Debbie Elisa Photography

Difference with Weddings and Elopements

May 30, 2021

Which is your wedding style

Wedding or Elopement, let’s see what the difference is between them. In a world where things are so damn crazy with all kinds of shit going on, it’s so nice to know and see people living their lives and still making plans for the future.

So, are you planning a blow out wedding? Is a wedding, but more on the intimate side, your kind of style? Or are you the ones that like to keep things secret and just the two of you, with MAYBE a few good people at your side? Well I am going to chat with you about all three styles so you can choose which is right for you. We will chat about guest list, amount of vendors, and the price of it all. There are lots to consider when you are getting married and sometimes ‘traditional’ comes to mind of fairy tales and knights in shining armor. That’s all amazing and sounds really good…but not everyone wants this style. So for those that are wanting to keep something traditional for mom and grandma, but totally want to do things your way, here are some helpful tips and guides for you to make the perfect decision that suits your needs and style. Let’s get this going shall we.

Traditional Big Time Wedding

Maybe not necessarily a princes style but the lavish, grand show of it all is more your style right. A gorgeous venue such as a mansion, or even a castle. A horse drawn carriage, 8 maids and men, a string quartet, live band/or an amazing DJ, a high end photographer and cinematographer, who are well known in the world, the amazing floral decor EVERYWHERE such as table tops, bouquets, ceremony hall, reception hall, or an outside set up with chairs, and some form of arch that is decked out in all your colors. A well known and established hair/makeup team. The food OMG the most elegant and amazing food possible for your 100+guest list of many options to choose from. Some wine? Champagne? We cannot forget the alcohol. What is a party without the bubbly. Let’s not forget the decorated rentals of the chairs and tables, as well as linens themselves. And who’s running this shindig? Why your fairy godmother of course, a wedding planner/coordinator and their team of mice are around to help your day run as smooth as possible. And last, but the most important part, the WEDDING DRESS.

Now out of all of that one thing we need to factor in is the location for the wedding. Most of the time we don’t want to pay for our vendors to travel, besides a photographer and cinematographer, so we will be asking around and doing research into local vendors and or asking for referrals from the venue. I am going to select any state off the top of my head and give a total cost of everything above then try to break it down as best I can.

If you live in Maryland and want to incorporate everything on this list of vendors, you could roughly be looking at a bill of about $35,000. But remember, this is top of the line premium vendors and it could be more or less depending on what you feel you want and how many guests you have. But let’s just break it down by vendor.

Engagement ring$5,764
Reception band$4,019
Ceremony site$2,311
Wedding/event planner$2,988
Wedding dress$1,509
Rehearsal dinner$1,285
Reception DJ $1,231
Hair and makeup$966
Ceremony musicians$761
Wedding cake$540
Groom’s attire$286

So We come up a little less than what the average cost would be (according to Keep in mind these are AVERAGE, so a total of all prices combined. DJ’s, Video/photographer, musicians, are really done by the hours needed. And if you have an all day wedding of 8+ hours (which most are 10-12 hours) these vendors will be 2-4 times the amount listed…keep that in mind! Otherwise if you go cheap…you get what you paid for hunny.

So yay! You have a list to go by. So, looking at this and your actual budget, how does this all sound? Does it tickle your fancy? If you can swing this, more power to you girlfriend.

As an introvert myself, this all seems way over the top, but if this is your personality, and character, and you have a larger than life mentality and this is and has always been, your dream, then go for it. It will be a spectacular event indeed!

Moving on too…

Intimate Weddings

Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club, Tampa, Florida

Okay so now we get to scale down a bit from a traditional style wedding. Most couples stay within the this intimate wedding event as they want to keep things smaller but still amazing, with close friends and family. The guest count normally stays within 50 persons, but some have had close to 75.

Normally the cost of a small intimate wedding will run you about $10,000 or less, again depending on the vendors, the hours wanted/needed and cost per guest. For this I am going to list in a simple format the kinds of vendors you would need to look into. The point of an intimate wedding is to have the same experience as a more lavish wedding, with less the cost.

Average cost of services for an intimate wedding:

The Barn at Odgen Commons Wedding
The Barn at Odgen Commons, Maryland
  • Food: $1,750 ($35 per person which factors in serving and delivery costs)
  • Ceremony and reception site (with chair and table rentals): $4,000 (with a smaller guest list, you have many unconventional options. Ask around local museums, small town tourist attractions, farms, community centers, campsites, and more!)
  • Attire: $500-$1000 (there are many small boutiques that have amazing dresses for a fraction of the original price of larger wedding dress chains, it all depends on where you go and the style you want)
  • Bar: $750 (based on having a limited bar and buying the alcohol yourselves)
  • Music: $250 for speaker rental equipment (couple makes their own playlist, no DJ or band)
  • Flowers and other decor: $0
  • Make-up and hair: $0 (use what you already own and do it yourself, if not you could spend upwards of $500-$1000 on HMUA’s for you, the maids, and the moms)
  • Photography: $150/hour for a new photographer; $300+/hr for a more seasoned photographer (what you wish to spend on photography is up to you, but remember, you get what you paid for)
  • Miscellaneous: $300 (for items not listed such as favors and gifts, and wiggle room if some items are more expensive than intended)
  • Save the Dates & Invitations: DIY crafts will be your best option to save on money. Etsy has some amazing options and you would be supporting a small business owner. At most you could be looking at $300 and under. OR you can send everyone an email which costs $0 but I am including the cost just in case.
  • Engagement ring…not as high as above, some stores have such gorgeous rings that if you are more of an simple gal but loves bling, local jewelry stores might be a good fit. I wanted a tattoo of his name but my husband was like…naw we not doing that
  • Event Planner: Day of coordinator could be $1000, and partial planning could be $2k.

Total: A bit over $9k. Looks a hell of a lot better than an almost $40,000 option.

Sometimes you can actually get the venue and catering for one packaged deal that will include table rentals and linens. This might be between $2500-$4000 depending on venue and options you select. If you can find something that does a lot for a little, go with that option because it will save you money in the end. At Destination GodBug in North Charleston South Carolina, my brother rented the hall and outdoor space complete with catering and rentals for just under $2800. The flowers were wood flowers, which cut down on cost dramatically and left more options to put towards other areas of the wedding. You can go with fake flowers from a craft store, but don’t expect the images to look how you might think, fake flowers do not photograph well at all.

So gather up those friends who know you through and through, and the family members that you are closest with (don’t be afraid to not invite someone, this is about making sure your day is what you want), and get to celebrating.

Next up…

Elopements and Elopement Weddings

Difference with Weddings and Elopements

Elopement back in the day meant you ran off to get married because of a pregnancy, or because you were so in love and even though your parents didn’t like the person you ran off to get married and live a happy long life. So there are a few differences that stand out when thinking of an elopement. The location, guest count and other vendors.

  • Location of the ceremony: The venue can be literally anywhere the sun shines upon. Parks, lakes, rivers, mountains, your backyard, a courthouse, pretty much anywhere.
  • Reception: There isn’t one. Once that ceremony is complete, that’s it. No food, no first dances or cutting the cake. Since the reception doesn’t exist, this cuts back so much on the cost.
  • Florals: A bouquet for you if you want a large wild boho style will cost about $200 or less depending on what flowers you want.
  • Attire: Now some brides will still go and get a dress which is fine. That could run you $500-$1500 depending on what you want, and then what he will wear could be upwards of $500.
  • Photographer: $500+ for a new photographer or a more experienced photographer that knows what they are doing will be about $1500+. Again, you get what you paid for.
  • Rings: Some don’t worry about it. Not right now anyway, or it might just be a simple solid band that you have. Which is elegant and only provides a visual that you are loved and taken by a person who can’t live without you.

I mean that’s really about it. The focus is entire on you. No one else but you. Now, if you have parents and siblings, by all means invite them. If that is what you want. Elopement don’t have rules but if you are trying to keep things cost savvy, keep the guest count under 20.

Let’s say you want to have 20 people attend, but you also want a reception to sit and eat, and have fun with everyone to celebrate. That is totally an option. Not an intimate wedding but not so much a solo option either. Check into what you can do at your location. Maybe family can cook! Or maybe you know a great place that you love and see what they can do for you. Know your surroundings. Are there areas for table set up or does the place have picnic tables and such. Linens, where will you get those, and will will the table look like. Or, the reception can be at the restaurant or back a family members house. I mean the options are endless to be honest.

Why Photography is so Important

In the wake of financial stress brought on by wedding planning, couples often opt to cut their expenses by slimming down their photography budget. After all, a good professional wedding photographer can cost a few thousand dollars, and that’s no chump change. So instead, couples sometimes choose to hire an amateur student-in-training for a couple hundred, or better yet, their friend or family member has one of those flashy DSLR cameras, so they can photograph the wedding for free! 

Sounds great but can be damaging as the amateur photographer has no understanding of composition, posing, lighting, etc,. The friend or family with the flashy camera takes blurry, over exposed, or dark images that you did not envision for your wedding day.

Wedding photography is important because it will capture your day, it will capture your memories, it will tell a story, and not just any story, it will tell a beautiful story of your special day, a day you will never forget. A story that you can show friends and family, your kids, and grandchildren, something you will have and can treasure for ever. You see your flowers will wilt, your cake will quickly be eaten, your invites will be binned after the day, your dress shall be worn once, those shoes shall go back into their box, but the one thing that will forever remain constant, are your wedding day pictures. Filled with so much emotion and happiness, love and excitement. Memories will fad after some time, and will be fully restored when you open up your wedding album and see all of the amazing moments you had.

I am a Maryland and Virginia intimate wedding, elopement, and portrait photographer and I would just love to chat with you on getting your dream wedding started and help you in any way that I can. It’s hard to navigate through by yourself but someone who has lived it first hand, and helps so many others is a plus when it comes to knowing what next.


  1. […] to know which is right for you, wedding or elopement, read this blog HERE and see which one actually fits you, the couple, best! Needing help with how to create a wedding […]

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Hi, I'm Debbie

A self proclaimed badass photographer

No elegant or amazing story to tell here. My life consisted of growing up in the military from the age of 2. Settling in North Carolina, and marrying a Navy Corpsman. Three kids later, and two masters degrees into a career in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis, I decided that it was finally time to pursue a lifelong dream of mine, photography.

I started out as wanting to become a Marine Biologist/Oceanographer, and working for National Geographic, swimming with the sharks! Choices made led me down a different path and led me to where I am today. Sitting here, at the computer, writing a mini novel about my life to you.

I started my business in 2019 realizing as my oldest son graduated high school that I missed photography, I missed the interaction I could have with others, and the different lives I was able to be a part of. So, I did as allo beginner photographers did. I dusted off my only old camera, and started using my friends and family as models. Charge next to nothing for sessions, and was able to purchase mentoring sessions, business courses, posing class, 1:1 workshops, and I have learned so much and have grown tremendously within my skill and knowledge. With the help of amazing photography mentors such as Katelyn James, Alina Thomas, Joy Michelle, Megan MacPhail, India Earl, Anni Graham, Jai Long, Maddie Mae (Adventure Instead), and many more, I have been able to create an experience for my couples that is comfortable, relaxed, and crafted specifically to their style and personality


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