When it comes to eloping, I get a lot of questions, which is understandable. Eloping is still a relatively new concept in 2024. This is especially so on this side of the world in Australia (and to a lesser extent, New Zealand). “How much does an elopement photographer cost?”, “how do I make my elopement legal?” and even “what is an elopement?” But if I had to pick one, just one, it would be “How much does an elopement cost?” If you’re contemplating eloping (check out my top 10 benefits of eloping here), it would stand to reason that you would want to better understand the cost of eloping. Well thankfully I’m in a position to be able to fully breakdown those costs for you. And that is exactly what we are going to do in this article.
I want to preface this by saying that the question of how much does an elopement cost, isn’t straight forward. The cost of eloping varies wildly depending on what your plans are. For example, if you want to elope in NZ (check out my ultimate guide to eloping in NZ here) on top of a mountain, your elopement will cost more than a courthouse elopement in your local area. I’m going to include information about vendors I consider ‘essential’ to an elopement. For example, how much does an elopement photographer cost? What about a celebrant? If you want to include other vendors in your plans, by all means go for it. This is not an exhaustive list.
Why keep reading?
Table of Contents
If this all sounds confusing, or you were hoping there would be an easy solution, I’ve got you! Not only am I going to break down the cost of eloping, vendor by vendor, I’m providing you with a ‘cost of eloping calculator’ (scroll to the bottom if you want to use it). You can use this to get a better idea of how much it will cost you to personally elope. So no more guessing. No more writing numbers on a pad you’ll no doubt misplace. Let’s do this. Let’s break down the cost of eloping in 2024.
What is an elopement?
Lets start off simple by breaking down what an elopement actually is, and what it is not. An elopement is basically any type of wedding where the primary focus is on you and your partner. It is intimate and authentic. You’re not going to be compromising with your guests, or the restrictions of a venue. Basically if you’re planning on getting married your way, with a focus on you and your partner, you just might be eloping. Most people who elope tend to have drastically lower guest numbers (sometimes no guests), but this is not a rule. Elopements with guests usually have up to 15 people (for a guide on how to include guests in your elopement), but that’s just a guide. Honestly, let’s leave it there, because any attempt to further define what is an elopement beyond that is just overkill.
What is the average cost of eloping?
A very difficult question to answer. How much does an elopement cost? How much does an elopement photographer cost? Heck, how much does a house cost? There just isn’t a definitive way to answer the question without more information. So let me give you the ‘accepted market average’ of how much is costs to elope. According to most sources online, the range will be between $2,000 on the lower end & $20,000 on the higher end. However, as you read through this article, and especially once you use the calculator, you will learn how useless this information actually is.
How much does it cost to elope – Vendor by vendor breakdown
Here is where it gets truly interesting. The true cost of eloping lays in knowing what vendors you think you need to book, and how much they’ll cost. So the first thing you want to do is sit down and get a better idea of what vendors you’ll need. If you’re unsure, that’s ok. With my couples I always advise on what vendors they’ll need for the kind of day they describe to me. So I’ll help you with getting the perfect vendors for your day, but for now, I suggest starting with what I call ‘the essentials’. These are; Photographer & Videographer, Celebrant, Hair & Makeup, Florals, Transport and accommodation. As I said above, you may also want a cake. Or you might want a musician. Go for it, you have to do what you want, but remember to factor in that cost in your budget.
How much does an elopement cost | Photography & Videography
This is where you’ll likely incur most of the cost for your elopement. This may sound scary, but it’s a good thing. Traditional weddings can cost you upwards of $25,000 just for the venue. You’ve blown right past that massive expense thankfully. So how much does an elopement photographer cost? A beginner photographer could cost you anywhere between $2000 and $3500. A decent photographer could cost you anywhere between $4500 and $6000. And a high end luxury elopement photographer could cost you between $6500 to $9,000. In terms of video, it’s muchly the same, the prices don’t fluctuate too much, so expect to pay roughly what you do for your photographer, for a video (unless you get a bundle deal).
While this is one of the biggest costs of eloping, it is also one of, if not the most important decision. There’ll likely be no guests (or very few) at your wedding. So without beautiful photos and a stunning, storytelling elopement film, no one else will ever be able to see how your day played out. Since you’ve landed on my website, I’m going to assume you prioritise and love photos and films. So here is my breakdown.
Beginner Photo/film – $2750
Average Photo/film – $5250
Luxury High End Photo/film – $7750
How much does an elopement cost | Celebrant
Celebrants are the only vendor you actually need. I know, sounds weird hearing a photographer say it. But without a celebrant, you simply can’t get married. For this reason alone, I usually recommend my couples to book in their celebrant at the same time they lock me in for their elopement.
So how much does a celebrant cost? There are 2 parts to how celebrants price themselves. The first bit is the legals. That is your paperwork effectively, the bit you need to legally get married. In some countries you do this yourself, such as New Zealand (for information on how to legally elope in NZ click here). But if you’re wanting to elope in Australia, this must be completed by a celebrant, or someone registered to conduct marriage ceremonies. The actual Marriage certificate is $60 in NSW, but varies slightly state to state. If you wanted to do a courthouse ceremony, you’re looking at around $475. But if you want a proper ceremony with a celebrant that personalises your ceremony (the second bit), on average, you’ll be looking at around $1500 to $1800 in NSW.
Courthouse ceremony – $475
Standard elopement celebrant – $1500
High end Celebrant – $2000
How much does an elopement cost | Hair & Makeup
As is probably no surprise to you by now, hair and makeup artists are like all other vendors. That is to say they charge based on their skill and experience. But with hair and makeup, unlike most other vendors, pricing is not linear. You may have friends who had big weddings and paid $1000 for hair for 8 people. This might lead you to think that if it were just you, your hair should cost around $125.
For hair and makeup artists (who often work as a team), the ‘per person’ cost often gets cheaper as you include more people. From my experience, for an average hair stylist, you would be looking at around $200 for just yourself. As for makeup, it’s often very similar in terms of price, so around $200. You could get a beginner for as low as $100, and a high end stylist for as much as $400. But for me, if I’m being honest, when it comes to the cost of eloping, this is not an area to splurge (I’ll explain why in the next section).
Beginner hair and makeup – $100 each
Average hair and makeup – $200 each
High end luxury hair and makeup – $400 each
How much does an elopement cost | Florals
Flowers aren’t exactly essential for an elopement, are they? I hear you, but, they absolutely lift your photos and your video in my opinion. However, the cost of eloping is only rising, and so I tend to recommend keeping floral costs low. Unlike a wedding, you don’t have a huge reception to style. You’re unlikely to have a big arbour to style. And you’re unlikely to have any wedding party bouquets to pay for. So don’t listen to your friends who got married and tell you about their $10,000 florists bill. Yes, they likely did pay that, but you won’t.
Simple bouquet & buttonhole – $250
Standard bouquet & buttonhole – $350
High end luxury bouquet & buttonhole – $600
How much does an elopement cost | Accommodation
Please do not skimp out on your accommodation. I beg of you, and I’ll explain why. For most elopements, they tend to happen away from where you live. Whether that be an hour drive, or a 28 hour flight (doesn’t matter really). The fact is, you’ll need somewhere to stay for the night before your elopement, and the night of. You can stay longer, and I do recommend staying an additional 2 nights, but that’s up to you, so I’m only going to talk about a 2 night stay.
The 2 main reasons you want to stay somewhere nice is for your photos & film, and also for yourselves. Getting ready in a beautiful Airbnb, maybe a once in a lifetime type place, will make you feel special. It raises the mood and energy and let’s you know that today is not like any other day. It gives you the feeling you deserve on your elopement day. On top of this, they tend to photograph much nicer, and have nicer light, so yeah, I love that! But more than anything, waking up the morning after you’re elopement in this once in a lifetime home, whatever that is to you, is the right way to start your life as a married family.
Basic accommodation – $150/night
Average accommodation – $300/night
High end luxury accommodation – $750/night
How much does an elopement cost | Suits & Dresses
This one is totally down to personal preference, but let me offer up some useful advice here. Like I said, people often ask me how much does it cost to elope. When I give them a figure, they balk at me, exclaiming it’s so expensive. They later then tell me that they’re buying a $7000 dress, or a $4000 suit. Again, this is one of the places I would personally choose not to splurge. I have shot dresses from top global designers worth over $10,000. I have also shot dresses that my client rented for $200. You know which one photographed best? The one that the client felt best in. Not the most expensive one. Not the dress from Milan or NYC.
Remember, you’ll only wear this dress once. Suits are a bit different. You can, and likely will wear the suit many more times. This also is not taking into account whether you keep or sell the dress later. Many mid range dresses hold value extremely well on resale. High end lose value rapidly once you wear it though.
So with that said, let me give you a breakdown of not only dress & suit costs, but offer a few places to get you started looking.
Basic suit – $250
Nice suit (Recommended by me, check out Peter Jackson) – $600
Luxury suit – $1,000
How to save money on your elopement
I’ve already said it a few times now, but the cost of eloping is rising, as is everything in life right now. You probably want to bring that down as much as you can, without compromising on quality. So, how much does an elopement cost, if you’re smart about it?
Prioritise – Do you need this?
Think long and hard whether or not you need the thing, or vendor in question. For example, if it’s just you and your partner, do you really need a cake? If you’re having no guests, do you really need a musician? Now the answer may be yes. Maybe music is really important to you. That’s great, prioritise it and ensure you get it. But perhaps cake isn’t really that important, and you would be happy with a bowl of ice cream after your elopement. Either way, set a list of priorities, and if the thing, or vendor in question does not rank highly on that list, consider cutting them altogether.
Bundle the expensive stuff
For your elopement, there are 2 obvious bundles you can do. The first is your photo & video team. Many companies will offer both, usually at a bit of a discount. For example, lets say you book photographer from company A for $7000, and videographer B from company B for $8000. That’s a total bill of $15,000. But what if you booked a photographer, and videographer from company C? They might have a bundle for $13,000. Boom, you just saved $2000. Booking through me will save you even more, because I shoot video and photo on my own. Because I don’t have the added expense of an extra videographer, I can offer even better bundle options for my couples who want photo and video.
Your second place to bundle is usually hair and makeup. Most hair stylists do makeup as well, or they work in tandem with a makeup artist. By booking someone who does both, you usually get a similar discount as I mentioned above.
Save on travel fees
I’ll keep this one short, because it piggybacks off the last point. Travel fees can add up quickly to thousands of dollars. This is especially true if you’re having a destination elopement. So by following the above point, and bundling your photo & video, and hair & makeup, you’ve reduced any potential travel fee from 4 people, down to 2. So if each vendor would charge say $500 travel fees, instead of $2,000, you’ve reduced your bill to only $1,000.
What can you DIY?
Remember I said I would talk about hair and makeup later? Here we go. I often shoot elopements that are pretty remote. What this means for you, is that to pay people to travel out to you, will be expensive. Now for me to travel to you, that’s ok. I’ll be there for the entire day, shooting photo and video of your whole elopement. So for me, the travel fee is worth it. But what about hair and makeup, for just you. Is it worth paying someone $500 travel fee, for 2 hours work, when their invoice is actually less than the cost of travel? In my opinion, no, it isn’t. In order to reduce the cost of eloping, I suggest doing your hair and makeup yourself (if you can).
Before you kick off about how you always wanted to get your hair and makeup done professionally on your wedding day, remember the first point I made. Prioritise. If this is a priority for you, then you won’t be bothered by paying the travel fee, and that’s awesome. But just know, there are things you can DIY. Florals is another. If you’re only having a bouquet, and it isn’t a priority, go to a flower market, grab some stuff you like, and the morning of your elopement, put it together. It will make for a personal touch to your day, and some cool photos/video.
Adventure for free
The easiest way to explain this one is to think about driving somewhere versus walking. Walking costs nothing, it just takes a lot longer, and burns more of your energy. Driving costs you in petrol, but is much faster, and you preserve your energy. So when it comes to your elopement, let’s say you’re eloping in NZ and you want to do your portraits on a mountain. There are often 2 ways to get up there.
The first option is the free one. You can hike up it. The downside of this is obvious, it’s going to take a while, and burn a tonne of energy. but if you’re avid hikers, this may be perfect for you. Your second option is to take a helicopter. This is going to cost you money, but it’s going to give you a once in a lifetime viewing experience, and it’ll only take 10-15 minutes.
The point remains though, there are many options for adventuring and getting epic photos/having epic experiences that don’t cost you anything. It all comes back to priorities.
How to create an elopement budget
I just wanted to briefly run through some hints and tips in regards to helping you set out a budget. Just a reminder, the elopement calculator below will be your best friend. You can use it to get a good idea for an initial budget, which trust me, will change once you speak to the vendors you love and get their prices. That’s ok, it’s how this thing works.
What’s important to you?
I won’t bang on about it, because I already did above. Make sure you know what is important to you and prioritise it. If flowers aren’t important at all, that’s ok, maybe spend more of your money with photos and video if that’s your priority.
Set an ideal budget
Setting an ‘ideal’ budget is somewhat of a weird thing to do. Ideally, you would get everything for free and have a dream elopement, right? But that’s sadly not how this world works. So use the calculator below to give you a realistic total price, and consider this your ‘ideal budget’, or your ‘initial budget. Let’s say it comes out at $12,000, expect to have to wiggle from there. It might be $10,000, but it might be $15,000. This is just a rough guide for your budget.
Contact vendors you prioritise
You’ve got a list of your priorities now. You’ve done your vendor research and you know the top 1-2 vendors you want to contact for each aspect of your elopement, and you’ve spoken with them, and now you have pricing, specific to what you want. This is the second last step.
Re-assess budget with specific vendors in mind
With the above information in mind, re-create your budget with the specific figures in mind. For example, you may have selected a mid range photographer in the calculator which gave you a cost of $5250. But when you spoke to your preferred photographer, they were actually $6500. Adjust your budget by $1250, if it feels right to you. If you spoke to a photographer and they were $20,000, that’s probably far to steep a difference from your ‘initial budget’, so it’s unlikely you book go with them.
You don’t want your actual budget to differ too much from your initial budget. It’s ok if it moves around, but if your initial budget was $15,000, and with the vendors you contacted your actual budget would need to be $75,000, either you have approached vendors well too expensive, or you undervalued on the initial budget. Either way, as long as you and your partner are ok with the end budget, you’ll have an amazing day.
So how much does an elopement cost – for you?
Here’s the fun part. All the information I have put down above is hypothetical, or based on my experience. But only you know what you want. Only you know what your dreams are, and what your vision of your elopement is. So if you truly want to know how much does an elopement cost, play around with the calculator below and it will give you an estimate, based on my experience, which can help you set a realistic initial budget.