Elopement vs Intimate Wedding: What is the difference?

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"Intimate weddings" seem to be a buzz word in today's culture.  The idea of casting aside the large, expensive wedding hoopla for an intimate, backyard wedding, or small wedding with just close family and friends seems very appealing to many modern couples.  Modern wedding culture places so much emphasis on the dress and the venue and the florals and the cake and the pomp and circumstance -- many millennial couples are opting to go for a lower key and more thoughtful wedding celebration versus the big party.

So what is the difference between eloping and an intimate wedding?  Yes, there actually is a difference!  While they tend to be used interchangeably amidst wedding planning couples, we'll break down the differences between elopements and intimate weddings (and which one may be right for you!). 
 

ELOPEMENT

Guest Count:  Typically bride + groom + officiant + witnesses
Location:  Anywhere, but popular elopement locations include the courthouse or city hall, or vacation destinations.  Many couples opt for a picturesque location, like a tropical island or a mountain peak.
Planning:  Minimal.  Elopements are typically more spontaneous in nature and don't involve a lot of planning or details.
Lead Time:  30 days or less, typically.


INTIMATE WEDDING

Guest Count:  75 or less, give or take.  30 or less seems to be comfortable for immediate family and just very best friends!  An average smaller wedding guest counts are usually around 130-150 guests.  An intimate wedding is generally kept to just immediate family and very close friends.
Location:  Anywhere.  As long as there is a smaller guest count kept to just family and close friends, many venues are appropriate for an intimate wedding, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, backyard weddings, cabins, restaurants, breweries and more.
Planning:  More extensive and thoughtful than an elopement.  Oftentimes, the couple simply wishes to keep the guest count small for budget reasons, or to be able to splurge on their day and enjoy it in ways that they could not with a 250+ guest count.  Many of the planned details are more thoughtful and intricate, since the scale is much smaller than a regular wedding day.  A bride planning a wedding with 30 guests might splurge for a fancy invitation suite, since it is far more affordable to send just a few really great invites versus sending 100+ suites out to many family + friends.  Many couples also opt to enhance the menu and overall experience and treat their guests more indulgently than a larger wedding guest list.
Lead Time:  Intimate weddings generally are pre-planned 3-6 months + in advance, and the primarily difference between a standard wedding and an intimate wedding day is really truly just the guest count. 

 

IS MY WEDDING AN INTIMATE WEDDING OR AN ELOPEMENT?

Are you pre-planning your wedding day several months in advance and booking a venue and sending out invitations?  It's an intimate wedding.

Are you deciding to get married rather spur of the moment and with little notice?  That's an elopement.

Are you planning a smaller wedding with lots of thoughtful details and only close family + friends versus a big, fancy party?  That's an intimate wedding, but not an elopement.  If you're pre-planning a lot of details and inviting guests more than 1-2 months in advance, that is not an elopement.

Are you having a destination wedding and only inviting close family + friends?  Unless you're deciding to hop a plane with little forethought, this is an intimate wedding, not an elopement.

Are you keeping your wedding a secret and running away to get married somewhere?  That's an elopement!  Many times, they are secret until after the wedding occurs.

 

STILL NOT SURE IF YOU'RE HAVING AN ELOPEMENT OR AN INTIMATE WEDDING?  DROP US A LINE!

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