How Much Does it Cost to Elope in California?

How much does it cost to elope?? If you want to elope in California, you’ve probably been asking yourself this question. Maybe you’ve googled it, or maybe it feels overwhelming and you just don’t know where to start. In this guide I will help ease the stress surrounding the question of how much it costs to elope in California, and give advice for how much you might spend on an elopement that is right for you!

Table of Contents

  • Different factors of elopement costs in California
  • Tips for budgeting for your California elopement
  • Average California elopement costs

Budgeting can be one of the most stressful parts of planning an elopement, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be!

Let’s start with the different factors that can go into elopement costs…

Different Factors of Elopement Costs

This list includes everything you might spend money on, so that you don’t forget something and realize later you have more to spend money on. That being said, it’s a long list. So before you glance over this list and feel overwhelmed by it’s length, remember not everything on this list will apply to you and your ideal elopement!

Vendors

  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Florist
  • Planner
  • Officiant (required in California)
  • Hair & Makeup
  • Musician/Band
  • Caterer

Outfits

  • Outfits for both of you
  • Hair/hairpieces/veil
  • Jewelry
  • Shoes (maybe multiple pairs if you want separate shoes for the ceremony vs walking/hiking before or after)

Permits & Licenses

  • Marriage License ($90-100 in California)
  • Pass to enter park & parking
  • Permits for your location ($50-200 for California parks, etc)

Details

  • Decorations & Lights
  • Tables/chairs
  • Cups/plates
  • Alcohol & other drinks
  • Signs/stationary
  • Favors for guests
  • Guest Book

Lodging & Travel Costs

  • Place to stay for you/guests
  • Camping reservations
  • Airfare
  • Gas
  • Rental Car

Other Costs

  • Meals & Drinks during your trip
  • Tips for your vendors
  • Invites/ Save the Dates/Announcements

Tips for Budgeting

Tip #1: Choose which factors are the most important to you for your elopement. For example this could be your photographer, florals, and lodging. Prioritize your budget for these factors, and spend less on other vendor packages or decorations.

Tip #2: Budget with flexibility. Things happen and plans can change, and you don’t want to be stressed about money at the last minute. The best way to avoid that is to budget with some wiggle-room just in case! Then enjoy a stress-free elopement experience.

Tip #3: Make your purchases meaningful. Hire based on your values and what will make your day special, not based on what you think you’re supposed to do or what somebody else thinks you should do. After all, this is your elopement day!!

Average Elopement Costs in California

Now let’s talk numbers! Keep in mind, these are estimates and what you choose will be specific to you and slightly different. This is just to give you an idea of a potential budget.

Marriage license in California: $90-100

Permits for your location: $50-200

Let’s say your top 3 factors are a photographer, florist, and lodging. You want the best elopement experience you can have with beautiful photos, a photographer who will help you every step of the way, gorgeous floral sets to enhance your surroundings and details, and an epic luxury lodging experience to enjoy after your amazing day.

Photographer: Your photography cost varies depending on your unique elopement experience and what your photographer offers. I help my couples plan their dream adventure elopement day and my packages start at $2,900. For more budget info specifically relating to your photographer, you can check out my guide for how much to invest in your elopement photographer here.

Florist: Floral arrangements vary based on how many arrangements you need. But since we are using this as an example of your top priorities, let’s say you want all the flowers possible and it would cost around $1,500.

Lodging: Let’s say you want to stay in a luxury cabin with a view and a hot tub. In Big Sur which is a beautiful location to elope in California, that could cost around $2,900.

Now after adding all of your top priorities together for your budget and the costs of permits and licences in California, you are at $9,600. Let’s say your total ideal budget is $20,000. This leaves you with $10,400 to spend on the rest of your elopement which is totally doable!

The Average

The average cost of an elopement in California can be anywhere from $10k-20k. This may sound like a lot, but keep in mind the average cost of a wedding in the US is $28k. Most of that money gets spent on the venue, which can be as much as $10k itself. With elopements you are more than likely avoiding this!

A few more tips for your Budget…

  1. Hire vendors local to your elopement location
  2. Cut down your guest list if possible – no reason to spend money on people who you don’t truly want there with you
  3. Choose experience over material things
  4. If a luxury lodging experience is not one of your priorities, you can save money here by camping!
  5. Rent instead of buy your outfits

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