It’s no secret that traditional weddings are expensive – like, averaging nearly $30,000 per couple expensive – and for a lot of couples, that’s a huge reason to elope instead! But, what goes into an elopement budget? And how much does it cost to elope?
You probably haven’t done this before, and if you aren’t sure where to begin with creating a budget or estimating your costs, or how this eloping thing even works, this guide is for you!
First Things First – What is Eloping?
Before we talk about budgets, money, and numbers, and before we answer the question of “how much does it cost to elope?” you’ll need to know what eloping means! Because the truth is, an elopement budget can be anywhere from $50 (marriage license + fee to have a judge perform your ceremony at the courthouse), to a six figure investment.
For this guide, I’m not talking about courthouse ceremonies or the outdated idea that a lot of people hold onto about elopements – the one with Vegas chapels and cheesy rhinestones – I’m talking about the elopement that happens when couples decide to do things their own way. To throw out tradition, and to have a true adventure. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush, new experience kind of adventure, or maybe it’s the laid back, quiet sort of adventure spent doing something you love with the one you love most. Either way, it’s intentional, meaningful, and all about you!
It’s not a wedding day that you just don’t want to invest in, it’s a way to make sure that the money you spend is used for things that truly matter to you. Instead of paying for single use plates or dozens of centerpieces, you’re investing in whatever it is you prioritize – whether that’s plane tickets, a national park entrance fee, an epic tour, a cute cabin….
How Much Does the Average Elopement Cost?
So, when you make sure your elopement day is special, meaningful, and true to you, and when you plan for a full day elopement, how much does it cost to elope?
The truth is that there’s a ton of variation in the average cost of eloping, because elopements are so customizable! You can get married close to home and take a hike, or you can travel somewhere across the globe to Bali and stay in a luxurious resort. Those budgets are going to be incredibly different, and there’s a whole lot of in-between too.
One thing to keep in mind as you read this guide, and as you make your own elopement budget, is that how much money you spend on your elopement does not in any way influence how valuable, special, or meaningful it is! I definitely encourage couples to invest in their day – to make sure that it’s exactly what you want, and that you dream big knowing that there are endless possibilities for how you get married. But, if something lowkey is more your jam, or more in your budget, that’s great! The value in your elopement day comes from knowing that you got married exactly how you wanted to, and that you tied the knot and committed to spending forever with the love of your life.
Couples typically spend between $5,000 and $10,000 on elopements close to home (staying in the country), and $10,000 to $20,000 to tie the knot abroad!
How Much Does it Cost to Elope: Elopement Budget Checklist
To help you and your partner come up with a budget for your adventurous wedding day, here’s an elopement budget checklist! Remember – every elopement is different, and so personalizable. Some of these may not apply to you, but use it for inspiration and to help you answer the question of “how much does it cost to elope?”
Travel and Lodging
If you plan to drive, or fly, to your elopement destination, the cost of travel will be part of the elopement budget! This can include things like plane tickets, rental cars, and the cost of gas. When you’re looking for a place to stay, you can choose anything from a free campsite to a luxurious resort – most couples land somewhere in between with a cute cabin or Airbnb!
This is what you’ll wear to get married – and of course, elopement budgets vary a ton for this one too. A traditional wedding dress at a bridal shop typically ranges from $1,000 to $3,000, while a new suit costs around $500 on average. If you want to save on your elopement attire, you can shop for untraditional options – like bridesmaids dresses or online boutiques, and this guide has some eco-friendly tips for reusing attire instead of buying something new.
Accessories and Extras
This category includes other things you may want for the ceremony – like vow books ($30), rings (averaging $600 each), shoes (wear ones you already have or invest in a new pair), accessories like ties, hats, or jackets, and maybe a bottle of champagne to pop afterwards.
Marriage Licenses and Location Permits
Paperwork isn’t free either, but these costs depend on your elopement location. Marriage license costs vary by county, but are usually between $40 and $100 – and they’re typically pricier in big cities than suburban or rural areas. If your location requires a permit (some don’t), you usually can expect to spend anywhere from $50 – $300.
Everyone’s gotta eat, so don’t leave this out of your elopement budget checklist! If you’re inviting guests to your elopement, you might be paying more than if it was just the two of you – unless someone covers the bill as a wedding gift :). Food costs can range from a trip to the grocery store to a restaurant meal to a private chef!
Hair and Makeup Artist
A professional hair and makeup artist, like all other vendors, will depend on your location, and lots of other factors as each person or salon sets their own prices. But, a local hair and makeup artist for an elopement usually averages around $350.
If you decide to hire a professional officiant for your elopement ceremony, this usually averages around $300. But, you can also have a friend or family member get ordained for free!
Florals add a really nice touch to any elopement day. You can get bouquets, boutonnieres, flower crowns, (pet safe) collars for your cats, or even a custom arbor. Depending on how much you want to do, a professional elopement florist usually averages $300 – $600.
An elopement photographer is often one of the bigger investments couples make, and one of the pricier things on the elopement budget. But, not to toot my own horn here, but it’s so worth it! An experienced elopement photographer is the key to a stress free elopement day – one where you can relax knowing they’ve got your back, and where you can feel confident that your photos will be absolutely breathtaking. These memories are so precious, and there’s nothing like being able to look at your photos and feel every emotion all over again, remembering in vivid detail how it felt to be with your new spouse on the best day of your life!
My elopement photography packages start at $3,300 here in the Midwest, $4,500 elsewhere in the states, and $8,000 internationally – so as you can see, this part of the budget can vary a ton too, and most couples spend an average of $5,000 on elopement photography. Investing in an experienced professional means they’ll have the right gear (and the right backup gear to keep your photos safe), they’ll know how to document and plan outdoor elopements, and they’ll be able to help you throughout the entire process!
If you’re ready to elope, get in touch – let’s talk about what would make your elopement day perfect!