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SEPT 15, 2020



  • Angela Walsh

How Much Does it Cost to Elope?

Updated: Feb 24

Budget is a factor in any wedding day - and elopements are no different! But, a small ceremony doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in your day, and an elopement isn’t just a way to cut costs and save money. So, how much does it cost to elope?

This guide will break down your elopement budget, and what you should plan for when it comes to the big day!

A wedding couple standing in front of Lake Tahoe for there elopement ceremony

The Cost of Eloping vs. a Traditional Wedding

It’s no secret that traditional weddings are pricey… to say the least. The average wedding in the US costs over $30,000! That’s a big chunk of change - and most of that money is spent on things for your guests, and things that you won’t see again after the day is over.

While eloping is usually less costly than throwing a traditional wedding, for most couples, that’s an added bonus, not a deciding factor. Your elopement is still the day you get married - it’s important, and it’s worth investing in. The difference is that when you elope, you get to decide what’s important to you, and what you want to spend your money on.

Because every elopement is different, and because you can do anything you want, there’s no short answer to the question of “how much does it cost to elope?” You can have a destination ceremony across the globe, or elope close to home, stay in a luxury resort or go camping, have a day filled with adventurous activities or some free hiking trails - it’s entirely up to you!

Why You Should Invest in Your Elopement

There’s a common misconception that eloping is for “cheap” couples - couples who want to tie the knot quickly and get it over with, who don’t want to invest time or money into their day. But, while that may have been true in the days when elopements were something that stays in Vegas, that’s no longer what it’s about.

Eloping is about getting married in a way that actually feels right for you. It’s about being intentional about how you spend your wedding day, instead of just following the blueprint of what you’re “supposed to do.” I’d say that’s worth celebrating!

The great thing about elopements is that you get to spend money on the things that matter to you - so you can decide what’s important! You can save on catering for 200 and invest in traveling somewhere epic, or going skydiving, or taking a Jeep tour, or anything else you can dream up. When you’re budgeting for your elopement, asking “how much does it cost to elope?” and talking with your partner, decide what’s important to you. Figure out which experiences you want to spend money on, and what would make your elopement day amazing!

A elopement couple kissing and standing on a giant boulder in Emerald Bay in Tahoe with the Tamarack fire behind them

What Goes into an Elopement Budget?

Whether you create a budget ahead of time or you figure it out as you go, you’ll need to know the cost of eloping - so here’s everything you’ll need to think about!

Your Wedding Attire

Your dress or suit, or whatever you wear for the ceremony, will be important to plan for! With elopements, it’s usually best to keep things a little more casual - a huge beaded ball gown will be difficult to walk around in. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest to make sure you feel incredible on the big day! For some, looking at alternative wedding dresses can be a good way to find something more comfortable, and to save some money. Bridesmaids dresses are often gorgeous, and you can check out places like Lulus for inexpensive bridal attire. Don’t forget to budget for alterations too!

If you want some new shoes for the occasion, I recommend hiking boots or something comfortable - make sure you can walk, hike, and adventure!

A wedding couple standing in front of the Lake Tahoe Boulders and Forest for their elopement day

Marriage License

Paperwork isn’t free, so make sure you’re ready to pay for your marriage licenses! The cost depends on where you elope, but they usually range about $50 - $100. Check this before you go to the county clerk’s office, and remember that a lot of them only take cash!

Ceremony Permits

When you get married outdoors, you often need a permit. This depends on the location, and some places only require a permit for ceremonies over a certain number of people. Some places don’t require a permit at all, but they can be anywhere from $25 - $500. National parks are typically more expensive to tie the knot in, while state parks, national forests, and other public lands are usually on the cheaper side. Keep in mind that you still need to pay entrance fees for the park too!

Rings and Accessories

If you have wedding bands, these will be a consideration, as well as any other jewelry or accessories you plan to purchase for your elopement day! These costs vary a ton, so this one depends on your priorities.

Travel Costs

If you need to travel to your elopement location, the cost of gas or plane tickets can definitely add up! There’s also the cost of lodging, which you have a lot of control over as there are tons of options, from camping, to Airbnbs, to luxurious resorts.

Adventure Gear

Along with the regular wedding costs, asking “how much does it cost to elope” also depends a lot on what you want to do. Adventure gear can be hiking backpacks, headlamps, kayak rentals, hot air balloon rides… anything you can dream up! It’s important to be prepared for exploring, so do some research to ensure you’re ready for what you’ve got planned.

Elopement Vendors

Your vendors will likely be one of the biggest expenses, but they’re definitely worth it! Don’t cut costs when it comes to the people who are responsible for making sure your day runs smoothly. Some couples only hire a photographer, while others also want a makeup artist, cake designer, florist, officiant, elopement planner, and videographer - so decide which vendors you’ll need!

The Cost of Elopement Photography

An elopement photographer is one of the most important things you’ll invest in for your wedding day! Not only will they be there to capture the once-in-a-lifetime memories, but they’ll also be able to guide you through planning your elopement, from finding the perfect spot to recommending vendors and places to stay and helping you figure out what you’ll need in your budget. An experienced, quality elopement photographer will be more expensive, but they’ll have the backup gear required to ensure your photos are safe, and the knowledge necessary to make your elopement the best it can be. Elopement packages start at $1800 - so contact me if you’re ready to get to planning!

The Cost of Elopement Videography

For many couples, videography seems like one of those extra expenses you can go without - but so many people regret not hiring a videographer for their day! The truth is that videos capture moments in a way that photos just can’t, with sound, movement, and all the little moments that happen throughout the day. I’ve teamed up with my husband to offer elopement videography because I know how important it is! Elopement videos start at $1200, so contact me if you’re ready to start planning your elopement!

An Elopement couple standing on a giant rock overlooking emerald bay in Lake Tahoe

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