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With any wedding, one of the first things most couples do is create a budget – but this step is also pretty overwhelming! Money can be stressful, and most people aren’t sure where to start with their elopement budget. If you’re wondering “how much does it cost to elope?” and trying to figure out how to create a budget for your day, this guide is for you! I’ll break down the cost of eloping, compare it to the cost of a traditional wedding, and give you a checklist for your elopement budget!
How Much Does it Cost to Elope?
The truth is that if you’re asking “how much does it cost to elope?” there’s not a straightforward answer! You could go to the courthouse, pay $50 for a marriage license and $50 for a judge to perform the ceremony, and that’s all you need to get legally married. Or, you could fly to Italy, stay in a villa on the coast, and that elopement budget will be a lot bigger!
There are no rules when it comes to eloping, which means you have much more control over your budget, and you can prioritize the things that are important to you. Couples who plan an elopement that prioritizes their experience (whether that’s a hiking elopement, an Airbnb elopement with family, a relaxing day on the beach, or whatever adventure they’ve decided on), typically spend around $5,000 to $15,000, so, an approximate average of $10,000!
Cost of Eloping vs. a Wedding
It’s no secret that traditional weddings are expensive – it’s often one of the first reasons that couples start considering an elopement. But how much does it cost to elope, and how does that compare to the cost of a wedding?
Here in Washington, the average wedding in 2019 cost $25,600. Nationwide, the average wedding costs $30,000.
Those numbers aren’t small (to say the least) – but while eloping tends to be less expensive, this is usually more of a nice bonus rather than a deciding factor. While weddings tend to include a lot of “things” – like decorations and other items you won’t use again, more of the elopement budget goes towards experiences! I definitely believe that you should invest in your elopement day – but the money you spend should be used for the things that actually matter to you. You get to prioritize, and have incredible experiences that you’ll treasure forever, as opposed to things you’ll never see again after the wedding is over.
Here’s a breakdown comparing the cost of eloping vs the cost of a wedding….
|The Average Cost of a Traditional Wedding |
(according to Business Insider)
|The Average Cost of an Elopement|
|Venue: $10,500||Travel: $50 – $3,000|
|Officiant: $300||Officiant: $100 – $500|
|Dress: $1600||Dress: $100 – $1500|
|Suit: $280||Suit: $100 – $500|
|Photographer: $4,500||Photographer: $4,500|
|Flowers: $2,000||Flowers: $300 – $1,000|
|Catering (for 50 guests): $3,500||Food: $100 – $500|
|Cake: $500||Cake: $200|
|Hair and Makeup: $1500||Hair and Makeup: $500 – $1000|
|Rehearsal Dinner: $1900||Ceremony Permit: $50 – $300|
|Invitations: $590||Lodging: $0 – $2,000|
|Wedding Planner: $1,500|
|Total: $31,470||Total: $6000 – $15,000|
Elopement Budget Checklist
Now let’s talk about what those things that go into an elopement budget are all about!
The first thing to consider when you’re making an elopement budget is travel! This can vary a ton – it might just be the cost of gas to get from home to your elopement location, or it might include flights and a rental car if you’re going far.
When you get to your elopement location, you’ll need a place to stay! You can sleep in your camper van to add a touch of homey adventure to your wedding day, stay in a cozy Airbnb, or find a luxurious resort.
Depending on where you elope, you may need a permit for your ceremony! The rules and regulations vary, so be sure to look into this after you decide on an elopement location. Some places don’t require a permit at all, others only require one if your ceremony is bigger than a certain number of people (usually more than 10 is when you start running into restrictions), and other spots require a permit even for the smallest ceremonies. National parks are usually the strictest, and have the pricier permits.
Dresses, suits, shoes, and anything else you wear for your elopement ceremony are part of your elopement attire! This part of the elopement budget can vary too, because you can find secondhand items at a thrift shop, or you can splurge on a high end outfit. It’s all about priorities, and deciding what’s important to you.
The number of vendors for your elopement day definitely depends on the couple! Some people keep it simple, with just an ordained elopement photographer to document the day. Vendors will likely be one of the bigger investments you make, but it’s definitely worth it! A great team of experienced vendors will make a huge difference in making sure your day goes smoothly and aligns with your vision!
Some other vendors you might hire include:
- Hair and makeup artist
- Caterer or private chef
- Baker or cake designer
- Elopement planner or coordinator
Adventures and Activities
Customizing your elopement is the best part! Remember, you can do anything you want on your day. Go for a hike, rent a kayak, stargaze, get matching tattoos, sky dive, go hot air ballooning… anything you can imagine is possible. Think about what would make this day truly incredible – this is the day you get to tie yourselves to each other forever, and it should be the best day of your life. The budget for this part of the day depends on what you do – you can hike for free (or for the price of a parking pass), pay for a professionally guided tour, and anything in between.
It’s important to remember that the cost of your elopement day doesn’t determine the value – the experience you have, and the way you feel is the most important thing!
As a bride and as a friend, I sincerely believe an elopement photographer is one of the most important investments you’ll make! My elopement packages start at $3,800 and each one is customized to you, with personalized location guides, vendor recommendations, timeline creation, and everything else you’ll need while you plan out your special day.
Contact me if you’re ready to get the ball rolling on your dream elopement!