If you’re reading this, you most likely are wondering how to plan a destination elopement on a budget. There are many ways to elope. You can have anything from a simple courthouse elopement to a rather detailed destination mountain top elopement with lots of detail. Therefore, the cost of eloping can vary and range from a very low cost to a higher cost. The average cost of an elopement in the U.S is $10,000-$20,000, which is still considerably less than the average cost of what a full blown traditional wedding would be in the U.S, which is usually somewhere around 30-50k. In my experience, the average cost of my eloping couple is around $20,000, because they invest in more experiences for their day.
A destination elopement can seem like a daunting task to plan + overwhelmingly expensive. Although, you may be surprised that the more you dive into budget, it’s quite affordable.
Whether you’re thinking about eloping because its trendy, the views are amazing or because you’re placing more of an emphasis on your experience rather than tradition, you may be wondering what you should plan on spending and how to calculate the cost of your elopement. Well don’t worry, I have all the budgeting tips and tricks for you to plan your best day ever!
Average cost of Elopement
When considering the average cost of eloping, you’ll want to consider what you need to plan for in your budget.
Many consider eloping due to the skyrocketing average cost of weddings. Though, what many don’t realize is often elopements can be just as if not more expensive. That being said, there are ways to make your elopement cheaper. To determine how expensive your elopement will be, I encourage you to write down everything you could possibly want in your ideal elopement, if money weren’t an issue. From there, I encourage you to work backwards. See where you can make cuts + what is non-negotiable for you.
The average cost of an elopement – your vendors:
Photographer: $4000 to $10,000k+ (with me as your photographer, I’m based in the $4800 starting range + also assist in all planning of your elopement, so you save costs there! If you’re planning a destination elopement and need someone to photograph/ assist in planning, get in touch here to tell me about your dream day! )
Cake: $50- 250
Stationery/ invites/ announcement cards: $150-500
Florals $100- 500+
Décor/rentals: huge range depending on what you’re wanting (beginning at $100)
Officiant: anywhere from $200-450
Hair and Makeup Artist: $200-500+
Bubbly after to celebrate your marriage: $10-30
A meal for the two of you $100- 300
How to Determine your dream elopement budget– understanding the average cost of your elopement
Before diving into figuring out your cost of your elopement, all your elopement planning of each and every detail, you’ll want to make sure you’ve established a budget. It sounds a little counter-intuitive, but I would recommend writing down every possible thing you could want in your elopement day to start. Dream big and don’t limit yourselves! Sit down as a couple + begin brainstorming what you could live without and what your priorities are and work your way down to a small list. To get you started, I’ve began a list for you below of what most couples start out with. Depending on your destination, you may have more specific excursions or activities you’ll want to do surrounding your elopement, so don’t forget to budget for those!
When writing your list about your day, consider every last moment of your day + how you’ll want to feel + how to achieve that, how you’ll dine, where you’ll stay, etc. Think about the memories you’ll want to have created once your day is over and you’re looking back at pictures. Once you have this list, go through + begin crossing things out that you could imagine cutting off your list. If you can’t imagine cutting anything off your list + you feel like you were being realistic from the beginning, then BOOM. There’s your budget!
What to plan for in your destination elopement budget:
Dress/ suit (or other attire)
Plane tickets/ gas/ travel cost
Permits or licenses for where you’re getting married
Lodging (hotel, Airbnb, VRBO)
Amenities/day trips/ activities
Food budget- look up cost of meal in location per day
Vendors- flowers, hair and makeup, photographer, videographer, cake, catering/food music, officiant, planner, stationery, etc.
Any decoration or rentals you’ll need
Elopement announcements (stationery to send out to family once you’re both back).
9 Ways you can save money when planning for your elopement when planning for your elopement
Loding (Airbnb, hotel or VRBO).
Consider if you will spend a lot of time at your Airbnb and if you’d like it in the pictures. If you can go without pictures here + it really is only a place to sleep, you may be able to cut some of your budget here. On the other hand, if you’re wanting a more cozy vibe, plan on taking lots of breaks in between your day at your Airbnb and using it as a main picture location, you may not want to cut your budget here.
Where you will Elope
Can you imagine yourselves getting married at a state park? National park? Would the possibility of being on public land irritate you if bystanders were walking by or even watching your ceremony? These are all things to consider when picking your elopement location. You can definitely cut budget by eloping in a state or national park, but also beware that you may experience onlookers! There are some ways to avoid this. I provide all my elopement couples with an exclusive planning guide that will go through the best time of year to elope in your chosen location, how to avoid crowds and peak tourist season + also how to pick a spot that is beautiful but less trafficked. Some of the most beautiful elopements I’ve shot have occurred in state parks or national parks.
Elopement attire can range all over the place, but if you’re looking to cut costs on your attire, there are inexpensive sites that will provide great fashionable options for half of the price as a normal bridal or suit shop. If you’re planning on having an adventure hiking elopement, you may be able to get away with a lot more. Consider wearing your own hiking shoes under your dress or suit. You may be able to use an outer protective wind or insulated layer that you already have Here are some of my recommendations:
Limit your guest count. Usually this comes with the “elopement” title, but the main ways to decrease costs are by decreasing the amount of people you need to pay for. Also, if you want to have a certain number of guests there, you may want to only include a ceremony and make your celebration very short. Often times, the meal is what will tend to add costs. You can either decide to forgo a meal by planning it at a certain time of day or can make it a potluck with your family and friends to decrease the cost! Let’s be honest. These people are all here to celebrate the two of you anyways, so do you really think they’d mind bringing a dish? That’s your call.
Search for Travel deals!
Search for travel deals ahead of time! If you elope with me, I help you do all of this. You can look for early bird airfare and hotel costs by searching early as soon as you know your date. There are also other apps you can use like hopper and Skyscanner to see when flights will be cheapest. Google flights is also another awesome tool to see if you can get cheaper multi-city flights than if you were to just fly direct to your destination! Just make sure you search your flights on an incognito browser so that your destination flights don’t increase the more you look at them. I personally don’t recommend buying your flights through Hopper or skyscanner as I’ve had troubles with booking through them in the past, but you can use their sites to track when the best time to buy is! Then you’ll want to buy directly through the airline!
Consider a weekday Elopement!
Consider eloping on a weekday. This is my biggest recommendation to anyone and everyone. You should consider this for two reasons (firstly to avoid crowds and secondly to make it cheaper). Many vendors offer weekday discounts so don’t forget to ask what types of discounts they offer and if a weekday elopement is cheaper for them. Saturdays are the most popular day to get married (which will be the most expensive days). Vendors often even have discounts for Fridays and Sundays and then a separate mid- week price! Also, if you want your friends and family, if they matter to you, they will be there.
Make it legal in your hometown!
Consider getting legally married in your home town + then doing a symbolic ceremony in your chosen destination to save yourself some trouble. Firstly, as an elopement photographer, I often will recommend this to my couples who are planning their elopements to save them time and energy of finding an officiant/celebrant in their chosen destination. This way, you may have a more intimate celebration with just the two of you + your photographer if wanted. In summary, this can decrease costs of hiring an officiant and the only cost of legally getting married will be securing your marriage license at town hall.
Consider getting married in one of these states that does not require an officiant (self solemnize your marriage!) Here’s an awesome article by Wildly Collective on how to self solemnize your marriage in these states.
District of Columbia
Borrow meaningful items!
Consider borrowing items from friends or relatives that have recently been married. Consider using a dried bouquet from one of your friends, a dress that may be your moms, a suit that your father wore, jewelry that have been heirlooms in your family, etc. However, this tip isn’t for everyone. Though, it’s definitely a way to save money if you’re willing to think outside the box!
Which elopement destination is cheap to travel to?
Here are some cheap destinations below. These are often some of the cheapest to travel to + get to from most places in the U.S. Lastly, they provide amazing views and experiences + are overall the cheapest to get married at.
Cheap elopement destinations in the United States that are still gorgeous
British Virgin Islands
In the Montana Mountains
Cheap elopement destinations worldwide
South Africa (cheap travel once in the country).
In conclusion, elopements can be as much or as little as you want them to be. However, you must sit down + come up with a budget to begin planning. I hope this helps get you started with planning your dream destination elopement! If you’re in need of a photographer + want someone who’s going to help you plan all your details, your trip + your dream day, click inquire below! (:
I’m Lexi! I am passionate about documenting eloping couples all over the globe, in a place that’s special to you. My approach to your day is as honest as you experience it + less of the stiff stuff. I’d love to hear what you’re dreaming up for your wedding day!
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