How Much Does It Cost to Elope? Here's the Breakdown
Couples who elope are often seeking an intimate, no-fuss, budget-friendly (but still very romantic) way to marry. But how much does it cost to elope? For an affordable and efficient option, many couples choose city hall ceremonies with a judge as their officiant. But the cost to elope can be much higher for ceremonies that take place in exotic or unusual locales or at sites that hold special meaning to the couple.
Whatever you choose, when it comes to the costs of eloping, there are details and expenses to explore and consider, from the venue and the decor to the photographer and the planner. Here are some costs to keep in mind if you're planning to elope. (In case you haven't picked the spot for your elopement yet, we also have some suggestions for the best places to elope around the world.)
Average Cost to Elope at City Hall in the US
Each year, countless couples choose to get married at their local city hall. Some have married before and don't want to have another big wedding party. Others may need to take care of legal marriage paperwork before or after their destination wedding. But for many, getting married at city hall or in a courthouse has a lot to do with cost.
The cost to elope at city hall in the US can vary quite a bit and depends on the city, county and state. In most cases, the costs include the fee for the marriage license, the fee for the city hall ceremony and, once that's complete, the price to purchase a copy of the certificate for proof of your marriage.
Whether your elopement includes a city hall wedding ceremony or not, you'll need a marriage license and—after the wedding ceremony—a copy of your marriage certificate. Fees for marriage licenses typically range from $30 to $150. In some states, you'll be able to use your marriage license right away. In others, there may be a waiting period of about three days before you can hold your marriage ceremony.
In Idaho, for example—where marriage licenses are issued by county recorders and may be used immediately—the fee is "approximately $30 in cash," according to the Idaho.gov website, with some counties charging up to $20 more for marriage licenses issued on Saturdays. In Florida, marriage license fees can top $90, but the fee (and the three-day waiting period) can be reduced if you complete a licensed Florida premarital course.
In most places, you'll need to apply for your marriage license together in person and bring proof of identification and age. Some locations issue marriage licenses on a walk-in basis; others require appointments and/or offer an online application process. Cash, credit and debit cards are usually accepted as payment, but some locations will only accept cash.
City Hall or Courthouse Ceremonies
A marriage ceremony at city hall or a courthouse will cost anywhere from $10 to more than $150. Some locations are walk-in/sign-up only. Others allow you to make reservations for your marriage ceremony weeks in advance. Some allow and have space for guests; others will restrict you to the couple and one or two witnesses during the ceremony.
In Chicago, where couples are joined in marriage and civil unions by a Cook County judge, the fee for getting married at city hall is $10. No witnesses are necessary, but up to 15 guests may view your ceremony. In Palm Beach County, Florida, where marriage licenses cost $86, a marriage ceremony is $30 and is performed by appointment in one of the themed ceremony rooms in the county's courthouses. The Main Courthouse in West Palm Beach, for example, has a brightly colored marriage room designed and decorated by the Lilly Pulitzer brand.
Find your kind of venue
After a city hall or courthouse wedding, the officiant (judge, justice of the peace, county clerk, etc.) will sign and submit your marriage license to be officially recorded. You'll want a copy (or two) of the certificate to use as proof of your marriage for taxes, banking and other purposes. While some states will automatically mail you a copy of your marriage certificate, others will charge fees ranging from $3 to $15 per copy.
San Francisco City Hall Elopement Cost Example
While many city halls and courthouses offer eloping couples spare, utilitarian rooms for their wedding ceremony, there are some city halls around the country that are highly sought after for their architecture and decor.
One example is San Francisco City Hall, an acclaimed building in the Beaux Arts architectural style. There, eloping couples with six guests or fewer will pay $120 for a marriage license and $103 for a civil or domestic partnership ceremony held during office hours, by appointment. Couples aren't permitted to choose where in the building to hold their ceremony, but the private ceremony room or rotunda might be assigned.
Eloping couples that want a San Francisco City Hall wedding with up to 100 guests can also choose a one-hour, $1,000 wedding package that includes private use of either the Mayor's Balcony or a Fourth Floor Gallery. Food and beverages are not permitted, and only approved musicians may play (acoustic only). Insurance and basic building services are included in the fee, but the cost of a marriage officiant is not.
Average Cost of Elopement Vendors
For many couples, the cost of eloping will not exceed the fees for the marriage license, the courthouse ceremony, a copy of the signed marriage certificate, and perhaps a photographer and some flowers. Others may plan to elope in a public park, on a beach, on a mountainside, on a sailboat, or in an unusual or exotic location with just a few friends or family members present.
The cost for different types of elopements varies widely, but in general, "couples wanting an elopement with an intimate [vibe] with great photos should budget $3,000 to $8,000 based on location and vendor quality," says Brittany Rogers-Hanson, founder and CEO of Run Away With Me, a full-service wedding and elopement planning company.
Because elopements also come in so many different sizes and styles, the cost for venues, photographers and videographers, attire, flowers, decor and transportation will vary widely. "For elopements, flowers might cost $200 to $400 and venues $500 to $4,000," Rogers-Hanson says. "And keep in mind that having an elopement during the week will allow great vendors to be available at better rates than on a Saturday." Elopements don't usually have a large guest count, "so it's a win-win for everyone," she says.
Here are some vendor costs to consider when eloping.
Elopement Planner Cost
"Even though elopements are easier to plan than full-blown weddings, there is still time and care that goes into it," Rogers-Hanson says. "We definitely charge less to plan an elopement, but a fair range is $1,000 to $5,000 based on the planner's experience and network of vendors."
Elopement Officiant Cost
The cost of an elopement officiant can vary widely and may depend on where you elope, whether or not the officiant has to travel or appear on short notice, the affiliation of the officiant (religious or secular), and a host of other variables. The Knot Real Weddings Study in 2022 looked at the cost of various officiants, but elopement planners suggest couples set aside between $300 and $600 for an elopement officiant.
The cost of an elopement venue could be nothing if you choose to celebrate in a backyard or a public park. Or, it could be anywhere from $500 to $4,000 if you book a room in a restaurant, a hotel rooftop or a unique adventure spot.
Elopement Photographer & Videographer Cost
A friend or family member might take perfectly good photos of your elopement ceremony or celebration on a smartphone, and at some informal venues, photography will be part of the wedding package. But Rogers-Hanson suggests that eloping couples who want great photos budget $1,500 to $5,000 for a professional photographer or videographer. The Knot has a guide to professional wedding photographers in your area.
Wedding Attire Cost
From city hall weddings to elopements in offbeat or luxury settings, there are no strict rules for what to wear or how much to spend on your outfit. The cost of wedding attire for your elopement might be less than $100 if you choose a favorite outfit from your closet and dress it up with some accessories. Or, you might splash out on something brand new, taking inspiration from these elopement dresses. Eloping on a beach, in a national park, underwater or on a ski slope? Keep the location in mind when shopping for your wedding attire.
Elopement Flowers & Decor Cost
Flower arrangements, bouquets, boutonnieres, floral arches and aisles strewn with rose petals are hallmarks of both traditional weddings and elopements. Rogers-Hanson suggests budgeting $200 to $400 for flowers for an elopement.
Transportation & Travel Costs
You can't get married if you can't get to your elopement venue, whether it's city hall or a mountaintop. Even if your elopement is very informal, be sure to factor transportation and travel costs into your wedding budget. In some cases, it may be as simple as making sure you have cash for the bus to and from city hall. Or, you may have to shop ahead for plane tickets for your elopement in Maui. The cost of your elopement transportation will depend on myriad factors, but expect to spend anywhere from $5 to $1,000 on transportation and travel costs.
Cost to Invite Guests
Many couples choose to elope because they want an intimate wedding with no one else there beyond the witnesses and the officiant. Privacy and low stress may be the primary motivation for some, but cost savings are often a key factor as well.
If you're trying to keep your elopement costs down, consider inviting a few guests to join you in celebrating with a post-ceremony pizza, an afternoon at a spa, or a night out on the town. Typically, the cost per guest (including dinners and activities) begin at several hundred per person.
Cost of Elopement Packages
Eloping doesn't mean having to take care of all the wedding details by yourself. Many wedding planners and venues offer elopement packages as part of their services.
In Las Vegas, the Marriage Capital of the World, there are companies offering elopement packages galore, from a mobile chapel with 30-minute "we come to you" weddings starting at $129 to drive-through packages that start around $200 and include Elvis or other celebrity impersonators as officiants. At Caesar's Palace, where wedding packages start at $1,000, there are couples who get married without planning ahead at all, says Alyssa Mendes, the hotel's vice president of weddings. "Other couples arrive in town and meet with our team a few days before they want to tie the knot."
Basic US Elopement Package Cost Example
The cost of elopement packages varies widely based on where and when you choose to elope, but Rogers-Hanson says the cost of a basic US elopement package (think an officiant, a photographer and some florals), would range from $1,000 to $3,000. Other basic elopement packages in that price range might also include witnesses, Champagne and a small wedding cake.
Luxury Italy Elopement Package Cost Example
If you're planning a luxury elopement in Italy—where Tuscany, Venice and the Amalfi Coast are popular for destination weddings—you'll need to factor in the cost of transportation and lodging on top of any elopement package you choose. In addition to the $5,000 to $10,000 you'd need to plan for a luxury elopement in the US, you'll need to add on the cost of transportation, lodging, fees for an Italian marriage license (about 70 euros) and VAT taxes for services such as live music.