The Pros and Cons of Eloping: How to Decide If It’s Right for You

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your guide to eloping
Photo by Brittany Lee Photography

Let’s face it: Big weddings aren’t for everyone! Whether you are looking to save money, cut down on the guest list (or just the guest list drama), or to say “I do” in a jaw-dropping location, eloping isn’t just for quickie Las Vegas weddings anymore…although those are still fun, too!Not only is it an intimate way to start your marriage, but you could also end up saving a significant amount of money.

That said, there are certainly a few downsides to eloping. Even though eloping is often thought of as a spontaneous, last-minute decision, there are still several things that you’ll have to map out ahead of time.

But don’t stress! (Otherwise, what’s the point?). We’re here to help, with tips and advice to help you figure out everything you need to know about eloping.

The Pros of Eloping

If the hassles of planning a ceremony and reception are too overwhelming for you and your budget, eloping could be perfect for you. And there are a ton of benefits to go along with it, such as these:

Cost

The average wedding cost in in 2023 is just below $30,000, and that’s just the average! Weddings can easily reach six figures depending on your guest list. Considering the average cost per person can run $100+ for a wedding reception with a plated meal, the less people you have, the cheaper it’s going to be. And while you can spend under $100 in total for a courthouse wedding and lunch for two after, you can also spend over $10,000 for a combination elopement/honeymoon in the Bahamas. Bottom line? Eloping is going to cost you significantly less no matter which way you choose to do it. The beauty of eloping is that since the guest list is much smaller, you have much more control over the cost.

Take it from these real couples who eloped, who say it was the best experience ever for them (and their wallets).

Bernadette & Anthony:

“Since the only money we spent was $10 on the marriage certificate, we had the financial freedom to take off on a dream honeymoon to the Caribbean two days later,” Bernadette said. “We spent a week lounging on a private terrace, enjoying butler service, eating five-star food and soaking up an utterly blissful honeymoon. The trip cost us way less than a traditional wedding — $3,000, which we paid for in cash.”

Anna & Étienne:

“Étienne and I agreed that the financial burden, plus the all-around stress of a traditional wedding, wasn’t something we wanted,” Anna said. “I called my parents in Minnesota last summer and told them we were getting married two weeks later at City Hall — and, aside from two of our friends-slash-witnesses, weren’t inviting any guests.

The original plan was to go out to lunch afterward and call it a day, but after talking to my mom, we decided to do one get-together with our New York friends and another at home in Minneapolis. Étienne is a wine director at a local restaurant, so we did the first party there and had about 65 guests. Between food, wine, labor and supplies, the whole thing cost us just over $2,200, which we covered in cash. It was honestly the most amazing and laid-back night — exactly what we wanted!

Our Minneapolis celebration is going to be a small backyard party that my parents are largely gifting us. (They’re supplying the food and drinks; we’re paying for the cocktail tables, linens and invites, which is setting us back about $200.) Forgoing a traditional wedding has saved us at least $7,000 — money we eventually plan to use on a down payment on an apartment.”

SEE MORE: Your Guide to Traditional Wedding Vows

Beth & Jake:

“Eloping easily saved us at least $10,000. Jake and I have big families, so hosting a traditional ceremony and reception would have been way out of our budget. (We would have either had to borrow money from family or go into debt to make it happen.) So we made plans to elope on our four-year anniversary,” Beth said. “After my brother got ordained online, we met up at our home with two close friends to witness us signing our marriage certificate. And just like that, we were husband and wife!

Jake and I celebrated with a weeklong camping trip at a local park. From start to finish, the whole thing cost us about $150. We funneled our massive savings into our travel fund and honeymooned on a little beach in Nicaragua shortly after. Instead of stressing over planning and paying for a wedding, we spent a week surfing and backpacking in paradise. In total, the trip set us back roughly $1,500, which we saved bit by bit beforehand to avoid going into debt.”

Location, Location, Location

When you don’t have to worry about guests flying in from all over the country, you can exchange your vows anywhere. Unlike destination weddings, which are costly even before you consider that your friends and family will have to pay for flights and hotels, elopements are typically just you and your S.O and perhaps a lucky few. As a result, the options are limitless. Want to get married in Paris on the terrace of the Eiffel Tower? Parfait! Eat pizza after you say “I Do” in Italy? Salute! Let your passport be your venue guide!

SEE MORE: 14 Impossibly Sweet Ideas for Wedding Ring Tattoos

There’s Less Stress

All the usual wedding stressors—choosing centerpieces, picking out invites, dealing with plus one drama—are no longer a factor. Since elopements tend to only involve a precious few people, couples can focus on themselves rather than their wedding guests.

Maddie Contreras, a recent bride, and her husband chose to elope in Orlando, FL. With his impending military move, she was on a tight timeline to receive approval to move overseas with him. So, they decided to elope then celebrate with a big wedding party at a later date.

“There wasn’t a lot of pressure on the day,” she says. “We could be late if we wanted to be. [My husband] actually ironed the dress I wore that day. It was like a casual afternoon party.”

SEE MORE: Want to Elope? Don’t Forget to Do These 5 Things First

The Cons of Eloping

Yes, eloping has a ton of positive benefits, but it also has a few negatives as well. In order to make sure eloping is the right decision for you and your partner, you’ll want to consider these factors, and our advice on how to avoid them.

You Feel Guilty

It’s inevitable that some people will feel hurt or excluded because they weren’t invited to the wedding. In fact, you should prepare yourself for some disappointed calls and texts. Just remember that you have chosen the decision that is best for you and your partner, and stick with it.

Our advice? If you’re getting married “just us two,” tell your parents and close family before you elope to minimize any hurt feelings or surprise. You might also want to take this tactic with your closest friends. If not, be sure to share the good news with them BEFORE you post on social media.

You’re Not Sure Where to Start

A smaller wedding with a smaller budget often means less helping hands. That means the dress shopping, location scouting, and all the other logistics can feel a bit overwhelming, despite the smaller guest list. (After all, you still have to get from Point A to Point B).

Our advice? Hiring a company that offers elopement packages or seeking out a hotel that offers elopement specials/planning will take all kinds of stress off your plate. This is especially true if you’re planning a destination wedding, where local customs can cause hiccups if you’re not aware of them. A wedding planner will also be able to hunt down in-demand vendors (like photographers), which can save you from hours of frustrating rejection phone calls.

Your Venue Choice Feels Random

When you elope, you are able to get married just about anywhere! While that can be a major pro, it can also feel like you have TOO many choices. Where should you say “I Do” when you can “Do” in any location?

Our advice? Choose a location that that actually means something to you and your partner. Whether it’s the top of the first mountain you climbed, on the banks of your favorite river or inside the restaurant where you had your first date, adding another layer of meaning to a special place is a beautiful choice for eloping.

Guests Won’t Have Enough Notice

While some people envision eloping just the two of them (and an officiant), you still might want to have an extremely small guest list with just your parents, siblings, and besties. However, unlike traditional weddings that are planned 12+ months out, elopements tend to be planned more on the fly, which means some of your most important guests might not be able to make it.

Our advice? Let your guests know as soon as possible where and when your elopement/microwedding is going to be. If the wedding is just a few weeks away or requires a big trip, don’t leave the invitations to the last minute or your guests might not be able to make it, no matter how much they wish they could.

You’ll Miss Out on All Those Big Wedding Moments

You might get sad at the idea of missing out on those fairytale wedding moments you’ve seen in the movies since you were a kid, such as throwing the bouquet, cutting the cake, or dancing with your dad. While some of this might depend on your guest list, eloping doesn’t mean you can’t have the wedding of your dreams.

Our advice? You can still walk down the aisle, toss your flowers to a witness or other honored guest, and of course dance with the special people in attendance. Anything is possible, no matter the size of the guest list. Eloping is all about prioritizing what’s important to you in a wedding, and getting rid of everything that’s not!

Eloping Checklist

Make sure you have everything on this list that’s applicable to your elopement:

  • Rings
  • Officiant
  • Photographer
  • Legal documentation (get more info on Marriage Licenses here)
  • Attire for you and your partner
  • Hair and makeup tools
  • Flower bouquet/Boutonnière
  • Vows
  • Plans for afterward (dinner reservations, dance party, etc.)

Whether you decide to elope or throw the intimate wedding of your dreams, make sure you have the best day ever!

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