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Pros and Cons of Eloping for Destination Weddings: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Eloping: Is It Right for You? Weighing the Pros and Cons

Dreaming of an intimate and adventurous wedding? Discover the pros and cons of eloping and find out if it's the right choice for you and your partner.

Sunset beach elopement
Hawaii intimate elopement on the beach - Maui, Hawaii

What is eloping and why or why not do it?

In this article, I will shed some light specifically on the topic of elopements.  I recommend considering all types of weddings before concluding if an elopement is right for you and your partner. I hope that this article will help you with your decision. An elopement is a one-of-a-kind experience to celebrate the union of two loved ones exactly how the couple sees fit!


Three basic types of elopements:

You can mix and match and create your own styled elopement to your and your partner's desires.

  1. The Courthouse Elopement - This can happen at a city hall or at a courthouse. This can also be called a "civil ceremony." Each state has requirements before you can elope at a courthouse. Some states require that you have a marriage license in hand before the ceremony, and some states require that you have a witness. Out of all the options for both weddings and elopements, this is the most affordable and stress-free option on the list. The fee for a public marriage license also varies between states and can be anywhere between $35-$100 dollars. Fun fact: Hollywood stars Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard tied the knot at the Beverly Hills Courthouse.

  2. Small Intimate Elopement - This usually involves a small group of people under 50. I like to call this the VIP wedding guest list. This can either be local or non-local to your area. If it is non-local, watch out for small wedding packages as they are usually under 20-30 people max and upcharge for more people. This is a great option if you are changing your wedding plans after Covid to the guidelines directed by your state.

  3. Adventure-filled Elopement - The name practically speaks for itself but on my website, we like to describe it as, "...a one-of-a-kind experience that actively preserves the scenic memories of love in an authentic way.  Usually includes a grand view backdrop and thrill-seeking moment". As an elopement photographer, I might be a little biased, but I definitely think the photos of this variety are my favorite!


Things to be aware of before eloping:

In general, most states have a time frame between when a marriage license is issued and when it is active. Another thing to be aware of is that your active marriage license can expire in some states after 90 days since issued. Make sure to plan ahead to have your wedding before that expiration date is up. When applying for your marriage license, you and your partner should bring the proper documentation that you will need to apply for a marriage license in your state. Things that might be included will be proof of residency, proof of former marriages, annulments, divorces, etc..


Pros and cons of having an Elopement Weddings:


- Cheaper: Financially better for your pocket, eloping is undeniably more affordable. There is a significant gap between the cost of a traditional wedding and an elopement. On average a wedding is $35,000 (OUCH!) and an elopement is anywhere between $3,000-$10,000. Don't get me wrong, you can have a $ 35,000-dollar elopement if you go all in! However think about this, you can add a hot air balloon ride or a helicopter ride to your elopement without even getting close to the average wedding cost...Crazy, right?  There are many companies that offer an elopement package that includes all of your needs on an affordable budget.

-Flexibility: Eloping gives you the freedom to plan your wedding on your own terms. You can choose the location, date, and time that works best for you and your partner.

- Intimate: The best part of eloping is that it is completely up to you. Leave the drama behind. This day is completely about the union of two lovers! If you are like me who only has a select few best friends to be in your wedding party - where your soon-to-be husband has more cousins than you can count on your fingers and toes to be in the wedding party - you don't have to scramble to find people to be part of your wedding party. If that isn't the case, and you have fewer people in mind, well that is even better. The stress is completely thrown out the window and excitement for a perfect elopement day is replaced!

- Less stressful planning: It is completely fluid and customizable to you and your partner's personal desires. Packages that include everything for the day or your entire week are available. By eloping, you will have less pressure from outside sources such as family, friends, financials, etc. The time frame of your elopement ceremony is exactly how much you decide and what you want to invest in. Whether it's a couple of minutes or a whole day event, it's again, completely up to you and your partner.

- The environmental impact:  This is the fact that won me over, the environmental impact of elopements is drastically better than a traditional wedding. For a six-hour traditional wedding, it creates on average 400 lbs of trash and waste. The elopement's effect on mother earth is not nearly as wasteful as a traditional wedding. I have a blog post HERE that you can read about ways you can have more of an eco-friendly wedding that I strongly suggest you take a look at.

- Adventure: If you want to have a cozy, adventurous wedding day that is simply by the lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains with a cup of warm coffee while you and your loved one say you're "I do's.", then do it! Or a Maui wedding surrounded by cliffs and a teal ocean backdrop, then does it! If you want to jump out of an airplane while mouthing inaudible "I do's." Then do it! If you want to be on a boat in the middle of the ocean with 20 of the most important people in each other's lives, then do it!  Many city halls are beautiful historic and simple places to tie the knot and if a city hall elopement is where you want to say your "I'll do's." Then do it! If you want to be at the courthouse in your dress or even some jeans saying your "I do's." then do it! It is your adventure and completely yours.



- Not everyone can come: If you are extremely close with your family this can be a really difficult decision and something that is ultimately up to you and your partner.

- Cost: If you are eloping nearby, this con might not have anything to do with you, but if you are eloping and getting married at a destination far away from you, it can have a lot of cost for hotels, flights, etc.  Another thing to consider is if you invite family members and friends there will be a financial burden for those who come to your wedding away from home.

- Permits: On Maui - where my photo shoots currently take place -by law, on any beach location, you need to get a permit to photograph commercially or get married. Another example is in Rocky Mountain National Park, where officials only give out 200 wedding permits for the year. Be aware, you will have to plan ahead and get permits a couple of weeks to a year in advance.

- Planning: Destination details can be hard to manage and most likely won't go exactly as planned. Remember this adventure and go with the flow. To help with higher a destination wedding planner in the area where you are going to be traveling and getting married.

- Legalities: When you get married in another country there is a possibility that it will not be considered legal in the United States and only in the country where the marriage was performed. The process of marrying overseas can be quite expensive and take a lengthy amount of preparation and procedures. Paperwork will have to be translated into the local language. Some countries even require you to get a blood test before getting married and parental consent. Some countries require an affidavit of eligibility to marry, which has to be notarized by the United States Embassy or consular officer.


Top destinations of elopements 

In the United States are:

  1. Maui - Hawaii (Hey that's where I photograph Elopement weddings!)

  2. Las Vegas - Arizona

  3. Lake Tahoe - Nevada/ California

  4. Boulder - Colorado

  5. New Orleans - Louisianan