How much Does it Cost to Elope?
So you’re wedding planning and finding the cost of a traditional wedding to be too high? Or maybe you don’t care about the cost, but you don’t think what you’re paying for matches the experience you want? Now you’re asking, “How much does it cost to elope?” And we’d say you’re on the right path to creating a wedding experience full of meaning and adventure!
The cost of elopement vs. wedding has got you thinking: you used to spend your free time exploring new landscapes with your boo, but now you’re finding the stress of wedding planning and the cost to be keeping you indoors and weighed down. Is it too much to ask to plan a cost-effective wedding day AND have a day that is meaningful, authentic, and creative?
We think not. Hi!! We’re Des and Dan (des here), and we are elopement photographers, planners, and officiants. So many of our eloping couples come to us and say things like, “Who knew paying for a big wedding was so expensive?” or “I feel like that’s a ton of money for a big party that isn’t really even about us.”
And they are right. Traditional American weddings cost on average of $33,000—on average. Meaning some folks are paying even more than that. So we wanted to put together a freebie resource to help you compare the cost of elopement vs. wedding. Let’s dive right into it to discover the cost to elope.
How much does it cost to elope concerning the venue?
Wedding venue—$10,000 +
When you start wedding planning, it all starts with the venue. When we say wedding venue, we mean that snazzy venue down the road everyone you know is getting married at. They have several ceremony sites, a reception area, and table & chairs. So you’re paying $10,000 for a building, a place to say your vows, places to sit, eat, and dance for all your guests.
But what about elopement venues? How much does it cost to elope?! Your elopement venue can be wildly different. For $300, you can marry on public lands where you really feel like home! Somewhere on a cliff in a national park, on a black-sand beach, or in a whimsical redwood forest—for $300! Hike up with your minimalist guest list, and celebrate in the great outdoors! The cost of eloping is already looking pretty good, huh?
For $1000, you can book a swanky Airbnb that will host your elopement ceremony and allow you to hold a post-ceremony celebration with even enough space for guests if you choose to have any keeping the cost to elope down for your guests as well. It’s really astounding how unique these Airbnb’s can be. If you can imagine the type of property you’d love to exchange vows at and a nearby national park, we can find the perfect Airbnb together.
Our couples are always shocked at how affordable the cost of eloping outdoors in a national park or eloping at an Airbnb can be. In fact, we’ve written a whole resource on how to plan your Airbnb Elopement. Check it out or keep reading to see how it all adds up!
How much does it cost to elope with a skilled elopement photographer?
You will need a photographer for both types of wedding days, but even more so for your elopement! Wedding photographers zoom around on a wedding day capturing details and moments just like an elopement photographer (we know, because we used to photograph strictly traditional weddings), but their skill sets are entirely different. Your elopement photographer is the only way your friends and family will have to experience your wedding day after it is over, so it is best to invest in an elopement photographer who is highly educated and skilled in adventurous elopement photography. We’re also pretty keen on helping you answer difficult eloping questions you didn’t even know existed, first of all the infamous, “How much does it cost to elope?”
When you invest in an adventurous elopement photographer, you are investing in a photographer, planner, logistics master, outdoor expert, and an endless supply of research resources and accounting that into the cost of eloping. Elopement photographers know how to find out what you need to know if they don’t know the answer already. And we’d love to be those photographers for you! Click below to chat with us, or keep scrolling to see how this all adds up!
How much does it cost to elope with an elopement planner?
We believe having a wedding planner is essential if you are having a traditional wedding! I mean, there is sooooo much detail, work, endless questions, bothersome personalities, and organizational logistics that come into play on a traditional wedding day. So if you go this route, take it from us and hire a planner.
But we’ve found that adventurous elopements are so simplified and elopement photographers are so skilled that you do not need an elopement planner. This brings the cost of elopement vs. wedding way down. Instead, you’re hiring a photographer who has vast planning wisdom and offers major planning assistance in their elopement packages so your day is personalized to you. So the cost to elope concerning your planner is already accounted for in your elopement photographer. MAJOR WIN.
How much does it cost to elope when accounting for florals?
Wedding florals—$3,000 +
Ya know the crazy thing about those numbers. Paying $3,000 for florals at your traditional wedding is a minimum cost according to most floral designers for arrangements and installations. If you’ve got a big venue, you have to fill it up with flowers! And your reception is going to need centerpieces. Flower crowns for kiddos in your ceremony. Corsages for the grandmas. All these floral designs add up quickly. So went conservative here with $3,000.
Elopement florals cost wildly different, because you are paying for just a few designs. Most of our brides opt for only a bridal bouquet. But even if they get a bridal bouquet, a boutonniere for the boo, and a few corsages for any guests they may decide to bring, this rarely adds up to more than $500. There is no huge ceremony space or empty reception space to fill with flowers. You get to decide what is just enough for your elopement, even if you opt that you don’t need florals at all. The cost to elope concerning your flowers depends entirely upon your vision, and we love that.
If you’re still wondering, “How much does it cost to elope?” we’ve still got answers, and they’re looking positive!
How much does it cost to elope if you want yummy food?
Wedding catering—$7,500 +
For this number, we charged $50/head at 150 guests for the traditional wedding, because this is the average cost per head and guest total for traditional weddings. Within this $7,500 you will have small appetizers, a main dish with meat, and possibly individual desserts. Nothing flashy, just getting everyone fed.
When accounting meals into your cost to elope, we estimated $0 if you don’t do any formal meal, which a lot of outdoorsy eloping couples don’t. A lot of couples opt to eat out at nice places during their adventure and bring some trail snacks for the actual elopement!
However, some couples want a personal chef at their Airbnb with a yummy meal waiting on them after they return from their ceremony or they want them and their few guests to head out to a snazzy spot in a nearby mountain town. Even this option typically doesn’t cost more than $2000.
We recommend our couples to have at least one professionally cooked meal during their elopement experience simply so they can really relax and know they are having a highly personalized meal that will be made from quality ingredients and super nummy!
How much does it cost to elope if I want a delicious cake?
Wedding cake—$900 +
Our research of bakers and cake-makers suggest $6/serving of wedding cake. So $6 times the 150 guests comes to $900. And ya know something crazy… no one ever runs out of wedding cake. Ever. Which means that $900 doesn’t even get fully used.
The cost to elope with a cake can range from $0 (if you choose not to have one) to $300 if you choose to have wedding cake for you both plus a few guests you may choose to bring along. Most of our eloping couples choose to have a small wedding cake at the Airbnb afterward, and some of our couples with big sweet tooths even decide to get several cakes with all different flavors and icings so they can eat whichever they are craving after an epic hike up and down from their vows. We think having personal cakes is the way to go when eloping! And the best part—you can totally binge eat with zero judgement AND you’ll be able to really taste the cake instead of shoving it in each other’s faces to put on a show. You deserve to relish in that cake, sister! <3
How much does it cost to elope with an officiant?
For a wedding officiant, most couples either have someone officiate that they know (for free) or hire an officiant. Even if you find a free officiant, it’s proper etiquette to tip the officiant on the day of your wedding. This ends up being around $300 to hire someone or around $150 if you give the standard tip anticipated.
If you book with us to be your elopement photographers, then your officiant is already booked!!! So SCORE! Another perk of hiring an elopement photographer. We officiate all of our couples’ ceremonies at no extra charge so they do not have to book another vendor, and they can keep it as private and personal as they want.
How much does it cost to elope considering our wedding gear?
Wedding attire for the bride + groom—$1,700
Elopement attire for the bride + groom—$400-$1700
The average wedding dress costs around $1300, and a custom suit for your boo will run you around $400. These are essential for your wedding day as it’s basically your uniform for that day. You will wear this combo around for about 8 hours and sigh of relief when you get to squeeze out of it.
Attire for your elopement can be the same or it can be wildly different. Our brides and grooms are not spending their whole day in their “wedding attire.” They typically hike up in some hiking gear appropriate for the hike and change into their elopement attire once we reach an epic spot, and we need to get some ah-mazing photos in their outfits. Most of our brides do not pay upwards of $1300 (though some do and that’s totally good with us!). There are so many amazing online stores that sell gorgeous elopement attire that you can move in, which is essential for an adventure elopement. So your dress may cost anywhere from $100 to the $1300 + we mentioned above. As far as your groom’s suit, we have seen grooms wear suits they already owned and loved or splurged for a dope suit that coordinated with the landscape’s vibe. We love both options, and it really depends on your taste for this one!
So how much does it cost to elope when considering stellar wedding attire? Entirely up to you as are most things elopement related–you’ll get to create the day exactly how you want.
How much does it cost to elope if I want to jam to some tunes on our day?
You’ve gotta have dancing at your wedding reception, right?? You do, girl. Because that’s how we get Aunt Shiela to get out on the floor and embarrass herself again. You’ve gotta have family dances, and keep the jams rolling. So $1,600 for a 4 hour DJ package is a must at your wedding reception.
Elopement DJ? Don’t need one! As cheesy as it may sound, nature is your dj. You’ll dance sweetly on a cliff somewhere to the sound of wind rushing through trees, birds saying their last goodbye to the daylight, and possibly your boo will softly hum your song to you as you slow dance overlooking valleys and peaks. Doesn’t that sound MUCH better? And that’s free, sister friend.
How much does it cost to elope considering our honeymoon?
Now here we’ve got a little bonus for ya! We’re talking honeymoons.
While honeymoons aren’t typically counted in the cost to elope, we know a lot of couples go down the path of planning a traditional wedding, finding their honeymoon destination, and then deciding to elope at their honeymoon spot instead of having that traditional wedding!! And we salute you if this is your scenario. We thought it would be helpful to provide a few honeymoon statistics in relation to popular elopement locations as well!! So let’s get going!
The average honeymoon costs around $5000, and that’s in addition to the $33,000 for a big traditional wedding. However, a lot of couples are wising up and rolling their elopement and honeymoon into one.
We love helping couples choose this path and scouting an elopement location for them that would also be a stellar elopement location.
We’ve already figured the cost to elope concerning a “venue” being the outdoors, but what if you wanted to elope at a honeymoon cabin and then stay there for a week? This would keep the cost to elope down even further as you’re already paying for a lot of your elopement expenses into your honeymoon expenses.
But, hey. Let’s talk real options on the cost to elope for a 5 day honeymoon and elopement rolled into one at real top elopement locations.
Cost to Elope with Honeymoon Included:
Transportation on location: $400
One meal eating out per day: $250
Misc. adventurous activities: $100-$2000
Misc. spending: $300
Cost to elope: $8800
The Total: $14,750
For the lodging, we ranged from $1000-$3000 to give room for any type of budget. This could also be even cheaper or even more expensive depending on your preferences, but this is the average cost. The $400 for transportation is assuming you rent a vehicle while traveling and need some gas money as well.
If you eat out once per day averaging at $50/day then you’ll spend around $250 for eats. Miscellaneous adventure activities is another area where you can splurge or be conservative. Activities like sky diving or renting a hot air balloon may make the price spike, but if you’re just into hiking then your only cost will be any entrance fees into national parks. We also added miscellaneous spending, because who doesn’t want a few tee shirts from their elopement location?!
Spoiler alert (that we’ll cover in length in the next section), the cost to elope is $8800! So when added with the total of $5,950, the cost to elope plus your honeymoon would equal around $14,750. That is less than half of the cost to have a traditional wedding, and it honestly sounds a lot more fun.
The cost to elope is looking much better, especially when combined with your honeymoon location!
There’s also a cool trend happening right now with eloping couples as to how they cover the cost to elope. Most eloping couples are already founded in their lives and career, thus they don’t need a lot of showers to get household goods. Instead eloping couples may opt to receive financial gifts from their loved ones to help cover the cost to elope and their honeymoon! This is always an option, and it brings the cost to elope down even further!!
But wait… we need to tally this all up officially! Keep reading to see the total of the cost to elope!
For our wedding total, we totaled the minimum amount for the traditional wedding vendors mentioned above. We figured for a bare-bones wedding with 150 guests and came out with $35,000 which is only $2000 above the national average cost. We really tried to give the wedding cost the benefit of the doubt, but we still came out above average without accounting for meaningful features couples might add to their traditional wedding. No ice sculpture. No alcohol. No fancy linen rentals. No extravagant exit. Just the basics.
When answering how much does it cost to elope, we used average number from each section, because it can really vary on cost depending on the personal choices of the couples, and we came to $8800. That’s right at one fourth of the cost of the traditional wedding. There is one thing we didn’t add on here that we want to mention so we are totally up front. You might be thinking, “but where’s the cost of our transportation and lodging during the elopement?”
Good question!!! I’m glad you asked!! So many of our couples use their honeymoon budget and/or location to use for their elopement. A lot of our couples are outdoorsy folk and love cozy Airbnb’s and know how to fly inexpensively. We’ve got some tricks up our sleeve on that too if you’re interested in hearing how we travel so cost-efficiently. They spend around $3400 for their week-long adventure to a national park including their flights and car rentals. When you add that to the $8800, that still totals to only one third of the traditional wedding cost.
SO CONGRATS!! You’ve now seen how you can give that wedding bill the boot and give yourself a meaningful, authentic, and creative wedding experience by eloping during the adventure of a lifetime!
Are you seeing all the major perks of eloping and want to chat more? We’d love to talk and see if eloping is right for you!! You can get our package details AND set up a phone call with us by hitting that little black button!! If you’re not quite ready yet, check out our other planning resources! We can’t wait to talk with ya!
Additional Resources for Eloping Couples:
Pros and Cons of Eloping | Because the cost isn’t the only pro to eloping!
How to Elope | In case you need a checklist to get you started on planning your elopement
Eloping in Montana | An all-inclusive how to guide on eloping in Montana for the adventurous at heart