If you are here, the phrase, “Why don’t we elope?” has probably crossed your mind and maybe your lips. And, what did you think of? Running off together in secret to get married? (That’s what most of us think of when we hear “elope”.) The truth is, that the definition of elopements are changing. Elopements today are more about couples choosing a more intimate and romantic alternative to a traditional large wedding. So, what is an elopement exactly? In this blog post, we’ll dive into elopements, intimate weddings, and micro weddings to help you decide which is right for you.
What is an Elopement?
Elopements today are about crafting a wedding day that truly reflects the couple. They are often thought of as non-traditional, intimate, romantic, and intentional. And if there is one rule, it is that there are truly no rules when it comes to modern day elopements.
An elopement could take place on the side of a mountain or at a local resort. It could include your close family and friends or just be the two of you. You could have an intimate ceremony with just the two of you and a reception with your families. The main difference between an elopement and a traditional wedding is the focus is on the experience of the couple and not the experience of the guests.
Couples choose elopements for a number of reasons. Some couples are adventurous and want to get married on the side of a mountain. Other couples want to elope to save their money for a big financial goal (like a downpayment on a house). Some couples think it would be amazing to combine their wedding and honeymoon trip all in one!
Here is a quick Q and A to help you understand modern day elopements:
Are there guests at an elopement? Sometimes yes, sometimes no! It’s really up to the couple and what they want for their elopement. You can absolutely plan your elopement with just the two of you and no guests. If you want to invite guests, typically, it will be under 15 – 20 guests. Some states (including Arizona), require an officiant and two witnesses be present for your ceremony and to sign the marriage license. If you truly want the elopement to be the two of you, you can get legally married before your elopement.
What happens during an elopement ceremony? Most elopement ceremonies are just like any other wedding ceremony. The only difference is there are less guests. In Arizona, you will have at least an officiant and two witnesses. You will typically have a lot of input on what elements to include in your ceremony. Most eloping couples choose to exchange personal vows and rings at the minimum. If you choose to invite more guests, you can include other more “traditional” ceremony elements like having a parent walk you down the aisle.
Are elopements legal? 100%! Some states will require things like witnesses and an officiant for the ceremony and to sign the marriage license.
Do you have to elope at a courthouse? Absolutely not! You can elope pretty much anywhere! National parks, your backyard, The Grand Canyon, resorts, etc, etc, etc.
What do you do on an elopement day? There is honestly so much you can do on your elopement day! Most elopement days will include quite a few traditional elements like getting ready, the wedding ceremony, couple’s portraits, and food. One of the best parts about eloping is all the additional fun things you can add to your wedding day. Here are some ideas:
- Hot air balloon ride
- Horseback riding
- Take a rowboat onto a lake
- Grab drinks at a local brewery
- Hike up to a scenic spot for your ceremony or portraits
- Bonfire, s’mores, and stargazing
- Get tattoos
- Go on a jeep tour
- Hire a private chef
- Go for a swim
- Pop the champagne
What are Intimate Weddings?
Intimate weddings are very similar to a “traditional” wedding, but with fewer guests. Guest lists typically fall in the 20 – 75 range. The wedding day will include a ceremony and a full reception. The reception typically includes dinner, dancing, and many “traditional” reception activities. Think: first dance, parent dances, cake cutting, toasts, bouquet/garter toss, dollar dance, etc.
Couples choose intimate weddings for a variety of reasons. They may want a smaller guest list because they are more private people and don’t want to say their vows in front of their Dad’s work bestie. Or, choosing a smaller guest list may allow them to afford their dream venue. Another popular reason for having an intimate wedding is because it is a destination wedding. So, the couple are only inviting their closest friends and family who are willing to travel for their wedding.
Intimate weddings and elopements can have a big overlap. The main difference between them, is the elopement is focused more on the couple and the intimate wedding is focused more on the guests and all the wedding traditions.
What are Micro Weddings?
Micro weddings have become a super trendy term since 2020. When guest counts were limited and couples had to quickly change their wedding plans to smaller affairs, micro weddings started popping up everywhere. Many people use the term interchangeably with intimate weddings. (I seriously had a wedding planner try to tell me they specialize in micro weddings with guests counts under 125. Um, that is a standard wedding…) So, what is a micro wedding?
Micro weddings are intimate weddings with a smaller guest list (typically 20 – 50 people or less) and include a ceremony and shorter, casual reception. Sometimes the reception will just be an old school “cake and punch” reception. These receptions typically include cutting the cake, sharing toasts, and sometimes a first dance. Some couples will opt for an intimate dinner reception, but will still forgo many of the “traditional” reception activities like a bouquet toss or parent dances.
As you can see, there are many options for couples to consider when choosing their perfect wedding day. An elopement can be a great choice for couples looking for an intimate, romantic wedding day. Intimate weddings and micro weddings are also good alternatives for couples that still want the traditional experience but are hoping to keep their wedding party smaller.
If you are planning a more intimate wedding or elopement in Arizona, I would love to chat with you! Pop over to my website to learn more about how I help you plan and then photograph your best wedding day.