As a full-time elopement and intimate wedding photographer, it’s no secret that I eat, sleep, and breathe weddings. So much so, that I’ve photographed over 100 “big days” for the sweetest couples since I started my career. Now, I am about 6 months out from my own big day (EEK!!). As a current bride planning to elope, my fiancé and I have learned a lot about the areas that we would rather save in rather than splurge. It’s your lucky day, my friend, because I’m here to share with you my own splurge vs. save: elopement edition list to help you plan your perfect day.
**SPOILER ALERT: There are no “trends” when it comes to weddings. There is no “this is in for 2023, and this is out” or a list of the “do’s and don’ts” when it comes to your day. When it comes to all the little details, it’s up to you to do whatever you FREAKING WANT!! Do you love the color orange? Great! Include it in your wedding. Live for a good sunrise and have always dreamt of a morning wedding? Please, DO IT!
I want to remind you that this list below is just a compilation of my own opinions, as well as what I’ve heard from my couples! So if you don’t agree with the splurge vs. save below, remember to take into account your own wants/needs. If you love food, but don’t really care about your hair and makeup, shift your budget to ensure you’re getting exactly what you want. Okay, disclaimer over. Let’s get into it!
Hear me out: I promise I’m not bias. Does anybody else remember growing up and looking at their parents’ wedding albums? Or breaking out the old VCR and watching your parents’ ceremony!? Uff, I do. And it still fills me with joy to look back at them.
Your photos and video are the only thing (besides your marriage + memories) that will live on. Your flowers will die, your food will be eaten, your dress will get dirty and collect dust. But your photos and video will live on forever. I can only hope that someday, my own children will look back fondly at the photos and video from Ethan + my special day.
Psst… my fiancé and I allotted 50% of our budget for photo and video alone. I already am so freaking pleased with the decision!
Look, I get it. If you’re having a room block at the local hotel, maybe you get a free room as the bride + groom. However, I’ve heard from so many of my couples that they wished they had opted for a unique stay. I’ve even heard from some couples that have stayed at an aesthetic Airbnb and have loved their decision. Your wedding is something special – why not stay at that bougie cabin that overlooks the ocean or mountain range? What about that cool glamping resort where you can sleep under the stars? I guarantee you won’t regret spoiling yourselves.
This one might be controversial, depending on what kind of elopement you’re anticipating. So while elopements are typically less stressful to plan than a big, traditional wedding, there are still a lot of moving parts to account for. Some couples would rather have the monotonous details of their day already planned out for them. If this is you – I highly recommend investing in an elopement planner. They can help with big things like finding your vendors, to planning your picnic/dinner setup, and even location research if you’re open for anything! They are an invaluable resource, in my opinion.
I cannot recommend this one enough. Whether you’re honeymooning in your elopement location, or you’re wanting to do a fun activity during your elopement, experiences are another invaluable “splurge”. Some activities could include: kayaking, a helicopter or plane ride, private Jeep tour, wine tour, skiing, etc. Whatever you can dream up, odds are: it can happen. Plus, imagine those photos and memories you’ll have to look back on…
I have had sooo many couples so that they wish they would’ve just had their favorite foods, rather than a fancy catered meal. Whether your fave food is tacos from a local taco truck, Jimmy John’s, or a charcuterie board… you could not only save money, but also get to have your favorite food on the best day ever! Pssst… the wedding featured below opted to cook up some steaks on the grill with their family since it was a meal they loved and had often, and it turned out SO GREAT.
I don’t know who needs to hear this but: there is no need for a fancy wedding cake. Anything with the word “wedding” in it is going to be pricey. Instead, maybe opt for your favorite dessert, make it yourself, or get just a small custom cake to cut if it’s important to you.
Many eloping couples choose to have a simple bouquet or forgo florals all together. While they add a beautiful splash of color, many national parks and forests do not allow real flowers. You might find yourself wondering why. Real flowers can break off and actually cause invasive species to grow, and we don’t want that! Opt for faux flowers or forget them all together if you’re on a tight budget. If you do get faux flowers, you also get a sweet keepsake!
There is definitely a stigma when it comes to weddings and what you “should” wear. By no means do you need to spend thousands of dollars to look beautiful. Of course, if you’ve always dreamt of wedding dress shopping for a Pnina Tornai gown with your mama and best friends, I couldn’t encourage it more. BUT, if it’s not really something that you place a lot of value in, don’t. Maybe your boo has a suit that he’s had since his brother’s wedding 2 years ago. Great! Or, he could even wear jeans if that’s more your vibe. My point is: you can wear whatever you want. But if you’re looking to save, this is a good area to cut costs! There are tons of online stores that carry white dresses that would be stunning for an elopement.
If you take away nothing but the following from this blog, my job will be complete. Your elopement is meant to be about you and your partner committing to a lifetime together. Committing to loving one another, caring for one another for a lifetime. So why would you make your day about anybody else except for you two!? If you don’t find that my opinions on Splurge vs. Save: Elopement Edition resonate with you, you can do your own thing!