How Much Does it Cost to Elope? Guide for Elopements in 2022
One of the most challenging parts of planning a wedding can be determining your budget — many people will ask themselves “what’s the cost an elopement?”. The average costs of a wedding has continued to rise over the years, with a slight dip happening in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic postponing or downsizing most weddings. Elopements on average should be less expensive than a traditional wedding and cost between $2,500 and $10,000. According to The Knot’s Real Weddings Study, the average traditional wedding cost in 2019 was $33,900. As the prices continue to rise, a lot of couples have started to question whether a wedding or an elopement makes the most sense for them. Instead of wondering about the cost of an elopement, here’s the data to inform your decision.
To put it plainly, the biggest difference between a wedding and an elopement is that most of the budget of a wedding goes toward the guest experience, whereas most (if not all) of the budget for your elopement is focused on you and your partner’s experience. And sadly, the guest experience can add up quickly depending on the number of guests, venue location and more. But that’s not to say that couples don’t invest in their elopements.
There are quite a few costs to consider when planning your elopement — just getting your marriage license can cost from $50-$200 depending on the state you’re in. With that being said, a lot of couples like to see a comparison of the numbers, and learn how they can customize their elopement to even save some money in different areas. We’re getting into the full breakdown below!
Elopement Locations vs. Wedding Venue Costs
The venue is typically one of the biggest drivers of traditional wedding ceremony and reception costs. You’ll probably be surprised when you see the cost differences between an elopement location compared to a larger wedding venue. To give you an idea, we’ve included a price range which can vary based on the state you live in, the size of your wedding and the day of the week that you choose to get married.
Elopement Locations: $0-$750
Rather than securing a wedding venue for an entire day, we’re usually reserving some elopement locations for just a few hours which can help drive down costs. The cost of location permits can run anywhere from $100-$750 if required for your desired location, including national parks. Typically this cost is a combination of the park entrance fee and the actual park permit fee, so it can fluctuate from one location to the next. Did you know there are actually some spots that don’t require a permit at all? Yes, you read that right. The cost of that elopement location would be zero! The best part? Most of those locations actually have incredible views that you’d never have if you booked a traditional venue.
Photo by Amber McWhorter
Traditional Wedding Venue: $1,000-$80,000+
It’s no secret that wedding venues are one of the biggest expenses couples will face when planning a traditional wedding. According to an internal study The Knot conducted in 2019, most couples spend around 30% of their wedding budget on the venue. But truthfully, the amount can be much higher if your venue requires in-house catering, rentals and more. The overall price of your wedding varies greatly depending on where you’re getting married. A wedding in New York or California will certainly have a higher price tag than somewhere like Idaho or Wyoming. Curious to see an average cost per state? Check out this 2019 report by The Knot for the average wedding cost in the U.S. by state. There are a few additional costs that can come with a traditional wedding venue an add to the bill including:
- Parking fees or valet
- Food or beverage minimums if in-house catering is required
- Rentals: Chairs, tables, linens, flatware, servers, etc.
- Event Insurance
- Usage of loading docks and/or storage for decor prior to the day
- Corkage and cake cutting fees
- Taxes, gratuities and service fees — be sure to ask about these as it can add up fast.
Elopement Florals vs. Traditional Wedding Florals
Let’s be honest, traditional weddings can involve a LOT of floral arrangements — table centerpieces, bridal party bouquets and boutonnieres, aisle markers, arches, signage and more. Aside from wedding venues, florals are typically the next highest item in the wedding budget. If only flowers could last forever, right?
Elopement Florals: $30-$650
When it comes to elopements, you don’t have to include florals! Some of our couples have kept things minimal, while others have still opted for a stunning floral arch as the centerpiece of their elopement ceremony. It’s truly up to you! A few ideas we’ve seen rather than floral bouquets include flower crowns, faux florals and wristlets. If you decide you want to design a custom bouquet with a florist, the pricing can vary based on the flowers you have your heart set on and the size. On average, most bridal bouquets are around $200-$300. One thing to note: There are actually some national parks and other locations that won’t allow outside florals to preserve the park’s natural beauty.
Photo by Kristen Joy Photography
Traditional Wedding Florals: $1,000-$10,000+
As we mentioned above, wedding florals can add up quickly! If flowers are important to you, there are ways that you can save in this department. You can mix expensive flowers with inexpensive options, use candles along with florals to help take up space, reuse ceremony flowers during the reception, stick to designs with lots of greenery or filler flower options to help create volume, and create just one or two big floral moments while keeping the rest simple. There are a lot of florists with minimums for weekend weddings, so be sure to ask about this in advance if you don’t want to waste any time. The Knot reported that in 2019, the average cost of wedding flowers was $2,000. But couples who envisioned lining their ceremony and reception with lots of fresh flowers could expect to spend well over that amount.
Elopement Invitations vs. Traditional Wedding Paper Products
Most of our elopement couples elect not to send invitations, as the ceremony is usually kept to just the two of them or an intimate gathering with their close family and friends. However, traditional weddings typically call for a full invitation suite including save-the-dates, formal invitations, RSVP cards and more.
Elopement Invitations: $0-$60
If you aren’t planning to invite family or friends to your elopement, there’s really no reason to spend money on invitations. However, some of our couples choose to send announcements after their elopement or invitations to a celebration following their elopement. While those may not factor into the actual “elopement” budget, they are items to keep in mind!
For those couples that do plan for some family and friends to attend, the costs of invitations should be minimal. Other paper products that you may consider for your elopement include vow books, but we recommend searching on Etsy for budget-friendly options that are actually stunning!
Traditional Wedding Invitations and Other Paper Products: $500-$5,000+
Yes, that’s quite a range. But when it comes to traditional wedding stationery, there are so many customization options that can drive up costs like calligraphy, embossing, foil stamping and more. If you’re looking to save a bit, non-custom designs on websites like Minted and Shutterfly that you can order in bulk will typically cost less.
When it comes to custom designs, prices can vary based on paper type, number of invitations and how many pieces will make up your invitation suite. According to Brides, the average cost of wedding invitations is $5,000-$8,000 for a set of 100 invitations. They suggest that couples set aside 4-6% of their budget for paper products.
Elopement Meals vs. Traditional Wedding Catering
As you can imagine, feeding over 100 people at a traditional wedding can get pricey, especially if your venue has a food and beverage minimum that you’re required to meet. Some of these minimums for weekend weddings can be anywhere from $10,000-$30,000. However, this amount can fluctuate largely depending on wedding size, location and alcohol package options.
Elopement Meals: $50-$200
For couples planning an adventure elopement, especially one involving hiking, you’ll want to pack some food for the day. Often our couples elect to have a picnic following their ceremony — we’ll help you plan how it looks and what’s included! Most of our elopement packages include champagne and a cake, so that’s also something you can also cross off the list. To put it simply, an elopement can save you thousands in food and beverage costs. However, we have also planned formal dinners or small receptions for our couples who elope with close family members and friends. So it’s really up to you how much you wish to spend in this area!
Traditional Wedding Catering: $8,000-$30,000+
To be honest, traditional wedding catering costs can vary greatly across the country depending on your menu choices and more. Recently Brides shared that The Wedding Report indicated that U.S. weddings in 2019 reported an average of $4,618 spent on food services and $2,365 on bar services. Seasonality can affect prices, as well whether you opt for a buffet versus a plated dinner.
Don’t forget about cocktail hour! You’ll usually be feeding guests during this timeframe as well, and if you choose to have an open bar, there will be alcohol costs as well. Aside from hors d’oeuvres, dinner and alcohol, you may have additional costs for desserts, late-night snacks and kids menu offerings.
Hair and Makeup for Elopements vs. Traditional Weddings
The biggest difference between elopements and traditional weddings in this category is whether or not you’re having a bridal party. In fact, there are a rising number of couples planning larger weddings and still opting to not have a full bridal party. This is certainly one of the categories that can fluctuate depending on personal preference — some brides like to do their own hair and makeup! Don’t forget about the cost of hair and makeup trials (should you wish to have them), which can be anywhere from $50-$250.
Elopement Hair and Makeup: $0-$600
We’ve worked with brides that prefer to go au naturale for their elopement and some that are ready to go full glam. If you’d prefer a professional to do your hair and makeup, costs can be pretty simple. The typical price for bridal makeup is around $150-$250, and bridal hair is around $150-$350 depending on how intricate of a style or if you’re planning to have multiple looks on the day. The other factor to include in this would be any required travel or setup costs depending on where you plan to get ready for your elopement. Of course, keep in mind that more experience or high-profile artists may charge more for their work.
Photo by Feel and Focus Photography
Traditional Hair and Makeup: $0-$2,500
When it comes to traditional weddings, some brides are starting to steer away from “traditional” ways — some are choosing to do their hair and makeup themselves and in some cases, bridal party members are picking up their costs rather than the bride. This is definitely an area of the budget that can vary, but if you’re keeping things truly traditional, the average cost per bridal party member for hair and makeup would be around $300. Again, don’t forget any required travel costs as well as tipping your stylists, usually around 15-25% of the total bill.
Photographer Costs for Elopements and Weddings
The costs for a photographer or videographer can fluctuate depending on how many hours you’re requiring their services and elopement package options — some of our package options actually include your photographer!
Elopement Photographer: $2,000-$5,000
Most elopement photographers won’t be budgeting for 10 hours of shooting time, a back-up second photographer and capturing all of the intricate aspects of a traditional wedding. However, there may be some different cost factors for elopements photographers including travel, hiking with equipment and potential photographer or permitting fees at certain locations. But keep in mind, a photographer’s experience level can also drive up this cost. We recommend getting quotes from a few different photographers with an editing style you like to be able to compare.
Photo by Jenna Knott Photography
Traditional Wedding Photographer: $4,000-$9,000
Wedding photographers can make up another chunk of the overall budget, especially for weddings with 150+ guests. Typically they are working off a timeline to capture the entire bridal party getting ready, portraits with family, first looks, ceremony, cocktail hour, reception and all the detail in-between. Oftentimes for large weddings, photographers will bring in a second photographer to help them tackle multiple angles and parts of the day so that nothing is missed. This can certainly result in an upcharge, especially if they would require separate travel costs.
Like we mentioned above, reach out to a few photographers you like to be able to accurately compare the offerings. Be sure to speak with your venue coordinator as well, since most of the time they have a preferred vendor list they can provide you with — these vendors would all be familiar with the venue and probably know the best places to photograph you on the day.
Additional Costs to Consider
So we’ve covered most of the big budget items, but what other costs are there to consider? Since elopements aren’t as focused on the guest experience, there are some vendors you won’t necessarily have to worry about. See below for average ranges for each of these additional costs you may require.
Additional Elopement Costs to Consider:
- Marriage License: $50-200 (can vary based on the state you’re getting married in)
- Travel and Lodging: $500-$2,000
- Elopement Attire: $500-$4,000 (depending on whether you purchase or rent your dress and suit or tuxedo)
- Officiant (if required): $200-$500
- Videographer: $3,000-$6,000
Additional Traditional Wedding Costs to Consider:
- Marriage License: $50-200 (can vary based on the state you’re getting married in)
- Wedding Planner or Day-Of Coordinator: $1,000+ (this can vary depending on if your venue provides one as a part of their package cost)
- Entertainment: $1,000-$3,500
- Officiant (if required): $200-$500
- Wedding Cake or Desserts: $350-$700
- Wedding Favors: $5-$10 per guest
- Videographer: $3,000-$6,000
- Transportation: $1,000-$3,500
So How Much Does it Really Cost to Elope?
Ultimately, it’s entirely up to you! The best thing about elopements is that there are no rules. You can get married in the middle of a forest on a Wednesday, or on a sandy beach on a Saturday evening. You should never feel pressured to spend more on your elopement than you’re comfortable with. But, you should invest in the elopement that you and your partner truly want. We’re here to help you along the way, but don’t forget this is YOUR day!