How to Elope: Your Comprehensive Guide

The feet of a couple, one in a suit and one in wedding dress sitting on a wooden jetty looking out to sea

Perhaps the big question has been popped, or you and your partner have mutually decided you would like to get married. Congratulations! Once the celebrations have come to a close and you’re ready to start thinking about the future, it’s time to start planning.

But perhaps a big, traditional wedding just doesn’t feel right for the two of you? Getting married is an incredibly intimate affair, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ceremonies and celebrations. Perhaps the thought of spending thousands upon thousands on a lavish day doesn’t suit you, despite expectations and traditions. But what else can you do? What is the alternative?

Have you considered eloping? 

What does “elope” mean?

Traditionally, eloping means you and your partner heading off to a location you don’t reveal to your friends and families, to tie the knot in complete privacy. These days, the term is a little bit more flexible.

Although some do still elope without revealing their plans to their loved ones, often, that is no longer the case. Some couples choose to marry elsewhere on their own, but let their friends and families know beforehand what they plan to do, so they can share in the joy without necessarily attending the big day.

Equally often, elopements can now include involving a very small number of loved ones, who you can ask to come to the elopement ceremony, and any small reception afterwards (this is usually no more than 10 people.) The term “elopements” and “intimate weddings” are often used interchangeably for those planning elopement-style ceremonies where loved ones can get involved.

How to plan an elopement

So, now you know exactly what elopement entails, and you know whether or not it feels right to you to elope with your partner, the next exciting step is to get the planning underway. But with an elopement, often, comes heading abroad. How do you even start planning a ceremony in a faraway destination? What is the first thing you need to do? 

Well, we’re here to answer all your questions and help ensure that your elopement planning process runs smoothly. 

Decide your budget

Before you can decide anything, you need to have a figure in mind for your budget. Although elopements are typically cheaper than traditional weddings, the price can go up for several reasons; if you have decided to invite people, you want to purchase a traditional wedding dress, or you want to go on a honeymoon afterwards, for example.

Once you have decided your budget, you can then begin shopping around to get an idea of prices, which will also help you decide when, and most importantly, where to elope.

So make sure you don’t start planning until you have this rough figure in your mind.

What type of elopement?

just married man and woman in front of eiffel tower

Next, you and your partner need to consider what exactly you would like out of your elopement. The beauty of tying the knot in this way, is that there really are no end to possibilities, and you can customize your day completely based on your personalities and priorities. Here are some things to consider as you work out what type of elopement you would like – we recommend grabbing yourself a planner or notebook and noting down whatever you think of as you consider these points:

  • What type of destination do you imagine saying “I do?” Can you see yourself up in the mountains, in front of a fairytale-style waterfall, or with sand between your toes and the ocean lapping at your ankles? Close your eyes and imagine you and your partner getting married – what does the scenery look like? Where would you both be happiest?
  • How would you like to celebrate? Do you want to go for a picnic once you are married? A drinks reception, or a candlelit dinner on the beach? If you’re inviting any family, do you want to do the traditional wedding breakfast?
  • Consider whether you do want to be completely alone as you tie the knot, or would prefer to have a few friends and family members witnessing the occasion. Would you regret not having anyone there? Or would being alone give you the most romantic experience you could possibly imagine? Weigh up the options of marrying alone versus accompanied by a select few loved ones.
  • The beauty of an elopement means you don’t need to stick to the traditional time table. Want to get married early in the morning at sunrise? Or perhaps at sunset? Do you want to get married in the early afternoon and spend the rest of the day in the spa, or celebrating with a traditional drinks reception and meal? Work out exactly what you want out of your day, and when exactly you would like to get married.
  • In the interest of having an incredible ceremony anywhere in the world and at any location, couples sometimes register their marriage before they jet off for their big day, as it gives them the freedom to enjoy a symbolic ceremony, in places where a legal wedding isn’t possible. Registering a marriage before your elopement gives you the freedom to enjoy the ceremony in any way you want. However, to some couples, it is important that the elopement ceremony is legally binding. Keep in mind what you would prefer, and whether it is important to you for the ceremony itself to be legal, as you find out where you can marry.
  • Do you want to combine your elopement with your honeymoon? Consider whether you want to marry in a destination you also want to enjoy a honeymoon, or whether you would prefer to jet off to somewhere new afterwards.

Decide when and where to elope

Now that you have considered the big-picture questions, you should have more details and desires for your elopement sorted. When you know what you want from your day, you can now start hunting for the location where you can make it happen.

Where and when you elope really is up to you. You can go anywhere in the world; whether somewhere that holds meaning for the two of you, somewhere new and exciting, or somewhere that simply ticks a lot of boxes for what you are looking for. You can make a list of destinations; whether by country or zoned in on particular locations within those countries, that you can narrow down later.

In order to narrow down your chosen destinations, begin your search for your dream ceremony destination. This may take quite a while, so do take your time and don’t rush; wherever you choose needs to feel right for you. 

To find venues, Google is definitely your friend. You can type in your destination name, along with “elopement venue” or words to describe the type of ceremony you are looking for, such as “beach elopement” or “mountain elopement.” Really dig into your research here, and keep notes as you go in case you want to double back. Here is the time to take the reins and dig out the ceremony venue of your dreams.

What will the weather be like?

As you choose your destination, of course, it is always important to consider the weather. Depending on where you go and what time of year you go, you will need to consider the possibility of rain, and in destinations such as the Caribbean, hurricane season. For hotter destinations, keep in mind that heat could be too much.

If you want to get married outside, it is definitely something to be aware of as you zone in on your venue. Of course, if you are getting married inside, it is less of a worry, but if you want the flexibility to, for example, go on excursions and trips around your ceremony date, the possibility of rain needs to be kept in mind.

What is the law at your chosen elopement destination?

Do you remember where we mentioned to keep in find whether or not you want a legal wedding at the time? Make sure, when you know what you want, you check the law at your chosen destination. If you want to get legally married at the time but your chosen destination only offers symbolic ceremonies due to legal restrictions, you will find yourself very disappointed. Make sure you spend a good amount of time checking the requirements and legality of tying the knot at the destination.

Of course, if you are happy to register your marriage at home beforehand and enjoy a symbolic ceremony, the legality is less of an issue. 

To announce, or not to announce?

table in the countryside with cushions

Whether or not you are inviting loved ones to witness your elopement, you need to decide whether to announce your intentions beforehand.

If you are eloping completely on your own, do you want your friends and family to know before you go? Or would you rather them know once you are married?

If select friends and family are invited, would you want others to know about the occasion beforehand? Some risks here include;

  • Not telling some family members and friends, when others are invited, may cause upset
  • Telling others beforehand runs the risk of them asking to come, which may be uncomfortable. 

You will need to decide what you are most comfortable with, and depending on your personal circumstances and circle of friends and family, what you will be happier telling them. 

Prioritize the important, boring stuff first

So, you know what your budget is,  what you want, where you want to go, and you know who is coming – fantastic! It’s time to think about booking. But before you do, the most important details need to be considered before you get to the fun stuff.

  • Sort out the law first: Do you need to register your intent to marry at home? Do you need a license to get married at your chosen destination? Do you need to register your marriage at home first? Get these details straight before you do anything, and make sure you know what you need to do and when.
  • Insurance: On top of your typical travel insurance, which will protect you in the event of lost luggage or on the unlikely chance you may need medical care, consider whether you also need wedding insurance. This will protect you if, for whatever reason, it cannot go ahead. Shop around to find the right insurance that gives you the right cover for what you need.
  • Visas and passports: If you’re heading abroad, as you would on any vacation, you need to make sure you are eligible for a visa for your chosen destination, if one is needed at all, and you need to make sure you have a valid, in date passport.

Book your ceremony and celebration

elopement ceremony arch with flowers

Now, you’ve got the serious considerations out of the way and prepped, it’s time for the best part of elopement planning! 

Book your ceremony venue. If you are nervous about booking something that is so far way, often, these venues will offer coordinators who will help you get every detail sorted later on. Once it is booked, make sure you keep the details and booking safe.

Next, book what you want to do after the ceremony. Are you enjoying a meal with your family? Off to the spa? Or dreaming of that candlelit dinner, just for you two? Whatever it is, make sure you get it booked up so the main events of your day are prepared and ready to go. 

Are the ceremony and celebration areas separate from each other? Make sure you arrange transport to get between the two – not forgetting getting to and from the ceremony and your accommodation!

Speaking of accommodation, make sure you book that next, so you have somewhere to come home to throughout your elopement. Whether you are fitting it into a weekend, or going for an extended stay, your accommodation has a serious impact on the overall experience, so make sure you choose somewhere that will contribute to the magic. We highly recommend booking a luxury villa for the occasion, whether just for you two or for all your elopement guests, as you can enjoy complete privacy, flexibility, and comfort, which is of course, essential for your big day.

Make sure too you get your flights booked, and keep the details safe. Along the same time, if you need any airport parking, accommodation the night before your flights, and any pet care to keep your fluffy family members safe while you’re getting married, then make sure to tick all that off too.

Book the little details

Now the major points of your elopement are signed and sealed, it’s time to think about the details, and get researching and booking up. Things to consider include

  • Ceremony decoration
  • Music
  • Rings
  • Flowers
  • Wedding wear, including shoes, a veil if needed, and any jewelry.
  • Any personal touches such as personalized vow books

Go get eloped!

It’s time! You’ve planned everything intricately, got everything booked up and sorted, and the months have flown past. All that’s left to do is enjoy the fruits of your efforts, and go and enjoy a magical elopement with your partner. Have a fantastic time!

How to plan an elopement – recap

couple walking on the beach
  • Before you do anything, make sure you have a rough budget in mind for your elopement.
  • Decide what kind of elopement you would like – for example, would you like a short evening affair? Would you like to celebrate afterwards? Would you like friends and family to be there?
  • Decide when and where you would like to elope, keeping the weather and the legality of any ceremony at your destination in mind.
  • Decide whether or not you would like to announce your elopement to friends and families before you go, keeping in mind the pros and cons of doing so.
  • Prioritize the boring stuff before you get to the fun part of elopement planning, such as passports, visas, and insurance.
  • Start to book the big picture elements of your day first, including the ceremony, accommodation, flights, and any celebrations you wish to enjoy.
  • Move on to the finer details of the wedding, such as flowers, wedding wear, and any personal touches. Don’t forget to get your photography and any videography for the day booked in too.
  • Make sure all loose ends are tied together before you set off for your big day.

Eloping vs wedding

Still not sure whether you want to elope or enjoy a traditional wedding at home? Have a look at our pros and cons list of eloping over a normal wedding, to help you make that final, big decision.

Pros of Eloping

  • Your day, exactly how you want it
  • Your budget can often stretch further
  • Enjoy activities and experiences that aren’t as usual for a traditional wedding day.
  • Incredible locations all over the world. Your destination is your choice
  • Stay in incredible, luxury accommodation close to your elopement spot
  • Flexible
  • More freedom
  • Intimate and romantic

Cons of eloping

  • Lots of prep and planning in a destination you may not have been to before
  • Family and friends may be disappointed to not be invited 
  • You may not be able to enjoy some traditions you may enjoy, including any family traditions
  • You may wish you had invited some more people

Frequently asked questions about eloping

How much does it cost to elope?

The cost of an elopement completely varies depending on what you want to do, how you want your day to go, and where you want to tie the knot.

For example, if you are a US citizen hoping to get married somewhere within your own state, and are looking forward to an unfussy, private meal together afterwards, you could expect to pay anywhere between $1000 dollars and $2000 dollars if you are keeping costs low. However, if you are heading to a luxury resort with all the bells and whistles, and a meal for, for example, 15 close family members and friends, an elopement could easily cost upwards of $10,000. But the beauty of eloping is that it can pretty much cost what you want it to cost and what you can budget for, as the day is completely flexible, and yours to what you want with.

How long does it take to plan an elopement?

table beside a lake with ceremony arch

However long you want it to! The point of a traditional elopement is to make the whole experience, planning included, as stress-free as possible. That means you can plan and get eloped in as little as a few weeks if you really wanted to. However, a typical timeline for a modern-day elopement includes around a year or more of planning, with a vacation and extra activities to enjoy in the days surrounding the ceremony.

How to announce an elopement

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to announcing an elopement. You can let others know however you see fit, and whatever feels comfortable to you. Many people elope in order to reduce the stress of a traditional wedding, and enjoy a more relaxed experience, and making the announcement is no exception.

It can be as simple as simply letting your closest friends and family know first, either in person or by giving them a call, and then posting on social media. It can also be as extravagant as hosting a small get together, and revealing the elopement in a fun way there, either once you have already tied the knot, or before you head off.

An elopement announcement is completely personal and dependent on your personal circumstance, so simply go with the flow, consider your options, and do whatever feels right for you and your partner.

How to make an elopement special

An elopement is a completely personal and intimate affair, intended to give you and your partner exactly what you are dreaming of.

The best way to make your elopement special is firstly, to make the day everything you want, and do not take into account the opinions of others about your plans, if you don’t want to. This is a day for you two to dedicate to celebrating your relationship, by doing what you two enjoy, and not what others want for you. If your dream is a wedding in the mountains, or a private candlelit dinner on the beach, then do it, and don’t worry about what others might want for you.

Another easy way to make an elopement special is by adding extra, personal touches. Why not bring along a beloved family pet, write your own vows, or wear jewelry gifted for a first Christmas – personal touches are a great way to make the elopement feel both more intimate and more memorable.

If you are going away for your elopement, an amazing way to make the whole experience special is by ensuring you are booking into luxury accommodation, somewhere where the two of you can truly unwind in stunning surroundings and in peace and quiet. A sumptuous villa with comfortable furnishings, private pools and gardens, and located close to everything you need, is a fantastic option for your elopement.

How long does it take to elope?

Depending on how long you want to spend on your elopement, it could take as little as the length of the ceremony itself (around an hour), a weekend away, or the entirety of a vacation abroad (a week or more, perhaps.) When it comes to eloping, the choice truly is yours.

Luxury accommodation for your elopement

Seminyak 2629 - Villa Ubud pool

At the end of an incredible day celebrating your relationship with your partner, continue the experience by coming home to true luxury and style, with one of our beautiful vacation villas.

Hand-picked by our experts, and in the best destinations across the world, our homes are perfect for couples really seeking to indulge themselves in comfort for their elopement. We have homes to suit everyone; from smaller properties that are perfect for two, to larger, mansion-style homes for all the family, with private pools, games rooms, and incredible views. Whatever you’re looking for, we’re sure to have it.

Browse the stunning villas at your chosen location, and make your elopement dreams come true.