How to save money eloping by getting married in a national forest

How to save money while eloping is a big question. There are a lot of ways to save money planning an elopement, especially compared to having a big traditional wedding. Elopements are no longer a last-second way to get married. They have evolved into being a carefully planned way to curate an intimate experience full of only things you and your partner want to do to celebrate your love for one another. One of the major differences between a traditional wedding and elopements is the guest count. Couples often choose to elope so they can choose to cater to their own desires instead of feeding and entertaining 200+ guests.

Eloping isn’t about saving money by nature, but it is one of the many benefits. Every dollar that is spent goes towards you and your partner. This doesn’t mean you have to cheap out on anything. Think of it this way, you could spend the same amount of money cheaply feeding 50 guests as you could having an insane and extravagant five-course meal, just you and your partner. However, maybe you prioritize travel and lodging over an expensive meal and would prefer to eat an in-n-out burger. That really is the magic of eloping and working with a budget designed for two people over two hundred people.

So how do you save money eloping? It is all based on your priorities for the day and which vendors and costs will bring your more happiness. You don’t have quite the same options with a traditional wedding. Let’s look at the difference between the average budget for a big wedding and an elopement.

Couple looking at the camera during their elopement at Painted Hills in Oregon.

Traditional Wedding Budget VS. Elopement Budget

On average, couples in the US spend around 34,000 dollars on a traditional wedding. This budget includes a venue (most venues range from $2,000-$8,000) vendors, rentals, wedding attire, an officiant, and a planner who keeps you on track during what always feels like a very rushed timeline. Alternativly, couples who elope spend anywhere between $5,000-$15,000. That’s a pretty big range. The reason for that is that couples can be very picky about EXACTLY what they want for their wedding day.

Getting to be picky about what you want for your day without being rushed or stressed, all while working with a much smaller budget (and getting way more out of it too) is certainly a good thing. Most couples who have traditional weddings say they didn’t even have time to eat their food. All while spending on average $1,800-$7,000 on the meal. At the end of the day, you save money eloping right from the start. Let’s get into the more specific ways to save while eloping!

How to save money eloping by having your ceremony in a national park. An elopement in Mt. Rainier with a dreamy sunset in front of the mountains.

How to Save Money Eloping with Travel and Lodging


There are a lot of ways to save money eloping, and picking your location is on the top of the list. If you’re wanting to elope outdoors, that means you don’t have to worry about a specific date (such as when a venue has availbility.) You can pick a date based on when flights to a specific area are the cheapest. You can use apps such as Hopper to check out flights to your desired location, and when they’ll be the cheapest to travel to as well as when the prices will for the flight will be the cheapest to buy.

If you aren’t totally sure where you want to go and you’re more of an adventurious couple, check out Scott’s Cheap Flights. This website is totally legit and shows you INSANELY cheap flights all over the world. I have found flights to Europe, The Dominican Republic, Hawaii, and more for $300-$500. If you’re set on a specific location, it’s also always cheapest to fly somewhere on a Tuesday, and since elopements don’t have to be on the weekend, this is totally doable.


Not needing to spend $1,000’s of dollars on a venue is going to save you money eloping. It is legal to elope in National Parks, National Forests, the coast, and more. All you need to do is find the perfect place for your elopement and reach out to the local forest service to obtain a permit, which is noramlly less than $300.00. Most elopement photographers help their couples find the perfect location and assist with all permitting! Cha-ching.


Last but certainly not least is lodging. The best way to find a beautiful and secluded place to stay after your elopement is through Airbnb. You can always go the more traditional route and get an all inclusive stay at a hotel. However, an Airbnb is way more private and often times can be a lot cheaper with a ton of extra amenaties. You can find an Airbnb with a pool, sauana, gorgeous views, a private patio, anything you want. You can also use the money you saved eloping to hire service providers to amplify your experince. Things such as a private chef, or an in home masseuse the day before your ceremony. The options are honestly limitless.

Bride and Groom eloping at Steel Head Falls in Bend, Oregon.

How to Save Money Eloping with Vendors

Each vendor is important and carries out speicifc roles to stylize your elopement and make your day just how you dreamed. However, not every couple needs the same thing. For exmaple, maybe some couples want someone to play voilin at their ceremony, and others have no need for this. Some couples might want a ton of florals, and others might prefer picking flowers at a wild flower farm and making their own bouqet and boutinnaire. This comes down to poriorities and what is important to you.

Most couples spend a large chunk of their budget on their photographer. Elopements photographers double as planners. They help you with location scouting, timeline creation, permits, scheduling your activities, and document your entire day, providing you with invaluable and timeless memories. The best way to save money eloping is by picking vendors who can help you the most with planning and offer customizable packages so that you’re only paying for the things you truly want on your wedding day!

Elopement on a lake in Sisters, Oregon.

Wedding Attire

Let’s face it, most couples who elope spend a huge chunk of their day outside. Your wedding gear is definitly going to get dirty. If having a glamorous wedding dress is something you always wanted, that okay! However, most couples choose to get loose fitting wedding attire that is a bit on the cheaper side. Another option is renting! Renting can be a ton cheaper than buying brand new, but don’t forget about the dry cleaning charges. A lot of my brides have found insanely beautiful dresses off of Lulus for less than $500.00! You can also consider buying something secondhand that is still in great condition and half the price!

Couple eloping at Three Creeks Lake in Sisters, Oregon.

Saving Money Eloping is a Bonus

In conclusion, saving money eloping is absolutely a huge added bonus, albiet not the reason you should elope. Elopements are intentional, intimate, and meaningul experiences that deserve as much credit as a traditional wedding. Choosing to fill your day with good vendors, good food, and beautiful places is something you deserve onn your wedding day. You will absolutely have a smaller budget than couples preparing to have a 200+ guest list, that’s for sure. However it shouldn’t stop you from going all out on all of the things you and your partner want to experience on your day. Still have questions about planning and budget? Fill free to contact me below and I’d love to set up you up with a complimentaty consultation!

Don't forget your free elopement planning checklist


You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

I'm Emilee

I'm an elopement photographer who specializes in planning, crafting, and documenting untraditional weddings. I believe a wedding day should be filled with traditions that resonate with you. I'm here from start to finish to make that happen. Want to chat about your plans? Click below to set up a free consultation! 

You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

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