Elopement Package Calculator and Pricing Breakdown
Alright, alright, alright. This is probably the NUMBER ONE burning question all couples have when they're trying to decide if they want to elope. What is the cost of elopement? We're all coming out of past generations where talking about money is taboo and giving direct numbers was frowned upon. I'm taking it upon myself to help end that stigma one step at a time. I'm here to help you understand the costs of eloping and if it's right for you.
Deciding on your budget for your elopement can be daunting and hard. Especially if you have no idea where to start. You have to decide if you should just create one big budget or break down each section of your day into its own individual budgets. And also make sure you aren't forgetting any of those miscellaneous fees that might come up. A lot of research online is outdated or doesn't really apply to the type of celebration you're trying to have. That's frustrating. Like I've been saying this whole time, you don't know what you don't know & I'm here to help! Planning out your elopement is all about shifting your priorities. Instead of focusing on table linen colors and seating charts, you can focus on the exact spot for saying your vows and the best way to share your union.
If you've just started down the rabbit hole of wedding planning and you're seeing that the average cost of a wedding is about $30,000, you might be thinking to yourself, "Is this really what I want?" Many people barely make that much in a year, let alone consider spending it all on one day. Yes, weddings are absolutely amazing! I think you should do what makes you most comfortable, but if you're leaning more and more toward wanting to learn about elopements, then this is the place for you.
Table of Contents:
- What is an Elopement?
- Common Misconceptions About Elopements
- Average Cost of Eloping
- Elopement Costs Explained
- Marriage License
- Elopements Vs Traditional Weddings Cost
- Elopement Cost Calculator
- Why You Should Invest in Your Elopement
- How to Save Money on Your Elopement
- Elopement Planning Resources
Disclaimer: There is no exact number I can give you for the cost of eloping. SO much of what goes into your elopement day is going to depend on the location you choose, how many activities you do, the number of people you invite, and so many other details. The cost of your elopement is going to depend on YOU. Everything I include in this blog will be averages I've seen after working in the wedding industry for over 5 years.
The first question I want to answer is what exactly is an elopement. For this breakdown, I'm not talking about the "cheap" quickie wedding we've all heard about. If you wanted to, you could get legally married at the courthouse for just the cost of your marriage license. Marriage licenses cost about $100 depending on where you're located.
Of course, this route isn't focusing on those special moments that I believe are important to include in your day. My kind of elopement is one that is focused on your dreams and truly tells the story of your day. Choosing to elope doesn't mean you're getting married for cheaper (though that's usually the case!); rather, it means that you're intentionally choosing each aspect of your day instead of going with what everyone else does. If you're anything like me, you've probably already been asking yourself why you have to have all of these things on your wedding day. From a bridal party, garters, a dress for your wedding, and another one for your reception... it's a lot! If these make you feel weird then eloping is probably for you.
Common Misconceptions about Elopements
Elopements are just the legal stuff
Elopements aren't as important
Elopements aren't real weddings
Elopements are quick
FALSE: Elopements focus on the things that matter the most to you and allows you to really sit in the emotions and feelings of your day. I've never been to an elopement that was just "paperwork".
FALSE: Many people think that if you aren't inviting a ton of people and going into debt that you're just being selfish or don't care about your wedding day. I've found that the opposite is true and that eloping couples actually care more about their day.
FALSE: Any ceremony with the legal paperwork is a "real" ceremony but even if you aren't legally getting married in the eyes of the government, there are so many way to unite yourselves together and that's real.
FALSE: Elopements can be multi-day celebrations if you want them to be! It's all about truly celebrating each-other instead of just going through the motions like with a traditional wedding.
You can read more about my definition of elopements and how they differ from a traditional wedding here.
Want to see a few real couples' elopement photos? Check out these cuties!!
Spend MORE time on what matters to you and LESS time on what you don't care about.
AVERAGE COST OF ELOPING
I know that's still a big difference in average costs. By the end of this breakdown, you should be able to accurately determine what your average will be if you know what you want to include in your day. Before I really get into it, I want to make sure I highlight that the cost of your elopement or how much you spend on your engagement ring, dress, or cake does NOT have any effect on the authenticity of your day. The comparison game is terrible! I want to encourage you to try to just focus on your own wedding day instead of comparing it to the insta-famous or Pinterest-blessed images you see. You are not a better or worse person for trying to save money on your wedding.
Another reason it's difficult to give a concrete answer on how much it costs to elope is that the idea of eloping is still pretty new. I'm sure you've heard of older family members assuming you're pregnant or running away to get married in secret if you mention the word "elopement" around them. This way of thinking is so outdated though. Unfortunately, it's still going to take quite a bit of time for eloping to become more of the norm and for comprehensive studies to be performed with eloping in mind. Of course, as new information comes up I will always update this for you!
The biggest variable of your elopement costs is your travel expenses. It may seem trivial to say, but traveling locally versus a few states over versus internationally will have really big cost differences. Where you're starting from will also change those initial travel costs quite a bit. It's impossible to show a graph of every possible outcome, especially with inflation and how quickly our world can change.
Some couples may choose to elope locally and even go back home after their celebration while others could very easily spend a couple thousand just on hotels and flights. It's important to keep in mind some of those miscellaneous travel costs that you might easily forget. These could be car rental fees or Uber charges, gas, road tolls, parking fees, etc. If you're going to a new city, there may be quite a few fees you don't know about! While you can watch flight prices and try to purchase them at the most opportune time, they aren't really something you can DIY hack.
My favorite recommendation for couples looking for somewhere unique for their elopement is to search Airbnb's and cabins. You'd be surprised what you can find available, as long as you're looking early enough! Stay in a local cabin, amazing castle, little bungalow, fire lookout, and so many other amazing huts and lodges. Doing this helps you to have an even more spectacular elopement adventure. It also makes your getting ready photos look that much cooler.
The average cost of an elopement is over 90% cheaper than a traditional wedding.
Below is the AVERAGE eloping budget of the most popular items on your elopement day. You don't have to include these items if you don't want to! Be creative and see what you actually need for YOUR wedding day.
How did I come up with these numbers? I've been in the wedding industry for several years now and I've seen what average vendors charge. I've done a lot of research on wedding costs in the northeast, midwest, southwest, and pacific northwest over the past few years. Partly because I'm a nosy B and I want to know everything. However, it's also for blogs like this so I can help you be the most informed wedding couple out there.
Average Elopement Budget
Marriage License: $65-$150
These are the most common vendors included at elopement celebrations. Usually, eloping couples don't need a large floral installation or multiple bouquets. Most couples have negated the need for a planner because most elopement photographers also double as planners. Of course, it depends on the particular business, but I've found it usually makes a really big difference when you hire an elopement-specific vendor instead of a traditional vendor who offers "elopement services."
After the past couple of years, I've seen more and more traditional vendors offering their version of elopement services. Oftentimes, these are just a few hours and aren't treating elopement days with the same consideration as their traditional wedding clients' days. I believe that any couple choosing to elope deserves a full wedding day. Most of my clients end up with just as many hours as they would if they were going the traditional wedding route. On an elopement, there isn't the constant need to rush through each activity. You no longer have to worry about boring people with too-long speeches or feeling awkward if you dance to the whole song. Your elopement allows you to slow down and really enjoy each and every moment.
Elopement Costs: Explained
The amount you'll spend on a wedding dress and suit will greatly depend on if you buy new, used, or rent. Renting wedding attire is becoming more popular as couples are realizing they don't need to purchase these fancy outfits they won't wear again. These rentals are still gorgeous and real wedding attire. The only difference is that they won't be permanently tailored to your body and you'll have to return them a few days after your elopement.
Buying used wedding attire is the easiest way to save money on these items. You can find SO many options. I've found that this service is much more common for wedding gowns rather than suits. These gowns are oftentimes never worn or only worn once. I've met quite a few brides who purchased one dress at the beginning of planning but decided on a different one later. One of my favorite places to find amazing used wedding gowns is Brides For A Cause. If you're patient and wait for their trunk sales, you can even find a wedding dress for $150!
Purchasing new is obviously the most expensive of these options. Like most things, there is a huge "pink tax" on these items. A new wedding gown, on average, will cost $2,000-$4,000. Alternatively, a new suit is between $300-$700. A wedding dress & suit are not the only options for wedding attire! If you'd rather think outside of the box, I encourage you to!
I personally went the route of designing my own wedding dress. I know, I'm extra! And while that is a much more in-depth process, it's totally doable. You can read about my experience here:
An elopement photographer is the most expensive item on this list, but that's for good reason. Your elopement photographer is so much more than "just another vendor". It's a common misconception that your photographer will just show up on your day and use their fancy camera. In reality, we devote so much time and passion to each and every couple. Most elopement photographers double as elopement planners. What this means is that as your elopement photographer I am also helping you pick your wedding date, locations, suggesting other local vendors and lodging, creating your day-of timeline, answering all questions, keeping everything on track on your elopement day, and so much more. I personally invest a lot of time into getting to know my couples on a human-to-human basis. I think it really changes the game for your wedding experience.
Your elopement photographer is one of the most important parts of your whole experience. Usually, your photographer will spend more time with you on your wedding day than anyone else. Especially if you don't invite many guests, it's solely on your photographer to capture and deliver your love story so you can share it with all of your loved ones. Because we are the most involved on your wedding day, you want to make sure you're finding one that you really connect with. When you're spending more than 50% of your budget on your elopement photographer you want to make sure they can feel like a friend, too. Take the time to speak to photographers and voice your concerns. You don't just have to go with the first one you see!
Getting an officiant for your elopement might feel like one of the weirdest things to find. Your wedding ceremony is THE point of your entire day, but what if you don't have anyone in mind to officiate? If you want to be legally married during your elopement then you will need an ordained officiant present. If you've already been legally married or want to do it later then you don't need an officiant. Instead, you'll be having what's called a commitment ceremony.
The costs for your officiant will vary depending on your location and how long you'll need them for. If an officiant needs to be there for just an hour or for a full day of adventuring together, that will change their pricing. I've worked with several different officiants and can recommend them to you if you're still searching. Another option you have is to have a friend or family member get ordained to make your ceremony more special. Or see if your photographer is legally ordained to do the paperwork for you (I am!). Make sure you check and double-check on the requirements for your county as each one can be different. In some states, like Colorado, you can even self-solemnize which means you can do the legal stuff yourself.
The cost of any florals on your elopement day should be quite different than if you were having a traditional wedding. You'll likely only need the florals you and your partner (bouquets or boutonnieres) and possibly a floral arch design. Many parks don't allow arches or flowers of any kind so you'll want to make sure you check beforehand!
An average bouquet cost is about $200 and any extra things like an arch will likely cost a minimum of $500. You certainly don't need to have any flowers on your wedding day if you don't want, but they are really fun and make for great memories afterward if you save them! Some other floral pieces you might consider are floral crowns, florals for pets, or florals for your cake. You'll want to make sure you find a florist who works with sustainable materials and is knowledgeable on non-invasive species for your elopement location.
You can learn more about the best practices for having an eco-friendly elopement below!
Marriage License: $65-$150
Your marriage license cost is usually one of the least expensive items on your list but is the most important legal part of your day. It's important to do your research ahead of time to be sure of the best practices for the particular county you'll be getting married in. Some counties have a 3 day waiting period while others allow same-day pickup. The costs will also vary depending on where you're getting married and you may find a longer-than-expected application processing time, so don't leave this until the last minute.
The cost of permits for your elopement will vary and may not even be necessary where you choose to elope. I included them in this list because they are legally required if you need them for your elopement location and should not be overlooked. These permits are up to you to research and purchase, though your photographer should help you figure out what you need. The permits do tend to have a long application approval process and you may find that only a certain number of permits are allowed for each day of the week.
Bringing along additional guests can be a great way to spend some quality time with a select group of people, but any additional person you bring along will likely have some added costs. Depending on how much you want to provide for your guests, you could be looking at a few hundred dollars extra just on their lodging and food! More guests = more money in almost every way you look at it.
The cost of your elopement is completely up to you! It can be as cost-effective or as splurging as you prefer, as long as you put in the research ahead of time. A full-day elopement will still cost over $10,000 (unless you find some really great deals), but that is still significantly less than a traditional wedding. An important thing to keep in mind is that every dollar spent on your elopement is going toward something that is important to you rather than miscellaneous vendor fees or per-plate food costs.
Depending on what kind of person you are it may seem completely crazy to you that it's possible to spend over $20,000 on a wedding. For some people, that might be just another check, but for most of us, that's a lot of money. The difference in cost of an elopement versus a traditional wedding can be pretty dramatic.
If you're anything like me, where you spend your money is really important to you and your wedding day shouldn't be any different. One of the first things I ask my couples during their consultation call is how they knew getting married this way was right for them. The most common answer I get is that having a huge celebration with tons of people didn't feel like them. They couldn't fathom celebrating their union with something that felt fake. They're also concerned with budget, environmental impacts, and having an experience rather than doing what everyone else does.
If we want to get down to the nitty-gritty details, the plainest difference between an elopement and a traditional wedding is that an elopement is an investment in YOUR experience while a traditional wedding is an investment in your GUESTS' experience. Which sounds more romantic to you?
Why are traditional weddings more expensive?
Anything that is marketed as a "wedding" is always more expensive. A lot of times I've found that even though we're including it on a couple's elopement day, it's non-traditional so the wedding mark-up hasn't been added on. Also, if I'm being really honest, traditional weddings are hard. Most of the time, guests don't really enjoy themselves unless they get drunk, they're kind of boring, and the wedding couple never gets to actually be together or take in their day. I think that after years and years of vendors putting on traditional weddings, they've grown to make them more expensive because they're much less enjoyable.
The budget for a wedding photographer and elopement photographer is the exact same because your elopement day isn't just a quicker version of your wedding day. It's just as meaningful and important! In fact, your elopement photographer is often going to do a lot more work than a traditional wedding photographer will to ensure you that you're having the perfect elopement experience.
Average Cost of Traditional Wedding:
Average Cost of an Elopement:
-Wedding Attire ~$3,000
-Decor for both ceremony & reception ~$1,000
-Band or DJ ~$1,200
-Wedding planner ~$2,000
-Rushed timeline with mostly "posed" pictures
-No personal time for you and your partner
-A traditional, religious based experience
-Wedding attire and personal details ~$2,000
-A full day experience
-Authentic wedding about the two of you and your values
-Adventure of a lifetime
When budgeting for your elopement, there's a fine line between budgeting with and without emotion.
Your elopement is such a unique and personal experience that it's important to still keep in mind how you feel about each item you include on your day. You have to be more particular about the things you choose to spend your money on, the people you invite, and the way you want to spend your wedding day. While I don't think you should go through your elopement planning like a robot, I do think it's vital to make quality choices instead of including everything you can.
It's okay to have a $5,000 dress if that's what really makes you happy or to use 80% of your budget on your photographer because you know that they are going to make your entire experience so much better. You're investing yourself in your elopement. If you're choosing to invite guests, you'll get to have quality conversations with them instead of tons of 3-minute "hi-how-are-you's". Not only are you making a better experience for you and your partner but you're also making a more meaningful experience for your friends and family. In the end, this celebration is about you - nobody else - so investing your time, money, and love is really important.
A rather obvious difference in your elopement day versus a traditional wedding is going to be the food and venue. When you're eloping, you don't need a full-blown caterer like you would for a traditional wedding. By removing the caterer and any open bar fees, you're already saving several thousand dollars! But what about the food you might want to include? Like a private dinner or cake, these costs will vary depending on where you go. I'm a huge fan of exploring unique options when it comes to food on your elopement. If you don't like cake, try cupcakes, cookies, donuts, or crepes!
Wedding venues have a lot of hard rules like only allowing a five-hour timeslot, no outside food or beverage, no pets, etc. When you're dropping several thousand dollars, you don't want to immediately have a bunch of rules limiting what you can do with your time and your guests. With eloping, your venue is almost always nature!
BONUS ROUND: Your honeymoon
One of the COOLEST things about choosing to have an adventure elopement is that you can easily combine your elopement and honeymoon into one trip. That means one cost for flights, lodging, and activities. When you have a traditional wedding, your average of $30,000 is going directly into that one night, one party, one venue. Your honeymoon is completely extra on top of that!
If you find yourself asking over and over again “why not???” then you should just do it!! How amazing does it sound to have a two-week-long (or more!) adventurous honeymoon and amazing elopement experience? Pretty rad!
Elopement Cost Calculator
While this calculator is only an estimate of the costs you might have for your elopement, it can help you figure out what your basic budget should be. I created this calculator based on the pricing of my photography packages and the average pricing of other local vendors around me. I'm based in Portland, Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest is a huge hub for gorgeous adventure elopements so, like anything else, the pricing here will be different than if you were getting married in California or the Midwest.
Choosing to elope shouldn't be just about saving money. Is it a super cool bonus? Heck yes! But your motivation for eloping should be based on more than just that so you can be sure to really enjoy your day. Choosing to do something just to save a buck or two is the fast path to regret.
Investing in your elopement doesn't always have to have more dollar signs attached to it. Monetary value and emotional value are two very different things. You deserve to have the most amazing day! This is your one day to really explore all the avenues that bring you joy. Buyers' remorse is a real thing and you don't want to wake up the day after your wedding and feel lost. You deserve to be able to craft an elopement day that you'll remember with happiness for the rest of your life.
It can be so tempting to try to cut a few corners when hiring vendors for your elopement. Especially when the wedding industry isn't really regulated and each vendor can make their own pricing however they want. You'll find vendors who seem to be offering the same thing for wildly different price points. Of course you would be confused when you look at two different photographers when one is priced at $7,000 and the other is at $2,000. I believe that your wedding is one of those areas where the saying "you get what you pay for" really does apply. Are there caveats to this? Of course! There always are. But cutting the wrong corner to save money on your wedding can literally break your day.
The money you spend should match your experience.
What factors are included in elopement pricing?
There are a lot of different things that a professional vendor will consider when they are setting their pricing. A few of the most common items are:
- Basic costs of having a business (licensing fees, insurance, subscriptions, contracts)
- Professional gear (how many camera bodies do they have, amount of lenses, flash, lighting, etc)
- Level of experience
- Cost of living
Of course, with all of that being said, there are still a few ways you can save some money on your elopement without sacrificing quality. One of my favorite ways is making it yourself or DIY. If you hate crafts or feel overwhelmed easily by things like this then I wouldn't recommend diving into DIY for your wedding. You'll end up with more of a headache than when you started! BUT if you're like me and really enjoy creating things yourself then you might find that this is a really great way to save a little bit of money.
I made almost everything for my wedding day. From making our own paper and binding our vow books, to designing my ring and wedding dress, to making all of our flower arrangements and my bouquet- I was the queen of DIY. If you're interested, you can take a look at some of the things I DIY'd on these blogs below. I recommend you do your research ahead of time and make sure you know exactly what you're getting into before you begin; otherwise, you may end up spending more in the long run.
I always recommend trying to shop local and small businesses before going to big box stores. Like with your elopement, your dollars can have so much more of an impact on a small business than they ever will at Hobby Lobby.
Eloping on public land can help you save money on your elopement costs. Many private spaces will have the same or similar rental costs as a regular venue so by choosing public lands, parks, etc you can avoid those fees and usually have a much more unique experience.
Think outside the box! Not everything you do on your elopement day has to be pricey. You could just enjoy a cup of coffee together as the sun rises, or relax in a hammock or porch swing before you get dressed for your wedding, or make smores by the fire at night and go stargazing. All of these activities are pretty cheap but can be so much fun and really romantic. I encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to what you can include in your elopement. Remember, it's all about what makes you both happy!
If you're struggling to think in an elopement mindset, it might help you to picture your elopement day as more of a big vacation rather than a wedding day. A lot of couples use their elopement as a way to check off amazing places they've been wanting to visit or combine their wedding with their honeymoon. Sometimes removing the boundaries of "wedding" can help you remember those things that really mattered to you in the first place.
Elopement Planning Resources
I'm so thrilled that you've decided to elope! I know it can be a really scary decision and maybe you're nervous about what everyone is going to think. But you're choosing to get married this way for a reason. You really believe that the day you get married should be real and matter and I'm right there with you! I have a ton of resources to help you in your elopement planning process whether you're just beginning or have a few things decided already.
My elopement planning checklist is full of everything you'll want to remember when planning your elopement day. It is really hard to keep track of everything and this checklist gives you the space to write everything down in one spot, leave notes to yourself, and be able to see what you should be focusing on next.
After you've downloaded your elopement checklist, check some of these other resources for planning your elopement!
I've covered a myriad of topics with you, the eloping couple, in mind. Still considering your decision to elope? Read about the most frequently asked questions about elopements, how to switch to an elopement when you're halfway through planning a traditional wedding, or discover the reasons why couples choose to elope.
"Destiny definitely stood out amongst other photographers because we absolutely loved how involved she was from the very beginning. She really wants to get to know you- which makes for really intimate photos! She asks tons of questions, which is awesome because you feel like you know her before even meeting her! And once you finally do, she is so so sweet!!! Destiny is so great at communicating and being really involved in every detail! She captured every emotion and detail perfectly, whenever I look at our wedding pictures, it brings back every feeling on our special day. TEARS!"
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