2020 changed the wedding industry in so many ways. I have always photographed 1-2 really small weddings per year since becoming a full-time wedding photographer. However, 2020 was the year where I photographed six intimate weddings/elopements. When social gathering restrictions were put in place, some clients chose to have their wedding with just their immediate family. (Don’t worry, all of those weddings kept their guest count under the mandated limit at that time.) 2020 gave me a huge love for intimate weddings. Today I’m sharing five reasons why having an elopement or intimate wedding might be for you!
What is an Elopement/Intimate Wedding?
First of all, throughout the rest of this post I will be using the terms elopement and intimate wedding interchangeably. This is because an elopement doesn’t necessarily mean a “shotgun wedding” the way it used to. An elopement can also have a few guests! To me, an elopement or intimate wedding is any untraditional wedding day with few or no guests. Elopements focus more on what they day represents rather than all of the events that are part of a traditional wedding day. They can also be planned several months in advance, just like a typical wedding. (I often book elopements up to a year out!) Here are three examples of an intimate wedding that I’ve photographed within the past year:
- Bride + groom with around 20-30 of their family members outside of the little white church their family attends. After the ceremony, there was an intimate dinner with everyone seated at one table. (You can see this wedding here!)
- Bride + groom with only an officiant and a photographer. They tied the knot at a quarry before spending a couple of hours hiking and taking portraits together.
- Bride + groom with only an officiant (the bride’s mother), and three loved ones. They got ready at a local cabin, then had their ceremony at Cades Cove. (These are the photos I’m using in this blog post!)
Now let’s get into those five reasons why you might want to elope!
With an elopement, you can really limit your guest list! I have photographed a few intimate weddings with 10-20 guests, while other couples chose to only have their parents there. (I even photographed one elopement where I was the only “guest”. Guess who got to be their witness on the marriage license?) If having several people at your wedding is not something you’re interested in, having an elopement gives you the opportunity to have only immediate family, your best friends, your pets, or even no one at your wedding! If partying with 150 of your loved ones sounds like something that would excite you and fill you up, then a big wedding is definitely the route you want to go. However, if the thought of that gives you anxiety or makes you feel drained, then an elopement is probably more your speed.
This is similar to my first tip. There are so many intimate moments on a wedding day. From a first look, to the moment you say your vows, your first kiss, and so many moments in between, a wedding day is ultimately about the two of you and the commitment you are making. With an elopement, all of those moments will be even more private! Instead of worrying about 150 people staring at you as you make this commitment, you can make that moment as private as possible. Every couple has moments on their wedding day that they want to be more intimate, and having an elopement allows for the entire day to have that feeling.
With an elopement, you can use your pre-planned budget amount for other things! Splurge on the wedding vendors you will use (photographer, videographer, location, etc.), use that money for your honeymoon, or save it for a down-payment for a home! Elopements don’t necessarily equal cheap, but since you won’t be paying for catering for 150 guests, bouquets for several bridesmaids, bartending, etc., you can use the funds you would have needed for those things for whatever else you’d like!
If you’re having an intimate wedding, you often won’t necessarily pay for a full wedding venue package, as many venues have packages for smaller weddings. You can also choose to have your elopement in a local park or even in your own backyard! One popular location for elopements in East Tennessee is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While you do have to pay to have your wedding there, the fee is much smaller than renting an entire wedding venue! (I’m also permitted to photograph anywhere in the GSMNP, and I love shooting elopements there!)
Like many photographers, I offer elopement packages for weddings under a certain guest count and with less hours. If you’re having a smaller wedding and there are less guests to capture, then we have even more time for portraits of the two of you and the guests that you have there! You can also hire a photographer for the entire day to still capture you getting ready, all of your portraits, your ceremony, and whatever special dinner/reception/time with loved ones you’re having at the end of the day. You can have a photographer there for as little or as much time as you’d like! I’ve photographed intimate weddings that were ten hours of coverage, and I’ve photographed others that were just three hours.
I hope this blog post was helpful if you are considering having an elopement.
Want to see more wedding planning tips? Click here!
I’m a wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Knoxville, Tennessee but available anywhere. If you have questions about booking me for a session or wedding, click here! To follow me on social media, check out my Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.