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Destination Elopement Planning Guide

If you’ve got a heart bursting with wanderlust and a love that knows no borders, you’re in the right place. Imagine saying “I Do” amidst epic landscapes and capturing those forever moments in a way that leaves everyone – especially you- utterly awe-struck! If the thought of a traditional wedding doesn’t excite you half as […]

If you’ve got a heart bursting with wanderlust and a love that knows no borders, you’re in the right place. Imagine saying “I Do” amidst epic landscapes and capturing those forever moments in a way that leaves everyone – especially you- utterly awe-struck! If the thought of a traditional wedding doesn’t excite you half as much as boarding a plane to an exotic destination, let’s start planning your dream elopement.

Picking Your Dream Destination

Choices, choices, choices! Whether you dream of a sandy beach elopement, a mountaintop ceremony, or saying your vows in the rustic countryside of Tuscany, the world is literally your playground. Consider the time of year, the backdrop you’d love to have in your photos, and whether you want to invite a select few to share in your joy. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Hawaii: The Paradise of the Pacific

Vibe: Tropical, laid-back, and spiritual

Best Time to Visit: April to October for dry and sunny days

What to Expect:

From the beaches of Maui to the volcanic landscapes of the Big Island, Hawaii offers a diverse range of backdrops for your elopement. Expect lush landscapes, waterfalls, and ocean views that stretch as far as the eye can see!

Why Elope Here:

If you’re a couple that loves both mountain and sea, and you want to incorporate some traditional Hawaiian blessings into your ceremony, definitely consider this location.

Italy: La Dolce Vita Awaits

Vibe: Romantic, historical, and, well, Italian!

Best Time to Visit: May to October for warm and pleasant weather

What to Expect:

From the rolling hills of Tuscany to the cliffside views in Amalfi Coast, Italy is one of the most romantic places around, especially for a destination elopement. Picture cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and a cuisine that’ll make your heart (and your bellies) beyond happy.

Why Elope Here:

Ideal for those who appreciate fine art, rich history, and world-class wine and food. Whether it’s a Venice gondola, Roman ruins, or a countryside villa, Italy has a setting for every romantic mood.

Tulum, Mexico: Bohemian Bliss

Vibe: Boho-chic, spiritual, and intimate

Best Time to Visit: December to April for less rain and moderate temperatures

What to Expect:

Known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear cenotes, and Mayan ruins, Tulum offers a serene and mystical setting for an intimate wedding or elopement.

Why Elope Here:

Perfect for the couple who wants a low-key yet exotic atmosphere. From beach ceremonies to forest backdrops, Tulum’s variety is its main draw. Plus, it’s relatively close for those residing in the U.S., making it a convenient yet exotic option!

Bali: The Island of Gods

Vibe: Exotic, spiritual, and rich in culture

Best Time to Visit: April to September for dry season

What to Expect:

From the spiritual temples of Ubud to the surf-friendly beaches of Seminyak and Uluwatu, Bali is a blend of tranquility and adventure. Think: rice terraces, jungles, and secluded beaches.

Why Elope Here:

Ideal for couples who are into spirituality, nature, and adventure. Bali offers a unique blend of scenic beauty and cultural richness. Plus, it’s great for a honeymoon too, offering activities like scuba diving, yoga retreats, and jungle excursions!

Time of Year: When to Plan Your Destination Elopement

Your dream backdrop won’t look the same year-round. Want a snow-draped ceremony? Or do you prefer a tropical backdrop with a cocktail in hand? Think about the climate and how it will complement your dream destination wedding. Trust me, timing is everything!

To Invite or Not to Invite: The Guest List

Who says you need an audience to make your love “official”? Sometimes it’s just about the two of you, but if you want a small gang of your faves to celebrate with you, that’s cool too! The beauty of elopements is that you can actually focus on your love, free of distractions.

Pros and Cons of Inviting Guests 

The Pros:

Shared Joy: Having your closest friends and family at your elopement can amplify the happiness and love on your special day. Witnessing your vows in a dreamy destination is an experience both you and your loved ones will treasure for a lifetime!

Built-In Celebration: When your nearest and dearest are already with you, transitioning from the ceremony to a celebratory meal or activity is effortless. There’s no need to plan a separate event to share the joy with your loved ones.

Emotional Support: Weddings, even low-key elopements, can come with jitters or unexpected emotions. Having your go-to people around you can provide that emotional grounding which can be especially comforting in an unfamiliar location!

The Cons:

Complex Logistics: The more people involved, the more complicated the logistics become. Accommodating everyone’s travel plans, lodging, and general needs can be a lot to handle when you’re also trying to focus on each other and the meaning of the day.

Budget Constraints: While elopements can be more budget-friendly than traditional weddings, each additional guest adds to your expenses, particularly in a destination setting. Costs for meals, activities, and possibly even travel can add up quickly.

Limited Venue Options: One of the charms of elopements is the flexibility of locations. You might be able to say your vows on a secluded mountaintop or a hidden beach cove that can’t accommodate a group.

Potential for Stress: Keeping track of everyone and making sure they’re enjoying themselves can add stress to your destination elopement! Plus, more people means more opinions, which can be overwhelming when you’re trying to keep things simple and true to your own vision.

In the end, the decision to invite guests to your elopement is a deeply personal one and depends on what you and your partner value most. If you treasure intimacy and simplicity, a guest-free elopement may be right for you. But if sharing the experience with your inner circle feels meaningful and exciting, then by all means, bring them along for the adventure!

Budgeting Your Destination Elopement: The Less-Stressful Part

You might be surprised to find out that destination elopements can be far more budget-friendly than a big, traditional wedding. Budgeting for an elopement allows you to combine a fantastic getaway with the most special day of your life. Make sure to consider travel costs, accommodation, and of course, epic activities to enjoy while you’re there. Here are some tips to follow!

Create a Detailed Budget Spreadsheet

The first step in sticking to a budget for your destination elopement is to create a detailed spreadsheet that outlines all of your expected costs. Include everything from travel expenses and lodging to photography, attire, and even local activities you want to do while you’re there. Having a visual representation of your projected expenses will give you a better grasp of what you can actually afford and where you might need to cut back! 

Prioritize What Matters Most

When you’re eloping in a dreamy destination, it’s easy to get carried away with all the incredible options available. To stay on track financially, prioritize what matters most to you and your partner. Is an experienced photographer non-negotiable for you? Do you dream of a private ceremony on a specific beach or mountain top? Decide what elements you absolutely can’t live without and allocate more of your budget there, while finding cost-saving alternatives for less important aspects!

Factor In Hidden and Unexpected Costs

It’s easy to remember the bigger expenses like flights, accommodation, and a photographer, but don’t forget smaller details like local transportation, meals, and any permits you might need for your chosen ceremony location. Additionally, it’s always smart to allocate a “just-in-case” fund for any unexpected costs that might arise.

Be Flexible with Timing

Consider being flexible with your elopement date to take advantage of off-peak pricing for flights and accommodations. Many destinations have shoulder seasons where the weather is still great, but prices are significantly lower.

Budgeting for a destination elopement or intimate wedding doesn’t have to be a stressful process. By planning ahead, setting priorities, and keeping an eye out for deals, you can have the celebration of your dreams without breaking the bank!

Your Dream Team: Photographer & Planner

Your memories deserve to be captured in a way that does your love story justice. And hey, that’s where I come in! I’m not just your photographer; I’m your planner, your location scouter, and your permit procurer. I’ve got your back so you can focus on what really matters – you two. I have years of experience catering, coordinating, and photographing weddings and elopements, so that expertise will definitely come in handy when I’m on your team! Of course, I’ll help you find local vendors for things like florals, hair & makeup, decor, etc.I even offer photo and video packages to make sure your day is covered from beginning to end and all the in-between moments are captured. Check out my packages here!

Legality & Logistics: Keeping It Simple

One hot tip – consider handling the legal stuff back home to avoid intricate marriage visas or regulations. Trust me, it doesn’t take away from the emotional weight of your celebration! 

Packing for Your Destination Intimate Wedding or Elopement!

Once you’ve nailed down the essentials, it’s time to start packing. Packing for a destination wedding or elopement involves a bit more than throwing a few outfits into a suitcase. You’re going to want to be strategic! First and foremost, carry all essential items, like your wedding attire, important documents, and rings, in your carry-on luggage to minimize the risk of loss or delay (you NEVER know with air travel!). Consider packing a mini-emergency kit with items like safety pins, a sewing kit, stain remover, and basic first-aid supplies, because you never know what minor mishaps might surprise you.

For the rest of your trip essentials, think layers and versatility, especially if you’re going to a location with varying weather conditions. Packing cubes can be your best friend for keeping things organized! Don’t forget the tech essentials, either; specifically, chargers and any specific electrical adapters for the country you’ll be visiting are a must. Lastly, take a moment to review any baggage restrictions for your specific airline, especially if you’re bringing specialty items like a wedding dress or suit. This can save you time, money, and stress at the airport, letting you focus on the excitement of your special day!

Let’s Plan Your Destination Wedding Together!

From the stunning cliffs of Greece, the lush landscapes of Bali, to the cultural richness of Tulum, the world is full of hidden gems perfect for an elopement. No matter where we end up, you bet your love story will be the most epic of adventures. So, what are you waiting for? My bags are packed, and my camera is ready. Let’s do this thang!

Hi! I’m Mattie - Your Animal-Obsessed, Adventure-Seeking, Travel-Enthusiast Southern California Wedding Photographer

I’ve been on both sides of the lens, and it’s my mission to capture the unscripted, genuine moments of your special day! I pour my heart into taking (and editing) your photos to give you epic portraits that you’ll cherish forever. Whether it’s a mountain-top elopement or a cozy backyard ceremony, I’m all in. Let’s plan something that is uniquely yours, filled with laughter, love, and maybe a few happy tears - mine included!

Think of me as your right-hand girl for planning an intimate, nature-focused, or non-traditional wedding or elopement.

Inquire Now & Let's Work Together

Destination Weddings

Southern California Weddings

Pricing & Information

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