Mar 29, 2020

How To Plan an Elopement You’ll Love

Hello friends – and thank you so much for joining me on the blog! Today I want to talk about the wonderful world of elopements: what they are, how to plan an elopement you love, what you’ll likely need for it, and some ideas on where to explore.

Let’s back up a few steps – and have a think about why this is something we’re seeing more of. Elopements, adventure elopements, micro weddings, and intimate weddings are all becoming increasingly popular, as many 20- and 30-somethings getting married nowadays want to step away from what’s expected of them, and do what’s RIGHT for them. For many couples, a traditionally large wedding doesn’t truly embody what their relationship is like – it may not reflect their journey, their passions, their current priorities in life, or perhaps their spirit of independence and adventure. For some, there are budget reasons, family difficulties, or geographical dilemmas that make a 200-person strong celebration in one place just too much. For other couples, it is the current escalating gravity of the COVID pandemic that has lead them to opt for a more intimate ceremony, either for just the two of them, or perhaps joined by just a few of their closest loved ones.

One of the main reasons I started my business was to support brides and grooms that want to choose their own path, and have an intentionally intimate and meaningful celebration of their love. Working with couples who have chosen to elope is a huge honour for me, as I know just how momentous a decision it is for them.

I’ve set out to create a guide for you that covers some practicalities, some advice, and some inspiration too – I hope this helps you feel excited, confident, and positive about the decision you’ve made. This is the beginning of something AWESOME, I promise.

Chic and Sophisticated Elopement in London

So What’s an Elopement?

The word “elopement” is used throughout the wedding industry these days to characterise celebrations where, typically, the guest list is comparatively small – anywhere from no guests (just the two of you!) to around 20-30 of your closest friends and family. Above this, we start to overlap into the “intimate wedding” or “micro wedding” category, which generally means you’re having anywhere between 30 and 70 guests. Beyond this figure, we’re into the realm of the average wedding size, which in the UK at the moment is between 80 and 130. A “large” wedding here in this country would be a guest list above 150, but of course this is also culturally dependent (whereby some might consider 300 people a “small” wedding). Of course, all of these figures are approximate – and are used differently by different people.

In addition to quantifying the guest list, couples and wedding professionals will also use the word elopement to qualify the approach that is being taken to the wedding itself. Many decades ago, to elope meant to break family rules, to rush away in secret, and marry your loved one under the cover of darkness or many thousands of miles away from anyone you knew, for fear of disapproval. These days, the negative connotations have, thankfully, evaporated – and all the positive ones are being embraced with wide arms. An elopement is, at its essence, an accepted alternative to wedding traditions, particularly if the latter feel outdated, restrictive, or simply not applicable to you. Choosing to elope frees you to pick whichever elements of the wedding structure feel right for you, and let go of the ones that don’t. For example, you might like the idea of saying vows to one another, you might enjoy the fun of dressing up for one another, and you might love treasuring photos from the occasion – but it may well be that trying to gather, host, and pay for several hundred people just doesn’t fit into that framework for you.

The reasons for couples considering an elopement or intimate wedding often echo one of the below:

  • A complicated family or friend dynamic that doesn’t easily allow for large gatherings of everyone in the same place, or that isn’t as welcoming to your partner as you want it to be

  • Wanting to save money in order to invest in a new house, starting a family, a young entrepreneurial business, medical care, and so on

  • An introverted or anxious personality that simply does not relish the idea of being at the center of attention for a whole day, in front of so many people

  • Professional or personal circumstances that may limit the time you have to plan the wedding

  • Delicate relationships with family members that would be strained by having to consider everyone’s opinions

  • Wishing to use this opportunity to travel somewhere exotic and adventurous, and make the most of the time you have together in doing so

  • Having a family or community too large to realistically invite everyone whose feelings wouldn’t be hurt by not being invited

  • Not feeling excited or motivated by the prospect of planning a wedding – it might be that taking on a project like that isn’t something that fits into your personality or lifestyle at the moment

  • Wanting to celebrate your marriage without affecting the environment as much as a large party usually does

I will also take a pause here to say – not every “large” wedding fits the same mould. Having a guest list of 100 people doesn’t mean you have to have a formal sit down meal of dry chicken in a pretentious manor, 4 speeches, a first dance, a posed cake cutting, and a carriage with horses. In fact, I adore that most couples are breaking free of the box that weddings used to have to squeeze into. With myriad options for both formal and informal catering, interactive food and drink stations, every type of entertainment you can think of, venues of every shape and size, and innovative wedding suppliers and artisans revolutionising each of their respective fields, it’s safe to say that weddings in 2020 look nothing like they did even a few decades ago – nor should they. There are so many creative ways to make your wedding celebration bespoke and tailored to your personalities, your style, and your story – there really is no reason any wedding should be the same as any other.

Chic and Sophisticated Elopement in London

Steps to Planning Your Elopement

If you feel like you’re ready to start planning, the best way to begin is to discuss openly what budget you want to be mindful of, what time of year would work for you both, and start daydreaming about the type of day that would most excites you. Throw around country names, activities, and details that feel like must-haves – maybe while curled up on a sofa with a glass of your favourite wine or bubbly, or an indulgent hot chocolate. Let your imagination run wild for a while, and have fun – let that electric anticipation bubble out as laughter, and give in to that play.

Here is a summary of the steps to consider while planning an elopement:

  1. Start by sitting down together to brainstorm the celebration you want – including geographical location, time of the year, aesthetic style, and vibe of the day.

  2. Consider if you want to elope just the two of you, or if it feels right to invite a few guests along to join you.

  3. Determine what budget you are comfortable with, and make a list of what investments you want to prioritise.

  4. If you’d like to work with a planner, research a few and get to know them, so you can choose the one you want to partner with.

  5. Research and choose your venues and vendors one by one, and with intention. When booking them, give them lots of notes about what you love and the visiom you have for the day. Ensure all booking information is in writing and officialised through contracts.

  6. Research the legalities of marrying in your chosen location, and read up about the different ceremony types to find out about what is right for you.

  7. Once you know more details about the day and location, have fun choosing your outfits and accessories – including some kick-ass wedding bands for both of you.

  8. Share the news with family and friends in a positive, thoughtful, and honest way.

  9. Throughout the planning journey, keep communicating with your planner and your vendor team frequently and openly. Work with them to curate the visual and practical experience that most resonates with you. Different suppliers will need different levels of input from you – and you can choose to be as hands-on or hands-off as you wish.

  10. About one month before the elopement date, start gathering the information and documents that will make the day most stress-free for you: such as the timeline of the day, all the supplier’s contact details, access details for the venues you’ve chosen, booking details for your travel and accommodation.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you GOT THIS – keep communicating with one another and with your suppliers in a gracious and understanding way, and create the lifelong memories YOU want.

Next I’m going to delve into a bit more detail on the supplier team you’ll be assembling, and then give you some tips on creating the timeline for your elopement.

Chic and Sophisticated Elopement in London

The Supplier Team for your Elopement

Once you feel like you know the ideal place, date, and vibe, that’s when you can make a list of the suppliers you’ll be looking for in your dream team. There won’t be as many as a large wedding, but you may still be surprised by how many there are – so I thought it might be helpful to go through a list of who is typically involved behind-the-scenes in making your day amazing.

For an elopement or micro wedding, you would typically hire:

  • A celebrant, officiant, and/or civil or religious official to run your ceremony
  • A photographer and videographer to capture the experience
  • A florist to create bouquets for you and any bridesmaids with you, a few arrangements for the table(s), and an installation for the ceremony
  • A decor hire company to provide thing like lighting, a table, chairs, plates, cutlery, etc depending on what the venue already has and what needs to be sourced externally
  • A hair and make-up artist
  • Venue hire for the ceremony and dinner, and a party afterwards if you would like one
  • A caterer for the food and drinks – which could be a restaurant for example, or the team in-house at a hotel
  • Any musicians or entertainment you want
  • A cake maker
  • A stationery designer
  • A dress designer / the groom’s suit and accessories
  • A transport / car hire company if there’s any travelling needed between locations

Some of the above will be happy to offer or discuss special packages and fees for elopements and small weddings – but not all, so do manage your expectations about everything being cheaper. You will be spending much less than if you were to host a larger wedding, that’s for sure – but proportionately, some individual items may require a larger investment per person.

A wedding planner can support you in bringing all this together, finding the suppliers best aligned with your vision and budget, and making sure everything runs smoothly and effortlessly for you. When it comes to elopements, wedding planners tend to have an all-inclusive role, and a very close relationship with couples – we can help you plan your trip, we can be your witness at the ceremony, we can be your stylist, and – honestly – we’ll be a BFF that feels just as emotional as you on the day.

Chic and Sophisticated Elopement in London

Creating your Elopement Timeline

The first thing to say about this is: don’t worry about it too much. Choosing to have an elopement means you can focus on being in the moment, and having a truly a unique and meaningful celebration that keeps you and your partner at the centre. The whole day is about nurturing the connection between the two of you, and you can decide what that means to YOU.

My advice is: consider the experience before the logistics. Think about what you love to share in your spare time together, what meaningful routines you have in your relationship, and all the little and big things that make you both happy. Make a list of things you would do if money was no object – and see if you can start identifying a pattern, and finding ways to incorporate those elements in a way that respects your budget.

Having a “broad strokes” timeline is only so that you have a guide on how the day will unfold, which you can then share with your suppliers, and any guests that are joining you. Here are some elements to start with, and personalise to you:

  • Hair and make-up to start – allow around one hour and a half for the bride
  • Getting ready photos, individually and/or together
  • Meanwhile florist and planner / stylist to prepare ceremony area
  • A first look, if you’d like to do that
  • Your ceremony and vows
  • Couple photographs and with friends and family if they are with you
  • Some time off together chilling / adventuring / snacking
  • Meanwhile planner / stylist / venue / florist to prepare drinks and dinner
  • Drinks and champagne toast
  • Celebratory dinner
  • Cake, desserts, and music

The key thing to keep in mind is to give yourself plenty of time so you can have a relaxed morning, and also avoid the harshest light; the softest, most gold light will be from around 2 hours before sunset onwards. I also recommend budgeting extra travel time between locations to account for road conditions, spontaneous photo stops, snack breaks, or cool down / warm time depending on the season. Overall, try to be flexible and go with the flow, and ecnourage your vendors to do the same where they can.

Chic and Sophisticated Elopement in London

Tips Staying Mindful and Positive while Planning Your Elopement

If you’re considering an elopement, perhaps part of the reason you’re doing so is that you want the wedding experience to be more present, more mindful, and more heartfelt. Maybe you want it simpler, easier, and lighter too – and this is all definitely possible. You’re already taking the first, most important step towards making wedding planning fun: you’re choosing something YOU are excited about, without letting yourself be swayed by expectations, preconceptions, and traditions.

For the rest of the journey, I have some advice and tips on how to stay positive and how to make the most of this wonderful decision you’re making.

ONE. Visually breathtaking landscapes can be one of the most exciting elements of an elopement, so definitely don’t limit yourself to places you’ve been, or places you know. Open that map up wide and think about all the different corners of our beautiful planet – follow the compass of YOUR excitement. My advice is to try to choose a place that is meaningful to you in some way – somewhere linked to a fond memory, a bucket list location, or an embodiment of the passions and hobbies you share as a couple. These are kinds of questions I ask my couples when I first start getting to know them, before setting off on a hunt for their p[erfect elopement location.

TWO. As you’re most likely not having to worry about your guests’ holiday allowance and their work restrictions, remember that you don’t have to get married in summer. In fact, the other seasons can often offer some fantastic value for money and availability gaps when it comes to venues and suppliers; plus, you’re more likely to experience the location you’ve chosen without crowds. Use your favourite season as a guide. When you’re doing your research on seasons in specific regions, be sure to look at average temperatures and rainfall, as well as local holidays (for example, shoulder season is great for those looking for a more peaceful, isolated experience while still having pleasant weather).

THREE. One thing that elopements allow that weddings typically don’t is spontaneity and flexibility – so try to embrace that! Remember that whatever happens, this will be an unforgettable moment of togetherness, and you will share in whatever experiences the day has in store. My advice is to keep your mind and heart as open as you can, and see what comes – but do create a broad-strokes plan with a loose timeline so that you’re not worrying about logistics on the day itself. If your elopement is particularly adventurous and outdoorsy, consider having two or three ceremony spots picked ahead of time so you can make an easy day-of decision in case your first choice doesn’t work out.

FOUR. Have fun with your outfits! They don’t have to be bridal, or formal, or white for that matter – go for colours that spark joy, styles that you love, and designers you admire. Make it special by treating yourself to something you’ll love wearing, over and over again! If you’re headed off the beaten track, light-weight suits and dresses without a train (or trains that can be bustled) are useful for a look that is practical but still shows off your personal style. Talk to your designer or seamstress about alterations to your dress that could increase your comfort, and make sure your shoes will allow you to explore the terrain you’ve chosen. I usually encourage brides to have more than one outfit for the day – firstly because WHY NOT and also to account for the fact that you might be hiking to some tricky locations for those epic shots, which means you might appreciate slipping into something clean and dry for your dinner.

FIVE. Definitely invest in a photographer and videographer you LOVE, so your adventure can be captured in all its glory! These few days away together will feel like a dream, one that you will enjoy re-living for many decades to come. The friends and family that didn’t join you will find it especially heartwarming to be able to share in this experience with you through the photographs and videos, and you can use them to send out a little elopement announcement when you return as well, if you wish. When choosing your photographer and videographer, make sure to get to know their websites and galleries, watch their films, scroll their social media profiles, and read testimonials, so you really feel like their aesthetic and ethos aligns with yours – and if your location is a particularly isolated, do ask if they have experience shooting adventure elopements. Suggest a video call in which to get to know each other, and, if possible, have a couples’ portrait session with them before the elopement itself so you can get comfortable in their presence. This is important for all weddings, but elopements in particular; you’ll be spending the whole day in very close proximity with your photographer and videographer, and the relationship will be more tight-knit and intense than on a typical wedding day. Clicking with them, having fun with them, and liking them is really key to your whole experience being positive. I’ll come back to this point in a few minutes, as it’s SUPER important.

SIX. Just because you’re eloping, doesn’t mean you can’t have wedding “stuff” – like a gorgeous bouquet, a scrumptious mini cake, a hair and make-up artist to make you feel fabulous, custom vow books, a Michelin star dinner, and champagne to pop after you’ve said your I-dos – splurge on the good stuff and the details that matter to you, and be honest with each other about what excites you and what luxury really means to you. I’ll go over suppliers in the next section, so you can learn more about what is usually involved for an elopement.

SEVEN. Be open with friends and family from the start, so that expectations are managed and there is no pressure on you – and, if you wish, have a small party or send out announcement cards when you get back to share the celebration on your terms. It may be that some family members will express disappointment or surprise when you tell them, but try to stay strong and positive – the older generations wouldn’t really have had this option available to them, and may not understand what it really means to have an elopement these days. Try to plan to let your closest friends and family know in person, so that they can hear, see, and feel how excited you are about it. As long as you’re open about your reasons, they will eventually come around – anyone who loves you just wants you to do what is best for you, even if they’re not great at showing it.

EIGHT. On a wedding day with lots of guests, the suppliers you choose will be operating with lots of other staff members and people around. For example, a bride might have hair and make-up done while surrounded by a group of moms and bridesmaids, or photos might be taken while surrounded by hundreds of people. Inevitably, with an elopement, the relationship with the suppliers is much tighter and more intimate – you might be saying your vows to one another with just the celebrant and photographer present for example, and your hair and make-up artist might be the only and first person you see that morning. As a result, I always recommend trying to meet (or video call) your vendor team as much as possible before the day itself, so that when the day comes around, it feels like reuniting with friendly, familiar faces – and the “intimacy” of the day is preserved. If you live in the same country, meeting up with your hair and make-up artist for a trial is a wonderful idea, as is having a couple session with your photographer as I mentioned earlier – so you can start getting to know each other, and preparing for who will be with you during that very special, personal moment.

NINE. You may feel that, because your elopement doesn’t qualify as a typical “event” for venues and suppliers, that it can all be organised more informally. The truth is, it’s still really important to have contracts, invoices, and T&Cs outlined in writing, so give yourself that peace of mind by making sure you speak to each of your suppliers about this. Many European countries still operate on a cash-in-hand basis, and this can be a bit stressful and vague! Make sure you insist on paying the balance before the date, so that you’re not worrying about it on the day – and also so that money transfers can be tracked and recorded. From a legal point of view, each country has different eligibility criteria for legal marriage ceremonies and different timescales needed, so make sure you read up thoroughly on this – or alternatively, you can do the paperwork near home, and create a wonderfully personal symbolic blessing ceremony in the place you’ve chosen to celebrate together. Also on this point, I want to say that – just because this event might seem more informal to you than a larger wedding is, that’s no reasons not to protect yourself with wedding insurance. No matter what your budget is, it’s a lot to lose – so be safe with it.

TEN. The most important of all: don’t ever feel guilty. It’s understandable if you’re feeling worried that your choice may be seen as “selfish” – but it absolutely isn’t. There is nothing selfish about wanting to spend the day you get married with the person you are marrying, and there isn’t a rule that says that anybody has the right to be at your wedding. If you think about it, there are ways in which a larger wedding could even be seen as selfish – asking people to take time off work, to travel, to purchase new clothes maybe, to buy gifts, book accommodation, and give up weekend time to be where you want them to be. The same way guests will do all of the above gladly for the people they love, so can all your family and friends rejoice in accepting your elopement decision. So let go of this burden, and enjoy every moment of having done what’s right for you, for all the right reasons.

Another topic I feel is important to mention now is that it’s good to be prepared for a little bit of a “comedown” after the elopement. I think all brides and grooms feel this to some extent, after having had such a fun celebration with family and friends, and then a magical honeymoon – where reality and routine is set aside for a while to just bask in that bliss of loving each other. For an elopement, this can be felt even more strongly, particularly if there was some secrecy while hatching your plans – it takes a lot of energy to plan something that you want to be perfect, even a simple one, and it’s an emotional rollercoaster that may leave you feeling a bit drained afterwards. There’s also a chance you may look back and wonder if you’ve missed out on some elements of a larger wedding – especially as you meet up with some of your besties and realise you’ve missed them. My advice is to gently remind yourself of all the truths and reasons that led you to your decision, and think of the elopement itself as just the beginning of something – not the end of the planning journey, but the start of a chapter where you and your partner can be even closer, stronger, and more sure of your forever together. Watch your video and scroll through your photographs, and remember just how EPIC and it all was, one of its kind, and perfect in all its imperfections – because it was yours.

Chic and Sophisticated Elopement in London

Ideas on Where to Elope

I thought it would be exciting to finish off this blog post with some inspiration on all the seriously cool places there are for you to elope – the world really is your oyster. Of course, some places are stricter than others when it comes to eligibility requirements for legally-binding marriage ceremonies, but if you’re open to jumping through a few bureaucratic hoops – or, as I’ve mentioned, if you’re open to signing the paperwork at home and having a symbolic blessing for your ceremony – you truly can choose anywhere on the map. If you’re at the beginning of your brainstorms, have a little browse through my elopement photography inspiration Pinterest board, to see if you can identify what vibe resonates most with you.

Here are some ideas for breathtaking places to elope:

Scotland. After spending almost a month there last year, I can firmly say that I have a soft spot for the landscapes of Scotland. There are rugged, dramatic, breathtaking mountains – glistening lochs – and adorable wooden lodges filled with candlelight and nostalgia. This is one for nature and history lovers, a place where every corner hides a fairy legend, and every hearth crackles with warmth. You can also opt to hop on a ferry out to the Isle of Skye, with its velvety moors, jagged mountains, and colossal sea cliffs. The laws for getting married in Scotland are more relaxed than in the UK, which means that, in addition to civil and religious options available if you have enough notice, you can also legally marry almost anywhere by having a humanist ceremony (regardless of where you’re from).

Italy. I’m Italian myself, so this may seem a little biased – but I honestly think Italy has so many treasures to offer couples wanting to elope. There are romantic Palazzos in Venice, rolling vineyards and olive groves in Tuscany, glacial lakes and alpine forests in the Dolomites (Lake Braies is one of my firm favourites) and so much more. It’s important to keep in mind the fortes and the not-so-fortes of Italy when choosing it for your elopement: generally, expect laid-back, slow email replies, website vagueness, and a fairly low level of spoken English. On the flip side, we do a lot of things well: incredible food and wine wherever you go, medieval villages, unconditional hospitality, lovely weather all year round (on average), and almost every type of geographical landscape. Getting married legally in a civil or religious ceremony in Italy is definitely possible – but not easy, not least because of the language barrier and intricately inefficient bureaucracy. Symbolic blessings are very welcome, and encouraged, by most venues, so tend to be the most popular option.

Iceland. This is the next country on mine and my husband’s holiday bucket list –and we’re so excited to get to know it both in summer and in winter. There are beaches of black sand, epic rock formations, and impossibly blue glacial caves. Every photographer I’ve spoken to who has been to Iceland says that there’s just something special about the light here… and every photo makes me fall head over heels in love.So many of the landscapes here give off a dramatic cinematic vibe, so it’s totally perfect for couples who love cosy winters, otherworldly visuals, and moody colours. This is wildness at its best. To get married legally, you’ll need various forms of ID, proof of legal stay in Iceland, a 4-week old certificate of marital status, an application form the District Magistrate of Reykjavik two week prior to the date, and two witnesses. It’s feasible, but definitely requires a little bit of time and effort (more info here).

American & Canadian Wilds. For those of you who think eloping is about that extra effort it takes to get somewhere completely secluded, adventurous, and off the beaten path – this is for you. Lake Louise, in Canada, has turquoise, glacial blue waters and snow-capped mountainsof the Banff National Park; Sundance, Utah, in the Aspens is completely immersed in quiet and crunchy, yellow leaves; Big Sur, California, has towering redwoods and hidden treehouses; Rattlesnake Ridgein the Cascade Mountains just east of Seattle has sheer rock faces and panoramic views; the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico offers striking, surreal views of the endless white dunes, perfect for an ethereal, barefoot adventure; Joshua Tree in California offers up starry nights, lots of cactus, and dreamy sunsets over the desert; and so much more. There are so many outdoor, abandoned, and roofless chapels around the United States as well, which make for very captivating photographs and intimate moments. The best part is that after you say ‘I do’ in these canyons, caverns, mountains and valleys, you can then embark on some awesome adventurous activities – cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, hiking, climbing – or finish your trip in one of North America’s coolest cities, like New York, San Francisco, Miami, New Orleans, Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver. As long as your visa and documents are in check, non-residents are welcome to marry legally in the US.

Spotlight on America: Las Vegas. The legendary elopement capital of the world – and for good reason! Perfect if you want to celebrate in a fun, quirky, playful way. But if you’re not the types to go for a drive-thru wedding in an Elvis costume at The Little White Wedding Chapel, you can always head upstate towards the ski resorts, crystal-clear lakes, and scenic views of Emerald Bay.

Spotlight on America: Hawaii. If you’re imagining sunrise ceremonies, warm weather, lush greenery, and roaring waterfalls, this might be your match. Just you, and the dappled light dancing on the volcanic rock. There are six main islands in Hawaii, each one with its own charm, and some more isolated than others – perfect if you’re looking for somewhere truly private to say your vows. Best of all, its U.S. location means no extra complications in the paperwork or marriage license.

Bali. There’s a reason Bali is still one of the most sought after honeymoon destinations, and it’s the same reason it would be an incredible place to elope: it’s totally drop-dead gorgeous AND has a fascinating culture to get immersed in. You could choose verdant tropical surroundings andrice fields of Ubud – or perhaps a secluded spot in an orchid garden. Getting married legally in most Asian countries is quite tricky for foreigners – but somewhat easier in Bali. If you don’t mind the idea of completing the formalities at home, Bali is a breathtaking place to have a traditional blessing ceremony based on Hindu-Balinese customs. As the popularity of this country increases amidst honeymooners, you’ll also find some stunning luxury hotels if you want a little bit of pampering to be part of the journey.

Fiji. Ok so – Fiji is far away. Maybe just far enough? Fiji is a wonderland of beautiful backdrops, from simple seaside setups, lush jungles, all the way to adult-only exclusive private island hideaways and luxury treehouses. If you can’t choose between mountains or sea, this one is for you. This area of the world (and its 330 islands!) is warm all year round and reliably sunny from July until November, which means you can opt for peak wedding season dates or for more out-of-the-way dates. Legal marriage in Fiji is fairly simple, with many of the island resorts complete a part of the paperwork for you.

Norway and Denmark. If you love the idea of crystal fjords, majestic mountains, and – most importantly – the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights, then Norway should definitely be on your list. Many of Norway’s most beautiful locations are very accessible – and if you don’t mind a few logistics, there are some breathtaking archipelagos perfect for taking a whole week to explore before/after your wedding day! You might be hiking, kayaking with orcas, sleeping under the stars, whale watching – you name it. Most European countries have fairly strict bureaucracy when it comes to marriage for non-residents, but Denmark for example is a rare exception: you only need ID and proof of entering the country legally. If you love historical villages, rolling farmland, and beautiful sea views, then definitely consider the very scenic isle of Ærø.

Santorini, Greece. Having had the chance to work in Greece last year, and several more times coming up in 2020, I knew this one would definitely make my list. We spent a few days making elopement MAGIC in Santorini back in May 2019, and we were all completely blown away by how beautiful this island is. There’s misty volcanic views, aqua blue Mediterranean waters, and hauntingly crisp, sun-bleached towns. It is definitely possible to legally marry in Greece even if you don’t reside there, but, as with most European countries, you need to prepare yourself to put in about 3 months of back-and-forth admin – you will need to collect certain documentation, have it certified, and translated as well.

Australia and New Zealand. If the idea of eloping somewhere really far away lights you up, and you love travel itself being part of the experience, then make sure not to miss Australia and New Zealand off your list. With their wonderful marine life, forests, creeks, mountains, and potential for total seclusion, this is a rightfully popular choice for couples who want to go somewhere they’ve never been before – somewhere roads haven’t made it, and where nature reigns supreme. Non-residents and foreigners are welcome to marry in Australia and New Zealand, as long as the necessary documentation is presented – and in fact they have some of the most liberal legal choices available with regards to wording, venues, and times. You only need to have documents ready one month before the date, and, provided you have the papers, you could marry the day that you arrive from overseas. Also, as long your ceremony is performed by an authorised wedding celebrant or civil marriage celebrant, you are allowed to marry on most beaches and parklands – WIN.

South Africa. If you’re a trail blazer and Africa has been firmly in your bucket list, then definitely consider having your elopement in South Africa – with no residency requirements and straightforward paperwork, you can actually marry in a surprising number of places. And best of all, as you start your honeymoon explorations you’ll already be in a continent fabled for the scale of its natural wonders and wildlife. The otherworldly landscape has volcanic calderas, orange grasslands, misty mountains, tropical waterfalls, sprawling deserts, glistening salt lakes – and the list really does go on.

Mexico. With pristine beaches, the famous Mayan ruins of Tulum, boutique hotels, and exquisite turquoise cenotes (sinkholes), Mexico is very well set-up for those couples wanting to elope somewhere that offers both adventure and luxury. Head here for endless sunshine, white sand, and historic haciendas – but consider having the legal element of your wedding back home, as the bureaucracy of marrying legally here can be a bit confusing. Civil weddings are the only legally recognized weddings in Mexico, and you’ll need four witnesses, as well as a slightly longer-than-average list of paperwork and documentation.

Maldives and Seychelles. If you’re after the ultimate, luxurious castaway experience, then these islands are for you. There are talcum powder white beaches, lush, jungled hills, and views of the Indian Ocean that make you want to stop time forever. Worth keeping in mind that the Maldives has stricter residency requirements when it comes to getting married, but only a two day stay (and your birth certificates) is needed to legally tie the knot in the Seychelles. Most resorts will offer packages – so may not be for you if you don’t like the “p” word (but let’s face it, you may be willing to get over that for those views…).

Peru. While living in Brazil as a teenager, I had the great joy of getting to know most of South America with my parents. Visiting the ruins of Macchu Picchu truly blew my mind – and only now am I realising what a spectacular place this would be to elope. Worth keeping in mind however that weddings taking place here aren’t legal – but spiritual seekers looking to make a symbolic commitment to one another can choose to have a traditional ‘Arac Masin’, or Andean wedding, among stunning sacred Inca sites (officiated by an Andean priest, and conducted in the native Quechua language). Perfect for those wanting a simple but deeply spiritual ritual, and a backdrop full of myths and legends.


I hope this has helped in finding a positive, constructive mindset for planning your elopement. Remember that, when it comes to marrying the love of your life, you make the rules – you can define what luxury and tradition means to you, and you can place your values at the very core of every decision.

If this sounds right for you, and you’d like some support in planning this wonderful experience, I’m your person – so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Yours,

Valentina

All photos in the blog post were taken by the lovely Sofia Veres Photography.