How Much Does an Elopement Cost?

Planning Resources

One of the biggest draws for couples deciding to elope is the saving costs. They’ve looked at all the costs associated with having a traditional wedding from the venue, food, wedding attire, DJ, photographer, videographer, hair and makeup, and this list could go on and go. And maybe you’re right there? Deciding whether to elope or have a traditional wedding and are wondering just how much does an elopement cost.

So, let’s break it down together!

Table of Contents

California Marriage License Cost
How much does an elopement cost on average?
Elopement Costs Breakdown
Bare-Necessities Vendors
Elopement Cost Calculator
How to Save Money on Your Elopement

California Marriage License Cost

Firstly, you can’t get married in California without a marriage license. The fee to obtain a marriage varies between counties. However, on average you can expect the license to cost you around $70 in California. Marriage licenses specifically in San Francisco County cost $113 as of 2022. Your marriage license is good for 90 days and that means you can schedule your appointment with the county clerk within that time frame of your elopement date. That makes getting married that much less stressful even if you do decide to elope to a place like San Francisco City Hall.

How much does an elopement cost on average?

There are a couple of different factors to consider when planning an elopement or intimate wedding. And these different factors have a direct impact on the cost of an elopement. This is anything from vendors ie photographer, florist, videographer, officiant, etc. However, it can also be other things like travel cost, accommodation, permit fees, wedding attire, etc. These costs can fluctuate in total between $2,000-$15,000 for an elopement. And for an intimate wedding can fluctuate between $5,000 – $30,000.

However, in California specifically, people spend on and around $36,000 on traditional weddings on average. This is obviously county dependent. Places like the Bay Area and Orange County have a higher associated cost and it can range from $36,000 – $50,000 on average for a wedding. In other words, eloping or even having an intimate wedding can basically cut your costs almost in half.

couple eloping on big sur cost

Elopement Cost Breakdown

There are numerous vendors and people that can be evolved with your special day – elopement or not.

So, here is a comprehensive list of any vendors that you might want to include as a part of your day and their cost range. Above all remember it’s your day. And it’s important to keep in mind things that can change and effect vendor cost are length of coverage for people like photographers and videographers, amount of flowers needed from florist, size of cake etc.

photographer$2000 – $6000
videographer$2000 – $6000
accomodation$200 – $1200
travel$200 – $2000
officiant$100 – $500
cake/sweets$20 – $200
attire$300 -$5000
planner$1000 – $4000
stationary$20 – $50
hair stylist/makeup artist$100 – $200
miscellaneous$150 – $600
By no means do you need everything or every vendor here. You can DIY a lot of this; this is just an idea of how many people can help you have a magical day.
Eloping in Big Sur, California

Vendor Cost Breakdown

Ok, now let’s quickly breakdown all those vendors and costs.

Photographer – The cost of a photographer has a lot of different factors from experience, length of coverage, package add ons, travel costs, etc.

Videographer – Very similar to a photographer but their price often fluctuates based on deliverables meaning a short reel, 5 minute video, or 10 minute can be a factor in their pricing.

Accommodation – This can vary widely from location to location and the type of place. From a hotel, Airbnb, your own place, etc.

Travel – If you decide that you want to have a whole new adventure in a place you’ve never been before, you have all the flying costs, rental car cost, etc.

Officiant – Here’s a fun fact, in California you can actually get ordained by the Universal Church online and it’s completely free. But, maybe there’s someone specific you have in mind like a judge, person online, etc.

floral elopement cost in San Francisco

Florals РI personally think florals are a necessity that add flare to your day. Some things you might purchase are a bouquets and or boutonnières.

Cake/Sweets – Who doesn’t love cake or another sweet treat to celebrate with. This cost can vary depending on size of the cake, flavor, or if you op for something as simple as donuts.

Attire – What are you wearing to this celebration?! Formal attire from a wedding shop or maybe some more casual. You have endless options from places like Lulu’s, Anthropologie, or even sample sales.

Planners – Planners are great because they can handle all the details and coordination for you. This cost can be cut but it can also be a necessity for just feeling less stressed in the long run during the planning and the coordination on the day.

Stationary – Even if it’s just the two of you, it can be a beautiful detail that only adds to your day. There are great resources on Etsy if you only want and need one invitation suite or can also order samples from places like Minted.

Hair Stylist/Makeup Artist – These can often be the same person which is great! Even if makeup it’s usually not your thing, it’s nice to be pampered for the day.

Miscellaneous – Miscellaneous cost can occur no matter how prepared you are. Permits are something needed even for public lands. It’s always best to expect anything from last minute fees, snacks on the journey, parking, etc.

Bride getting ready

Bare-Necessities Vendors

There are tons of different vendors and people that can be involved with your day. I just listed so many out but also wanted to include some thoughts on what I think are the absolutely necessary ones.

Firstly, I wish I could say them all and they all kinda are important because they really do add so much to a couple’s day. However, I know that may just not be in everyone’s budget and that’s ok! But, I’ve also never heard a couple wish that they didn’t have this beautiful bouquet or the help from a planner but I digress.

If you only have $5,000 to spend I would budget for a photographer, florals, attire, sweets, and video if possible. That’s definitely stretching the budget probably to the max, especially if you’re traveling. But, I have some tips in the last section that can be helpful for saving those extra dollars. In my opinion photography and videography should be at the top of priorities. You day can be absolutely stunning, so memorable and everything went right in every way possible but photos and video last a lifetime longer than a good memory does.

Elopement Cost Calculator

There’s tons of things to consider for your elopement and how to make it unique and specialize. Therefore, here’s a quick calculator that takes into account all of the vendors and things mentioned above plus some added bonuses that would make your day even more special.

In short, this calculator is best used for elopements and intimate wedding in the Bay Area and California. Average costs were taken into consideration but as discussed previously these costs can vary based on different factors. Above all, remember it’s just an estimate.

Couple about to get married in San Francisco City Hall.

How to Save Money on Your Elopement

The part maybe you’ve been waiting for “how to save money on your elopement.” There are always ways to cut costs whether that mean, eloping with just the two of you, limiting activities or vendors, staying more local, the list goes on. However, here are some cost affective ways to still have the elopement or intimate wedding of your dreams while also staying cost affective.

For photography and videography, try opting for the smallest package and or find a happy medium with a custom package tailored towards your needs. Subsequently, for your ceremony ask a friend to become a officiant so you don’t have to hire one or just have a civil ceremony at your local city hall.

So, many vendors can make your day beautiful. But, you can also DIY some of those services likes florals and stationary. On Etsy just search dried floral bouquets and you can find some beautiful arrangement of dried florals. And for stationary the same thing search wedding invitation suite and you can find printable versions.

On the other hand, consider getting married on public lands. For example places like Baker beach or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. These are places that you don’t need a permit for both you and your photographer or any other vendors.

Similarly, you can do your own hair and makeup and opt out of using vendors like a cake baker, musicians, etc.

Those are just some ways you can choose to save money on your elopement. Set your budget and figure out what will work best for you. Prioritize the vendors that are important to you and find more affordable/realistic options that make you happy. Above all, it’s not all about the bells and whistles it’s about your love and committing to the love of your life.

But, I also have to sneak in here that hopefully you only get married once. So, have that private chef, book the boat cruise, and eat that delicious cake. That is to say, do all the things to make this the most memorable day ever!

Hi I'm Torez, a die-hard romantic and San Francisco-based wedding photographer with years of experience capturing love stories against the backdrop of our charming city. From intimate City Hall ceremonies to epic coastal elopements, I've seen and photographed it all. I know the ins and outs of navigating wedding planning in San Francisco like the back of my hand - from selecting the perfect location that aligns with your love story, to creating the dreamiest wedding timeline that lets you enjoy your day to the fullest. And guess what? I'm sharing all of that expertise right here with you.

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