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Should I Elope or Have a Traditional Wedding?

You’ve got the ring and now it’s time to start planning. But you might be asking yourself, should I elope or have a traditional wedding? 

Welcome to life during the time of coronavirus. So many of my couples have wondered if they should elope or have a traditional wedding. It’s something that I hear a lot about on social media as well. So many couples are wondering this question and I do my best to educate and answer their questions.

In order to make life a little easier, I’ve decided to put together a little blog with some thoughts and a few exercises you and your partner can do at home to decide what is best for you.

No matter what you choose, be sure that you’re doing it because it’s what you two want and what you’ve both always dreamed of doing.

traditional wedding first kiss
grand teton elopement

Should I elope or have a traditional wedding?

Take a moment tonight to sit down with your partner. Turn off the TV, grab a glass of wine, and together, close your eyes and visualize what you’ve always thought your dream wedding day would look and feel like.

Where are you? Were there lots of people? Did you have on traditional wedding clothes or something more alternative? Was it brisk or warm? Did you see yourself in a local venue surrounded by your friends and family or was it quiet and intimate, on the beach or on top of a mountain?

Write down your vision quest and then talk about it with your partner. There’s not right or wrong answer because getting married is personal. If your day is matching up with your partner, it sounds like you know where you want to go. If it’s not, where can you compromise?

salt flats elopement

Do you like being the center of attention?

Having a traditional wedding day means you’re probably okay with the idea of 100-300 people congratulating you and celebrating with you. It means dancing with your besties until midnight and taking shots at the bar with your wedded partner! WOOOOOO!

Traditional weddings are so much fun and such a party. They’re also a great way to catch up with so many people you haven’t had the chance to see recently. It’s like a family reunion with all the peeps that mean the most to you both.

If you’re not into being the center of attention you may want to consider eloping.

Do you see yourself adventuring on your wedding day?

Elopements can be as adventurous as you want them to be or not. There’s a huge push in the elopement community that couples have to hike 10 miles before sunrise. And that’s okay for some people but an elopement is more than that. It can be LITERALLY anything you want it to be.

I specialize in destination elopements where I empower couples to travel to epic spots and to photograph them there. Afterward, my couples choose to honeymoon in the same area. Our adventures may look sometimes a little rugged but I promise you that we didn’t hike 10 miles for them.

adventure elopement

So, ask your partner this. Would you rather start your day off on your wedding day getting ready in the morning after a chill cup of coffee. After getting prepped and ready, we can head out to your first  look spot and in the silence of nature, you two can share an intimate first look with the ocean crashing beside you or the anchoring mountains keeping your feet on the earth.

We can take portraits and enjoy those views while I drive you two to some amazing spots. We’ll capture your dramatic and beautiful moments together in some different locations and then meet your officiant for your personalized vow exchange. We can even invite your family and friends out to join you if you like. Or you can do it all on your own.

After your vows we can take you out for more portraits as two married adventure partners. We can also take you out to dinner and you two can enjoy a happily married dinner together.

If you’re game for a little more adventure the day after your elopement, we can meet up again on your first full day of marriage and we can head out again for the other places we didn’t get to visit in your wedding clothes or in other garments.

You know I’m always down for gorgeous people’s pictures in gorgeous places.

If this is something that sounds amazing to you, consider a destination elopement.

How much do you want to spend on your wedding day?

Here’s the tea. Weddings can become very expensive very quickly. And that’s okay. I’m not here to say what is right or wrong with the amount of money you spend on it. So I’m going to put aside any subjectivity and keep it entirely objective.

las vegas paris strip at night wedding

Traditional weddings with 150-200 people with a venue, catering, photo, video, etc etc etc–you know, everything that comes with a wedding, can run anywhere between $20,000-$35,000. Of course, this is an amount that you typically break up over a year and a half when planning.

The average wedding costs $32,000 in the United States as of 2021/2022. This can be augmented of course and the large parts of your investment come from the following:

  • Catering – Typically you can expect around $100-$150 per person. (this includes food, alcohol, and service fees).

  • Your venue – On average, a modern Midwest venue begins at $5,000 and ranges up to $8,000. In big cities, you can look at tripling that number.

  • Your wedding clothes. If you’re planning on wearing a dress to your wedding, your gown can come in as a low as a few hundred dollars and as high as tens of thousands of dollars.

  • Photography. My traditional wedding photography services begin at $3,500 for local weddings but on average, my couples are investing around $5,500 on my services.

  • Video services are typically between $1,500 and $3,000. This will vary greatly depending on the person and how much coverage you want.

These are just some of the costs you’ll incur at your wedding which can increase the price of a traditional wedding. I always suggest to all couples planning a wedding, choose your Top 3 things you want to invest in, if you’re looking to stay within a certain budget. This helps you to control spending and to compromise on areas that aren’t as important.

Destination elopements are an investment too.

salt lake city salt flats couple

Destination elopements have a cost as well. On average, a typical elopement is about ⅓ the cost of a traditional wedding. With the destination elopements that I offer, many of my couples choose to get married outdoors and to skip a venue. This is an automatic $8,000 savings. The savings is instead invested in wedding permits for the location they choose. These permits range at around $500. That’s a 90% savings.

When you choose to have a destination elopement you’re not only investing in your wedding but also your honeymoon. This can add up to be a cost savings overall and allows less stress after your wedding of having to fly to a location for your honeymoon since you’re already there.

Your investment for your destination elopement includes these types of fees:

  • Flights to your destination. These will vary depending on your location. On average, expect to spend $1000
  • Your stay. Another varying expense depending on your taste and preference. If you’re into camping, costs are lower. Love luxury and opulence? Costs will go up. On average, I’d say budget $200 a day for a stay. More if you know you’re going to stay in a luxury resort. 
  • Food! Everybody’s gotta eat! I recommend budgeting around $150 a day for your honeymoon, especially if you’re an adventurous eater or are a foodie!
  • Photography. My price will also be customized to the location so let’s chat about that over a video chat.
  • Your officiant! The average cost of an officiant is between $250-$500.
  • Your marriage license. This is usually less than $100.
  • Car rental. 2021 saw a huge increase in car rental costs. Thankfully, they have decreased quite a bit. You can average around $90 a day for a rental car.

I’ve been able to quote couples for an elopement with all the things they need for a wedding PLUS a honeymoon for under $10K. I can’t say that it’s normal for every location since places like Hawaii and California have higher costs overall, but if you want to invest more of your money back toward you and your honeymoon, a destination elopement is a good choice.

If you don’t like tradition and prefer your own way, eloping may be for you

salt lake city little sahara dunes

Traditional weddings are a hodge-podge mix of cultural and societal expectations. And that’s okay! Some of those things are really lovely and beautiful. Others are a pain in the ass.

If you consider yourself someone who never enjoyed abiding by tradition or who prefers to march the beat of their own drum, an elopement may be a good option.

If you decide that you don’t like the idea of eloping, you can still host a wedding locally but with your own approach too. You’re not required to do a bouquet or garter toss. You don’t have to dance with an estranged family member you invited. Hell, you don’t even have to invite them.

Myths about elopements

big sur destination elopement

I want to dispel a few myths about elopements. Many people don’t understand what an elopement truly is and that’s okay. They’re really just becoming popular in the 2020s, especially with the rise of the pandemic.

Eloping isn’t shameful.

Nope, it’s just another way to get married. A lot of what people think eloping is comes from the idea that if you’re eloping, you’ve got a secret or you’re ashamed of something such as a pregnancy. Welcome to 2021 where we just don’t give a fuck about that anymore.

Eloping doesn’t require a destination

The definition of eloping doesn’t have travel involved. In fact, when I just looked up the definition, eloping referred to something secretive. UGH. That’s just not the case anymore. You can announce that you’re eloping or do it in secret or any other way you want. It’s your marriage. Anyway, eloping doesn’t require you travel somewhere. Wanna head down to the courthouse this afternoon? You totally can. Elopements are just an intimate version of a wedding day, with or without people present.

Elopements can include family and friends

Whether you want to share vows with just an officiant, self-solemnize in Colorado or Wisconsin (where you don’t need an officiant), or you want to invite your closest family/friends, you can do whatever you damn well please. Don’t think for a moment that if you choose to host a destination elopement that you can’t invite people.

Eloping is expensive

Here’s the thing about the word ‘expensive. It’s subjective. Expensive is a word I don’t even really want to use anymore because it’s so ever-changing and what I think is expensive you may not. It’s all about what you value. If you value high-end food and eating caviar, paying any amount of money doesn’t even run across your mind as too much or expensive.

On the other hand, if you don’t value something, getting a deal or not investing as much money on it is the best way to go. You are compromising because you don’t need or care for caviar. But someone else does. You’d be good with an In-N-Out Cheeseburger with Monster fries. (HELL YEAH!)

in-n-out burger elopement burger

You can invest as much or as little as you want on your wedding day. Elopement or traditional. What is important to you? Time together maximized and intimate? A big party? Something in between? Photos? Videos? Having caviar? Whatever. Invest in what you want.

Most likely, elopements are still going to be cheaper than a traditional wedding. But it’s only because you’ve lost some of the investments. But prices will fluctuate and increase in other areas.

I can’t have a big party if I elope

You can totally have a big party if you decide to elope. It would just happen later! I had many couples in 2020 that reached out wanting to get married or to honor their original date. Many chose to travel with me to destinations and host intimate elopements. In 2021 they’re now having a big reception and party.

You don’t have to wait a year either if you don’t want to. You can come home and prep for a reception a few weeks or months later. Or you can choose to have a reception in a different part of the year when you aren’t competing with traditional wedding seasons (April-October on the mainland).

Do what you want to do for your wedding day

Periodt! OKURRRRR! Seriously. It’s your day and it’s no one else’s. I always feel this slight surge of blood pressure when someone tells me that they feel an obligation to do what someone else wants that isn’t in the relationship that is getting married. I hear things like:

“My mom really wants us to get married in a church” – An Atheist and a Viking who are getting married. 

“My dad is paying for it so he wants all his business buddy’s to come” – A woman who wanted an intimate wedding with just her friends and close relatives

“Aunt Edith would be crushed if we didn’t invite her” –Someone who hasn’t seen Aunt Edith in 25 years.

Or worse, I hear things like.

“My mom/dad says I have to do this.”

Okay, forgive me while I get a little sassy/crassy for a moment.



If the answer is no to these questions then you can do what you damn well please. Welcome to the future where I am validating and empowering you to throw off the feelings of guilt, manipulation, and cultural (AND FAMILIAL) expectations to do what you what you want.

Okay enough Sass-A-Tron from Nate.

I hope that this blog helps couples seeking answers on whether they should elope or have a traditional wedding. I know it’s a big decision and I am a big believer in doing what is best for you, your partner, and your marriage and life together.

If you want to chat more, share dank memes with me, or plan a badass and epic destination elopement, send me a message below! Be sure to follow me on Instagram too @newadventureproductions

Much love (and sass),


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New Adventure Productions is owned by Nate Dale, a Lafayette, Indiana wedding and elopement photographer. We travel nation and worldwide to capture beautiful and intimate weddings and elopements while providing a guidance, love, help along the way. 
He is married to the love of his life, Felicia with their two doggies, Pika and Princess. 

  1. Love this post (In-n-out AND RuPaul in one post? What’s not to like!?). It’s so important for couples to do what they want on their wedding day! Sooo many people (self included) end up including things in their wedding that they don’t truly want – thanks for this advice! (Also I need to see this atheist/Viking wedding!)

  2. Kelsey says:

    YAS QUEEN!!! I loved how you broke down the myths of elopements! They’re whatever the couple wants and you did such a great job defining them! Any couple would feel so supported with you on their side!

  3. First of all, love the sass. We need more of that! These were such helpful things to consider when choosing an elopement vs. a traditional wedding and I really loved the activities!

  4. Leo says:

    You’ve definitely cracked open some of the tough topics here. Elopement over traditional wedding any day! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Brandi says:

    So many great things to consider! Elopements are a great alternative to big weddings during the time of the ‘vid, and there are so many great ways to compromise if one or both of you still want a big party. Great read!

  6. Will Khoury says:

    This is by far one of the best educational blogs I’ve seen comparing traditional weddings and elopements. Way to go explaining it SO well and breaking it down as you did. Super informative!!

  7. Camilla says:

    Nate, this is the best article I have ever read about eloping. Very informative! It naturally makes you feel more clear about what you really want to do with your wedding day.

  8. Sydney says:

    So many good points! Choosing a traditional wedding or eloping should really be up to the couple and what they want, not what everyone else wants for them!

  9. Kat says:

    Haha I LOVE the last bits. We all need a little humor, don’t we? Dispelling these myths is great and helps people understand modern-day elopements!

  10. Angie Walsh says:

    These are all really great photos and I love the article! Great info for couples!