Updated 31 March 2021
So thanks to that pesky old pandemic, micro weddings and elopements have become ever more popular. Whilst some people just want to be married and have chosen to embrace an idea that they’d never even considered; others have found this the perfect excuse to get married how they truly wanted to, but were maybe too scared to say.
But here in the UK, and especially in Northern Ireland, the concept of an elopement is so new that there is still a lot of confusion around it. So I’m here to explain the differences between eloping and having a micro wedding.
1. How Many Guests At An Elopement?
Many people presume that by having less than 100 guests, or even under 50 guests, that their wedding is by default an elopement. It’s not.
Typically an elopement is literally just you two going off to get married ALONE. No one else. I’ve been a witness at elopements where this has been the case. I’ve even read a poem at an elopement for a couple because it is that intimate that your photographer plays a BIG part.
Whilst it has traditionally just been the couple, I do think there is some flexibility in numbers. And when couples come to me with elopement enquiries, I never base it on the numbers. But if it’s more than just immediate family or a couple of friends, I think you’re moving into micro wedding territory by default. The more people attending, the more organising and the less it is about just you two and you two only.
Micro Weddings in my eyes are weddings of 50 guests or less, but for the purposes of what I do as a photographer, this has no bearing on what I offer in a wedding package.
2. What is the Format Of An Elopement?
The format for me is the biggest difference between a (micro) wedding and an elopement. With an elopement, the rule book is out the window. Anything that resembles a ‘typical’ wedding doesn’t really happen. An elopement is based entirely on the couple and them having an adventure of a lifetime.
Ways in which the format of an elopement differs include:
- The couple gets ready together or in the same place.
- A ‘first look’ for the couple.
- Ceremonies are personalised for the couple and tend not to follow a set format.
- They write their own vows or write letters to each other.
- It happens either super early or super late in the day around sunrise or sunset.
- There isn’t a wedding breakfast or formal dinner; instead they might include a picnic or pints in a local bar.
- ‘Formalities’ don’t exist at an elopement so things like speeches or cutting cakes don’t happen.
Micro weddings tend to follow some sort of format. So there will be formalities such as family photos or speeches or cake cutting or first dance.
3. Ireland Elopement Locations
Elopements are adventures. They include embracing all that the couple loves and typically that includes nature and the outdoors. Elopements tend to happen outdoors and that means embracing the weather, no matter what it might be.
Wind, rain or shine, elopements are about you getting married and the story of that moment. If that includes rain, that makes it even more epic.
For those couples that do want to get married indoors, it tends to naturally progress into a micro wedding as venues and locations typically have set numbers and minimum fees, especially here in Northern Ireland.
If you want to book a ‘venue’ where you plan to eat and host guests then you’re having a micro wedding rather than an elopement, even if it’s outdoors.
There are a few locations on the Causeway Coast where you can have ceremony only indoors on weekdays. These include:
4. When Should You Elope in Ireland?
By their nature, elopements tend to happen on weekdays. As vendors, we are normally unable to accommodate elopements on weekends.
More than that, as elopements tend to include exploring beautiful spots, these are much quieter during weekdays allowing for the privacy to explore. Weekends mean lots of tourists and that makes it harder to get access and no chance of having the place to yourself.
Seasons are also important when it comes to elopements. Whilst weddings tend to be more popular in summer; elopements tend to work best in Spring, Autumn and Winter. This is because you’re working around the sun and in Summer sunset is just so late that you wouldn’t be getting married until around 8pm. So in NI I always recommend eloping between September and March.
5. The Focus of A Wedding Vs Elopement
The biggest difference between a (micro) wedding and an elopement is the focus. And please remember that I don’t think one of these is better than the other. I had a micro wedding myself but I love planning and shooting elopements. It all comes down to you as a couple, and what you want.
From what I’ve learned and research carried out by Adventure Instead the biggest difference is that elopements are focused entirely on the couple. Completely and utterly. Nothing else comes into the equation. No family politics. ‘Should’ is never featured in the conversation about an elopement. Elopements are a day planned around celebrating a couple’s commitment to each other in the most unique way possible for that couple.
By comparison weddings by nature have a focus on the event that it becomes. Making sure guests are well fed and accommodated. And that it’s the best party possible to celebrate the commitment of the couple at the heart of this community. The couple remain at the heart, but it’s bigger than just them. It’s about their family, friends and loved ones as well.
There are pros and cons to both. And there are ways to have both. You can have an elopement and then have a party afterwards. You can have a wedding and then head off for a day after session or renew your vows a year later in a special elopement style ceremony just the two of you.
The possibilities are endless. And if anything, that is one of the silver linings of this pandemic, we have all been forced to think outside the box!