Both brides are dancing in a row of trees in the pine forest out in Orange during their intimate wedding film

What is an elopement, Intimate Wedding & Wedding | What’s the difference?

The wedding industry has been turned on its head in the last 24 months. As a result, words that were once reserved for those on the fringes of tradition are now making their way into mainstream jargon. Words like intimate wedding, micro wedding, elopement to name a few. And sure, maybe you have an idea of what they are, but not really sure where one ends and the other begins. So let’s dive in to this, shall we?

What is an elopement?

The first place to start would surely be to outline what each of the most common types of weddings are. One thing to keep in mind is that there really are no rules here. Ultimately, you could refer to an elopement as a wedding, and a wedding as an elopement. No one will stop you. So these are merely guidelines to better understand the rough boundaries.


+ Traditionally you & your partner only (but can be up to 10 guests)

+ Traditionally done in secret

+ Typically involves ceremony only, no reception

Intimate Wedding

+ Typically under 40 guests

+ Often more informal ceremony & reception

+ More about the connection between you and guests.


+ Typically a traditional wedding is above 40 guests (average wedding is 100)

+ Typically covers an entire day

+ Much more traditional

So what does that all mean?

Well basically it means this. An elopement, traditionally speaking, was something done in secret because the couple were afraid friends and family would not approve. It was often done with interracial relationships so it’s history is rooted in secrecy and bucking traditions. However, elopements have evolved in 2021 to include up to 10 guests. The bottom line is, in Australia at least, you cannot get legally married without 5 guests at your wedding, the two of you, a celebrant, and 2 witnesses. So these days elopements often include a small number of guests, usually parents and closest friends.

People tend to elope not because of historical reasons, but because they do not like the idea of having a big showy wedding. If you want to know the absolute benefits of eloping, check out this post here.

An intimate wedding, which has become much more common thanks to a certain spicy flu that we all wish we could erase from our memories is usually under 40 guests. Think of it as a wedding, but on a smaller and more unique scale. Check out this intimate wedding I shot here.

Effectively this gives people more room for creativity. It allows people to include aspects of their lives more readily. It also frees up room in the budget drastically. At an average per head cost of $150, and an average number of guests around 100, a traditional wedding costs you $15,000 as a baseline, before you add on all your other vendors.

Because of the more intimate nature (lower guest count and less stressful timeline), micro weddings (also known as intimate weddings or small weddings) create a space that gives you more time to spend with each other, or with your guests. They also give you the freedom to get married in some pretty cool locations because you don’t need to set them up for 150 people for example.

Can I see a Micro/intimate Wedding?

This was a micro wedding I shot out in country NSW. As you can see, it looks a lot less stressful. It looks a lot less rushed and a lot more laid back. That’s because it was. That is the nature of micro weddings.

Without the stress of managing and coordinating 100+ guests, you end up with a much more enjoyable day for you, your partner and your guests.

What about a traditional wedding?

Sure thing, here ya go. Traditional weddings as you can see are just far larger, more moving pieces, more work to do, but, that isn’t to say they aren’t fun. If they are what you want then you will love it.

But, if you want something more low-key, but not as low-key as an elopement, then that micro wedding setup is probably the perfect fit.

What is an elopement going to look like?

So you can’t have all the guests, and you won’t be having a big (if any) reception. So what does it look like? What am I there to photograph? Simple, your love. Your connection. I am there to photograph the connection of your souls on the biggest day of your lives. If that upsets you, then you know elopements are probably not for you, and that is ok, they’re not for everyone. But if that sounds perfect to you, then check out the gallery below where I link to a full elopement gallery I shot last year (before the spicy flu struck…again).

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    1. Yeah I get that all the time, people enquiring about their elopement with 120 guests, or talking about their wedding with just the two of them. It’s not a big deal, but often people think calling something an elopement and not a wedding can help you avoid ‘the wedding tax’, which just is not true. Firstly, there is no ‘wedding tax’, thats a total myth right? And secondly, an elopement, I guess, is less of a strict number thing, and more of an energy thing. Like you can elope with 20 people, or 2, it totally depends on how you plan to lay your day out and what you think is important to you! It is all about speaking to your vendors, especially photographer and getting their input to help you craft whatever day it is you want!

  1. This is an awesome resource! All the different terms for getting married can be so confusing so its awesome that you have laid it all out here!

    1. Agreed, I often get people enquire and they’re not sure what to call their day. It isn’t a big deal, but I know a lot of people want to elope, or want an intimate wedding, and they just want some rough guidelines on what that means, so pretty happy I could help 🙂

  2. Love the inclusion of video AND photo in this! Super informative and really helps clear up a topic that is admittedly pretty confusing!

    1. Gotta use video I reckon, people love a good vid! And yeah, dude, it is a confusing topic, because mainstream never really talks about anything other than ‘the grand traditional big wedding’, so people only really know that! Hopeful that this little slice of the internet can help reduce some of the confusion around the topic!

  3. What a stunning woodsy elopement at the bottom! Loved those very real photos, and the comparison is really helpful when it comes to these confusing terms.

  4. Very interesting read! Gives you a better idea of what kind of ceremony to go for, and what to expect. Also, the forest elopement photos in the end of the post are stunning!

  5. So much helpful information in one place and so helpful with helping couples understand the differences/similarities. Love the addition of photos and videos!

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