Why and how to elope: the ultimate guide to secret wedding and the best surprise destinations

When it comes to wedding trends, ask the jewelers. Whatever the frosting on the cake, the style of the party, and the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses, jewelers are always on the front line and know what’s trending. When they don’t, they find out.

Eloping is the latest wedding trend 

That’s what Helzberg Diamonds, 200+ stores in 36 US states, did, by surveying 1,000 brides – and grooms-to-be aged 23 to 38. Guess what they found out? 

That 91% of those interviewed would consider elope in addition to a classic big white wedding. As it turns out, elopement is the up-and-coming wedding trend.

Benefits of eloping vs wedding

Why does eloping appeal to so many young men and women? What lies behind this somewhat unconventional choice? Most of the young men and women questioned by Helzberg Diamonds agreed that the main benefits of eloping, compared to holding a traditional wedding, are:

A confidential ceremony

Eloping is all about “the two of us”. Choosing to elope allows a couple to focus on what matters to them, rather than on what others (friends and relatives) expect. Many of those who think about eloping say that they want to honor the moment and make it special.

An unconventional ritual

Eloping allows you to step away from customs, formalities, and unwritten rules you don’t feel a connection to and think outside the box.

A stress-free marriage

Eloping avoids stress. Many couples choose to elope because they’re reluctant to undergo the overwhelming planning/selecting/being-up-to-the-expectations anxiety that goes with big parties (not to mention rehearsal dinners, bridal breakfasts, party favors, etc.), and with the wedding day drama. What they dream of is a worry-free, more authentic experience.

A luxurious yet cheap ceremony

Eloping saves money. Even for those who opt for exotic destinations, the cost range is generally significantly lower than that needed to comply with the many must-haves of classic weddings. In today’s struggling economy, young couples often prefer putting that extra money towards building a comfortable life together.

What eloping means today

Some 40/50 years ago eloping was a “scandalous” choice that implied secrecy. Nowadays, aside from offering a variety of advantages, it’s considered a perfectly legit alternative choice. Today, eloping simply means holding a small, intimate, romantic wedding away from your hometown. 

An elopement isn’t necessarily lonesome

Some may object that eloping is lonely… but it doesn’t have to be! It’s up to the happy couple to choose whether to head off on their own, with their closest friends, or with their families. The great thing about eloping is that there are no set rules, all choices are up to the bride and groom.

eloping vs wedding

Why people elope in Wisconsin or Michigan

In fact, many young US citizens choose to tie the knot in nearby states that offer adventures, attractions, or experiences that they appreciate, but are not too far away. This allows them to share their joy with close friends and family and invest in meaningful moments (rather than place cards, floral dec, fancy clothes, etc.). Nature lovers and sports fans elope in Kentucky, Michigan, or Wisconsin, for instance, and invite their closest friends to roam the forests, hike, go on biking escapades, and brave the mountains. Others elope in Maine, rich in romantic ambiance and exalting sea breeze, or choose a Seattle elopement package, to treat their nearest and dearest to ocean views, lush lobsters, and seafood. 

International elopements

Yet, there’s no doubt that the most fascinating, captivating, and memorable elopements, both in theory and in practice, are those to another country. Whatever the destination, there’s something glamorous, exotic, and daring about dashing off, flying across the ocean, and getting married in a foreign land. Again, part of the fun and magic is that being an elopement there are no strings attached, no rules to follow. And there’s an (exceptional) added bonus: you get to combine your wedding with your honeymoon!

Top 5 international destinations – courtesy of the world’s leading elopement photographers

When it comes to heart-stopping scenery and breathtaking vistas, ask the elopement photographers: nobody knows the sunsets, sunrises, viewpoints, and vantage points like they do! We read through a variety of wedding and elopement photographers’ websites and finally came up with the following top 5 international elopement destinations.

Tuscany, and other Italian superstar destinations

Heavenly views, romantic backdrops, mesmerizing art, and a colorful, genuine atmosphere. Not to mention fascinating time-honored traditions, scrumptious cuisine, and superb wine. 

Whether you’re longing to say I do in a silent 15th-century marble-paved parish church, in a rustic farmhouse surrounded by vineyards, or in a Renaissance villa, and then dine in an olive grove or stroll down Florence’s lungarni hand in hand with your special someone, Tuscany has what you’re looking for. 

Truth be told, Italy offers several other spectacular elopement destinations. Among these, we’d definitely recommend Verona, perfect for the Romeo and Juliet scene, and the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre, for those who seek seafront magic and moonlit coves.

elope vs wedding

Elope in Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher and the Killarney National Park, Galway City (yes, the very one Ed Sheeran mentions!), the lakes and streams, and the impressive Castle Ward. These man-made and natural attractions, along with Ireland’s iconic verdant countryside and dramatic mountainscape, charming cities, hearty local fare, and proverbial welcoming atmosphere lure many couples looking to enjoy enchanted premises and a genuine feel.

Elope in Thailand

There’s much more to Thailand than shimmering turquoise blue waters and sandy islets. Phuang malai, for instance, the colorful flower garlands draped virtually everywhere, from the rearview mirrors of taxi cabs to the bow of the tiny wooden fishing boats harbored in Phuket.

The glistening pinnacles of the temples, and flocks of serene, smiling orange-clad monks. The solemn, slow elephants traipsing along shaded trails, and wooden huts in the middle of astounding bamboo forests. And the enchanting smile that locals shower on you. Yes, there’s more to Thailand than the beaches, and that’s why many couples choose to elope in Thailand.

Elope in Kauai 

When it comes to exotic destination elopements, photographers all agree that Hawaii is by far one of the most desired. Kauai is certainly among the archipelago’s favorites. Also known as “the Garden Isle” due to the stunning tropical rainforest, and notorious for the cliffs on the Na Pali Coast featured in several Hollywood movies, it’s perfect for couples that long to be immersed in nature, and the Waimea Canyon and Nounou Trails are among the world’s most celebrated hiking destinations.

Elope in Santorini 

whitewashed allure and dainty alleys of the town match the beauty of the shimmering sea and dramatic cliffs, offering an unending, ever-fascinating variety of views. No wonder Santorini elopements are getting more popular by the day, and everyone calls it the “island of love”!

How to elope in Italy

Tuscany, Italy, is n.1 on the list of the world’s best elopement destinations, and many foreign couples daily seek information on how to elope in Italy. So let’s look at what tying the knot in Italy implies.

How to elope in Italy – symbolic blessings

If Italy is the destination you’ve set your heart on, there are several things you need to know, and a few different ways you can approach your elopement. First and foremost, as a foreigner, you can decide whether you want to have a legally binding ceremony or only a symbolic blessing in Italy. Picking the latter means that you’ll have to get legally married elsewhere, in your own country, but it allows you to avoid the paperwork and expenses.

How to elope in Italy – legal weddings 

The Italian state recognizes both civil and religious marriages. All foreign citizens can get married in Italy provided both are 18 or older, and there are no legal encumbrances in compliance with Italian marriage law. To have a Catholic marriage in Italy, either the bride or the groom has to be Catholic. Any foreigner can have a civil wedding in Italy, provided both the bride and groom present the necessary paperwork in due time. Current Italian legislation does not allow same-sex marriages.

solitaire wedding

What you need to marry in Italy

The paperwork you will need for both a religious and a civil marriage includes:

  • Valid IDs (passports or national ID cards) 
  • Original birth certificates or certified copies of the same
  • For those who are divorced or widowed: divorce papers or death certificates of the spouse 
  • An affidavit (Nulla Osta in Italian) or a declaration sworn before a consular office of your home country, stating that there are no standing legal encumbrances to your marriage in your home country
  • An Atto Notorio (Notary Act) countersigned by two witnesses (not family members) confirming that there are no legal encumbrances 
  • A declaration of intent to marry that will go to the civil registrar

Catholic weddings

If you’re planning a religious wedding in a Catholic Church in Italy, you will need additional paperwork. This will include:

  • Baptism, confirmation, and first communion certificates
  • A Pre-Cana preparation certificate issued within a maximum of six months prior to the wedding date 
  • A Pre-Nuptial Inquiry or Pre-Nuptial Investigation issued by your hometown archdiocese (filled in by the Priest and sealed by the Bishop) authorizing you to marry outside your parish. This too needs to be issued within a maximum of six months prior to the wedding date 
  • A letter written by your Bishop confirming that you are allowed to marry in Italy and stating the name of the church, city, or town and date
  • The same letter as above, written by your Priest

All the above will have to be translated into Italian and sent to the Italian parish where you intend to marry at least 2 months prior to the wedding date. Once received, it will be reviewed by the Italian authorities (the Curia), and if all is in order they will then issue a  religious Nulla Osta, formally allowing you to marry in Italy.

My advice on how to elope in Italy

The question is not about eloping vs wedding. The main focus is on how to above may seem a little daunting, but it’s all actually quite straightforward: after all, Italy is used to hosting beautiful weddings and romantic elopements! But I do recommend the betrothed keep in mind that they’ll need time: make sure you start planning at least 10 months to 1 year prior to your desired wedding date and secure all accommodation and venues as soon as possible. Also, using a local wedding planner, event designer, or law firm to handle the paperwork processing, and a locally-based company to organize the ceremony, dining, experiences, etc. will make the planning process easier and smoother.


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