It doesn’t matter if you go skydiving or exchange vows under a starry sky–starting on the marriage path is the ultimate adventure. Embarking into the unknown with your partner for life is a big leap of faith! That’s why it only makes sense to turn wedding days into elopement adventures. It’s the best way to mark the beginning of a lifelong adventure together. If you have ever asked, how much does it cost to elope, these are the facts and tips that will help you decide if it’s the right investment for you!

couple walks holding hands at foggy mountainside elopement

How Much Does it Cost to Elope? The Elopement Budget Breakdown

While I go deeper into the differences between a wedding and an elopement elsewhere, here we are comparing the value of an elopement investment versus the cost of a traditional wedding. I’ll explain these differences by first breaking down an answer to the question: how much does it cost to elope?

A recent update from Brides magazine pulled from research compiled by Adventure Instead on the average cost to elope. Similar to a traditional wedding day, the prices can range dramatically depending on where and how you elope. The cost to get married at a courthouse easily takes the most inexpensive position on the list because it lacks the bells and whistles of an average day. 

Depending upon your state, if you stick with a courthouse elopement it can cost up to $200. With that as the baseline, elopement photographer packages generally range from $5,000 to $15,000. Again, this depends upon the type of package you opt for as well as if you’re sticking with local versus wedding elopement destinations. This cost also rises if you bring in other outside vendors such as a bakery for a cake or hair and makeup artists.

couple exchanges vows at sunrise Grand Canyon elopement

Wedding Reception Cost Breakdown

One of the biggest ways that you save on your elopement cost and why they are generally less expensive than weddings is foregoing a wedding reception. In this same article a report by The Wedding Report is cited stating the average costs of items generally included in a regular wedding reception (in 2022):

  • Venues: $5767
  • Reception Food: $5195
  • Bar Service: $2673
  • Decorations: $1932
  • Gifts/Favors: $474
  • = $16,041 for the reception alone.

Instead, you could put the money you would have spent on a reception towards a memory-making elopement activity or skip spending it at all. The point here is that the choice is entirely yours, and that’s one of the reasons why I care so deeply about being your elopement photographer. I love personalizing the experience to the two of you! 

Let’s walk through how to invest both in what your heart desires and what you truly love!

couple walks through Munds Wagon Trail in Sedona Arizona

The Elopement Investment: What You Get When Planning to Elope

Now that we’ve answered the basics of the question: how much does it cost to elope, now it’s time to break down what investing in an elopement really means. What you are actually paying for when you choose to elope is your experience! All of that begins with choosing your elopement photographer. 

As your photographer, my services aren’t limited to only photographing the actual elopement photoshoot. I’m along for the ride from the beginning acting as your wedding planner and wedding coordinator, to your assistant on the day carrying bags, sharing snacks and officiating. As Adventure Instead confirmed in the Brides article, “That person also helps the couple find a location, suggests vendors, and other functions similar to a wedding planner.”

As an elopement photographer, I have spent countless hours researching to pull together all the details for your day. I’ve spent time finding elopement locations with the best lighting, the most beautiful Airbnbs, and other vendors to bring your wedding dreams to life. 

When you choose to elope, you’re saving so much more than just money. You free yourself up with more time and relief from stress by entrusting me as the main person handling any questions or concerns regarding the day. This also includes selecting activities that create the most personalized wedding experience!

Elopement Cost Calculator:

couple kisses at outdoor elopement

Planning a Wedding on a Budget: Cut the Costs Not the Experience

Since you aren’t doing a traditional wedding, you get to choose exactly which elements you include rather than feeling pressured to do them all. Due to an elopement’s more flexible structure you can turn your wedding day into an investment rather than an obligation. While the answer to how much does it cost to elope can be more inexpensive, you should never cut yourself short on creating the perfect wedding day experience. 

The money you save can go towards traveling to a destination you’ve always dreamed of such as Iceland or Scotland (that also doubles for your honeymoon!). You could go for a couples adventure that’s completely new like a hot air balloon ride, kayaking, horseback riding, or purchasing rock climbing equipment. 

Practical Elopement Ideas to Save on Costs

Now that we’ve crunched the numbers, here are some simple ways to save on an elopement:

  • DIY your own hair and makeup or ask a skilled family member!
  • DIY your bouquet with local or silk floral. Some national parks (like the Grand Canyon) do not allow real flowers so having faux flowers is the better alternative.
  • DIY your own “Just Eloped” or “Just Married” sign to hang on your backpack or hold following the ceremony.
  • Have a picnic meal which also saves time on traveling to a restaurant from your ceremony location.
  • Elope in a local park, family home or farm, or in a national park! There are so many options out there!
  • Save on the wedding dress by searching for maxi or other styles of white dresses instead of what’s classified as a “wedding dress” since that cost will always be higher. Great online resources include: Etsy, Amazon, Lulus and ASOS.
  • Choose from adventure ideas that are exciting and new to you but still inexpensive: Adventure Instead shares, “Hammocking, picnicking, stargazing, hiking, and popping champagne are all inexpensive activities you can include in your day.” They also note that “Even renting bikes to pedal on the beach, renting kayaks to paddle on a lake, heading up a 4×4 trail in a jeep, hiring a private chef, and taking a scenic helicopter flight are relatively cheap activities when you consider the amount you would otherwise spend on feeding and entertaining guests at a big wedding.” 

Choosing to elope isn’t merely a budget item, it’s an investment in your future with your forever person. Eloping can still be a large financial investment, but no matter the price tag on your day, it’s the memories you create that you’ll never forget!

Hey, I’m Kelcee!

I would love to be your ADVENTURE elopement photographer

I’ve been capturing elopements since 2021, and it’s my passion to help adventurous couples like you create the perfect wedding day.

Your elopement is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you deserve the support to make it uniquely yours. Together, we’ll create quality memories that beautifully tell your love story, lasting a lifetime.