My husband and I are both introverts. The worst part of the wedding was being the center of attention, and I got horrible stage fright right before. If I were to marry Matt again, we would pick an epic location at the top of a mountain, with a beautiful vista, and marry each other right at sunset.
Eloping, in the past few years, has had a resurgence. Not because you’re pregnant or sneaking away from your parents, or ashamed of your husband, but because weddings have become such a big ordeal that it’s really tempting just to skip it. Even just the money involved with a traditional Los Angeles wedding is astronomical, not to mention the logistics and stress. And if that’s what you’ve always wanted, you should do it!
For certain times, and certain people, eloping sounds really good. And having it documented is an essential. I love being an elopement photographer. The simplicity of a couple, in love, choosing to forgo tradition and just get married… it just makes me happy. Especially during global pandemics, eloping with just a few friends is the perfect, safe solution.
How to Plan an Elopement
What do you want to do? This is the dreaming phase. Splurge a little bit. Think of who you two are as a couple. There are three basic types of elopements: courthouse, local, and destination.
Budgeting: Remember, this could be both your honeymoon and your wedding. The average cost for a wedding is $50,000 where I live. Take 10% of that, and you’d have $5,000, which would be a fun budget for an elopement!
How to Decide What Kind of Elopement I Want
- Are you two travelers? If you love to travel, this is a great opportunity to go someplace you love or a place you’ve always wanted to go! Examples of “Destination Elopements” I’ve photographed.
- If you’re not travelers, look around at local spots. I can guarantee it, within a few hours of your city, you could find an epic place to elope. Explore your own city. Google it, you’ll find some site that makes your city look a lot better than it is, and emphasizes and highlights all the best spots! Examples of “Local Elopements” I’ve photographed. The other option would be finding a back yard, either your own or someone willing to host you. Examples of Backyard Weddings.
- The most basic option would be a courthouse elopement. If you live in an area with some nice courthouses, this can be beautiful, with a little bit of planning! Examples of courthouse elopements.
Step 2: Make Your Bookings
Things you might want to consider buying/booking:
- Splurging on a dress/suit of your choice. I highly recommend this, even if it’s not a wedding dress (or a dress that you could dye afterwards). Spend some money on a high-quality outfit that makes you feel gorgeous!
- A quality photographer. Along with guiding you to amazing locations, a good photographer can make amazing images out of an important day!
- National Park Permits. If you want to go to a national park, get your permit as soon as possible! It will be under the “Special Use” section, and it’s another thing your photographer can help guide you through.
- Courthouse Appointment. If you’re getting married at the courthouse, you will have to make an appointment with an officiant.
- An officiant. Many photographers who specialize in elopements have officiants they work with or some are ordained themselves (I am!).
- Marriage License. You’ll just need to go to the courthouse for this. Some require appointments. The wedding has to be carried out and the license re-submitted within a certain number of days. Just be aware of that! Some states allow you to “Self-solemnize” your marriage, which means you don’t need any witnesses. Others require two witnesses.
Step 3: How Much Does an Elopement Cost?
So every elopement is, by definition, unique. Cost really depends on what you want to do and what you splurge on. So these are some costs to consider and the range of costs:
- Marriage License: $35-$105
- Wedding Dress: $500-$4,000
- Suit: $300-$800
- Plane Tickets: $50-$2,000 per person
- Photographer: $500-$4,000
- National Park Permits: $100-$300
- A Nice Dinner: $20-$200
This doesn’t include things like flowers or a videographer or rings, which vary wildly in price.
I’d say the average cost of the destination elopements I do is about $5,000-$6,000.
Average cost for a backyard wedding would be $2,500.
Courthouse wedding would be closer to $1,500 if you go for the dress and photographer. Local elopements somewhere near your house is close to this cost, as well. Again, it really depends on what you decide to do.
Step 4: Should I Invite People to my Elopement?
So, if you decide to invite people, for a courthouse elopement it doesn’t make that much difference. Depending on how far away it is, local elopements also don’t usually cost a lot more if you add people. For a destination wedding it kind of depends on if you plan on paying for other people or not. So, consider carefully if you want to invite some people to go along!
Again, one of the fun things about elopements is that you make the rules. So you can do whatever you want!
Packages and Prices
There’s no easy way to price elopements or destination weddings. They are, by definition, unique! So these are a few simple guidelines/ideas of what I charge for elopements, just contact me for a definite quote and for destination weddings! I absolutely LOVE elopements and destination weddings, so I try to be an affordable photographer, as much as possible!
Day-of family portraits and couple pictures. We’ll meet on your wedding day, at a pre-determined location, and we’ll do the traditional family portraits, then 30-40 minutes of pictures with just you two in your wedding clothes. In total they take about 1-2 hours.
If you’re going to the courthouse, but want some amazing photos, let’s do it! I love doing simple weddings and getting amazing pictures! So this would get you some photos at the courthouse, photos with family/friends, and then going to a beautiful location near you to take some wedding portraits! This also usually also allows time for a couple of candid photos at a nearby reception at a local restaurant or home!
If I was going to get married again, I’d do it this way. I’d start the day driving up to the top of a mountain or the middle of a National Park with a couple of my closest friends and a beautiful wedding dress. Up there, I’d meet with an officiant, and my dearly beloved would hike up the hill after me. Then, we’d get married at the top of a beautiful mountain with nobody but God and our closest friends. This would include my accompanying you for a full day of camping, hiking, and festivities with up to 3 hours of driving from LA.
I’m also an ordained officiant!
… and a preferred Yosemite photographer!
Best Places in Southern California to Elope
- Yosemite National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Big Sur
- Redwoods National Park
- Santa Barbara Courthouse
- El Matador Beach