Julia Mina Photography, California Elopement Photographer

How much does it cost to elope? Elopement Cost Breakdown

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How much does it cost to elope?


If you have, you may have asked yourself, “how much does it cost to elope?”.

Eloping has become all the rage in today’s world, and for a good reason!  Elopements allow you to plan the wedding day of your dreams without the stress and pressure that often comes from traditional weddings. You have the freedom to invest in your wedding day experience. This means your elopement day can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like! 

When it comes to your elopement experience, the options are truly endless. And those options vary significantly in price. There is a lot that goes into planning the perfect elopement experience and this is why it is essential to prioritize what matters most to you!

To help you better prepare for the best day of your life, I’ve put together this blog post. Which will break down everything you need to know to answer the question, “how much does it cost to elope?”.

Before we break down the cost of an elopement, let’s first define what an elopement is.

What is an elopement?
How much do I need to spend to elope?


So, what is an elopement? In the past, eloping meant a couple would run off secretly to get married. However, today, that definition has changed. Elopements now signify getting married without any confinements to social norms and traditions. It means being intentional with your wedding day and prioritizing your values over anything else.

My husband and I personally eloped because we felt overwhelmed and pressured into planning a day that didn’t represent us; it was just to accommodate our family and friends. Elopements are about so much more than that. They are about valuing your experience over pleasing others.

Check out what I offer as an guide & elopement photographer!

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How much do I need to spend to elope

So the question remains, how much does it cost to elope?

According to The Knot, the average wedding cost in California is $33,000. A number which is primarily determined by the number of guests invited. A little over half of a wedding budget goes to the venue, decor, and catering for your guests. Conversely, elopements are usually just the couple and/or up to 25 guests.

This means the average cost of an elopement is $7000 -$16,000 (almost half or less than half of a wedding).

As I mentioned above, eloping means you get to choose what and how you choose to spend your money. You have the freedom to invest in whatever wedding day elements you choose. If any at all!

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How to save money: Elopement on a Budget

You don’t need a huge budget to have an unforgettable experience. I always encourage my couples to think about what truly matters to them on their wedding day! 

Prioritize your elopement experience over everything!

Perhaps you’re a couple who has always dreamed of saying “I do” in a beautiful location. However, you never saw yourself having an extravagant decor display but want something more simple. You could save money by thrifting decors for your elopement and later keeping them as memories as you display them at your home. 

Perhaps you’re someone who could do their own make-up and hair. This means you have more money to invest in your bridal attire. Like creating a custom-designed dress from Anomalie! If you enjoy being pampered, you could invest in a hair and make-up artist for your big day. Then save money by ordering a dress from an online boutique like Lulus or a second-hand shop!

There are so many ways to save money yet still have an epic experience! From your elopement location to what you choose to invest in. What matters is that you invest in what truly matters to you and gets you excited!

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elope in state or national parks

Another way you could save money is by eloping in a state or national park. Both locations are great options and will offer a similar experience. If you choose to elope in a State or National Park, you must obtain a special use permit. Compared to spending couples thousands on ceremony venues, the special use permit range in price from $50.00-$200.00 (Some parks require you to pay the entrance fee). If you’re an adventurous couple, who spends a lot of time exploring and hiking, pick up an Annual Park Pass! You will save money on entrance fees and donate to a great cause. You’ll also have a reason to explore some of the most stunning places on earth!  

If you do plan to get married in other public parks, you may need a permit. Be sure to check with the park’s permit office to confirm any rules, regulations, and hours prior to your day.

pick and choose your investment

As I mentioned before, what you choose to invest in is important to your overall elopement experience. You can still have an inexpensive but epic elopement on a budget.

Here are some examples of ways to plan an inexpensive, but epic adventure:

  • You could do a beautiful sunrise ceremony at Yosemite, just like M & C did. Then celebrate with your closest family and friends. 

  • You could rent kayaks and spend the afternoon adventuring on a lake with your crew before your sunset ceremony.

  • You could rent a cozy Airbnb with your loved ones. Exchange your vows nearby, just the two of you. Then have a pizza party over a bonfire with champagne and s’mores!

The options for what you can do, are quite literally limitless. For more real-life elopement inspiration, check out this Redwoods Elopement & Beautiful Candlelit Brookings Oregon Reception.

Elopement VS. Weddings Cost Breakdown

Let’s take a look at the difference between the cost of an elopement and a traditional wedding. Keep in mind that the items listed below are merely suggestions and what average elopement and traditional wedding couples invest in. You can and should choose which wedding details mean the most to you.

cost of wedding:

Venue: $10,500
Marriage License: $50 – $100
Photographer: $3000 – $6000
Makeup & Hair: $400 – $1200
Florist: $2000
Cake: $500
DJ: $1200
Wedding Attire: $1000 – $3000

Officiant: $400 – $800
Transportation: $200 – $1000
Accommodation: $400 – $1000
Catering: $75 – $150 per person
Planner or Coordinator: $1500
Rehearsal Dinner: $2000
Favors & Gifts: $400
Transportation: $500

Total: $31,550 – $46,700

cost of elopement:

Marriage License: $50 – $100
Special Use Permit: $65-$150
Photographer: $3000 – $6000
Makeup & Hair: $400 – $1200
Florist: $500 
Cake: $300 -$500

Wedding Attire: $1000 – $3000
Officiant: $400 – $800
Travel: $200 – $1000
Accommodation: $400 – $1000
Food & Drink: $200 – $500
Fun Activities: $300 – $1000

Total: $6,815 – $15,750

What you are paying for, how much are you saving?

The reason why an elopement is more affordable is that a couple who has a wedding spends an additional $18,000 – $25,000 accommodating and feeding guests. But this doesn’t mean your elopement is “CHEAP”. On the contrary, it means you are spending your money on your experience. At the end of the day, remember it’s your celebration. Your guests are there to support you. But you by no means need to expense a million-dollar day, just to keep them happy. It’s your wedding day and your relationship. Celebrate on your own terms!

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Elopement Calculator

Ready for one of the coolest calculators you’ve ever used? This one will give you a clear understanding of how much your elopement investment will cost you. It will also help you determine if the experience is worth your investment! Also want to mention that the prices are also an average rate of vendors in California.

Why Investing in Your Elopement Experience Matters

Your elopement day will be made up of intimate and meaningful moments. Moments that will be a direct result of the elements you choose to invest in. Elements that are important to you and resonate with who you are as a couple. Your elopement day isn’t just a long photoshoot but a celebration of the journey that brought you to this point. This is just the beginning of your greatest adventure yet and how you choose to celebrate matters!

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So I will say it again, invest in your elopement experience

At the end of the day, your elopement day is yours. You get to pick and choose how YOU want to get married. Regardless of cost, your elopement day represents you and what you love. It’s a day that you will look back on for the rest of your lives. As you begin to plan all the details of your day, keep in mind what’s important. Your happiness, and being true to who you are. The value of your day, much like your love, lies in the moments that mean the most to you.

I hope this blog has been helpful and has given you a better idea about how much an elopement costs. Remember to invest in the experience. From the beginning planning stages to your big day, the intention behind your journey will be your greatest investment. 

If you don’t know where to begin, I would love to help you plan your epic day!  Check out my elopement packages or contact me to kick-start your elopement planning!

13 Responses

  1. WOW! Such an in depth guide on elopement costs – love how you included an elopement cost calculator. So helpful for couples looking to plan their own elopement!

  2. This an amazing break down of what to expect to pay for an elopement! That calculator is sooo helpful! great article!!

  3. So much useful and practical information, thank you for sharing! And I just have to say, the photos accompanying the text are incredibly beautiful. Elopements FTW!

  4. okay I need to point out that second photo with the teary eye! so beautiful!!! and this whole blog is incredibly helpful. thanks so much!

  5. Wow, the sliding scale and “quiz” are SO helpful in determining how much each person should spend getting married. Love the tearful photo most of all.

  6. I’m based in Australia and the average wedding here is approx $68,000, which is just mind boggling! Most of my elopements ring in around $12-15,000 with video and helicopter and airfares…honestly, it is the way to go! Also, the photos on this page are everything, not sure what the location is, but the one at sunset on the edge of the cliff (maybe Yosemite?) is breathtaking!

  7. This calculator is a HUGE help! Even just getting a ballpark cost is so useful. Beautiful photos and such a helpful logistical guide for eloping couples!

  8. The elopement calculator is so handy and fun to use, and seriously, so helpful!! The photos do a great job at illustrating your really great information you’ve compiled.

  9. Really terrific resource, and allows people to see that some costs remain the same with an elopement. SUPER handy!

  10. This is such a great resource for couples trying to decide if they’re going to elope or not! Amazing work!

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Your Photographer, Guide, and New Best Friend

I am all about making your day as smooth and fun as possible! Helping couples plan their dream wedding day brings me so much joy and it’s surreal that I’m able to capture it at all. Planning a wedding is overwhelming— big or small! Not all of us are natural born planners (if you are, you do you!!). This is where I come in and bring all of my knowledge and resources to the table so all you need to do is envision your dream day!

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