How We Planned The Perfect Elopement On A Budget

July 12, 2021

For those of us who had plans of a big wedding for 2020 or 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold to any plans we had to celebrate like normal.

My heart goes out to anyone that had planned a big, romantic affair and saw their vision dissipate before their eyes or be put on hold indefinitely. 

As the world goes back to a new normal, many of us ask- do we really want to go all the way back?

Why You Should Plan An Elopement vs. A Traditional Wedding

With the popularity of work from home and the necessity of small gatherings, some of us are wondering what COVID tactics should stick around.

My husband and I got engaged on New Year’s Eve 2020. It had been an exhausting year for both of us. 

March 2020 through about August was a blur of long days, little sleep, rapid change and a feeling of loss that normalcy would never return in any aspect of life.  Of course, if you’re reading this, this isn’t unique to our family, it was truly the shared experience of a generation- stress, grief, change and uncertainty.


Eloping became trendy out of necessity in 2020, but here’s our case for why elopement should be a consideration in 2021 and beyond.

How Do You Know If Eloping Is Right For You?

When we started planning our wedding, I was 10 weeks pregnant.  I was over the moon about the baby in my belly and the idea of entering into marriage for the first time.  At the same time, I was absolutely exhausted from a rough year with a full plate and of course, morning sickness.

There are a few very personal factors to consider when planning an elopement:

We eloped in April 2021, and pandemic or otherwise, would still choose elopement over a traditional wedding.


How We Decided To Forgo A Traditional Wedding

We were beyond excited to start our life together. But, what to do? Run to the courthouse? Postpone a wedding until vaccines were available and the baby was here in July? Try to have a small something, but not be sure if it would be safe for loved ones to gather?   Most brides stress out wondering if the weather will cooperate, much less if the pandemic would cooperate with any plans.  It was overwhelming.

Eventually it was decided that the easiest way to not stress my body out any further, would be to elope on our own, in early spring. Eloping with just the two of us meant that we wouldn’t have to stress about the what-ifs of wedding planning, guest attendance and mostly- the safety of those we loved.  But now that we’ve seen a decline in case numbers and life is somewhat returning to normal, will the eloping trend of the COVID era continue? Here’s why I think it should.  


Getting ready together was super fun for us. Far less formal than a “first look,” but sweetly intimate as we helped each other get dressed.



First, Let’s Talk Cost of Eloping.

Duh, eloping is absolutely cheaper than hosting a big wedding. You remove the headcount, you free up your budget. Here’s a breakdown of our budget, but know you can absolutely do this cheaper or more fancy based on your needs.

As a couple, we prioritized a few things:  splurging on my hair, investing in a suit he could wear for the next decade, super-special photos and having the entire event being stress free. That was it. You can absolutely tailor your elopement to fit what’s important to you:

Our Elopement Costs:

Total:  $4,980



Set A Budget That Works For You

Our goal was to keep our special day under $5,000 for the major stuff. I had an aesthetic we wanted and opted for convenience not necessarily the biggest savings.  I absolutely could have gotten a cheaper dress or done my hair on my own. Doing so would have saved us a cool $800.

Our biggest expense was the elopement package itself.  It included complete digital rights to our photos and was absolutely worth the price we paid.  It included vow books, our cake, floral, and a fully baked itinerary tailored for our dream day.

To flex the budget, I could have tweaked a few of the above line items.  Easily, I could have changed up the dress, used shoes I already had or even found a cheaper room to stay in in our destination city.

Had I been more flexible on the “look,” I could have saved more. But, capturing our style and getting to play dress-up was part of the experience we wanted.


Our elopement package was right-sized. We still got a “church wedding” but out in the Marfa desert.




Elopement Packages Are All-Inclusive

More venues and vendors offer elopement packages in absolutely dreamy locations with dreamier itineraries.  Our photographer even doubled as our elopement coordinator. She planned everything for our big day- from where, when, how and what. 

Our destination was El Cosmico Hotel in Marfa, Texas for a glamping experience over two days. Our amazing photographer/coordinator, Jessica, built our dream day off of a Pinterest board I sent her.

We stepped out of our adorable Yurt and into a dream day that she planned for us. The vow books were provided, the bridal bouquet was built to my Pinterest board specifications.

The cake was ready to go with our favorite flavors in mind. Being pregnant, I couldn’t decide on a flavor. So, our cake ended up being a strawberry raspberry lemonade and probably one of the tastiest we’ve ever had! 

So, how to plan the perfect elopement on a budget?

You can easily hire it out like we did, or if you plan solo, it’s far more manageable. You’ll mainly need to plan your attire, the location, an officiant/witness and who is taking photos. Easy peezy! 

I would not recommend planning a wedding day on your own for 50+ people, unless you enjoy stress. Planning a destination elopement can easily be done when you’re coordinating 2-20 people.  

Planning an elopement in 5 easy steps:

Pick your day + location – you’ll have more flexibility for your perfect date for a quick ceremony, but you still may need a permit for some sites (like beaches and National Parks.)

Plan your attire – Clothes are pretty easy, you’ll buy them ahead of time.  Who will do hair, nails, makeup and when? 

Plan your itinerary – Will you be hiking at sunrise? Exchanging vows as the sun sets at the beach?  Will you get prepared at the wedding site on top of a hill or prep back at your hotel or house? Plan ample time so you’re not rushing the special moments.

Plan who is attending – Unless you’re going for an unofficial ceremony, you’ll need to apply for a marriage license in the timeframe your state requires. You’ll also likely need an officiant and a witness (for us, this was the same person.)


Hire A Coordinator, A Luxe Add-On That’s Affordable With Elopement

Jessica could have coordinated anything we wanted for our day.  A hiking trip at sunrise, or a trip to the tattoo parlor to exchange our vows (I wanted tats but being pregnant was an issue). We opted for a low-key experience that involved Mexican food, a romantic first dance, and some time with our pups. It was right-sized for us and my swollen belly.

The possibilites for elopement can be just as creative as you are. Go to a disco to dance it out, or take a hot air balloon ride.  Climb to the top of a mountain to exchange vows at sunset.  Your choice! 


You Get An Adventure Without The Stress

Long story long, we got to customize the entire experience and had to stress over NONE of it.  Plus, what you do and what you spend is up to you.  No pressure from parents to impress far-flung relatives you’ve never met. You can keep the guest count under 20 people or have it just the two of you.

I’m going to use the word magical 100 times in the course of this article, because it was. With elopement, you’re both physically and financially freed to customize your day to the nines, or, like in our case, keep it as cozy and simple as you need.

You have fewer of the financial and physical limitations that comes along with a robust guest list. It’s YOUR day. The wedding industry had to innovate during 2020, and for brides and grooms- it means we have more options than ever and the world is our venue. You get freedom, creativity and flexibility.


Our elopement package meant everything was custom built- from the itinerary to the flowers and cake.




Are You Worried You’ll Regret Planning An Elopement?

Are you worried about eloping because you’re worried about missing out on the fun moments that come with a bigger guest list? Again, this is where customization rocks with elopement.

Our elopement package would have allowed for up to 20 guests but we had some heartburn about who could make it and the stress of pruning a list to 20 people with our family dynamics made driving out solo to a remote spot in the desert appealing to us. 

For us, we couldn’t find a right sized event for our budget with how far flung our loved ones were. Chances are, if safety is no longer a concern for your event, you may still be grappling with pruning a guest list to a feasible size without hurting feelings. Trust us, we grappled with the same!


Your “Perfect Day” Doesn’t Have To Be Conventional

No matter where we married or when, it meant someone was left out. Since our loved ones live in about 9 different states and few of them live locally, we stressed about finding a venue that would be fair to everyone. We had concerns about asking our friends, many with young kids at this point in our mid-30’s, to fork over $600+ in airfare plus a hotel for us to celebrate.

Having been to a plethora of weddings myself, I easily have spent over $1000 to attend a weekend wedding. I love everyone I’ve flown out to celebrate, but for those of us who live far away, we have to ask ourselves if it’s fair to assume everyone has the cash to share these moments.

The “Average Wedding” May Not Be Right For You

After COVID, many of us have had to face financial realities and had to reassess our priorities. We know we did. With a baby on the way, we couldn’t justify $10,000-$20,000 for ONE day, nor did we think we could ask our family to chip in.

After a year of being separated from loved ones, wondering when things will stabilize, I craved normalcy but I realized weddings just aren’t it. Spending $1000 to travel to a wedding for about 20 minutes of face time with the bride and groom, and usually rushing out on a weekend to do so- just ain’t it for us.

For our family, quality time is just as important as the budget. Rushing in and out to a weekend wedding isn’t always worth it.  Could planning a small gathering or a small series of vacations later be a better fit?  


Our elopement cost us $5k all in. It was right sized and we have no regrets!





It’s Up To You What’s Essential. Plan Your Marriage, Not Your Wedding.

All in all, it’s up to you. Imagine yourself on your wedding day. Will it just not be the same without an audience? Or, like us, would you rather save the cash from 50+ place settings and use that money to fly out for quality one-on-one time with the people at the top of your guest list?

For us, we pictured where that money could take us a year from now. We wanted it around campfires, dinner tables and Christmas trees with our far-flung families. We wanted more than hurried hellos around a sweetheart table in one weekend.

Additionally, do you want to spend the time and headspace in planning such a large affair? For us, it was also a no.  We spent that time talking through our finances, taking pre-marital counseling and working on our 5 year plan as a newlywed couple. We spent weekends talking through our hopes and plans as a growing family.


Elopement Allows You To Be Mentally Present

For us, we wanted to plan our next year together, not just the weekend we took our vows. Elopement freed up the headspace to prepare to be husband and wife- not just bride and groom. For you, you may be able to do both, and that’s awesome! For us, we felt impossible to do both. 

We spent our downtime at our campsite planning our vows. After a relaxing wedding day, we spent the drive home going over our financial, personal and career goals.  We spent time to dream beyond the one-day affair. We made a pact to add to our vow book every year on our anniversary, and to revisit our goals as a couple.  Would I have had the energy to do this with a big wedding? Probably not.

In Sum, Be Clear On YOUR Goals. It’s YOUR Day. 

Eloping helped us frame up the hard conversations about what mattered to our marriage. For us, it was financial freedom and true quality time with those we loved. We realized an expensive wedding would achieve neither.  We used the money saved to travel to see family during maternity leave and had hours of laughter, reconnection and memories made.

So, if you’re longing for an intimate affair with under 50 people, dreaming of an exotic location to say I do, or life seems to get in the way from ever getting started on marriage, elopement might be the ticket for you. It was for us. 

Best of luck!


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