Planning the Ultimate Destination Elopement

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 02/15/24
Planning the Ultimate Destination Elopement

Planning the Ultimate Destination Elopement

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 02/15/24

Part of the Wedding

Planning the Ultimate Destination Elopement

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 02/15/24

More couples are opting into elopements to save money that would’ve gone towards a large wedding but decide to start their lives together in more intimate and even exciting places. A Destination Elopement is one of the most adventurous and relaxing ways to begin married life. And if you can’t get excited about planning a big wedding, eloping to a beautiful place could be just your solution. 

You can combine your wedding and honeymoon, make incredible memories, and get married in a unique and adventurous place. Need more convincing to have a nuptial escape? Today we’ll tell you everything about Destination Elopements, including what they are, how to know if it’s right for you, and how to plan one. So keep reading and get ready for the ultimate romantic getaway.

What Is a Destination Elopement?

While many laid-back couples go to the nearest courthouse or small venue to elope, there’s another option that’s a little more adventurous and luxe: a destination elopement. This is when you elope while on vacation, whether you’re traveling across the state or across the globe. 

Elopements were once just you and your soon to be spouse, but today they often include a small number of family and friends. Groups of under 10 (and sometimes even 20 or less) can be considered an elopement. 

bride and groom standing next to a bridge

So what makes this different from a destination wedding? A destination elopement has fewer guests and a more relaxed vibe than a standard destination wedding.  Here are some key traits of an elopement that will distinguish it from a Destination Wedding or Micro Wedding:

  • Simplicity: there won’t be a lot of intricate details or pomp involved in an elopement. Guests may stand around the couple instead of having seats and an aisle, and it will include few or no decorations. 
  • No Reception: Instead of a private reception, elopements will often celebrate by going out to eat at a restaurant, having celebratory cocktails at a bar, or making dinner at a vacation rental.
  • No formal invitations: A destination elopement will usually be a word-of-mouth event if you do invite any guests. So even if you plan it months in advance, you likely won’t follow the same invitation schedule and instead will simply discuss it directly with any guests you have. 
  • Centered around a vacation: A Destination elopement is more about the holiday than the wedding. The ceremony will be one of the many fun activities on your getaway.

Is a Destination Elopement Right for You?

A Destination Elopement can seem like a great idea, especially if wedding planning stresses you out. “Let’s just get away from it all,” you say, “and get married, just the two of us.” 

But how can you tell if this plan is actually right for you? After all, many people dream of elopements, but few go through with them. Here are some signs you could be one of the couples who really do elope:

  • You can’t get excited about any traditional wedding plans and have put off choosing a venue and date.
  • You are a laid-back couple who doesn’t want to worry about many details.
  • You don’t like being the center of attention.
  • You want a great honeymoon and would rather spend your wedding money on a fantastic trip. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a traditional wedding when you can spend a fraction of that on an unforgettable vacation?
  • Family drama may keep you from enjoying your wedding day. 
  • You’re adventurous and want your wedding to be adventurous too (i.e., maybe you want an au naturel ceremony).
  • You’ve been married before and want this wedding to be special without all the pomp and hassle. 

Two grooms sitting by the beach

Planning Your Elopement in 5 Easy Steps

While a Destination Elopement is far simpler than a traditional wedding, it still takes some planning. Most of this is vacation planning that you would need to do for your honeymoon anyway, but your elopement plans could affect some of your decisions. 

We’ve broken down the elopement destination planning process so you can look forward to your big vacation without any big worries!

     1. Establish a Budget

hand holding money bags
Maybe you are using your wedding budget to splurge on a luxe vacation. Or perhaps you’re sticking with an existing honeymoon budget and pocketing the money you save. Before you start dreaming about elopement destinations, get your budget set.

You can do some preliminary research on vacation costs to ensure your budget is reasonable, but it’s better to have your costs set before you get your heart set on any plans. 

Wondering how a destination elopement stacks up against a traditional wedding? We converted common wedding day expenses to vacation expenses so you can see how you could fund your adventure: 

    • Venue Rental Fee = First Class plane tickets
    • Catering for 100 People = a week or more in a nice hotel
    • All-day photography for a traditional wedding = A full destination elopement package with an hour or two of nice photography
    • Rehearsal Dinner = various activities during your vacation
    • A Bartender and alcohol = a nice dinner out after your elopement ceremony, and possibly dining throughout your vacation
  • A reception DJ = videographer for your elopement ceremony 
  • Invitations = postcard announcements and photography prints 
  • Other expenses like a coordinator, florist, baker, and rentals = money saved toward your next vacation. 

You may still spend money on hair & makeup styling, attire & accessories, wedding day transportation, and other miscellaneous costs to make your wedding day special, so be sure to budget for that as well. 

And, of course, you don’t have to spend an entire wedding budget on your elopement. You can keep your vacation simple and put that saved money toward debt, a home purchase, or other big expenses. 

     2. Choose Your Destination

choosing a destination location
For your elopement, you can choose any type of destination, near or far. Here are a few of our favorite ideas for honeymoon and intimate wedding vacations:

  • A snowy & cozy mountain elopement
  • A warm & tropical getaway to Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean
  • A luxe & romantic trip to France, Italy, or Greece
  • A rustic & down-to-earth elopement at a National Park
  • A chic city elopement in New York, Chicago, or Miami
  • A classic elopement to Las Vegas

Think about who you are as a couple – your destination could reflect your spirit and hopes for your marriage. And definitely consider your budget. A National Park elopement, like Yosemite National Park, will cost far less than an international destination. Allie Dearie, photographer, wants you to, “…do your research for these adventurous locations to see if you may require special permits and or permissions to access and photograph your elopement.” And then think about your vacation overall. If this is a rare getaway, you’ll want to choose a location you’ll truly enjoy visiting. 

So look beyond a pretty backdrop and convenient packages, and choose a place where you’ll love spending time together. 

     3. Look for Destination Elopement Packages

Destination elopement travel package
Once you know your destination, you can search for local coordinators or photographers who help plan elopements. Look on Google, a wedding vendor listing site, or Instagram. 

Some hotels, venues, and coordinators will offer packages to make elopement planning easy. They may include a bouquet and boutonniere, an officiant, photography, music, and help getting your marriage license. 

Even if you do book everything as a package, you may still need to source some things on your own, like wedding day transportation, hair and makeup, a marriage license, and your attire. You also may want to make dinner reservations at a restaurant or hire a local private chef to come to your vacation rental. 

If you plan to invite any guests along on your elopement, make sure that’s ok with your venue and/or coordinator. Different people may understand elopement differently, and you want to ensure your plans work with all your vendors. 

     4. Plan Your Vacation

Couple looking over a boardwalk
Now that you’ve chosen your destination and key vendors, you can organize the rest of your vacation. Work with a travel agent for this, or plan it yourself. 

If you have guests, don’t plan to spend your entire vacation with them. Enjoy a couple of days before the wedding with your family and then go to a different hotel or nearby destination to honeymoon just the two of you. 

     5. Vacation & Elope

newlyweds kissing
Once you have everything planned, the rest should be as easy as taking a vacation. Just remember to pack your attire, wedding rings, and anything else you want included in your ceremony. 

You’ll likely arrive at your destination one to three days before your ceremony. That’s enough time to get settled in and take care of any pre-wedding business, but then you still have plenty of time to truly relax afterward. 

Your elopement should be a carefree day, so don’t schedule any big activities then. Enjoy a massage or a nice breakfast, and then begin getting ready for your ceremony. Spend the entire day together or split up to avoid seeing each other until the ceremony starts. 

And have fun! Eloping can bring a lot of emotions, both sad and happy. So support each other and stay focused on why you decided to elope: because you wanted a day you can enjoy together, without stress and worry. 


How to Tell People About your Elopement

Some couples choose to keep their elopement secret for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re afraid people will invite themselves, or perhaps you just relish the idea of a secret elopement. And then there’s the chance that people may try to talk you out of it.

So while more and more elopements are open elopements where everyone knows it’s happening, it’s still common for couples to keep their plans a secret.

If you do decide to tell people about your elopement in advance, you will likely share this through word-of-mouth. Some friends may be excited to hear about your plans, but others may not be interested since they aren’t invited. 

If you wait until after your elopement to share the news, you can send out a fun elopement announcement with a picture of your destination elopement on it. Just be sure to share the news personally with people who deserve it, like close family members and friends. 


Destination Elopement - An Adventurous Wedding

So have we convinced you to elope? This is a magical way to begin your life as newlyweds, and it will be a memory that you’ll treasure for a lifetime. 

So be sure to get your elopement photographed professionally, make it true to who you are as a couple, don’t go overboard with your budget, and enjoy it! Whether you are world travelers or casual explorers, a destination elopement is one of the most adventurous ways to begin your life together. 

You May Also Like: