WEDDINGS AND ELOPEMENTS CAN BE EXPENSIVE
What does it really cost?
But don’t let that be a hindrance. We can help you guide you through planning and *gasp* budgeting your elopement or wedding.
Weddings are expensive. The average for the PNW is in the $30k range. Obviously, that means you can have a wedding for a lot less, but you’ll have to make a lot of decisions about what matters to you and what you want to do yourself.
A lot of people consider eloping as a way to save money. That is totally reasonable. I do believe that you should have the wedding you want. Budgets are a part of that but don’t elope if you really want to have a wedding in a church and visa versa.
So, let’s lay out a few things about how much various aspects of a wedding actually cost. In the chart below, you’ll see an inexpensive and average cost for both a wedding and elopement. For both, I am going to assume that you are getting married relatively close to where you live (so no planes are needed).
For all options, I hired myself for my all-day wedding coverage. We can chat about wedding photography for your event by starting on the contact page.
|Inexpensive wedding (50 people)||average wedding (100 people)||inexpensive elopement (5 guets)||average elopement (10 guests)|
KATIE & REBEKAH
These two flew across the country for a sunset elopement under Larch trees in the North Cascades with just their closes people around them.
How to budget for your elopement
Budgeting is such a frowned-upon word. And some of that is earned, but it’s not all bad. The concept of a budget is definitely to help you keep from overspending on areas of your day. But, it also gives you space to spend what you really want on your day. If your budget for a really expensive dress, then when the time comes, you’re free to actually spend that money.
With that, here are a few tips for budgeting for your adventure elopement (see full blog about planning an adventure elopement):
- Define Your Priorities: Determine what aspects of your elopement are most important to you and allocate your budget accordingly. Decide where you’re willing to spend more and where you can cut back. For example, if stunning photography is a priority, you might allocate a larger portion of your budget for a talented photographer. (like me)
- Research and Compare Prices: Take the time to research and gather information about various vendors, services, and locations. Compare prices, packages, and reviews to find the best value for your budget. Be sure to consider local vendors in your chosen elopement destination, as they may have more affordable options.
- Be Flexible with Dates and Locations: Consider having flexibility with your elopement date and location. Popular destinations and peak seasons tend to be more expensive. By choosing less popular times or alternative locations, you may be able to find more affordable options without compromising on the overall experience.
- Plan in Advance: Start planning and budgeting well in advance. This will give you more time to research, compare prices, and secure the best deals. Additionally, booking accommodations and services early often allows you to take advantage of early bird discounts or promotions.
- Create a Detailed Budget: Develop a comprehensive budget that includes all anticipated expenses. Be sure to account for both major expenses, such as travel and accommodation, as well as smaller details like marriage license fees or parking costs. Track your spending throughout the planning process to stay on top of your budget and make adjustments if needed.
Will you save money by eloping?
In short, probably. You will probably save money. Here are a few ways that you might save money by eloping:
- Guest List and Venue Expenses: With elopements, the guest list is typically significantly smaller or even non-existent. This eliminates the need for a large venue and reduces costs associated with catering, seating, and decor for a large number of guests.
- Reception Costs: Traditional weddings often involve elaborate receptions with extensive food and beverage options, entertainment, and venue rentals. Eloping allows couples to forgo or minimize these costs, as the focus is primarily on the couple themselves. Instead of a full reception, couples might opt for a simple celebratory meal or a more intimate gathering with close family and friends, which can be more cost-effective.
- Decor and Floral Arrangements: Elopements often take place in naturally beautiful settings that require minimal decoration. This can save on floral arrangements, elaborate centerpieces, and other decorative elements that are commonly associated with traditional weddings. Couples can embrace the natural surroundings and let the scenery speak for itself.
- Wedding Attire: Traditional weddings often involve elaborate and expensive wedding attire, including the bride’s gown and the groom’s suit or tuxedo. With elopements, couples have more flexibility to choose attire that suits their style and budget. They may opt for more affordable options, simpler outfits, or outfits that are more practical for the adventure aspect of their elopement.
- Vendor Costs: Traditional weddings typically require hiring multiple vendors, such as caterers, DJs, event planners, and decorators, which can add up quickly. With elopements, couples can often streamline their vendor needs to focus on essential services like a photographer or videographer and possibly an officiant. This reduces the overall vendor costs associated with the event. Here are some of the best hair and makeup in the area.
- Travel Consolidation: Eloping often involves travel to a specific destination. In some cases, couples may choose to combine their elopement with their honeymoon, saving on travel costs and allowing them to enjoy a seamless experience without the need for separate trips.
- Less Stress and Time Commitment: By eloping, couples can avoid the stress and time commitment that comes with planning a large traditional wedding. This can save them money indirectly by reducing the need for wedding planners, coordinators, and other professionals who assist with extensive wedding preparations.
DAVID & MICHELLE
The misty moodiness of Artist Point was on full display (even if the views were a hidden, but these two embraced all that the day could hold.
Items that are probably more expensive for an elopement than a wedding
You will probably spend more money in a couple of ways. The most common large elopement expense is some sort of lodging before your elopement. That might not be necessary before a local courtroom elopement, but if you’re getting married in the North Cascades, it’s nice to have an Airbnb instead of waking up at 1 am to start driving for your sunrise moment.
- Adventure or Destination-Specific Costs: If you’re planning an adventure elopement in a remote or special location, there may be additional expenses associated with the specific activities or logistics involved. For example, if you’re eloping on a mountain, you might need to budget for permits, park entrance fees, hiking or climbing gear, or even guide services, depending on the complexity of the adventure.
- Travel Expenses for Witnesses: Some locations may require witnesses to be present during the elopement ceremony. If you’re eloping in a destination away from your immediate family or friends, you may need to consider the cost of travel and accommodation for the witnesses you choose.
- Extended Travel and Accommodation: Unlike a traditional wedding, where the celebrations are usually confined to a day or evening, an elopement might involve multiple days or even a week of travel and accommodation. This can result in additional expenses for lodging, meals, and activities during your extended stay.
- Personalized Experiences: Elopements often focus on creating unique and personalized experiences. If you have specific requests or ideas to make your elopement memorable, such as arranging a helicopter ride to a remote location or hiring specialized adventure guides, these additional services or experiences might incur extra costs.
- Videography and Live Streaming: While photography is essential for capturing the moments of your elopement, some couples may also opt for videography services or live streaming to share their special day with loved ones who couldn’t attend. These additional services can add to the overall cost of documenting your elopement.
- Additional Planning Assistance: Although elopements typically involve less planning than traditional weddings, some couples may still choose to hire a wedding planner or coordinator to help with specific aspects of their adventure elopement, such as logistics, permits, or coordinating adventure activities. This can be an added expense depending on the level of assistance required.
What other considerations besides cost should we consider when planning an elopement?
- Guest Expectations and Obligations: Traditional weddings often come with certain expectations from family and friends regarding guest invitations and accommodations. Consider the potential social pressure or obligations that may arise when planning (or not planning) a traditional wedding, as these can impact the overall cost and logistics.
- Personal Preferences and Values: Reflect on your personal preferences and values as a couple. Think about what truly matters to you and what kind of experience you want to create. Both elopements and traditional weddings offer unique opportunities for expression, so it’s important to align your choices with your values and vision for your special day. I tell folks when they are just starting wedding planning to imagine what their day would look like if they weren’t going to have it photographed. That helps set a plan for what they want to do and then we can fill in how to make that happen (and document it along the way).
- Intimacy vs. Celebration: Elopements are typically more intimate, focusing primarily on the couple and their commitment to each other. Traditional weddings, on the other hand, often involve larger guest lists and prioritize the celebration with family and friends. Consider which style resonates more with you and how that aligns with your budgetary considerations. Basically, do you want mountains or a dance party?
- Time and Energy Commitment: Traditional weddings often require a significant time and energy commitment in terms of planning, coordination, and execution. Elopements generally involve less planning and can provide a more relaxed and stress-free experience. That said, fewer couples eloping to hire a professional planner to aid in the process. So they often end up with more sweat equity in the day.
- Cultural and Family Expectations: Cultural or familial expectations can play a significant role in the decision between an elopement and a traditional wedding. It’s important to navigate these considerations and have open conversations with family members to ensure everyone’s expectations and desires are acknowledged.
- Legal and Documentation Requirements: Research and understand the legal and documentation requirements for both elopements and traditional weddings in your jurisdiction. Consider any associated costs, such as marriage licenses, officiant fees, or translation services if you’re getting married in a different country. For your region, check out my blog post on the top places to elope in each state and the rules for a marriage license there.
Ultimately, the decision between an adventure elopement and a traditional wedding goes beyond just financial considerations. It’s important to evaluate your priorities, values, and desired experience to make an informed choice that aligns with your budget and vision for your special day.