Christina Julia Photography


What are the differences between a wedding, an intimate wedding, and an elopement?

Once you’re engaged you’ll delve into the planning process. You’ll decide how you want your special day to be represented and it’s more than just about the colors or fabrics. You need to decide on what kind of wedding you actually want. Do you want a traditional wedding, an intimate wedding or an elopement?

Did you even know that there were three options?

So, what are the differences between a wedding, an intimate wedding, and an elopement?



Most people are familiar with the term wedding. A traditional wedding usually involves a fairly large guest list (100+ guests) and has the traditional elements of a ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. Because of the size you also find yourself needing a large enough venue to accomodate the day’s events as well as all the guests.

Usually the couple gets some financial assistance from their parents to help pay for the wedding which means the parents are then able to add to the guest list count. More guests translates to more seating arrangements, more place cards, more favors, more everything. Which then translates into more planning.

At a traditional wedding you’ll find a catered, formal, sit down dinner. You will also usually find a large setup of various desserts. If you’re a lucky wedding guest you may even get treated to a venetian dessert hour. YUM!

You’ll also find a lot of interludes at the reception: bouquet toss, garter throw, parent dances, first dance, toasts, anniversary dance, dollar dance, the shoe game…the list goes on.

Because a wedding is such a large scale event you usually need a lot of help in planning which translates into a lot of hands in the pot. The downfall to that is you then get a lot of opinions involved and it can be hard to say ‘no thank you’ when you don’t want to hurt people’s opinions.

Intimate Wedding

An intimate wedding closely resembles a traditional wedding but with less bells and whistles and a few key differences.

One of the most notable differences between the two is the final guest count. Typically an intimate wedding maxes out at about a 70 person guest list. If you’re speaking on the more stricter side you may find resources say the guest list would max out at 50.

Another difference you may find is how the flow of the days events plays out. Instead of there being a seperate cocktail hour and reception will find one big relaxed atmosphere. There would still be a celebratory dinner and there may still be an interlude for a first dance or a shared dessert but most likely you would not find any traditional wedding elements such as bouquet or garter toss.

Smaller details throughout the day may also not be present such as place card holders and assigned seating.

To ensure the intimate wedding emotion is conveyed throughout the day you will find the location choices evoke a very soft and intimate feel. A cozy restaurant, a twinkle lit tree canopy in a forest, or even the backyard of someone’s home would be a beautiful setting. You will also not usually find lavish decor but that is not to say there are still not beautiful elements.

Intimate weddings are some of the most beautifully decorated weddings I’ve ever seen. Without the focus being on 100+ guests and a large wedding venue the details a couple choose to have can be completed with quality craftsmanship.


At its core an elopement is when the focus is solely on the couple getting married without any distraction of overwhelming details. Couples choose to elope because they don’t want to deal with the stress and planning of an extravagant wedding. They want their special day to be a true representation of them with a focus on what they want.

Some couples want to elope on their own with no one else except their photographer or videographer. They want the privacy and specialness of keeping the event as something only shared between themselves. Other times you might see an elopement that includes the couple and 5-10 of the closest friends or family.

Now, an elopement can happen a few different ways. The couple can do the courthouse thing back home. The couples saves the dressing up and personal vow exchange for the elopement day itself. A couple can also option to have an officiant join them on their elopement day for a private ceremony. The ceremony can also be officiated and witnessed by the small group of family and friends that joins them.


There’s no wrong way to get married. You want to always make sure though that the day represents the two of you. Your special day shouldn’t be about anyone else, they’re not starting their life with you, you’re starting it together so make sure the decisions you make are together. Regardless of the differences between a wedding, an intimate wedding, and elopement you can’t go wrong because at the end of the day you’ll be married to your best friend!


Want to know which 5 vendors you should hire for your elopement? Check out THIS blog!

Is eloping in Yosemite on your mind? Check out THIS blog!

Check out THIS Irish countryside inspired sunrise session!

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What are the differences between a wedding, an intimate wedding, and an elopement?

  1. […] Want to know the differences between a wedding, intimate wedding, and elopement? Check out THIS blog! […]

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