How to Get Married and Plan a Destination Elopement
For any couple that dreams of adventure – who craves a unique experience for their wedding day, for which a wedding venue in their hometown just won’t cut it, eloping in Europe can be the ultimate way to start off your marriage!
Imagine jetting off to a country you’ve never visited (or maybe one you already love), and exploring the rugged landscapes and scenery – then saying your vows in one of the most beautiful places on earth. One of the best things about eloping is that a short, or totally nonexistent, guest list gives you more freedom to choose where you get married. You can find the best places to elope in, and while you’re saving money on catering for 200, invest in travel, and experiences that matter to you! Planning an elopement comes with its own unique challenges, but add international travel to the mix and it can seem overwhelming. But don’t worry, this guide will tell you all about how to plan a destination elopement, and everything you’ll need to know about eloping in Europe.
Should You Invite Guests to Your Destination Elopement?
One of the first things you’ll want to do when you’re eloping in Europe is to decide if you will want to invite guests. If you do decide that you’d like guests, whether it be family or close friends, you’ll want to start discussing it with anyone you’re considering inviting. A destination elopement requires a little more preparation than the average wedding when you invite guests, as your guests will need to think about flights and accommodations, and possibly time off from work to travel. So it’s best to loop them in on your plans early!
Keep in mind that if this step ends with you deciding that you don’t want any guests along for your destination elopement, that’s totally okay! Many of my couples choose to celebrate their elopement, just the two of them. Deciding to elope just the two of you can not only give you the intimacy you want for your wedding day, but can also help guide your travel plans, since you won’t have to worry about accommodating others. Whichever you decide, this is about making sure that your wedding day goes exactly the way you want it to go – and if you see it being just the two of you or inviting a handful of guests, your elopement destination is going to be incredible.
The Cost of Eloping in Europe
Making a budget is definitely an important part of planning your destination elopement. Europe can be expensive, so be realistic with your budget – but keep in mind that this is a once in a lifetime kind of thing, so don’t be afraid to invest in your day! Spending money on experiences instead of things is a big perk of eloping. It’s common for couples that elope to put their wedding budget towards activities and experiences they’ll love.
Because every elopement is so different – you could spend a week backpacking or spend a week in a luxury resort – it’s hard to estimate the cost of eloping in Europe. Keep in mind your destination will play a large factor in how much it will cost to elope in Europe. For example, if you want to elope in Iceland, you can expect Icelandair flights to be in and around <$1,000 whereas flights to Scotland can be more in the $1,800 – $2,500 range. Some unique expenses you can expect in a destination elopement include lodging, food and any activities or excursions you’re adding to your itinerary. Apart from eloping, you’ll still have some of the regular wedding costs, like attire, rings, marriage licenses, and vendors.
The Best Time to Elope in Europe
If you aren’t sure where exactly you want to elope in Europe, first you’ll want to narrow down locations based on the priorities for your elopement such as expected travel costs, accessibility, season and crowds. Once you decide what priorities are most important to you, you’ll want to decide on a ceremony date.
Weather in Europe
Of course, Europe is pretty big – and between the different countries, and even within those countries, the weather will vary a ton. The best time of year for eloping in Europe will depend on what you want to do, and where you want to go. Some countries in Europe will have more tourists in the summer months, while others may be popular for a winter getaway.
Summer is generally the best time to visit Europe – the mountains are free of snow, and the beaches are warm and sunny. Spring and fall can be great too, as the weather is often favorable but the crowds are much thinner – however, in higher elevation areas, snow often remains into the summer months. Generally, coastal areas, such as in Greece and Italy, will experience less dramatic weather than somewhere like Iceland, making it easier to elope in the off season. But if a dreamy winter elopement speaks to you, a nordic country like Iceland can be a good option to consider.
Avoiding Crowds When Eloping in Europe
Good weather coincides with peak season, so summers in Europe are always the busiest! However, even if you elope in the summer, planning your elopement for a week day will help ensure that you get some privacy.
The Best Places to Elope in Europe
Your options for places to elope in Europe are basically endless – each country is unique, with so much to offer! Getting married in a foreign country doesn’t have to be difficult! Eloping is Europe can sound like a farfetched dream, but don’t worry, here are some of the best places to elope in Europe (including my personal favorites), to help you start narrowing things down.
Europe Location #1: Eloping in Iceland
Iceland is basically paradise for any adventurer! The landscape is wild and rugged, and though it’s seen a boom in tourism in recent years, there are plenty of remote places where you can explore the fjords, valleys, glaciers, waterfalls, and all the otherworldly sights Iceland has to offer. There’s also tons of unique activities and excursions to fill your itinerary, so you won’t run out of things to do. If you dream of your Europe elopement being a location where you can relax and soak up the beauty of the outdoors, Iceland is the best country to get married! A perk about eloping in Iceland is that the marriage paperwork is relatively easy compared to other European countries. In my opinion, if you’re a couple who loves the outdoors and wants to elope in a location surrounded by diverse landscape while having a more intimate travel experience both in the city and in nature, Iceland is the perfect country for your destination elopement.
Europe Location #2: Eloping in Italy
Whether you visit the Dolomites for some mountain adventures, or you pop into the city for some authentic pasta (why not both?), eloping in Italy is bound to be an experience you’ll never forget. The country is surrounded by beautiful beaches, while the interior is divided by mountain ranges. Having your elopement in Italy is a great option for couples who want a mix of the fast pace city life while still having the option to travel a few hours for more seclusion. For information on how to obtain your marriage license, you can check out the US Embassy in Italy for details on the requirement documents and processes.
Europe Location #3: Eloping in Scotland
Scotland is a country filled with heritage, history and epic landscapes making it an amazing location to elope. It’s also noted that Scotland is full of tradition, many of which couples choose to include as part of their elopement. Scotland really looks like it came out of a fairytale. Between the ancient castles, dense woodlands, and rolling hills, there’s so much scenery to explore. Another cool thing about choosing Scotland for your elopement, is that you can get married anywhere in the country with an officiant; giving you an endless list of locations. So whether you dream of eloping at a castle or in the Highlands, Scotland is an amazing location for eloping. Here’s some more details on the marriage license requirements and how to get started!
Eloping in Greece
The white sand beaches and white washed adorable houses that dot the coast of Greece are famous for being a prime destination to relax and unwind. Whether you want to experience the clear blue waters around the islands, or head inland and explore the mountains and forests, you’ll have a ton of options for how you spend your day. While Greece is still one of the best places to elope in Europe, it should be noted that Greece requires a bit more paperwork to legalize your marriage. But don’t let that scare you! If you find an elopement photographer who can also guide you on planning your destination elopement, it will be a piece of cake!
Eloping in Ireland
The low valleys of Ireland are surrounded by coastal mountains, and you’ll find some of the most incredible greenery and rugged landscapes. You can explore the cliffs shaped by the ocean, like the cliffs of Moher, or head inland for rolling green pastures and adorable villages. There are several requirements for eloping in Ireland depending on if you choose to get married in Northern Ireland or in the Republic. Whichever you decide, Ireland is not only filled with stunning landscapes, but is also rich in history, giving it another vote for one of the best places to elope in Europe.
Getting Married in Europe – Legally
There’s another aspect to eloping in Europe outside of adventures and incredible scenery – and that’s getting legally married! When you’re planning a destination elopement, make sure to research local marriage laws for your location, as they vary by country. The US Embassy will have some resources about getting married abroad, but make sure to do your research as things change all the time!
A lot of couples choose to do the paperwork at home – which I recommend considering if you’re eloping in one of the countries mentioned above (except Iceland). Figuring out the logistics of getting legally married abroad can be time consuming, and some countries (like some I’ve mentioned above) can make it an especially lengthy process. By doing the legal stuff at home, you can spend your elopement day focusing on adventures and spending the day together, rather than worrying about paperwork! Your marriage doesn’t really start until you say your vows, anyway.
Destination Elopement Packages
Planning a ceremony (even a small one), is stressful enough – but planning one in a different country, one that you possibly haven’t even been to, is a whole other challenge! As a destination elopement photographer, my goal is to make this as stress free as possible, which means I’ll guide you throughout the entire process. From finding the right spot to getting the right permits, that way you can focus on your love while having an unforgettable elopement experience !
One more thing to consider when you’re eloping in Europe – your photographer may need a work visa, so make sure they’re up to date on all the legal requirements. Luckily I know someone with a work visa, who’s got her passport ready and can help you plan your elopement! Contact me, and let’s talk about destination elopement packages, eloping in Europe, and how we can make sure you get the one of a kind wedding day you’re dreaming of.