How Much Does it Cost to Elope in 2024?

Posted On | May 9, 2024

“How much does it cost to elope?!” is easily one of the biggest questions couples have when planning their elopement. 

According to The Knot, the average traditional wedding costs around $35,000. If planning a wedding for 100+ people makes your heart start to race and your palms sweat, eloping can be an awesome, cost-effective alternative! 

Because elopements can vary so much depending on where you go, which vendors you hire, and what optional things you choose to include, elopements can range anywhere from the cost of a marriage license (typically between $10 and $115) to well over $30,000 if planning a luxury, destination elopement. When planning an elopement, you have more control over your budget depending on the type of experience you’d like to have and what is important to you.  

As elopement photographers who have helped plan and photograph 250+ elopements, we know firsthand what needs to be considered when creating an elopement budget. For a better idea of what a realistic budget might look like for you, let’s break down how much it costs to elope!

35mm film photo of wedding couple giving each other a big hug on a mountain at sunset during elopement in Boulder, Colorado

Major Factors Influencing Elopement Costs

Many factors can affect the cost of eloping! Let’s dive into the biggest ones: 

Location

Your location will likely play a big role in the overall cost of your elopement. Eloping somewhere within driving distance will cost considerably less than eloping somewhere requiring a flight. Big cities and remote locations may have higher costs, ranging from vendors to lodging and transportation, while other places might have more favorable exchange rates or lower overall costs. It is important to research the area so you know what to expect before you dive into planning. 

You will also want to consider the legal requirements of getting married in your chosen location. Somewhere like Colorado makes it incredibly easy to legally marry, requiring only a signed $30 marriage license – no witness or officiant needed. Other places may legally require an ordained officiant, multiple witnesses, or even an indoor ceremony! 

Guest Count

Just because you chose to elope doesn’t mean you can’t have any guests! In fact, many elopements we’ve documented include a handful of loved ones joining in on the celebration. While there is some debate over what is classified as an elopement, we consider anything under 30 guests to fall under the elopement/microwedding category.  

This should be a no-brainer, but the more guests you have, the higher your cost will be, especially when it comes to food, drinks, lodging, and potentially ceremony locations. Most free and low-cost elopement locations can easily accommodate up to 10 people. Once you start getting past that number, options for where you can hold your ceremony may become more limited and more expensive. It is important to check in on the rules and regulations of any location you are considering for your ceremony, as well as practice the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace!  

Time of Year

You will want to do a bit of research on what time of year you’re considering for a few reasons. First, you will want to know what type of weather to expect (and certain times of year you might want to avoid). The season you pick can also have a big impact on your overall costs. Eloping in peak season can often be associated with higher costs and more limited availability, while eloping in the off-season might save you money and give you more options when it comes to vendors and accommodations. If you’d still like nice weather but are more budget-conscious or would like to avoid crowds, consider eloping in shoulder season to take advantage of good weather, lower prices, and fewer people! 

vertical gif of someone holding a cell phone and entering info int the elopement budget checklist by We, The Light Photography

Download Our Free Elopement Budget Checklist

Keep track of all the costs when it comes to eloping – including estimate and actual costs, which vendors you’ve chosen and check it off when booked.

Breakdown of Average Elopement Costs

One of the best things about eloping is the fact that what you decide to include (or not include!) on your wedding day is entirely up to you. Some couples opt for a more low-key day, while others decide to go all out on a luxury experience. As you start thinking about what you might want the day to look like, here are common costs to keep in mind with averages for elopements in Colorado. 

Elopement Ceremony Location (Reservations, Fees, and Permits)

Average Cost: $0 to $350 

Depending on where you decide to get married, these costs can vary. In the United States (and Colorado especially!) there are a lot of places that do not require any permits or reservations to hold a small ceremony (usually under 10 people) or take wedding portraits. If a permit is required for a ceremony or photography, they usually range from $25 to $350. This usually includes locations in National Parks, State Parks, County Parks, and National Forest. Some places also require an entrance fee per vehicle (typically $5 to $35). Most experienced elopement photographers should be able to help you sort out when a permit is required, and how to get one!

Elopement Photographer

Average Cost: $2,000 to $20,000+

The cost of photography can vary greatly depending on experience, skill level, and location, and is truly one of those things where you get what you pay for. The average cost of an experienced elopement photographer in Colorado typically starts around $2,000 for a few hours of coverage and goes up to $20,000+ for multi-day packages. An elopement photographer is often one of the biggest elopement costs for couples, and for good reason. Most experienced elopement photographers (including ourselves!) are going to help with way more than just photographing your day. They often end up helping you plan your whole elopement day from start to finish, have knowledge about required permits and reservations, can connect you to other local vendors, and serve as a crucial elopement resource. Their help is likely to save you a TON of stress. They can also help you save money with their expert local knowledge and recommendations. We might be a bit biased, but we truly believe a good elopement photographer is worth every penny (and might even be the #1 thing worth splurging on…)   

Elopement Videographer (Optional)

Average Cost: $0 to $8,000+

Videographers are often overlooked when couples plan their elopement budget, but they can be a wonderful addition! They often work closely with your photographer to seamlessly document your day. Many videographers offer services ranging from ceremony-only coverage to all-day or even multi-day coverage. 

Officiant (Optional)

Average Cost: $0 to $1000

Depending on where you get married, an officiant may or may not be required. In Colorado, couples have the option to self-solemnize, meaning no officiant or witness is required. Most counties in the state even allow your pup to sign as a witness! 

If you prefer to have an officiant (or are getting married in a place where one is required), you could ask a trusted loved one to get ordained (which is easily accomplished online), or you could hire a professional. 

Marriage License

Average Cost: $30

In the United States, the cost of getting your marriage license can range from $10 to $115. In Colorado, a marriage license is $30. 

Travel

Average Cost: $50 to $2000

Travel is another cost that can vary widely depending on where you are going and how you like to travel. Eloping somewhere local can keep costs down, while flying across the world in first class could easily cost thousands of dollars. Be sure to keep your travel costs in mind when you start budgeting as these can quickly add up! 

Transportation

Average Cost: $50 to $1,000

Once you arrive at your destination, consider what transportation you will need. If you drove your own vehicle, these costs will likely be minimal. However, if you will need transportation once you arrive be sure to plan for it in your budget. Some locations, like Colorado, where you’re visiting off-the-trail locations, may require a 4×4 high clearance vehicle, which can cost more money.

Lodging

Average Cost: $0 to $8,000+

When you are looking at lodging, consider whether you will be staying on your own, or if you would like to stay with your guests. There are a wide variety of options when it comes to lodging, including staying at your own home if you are eloping somewhere local, camping, glamping, staying at a hotel, or renting a rental home. 

Elopement Activities (Optional)

Average Cost: $0 to $3000

If you are considering an adventure elopement, be sure to take those costs into account as well. There are free or low-cost activities you could do, such as hiking, paddleboarding, or making s’mores around a campfire. For those feeling a bit more adventurous, activities like skiing, ATVing, a hot air balloon ride, or dog sledding all have a higher associated cost that you’ll want to budget for. Here’s a list of our favorite activities to make your elopement unique.

Wedding Attire

Average Cost: $0 to $5,000+

When you are looking for wedding attire, our biggest piece of advice is to do a few jumping jacks and squats to ensure you will be comfortable moving around all day. Depending on where you get your wedding attire, these costs can vary greatly. Be sure to budget for alterations, as well! 

Hair + Makeup Artist (Optional)

Average Cost: $0 to $1200

Hiring a hair and makeup artist is an optional cost that many couples choose to go for. Hair and makeup services can vary depending on the services desired, the location, and the start time. Some hair and makeup artists prefer that you come to their studio, while others will come to you. Some hair and makeup artists will even spend the entire day adventuring with you, ready for touch-ups whenever needed! 

Food (Private Chef, Dinner at a Restaurant, Picnic, Dessert, ect.)

Average Cost: $25 to $2,000+

At some point you are going to have to eat on your wedding day. Depending on your budget and your priorities, you have lots of options. Some couples choose to grab a lunchable to enjoy on top of a mountain. Others choose to hire a private chef to cook them a gourmet dinner back at their rental home, hire a professional to set up a full picnic spread on a lake shore or bring in catering to feed them and their loved ones. Some even choose to hold a small dinner reception at a nearby restaurant. Depending on your guest count and budget, a meal could easily become a memorable experience on your wedding day and is an opportunity to try something unique or to treat yourself! 

Florals (Optional)

Average Cost: $0 to $1000

While flowers definitely aren’t required on your wedding day, they can be a gorgeous addition! We have seen some couples create their own bouquets and boutonnieres from the local grocery store floral department, while others have decided to work with a professional florist that offers elopement packages. Other couples have opted to order dried, wood, or silk flowers from places like Etsy. There are lots of options for florals regardless of your budget!  

Musician (Optional)

Average Cost: $0 to $600

If you’ve always dreamed of walking down the aisle to a violin or would love to have live music for your first dance, you might consider hiring a musician to play for you. 

Elopement vs. Traditional Wedding Cost Comparison

Curious how an elopement stacks up to a traditional wedding when it comes to budget? Let’s compare the average costs!

8-Hour Elopement with No Guests 8-Hour Elopement/Microwedding with 10 Guests8-Hour Traditional Wedding with 100 Guests
Venue/Permit$0 to $350$0 to $350$10,000 to $30,000
Photography$3,000 to $10,000$3,000 to $10,000$3,000 to $10,000
Videography$0 to $8000$0 to $8000$0 to $8,000
Officiant$0 to $650$0 to $650$0 to $650
Wedding Planner$0$0$0 to $5,000
Marriage License$10 to $115$10 to $115$10 to $115
Travel$50 to $2000$50 to $2000$0
Transportation$0 to $234 – Rental car for 3 days$0 to $234 – Rental car for 3 days$0 to $1,100 for limo/party bus for one night
Lodging for two nights$0 to $1,000$0 to $8,000$0 to $1,000
Activities$0 to $1,000$0 to $3,000$0
Wedding Attire + Alterations for two people$400 to $5,000$400 to $5,000$400 to $5,000
Hair & Makeup for one person$0 to $1200 if you hire someone who will hike with you$0 to $1200 if you hire someone who will hike with you$150 to $600
Food$25 to cook yourself to $500 for a gourmet private chef$200 to cook yourself to $2000 for a gourmet private chef/small dinner reception$5000 to $8400 for catering
Florals$0 to $400$0 to $400$400 to $2500
Band/DJ/Musician$0 to $600$0 to $600$450 to $2000
Rehearsal Dinner$0$0 to $1000$1,600 to $3,000
Cake/Desserts$0 to $100$0 to $100$100 to $500
Stationary$0 to $100$0 to $100$250 to $800
Decor$0$0 to $1000$400 to $5,000
Favors$0$0$100 to $450
Total$3,485 to $30,249$3,660 to $43,749$21,860 to $84,155

Tips for Creating an Elopement Budget

There are a few things you can do to help keep your elopement budget in check. Here are a few of our favorite tips! 

Consider avoiding peak season

If you are eloping in a popular travel destination, consider choosing a time outside the peak season. Not only will you likely find lower prices and more availability with vendors and accommodations, but you will also likely have more privacy by avoiding the peak season crowds! 

Get married on a weekday

Regardless of the time of year you are eloping, choosing a weekday (Monday through Thursday) is always a great idea. Not only are you more likely to avoid weekend traffic and crowds, but you also might find lower costs for certain vendors or accommodations, as well as more availability. 

black and white 35mm film photo of wedding couple running through an field in the mountains out of focus

Keep your guest list small (or elope just the two of you)

To help keep costs down, consider limiting your guest count to only your closest friends and family, or even eloping just the two of you. If you know you want to keep things small but aren’t sure how to tell your family, we put together this helpful guide to prepare you for the conversation. 

Hire local vendors

By hiring local vendors, you can save on travel fees. Locals will also have better insight to help you plan your day since they are more familiar with the area, as well as recommendations for other vendors in the area to work with. 

Book in advance

The sooner you book, the more availability vendors will have, which means the more options you will have to choose from within your budget. When it comes to booking travel and accommodations, booking early may offer additional discounts as well!  

Skip the decorations

If you’re eloping, chances are you will be getting married in a natural setting. If you’re on a tight budget, consider skipping decorations altogether and letting nature take their place. Plus, it’s one less thing you have to worry about traveling with! 

Consider buying wedding attire online

Your wedding attire can easily take up a big chunk of your budget. Consider shopping at places like BHLDN, Lulu’s, ASOS, or Stillwhite for dresses and jumpsuits, or Men’s Wearhouse, Indochino, or Jos A. Bank for suits and tuxedos. For non-conforming gender options, The Dapper Dames, Kirrin Finch, and SuitShop are great options! 

Elopement Budget Checklist

While eloping can be a more affordable option than a traditional wedding, it still requires planning and budgeting to ensure a memorable experience without breaking the bank. Be sure to take some time to consider your priorities for the day as you start thinking about your budget!  

Ready to start planning your elopement budget? Download our Free Elopement Budget Checklist!

Are You Freakin’ REady?

We’re 100% here for whatever day you’re dreaming up. Fill out our contact form to start chatting.

Are You Freakin’ REady?

We’re 100% here for whatever day you’re dreaming up. Fill out our contact form to start chatting.

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