The Ultimate Guide to Eloping in The UK or Abroad
Published date: 11th December 2020 | Author: Lucy Dodsworth
Whether you’re looking to avoid the expense of a big wedding, the stress of venue-hunting or just want to keep things simple, elopement is becoming increasingly popular. Eloping is a chance to get married without a lot of fuss, taking your special day back to the essentials – the two of you pledging your love for each other, whether at home or abroad. But what do you need to know about eloping, and where is the best place to elope to? Our ultimate guide to elopements has everything you need to know.
What Is Elopement?
The dictionary definition of eloping is to ‘run away secretly in order to get married’. Today elopement is normally used to refer to a couple travelling somewhere to legally marry without telling or inviting their family and friends. But as you’ll see, even that is open to interpretation.
Why Do Couples Elope?
Historically couples often eloped to avoid the disapproval of family members, but today there are a wide range of reasons to consider an elopement:
Weddings can be expensive – a traditional wedding is now estimated to cost almost £32,000 in the UK – so even if you choose somewhere exotic to elope to it’s still likely to save you money.
Planning a wedding can be stressful. From choosing the prefect venue and dress to deciding on the decorations, music and food, there are a lot of decisions to make. Eloping helps keep things simple by taking your wedding day back to basics.
Deciding who to makes the guest list, whether or not to invite plus ones or children and managing divorced parents and blended families can cause conflict on your big day. Eloping means you can bypass difficult decisions and save people’s feelings.
Often couples who have been married before or who are older might decide to skip the traditional white wedding and go for something more intimate and low-key by eloping.
Doing something unique
Without pressure from other people, elopements are a chance to have the wedding you want – location, dress, food, ceremony, all can be as lavish or as simple, as classic or as off-the-wall as you like, so you can have your day your way.
With coronavirus meaning limits on how many guests you can have at weddings and rules on receptions in the UK – all of which are subject to change at any time – more people are deciding to elope, then have a big party back home when we’re able to socialise again.
What Are The Rules On Elopement?
Each country has different rules regarding the legalities of marriage, so if you are planning on eloping abroad it’s important to check what formalities you need to follow.
In the UK you have to give notice to marry at least 28 days before the ceremony and include details of where you’ll be getting married. You will need to book a location and an officiant (whether that’s a registry office, licensed venue, or celebrant) in advance. Then on the day, you need to have two witnesses.
In other countries, only residents can legally marry or you may need to be in the country for a certain amount of time before the ceremony. So make sure to do your research – the UK government website has details of legal requirements in different countries. Or there are many companies offering elopement planning services in different countries who can help you tackle the formalities, which can be particularly useful if you don’t speak the local language.
But beyond the legalities, how you elope is up to you. Traditionally elopement meant the couple didn’t tell anyone until after they were married, but today many let their friends and family know in advance, and some even invite their parents or close friends along as witnesses. You can get engaged first or go straight to the wedding. Wear a big white dress or tie the knot in shorts and flip flops. Celebrate with a Michelin-starred meal or a picnic on the beach. The choice is yours.
How Much Does Eloping Cost?
The cost of elopements varies depending on where you choose to get married and how simple you want the event to be. But whatever you choose it’s still likely to be considerably less expensive than a traditional wedding.
As well as the costs of a venue and ceremony, unless you book a package, you will also need to factor in travel and accommodation, food, outfits, a photographer and any extras such as hair styling, make up and flowers.
In the UK it costs £70 to give notice and around £300–£500 for a registrar – or you can book a package including accommodation, witnesses, food, a photographer, flowers and make up for around £2000. In the US you will pay around £80 for a registry office ceremony in New York or £400 for a basic wedding package in Las Vegas. Or you can book a package to the Caribbean for around £1500 per person, with some destinations including weddings at no extra cost.
Eloping Dos And Don'ts
- Do use eloping as the opportunity to have the day you want – you only have yourselves to please so make it right for the two of you without any pressure to follow the traditional format.
- Don’t think that elopement means you have to go no-frills, cutting the usual wedding costs means you can splash out on an amazing outfit, a fabulous hotel or a once-in-a-lifetime destination.
- Do consider using a wedding planning service, particularly if you don’t know the location well as they will have all the inside knowledge and can recommend locations and local suppliers, such as photographers, hair, makeup and flowers.
- Do make sure you research legal requirements in advance, including working out what you are going to do about witnesses if you need them – some planners can arrange witnesses but otherwise you will need to find them and it can be stressful trying to grab someone off the street at the last minute.
- Don’t leave it too late to arrive at the destination, it can help to meet your suppliers and find your way around the venue and local area so there’s less to worry about on the day.
- Do work out how you’re going to announce your marriage, whether it’s telling people in person, sending out cards or having a big party when you get back home.
- Do be prepared that parents, friends and family may be disappointed in your choice to elope and missing out in being part of your special day.
- Don’t forget to have lots of photographs taken, or even a video, as seeing photos can help give your family and friends a taste of what the day was like.
- Don’t expect to receive gifts if you’re not doing the traditional wedding.
20 Places For a Romantic Elopement
So if you’ve decoded eloping is for you and you’re looking for the perfect spot to say ‘I do’, here are 20 locations around the world which are ideal for romantic elopements.
1. Isle of Skye, Scotland
For an elopement close to home, why not head to Scotland’s Isle of Skye. This beautiful island with its rocky mountains, rolling moorland, sea cliffs and sparkling lochs makes an amazing wedding backdrop.
Skye has a host of scenic spots perfect for an intimate wedding – from the clear turquoise Fairy Pools to the dramatic rock formations of the Old Man of Storr. And being in the UK means if you do want to invite a few friends and family to join you they don’t have too far to travel.
If you like the idea of getting married on the beach but don’t want to travel abroad, Cornwall is blessed with some of the most stunning beaches in the UK. The coastline has rugged cliffs overlooking blue seas and golden coves to choose from.
Though beware that Cornwall is very busy in summer, so you might want to consider a winter wedding – the luxurious Scarlet Hotel has clifftop hot tubs where you can watch the crashing waves of the Atlantic before warming up by a log fire.
Only a short distance from mainland UK, Ireland’s renowned for its lush green landscapes, and its friendly people and cosy pubs make it a great place to celebrate your marriage. The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most popular elopement location, with ceremonies held inside O’Brien’s Tower with breathtaking clifftop views.
Other popular spots include the Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland and the Dingle Peninsula and ruined Menlo Castle in Southern Ireland.
An elopement to the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar gives you the option of a British-style wedding with Spanish-style weather. Follow in the footsteps of John Lennon and Yoko Ono with a small, simple ceremony at the Gibraltar Registry Office.
Or choose an outdoor venue like the Alameda Botanical Gardens or a suite on top of the Rock of Gibraltar. And once a couple are wed they have Spain right on their doorstep ready for a relaxing honeymoon.
5. Amalfi Coast, Italy
Join generations of romantics with a European elopement to Italy. The country has an array of spots perfect for eloping – from the streets of Rome to farms in the Tuscan countryside.
But one of the best places to elope in Italy is the Amalfi Coast, a string of pastel-coloured villages, lemon groves and grand villas overlooking the Mediterranean. Feast on delicious Italian food and wine, and hire a convertible for a glamorous road trip to start your marriage in style.
6. Santorini, Greece
Known for its blue-domed churches, whitewashed buildings and legendary sunsets, the Greek island of Santorini is overflowing with romance. Choose from a beach wedding or a sunset ceremony as you watch the sun dip downs into the Aegean Sea from the caldera.
Santorini’s beautiful light make it a favourite with photographers so you’ll have no problem getting that unforgettable wedding shot, and the island’s reputation for romance means plenty of companies offer elopement packages.
Known as the ‘Island of Love’, Cyprus is said to be the birthplace of Greek goddess Aphrodite. The island is popular for elopements due to its year-round warm weather, simple paperwork and easy travel from the UK.
There are plenty of beachfront venue options if you want to soak up the sea air, but there are also historic churches and mountain villages if you’re looking for something quieter or more unusual.
Escape to the magical island of Iceland for a wedding day with a difference. Its dramatic landscape of glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes, caves and canyons combined with the island’s quirky myths, legends and fairy tales make Iceland a special place for a wedding.
Icelandic wedding planners can make sure you find the ideal elopement location for you, from the foot of a cascading waterfall to inside an ice cave or in front of an elf church.
9. South Africa
With no residency requirements and reasonable prices, South Africa makes a great option if you’re looking to elope somewhere special.
This beautiful country has elopement locations to suit a range of interests – you can wed among the vines in the Stellenbosch wine region, on a white sand beach in the shadow of Table Mountain, or among wildlife which includes giraffes, elephants and big cats at one of the luxurious private game reserves near Kruger National Park.
10. The Seychelles
While the Maldives are a favourite for honeymooners, only residents can get married on the islands. But you can find equally powder-white beaches, clear waters and picture-perfect palm trees on the neighbouring Seychelles.
Couples can get hitched at main island Mahé’s luxurious beachside hotels, or choose something more intimate on the private islands of Frégate, Cousine, North and Desroches – just make sure you arrive two days before you’re due to marry.
11. New Zealand
While New Zealand might be a long flight from the UK, the ‘Land of the White Cloud’ is more than worth it, and an elopement is the ideal excuse for a trip to this picturesque country. You must give three days’ notice to marry, but can get married by a celebrant in any location.
Favourite spots include the beaches of the Bay of Islands, serene Lake Taupo, the mountains of Queenstown – or for Lord of the Rings fans there’s the Hobbiton movie set.
Escape to the far-flung shores of the South Pacific with an elopement to Fiji. The country has resorts spread across its 300 islands – many of which offer all-inclusive wedding packages.
Enjoy a relaxed elopement with a simple beach ceremony, say your marriage vows in a treehouse surrounded by lush jungle, or splash out on a luxurious five-star wedding in an overwater bungalow or with an exclusive private island wedding for the two of you.
13. St Lucia
The tropical islands of the Caribbean are ideal for an elopement – but the hard part is choosing which one. St Lucia combines the practicality of an international airport with frequent connections to the UK with some of the Caribbean’s most diverse and spectacular scenery.
As well as beach options, St Lucia has a few more unusual elopement ideas up its sleeve, including a chocolate-themed hotel, a sunset wedding on board a yacht or even an underwater marriage.
Elopement is made easy on the Caribbean island of Antigua, just pick up a licence from the Ministry of Justice and you can marry on the same day. Antigua has 365 sandy beaches around its shores – one for each day of the year – if you like the idea of a barefoot ceremony on the sand.
Or why not tie the knot at Shirley Heights for the best views on the island, looking down to English Harbour and out to the neighbouring islands of Guadeloupe and Montserrat?
Known as the ‘heart of the Caribbean’, Jamaica is as well-known for its fantastic food, culture, music and nightlife as it is for its scenery of sandy beaches and the jungle-covered Blue Mountains.
On this island you’re sure of a warm welcome, with marriage venues including beaches, waterfalls, rainforests and luxury resorts, and the warm turquoise waters, golden sands and delicious cocktails just waiting for you after the event.
16. Lake Louise, Canada
Tie the knot with a backdrop of emerald waters and snow-capped mountains at Lake Louise in Canada’s Banff National Park. Choose a summer elopement to enjoy hiking through the mountains and kayaking through clear lakes, or winter for snowy scenery, roaring fires and steaming thermal pools.
And the outdoor lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to rough it, with a selection of luxurious hotels in the area, including the castle-like Fairmont Château Lake Louise.
17. New York
The iconic sights of New York – yellow cabs, forests of skyscrapers, carriages in Central Park – are unforgettable locations for an elopement. Although you must to wait 24 hours after applying for a licence from the City Clerk’s Office, tying the knot in New York is relatively simple.
The city is bursting with scenic spots to take your vows, from the bustling concourse of Grand Central Station and the Top of the Rock observation deck to the Bow Bridge or Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.
18. California, USA
The diverse US state of California is packed with incredible elopement locations. You might want the rustic, outdoorsy feel of National Parks like Yosemite and Joshua Tree, or prefer the idea of getting married on the beach at Big Sur before a road trip along the coast.
Or why not elope to San Francisco or LA where you can say your vows with a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge or Hollywood sign?
19. Hawaii, USA
Say Aloha to paradise with a elopement to Hawaii with golden beaches, palm trees, volcanic peaks and stunning skies.
There are a variety of islands to choose from, though Maui is a popular for its lower rainfall and quieter beaches – and you don’t even need witnesses to get hitched in Hawaii so it really can be just the two of you. Then afterwards there are plenty of sumptuous resorts on the islands where you can spend a relaxing honeymoon.
20. Las Vegas, USA
And finally, you can’t mention eloping without thinking of Las Vegas – the elopement capital of the world. With over 315 ceremonies every day, this American city is the most iconic place to run away together – just apply for a special licence from the courthouse and you can wed later that day.
Go all in and get married by an Elvis impersonator at the Little White Chapel, or you might want something more intimate like a marriage in Nevada’s beautiful desert landscapes.