How to save money on your elopement

A bride wears a secondhand wedding dress to save money on her wedding in the park.

How to save money on your elopement

Hi, I’m Lucy – destination elopement photographer! I’m ready to share with you all my tips for how to save money on your elopement. When you choose to elope, you are probably wanting to save some cash! No shame in that, everyone does! I’ll cover all the ways to save money when you elope, so your plan can come to life guilt-free! From DIY options and catering alternatives to that after-elopement reception you’re thinking about having, I’ll tell you what you can and can’t cut. Let’s dive into my top money saving tips that you can use as you plan your own elopement!

This is part 9 in my How To Plan An Elopement series!

How to Plan your elopement:
1. – How to plan an elopement
2. – What to do during your elopement
3. – How to plan an elopement ceremony
4. – Here’s how to write elopement vows
5. – What to wear to your elopement
6. – How to personalize your elopement
7. – Including Family in your elopement
8. – How to include your cat in your elopement
9. – How to save money on your elopement – You are here!

The cost of a Wedding VS Elopement

The expense of a wedding these days just seems to go up and up! The average cost of a wedding in the USA in 2023 is $30,000 USD. And that doesn’t include a honeymoon. That’s a huge chunk of change that feels a little crazy to spend on 1 day, right? All that for entertaining your loved ones and the ever-increasing expectations of what a wedding entails. Take a deep breath – an elopement isn’t going to cost that much! You can expect to get about twice the bang for your buck when you elope.

About me – your elopement photographer

I’ve been an elopement photographer for tons of unique couples and I’ve seen it all. I love helping couples plan elopements that don’t break the bank, while having the time of their lives!

Worldwide elopement photographer Lucy Schultz is photographed here on assignment in New Zealand. She is wearing a backpack with 2 cameras, black clothes, and red shoes.

I’m nomadic. I live everywhere and nowhere in the west. California, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico are my playground. Unless I have to fly to your location, travel fees are covered. I love being able to pass this savings on to my clients.

Ways to save money on your elopement

Here are my top nine ways to save money when you elope! You’ll note that I do NOT recommend using the talents of your friends and family. While sometimes a community can and wants to pitch in to execute your event, (and there’s nothing wrong with that!) not everyone has that opportunity. Use as many of my ideas as you can!

  1. Invite fewer people
  2. Save money on your garments
  3. Stay in an Airbnb with guests
  4. Use catering alternatives
  5. Save money on flowers
  6. Ditch everything you don’t need & DIY
  7. Enjoy more than 1 day
  8. Skip the reception
  9. Go international

#1 way to save money – Invite fewer people

The #1 way to save money on your elopement is to cut the guest list. As soon as there are 15 or more humans coming, you may have to rent a location for your ceremony and or a gathering place, and that’s going to cost you. You may already be envisioning a just-us-two elopement, and that’s going to give you the most wiggle room in your budget. If you are imagining inviting some family members, that’s ok! You’ll have to be very firm in your guest list decisions, and don’t let those who ARE invited coerce you to invite others. Stick to your guns! If you are having guests, the rest of these money saving options will be even more helpful!

#2 – Saving money on your elopement clothes

A big part of any elopement budget is the clothes you’ll be wearing. Dresses alone easily range from $500 to $5000 and up depending on the style and alterations needed. That can be a lot! My suggestion is to go and have that dress fitting appointment and find a dress or style & shape that you love. But don’t buy it! Then head over to some used wedding dress sites to search for that gown you love! You’ll often save major money by buying used, new with tags, or sample dresses etc. I got my own wedding dress as a Sample from a Prom dress store in Oklahoma on Poshmark for less than half price. I’ve also had great success with dresses from JJ’s House.

Used Dress sites:

Now, getting a dress on a used wedding dress site does NOT mean someone has already worn it. Lots of times people have dress regret and end up buying more than one dress. Or some gowns are used as sample gowns in bridal shops and are sold after their season ends. When purchasing on a used site, make sure the gown is long enough for you as it may have been hemmed already. Keep in mind that once you get the gown, you may still need a bit of cash for alterations to make it fit you perfectly. Alternatively, you can often get unique dresses on Etsy for far less than designer gowns. Or, get a white prom dress, browse azazie, or infinity top dress from an online retailer.

Saving money on Suits

You might be thinking this is where I’ll recommend getting a rental suit to save some money but WAIT! I really don’t recommend this. I’ve seen far too many ill fitting rentals to say this is a good idea – you definitely don’t want to spend a boatload of money on this trip of a lifetime and the best photography money can buy and then have a baggy suit. A well fitted suit makes you like candy to your partner, so please, whatever you get, get it tailored.

Ways to save money on a suit:

  • Wear pants you already own and buy only a new blazer or sport coat. It doesn’t have to match exactly.
  • Wear a full suit you already own but buy unique and fun new accessories
  • Dress more casually – a shirt and slacks with suspenders
  • Invest in a suit you will get to wear for years to come

Saving money on Accessories

You don’t have to spend a boatload of money on accessories. Veils are probably the biggest expense category in accessories, and you can also get them used, borrow one from a friend or relative, or even make your own! Etsy veils are once again more affordable than the veils at bridal shops. Look at my complete guide on what to wear for your elopement for more alternative ideas and inspiration.

#3 – Stay with your guests in an Airbnb

Airbnbs usually save you money in the long run when you’re planning a microwedding. I am NOT advocating that you have your *ceremony* at the Airbnb. But if you can rent a place with multiple bedrooms and a kitchen, you’re in to save a bit of money. Think of it like combining your venue rental and hotel rental from your wedding budget – and you get several days rather than just 6 to 8 hours! If you’re renting a place to sleep for everyone in your group, they may be paying towards the cost of their accommodation. However, don’t assume this is the case and have clear communication with your group. The kitchen and dining room can be used as the gathering place for the meal you’ll be having later, and eliminate the need for chair & table rentals or food and beverage minimums at a venue or restaurant.

#4 – Use catering alternatives

Speaking of the meal, let’s talk catering alternatives! Another common way to save money on your elopement is to think outside the box of “wedding catering”. If you’re having a microwedding of 10-40 people, hiring a local favorite food truck may be an affordable food option that can come to you at most locations. Having less than 10 guests?
Most restaurants can accommodate a group of 10 or less without paying for a private room. Lastly, if you’re already gathered in an Airbnb, you can hire a private chef to cook for you without having to go anywhere! More food ideas:

  • Have a barbeque cook out at a public picnic area. Cooking your own food all together will save $$.
  • Pick up catering from a restaurant. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy – you’re not trying to impress anyone!
  • Hire a private chef for you and a small group
  • Go out to a local restaurant (private room is optional.)
  • Hire a food truck
  • Get a premade sheet cake or a local dessert like key lime pie or street crepes & churros.

#5 – Save money on flowers

Once again, it’s easy to save some money on flowers just by not having so many people who want them! With no bridesmaids or groomsmen, no ballroom to decorate and no centerpieces needed, your floral budget just got much more reasonable! Let me also say that you don’t NEED to have flowers at all! You’ll still be married at the end of the day. And please do NOT pick a bunch of wildflowers to use as your prop. If hiring a local florist for bouquets and corsages in a destination or high cost of living market is still high, consider these alternatives:

  • Buy wood, dried or fake flowers from Etsy or other sellers.
  • Pick up a bouquet from a grocery store, costco, or farmers market the day before your elopement
  • DIY a bouquet with real stems or with collected dried or fake flowers
  • Opt for an all-greenery bouquet without blooms. (I did!)
  • Use a flower alternative, such as lanterns, feathers, paper flowers, or a flower crown

#6 Ditching what you don’t need & DIYing it

There are things you won’t need for an elopement that can be subtracted right away. For starters, you don’t need a DJ, ceremony musician, or band. And you won’t need invites, stationary, a baker, a planner, a dancefloor rental, tent, hotel block, wedding insurance, or transport buses. You don’t need to propose to your wedding parties, give gift bags, favors, or supply alcohol. Sometimes you won’t even need an officiant! The biggest cost saving is going to be not renting a wedding venue. You also don’t need a videographer, because a great elopement photographer is going to deliver photos that allow you to relive all the best moments. Keep in mind that videographers also will take up your time on your day and ask to film certain moments over again to get footage for the movie they’re making about you.

What you can DIY for your elopement:

If you’ve got an eye for DIY, there are a few things you can do to save yourself some extra money. In the first place, makeup and hairstyling is completely optional. If you want to wear makeup, your usual amount or a date-night amount is just fine. Don’t let anyone tell you that you will need more because you’ll be photographed. I know far more people who have regretted not looking like themselves when they got professional makeup done than people who wish they’d worn more makeup. Your hair also doesn’t need to be swept into some elaborate updo. Wearing your hair down, loosely styled, half-up half down, or in a braid are all great elopement hair options. You can DIY flowers, provide your own alcohol if needed, and leave all the fluff behind to save money on your elopement.

A real elopement done on the cheap

Kim & Seth married in a Colorado state park on a weekday which cost $0. Kim wore a $200 white dress from JJ’s house that allowed her to hike and she felt special and bridal. Seth wore slacks and a button down shirt he already owned. Kim’s bouquet was a simple collection of fake flowers. She applied a small amount of makeup from a small pallette at 7,000 feet and left her hair down. About 30 people made the hike to watch them say their vows on the Continental Divide. Afterwards, they had a ridiculous dinosaur cookie sheetcake back at an apartment complex’s common room. They laughed until their sides hurt and goofed off all day. Their no-frills day was the perfect example of keeping the things that matter most and leaving the rest behind.

#7 – Enjoy more than one day of your elopement

This is my favorite way to encourage couples to have their cake and eat it too! By combining your elopement with your honeymoon, you’re halving the cost and doubling the fun. Planning to stay for a week or even just a weekend in your elopement location will make this an unforgettable trip and experience. If doing all this “just for one day” bites, consider a 2 day or even 3 day elopement! A multi day elopement timeline will allow you to spend some time with just your partner and another day with close family and friends. You’re instantly getting more bang for your buck.

My Elopement Photography Packages

I offer both elopement photography packages or All inclusive elopements for a one stop shop option. There are no travel fees, download fees, watermarks or other hidden fees.

2 Day elopements – $9900

1.5 Days of elopement photography – $7900

1 Full day adventure elopement photography – $6900

Up to 4 hours elopement in select locations – $4900

#8 – Skip that post elopement reception to save money

I get it, you want to celebrate with everyone! I know it sounds tempting to have a reception once you return from your destination elopement. However, I’m here to warn you that this will blow your budget. The most expensive part of weddings is having a place to host everyone and the meal you’ll provide to thank them for coming. As soon as you need those two things for your “reception” – you’ll be spending the whole wedding budget again! And once again, you won’t have time to see and chat with everyone who comes. Further, loved ones can unintentionally cause the snowball effect of wanting you to have a second ceremony, more photography, a formal cake cutting, and flowers all over again. Just say no to all that planning stress and cost, and see your friends as you normally would after your elopement.

#9 – Plan an international elopement

Ok, this one could be controversial. While you could end up spending more on an international elopement than one in your home country, there are also ways to save money. Namely, by traveling to a less expensive country! Plan ahead by signing up for flight alerts and opening a travel credit card – then referring your partner to open a second one, doubling your travel points. Then you’ll save on food costs, accommodation costs, and the “wedding” upcharge by visiting countries with a less developed wedding industry. You’ll likely have fewer people joining you, too. Even visiting a non-touristy area of your home country could afford you some extra wiggle room.

Affordable elopement locations:

  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Thailand & Cambodia
  • Georgia, Albania & Croatia
  • Guatemela, Belize, Panama, Nicaragua
  • Portugal
  • India

See a real multi day international elopement

Renae and Paul eloped in New Zealand, just the two of them. Because they were headed all that way, it made sense to extend the elopement to 2 days as they explored all the incredible landscapes that New Zealand has to offer. See more of their elopement here.

Now that you’ve saved that money on things you don’t care about, you can be free to take a big bite of the things you DO care about! Get in touch with me to help plan and execute an incredible elopement with world-class elopement photography!

One Comment

  1. What a great set of ideas that help people customize their special day and their spending without the societal pressures to splurge. Emphasis on personal touches makes this the perfect way to get married.

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