How to Plan an Adventure Elopement For Under 10k

October 24, 2020

Surprise! We’re married! After traveling around the world together for over six years, Josh and I eloped surrounded by our family in Glacier National Park on September 28, 2020.

how to plan an elopement

Photo by Elsa Eileen Photography



Photography: Elsa Eileen Photography

Hair/Make-up: Bridal Bliss Hair & Makeup By Lana

Dress: Wilderly

Flowers: Mum’s Flowers

Accommodation: Whitefish Escapes

Photos by Elsa Eileen Photography


Thinking of planning an adventure elopement? Here’s why I say YES:

Our wedding day was one of the most fun and stress-free days of my life. Here’s the thing: weddings don’t have to be stressful (or expensive!). Throughout the process, I received dozens of typical wedding-planning questions.

“aren’t you stressed?”

“how is planning going?”

“what are all the things you have to do?”

The answers were, no, it’s easy, and not a whole lot. In fact, planning a wedding was probably one of the least stressful trips I’ve ever planned (not sure what that says about my other trips – HA). On our day I got exactly what I wanted: to marry my best friend and adventure partner of the past six years, spend time with family, smile and laugh all day, eat tacos, go hiking, and feel completely stress-free.

It was exactly all of that.

And it stayed that way, even with the moments that didn’t quite go according to the book. We originally planned to exchange vows on top of a mountain at sunset on our wedding day but ran out of daylight. We said, “who cares” and climbed a bigger and better mountain three days later and exchanged vows on the summit in solitude. There is no pressure with an elopement. It’s just about you two, the way it should be.

The best part? At the end of it all, we realized we came in way under budget.

And I'm sharing exactly how we did it for all those looking to plan an adventure elopement in the future.

eloping with family

Summit of Mount Reynolds, Glacier National Park 


The moment we started discussing marriage and a wedding there was one thing we knew was out of the question: spending more money on one day than we did on an entire year of traveling.

Considering we traveled for a year on $10,000, we knew our wedding day would be filled with adventure and our closest loved ones on a budget. However, that didn’t mean our wedding was going to be cheap. In fact, we wanted the opposite. And we didn’t want our family fronting a ton of the cost, either. The fact that luxurious and beautiful weddings translate to spending tens of thousands of dollars is a common myth, and leave it to two admitted money-tight-wads to prove it.

The scope: We had an intimate elopement-style wedding in Glacier National Park with 11 of our closest friends and family. The cost includes accommodation for all 13, two plane tickets, two rental cars, flowers, permits, photography, hair/make-up, and all smaller details (earrings, bouquet wrap, suits, etc.) We only spent 60% of our budget—full cost breakdown at the end of this post.

planning an elopement with family

My dad, mom, brother, and aunt



Our ultra-luxurious four-floor condo located in Whitefish, Montana, featured a movie theater, four floors with an insane master suite, an epic view of Glacier National Park in the distance, and slept 18. The four-night price tag in the 1.5-million-dollar ski lodge came in at less than the average venue rental for a single day.

We were also strategic with timing and location. Early in the research for accommodation, we quickly realized ski resort accommodation is significantly reduced in early fall and late spring because it is low season. If we were to book the same place in mid-summer or winter, it would’ve cost thousands of dollars more.

We ditched a reception and instead came home and created a taco bar for a feast. There was enough room that even if we had decided to host a small formal dinner at the house, we easily could have. Highly recommend tacos, though.

How plan an elopementhow to plan an elopementhow to plan an adventure elopement


Wedding tip 101: National Parks are one of the most affordable ways to get married, which means you get epic views without epic price tags. 

We used natural elements to spice up our venue, which meant less money spent on decorations and other gimmicks. I briefly looked at buying an arch for the occasion, but eventually decided against it because you really can’t beat a mountain backdrop. We spent a total of $100 on our ceremony venue, which was the cost of the wedding permit paid to Glacier National Park in order to get married within park boundaries.

**Note**: If getting married in a National Park, you must apply for a permit and get married at a predetermined location that will be listed on your permit application. You will need to bring this permit with you to the National Park on your wedding day. For wedding permit information in a National Park, click here.

how to plan an adventure elopement

Photo by Elsa Eileen Photography



Pick one section to splurge on. For us, it was photography. We booked the incredible and talented Elsa Eileen Photography about ten months before the day. This was the second most expensive aspect of our adventure elopement, but worth every penny. After the ceremony, we hiked four miles in our wedding attire (and hiking boots). As avid climbers and hikers, all we wanted after ‘I do’ was to run around the mountains. Elsa captured it perfectly and exceeded all my mountain-elopement dreams/goals.

hoe to plan an elopement

adventure elopement cost

Photos by Elsa Eileen Photography


This price can fluctuate based on your family and what costs you want to help cover. In our case, we covered rental cars and some plane tickets. We saved some money in this area because Josh and I could drive to the location, eliminating the need for two additional plane tickets and an additional rental car. This might not always be the case for destination weddings/elopements. Overall, we ended up spending a lot less in this section than we originally budgeted.



I brush my hair on good days, which means I wasn’t too keen on trusting myself with hair and make-up on my wedding day, making the price tag for professional services well worth the expense. In the end, I’m SO glad I made this decision. I debated being cheap and doing it on my own, but I am in favor of splurging on this for your wedding day. I will never look that good again, and I’m totally okay with it! I booked with Lana at Bridal Bliss Hair & Makeup and she nailed the ‘natural glam’ look that lasted all day (yes, even after all the hiking).

planning an elopement with family

Misc Items 

Yes, we are those people that track *everything* we bought for the wedding. This includes the earrings I found the night before in a local antique shop to the suit we ordered on Amazon a week before the wedding when we realized the pants on Josh’s suit were too short.

And yes, we originally planned to spend $0 on a suit and reuse an older one Josh had previously worn in a wedding. Again, we are those people.


Adventure Elopement Cost Breakdown: 

Accommodation: $2,380.54 (four nights)

Venue/Permit: $100

Rental Cars: $302.88 (two rentals)

Airline Tickets: $475 (two tickets)

Photography: $2,000 (elopement package)

Hair/Make-Up: $260

Floral: $300

TACOS for 13: $85

Men’s Black Suit (from Amazon): $100

Misc Items: $64 (earrings, bouquet wrap, headpiece)

TOTAL: $6,067.42

planning an adventure elopement

Photos by Elsa Eileen Photography


Questions about planning an elopement? Email me! 

[email protected]



Outdoor travel blog

At any given moment, Shalee is either lost, hunting for ice cream, or obsessively planning her next adventure.

Born and raised in rural Michigan, she began exploring the shores of Great Lakes as a teen, often sleeping in her car to save money. Eventually, her urge to explore pushed beyond her Midwest borders. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure and outdoor tourism. Her pack now includes two spunky hiking cats and her partner, Josh. Learn more about her here.

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  1. Sue McEwan on October 25, 2020 at 2:20 PM

    Congratulations Shalee and Josh. What a beautiful wedding and perfect for you! I wish you both every happiness as you continue your adventures together.

    • Shalee Wanders on October 25, 2020 at 7:56 PM

      Thank you so much, Sue!

  2. Kathy H on October 25, 2020 at 7:22 PM

    Congratulations from a long time follower! Happy adventuring together!

    • Shalee Wanders on October 25, 2020 at 7:56 PM

      Thanks so much, Kathy! Many more adventures ahead!

  3. Alice Karcher on October 25, 2020 at 8:14 PM

    Congratulations, Shalee. So happy for both of you. Here’s my question: where did your dress come from? It’s not on your expense list so I figure you didn’t spend anything on it! Just wondering. Love you

    • Shalee Wanders on October 26, 2020 at 12:05 PM

      Thank you so much, Alice! Miss you! Great question on the dress, it was my wedding present from my best friend (who you also know!), Breanna. 🙂 She was the world’s best minister + maid of honor. So thankful for her.

      • Alice Karcher on October 27, 2020 at 6:45 AM

        Hey Shalee,
        My old age is showing. You made reference to Breanna and said I know her. Please who is she? I have known a few.

  4. Kerri on October 26, 2020 at 8:58 AM

    Congratulations! I didn’t know this was my dream wedding until I read this – it sounds amazing! Sending you all the love and good vibes!

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