Traditional Wedding Costs vs. Adventure Elopement Costs

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Cost. Even with adventure elopements, it’s not an insignificant factor for some. Lots of people weigh traditional wedding costs vs. elopement costs and the ultimate cost of an elopement.

“How much does it cost to elope?”

“How much cheaper is eloping?”

“Is it cheaper to elope?”

Everyone has a budget, and your priorities dictate where you spend that budget. I preach that an adventure elopement is not a way to necessarily save 90% of your budget, but it’s a way to re-distribute your budget to places that you care more about. It’s about focusing on exactly what you want your day to look like, not what the wedding industry says it should, or what your family says it should. Let me repeat that last bit: your wedding should not be based on how your family and friends think it should look.

If you’ve taken a look around my site, you know that I firmly believe an elopement can be SO MUCH MORE than a way to save money, or a way to get “pretty pictures”. It’s truly a transformative experience, where you can 

But still, it’s helpful to understand the average cost of certain things (like the cost of an elopement. Because is anyone made out of money? I know I’m not).

I am going to tell you right now, the largest cost of a traditional wedding is the venue and catering. And for a guest count of 100 people, it adds up quickly. 

These statistics come from wedding professionals I know as well as national averages from WeddingWire (https://www.weddingwire.com/cost). I’m not including smaller details, and other items that aren’t as popular staples for either traditional weddings or elopements. I’m also not including less significant costs like tux rentals, as they aren’t a big factor in the cost difference outcome.


Wedding Costs vs. Elopement Costs

TRADITIONAL WEDDING COSTS

Traditional Wedding Venue: $0-$10,000 (average cost in the US is $6,000)

Catering: $10-75 per plate; $45 per plate average, $27 average if it’s a buffet. ($45×100 guests = $4500)

Decor/Details: $500-800 ($700 average)

Photography: $3,000-$10,000 (let’s average this at $5,000 – I’ll explain why further down)

Officiant: $250-450 (Let’s average this at $350)

Florals: $200-500 for a bouquet, boutonniere, and one smaller floral piece like a crown. (Average: $400)

Floral decor: $75 per table (12 tables, with 8 people each = $900)

Cake: Starts at $6 per serving (x100 people = $600)

Wedding Dress: $1,500

Hair and Makeup: $400-600 is the average for a local artist.

TOTAL WEDDING STAPLES COST: $20,350

ELOPEMENT WEDDING COSTS

Elopement Wedding Venue: $0-$500 (average cost for a permit is $100)

Catering: $0 (unless you’d like to treat your guests to a dinner at a restaurant)

Decor/Details: $100 (vow books, etc.)

Photography: $6,000 starting point for an elopement specialist

Officiant: $350 – some elopement specialists can be much more

Florals: $400

Floral decor (ceremony location/arch): $500

10 Night Stay in a modest Airbnb in Oregon: $1,500-$1,800

Plane tickets for 2 (JFK to PDX): $1,300

Rental car (compact): $950 (beware that in highly seasonal tourism areas like Glacier National Park and Alaska, the cost is much higher in the summer)

Cake: $0

Wedding Dress: $1,500

Hair and Makeup: $500 is starting pricing for a local artist who specializes in elopements with minor travel fees (since where you’re eloping, they’ll likely have to travel to).

My top HMUA elopement specialist starts at $750 for relatively local Oregon elopements. She’s also traveled to places like Alaska with a travel fee (Alaska is slim on artists who do both hair and makeup).

Activities/Extras: Boat tours start often at $100/pp for a non-private tour, while helicopters start around $1500-1800 for 90 minutes (including flight time). These won’t be included in the final tally.

TOTAL ELOPEMENT STAPLES COST: $13,500

THINGS TO NOTE:


Can you find some vendors for cheaper? Absolutely. Will they have lower quality deliverables? There’s a good chance, whether that’s the final product or the quality of communication through your experience.

How much does an elopement photographer cost?

I’ve found that with things like photographers, hair and makeup artists, etc., the average booked price is lower than the average actual price on The Knot and WeddingWire. Artists who are priced lower often book more because of the lower price and in order to compensate for income. WeddingWire claims that the average photographer costs around $2,000. WW also fails to mention whether this is starting pricing, or average booked price.  Based on my experience, and fellow colleagues in the industry, average pricing for a full day ranges from $5,000-$8,500. $2,000 for an adventure elopement photographer is just not realistic, especially if they aren’t local and have travel costs. If you’re paying that little, you may either not receive good deliverables, or your photographer isn’t paying themselves a living wage.

Notice how I included a honeymoon in the cost of an elopement? So many of my couples use their elopement destination and elopement ceremony as a kick off to their honeymoon. They elope during the first part of their stay, and have their first adventures as a married couple surrounded by their own version of paradise, cocooned in their own little world. Why did I choose Oregon? Because it’s a destination for most people, and it’s also still a domestic location for people in the United States.

Be sure to bookmark this page to come back to for Wedding Costs vs. Elopement Costs reference!

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