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Destination Elopements: How to Plan Yours and Why to Have One

Written by Tasmiah Rashid

There’s a lot of talk about destination weddings. They account for 25% of the wedding industry, and $16 billion in annual spending. Well, there’s a reason for the hype. Destination weddings are exciting and memorable, even if they can be a hassle to plan. They’re great for some couples – but others opt for something smaller, simpler, and more intimate – particularly millennials.

Destination elopements are on the rise, and the reasons why make a lot of sense – so if you haven’t considered eloping before, read on.

Money, Money, Money

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Destination weddings are expensive. And not just for the bride and groom. The average budget for a destination wedding is a whopping $28,000. And before you assume daddy’s deep pockets are footing the bill, 60% of destination wedding couples pay for the wedding themselves. The Knot suggests the number is even higher. Their 2016 study showed that the average cost of a wedding was $33,391 and that excluded honeymoon expenses. Even with a new report showing millennials are making more money than ever before at $69,000 a year, it’s not enough to cover the lavish wedding some may have imagined.

A destination elopement, on the other hand, is significantly cheaper, and often, it includes a built-in honeymoon since couples opt to stay at their destination wedding and combine it all into one trip. Once you get airline tickets to your wedding destination, you’ll be all set to go. Of course, there are still other expenses to keep in mind.

A couple should plan for:

  • Travel to and from the destination
  • The venue (church, hotel, chapel, etc.) Even if you’re planning on eloping at the beach, you’ll need to pay the officiator
  • A marriage license
  • Wedding attire (though some couples opt for clothes they already have!)
  • The honeymoon (food, accommodations, activities, etc.)

Many hotels and resorts offer an elopement package, ranging from $700 to $6,000. However, you can arrange it yourself if you want to save. Some boutique wedding planners, such as Simply Eloped, are experts at knowing how to elope with their hand-picked vendors and packages that will make your day special. Regardless of how you decide to proceed, one thing is certain: fewer people means less money, and couples who opt to elope will definitely spend less.

You Don’t Enjoy the Spotlight

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The truth is, not everyone wants the spotlight on them not only for their big day – but for the entire wedding planning process. Many want to celebrate privately, making that serious commitment alone. An elopement can be very romantic and in some ways even more sincere because the commitment is made privately.

But, eloping doesn’t necessarily mean running off to a Vegas chapel. Some couples invite a few, select guests to tag along and witness their elopement. One Colorado couple told Glamour that their destination elopement involved 10 of their closest friends. They opted to rent a cabin in the Rocky Mountains and make a trip out of it.

Those that do choose to elope may even feel relieved that they avoided hurting feelings. My friend Julie, who eloped several years ago, said, “I had all these friends from high school and college and work and study abroad, etc. Even after I tried to whittle the list down I knew I would have to leave some people out and I hated that. So an elopement felt so right. No one’s feelings could be hurt because no one was invited!”

Of course, some close family members (especially parents) might have their feelings hurt if they’re left out of a destination elopement. This inevitable part of an elopement may not be worth the cost to some. But, others may find that their family and friends understand that it was their decision and support their union regardless.

Time is of the Essence

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Planning a big wedding takes a lot of time. There’s a reason why the average length of an engagement is 14.5 months. Many wedding venues, as well as photographers, caterers, and officiants book months or even years in advance. And if you’re planning a destination wedding, it may take even longer, since there must be space for the wedding party at the hotel, and you’ll need to give people time to book their flights and arrange to take off from work for the big day.

While some couples don’t mind taking their time to plan, others just want to get married. And some – especially when it comes to military couples — may have a specific timeline to work with. But, deciding five minutes before to elope doesn’t typically work. Most states have a wait time between getting your marriage license and the wedding (around 2-5 days). You may also need to book an appointment even if it’s at city hall, and you’ll probably need witnesses too. A destination elopement may take a little longer if you need to book flights and an officiant.

Still, a destination elopement is much faster and easier to plan than a big wedding, and most couples can pull it together relatively quickly.

It’s Easier


Ever heard the phrase “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians?” Yeah, that’s about how my wedding planning process went. My mom had an opinion, my future mother-in-law had an opinion, and our grandmothers had opinions. Even my sweet, easy-going fiance — who said he would be happy as long as I was happy — had an opinion. It ended up being a lot of drama, and sadly, I didn’t get the exact wedding I dreamed of because I was trying to please so many people.

With an elopement, specifically a destination elopement – it’s so much easier to plan. You have two sets of opinions instead of the 10 I had. You avoid the unnecessary drama associated with wedding planning, and you get to say “I do” in a private ceremony without anyone scrutinizing your dress, vows, or bouquet.

Some may argue that a wedding shouldn’t be easy, but eventful. But marriage is hard enough, hell, life is hard enough. Why not make the celebration of your love and commitment to each other easy and enter marriage without any hard feelings?

You Don’t Need a Wedding Hashtag

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Okay, this is not a reason to have a destination wedding but hear me out. Wedding blogs, websites, Instagram, and the internet as a whole tell you your wedding should be a certain way. You’ve got to have a theme, a videographer, those cute little milk bottles with miniature donuts on the straw, and mason jars with lights. But, when you boil it down, a wedding is a celebration of a commitment between two people. The rest of it is just noise. A destination elopement is an adventure, a private celebration, a true party for two, and just the right thing for courageous couples.

Have any tips of your own for a destination elopement? Give us some inside info in the comments below!


About the author

Tasmiah Rashid

In a past life, Tasmiah was either a Bollywood actress, renowned ethnographer or master chef; no questions asked. In this one, she is a shower-singing, croissant enthusiast, who also writes content for Fareportal, in that order.

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