Couple kissing on wedding day

How to Elope for Under $1000 + What is a Micro Wedding?

Wondering if you should elope or even more, how to elope? Read on to find out the shocking impact your wedding budget has on divorce statistics, how I threw a wedding for less than $1000, and the difference between an elopement, minimony, and micro wedding.

How to Elope and What is an Elopement Wedding?

‘To elope’ means to secretly run away together.  In our more modern age, an elopement simply means you chose a private, small ceremony instead of a formal wedding. Eloping is often done in secret, and typically involves only the couple getting married and the witness and officiant.

All you need to elope is a marriage license, two witnesses, and an officiant to seal the deal. However, if you want to step up your elopement game, you might want to consider a micro wedding instead.


What is a micro wedding?

Before 2020, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was upwards of $30,000 on a good day. And that package price tag came with all the delicate intricacies of outdated traditions, not to mention in law drama.

Since Coronavirus crashed quite a few wedding plans, alternative marriage celebrations have begun to pop-up, known as micro weddings and minimonies.

Think of a micro wedding as a scaled down version of your big day. A micro wedding typically has under 50 guests, and might cost anywhere from $1600-$10,000.

Mini-monies take this to the next level, and include under 10 close family members.

how to elope : bride and groom sitting next to each other

Micro weddings have emerged as a safe and healthy alternative that would allow couples to keep their day special with friends and family in attendance, without the stress and bank breaking cost.

Many bridal and wedding magazines define a micro wedding as a marriage celebration with a smaller guest list, but that is only a partial truth.

Years ago, I attended a micro wedding reception at a public park, catered by a taco truck. Because of the casual format, there was no limit on the guest list.

And it makes sense. The price of love should be free, after all.

Many millennial love birds are coming to their senses and realizing that wedding budget might be better spent elsewhere – on a rental property down payment, or extended honeymoon.

By the way, a long honeymoon is also associated with higher rates of a lasting union.


couple kissing outside a bus


‘A diamond is forever’: myth or fact?

Will a small wedding diminish the success of my marriage?

No. In fact, quite the opposite. In a study of 3000 couples in the United States, those who spent under $1000 on a wedding were 53% more likely to stay married.

Dropping over 30K$ on the big day was associated with 46% increase in the chance of the union ending.

That’s right: the amount of money spent on a wedding is directly correlated with its likelihood of it to end in divorce.  

The same goes with expensive rings. The higher cost of an engagement ring, the higher chances of the marriage ending in a break up. Unions that begin in an engagement ring over $2000 have a 1.3 higher rate of divorce.

That being said, who doesn’t want to wear white and play princess for a day? It’s impossible not to fall in love with love.

Before you panic about the D word, remember these are simply statistics that do not apply to your unique and personal situation. I fully support any couple looking to make a splash with a big wedding blowout, if that’s your thing.

However, if you are obsessed with tipping the odds ever in your favor, read on for alternative options to a traditional wedding blowout.


How much does it cost to elope?

The amount it costs is up to you. The bare minimum is the cost of a wedding license in your state. For me, that was $25. We found an officiant for free, through friends and family.



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A post shared by Annalis (@annalisc)

Of course, I’m extremely proud that I was able to budget a microwedding for $5000, and then elope for under $500. Because that’s how we money bloggers roll. Keep reading to find a detailed breakdown of what I spent on my own elopement.


How to Plan a Micro Wedding

A micro wedding or minimony is all about figuring out what matters most to you, and ruthlessly making that a priority.

In my case, I knew I wanted a great dress, a brilliant photographer, a string quartet, and a cake. Everything beyond that was negotiable, including the rings, flowers, centerpieces, and music.


A few tips to ‘Micro’ your wedding:

  • For a venue, book an AirBnB or even your backyard, a friend’s house, or the great outdoors. Trust me, this alone can save you thousands of dollars.
  • Slash the guest list with gusto. Great news! You don’t need to invite Nancy from HR or that 3rd cousin in Alabama.
  • Ask your friends attending to contribute services instead of gifts such as catering, bartending, DJ’ing, or even officiating. Do proceed with caution here. For example, if something is a top priority for you, you might want to hire a professional where it matters.
  • Host a DIY buffet, food truck, or bar. If you go this route, may I suggest you forgo hard liquor in case your guests want to get overzealous with their pours.
  • Use digital invitations. I used a (free) Minted website and Google Forms to communicate with guests, and gather RSVPs.
  • Skip the flowers. This is an infamously high drain on the wedding budget.
  • Livestream your wedding over Zoom or Instagram so everyone can attend in spirit. Or, have a videographer document the event so you can share a video recap.

The great news about the micro wedding is, YOU DO YOU. You can pick and chose your favorite stuff, and leave out the rest.


Why I Planned a Micro Wedding (and then eloped instead)

I’ll just come right out and say it. My micro wedding dreams were dashed repeatedly by COVID19.

Even my City Hall elopement plan got crashed by another lock down. But I learned so much planning a wedding that never happened, I have to share this hard won knowledge in the hopes someone will use it.

Not to mention, my family has a history of life long lasting marriages that all begin with a no-frills, bargain basement elopements. So it felt like my duty to carry out the tradition.

To quote a neighbor of mine who also opted in to a micro wedding in 2020 “What better time to marry the love of your life, but when the world is falling apart around you?”

I took that advice to heart. My now husband and I just decided to go for it because, who knows when the madness will end?




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A post shared by Annalis (@annalisc)


Elopement Ideas, Checklist, and Budget

Here is the story of how I spent less than $1500 two micro weddings, relaxing mini-moon retreat included.

As a personal finance savant, I was well aware of the ‘wedding tax’.

Research shows when you put the word ‘wedding’ on an event, a price quote for goods or services goes up an estimated 28%. This is likely because weddings carry a lot of heightened emotion. Vendors are aware of the extra pressure and expectations on the quality and customization of their work.

That is why I went about planning my micro wedding as a ‘family reunion’. Sure enough, this resulted in getting better prices on everything.


How to Elope

  • Venue

Free! My parents have a rental property that was in between tenants for a few months, so we planned a wedding in the backyard. Find more tips on how to do this here.

  • Dress: LuLu’s – $130

At first, I fell in love with a BHLDN dress that cost a cool 1K (not including alterations, which I hear can cost almost as much as dress). I still have an eye on it, if I ever do throw a wedding reception.




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A post shared by Annalis (@annalisc)


For my last minute elopement, I wanted something elegant and casual. I took to LuLu’s to find something practical and well priced. I never would have imagined finding a beaded dress more beautiful than all the 4-5 figure gowns I was trying on. Thank you LuLu’s, for saving me 900 bucks.

Want to find out how truly nuts I am? A week after it arrived, LuLu’s ran their Black Friday Sale. So I returned the dress and bought it again to get 20% off. Yes – I know I have issues. I’m working on it.

Speaking of which, have you seen the episode of Friends where Rachel, Monica, and Pheobe try wedding dress therapy? Lounging around the house in an expensive white gown is actually everything you thought it would be and more. You’ve got to try it – engaged or not.



  • Tux: $300

Wow. Men have it so easy. Picking out the perfect suit took exactly 15 minutes. We did it on my fiance’s lunch break the day before the wedding, and he looked like a million bucks.

  • Wedding Rings: $60

We got our wedding rings on Etsy. I found the exact $300 tungsten carbonite ring my fiancé wanted for $15, and that included an engraved message inside. This does not include the cruelty-free diamond ring with a platinum band that my fiancé proposed with. I love my engagement ring, but the first week of wearing it I would wake up in cold sweats at night in fear of losing it.

  • Wedding Website: Free!

I built my wedding website on Minted, and instead of upgrading for the $15 a month features, I just used my tech expertise to build out the pages I wanted. This was fun, but wound up being mostly useless as we finally gave up on trying to have a wedding reception during quarantine.

I also used Google Forms for the wedding RSVP. This helped me get an idea of how many people would attend, food preferences, travel, +1’s, and so much more.

As newlyweds, our goals are to buy a house and travel. We are a bit older and already have more than enough stuff between the two of us. 2020 was also the year I embraced my newfound passion for minimalism. Because we didn’t want more junk, we set up a PayPal pool that guests could contribute to our house and honeymoon.


  • Officiant: Free!

The minute you get engaged, you discover half the people you know are secretly online certified wedding officiants, and extremely eager to put that credential to use. Or at least, that is what happened to us.

We had at least 10 people offer to officiate our marriage. So many, that we had to get married a couple of times. My husband’s mom was kind enough to officiate our Celtic hand fasting ceremony.

Then, the friends who introduced us signed the official papers.


  • Photography: Free!

To be honest, I really wanted to shell out some bucks for this one. But I couldn’t find a wedding videographer that could embrace our level of micro. I really didn’t want a four hour photo session of us eating a pancake breakfast and diving into a lake together.

Everyone says the photos are what you actually remember, so if I throw an actual reception, this is where I will get ready to throw down.


  • Dinner, Cake, and Champagne: $300-ish

For the hand-fasting ceremony, my parents were kind enough to cook us dinner and get the cake and cocktails. I’m not sure the exact budget, but it was probably around a 300 dollar grocery bill.

For our second wedding, we got a $20 wedding cupcake tasting sampler to share with our friends and officiants. Then we celebrated with Chinese takeout that cost about $60, and lots of bottles of champagne adding up to another $60 or so.

By the way, tasting lots of cake is the absolute highlight of wedding planning. Aside from watching true crime in a $2000 gown.

  • Honeymoon: $700

We love to travel, so this is where we really splurged. A famous elopement retreat happens to be located only an hour away from our house. It is the perfect two-night romantic getaway. A quiet, cozy handcrafted cabin in the middle of the desert.

We decided to spring for all the perks: a couples massage, breakfast in bed, dinner, and a wood fired hot tub with a surreal view of the starry New Mexico sky.

How to elope in New Mexico - desert sky and mountains
Our desert retreat cabin
how to elope at desert harbor retreat
Yum! Breakfast tacos at dessert harbor


It was the perfect getaway reset.

Fun fact: we almost burned our cabin down. I left a towel too close to the wood burning stove, which to our surprise turned on automatically in the middle of the night. Thankfully, my husband extinguished the towel in the snow outside, saving the cabin and both our lives.

Talk about a romantic spark! #EverydayHero


Wow! You read this far? You deserve some applause. Comment ‘I Rock’ below if you made it to the end, so I can give you a personal high five in the comments.


What size of wedding is right for you? What is your favorite wedding planning tip? Let me know in the comments below.


Written by: Alice
Written by: Alice

Last Updated: February 14, 2021

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