Man and woman are walking across a mountain in the distance holding hands. They are both wearing wedding outfits, the clouds are dark, and they are on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Updated 21st November, 2023

How you can have the wedding of your dreams, without the 'big' wedding price tag.


Updated: 21st November, 2023

The Real Cost of Eloping

Let's get straight down to brass tax, Hitched and You and Your Wedding surveyed 2,800 couples and discovered that the average UK traditional wedding costs around £30,000. To some, that might not seem like a lot, but it's only £2,000 more than the median household income. As you'll see soon, it also differs drastically from how much it costs to elope.

In the US, The Knot surveyed 7,600 couples and found that the average cost of a traditional wedding was $28,000. These figures take into account everything spent on the wedding itself and the honeymoon.

If you're anything like me, you're still picking your jaw up from the floor after reading that. As an elopement photographer who started out shooting big traditional weddings, I thought I'd share my experiences with you. I'm also planning my own elopement so have some real-life insight to share on how much it costs to elope, as well as some figures from past couples.

Couple standing on a mountain with clouds overhead. The woman is wearing a white wedding dress which is blowing in the wind.

Firstly, what actually is an elopement? How is it different from a traditional wedding?

An elopement is different to a traditional wedding because it's an intentionally intimate and meaningful celebration of your relationship and values. Couples who elope often say they felt like they really couldn't see themselves in front of 100+ people on one of the most significant days of their relationship and felt lost until they discovered they could elope instead.

Eloping gives you the freedom to craft a unique wedding experience packed full of all of the things you truly value. I often tell couples to close their eyes and imagine their elopement day: Where are you? Who's there? What're you doing? What can you see, smell, and hear? Maybe that's being surrounded by beautiful mountains at sunrise with a small group of only your closest friends and family. Maybe it's hopping on a plane to somewhere you've always wanted to visit, but never found an excuse to go. Whatever it is, your elopement should celebrate your relationship in an authentic way which fully aligns with your values.

If you sit back and ask yourself, 'Can I really see myself stood at the altar with 100 sets of eyes looking at me?' and the answer is 'no way', then eloping could be for you.

But, eloping doesn't mean throwing away the aspects of a wedding day you love - it's about removing the things you don't love.

Couple are wearing wedding attire and are surrounded by dark clouds and mountains. The groom is helping his bride down from a boulder by holding her hand and her veil is blowing in the wind.

Cost of Eloping vs a Traditional Wedding

Average Cost of a Traditional Wedding: £30,000 | $28,000

Average Cost of an Elopement: £4,000 - £8,000 | $5,000 - $10,000

Of course, cost isn't the only reason to consider eloping, but for many the spiralling costs of a traditional wedding can start to become too much. So, it's worth your time to consider cost, especially when you realise what else you could do with your money.

I know what you're asking yourself, why the big range in the cost of an elopement? Well, one of the reasons is that there's no real data on this. In reality, you can head down to your registry office/courthouse and get married for as little as £100/$50, all in. I came up with these figures from looking at how much I'm spending and from asking previous couples how much they spent.

What you'll see is that a very small traditional wedding budget is a pretty healthy elopement budget.

The exact cost of your elopement could be a lot less than this or a lot more. It depends on where you're travelling (or not travelling) to, if you're having some guests, and the price of local suppliers. Equally, you could spend a lot less on a traditional wedding, but the statistics are still staggering.

Woman wearing a white wedding dress is holding a bouquet of flowers and standing next to a window in an archway looking outside.

Real Wedding vs Real Elopement - Breaking Down the Cost

How did I come up with these figures, I hear you ask! Well, I scoured the internet to find the average cost of each supplier in the UK.

Average Cost of A Wedding: £30,700 | $28,000

  • Venue Hire ~£7,000
  • Wedding Dress / Attire (including bridesmaids and groom/groomsmen) ~£2,000
  • Food (inc. cake) ~£4,500
  • Drink ~£1,600
  • Photographer ~£1,600
  • Minimoon ~£1,200
  • Entertainment/Music ~£1,000
  • Videographer ~£1,500
  • Honeymoon ~£5,000
  • Hair & Makeup ~£500
  • Travel & Accommodation ~£1,000
  • Invitations/Thank-You Gifts ~£500
  • Flowers ~£2,000
  • Wedding Planner ~£1,500

Average Cost of an Elopement: £6,250 | $8,000

  • Venue Hire (don't need this if eloping outdoors)
  • Celebrant/Officiant ~£400
  • Wedding Dress/Attire ~£800
  • Food (for guests/yourselves if you want an evening meal) ~£150
  • Photographer ~£1,600
  • Minimoon/Honeymoon (included in travel & accommodation if you want to combine your elopement with this)
  • Videographer ~£1,500
  • Hair & Makeup ~£150
  • Travel & Accommodation (a little more than a wedding if this is also your honeymoon) ~£2,000
  • Flowers ~£150
Couple are wearing wedding clothes. They are stood on a hill, hugging each other, and there are mountains and mist above them in the background.

How Much Should I Spend on My Elopement? What Am I Actually Paying For?

Although the figures above are the average figures for each item, I've deliberately added a little extra to each of the elopement suppliers. For example, most couples who choose to elope prefer to add more budget to the things that really matter to them and less to the ones that don't. If you're not buying food for 100+ guests, why not splurge a little more money on the dress you always wanted or the travel and accommodation to go somewhere truly amazing! Personally, me and my partner are spending £3,000 / $4,000 on our elopement because we're not spending a lot on outfits and are eloping on the Isle of Skye, where we live.

The average cost of an elopement is £24,800 / $20,000 LESS than a wedding.

Just think what you could do with that extra money! You could put a deposit down on a house or elope on the other side of the world on a month-long trip. A few of my previous couples have spent money on a post-elopement party with friends and family back home. This way, you can still enjoy the big celebration without the added price tag.

Another thing to think about is that you don't need to necessarily elope and 'give up' a traditional wedding. You can simply add or subtract things you like or dislike from the list above to suit your taste. Like the idea of a couple of bridesmaids at your elopement? That's amazing! You can absolutely do that. Having family and friends at elopements is more popular than you might think.

Couple wearing wedding attire kissing next to a river with mountains in the distance after their elopement ceremony.

From the table above, you can see that the average cost of the photographer is also the same. Most elopement photographers take on the role of partial-planner as well, helping to source locations, places to stay, things to do, and helping to build your timeline. So, the average cost of an elopement pPersonally, I love this part of my job and it fills me with joy to see my couples' faces filled with awe when I take them to cool locations.

How much money you spend on your elopement day isn't a reflection on how valuable your elopement is.

Regardless of budget, you're still getting married. Don't feel like you need to spend loads for your day to seem more meaningful or 'special'.

How Much It Costs To Elope Depends On What You Value

I've been where you are now, engaged and being bamboozled by the spiralling cost of a wedding. For some couples, that's great, but it wasn't for me. Me and my partner value travel, adventure, nice things we can afford, experiences that enrich our soul, and intimate moments where we can feel safe to be ourselves.

One thing couples say to me time and time again after their elopement is, 'Wow, I'm so glad I did this!'. No-one has regretted it. The last thing you want to be thinking after your wedding day is, 'I wish we'd done something different'. 80% of brides often have regrets about their wedding day. So, before you decide what you're going to do, think deeply about what you and your partner truly want.

Groom is hugging bride from behind. They are both wearing wedding outfits, stood on rocks in a river, with mountains behind them.

5 Ways You Can Invest In The Cost Of Your Elopement

This is your one wedding day! So, regardless of what you think of the idea of getting married, standing in front of your partner and declaring to commit yourselves to each other is a special moment. You do it once, so do it well. Here are 5 ways you can invest in the cost of your elopement so that it's meaningful to you.

  1. Spend more money on the experience of your day over the 'stuff'.
  2. Remove things from your day that detract from your values.
  3. If you want to elope just by yourselves, get loved ones to send letters or record video messages for emotional support.
  4. Don't give in to the expectations of others - plan a day that's unique to you.
  5. Okay, I'm biased, but invest in a good elopement photographer you really get on with - your photographs will be the way you re-live the memories of your day. They're also the only way family and friends get to see what you got up to.

If you're thinking this elopement thing sounds awesome then check out more of my elopement planning guides. Or, get in touch to find out more - I'd be happy to answer any of your questions.

Are you ready to start planning an amazingly meaningful and intimate elopement?


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