When it comes to deciding what size wedding is right for you, there are several factors to consider. From location, to budget, and everything in between, it can be a daunting decision. As a wedding and portrait photographer, I’ve had the honor of capturing weddings of all sizes. While it’s ultimately a personal decision, I’m happy to provide any assistance to my couples to make the decision a bit easier. I’ll be breaking down the difference between: traditional weddings, intimate (micro) weddings, and elopements (destination weddings).
A common theme to keep in mind when choosing what size wedding is right for you would be to look at location, guest list, and photography coverage. So with those things in mind, let’s dive in! I also want to throw in a little disclaimer for you to carry with you throughout wedding planning. Your wedding day can look however you want it to. If your wedding doesn’t “fit” into the definitions outlined below, that’s okay! Do what feels best for you as a couple.
Odds are, you’re most familiar with a ‘traditional wedding’. Traditional weddings are exactly as they sound; they are the kind of weddings that we grew up seeing in Disney movies and romcoms. They may include a first look, a church ceremony, a cocktail hour, first dances, bouquet tosses, etc. Of course, not every traditional wedding will have these things, but you get the idea!
Location-wise, traditional weddings take place locally for the most part. Most vendors (photographer, florist, DJ, etc.) will also be from the local area.
The guest list for a traditional wedding will typically be upwards of 75 people or more. This list may include friends of your parents’, cousins who you haven’t seen in awhile, and maybe some old friends from high school. Typically, a traditional wedding is for people who are really close to a lot of their family and friends. The thought of not getting married with them in attendance just doesn’t sit well with you! (Pssst, this is actually what my husband and I did!)
When it comes to photography coverage, a traditional wedding would likely need 8-10+ hours of coverage. This includes getting ready photos all the way through your first few dances or wedding exit at the end of your reception. Depending on the size of the guest list or wedding party, couples may also add additional hours of coverage onto the base coverage package.
An intimate wedding has many of the same inclusions as a traditional wedding, on a smaller scale. Often times, couples still keep with traditional elements of a larger wedding but they have a smaller guest list. The guest list looks like 50-75 people in attendance. While the list may be smaller, couples are still able to invite many of the most important people.
You may have also heard the term “micro wedding” since the pandemic. A micro wedding is an even smaller intimate wedding. They typically are for a guest list of less than 25 people.
One of the biggest appeals of an intimate wedding is that they are far less stressful to plan. Couples may choose to opt out of certain vendors or may have their families pitch in. Intimate weddings also take place locally for the most part, which helps with the planning stress as well.
As far as photography coverage goes, typically between 4-6 hours is needed to capture those candid moments, as well as the big ones.
It’s no secret that elopements have POPPED OFF since the pandemic. When most people think of an elopement, they think it includes just the couple and the officiant. However, much like a traditional or intimate wedding, an elopement can look however the couple wants it to. Elopements are an incredible opportunity to travel and create a really tailored experience.
Location wise, an elopement can take place anywhere! Whether it be in Greece, Thailand, or your favorite vacation spot a few states away, there’s endless options. Because most elopements take place in epic locations, couples that really value epic photos may opt for this kind of wedding.
Guest list wise, an elopement can be as small at 2 people up to probably around 10ish people. The more guests couples choose to invite, the closer it becomes to a destination wedding. Some couples wonder whether they want to have an intimate wedding or a destination-style wedding. Again, I would say the location and guest list are the biggest factors in this instance. If you’re looking for a local experience, it would likely be an intimate wedding.
Like most aspects of an elopement, the hours of photography coverage varies. Some couples may only want 2 hours, whereas other couples may opt for an elopement weekend with 8+ hours of coverage both days.
As a wedding and portrait photographer, helping my couples decide what size wedding to have is something that is important to me. I want each and every couple to know that they have the freedom to stray from tradition and create the experience that most resonates with them. It can be so easy to get caught up in doing what your family wants, rather than taking matters into your own hands. But this is your reminder that it is your wedding; nobody else’s.
If you still have questions or need some further guidance on deciding what size wedding is best for you, I’d love to connect HERE! And as always, you can find me over on Instagram (@alyssaashley_photography). Happy wedding planning, friend!