Where to Elope: How to Choose Your Dream ‘I Do’ Destination

Deciding to elope is incredibly exciting — congratulations on choosing a path that’s as unique as your love story!! Now it’s time for the next big step, figuring out where to elope. It’s not just about picking a spot on the map; it’s about finding a place that feels like it was meant just for the two of you. Whether it’s under a sprawling desert sky, on a secluded mountain peak, or in a charming coastal town bustling with life, let’s dive right on in and find the perfect setting for your big day.

Why Elope?

Opting to elope is like taking the scenic route in love — it’s way more about you two and less about the big show. Elopements ditch that whole unsavory “wedding as a spectacle/performance” vibe, boiling it down to what it’s really supposed to be about: you two making a promise to each other. It’s your shot to shape your experience around the stuff that truly counts to you, whether that’s sharing vows as the sun comes up on a hidden beach or saying your I do’s amongst towering redwood forests. Elopements are the freaking best because they’re so packed with meaning, they’re super intimate, and they’re completely customizable. It’s all about putting together an experience that mirrors your story, your bond, and all those big dreams you’ve got for what comes next.

Where to Elope: Local vs. Domestic vs. International

Picking where to elope is kind of like choosing between grabbing a coffee from your go-to spot around the corner, hitting up that trendy new bistro across town, or jet-setting to a café in Paris. Each option has its own flavor and vibe.

Local is your cozy sweater of elopement spots. It’s easy, comfy, and feels like home because, well, it is home. Choosing to say “I do” in your own backyard (figuratively, or hey, maybe literally) keeps things simple and sweet.

Domestic destinations are your chance to spice things up without needing a passport. Think of it as a little adventure that doesn’t ask you to stray too far from your comfort zone. Truly, we are so blessed with so much incredible scenery in the US so you may as well get out there and experience it! Whether it’s saying your vows with epic views at a national park or soaking in the vibe of a city you’ve always wanted to explore together, it’s about finding new experiences within your own borders. It’s the perfect middle path — new sceneries but without language barriers.

International spots? Well, they’re the whole “let’s live our lives to the fullest and make this the adventure of a lifetime” kind of choice. Going international for your elopement is like diving into a whole new world together — new cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and maybe even a dash of the unknown. It’s for those who dream of making their “I do” moment as grand as the love they share, with a backdrop that’s as unforgettable as their story.

So, whether you’re all about keeping it close and cozy, ready for a little domestic exploration, or itching to stamp your passports, there’s a perfect spot out there for you to tie the knot. It’s all about what feels right for your hearts and the kind of memories you want to make.

Getting Down to Business (to Defeat the Huns): What’s Your Vibe?

Let’s chat about what kind of vibe you’re going for when considering where to elope. Are we talking sunny coastal vibes like Big Sur or the Mediterranean, or maybe something more tropical like Hawaii, Tulum, or Bali? If mysterious and moody landscapes are your jam, consider the Pacific Northwest, Iceland, or the Faroe Islands. If the desert is calling your name, check out spots like Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Sedona, and Moab! Or maybe majestic mountains are your vibe – the Swiss Alps, the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, or the North Cascades are all excellent options. Each destination offers its own unique magic, inviting you to not just exchange vows but to embark on an adventure that begins the story of your life together.

Or maybe you’re not sure yet, and that’s totally fine! As an elopement photographer myself, it’s pretty common for couples to come to me not knowing where they want to elope, and this is something I can absolutely help you with during your discovery call. The process of figuring out where to elope is all about dreaming big and finding what feels right. If I can offer you any advice, I’d say to start with your daydreams — they’re the compass pointing you to your ideal elopement destination. 😉

Consider Your Elopement Budget

While elopements can sometimes come with a smaller price tag than big traditional weddings, saving money shouldn’t be the main reason you choose to elope. It’s more about creating an intimate, meaningful celebration that reflects your relationship and gives you incredible, life-affirming core memories to look back on.

That said, finding a dreamy destination that doesn’t drain your savings is definitely a win. Spots like Tulum, Bali, and Santorini are gems for anyone looking for affordable luxury, offering stunning settings without the steep costs often associated with a high-end vibe. These places prove that you can enjoy breathtaking beauty and luxury on a budget, making them perfect picks for your elopement.

Where to Elope: How Far Off the Beaten Path Do You Want to Go?

Think about your ideal level of seclusion versus convenience. If you’re dreaming of an off-the-grid ceremony but still want to hire vendors like a glam squad for hair and makeup or a private chef for a gourmet meal, consider locations that strike a balance — remote enough to feel private but close enough to towns for that touch of convenience.

When to Elope: How to Avoid Crowds

Here’s a little insider tip: why not tie the knot during those quieter off- and shoulder-seasons? These periods offer a chance to experience your destination without the usual crowds, making your elopement feel more intimate and authentic. If you’re planning to elope during peak times, choosing a weekday can help maintain that sense of privacy and relaxation – bonus points if you have your ceremony at sunrise before everyone else wakes up. This approach lets you enjoy the best parts of your chosen spot, ensuring your elopement feels personal and true to you. And if you elope during the off-season, you can also save big time on travel costs – it’s a win-win!

Figuring Out Your Lodging

Picking where to stay for any trip, especially an elopement, is like choosing the perfect backdrop for your favorite photo. It sets the tone for everything and is a big part of the story! It’s where you’ll be getting ready and also where you might have your first look and hang with loved ones. You want somewhere that not only feels comfy, but also fits the vibe of your adventure and photographs well. Reach out to your elopement photographer and they’ll most definitely have recommendations. (Also be sure to ask the accomodations you’re looking at about their event and professional photography policies.)

Whether you’re after a cozy cabin nestled in the woods, a sweet resort in the mountains, or an overwater bungalow where the waves are your wake-up call, finding that just-right spot is key to making your stay memorable. Think about what makes you smile, the experiences you’re craving, and let that guide you! After all, it’s not just about a place to crash; it’s about choosing a home base that’ll be part of your stories for years to come.

Hiring Your Vendors

Hiring local talent adds regional flair but requires your effort in planning and coordination. Luckily, many elopement photographers these days (yours truly included) help out with the planning bits. For example, I toss in awesome vendor recommendations to make things smoother for you as part of your package. Need an awesome HMUA, florist or private chef? I gotchu. If you’re DIY-ing it, keep an eye out for vendors who’ve got elopement experience.

Consider Your Comfort

Exotic spots are cool, but being comfy is key! Your elopement should be fun, not a test of endurance. Love the beach or the mountains? Go with what feels right for you both. This special moment in your lives is all about your happiness. Keep it simple and follow your hearts to a place that feels just right, reflecting your love and dreams. Find a spot that makes both of you super excited!

Navigating the Practical Stuff: Local Laws and Symbolic Ceremonies

Yes, there’s a bit of homework to do with local marriage laws, but don’t let that dampen your spirits. Each place has its rules, and it’s all about finding what works for you. Here’s a little elopement secret: lots of couples opt for a chill symbolic ceremony in their dream spot and sort out the paperwork at home. It’s a breezy way to open up awesome, stress-free places for saying “I do” worldwide.

Are you eloping in the States and wondering where you can get married just with yourselves or an officiant? Check out this article which covers self-solemnization in the US in more detail.

The Guest Question

Choosing to invite guests, eloping in secret, or having a later party? It’s all about what vibes with you two. Some couples prefer keeping it just between them; others want a few special folks there. It’s totally your call. Throwing a bash later is a great way to spread the elopement happiness further (and to show off your photos 😏.)

Thinking of having guests? Consider the setting – a national park, an Airbnb, or maybe a special venue. (Side note: if you’re wanting to elope at an Airbnb, be sure to reach out before booking to see thier policies around events and professional photography!) Planning a meal to celebrate? Whether it’s a fancy dinner setup or a laid-back pizza get-together, make it yours. Your elopement photographer or planner can help pick the ideal spot.

Making It Memorable

Your elopement is your chance to sprinkle in all those personal bits that scream ‘us.’ Wondering what to do? Say you’re heading to the Grand Tetons – how about some horseback riding? Or if you’re by the coast, think boat rides or a quick swim. Got a knack for music? Serenade your partner! Dive into what makes your duo tick and thread those unique bits into your day. It’s all about making each moment feel like a snapshot of your adventure together.

Where to Elope: A Few of My Favorite Elopement Locations

  1. Cannon Beach
  2. Olympic National Park
  3. Bali
  4. Joshua Tree National Park
  5. Amalfi Coast
  6. Moab
  7. Iceland
  8. Lake Powell
  9. Tulum
  10. Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor
  11. The Redwoods
  12. Los Cabos
  13. Minnesota’s North Shore
  14. Santorini
  15. Grand Tetons National Park
  16. Faroe Islands
  17. Badlands National Park
  18. The Dolomites
  19. Glacier National Park
  20. Mykonos

Tying it All Together

Choosing where you are going to elope is just the beginning. It’s not just about the location; it’s about creating an experience that reflects your relationship and the journey ahead. Whether it’s a secluded forest, a historic village, or a quiet beach, the right place feels like a natural fit for both of you.

Eloping gives you the freedom to celebrate in your own unique way. Every choice, from the location to the little details, contributes to an experience you’ll always remember.

At the heart of it all, eloping underscores that a wedding is really about you and your love. Finding a place that resonates with you both can make your vows much more meaningful. As you consider where to elope, think of the endless possibilities out there, ready to serve as the backdrop for your vows. Eloping gives you so much freedom, so take advantage of it! Dream big!

In the end, it’s not so much about where you are, but that you’re in it together. It’s all about love, making promises, and looking forward to your future. Here’s to kicking off your journey with the perfect spot for your elopement, setting the scene for everything that follows. 🖤

Related Resources:

How to Plan Your Elopement Timeline

How to Self-Solemnize

Hey there, friend

How's it going? The name's Luke, and I'm an elopement photographer and planner for creative travel-lovers who want to live life to the fullest on their wedding day.

I help you figure out where in the world to elope, send you location recommendations in the area you've chosen, connect you with the best local vendors, and also co-create a completely customized timeline for your ultimate elopement experience. Interested? Send me an owl!

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