To Elope or Not to Elope?

To elope or not to elope? That is the question.

Raise your hand if you know what the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is today. Did you guess $15,000? $20,000? Yeah, me too. I was wrong.

In 2014, the average cost of a U.S. wedding was between $28,000-$30,000 (honeymoon not included).*

Now, I want to be clear that this is an average, not a median cost. This is taking into account that people in NY are spending upwards of $50,000-75,000 on a wedding, while people in Alaska might spend $8,000. Location, location, location…and time of year…and day of the week. All of those things factor into the cost of a wedding. So, the median cost of a wedding in the U.S. is going to be less than this, however it’s still a LOT of money to drop on one day. Granted, I truly believe this is one of the most important days of your life, but I also believe that the industry is taking advantage of the fact that millions of couples are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on venues, food, flowers & more.

Denver Wedding Photographer

Weddings have become more about how you get married and what amazing details you have, and less about who you are marrying.

To make matters worse, most couples spend about 30% MORE than they initially planned! This usually results from an unrealistic budget to begin with, but let me tell you from experience…so many things come up that you hadn’t thought of or planned for. Like a $500 cake cutting fee. Or vendor tips at 15% of the cost of the service.

My husband and I like to say that planning a wedding is much like starting a business. It’s expensive. It takes a lot of organization & savvy. It’s exhausting. When we were getting married, my parents offered us cash toward the wedding or toward a down payment on a house. As much as we loved our wedding day, we spent almost $30,000 when all was said and done & kinda wished we had eloped and invested in that new home 🙂

For most couples, like us, eloping doesn’t start to seem like a really good idea until you’re buried neck-deep in the wedding planning process, and by then it’s too late.


Now, before I use the “E” word again, I want to clarify something. I’m not talking about running away to a Las Vegas chapel on a whim and being secretive about your decision. I’m talking about planned elopements. Intimate, destination weddings.


Fifteen years ago, destination weddings and elopements only made up about 5% of weddings. Today, they make up about 20%. There are many reasons for this, like couples living together first or getting married later in life, but the biggest draw…you can have a fantastic elopement for around $2,000-5,000 and save a helluva lot of money, in addition to reducing the wedding planning stress and increasing your options of where you can get married. Italy anyone?

I truly believe that eloping doesn’t make your day any less special. It’s important to still spring for the things that you value, like maybe your bouquet or that BHLDN dress or the photographer you’re dying to get! Heck, you can still get married in your dream location, but for a fraction of the cost. Have a vineyard wedding in Napa for $5,000 instead of $35,000!

Malibu beach elopement photographer

Bottom line: This is YOUR day so make sure it’s about YOU and what YOU want, and not about trying to make everyone and their grandma (literally) happy.

So, how do you elope without offending grandma? Or the rest of your family and friends? This is the biggest concern most couples have. Here are some suggestions:

1) Tell your family & close friends first. Share the news and be honest and excited about your decision! Some people even invite their parents and siblings or a few close friends to their elopement. You can even send out an announcement if you want to…kind of like when you’re graduating and only get to invite a few people to the actual graduation but want to announce it to everyone!


2) Hire a photographer AND videographer so that you can share the day with your loved ones. I might be biased but this is where I would splurge. After all, I can’t think of anything worse than getting married in a beautiful location and having crappy pictures as the only thing I have left to look back on to remember the day.

Wedding Portfolio-10

3) Plan a party to let everyone celebrate you and your marriage! Ultimately that’s what they want to do anyway…celebrate you! This can be a backyard party; nothing too fancy. You can share your elopement photos and/or video with all of your guests. They’ll probably have more quality time with you this way, too, then they ever would at a busy wedding reception!

Denver Wedding Photographer

As a photographer, I LOVE elopements and intimate destination weddings because I get to focus on the couple & having a great time capturing amazing images in awesome locations. As I mentioned earlier this week, everyone is more relaxed & more present. And I feel like my best work has come from these weddings.



p.s. Thank you to Alex Beadon for hosting this week’s blogging challenge and for the awesome community I get to be a part of!

*Statistics provided by The Knot.

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