There’s no way to sugar-coat it: Traditional weddings are almost always quite expensive. According to the Dream Group, which specializes in weddings and other large events, the cost of the average wedding in Vancouver can range between $50,000 and $80,000. Considering how quickly the price tag on a traditional wedding can creep up, you might be wondering: “Is an elopement right for me? How much does it cost to elope in British Columbia?”
Let’s break it down!
Why Some People Choose To Elope In BC
To begin, it’s important to know why some couples might choose an elopement ceremony instead of a traditional wedding.
First up: Couples want an authentic, intentional, free-from-expectations wedding day that prioritizes experiences over tangible things. Think of all of the things that you can do with your budget! Helicopter elopements, once-in-a-lifetime hikes, boat charters, hot air balloons – high-end luxury experiences all become a lot more accessible when catering to just the two of you. Couples still want to invest money into their wedding day, they just want to invest in a different way that focuses on creating an unforgettable exciting experience.
Next up: The planning is all FUN! Forget font types, hotels to fit all your guests, political seating plans, and dietary requirements. Elopement planning is pretty much solely focused on maximizing good times at every opportunity. Think of your elopement as a chance to experience all of your favorite things, with your favorite person.
Thirdly: This is a big thirdly for me personally – elopements tend to be a lot more environmentally friendly than traditional weddings. Invitations, florals, food wastage, energy consumption, travel for your wedding party; even with the best will in the world, all of these things add up to quite a high carbon footprint. When it’s just the two of you (or a small group), it’s much easier to control your impact.
Some other reasons that people might choose to elope include:
- You want to customize the ceremony in ways you might not be able to if you got married in a more traditional setting. Any old traditions you don’t like? You can forget about them entirely and observe only the wedding traditions that are meaningful for you.
- You want a one-of-a-kind helicopter elopement with stunning mountaintop views that a traditional wedding venue simply can’t provide.
- You want your wedding to be an event witnessed only by your most cherished loved ones instead of worrying about entertaining dozens – or even hundreds – of guests.
At the end of the day, the true value of an elopement is just how much you can customize the ceremony to reflect your personal values and aesthetics. It truly will be a one-of-a-kind wedding!
How Much Does It Cost To Elope In BC?
The good news is, when it comes to planning an elopement, your budget can pretty much be as small or as large as you want. One of the significant factors that will determine your budget is what kind of elopement ceremony you plan on having. There are many ways to envision your elopement: saying your vows in the comfort of your backyard, a minimalist courthouse ceremony, and my personal favorite, an adventure elopement!
Something A Little Extra
An adventure elopement is a carefully planned event customized just for you, and it’s a great choice if you’re looking for something a little more elaborate than a courthouse elopement while still keeping your ceremony streamlined and elegant. They’re often held in a breathtaking natural location, and the amazing journey you’ll take to your wedding ceremony will be one of the most incredible and epic parts of your wedding day.
Where Are Adventure Elopements Typically Held?
Your adventure elopement might lead you and your partner to a gorgeous secluded island, into the majestic heart of a national park or onto a sandy beach at sunset. Some couples even opt for a “Sea-to-Sky” experience and fly up to a mountain peak in a helicopter! It’s up to you where your amazing journey will take you, but no matter what, you’ll end up exchanging your vows somewhere stunning – a place whose natural beauty will be a perfect match for such a joyful occasion.
Cost Of An Adventure Elopement
This definitely depends on you! However, adventure elopements in BC can start at as little as $3,450! The final cost depends on location, activities, length and personal preference on style (e.g. a multi-day hike elopement or a laid-back afternoon ceremony). Compared to the typical costs of a traditional wedding, it’s a downright bargain – and you’ll be getting a unique, unforgettable experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.
What Do I Need To Elope In BC?
This cost is, of course, just an estimate, but it’s based on the typical costs of essential items you’re going to need to pull off the ultimate adventure elopement. Usually, a couple holding an elopement ceremony will need to spend money on the following items.
- Photographer (about $1,950 - $9,000)*.
*Prices for elopement and wedding photography are similar and in some cases more expensive for elopements. This is because your elopement photographer often ends up doubling as your planner. I cover this in more detail below 🙂
- Wedding attire (about $500 - $3,400). Thrift, upcycle, borrow, rent, off-the-rack, couture - this price range is very much up to the individual couple.
- Bridal bouquet (anywhere between $60 for a basic arrangement up to $3500+ for more elaborate bouquets). Oak and Willow and Garden Party Flowers break down their costs really clearly, while AJR designs offer more customizable designs and quotes that will vary depending on your vision. Two florists I absolutely love are Alicia's Florals and De La Flore – their prices start on the higher end but their arrangements are stunning. They both use locally-grown flowers and place a large emphasis on environmentally-friendly practices.
- Hair and makeup (about $250 - $1000). Check out The Lolita Collective, Beauty en Route and Save The Date Beauty for more details on pricing breakdowns.
- Travel and lodging (about $500 - $3,000 depending on your style, length of stay, etc). This one really is flexible and will be dependent on your tastes and ideas for your elopement.
- Marriage licence ($100).
- Officiant (about $350 - $1000). Check out Vancouver Officiant and Young, Hip and Married for more detailed prices and custom quotes.
- Alternatively, you could save a little money and opt for a Marriage Commissioner ($78.75 inc tax, excl travel + $25/hour for time over one hour). However, I will say that an officiant has the flexibility to personalize and tailor your ceremony, whereas a Marriage Commissioner will provide a much more straightforward/less romantic service.
- Wedding cake (about $80 - $350). Jenny Bakes and Cakes in a Box are great options – you can go for small, fun cupcakes or bigger, more creative cakes!
- Videographer ($1300 - $7000). Rachel King Films offers unique wedding films for adventure-seeking couples and Taylor Lee Films focuses on capturing your story as it unfolds – their films are beautiful and full of emotion! If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind wedding film that evokes a nostalgic and dreamy feeling, check out Everness Films!
- Decor (about $175 - $500). Check out Bespoke Decor for some examples.
- Helicopter (from $2,200 - $6,000). Sky Helicopters and Black Comb Helicopters both offer a variety of elopement packages.
- Park Permit (around $102 - $462 plus tax). Vancouver city park permits range from $102 - $462; Weddings in Victoria city parks cost $129.91; Provincial parks will cost around $200; It’s free to get married in certain national parks, just by signing a registration form!
- Cost for other elopement day activities that you love doing together!
This list might end up being longer or shorter for you, depending on whether you’re planning on including things such as catered food for your guests or any other additional entertainment or accommodations. However, even with these extra expenses, your adventure elopement will set you back far less than a traditional wedding. Think of all the things you won’t have to worry about paying for:
- DJ or band (the average wedding DJ costs about $1,000 - $2,000 and the average live band costs about $2,800 - $6,400)
- Venue (typically around $500 - $10,000)
- Wedding planner/event coordinator (around $1,000 - $4,000)
- Catering for 100 to 250 guests instead of just a small group of close friends and family (the price to feed your guests can run up to $5,000 - $12,000 at a traditional wedding, depending on how many people attend)
- Floral centerpieces (about $2,000 - $3,000)
In the long run, an adventure elopement can save you tens of thousands of dollars. You’ll get to enjoy an intimate, romantic ceremony with the people you love most while saving enough money to plan the perfect honeymoon and the start of this new exciting chapter of your lives.
Who Needs To Be Present At An Elopement?
A traditional wedding can get really big, really fast. You start making a list of everyone you want to invite, then you have to add all the people you need to invite, and before you know it you’ve planned a party with nearly 200 guests!
An elopement avoids all the stress of having to invite a massive group of people to your wedding. You can limit your guest list to just your most cherished friends and family, or even opt for a ceremony that’s just you and your partner, two witnesses, and (of course) a photographer to preserve your special moment. Elopement gives you the freedom to make your wedding as large or as small as you’d like!
You might also be wondering, “Who is going to officiate our elopement ceremony? Do you need some sort of special officiant at your wedding, or can a friend marry you in BC?” In Canada, weddings can only be officiated by one of three types of people:
- A marriage commissioner
- A licensed wedding officiant
- A religious representative
If you have your heart set on having a friend perform your ceremony, there is good news, though! These are the only people who can legally declare you a married couple after you exchange your “I do’s,” but once those formalities are out of the way, you can have a friend or any other special person in your life conduct a wedding ceremony that’s meaningful to you and authentic to the love you share as a couple. As mentioned above in my pricing breakdown, Vancouver Officiant and Young, Hip and Married are wonderful officiants who offer a really beautiful and personalized service.
One thing to keep in mind for even the most simple of elopement ceremonies is that, in BC, a marriage must be witnessed by two people who are at least 19 years old. So, no matter where you choose to elope or how minimal you want the guest list to be, plan on bringing along at least a couple of friends, family members, particularly kind-looking strangers – or even me! – to make sure that your low-key courthouse wedding is legal in the eyes of the Canadian government!
Your Wedding Photographer Doubles As Your Wedding Planner
You might have noticed that the cost breakdown of an adventure elopement includes a wedding photographer, but doesn’t factor in the cost of the event planner which is usually essential for organizing large traditional weddings. That’s because, for most adventure elopements, your wedding photographer is your wedding planner!
When I photograph elopements, I don’t just capture incredible moments with my camera, I’ll also be there to support your elopement logistics and planning! If you are interested in all-inclusive elopement packages in BC, you’ll be happy to know that I also work with other BC wedding and elopement vendors as a team called West Coast Lush Weddings to create a seamless and one-of-a-kind experience for couples. Inquire here to request our pricing and package guide.
Here are just some of the roles I play in your elopement as your official photographer:
- Act as your main contact and point person for all questions and concerns about planning your elopement ceremony
- Scout out potential locations in the area to find the environment that perfectly fits your dream wedding
- Assist in planning any activities you wish to incorporate on your elopement day (e.g. hikes, canoeing, picnic, stargazing)
- Research the elopement location to find the best places for you and your guests to stay and clue you into any can’t-miss restaurants and activities in the area
- Ensure that your elopement takes place in the most photogenic areas of your chosen venue/location and that key moments occur at the perfect time and place for the best possible lighting (and therefore the best possible photos!)
The biggest difference is that when you book a photographer for your elopement, as opposed to your wedding, you’re also getting an expert elopement coordinator combined with the price. Every couple has a distinct vision for their perfect elopement ceremony, and I’ll be there every step of the way to tailor the day to be exactly what you’ve always hoped it would be.
So let’s get started! If you’re thinking of an elopement ceremony that authentically expresses the love you have for one another, then let’s chat. Whether you’re planning on a cozy backyard elopement or a breathtaking adventure elopement, I’d be thrilled to help you plan the perfect ceremony.
Regardless of your budget, your wedding will be an intimate, romantic day that you’ll never forget – and I’ll be there to capture every magical moment in the form of beautiful, creative photographs to ensure that these amazing memories never fade. I can’t wait to work with you!
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