Are you curious about comparing the cost of eloping vs wedding? We’d like to provide you with some honest talk about the average wedding cost breakdown vs. eloping. You may be surprised at just how much it costs to have a big wedding!
We do want to get one important point across first before going any further. Please don’t take this wedding cost breakdown as us saying that the biggest reason to elope is because of cost. This can be a natural benefit of planning an elopement or small intimate wedding. However, this should not be your primary driver.
Your elopement decision should be based on your desires as a couple. Maybe you want to avoid the pressures of a typical, big wedding. Or you might want to intentionally create a day where you experience your vows in solitude. For whatever reason, choose an elopement because it’s right for you. Then enjoy the benefit of saving a whole – lot – of – money.
A quick note – the amounts we’ve listed here are based on surveys from popular areas in the Southeast (near Asheville, NC). This info is fairly well aligned to our prior experience with big weddings. We’ve complied this data from surveys on The Knot, Wedding Wire, and market research companies such as costofwedding.com.
Short answer? There is a lot of data out there, and we’ve done our best to present it to you in a clear, relevant format!
Cost of Eloping vs Wedding – The Totals
The cost of a big southern wedding
We love so much about living in the South. In fact, we have enjoyed our fair share of big southern weddings as guests – it just wasn’t the first choice for our wedding. Not to mention – it’s costly. The latest information we have shows that the average big wedding ranges from $30,000 to $35,000 in the Southeast.
Many online sources will show you a number that is $5k to $10k lower. But here’s something to think about – there are quite a few assumptions that go into survey data to boil things down to a simple, average number. Without getting into the world of statistics, suffice to say we’d caution using the low numbers as a basis to compare to wedding inspo you see on Pinterest or Instagram.
Said another way, the average wedding cost may be a number that the popular websites quote to you, but what you see on their feed are weddings that cost much more. There are plenty of examples shown on popular planning sites where the venue itself cost $30,000!
We want you to be more informed with an honest number, so we’ve taken a look at the survey data & market situation ourselves. Our take is that the big Southern wedding to which we’re accustomed – with all the expectations involved – will be very close to the numbers above.
An intimate southern elopement – you can expect to pay far less
While the data on smaller weddings is not that accessible (typically hidden inside the nationwide surveys, if at all) we’re confident that you can have a small – but still incredibly beautiful – wedding experience for $10,000 or less. It is very possible to keep it even lower with help from family!
Want more info? Read on to see our breakdown by the larger categories.
Cost of Eloping vs Wedding – Catering & Bar Service
Would you be surprised to know that feeding all your guests will be the priciest part of your wedding? Considering per plate catering generally starts at $40 per person and takes off from there, you can expect to pay $4,500 and up for 150 people (don’t forget the wedding party!). Or if you really want to enjoy a culinary experience, costs can skyrocket up to $100 a plate.
On top of that, couples who opt for an open bar will pay around $2,500 for the option. That’s already $7k just to bring the booze & pay for dinner!
On the other hand, let’s compare to a small intimate wedding experience with 10 guests & a dinner “reception” together. While the per person cost can go up because of lower numbers, the total cost is far below that of a big wedding. Your personal taste will determine the final amount, but we estimate $750 – and that’s for some great eats to enjoy together!
Cost of Eloping vs Wedding – The Venue & Rentals
The next biggest ticket items are the fee for your wedding venue plus the rental charges for all the extras. The latter – by the way – is a detail that gets by many couples! The numbers you are quoted to rent a facility are just the starting point. After that you will be expected to rent chairs, tables, an arbor … all that’s needed to “furnish” the facility.
If you were to plan a wedding at a single location (example – a rustic barn wedding) you can expect a fee on average of $3,500 for the facility. If you want to start at one location for your ceremony (church, for example) this will add another $1,000 to your total venue cost.
On top of that – chairs, tables and extra necessary equipment will add about $1,700 to your cost of using the venue.
That brings the average cost of venue and rentals to $6,200.
Whereas with an elopement, you will spend much less – or even zero – for your location. Beautiful spots like Black Balsam Knob or Max Patch are on National Forest land and are absolutely free. Even if you choose a location in one of the National Parks, you’re still only looking at a permit for $100. Doesn’t that sound like a bargain?
If the budget allows we highly recommend renting a nearby AirBnB or cabin as well. There are so many gorgeous properties available around Asheville! Imagine a beautiful vacation property where you can get ready beforehand & family reception afterwards. With rates ranging from $50 to $250/night these are an incredible value over thousands on a dedicated wedding venue!
Come Sleep in the Trees, a pair of Luxury Mountain Treehouses convenient to Atlanta, Greenville and Asheville, are one of our favorite places for small intimate weddings!
Cost of Eloping vs Wedding – More Ways to Save
Choose a wedding dress you don’t mind getting dirty
When you have an adventurous elopement day ahead of you, the last thing you want to worry about is dirtying up an expensive wedding dress. Here’s the thing though – if you’re up for the outdoors experience, you should expect to get your dress dirty. There are so many inexpensive options for beautiful dresses out there, it just doesn’t make sense to pony up the average of $1,500.
It is very possible to find just the right dress for $100 or even less. (Jackie’s dress above was even less!) Here’s a super informative post from Wandering Weddings – inexpensive wedding dress options for elopements.
Hire your Planner, Photographer & Videographer as one package
Big weddings are such a production, all three of these “jobs” really need to be different people. You can expect to spend about $1500 for a planner/coordinator, $3500+ for an experienced professional photographer, and that much again for a professional videographer as well.
Your own planner (not the same as the venue coordinator) is indispensable to help everything go smoothly. Without a photographer you will never have the images to look back your day. Without a videographer you’ll miss out on recording your vows to experience all over again. When we’ve seen couples go without any of these three, they’ve had big regrets. The biggest of all is not hiring a videographer, according to this Zola survey.
For elopements, we are able to be all three for you!
More here about common mistakes when planning your elopement: Elopement Planning Mistakes.
Your Bouquet is all you really need
Flowers average $2500 for a big wedding and can take off from there rather quickly! Bouquets for the bride, each bridesmaid, decorating centerpieces – it all adds up fast.
Or for $200 or so you can bring along a beautiful (and portable – very important!) bouquet for your day of adventuring together. All smiles on that idea!
Cost of Eloping vs Wedding – Putting it all together
So there you have it. Compared to the cost of a typical big wedding, eloping will definitely be a lot easier on your checkbook! Our elopement examples here add up to far less than the average for a big wedding. While there are other necessities and options to take into account (officiant & cake for example) we wanted to cover the biggest ticket items to show you just what’s possible when eloping.
Just imagine – an adventurous day where you enjoy every moment and costs far less than what the big wedding industry expects you to pay for. We’d love to help you make this day a reality!
Mark & Carolyn