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The Differences Between Traditional vs. Destination vs. Micro vs. Elopement Weddings

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

West Virginia Elopement - Wild North Weddings - Elopement Photographer

Getting engaged is one of the most exciting moments in someone's life! But often the moments of joy are interrupted by family, friends, and co-workers immediately asking what the big plans are. And that's surely stressful because you haven't even begun to think about the possibilities there are with wedding planning, and surely don't know where to start. The most important thing to decide first is what style of wedding will make you most happy.

There are many more options than just having a large, traditional weddings, but with so many buzzwords being thrown around these days, who's to know the difference between them all? From someone who's photographed pretty much any style and size wedding that you can imagine, I'm here to help clear the air! Here's my list of different wedding styles that everyone should consider before they start planning the big day. And remember - no matter what style of wedding you choose, they're all equally as important and exciting! Not every wedding is perfect for every couple, so it's important to choose the type of day that speaks to your heart.

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Traditional Weddings

Up first is the most common style of wedding - the big, traditional, wedding celebration! When you go this route, you're inviting all of your family & friends to witness the occasion and treating them to dinner, drinks, and a good time on the dance floor.

  • Large guestlist - 50+

  • Average cost around $29,000 (in the US for the year 2019)

  • Close to home

  • Includes the usual traditions - ceremony, cocktail hour, reception

  • Hosted at a church or venue

Pros: You get an opportunity to see all of your family and friends, you have a day where everyone is celebrating the two of you, and you get to have an amazing evening on the dance floor with your favs!

Cons: Planning can be stressful (hire a planner or day-of-coordinator - they're worth it!), it's a large financial and time commitment, often couples are faced with family & friend drama in the process.

New Orleans Destination Wedding - Wild North Weddings - Elopement Photographer

Destination Weddings

Everyone loves a getaway, and what better reason to get out of the house than a destination wedding? They're basically transplanted traditional weddings. You're inviting many family and friends to join you for a ceremony at a venue in a beautiful location far from home, followed by dinner, drinks, and dancing!

  • Large guestlist - 50+

  • Cost depends on the location, and will often include welcome dinners and post-wedding brunches for guests as well.

  • Includes ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception

  • Hosted at a hotel, resort, or venue that reflects the local culture.

Pros: You and your guests get to experience a beautiful destination together, you have a day where everyone is celebrating the two of you, your photos will be stunning, and you'll all get a vacation out of the experience!

Cons: Planning can be stressful, especially from afar (hire a wedding planner - seriously!), large financial and time commitments for you and your guests, resorts can often require you to use their own vendors who's work you may not love, you still have that family & friend drama.

Pittsburgh Wedding - Wild North Weddings - Elopement Photographer


Micro-weddings are a scaled-down version of their traditional sister! There's no shame in wanting to keep your guest list tight. It allows you to invest in a better experience for those select people, rather than spread your budget across entertaining many more.

  • Guestlist between 25-50

  • Cost is based on what you place value in. You can splurge or save on things like your dress, dinner, and decorations

  • Usually in a family church, back yard, or local park for the ceremony

  • Dinner & drinks in a back yard, favorite restaurant, or a park pavilion

  • Can include ceremony and a celebration afterward, whether it's just dinner or a low-key backyard BBQ with fun lasting into the night

Pros: Much less stressful, costs less than traditional weddings, a nice, casual affair for you and your guests!

Cons: A lot more setup, cleaning, and DIY projects involved for you and family when you're in a backyard or park

Cook Forest Elopement - Wild North Weddings - Elopement Photographer

Adventurous Elopement

Adventurous elopements can be whatever is adventurous to you! Whether it's hitting the trails of a national park, or it's exploring a new exciting city, this is another wedding opportunity to invest in whatever it is that would make your heart most happy. You can take the entire $29k budget and turn it into an amazing wedding/vacation experience for the two of you. Because you have a much smaller guest list, you can plan other activities into the day, like tours, breweries, a picnic, kayaking, etc. And most importantly, you can spend the day focused on one another vs. worrying about other guests.

  • Guestlist from 0 to 25 people

  • Cost is value-based, meaning you're spending money on what makes you happy and leaving out what doesn't. Often the only vendor you're paying for is a photographer!

  • Usually in a park or small venues with Elopement specials

  • Can be close to home or at a far-away destination

  • Includes a ceremony (doesn't have to be the legally binding type) and whatever other activities you want to include in the day

Pros: You'll spend more time with each other and focus the day on the two of you, you get your wedding and honeymoon rolled into one big trip, you're investing your wedding budget on the two of you or just close family & friends, you'll have an amazing experience and story to tell at the end of it all!

Cons: You'll need to figure out permits and regulations within parks, the weather can cause issues, and your family & friends may not get to share the experience with you.

(PRO TIP: Hire an elopement photographer and GUIDE (like Wild North Weddings!) - someone who specializes in adventure weddings, that will help you scout out the perfect destinations and trails, get the scoop on necessary permits, and can advise you on what to pack and expect.)

Pittsburgh Wedding - Wild North Weddings - Elopement Photographer

Court House Elopement

Often when someone thinks about eloping, their minds go straight to a courthouse elopement. It's a pretty low-stress, no-frills way of having a ceremony, which can be absolutely perfect for the right people! Whether it's a big, city courthouse with amazing architecture, or just your local magistrate, when you want to get the deed done and just be married, it's the perfect way to go. You can invite family and friends or keep it low-key with just the two of you. Go out for a nice dinner afterward, or just grab your favorite pizza and pour a bottle of champagne for yourselves! There's no shame in keeping this quick, private, and casual. Many couples will have an adventure session later in the day (or another day) to remember this exciting time in their lives together!


Take an evening, make a date night out of it, and have a fun discussion with your fiancé about what style of wedding would make you most happy!

Take family and friends' opinions out of the discussion and do things your way! They have the opportunity to have their own wedding their way, and you only get one chance to make it your perfect day.

Have questions about one option over another? Don't hesitate to reach out! I'm happy to discuss the possibilities with you so you're making an educated and well-thought-out decision that fits your perfect vision!

And whenever you're ready, check out the packages available with me at Wild North Weddings to get the perfect documentation of your wedding day no matter what style you choose!

Traditional Weddings in Pennsylvania


Destination Elopement Photographer - Wild North Weddings

Hey there! I'm Carly D'Angelo-Hall - a photographer specializing in documenting weddings and elopements across the U.S. If you love adventure, experiencing new things, and if you like to live "outside of the box", let's talk about how I can help you create and capture the wedding day of your dreams! Visit to view all-inclusive wedding day and adventure session packages. Wild North Weddings is an elopement and adventure wedding photographer documenting weddings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sedona, Arizona, Glacier National Park, Montana, Grand Tetons National Park, Montana, Rocky Mountain National Park, Taos, New Mexico, Acadia National Park, Smokey Mountain National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Mt. Ranier National Park, the Pacific North West, and more!


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