Did you know that the average wedding in the United States costs over $30,000?! That’s right – it’s the cost of a new car, a down payment on a house, or at least three international trips. Budget is inevitably a consideration for most eloping couples – but a small ceremony doesn’t mean your wedding day isn’t worth investing in!
But, how much does it cost to elope? What should you plan for, and what should your budget look like? This guide will answer all those questions and more – so let’s dive into the cost of eloping!
The question of “how much does it cost to elope?” is difficult to answer with a dollar amount – because every elopement is so different, and they’re so much more customizable than traditional weddings!
In many places, you can go to the courthouse and elope for under $100. Or you can fly to Greece, stay at a picturesque beach front resort, hire a private chef, and spend 5 figures. But for most couples, even the most luxurious elopement still comes out to cost less than an average traditional wedding.
While costs are certainly something to keep in mind, I believe you should invest in your elopement – because this is still your wedding day! I’ll talk more about this in the next section, but for a ballpark figure of the cost of eloping, I’d say most couples spend an average of $5000 – $15000 on an adventure elopement.
There’s a myth (a lot of them, actually) that elopements are just for couples who don’t care to invest time or money into their wedding day. Many people still imagine a courthouse wedding, with a quick vow exchange and nothing more. But, saving money is absolutely not what elopements are about! It’s a bonus, of course, but most couples choose to elope because it gives them the opportunity to decide what to spend money on – they can invest in experiences that will actually bring them joy, rather than in things they’ll use for just one day.
Choosing to elope doesn’t make your day any less meaningful, or any less worthy. If anything, I think that intentionally choosing to do what makes you happy and what reflects the two of you as a couple makes your elopement even more special! So don’t go the courthouse-quickie route (unless that’s what really speaks to you). Plan a day that’s meaningful, fun, adventurous, and one that you’ll remember and love celebrating every year for the rest of your life!
The standard “wedding blueprint” is that of a big, traditional wedding. But an elopement budget is going to look a lot different!
When you’re creating your budget, talk with your partner about what’s important to you, what you want for your elopement day, and what you don’t want – this will help you decide where your money goes, and get you on the same page. Here are some things that your elopement budget may include and some things to think about when it comes to the cost of eloping – but remember, everything about an elopement is customizable, so you may not have all of these things on your list.
One of the first decisions you’ll make is where your elopement will take place! It can be somewhere close to home, keeping costs low, or you can have a destination ceremony somewhere across the globe.
Don’t forget to consider lodging too – which can range from free camping to luxurious stays. Most couples fall somewhere in between, with a nice Airbnb rental!
To ensure you’re legally married, you will need a marriage license. The cost will depend on where you get married, but marriage licenses usually range between $100 – $200. Check with the local county clerk to find out for sure!
Some elopement locations require a permit for an elopement ceremony. These usually range from $25 – $400, with national parks typically being the most expensive (still cheaper than a venue!). A lot of public lands don’t require a permit at all, while others only require one for ceremonies over a certain number of people – so double check this, and do so early to ensure that you have time to apply for a permit!
Some traditional wedding costs will also apply to your elopement – like your dress, suit, or whatever you wear for the ceremony! These costs can vary a lot, but elopements tend to be more adventurous and casual, reducing the cost of dresses and suits.
Your wedding bands and any other jewelry you want to wear can be a part of your budget too! Some couples have family heirlooms, while others purchase accessories for their elopement day.
Vendors are a huge part of your day – and I’d say this is the best investment you can make! Some couples keep it simple, but here are all the elopement vendors you can hire, with average costs.
Photographer & Videographer – $3000 – $10000 each
Hair and Makeup Artist – $300 – $1000
Florist – $1000 – $4000
Officiant – $200 – $1000
Cake Designer – $200 – $500
Elopement Planner – $3000 – $10000
The best part about an elopement is all the fun things you can do! This can be something free, like a hike, or something pricier – like a helicopter tour. Decide what you want to do on your elopement day, and budget for things like adventure gear, tour costs, rentals, and anything else you may need.
Just by forgoing the big wedding, you’re saving tons on catering, venues, decorations, and more. Here are some additional tips to save money when it comes to your elopement, without sacrificing the experience!
For an elopement, you may not find what you need in your standard bridal shop. And if you don’t want to spend a ton on a dress you’ll only wear once, there are tons of unique options for you! Check out this post for tips on finding a dress that will work for an adventurous day. You can also look at bridesmaids dresses for cute, less expensive options, and places like Lulus and Asos have bridal options that won’t break your budget. For a more casual look, you can even check out white sundresses at your favorite clothing store!
You can rent a small venue for your elopement – but it’s much more cost effective to elope on public land! This includes national parks, state parks, national forests, and any government-owned land. There may be permit costs sometimes, but these are guaranteed to be less expensive than a venue! For elopement locations that are completely free, your best bet is usually national forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.
You don’t have to go for a hot air balloon ride or a Jeep tour to have an amazing time – there are plenty of epic adventures that don’t cost you very much! Hiking, stargazing, having a picnic, and swimming are just a few examples. If there’s something you love and already have equipment for, like paddle boarding, rock climbing, or kayaking, that can be a great option as well – but you can often find good deals on rentals!
Remember, your day is worth investing in! Even if you’re a laid back couple with simple tastes, plan something fun that reflects who you are.
An elopement photographer is going to be one of the best investments you’ll make – for several reasons. First, they’ll be the ones documenting your elopement! This is still your wedding day, and you deserve to have the full story told, so that you can look back and remember this forever.
In addition to being in charge of your memories, an experienced elopement photographer will also be the expert on eloping, helping you with everything from choosing the perfect spot, finding any additional vendors you’ll need, and giving tips and advice that works for you!
There’s a photographer for every budget, but your elopement experience is once-in-a-lifetime. So make sure you hire someone who has the gear required for outdoor adventures and safely storing your photos, and who has the know-how to make this adventure your best one yet! My elopement packages range from $3000 to $8700, and I’ll help you decide which option works best for you.
Ready to start planning? Contact me!