With the average cost of a traditional wedding in the U.S. being upwards of $30,000, it’s no wonder people are daunted and intimated by the thought of planning for one and researching the cost of elopement weddings. Although elopement weddings come with their own unique costs, they are an all-around much cheaper option. On average, most people spend less than half of what the average person spends on a traditional wedding. One of the things I love most about elopements is that it gives you the freedom to spend money on what is important to you and your partner, and cut out the costs of the things you don’t find as important. Because of the variety in elopements and small weddings, there isn’t a one size fits all model for looking at the cost. However, there is a basic breakdown of common costs that you can look out for when wedding or elopement planning.
First off, it is important to take the price of any activity you are planning on your elopement wedding day into consideration. If you are planning an exciting activity, such as a helicopter ride over a scenic area, or a hot air balloon ride; or if you are planning on paying for a service, like a guided adventurous activity, such as a white water rafting escapade, or a guided mountain climb, this will obviously play into the cost of your day. Keep in mind that the larger your group is, the more you will end up paying for an activity of this nature.
It is also important to consider the price of the venue. Even if you do not take advantage of a traditional wedding venue for your elopement ceremony, there are still sometimes hidden costs with unconventional venues. If you are planning on eloping in a state or national park, there is often a required fee for a special use permit. Or, if you are planning on renting out an intimate space for a celebration afterward, such as an Airbnb, keep this cost in mind as well.
The price of any vendors present sometimes gets overlooked when planning for an elopement. Many couples choose to still incorporate traditional wedding elements into their wedding day, even if they are not having a traditional wedding. If you are planning to have a photographer or videographer present, take this into account when figuring out overall costs for your elopement day. On average, wedding photographers cost about $2,500, and videographers cost about $1,800. However, depending on photography and documentation style, some couples may choose to spend up to $10,000 on photography and videography services. Most couples agree that they want their wedding day to be one of the most well-documented days of their life, thus often making photography the most expensive cost of an elopement.
In addition to documenting your day, elopement photographers also often serve as planners to help you create your wedding experience. I prioritize your experience and spend hours researching locations, permits, activities to guide you through your day.
Having an officiant present also accrues a cost, as well as any live music or special bands you may choose to incorporate into the day. The cost of your officiant depends on the type of ceremony you’re having (legal, civil, symbolic). In some cases, if you completed your paperwork already or plan to later, you may not even need an officiant!
Finally, take into account the price of any special decorating, wedding attire, flowers, archways, cakes or desserts, and or meals you choose to incorporate into your elopement. The amazing thing about eloping is that you get to pick and choose what you want, and don’t want to incorporate into your day. Not much of a dancer? Skip the live band and the musicians. Don’t want to spend big bucks on renting out a big venue? Rent an air BnB or utilize a family member’s property instead, or simply skip a venue altogether and go for one of your favorite hikes, or picnic spots to say your vows. Not big on traditional wedding gowns? Skip it and make your own! By simply opting out of the traditional route, the cost of elopement weddings is sure to be on the lower end. Elopements give couples more opportunities to customize their day and make it their own, which means you are completely in control of what you want (and don’t want) to spend your money on.
I’m Karen, a California elopement photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to push the boundaries of tradition and create an unforgettable experience.
I help all couples worldwide by providing personalized location lists, planning resources, vendor recommendations, permits, timeline-curation, and much more to curate elopement days that will be cherished forever.
here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience