Yes, there's a difference between an elopement and a small wedding.
couple in snow

What could be more romantic than marrying each other in an intimate ceremony no one else knows about? What about tying the knot in a ceremony with just a few loved ones watching? If you're thinking about eloping, pick the version that's right for you.

Elopement Defined, Two Ways

The traditional definition of an elopement is wedding with just the bride and groom present that is done in secrecy-family and friends are told about the "I dos" only after they've taken place. But lately the definition has taken on an alternate meaning: marrying in the presence of a handful of guests (usually no more than four) in a courthouse or faraway place, similar to a destination wedding venue. Both definitions require a marriage license from the county where the wedding will take place, an officiant, and a witness (who may or may not know the couple).

When It's Planned Ahead

While some couples still choose the classic spur-of-the-moment Vegas variety or local courthouse model, more and more couples are going for an elopement that's carefully planned several months in advance. Whether it's just the two of them or a small band of loved ones accompanying them, couples are choosing scenic, Instagram-ready places, from the Bahamas to the Smoky Mountains to elope.

Getting a Pro's Help

An elopement planner is like a wedding planner with a lot less to do. She doesn't have to worry about caterers, DJs, or seating arrangements for 150 guests as a traditional planner would. Some work for a specific hotel or resort; others have no such affiliation and can do everything from scouting wedding venues to helping you get dressed on your wedding day.


Many couples are attracted to elopement packages, which can be as simple as including an officiant and witness, fresh flower bouquet, wedding cake, and Champagne at an inn in New York's Adirondacks to an elaborate affair in the south of France.


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