So you are thinking about eloping but you are wondering, how much does it cost to elope? Is it actually cheaper to have an elopement than a wedding? The answer is: it depends!
Elopements can cost as little as the price to actually get your marriage certificate or as much as a full-blown wedding. It really depends on what you and your partner plan to do for your elopement.
Let’s dive into some of the most common expenses you will have when eloping to answer the big question: how much does it cost to elope?
Travel and accommodations are most likely going to be the biggest expenses when it comes to your elopement (and the one thing that could cost as much or more than a traditional wedding, depending on your plans). Often, weddings are going to be relatively close to where you or your families live to make planning and your wedding day a little easier.
However, if you are planning an elopement, you are most likely looking at a destination elopement. Whether this is in your state (like Michigan!), within the US, or in another country, you may have to factor in the cost of road trips, airfare, and hotels.
With destination elopements, you may also have to factor in the travel and accommodation costs for your photographers and other vendors. Every photographer will be different, especially those that travel. I personally include my travel expenses in each of my destination and elopement packages so that the number you see is what you get (I’m not a fan of surprise fees!). I also offer lower (or sometimes none at all!) travel fees for locations along my travel schedule or on my dream bucket list and many photographers do the same. If your elopement location is on their travel schedule or bucket list, it may save you tremendously on travel! It is always a good idea to check with your dream photographer before booking your destination elopement to make sure you know the full travel and accommodations costs.
On the flip side, if you are doing an elopement in the same place as your honeymoon, your travel costs would be comparable to having a larger wedding and then flying to your honeymoon destination. A lot of it will depend on your location, length of stay, and your plans while there.
When it comes to venues, odds are you are going to be paying less for any venue you choose for an elopement versus a wedding. Since elopements are much smaller ceremonies, and can even be just you and your partner, you have the benefit of not needing a large venue or needing to rent it for a long period of time.
You can also choose to not have your elopement at an actual “venue” and opt for something more intimate. This can be at you or your partner’s house, a park that you go to together often, the beach, a national park, or really almost any location you want (provided you’re allowed to be there, of course).
You can easily find a location for your ceremony that you don’t have to pay for or you aren’t restricted on how long you can stay there. While you may need permits to have your ceremony in some places (which we will talk about next) this will still be significantly less than renting a full wedding venue.
This is most likely the one cost that you might come across when planning an elopement that you would not have when planning a wedding. Depending on where you are planning to have your ceremony, you may be required to get permits.
Some locations will require your photographer to have a permit to shoot there or will require you to have a permit to actually have your wedding there.
For instance, if you are planning on having your elopement at a National Park, you will need a permit to have your ceremony there. If you choose a photographer who is used to shooting in National Parks, they may be able to help walk you through the permit process or you can go to the National Park’s website to find all the information you need to plan your ceremony.
The permit price can also range from place to place. National Parks, for example, can range in price from $50-$500. Some permits can be even cheaper than that though!
Even though this is an expense you may not have with a larger wedding, you are very likely to pay less for the permit than you would for a full wedding venue.
We all know that flowers can be expensive. At a full wedding, you have to buy multiple bouquets and/or boutonnieres for you and your partner as well as your wedding parties, centerpieces, accent flowers, etc. The cost of all of these flowers can really start to add up.
However, when it comes to elopements, you cut down on almost all of those expenses. For the most part, you will only need to purchase one or two bouquets and boutonnieres and that is it. Heck, you could ball out on florals with an arch for your ceremony and your car and whatever else, and you’ll still save simply because you have no or very few guests.
Unless you live in or elope in one of the few states that allow self-solemnization (ie: you can sign your own marriage license with no witnesses), you are going to need an officiant and possibly witnesses. Some elopement venues or photographers may have officiants included in their packages that can marry you and your partner.
If you would like to hire an officiant, the cost will completely depend on the officiant and what they charge. You can also have one of your friends or family members get ordained to add a more personal touch to your wedding.
Depending on your elopement plans and what you want to get out of it, you can also get legally married at the courthouse before or after your elopement ceremony. To do this, you can have a judge legally marry you and sign your marriage certificate. While this does mean you will be “legally” married before or after your actual ceremony, you will also be able to have someone close to you both perform your elopement ceremony to add a more intimate touch, or no one at all.
In most cases, the only fees you will have to pay for getting married by a judge is your marriage license and possibly a filing fee. However, these are the same fees you will run into with a full wedding ceremony since they are for the license itself.
Whether you plan a traditional wedding or you elope, you’ll have the cost of your wedding attire. How much space that takes up in your budget is entirely your decision, but the cost is something to consider as you plan.
If you hire a professional, you’ll also have the cost of hair and makeup on the wedding day. If you’re eloping in a remote place, keep in mind that you may need to pay additional fees in travel to bring a hair and makeup artist in from a nearby city. You can also save the cost by doing your own hair and makeup. (Sidenote, some makeup artists offer bridal makeup lessons to teach you how to do your makeup yourself on the wedding day! This is awesome if you’re getting married in a remote place). Even if you need to pay travel fees for an artist, elopements can cost much less as you are not having to pay for your entire bridal party.
Finally, let’s talk about food. You can spend anywhere from $25 to $100+ per person for your reception food. This can really start to add up as your guest list grows.
With an elopement, you tend to have less than 20 people which significantly lowers the price even if you do choose to have an intimate reception. Some couples even opt to skip the reception all together.
When it comes to the cake, you can definitely go a little more low key (if you want one at all) with an elopement. There’s no need for a five tier cake or dozens of cupcakes if you don’t have to feed an entire reception full of people.
I definitely think that cake is still a great addition to any elopement but it is much smaller. This can cut the cost of your cake down from hundreds of dollars to $50-$75.
So how much does it cost to elope? It really depends on where you want to elope and what you want to include in your wedding day. If you are looking to stay on a budget, you can elope for as little as the cost of your marriage license. You can also go all out and spend as much money on your elopement as you would on a larger wedding. Still looking for the perfect elopement photographer? Click here to get in contact and see how we can help make your dream elopement a reality.