‍Elope on a Budget: Tips for a Beautiful Wedding Without Breaking the Bank

October 12, 2023
11 min

When it comes to weddings, the idea of eloping on a budget might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Today, many couples focus on practicality and choose cost-effective elopements over extravagant ceremonies.

To minimize the cost to get legally married, you can simply head down to your local courthouse and make a day of it! Elopements can be romantic and meaningful, and they don't have to break the bank. By planning well, you can create a beautiful wedding experience that centers on your love and commitment.

This article will explore some valuable tips and ideas to help you elope on a budget while creating a memorable and special day to cherish forever.

same-sex couple standing in apartment and embracing before their elopement ceremont

Why you should plan an elopement

Planning an elopement is a great choice for couples looking for an intimate and stress-free way to celebrate their love. Here's why you should consider eloping instead of opting for a traditional wedding:

Less Planning, More Enjoyment

Traditional weddings can take months or years of planning, leading to overwhelming stress. In contrast, elopements are simpler to organize. With fewer details to fret over, you can focus on what matters—the profound love you share.

Reduced Stress

The stress of planning a grand wedding can sometimes overshadow the joy of the occasion. Elopements reduce stress, allowing couples to focus on creating meaningful memories with their partner.

Intimate Connection

Elopements provide a unique opportunity for an intimate and personal experience. You can exchange vows in a place that is significant to both of you, fostering a deeper connection during the ceremony.


Traditional weddings can be expensive, with costs spiraling out of control. Elopements are more affordable as you won't need to spend on a costly venue, elaborate catering, or a large guest list. This allows couples to save for other significant expenses, like buying a home or planning future adventures together.

Simpler Attire

Elopements often call for simpler and more comfortable attire. Select attire that reflects your style and comfort, without traditional dress code restrictions. This can make your elopement feel more authentic to your unique selves.


Elopements offer the freedom to choose when and where you exchange vows. Whether it's a serene mountaintop at sunrise, a secluded beach at sunset, or an intimate chapel, the possibilities are endless. This flexibility lets you create a unique and memorable experience.

Quality Time

Elopements let you spend quality time together, free from the distractions of a large wedding party and many guests. This undivided attention allows you to focus on each other and the commitment you're making.

Less Pressure

Traditional weddings often bring societal expectations and pressure to please a large group. Elopements let you make decisions that reflect your desires and values, rather than conforming to external expectations.

free elopement checklist

First, set a budget that works for you

Before planning your wedding, the first step is to create a wedding a budget that aligns with your financial comfort.

Traditional weddings tend to be more expensive than elopements because of the venue, catering decorations, entertainment, and more. Depending on your preferences and location, the costs can add up, sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Elopements are cost-effective. They only need a fraction of the budget for a traditional wedding, thanks to fewer guests and simple arrangements. While costs can vary depending on your choices, they are much more manageable and less burdensome.

How to determine your elopement budget

Assess Your Financial Situation

For a more affordable elopement budget, the first step is to conduct a thorough examination of your financial landscape. Assess your savings, potential family contributions, and your comfortable investment for your elopement. Honesty and practicality are key during this phase.

Focus on Your Expenses

Identify the most significant aspects of your elopement. Is it the dream location, a talented photographer, or a unique experience that symbolizes your love? Allot a part of your budget to these priorities while managing essential expenses such as travel, accommodation, and marriage license fees.

Research Average Costs

To make informed budgeting decisions, research the typical expenses for elopements in your chosen location. This research will give you a ballpark figure on resources where they matter most.

Include Contingency Funds

Set aside a part of your budget for unforeseen expenses or emergencies. This safety net can offer peace of mind, ensuring you're prepared to handle any unexpected circumstances that may arise.

Stick to Your Limits

Once you've established your budget, commit to it. Exercise discipline in your spending choices and resist the allure of splurging on non-essential items. Staying within your budget ensures financial stability throughout the planning process.

Be Creative

Explore creative strategies to maximize your budget. Look into DIY options, find affordable and charming venues, and connect with local vendors offering affordable packages. Embracing creativity can help you have a beautiful elopement without overspending.

Plan for Future Expenses

While focusing on your elopement, don't lose sight of your broader financial goals and responsibilities. Make sure that your budget accommodates other significant aspects of your life, such as saving for a home, starting a family, or pursuing your passions. Balance is key.

Decide where you want to elope

Choosing the perfect location for your elopement can be exciting. Whether you're seeking affordable options or looking to splurge, there's an array of wonderful places to consider for your elopement. Here are some of the best places to elope on a budget.

City Hall

For a simple, yet charming elopement, look no further than your local city hall or courthouse. These venues offer a blend of historic charm and elegance, providing a beautiful backdrop for your intimate ceremony. Notable examples like San Francisco City Hall are a popular choice for couples eloping in California and exude timeless grandeur, making your special day feel like a fairytale.

Lush Local Parks

If you're a nature enthusiast, consider local, state, or national parks as your elopement venue. Their picturesque landscapes and tranquil surroundings provide a serene atmosphere for your special day. While some parks may need permits, the breathtaking beauty of places like Central Park in New York, Yosemite National Park in California, or Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado can make the process well worth it.

Romantic Beaches

For those dreaming of a beachfront ceremony, sunny shores are a classic option. With their pristine sands and breathtaking ocean views, places like Miami Beach or Clearwater Beach in Florida, and Lindquist Beach in the Virgin Islands provide a backdrop of natural beauty that's hard to surpass. The sound of waves crashing as you say "I do" is a memory you'll cherish forever.

newlyweds posing on a jutting rock at the beach

Las Vegas

If you're in the mood for something adventurous and fun, Las Vegas is a versatile destination. They offer a variety of wedding experiences beyond the famous Vegas Strip, from outdoor vistas to spontaneous wedding venues. Whether you're envisioning a glamorous casino wedding or an outdoor desert celebration, Las Vegas can accommodate all tastes. The surrounding desert landscapes provide a stunning backdrop for a unique elopement.

At Home

In the age of technology, you can also choose to elope from the comfort of your own home. Online weddings allow you to exchange vows with loved ones tuning in from around the world. While it may lack physical presence, it's a convenient and flexible option for those seeking to focus on safety or for couples in different locations.

Decide what’s essential for you

Deciding what's essential for your wedding day is a personal and meaningful process. Reflect on your core values and priorities as a couple, have open and honest discussions with your partner, and set a realistic budget. Make a list of priorities, consider meaningful traditions, curate your guest list, embrace your style, and decide on the size of your wedding. Don't hesitate to seek help, delegate tasks, and stay true to your vision. Your wedding should be a reflection of your love, values, and unique journey as a couple, free from societal pressures and expectations. Focus on what's essential to you both, even if it diverges from traditional norms.

4 Steps to Plan Your Budget Elopement

To sum it up, here are four easy steps to plan your elopement on a budget:

  1. Pick Your Day and Location: When choosing your elopement date, you'll have more flexibility for your perfect day for a quick ceremony. Note that some sites, such as beaches and national parks, may need permits, so check and secure those if needed.
  2. Pick Your Attire: Selecting your attire is a straightforward step. You'll buy your wedding clothes ahead of time. But, consider who will handle hair, nails, and makeup, and plan when and where these preparations will happen.
  3. Plan Your Itinerary: Craft an itinerary that ensures your elopement day flows. Determine if you'll be hiking at sunrise, exchanging vows at sunset on the beach, or getting ready at the wedding site. Give ample time for each segment of the day to avoid rushing through the special moments.
  4. Pick Your Guests: One of the advantages of eloping is the freedom to choose who, if anyone, will join you on your special day. Decide whether you want a private ceremony or if you'd like to include a few close friends and family members to witness your union. Make sure to communicate your guest list to those you'd like to include so they can make the necessary arrangements to be there with you.
husband dancing with wife on rooftop during their wedding

Consider an affordable elopement package

Eloping doesn't have to strain your finances. There are various options available to make it affordable, with costs ranging from as little as $500 to $20,000 or more. 

There are affordable elopement packages designed to accommodate different financial situations. You can explore the possibility of getting married on public land in certain states for a nominal fee of around $30 for your marriage license. 

These packages provide a variety of services, such as a ceremony officiant, photography, a bouquet, and sometimes even a small cake or champagne toast. They can transform your dream wedding into a reality without stretching your budget.

What to look for in an elopement package

When considering an elopement package, there are several crucial elements to look for to ensure your special day goes off without a hitch:

  • Location: Choose a package that offers a location that resonates with your vision. The setting should align with your dream elopement.
  • Venue Permits: If you choose a location that requires permits for ceremonies, check if the elopement package includes this essential detail to avoid any issues.
  • Officiant: A professional officiant is key to conducting a meaningful and recognized ceremony. Ensure the package provides a qualified officiant who can customize your vows to reflect your unique love story.
  • Marriage License: Check if the package includes assistance with obtaining your marriage license, as navigating the legal requirements can be complex.
  • Coordinator: Look for a package that offers the services of an experienced coordinator. They can be invaluable for organizing logistics, and ensuring everything runs well.
  • Photographer / Videographer: Capturing the magic of your elopement is essential. Opt for a package that includes a skilled photographer and/or videographer to document your special moments.
  • Hair and Makeup Artist: Choose a package that provides an experienced artist who can help you look and feel your best.
  • Accommodation: To make it convenient for you and your guests, consider packages that include accommodation options. 
  • Catering and Wedding Cakes: Look for packages that provide catering services or include a wedding cake as part of the deal.
  • Flowers: Elegant floral arrangements can enhance the beauty of your elopement. Ensure the package covers your floral needs, from bouquets to boutonnieres.
a loving couple looking at each other while they are getting married online

Online elopement packages

Try an online elopement package with Courtly. Their team of professionals will take care of the officiant, ceremony, and legal aspects of your wedding. Choosing Courtly for your elopement can offer you a world of convenience. With their packages, you can have your wedding from anywhere in the world. The format is flexible, allowing you to design it as or as you desire.  


Eloping provides a unique and intimate way to celebrate your love, tailored to your preferences. To create an elopement that aligns with your values, identify what truly matters to you and your partner.

An online elopement package offers flexibility, reduces stress, and maintains an affordable approach. It's a chance to focus on the genuine joy of your love story, and you can still discover creative ways to involve friends and family in your special day. Embrace the beauty of eloping on a budget without compromising the authenticity of your celebration.


How much does it cost to elope?

The cost of eloping can vary, we’ve seen ceremonies ranging from as low as $50 to as high as $20,000. It's advisable to set a budget that works for you and then plan your elopement.

How do I get a marriage license for my elopement?

Obtaining a marriage license for an elopement is the same process as for any other wedding. You'll need to check your local jurisdiction's requirements, fill out the necessary paperwork, and pay any associated fees. It's important to research and adhere to the specific regulations in your area.

Is an elopement legally binding?

Yes, an elopement is legally binding. Submit the necessary legal requirements, such as obtaining a marriage license and having a qualified officiant to conduct the ceremony. It's essential to ensure that your elopement complies with the legal obligations of your jurisdiction.

How do I include friends and family when eloping?

To involve friends and family in your elopement, engage them in the planning process, and welcome their input and ideas. Consider hosting an intimate ceremony with your closest loved ones, allowing them to have roles such as reading readings or giving speeches. If you're eloping to a remote location, connect with them via FaceTime or Skype to share the adventure. You can also incorporate special details or family heirlooms to honor their presence. Afterward, arrange a separate reception or celebration to include those who couldn't be there on the day of the elopement.

How much does it cost to get legally married?

The cost of a marriage license varies widely between different countries, states, and even counties. In the United States, for example, marriage license fees can range from as little as $10 to over $100. Once you have the marriage license, you can hire a professional officiant who will normally charge anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars. Or, a heartwarming alternative is to ask a friend to get ordained online and officiate your wedding for free!

Let us handle the paperwork.

Getting married is complicated. Courtly simplifies the process and provides everything necessary to get married online, including providing a licensed officiant who can perform a remote ceremony.

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