How Much Does an Elopement Cost?
How much does an elopement cost versus a traditional wedding?
Alright, before we get into this, let's just put something out here first so it's front and center.
How much you spend on your wedding does not determine it's worth, how fun it is, how special or meaningful it is, or have ANY impact on your relationship at all. It's a cliché, but money doesn't buy happiness and it sure as hell doesn't buy a good marriage.
This is just meant to be used as a guideline so you can know what to expect and gauge your budget and expectations from there. There are absolutely no rights or wrongs when it comes to eloping or when it comes to getting married. I just feel that there's so much information out there for wedding budgets and not a lot for elopements, so couples don't know what to expect and can end up blindsided. And seriously, elopements can be as simple or as elaborate as you want them to be- it is YOUR day.
Okay, stepping off my soapbox to dive into the information you actually came here for.
How much do traditional weddings cost?
According to a survey done by The Knot in 2019, the average cost of a wedding was $33,900.
What is that spent on?
Band or Dj
Catering & Dessert
Invitations and other stationary
Plates, tablecloths, chairs, etc
Hair and makeup artist
It adds up scarily fast!
Which is one reason (of many!) why some couples choose to elope instead! While you certainly could just go to the courthouse and call it a day, elopements have been drastically redefined and are SO much more than that.
So, what is an elopement?
An elopement is an intentionally intimate, deeply meaningful celebration of your relationship and love, that is completely focused on the two of you. Elopements center the focus on what matters the most- two people exchanging their vows and committing the rest of their lives to one another. There are many types of elopements, but adventure elopements are typically outside in nature and involve some element of adventure.
Eloping allows you to set aside stress, expectations, and throw out any traditions you don't feel connected to. You can elope just the two of you, or you can elope surrounded by your very closest family and friends. The beautiful thing about eloping? There are no rules.
How much do elopements cost?
A huge myth in society is that elopements are a cheaper, "less than" way to get married- which couldn't be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is, often times couples who elope value experiences over material things. And when it comes down to it, all the stuff that's included in a big wedding just isn't a priority for couples eloping and isn't where they want to spend their money on. Instead they're intentionally choosing to invest in what matters to them and in the things that they truly love and are passionate about.
Think about it.
Do you want a dream vacation spent doing all the things you love together, going on wild adventures, indulging in delicious foods, experiencing new exciting things? Maybe go to the destination you've always wanted to go to or splurge on all the "extras"? Or even save for a down payment on a house?
There are so many factors that go into determining how much your elopement is going to cost, so as frustrating as this may be I can't give you a simple, straight answer. But, I can help you get halfway there. Because the truth is you could just get a marriage license, go to the courthouse, and call it a day. But that isn't the type of celebration I'm talking about here- I'm talking about a much more intentional experience. An experience that truly celebrates your unique love and the day you say your vows to one another. A day where you get to do exactly what you want, how you want, where you want and with who you want (and while having a whole lot of fun!). So, I'll be diving deep into what an average adventure elopement costs here!
The cost of an average adventure elopement can range from approximately $4,500-$30,000 with an average of $15,000.
That's a pretty big range right? Like I said before, everything in an elopement is completely up to you- feel free to DIY what you want, skip what you don't need, and splurge on what you really want. (If you want my two cents, I think there's a lot of beauty in simplicity.)
So...what are you actually paying for?!
An Elopement Photographer: $4,000- $15,000
Alright, so I may be 100% biased in my opinion, but your elopement photographer is hands down one of the most important investments you can make for your elopement day. It's important you find someone that you truly connect with as I really believe that they can make or break your day. Since there won't be many (if any) guests, you'll be spending a lot of time with your photographer- choose someone you feel comfortable around and can be yourself in front of. Choose someone who's work you love- someone who you trust will document your day honestly and is passionate about providing an incredible experience. Someone who will capture photos that you can treasure for years to come. You want to look at your photos and be able to relive your elopement day exactly as it was- feel all the same emotions and sensations you did on that day. See the beautiful landscape you chose to adventure in and the people you chose to include. Your partners face as you told them your vows, the laughter and the tears, the spontaneous moments, the sense of wonder and awe of being in such a magical place and saying your vows. Your photos are important. Make sure to prioritize them!
Additionally, most elopement photographers are SO MUCH more than "just a photographer" and actually double as a planner of sorts. A lot of photographers will provide you with planning advice, location scouting, logistical assistance, vendor recommendations, timeline construction, and have a wealth of knowledge from their own personal adventures and past elopements they've previously shot.
Travel and Lodging: $50-$4,000
So...this is a pretty big range. Some couples may elope locally and spend $50 on a tank of gas, while others choose to elope internationally and have a honeymoon there as well! Some couples want to backpack or stay out of a van, while others may want to splurge on fancier hotels or luxuries. Knowing how you want to travel and where you plan to travel is going to be a large factor into your budget!
Some things to think about when planning your budget here:
Are you eloping locally or travelling domestically/internationally?
Even if you're eloping locally, do you want to stay in an Airbnb/hotel the night before or the night of? (especially if you're eloping at sunrise or sunset)
Don't forget to factor in car rentals, luggage fees, passport renewals, meal costs, etc if you're flying somewhere.
Wedding Attire: $200- $3,500
Honestly, you can married in whatever you want! My top advice is to choose something that you absolutely love and to choose something that is easy and comfortable to move around in (especially if you plan to hike or adventure around a lot). And while many people do still decide to wear "traditional" wedding attire on their elopement day- you most certainly don't have to! (Did I hear someone say black or colored wedding dress?!)
Check out these elopement wedding dresses if you want some inspiration!
Some states allow you to self-solemnize (meaning you don't need to hire an officiant!) or some elopement photographers (like myself) double as an officiant to allow you to have a more intimate elopement experience. That being said, if you want a more traditional ceremony experience, an officiant is an incredible vendor to include! They will lead your ceremony and have a large influence on the tone of the ceremony, so be sure to choose someone you click with and that you like their past works.
(Optional) Videographer: $2,500-$7,000
A videographer is such a special vendor to include in your day! A video of your elopement is something that you can treasure and watch for years to come. You can relive your vows and really hear the catch in their voice, your laughter, the birds chirping or the wind rustling through the trees. A good videographer that can authentically document your love story is not to be underestimated for sure!
While certainly not required, florals can be a lovely addition to your elopement day! Whether you want to include them in a bouquet, flower crown, or in some other unique way- fresh flowers are sure to add a fun pop of color. Or if that isn't your thing, consider eloping in summer and be surrounded in fields of stunning wildflowers!
Food & Drink: $50-300
Whether you're packing along a picnic and a couple of cold beers to enjoy at the top of a mountaintop right at sunset, or enjoying a private chef-catered meal at your Airbnb tucked away in the woods, don't forget to plan to eat on your day!
Permits and Passes: $0-$800
If you've started planning an outdoor elopement, chances are you've heard something about permits. Each park and agency has their own rules and regulations surrounding permits and they can very greatly from one area to the next. Additionally, this information changes frequently and different people can be told different answers. Short answer? Some areas don't require a permit and are completely free to get married in and others can charge prices up to $800. But in general, at least in Washington, most permits are going to cost around 50-150. If you want more information, read this blog post about permits to elope in Washington State!
Extra Adventures: $0-$3000
Depending on what adventures you want to include on your elopement day, the range on what it will cost you is pretty large too. Whether you want to keep it lowkey and go on a hike, play a board game, hang out in your favorite hammock, or even just sit with your toes in the sand at the beach while enjoying the warmth from a campfire. Or you could rent a Jeep and go on an off-roading adventure, go kayaking, explore a glacier, ride in a dog sled while chasing the northern lights. Or you could even charter a helicopter and take a once in a lifetime tour, or do something really wild like go BASE jumping or trek to a far away mountain. The options are truly endless on what you can do for your elopement day- pick something that you both enjoy and will make you the happiest and most full for your wedding day!
Miscellaneous: $150- $1000
This can vary pretty greatly too, but some things to think about and consider are:
Just Married/We Eloped signs
Hair and Makeup
Firewood/Lanterns/Candles for dusk
Prints and an Album from your day so you can relive your experience over and over
So, as you can see how much someone spends on an elopement can range wildly from one couple to the next. I honestly believe if you focus on the experience and do whatever speaks to you and your relationship and makes you happy, that you will have the best elopement ever (regardless of the price tag!!).
Want More Resources?
Learn more about what you can do on your all-day elopement and get timeline suggestions.
Get real elopement inspiration from a Olympic National Park Elopement.
Hire a Photographer for Your Washington Elopement
Hi! My name is Kathleen and I'm an adventure wedding and elopement photographer (and your new friend!). I'm based in Washington, but travel to Arizona, Utah, Alaska, and all over the world! I'm here to help guide you to having the ultimate wedding day experience, and to document every single moment of it. I would love to help you plan your elopement and answer any questions you may have! You can also check out my
Washington Elopement Packages for more information on how to get started.
Get in touch with me and let's start planning your dream adventure.