go and watch it now. We think Jim & Pam do it right. Make your legal ceremony private by sharing your intimate vows privately in a place YOU want, the way YOU want it, and make it epic and beautiful.

Share those moments intimately with your spouse, and celebrate a week or two later by doing a unity ceremony - exchanging of the rings, tying of the hands, sand pouring. You can still share a special letter with each other, and your wedding day isn't less special because you're already legally married. Heck, if you really don't want to tell people, keep it a secret until the end of the night!

We’ve worked with dozens of couples who have taken this approach, and each of them say it was one of the best decisions they’ve made after weighing the pros and cons of eloping and a traditional wedding.

Whatever you decide, we hope that this article helps. At Indwell, we consider ourselves more than photographers - we’re wedding professionals, and we want to help make your special day the best that it can be.

If you want to talk about how we can help you document your wedding or elopement in a special way, please get in touch with us. We’d love to help you make your day special. Click here to get in touch.