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THE BLOG

phot of a couple from the waist down with their wedding attire on surrounded by summer floral arrangements by pnw florist briar and ivy for a guide on how to elope in washington

HOW MUCH DOES An ELOPEMENT COST in 2024?

ESTIMATES + ADVICE | how the cost of an elopement compares to a traditional wedding

(spoiler: it's much less lol)

seattle wedding photographer

Hi! I'm Natasha! Your Washington elopement photographer, dog petter and donut eater. While photography is my first love, connecting with people is my love language. You'll find me lovin' on the big moments, the quiet moments, the silly moments – but especially the in between moments. The moments that are unadulterated and unfiltered. The ones where you are the real you. Here on the blog you'll find all of my favorite tips, tricks and resources for planning an elopement that's all about those moments.

NATASHA CARDINAL

WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER

IT'S TIME TO TALK ABOUT THE BIG SCARY PART OF PLANNING A WEDDING...THE COST

Money. It's the part of getting married that everyone dreads talking about. "The source of all evil" as many put it. Because weddings are expensive, right? It's one of the first things that we think about when planning any event in 2024, it's the thing that causes a big portion of the wedding planning stress, "how much is this gonna cost me?". So let's talk about traditional wedding cost vs. elopement cost.

Here's the short and sweet: traditional weddings cost a pretty damn big chunk of change. There's no way around it. On average, a pretty simple, relatively modest but still nicely designed, 100 person wedding costs an average of $30k-40k, with costs reaching upwards of $50k-60k for something that's larger, at a high end venue, with high end design (yeah...let's all take a deep breathe after that one lol). It can vary quite a bit on location (when we were New York wedding photographers couples spent an average of $60k-70k, that's wild!!!), but on average, the cost of a traditional wedding is essentially a down payment for a house.

And it's a huge reason why so many couples choose to elope! It's unrealistic to think that financial reasons don't play a part in planning what's supposed to be the best day of your life, right? You may feel that a traditional wedding doesn't fill your cup, or that you don't align with the values of traditional weddings, but part of creating the best elopement possible for you is understanding exactly what to expect.

So let's break down your elopement cost.

couple walks together near the edge of a lake for a photo for a blog on the best places to elope near seattle

HOW DO I FIGURE OUT MY ELOPEMENT COST?

Well...it's kind of a trick question. Because it depends on a lot of things! The beauty of eloping is that it truly is customizable to anything and everything you want to do. So the real question is...what's your budget? Because that's truly how much your elopement can cost. Elopements can be customized for just about every price. The only mandatory cost is the cost of your marriage license, typically somewhere between $50-100 depending on which state you're eloping in.

Which is great! But probably not super helpful if you want something that's more than just signing a piece of paper at city hall, right? If you're anything like me you probably wanna know a price range to plan for because you like answers and structure and you like to know what to expect (ugh...my people lol).

Your elopement budget can vary quite a bit based on what your values are, what you can afford, experiences you want to include in your elopement day, and where your elopement is going to be. Prices change drastically based on where in the country you want to elope, so having a general idea of how much you want to spend beforehand is always helpful for staying in budget, and still being able to pack your day full of everything you've ever dreamed up.

On average, couples we work with typically spend somewhere in the range of $6,000-$15,000+ on their elopement, but we've had plenty of couples spend $5,000 or less too!

So NOW let's actually break down every part of the elopement cost:

couple looks at each other lovingly and poses for their hudson valley wedding photographer the cardinals

ELOPEMENT COST BREAKDOWN

For an elopement in 2024 in Washington State, on average couples can expect to spend $6,000-$15,000, and costs can reach upwards of $30k+ based on how much you want to splurge! But what actually goes into those numbers? Well, there's a ton of different ways that we can get there, so what kind of expenses can you expect when planning your elopement? Each vendor can vary greatly based on what sort of style you're looking for, how much coverage you'd like, your location, etc., but you can expect your costs to be somewhere in this range:



WHAT'S THIS LOOK LIKE DURING A REAL ELOPEMENT DAY?

Here are some examples of budgets from some of our real elopement couples! If you're looking for something that's on the lower end, this is what your elopement budget could look like if you want to keep it super cheap and simple. It's even based off of a real elopement from one of our own couple!


How did we get to these numbers?

PHOTOGRAPHER
On average this is what couples spend with us for a half day of coverage, typically 4 hours.

VIDEOGRAPHER
You decide to skip the video.

OFFICIANT
Have a friend officiate (it's free to get ordained!), go to the courthouse, or have us officiate! If we officiate for you you'll need an additional witness (Washington requires 2) but we can witness or officiate for you.

HAIR + MAKEUP
Do it yourself instead!

PERMITS
Permits can vary based on location ($50-300), but in Olympic National Park its $75

FLORALS
DIY bouquet from some stems from a local shop (ummmm hello Trader Joes)

EXPERIENCES
There are plenty of free options like hiking, tide pooling, etc.

WEDDING ATTIRE
Thrift your dress, use a hand me down, rent a suit

TRAVEL + LODGING
Elope somewhere locally, spend two nights in an Airbnb

FOOD
Cook your own meals, have a picnic on the night of your elopement

But let's talk about what things could look like If you want something that's a middle of the road situation, something in the mid-range. You have a little bit more to spend on something that's fancier, more adventurous, something that feels like a splurge without totally breaking the bank. This is what couples spend on average for a full day elopement:

How did we get to these numbers?

PHOTOGRAPHER
On average this is what couples spend with us for a full day of coverage, typically 8 hours

VIDEOGRAPHER
We shoot a cinematic super 8mm film of your elopement day

OFFICIANT
You hire an amazing officiant to guide you through your ceremony and we witness it for you

HAIR + MAKEUP
You want to feel a little fancier so you hire a hair and make up artist to meet you at your Airbnb or hotel.

PERMITS
Permits can vary based on location ($50-300), but in Olympic National Park its $75

FLORALS
You have one of the amazing local florists create a stunning bouquet for you

EXPERIENCES
You decide to make new memories and go on a private horseback riding trail ride

WEDDING ATTIRE
You buy your dream dress/suit

TRAVEL + LODGING
This includes your flights, car rental, and airbnb for 2-3 nights

FOOD
You go out to eat somewhere fancy, pop some champagne, treat yo self!

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN THINKING ABOUT YOUR TOTAL ELOPEMENT COST

Travel + Where You're Going to Elope – More than anything else, where you plan to elope is going to have the greatest overall impact on what your elopement cost is going to be. Because travel has a lot things included! Whether you're flying, driving, eloping somewhere locally will determine how much everything costs. Certain areas of the country like California and New York are known for being pricier too. But how far you'll be traveling is something to consider as well. If you're flying from Pennsylvania to the PNW, your flight is going to be more pricey than if you were flying to Colorado. So when you're planning out your elopement budget make sure you included everything that you'll be doing while traveling like flights, rental cars, food you'll eat while you travel, baggage fees, etc.

What Your Experience is Going to Be Like – Something that's overlooked when thinking about your elopement cost is how you want your elopement to feel. More than anything else, your elopement day should feel how you want it to feel. And that doesn't always require a big price tag! You can have the most incredible elopement that feels absolutely true to you and your personalities on a shoe string budget, but it all depends on what you're dreaming of! If the first thing you think of when you think of your day is an epic adventure, then consider allocating more of your budget to doing something wild like taking a helicopter to a glacier or going on an overnight horse packing trip. If you want things to feel more chill and romantic, you can opt for meaningful small things like hiking to a beautiful spot at sunset and taking in the views together or doing one of spending your night in a cozy cabin drinking spiked hot chocolate with a campfire.

Vendors – When you start thinking about what you want your day to look like, you'll inevitably end up on the question of vendors. So when figuring out your budget take into account which vendors you'll need on your wedding day. Vendors like your photographer, videographer, officiant, hair and make up artist, florist, rentals, all play a part in what your day is going to look like. And trust us, you don't want to be left with nothing in your budget at you hire your dream vendors! So planning all of it out beforehand is a major key to having the day you've always dreamt of.

Where to Stay – Typically when thinking of travel, most people lean towards hotels or airbnbs, but when it comes to eloping there's a few different options! Especially here in the PNW! While there are plenty of beautiful hotels and Airbnbs around, people often forget about other options like renting camper vans, camping, and renting local cabins. These can work for any budget too! Campgrounds typically range from $35-$75/night, while Airbnbs and boutique hotels can be $100-$500/night.

Tipping – Tipping is something that can sometimes be a taboo topic to ask about for some couples, but we're always more than happy to talk about anything and everything! We get asked pretty often "are we supposed to tip you?", and the simple answer is when you work with us tipping is not a requirement, and is never expected, but is always greatly appreciated. The next questions that follows up on that is often "well, how much do we tip?" and this can vary greatly vendor to vendor, and can be anything and everything! Thank you cards, gifts cards, cash tips range anywhere from $100-$1,000, homemade gifts and yummy baked things, are all wonderful thoughtful tips. And we really want to reiterate that tipping is not required or expected! We truly love just spending time with you on your special day.

How many people are you including? – This one is a given, but something that has a huge impact of your overall budget is going to be how many people you're going to have with you. The more guests you have, the bigger your elopement cost is going to be. You'll have to budget for meals for each person, a larger place to stay or additional guest fees if your guests will be coming from out of town and staying with you, transportation for yourself and your guests, additional fees that go with your Special Use Permit,

MORE ELOPEMENT RESOURCES, MADE JUST FOR YOU

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDES FOR ALL OF THE BEST ELOPEMENT LOCATIONS IN THE PNW

HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITES!

hudson valley wedding photographers the cardinals

MEET YOUR WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER + VIDEOGRAPHER

We're Natasha and Brian! Your Washington elopement photographer and videographers, dog petters, and donut eaters focused on creating the dreamiest and intentional photos of your elopement. But we're so much more than just photographers. When you work with us, you get built in elopement planning experts, guides for all of the parks most beautiful trails, snack holders, dress fluffers, tissue providers, and friends.

We know exactly what it's like to elope, because that's what we did too! We eloped on a misty August day on Mt. Baker with our sweet dog Fern, 7 of our closest friends, and it couldn't have been more us. Creating an experience that's undeniably you and honors your relationship is what we know best.

FEATURED PNW ELOPEMENTS + ENGAGEMENTS