Updated September 10, 2021
Whether you’ve always dreamt of eloping or you started going down the big wedding path … and then 2020 happened … you’ve decided that eloping is the right move for you. EXCELLENT choice! Now the planning begins! While planning an elopement is certainly a hell of a lot easier than planning a large wedding, there are some very important decisions you need to make pretty early on. And among those is picking a location! If you’re wondering how to decide where to elope in 2021, this is for you!
General Things to Consider When Deciding Where to Elope in 2021
Deciding where to elope is one of THE most important parts of planning an elopement. There are two major decisions you’ll make when it comes to deciding where to elope – one is the “macro” level (what country/city/state) and the other is the “micro” level (WHERE in that country/city/state?). This article isn’t going to get into the specifics of where you should elope for any given location (there is too much to cover in just one post!) but we ARE going to talk about it on the broader level, because that should be done first!
What kind of scenery do you want to elope in?
Are you envisioning mountains? Beaches? Mountains AND beaches? Do you want to be surrounded by trees or way out in the desert? What kind of environments speak to you? What do you love?
What kind of weather do you want to elope in?
Are you a hot weather person or a cold weather person? Are you ok with rain or do you want to give yourself the best chance possible to have a dry, sunny day? Are you dreaming of activities that involve hot weather or snow? While weather generally can’t be guaranteed picking a location that has the kind of weather you want is obviously a step in the right direction!
What time of year were you wanting to elope?
Do you have a specific timeframe that you want to get married in or could you do any time of year? If you love snow but can only get married in July, you’re probably looking at somewhere like New Zealand or Patagonia. If you want a snowy elopement in January, the Northern Hemisphere is your best bet.
Do you want to stay domestic or go international?
This is a HUGE one and something I suggest dreaming big on. Assuming you’re in the U.S., you have tons of options for incredible places to elope (I’m a little biased but I think Colorado is especially magical!) but the world is a big, amazing place and if ever there was ever an excuse for a once in a lifetime trip, this is it! While Covid brought international travel to a halt in 2020 I believe that by summer of 2021 (and beyond!) we’re going to be back to hopping borders. Getting married in a different country presents some unique challenges but we’ll talk about how to tackle them later in this article!
What kind of elopement do you want?
Do you want a super fast and easy pre-designed elopement or something more custom? If you just want to do something SUPER short and sweet, beach resorts are really good at making this happen quickly and easily. Pay your money, say your vows, get some pictures, and you’re done! If you want something more custom and personalized, head to the kinds of places where those elopements thrive (and think outside the big box resort package!). There is no right or wrong way to do this – there is just the right way for YOU!
Best Places to Elope in the United States
If you’ve decided that an elopement right here in the good ol’ US of A is the way to go, you’re in luck! There is something here to fit almost every elopement taste – let’s talk about some of the best spots!
Ok, I’m clearly a little (or a lot) biased here but I think Colorado is one of the best locations in the U.S. for an elopement, especially if giant mountains, good beer, and epic scenery are kind of your jam. Colorado’s weather varies widely from season to season (and often from day to day … or hour to hour!) but it’s also beautiful all year round! Another benefit of eloping in Colorado? You don’t need an officiant of any kind here! It can literally be just the two of you and your photographer. And maybe your dog!
If deserts are more your jam, Utah is your place. As someone who has spent a good bit of time in our neighboring state I can promise you that Utah is magical! Not only does it have tons of national parks (oh hey, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion …) but it also has miles and miles of BLM land. Find an epic spot (your photographer can help!) and get married way off the grid and away from just about everyone!
If you like forests, mountains, beaches, endless natural beauty …. and being able to combine them all in the same day …. Washington state is a PERFECT place to elope! Washington has an endless variety of landscapes and SO many ways to enjoy them! Add to that the fact that flights to Seattle affordable from all over the U.S. (and the world!) and you have one of the best places to elope in the United States!
(psssst … thinking of eloping in Washington? I have a whole guide for that!)
When most people think of eloping in Hawaii they probably picture the quick beach elopements that are put together by big resorts. And while there is nothing wrong with those, t it does NOT have to be that way! Hawaii is MAGICAL and a perfect place for a more in-depth adventure elopement. Personally, I’m a little partial to Kauai for its beautiful beaches, big mountains, and the fact that it just feels SO WILD.
I will be honest and say that the first time I went to Alaska I had no idea what to expect – and I was BLOWN AWAY. Everything is just BIGGER in Alaska. Like oceans? They’ve got oceans? Like mountains? Have you heard of Denali? Like glaciers? They have PLENTY of them! When I was there for a shoot we saw black bears, whales, moose, bald eagles, seals, sea otters, and probably a bunch of other critters that I am forgetting. Also? Midnight sun means you have good light for HOURS in the summer. Have I mentioned how magical Alaska is?!
Where to Elope in 2021: Best International Elopement Destinations
While no one has a crystal ball to know how Covid is going to go, I have a hunch that by mid-summer we will be traveling (like, BIG travel again). I believe this so strongly that I’ve got a chunk of time this summer blocked off for a family vacation across the pond. International travel is coming and I suspect it’s going to be here sooner than we think!
The biggest piece of advice that I would give anyone planning an international elopement during this time is to double check with all of your vendors on their Covid policies. While everyone is different, most photographers I know are letting people reschedule their elopement for free if Covid prevents a couple from being able to go through with their elopement, which is fair to everyone. This is especially important to check on with international destinations because the chances of not being able to go through with your elopement are significantly higher. Just make sure you’re covered in case you have to postpone!
Having said all that, if I were going to plan an international elopement in 2021, these are the places I’d be looking at:
Ok, so Iceland is always my first answer when people talk about international elopements. Why? ICELAND. IS. INSANE. I have traveled a lot in my life and Iceland is far and away the coolest place I have ever been. It just feels like something from another world! Yes, it’s cold. Yes, the weather can be a little bit hostile but there is a REASON Iceland is so popuar – it’s just incredible. Flights from the U.S. to Iceland on Iceland Air are usually super affordable (and often direct, including from many cities that don’t typically have direct flights to Europe – like Denver!). Trust me when I say you can not go wrong with Iceland! Psssst … want to learn more? Check out my guide to eloping in Iceland.
Update: March, 2021: Iceland is officially OPEN to vaccinated Americans!
Italy had a rough go of it during the pandemic but i have a hunch that when this is all over they will be welcoming tourists back with open arms. Also? Have you SEEN Italy??? The beaches! The mountains! The FOOD!!! As a mountain lover, if I were going to elope in Italy I’d probably choose the Dolomites (holy wow the Dolomites are incredible!) but there are tons of other options too – the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Sardinia …. pick your favorite climate and go have an epic adventure!
If moody weather and greenery for daaaaaaaays is your jam, Isle of Skye is for you! It’s a place that my husband and I have considered for our own vow renewals, and one that I think would be incredible for your elopement too! The Scottish are a friendly bunch and the scenery is just insanely epic. You can’t go wrong with Isle of Skye!
Portugal is probably not a common suggestion but it’s a place that is near and dear to my heart for a few reasons. First, it is BEAUTIFUL! Between the beaches, rolling hills, and wineries, Portugal is just gorgeous. It’s also VERY affordable! Compared to other places in Europe and the U.S., you can live like royalty on a budget in Portugal! Getting there can be a bit expensive but here’s a pro tip for you: I’ve found that if you can get a cheap flight from your city to anywhere in Europe (from Denver I almost always book flights through London) you can then get a cheap flight to just about anywhere. Also? The food and wine are delicious and the people are so, so friendly. I can’t recommend Portugal highly enough!
How to Elope in a Foreign Country
One of the biggest things that trips people up when it comes to eloping abroad is the legality of it – HOW do you get married in a different country?! What I recommend to everyone considering this is to … not worry about it. Do the legal part of it at home – go to the courthouse wherever you live and make it legal there! This will make your life SO MUCH EASIER when it comes to eloping abroad. You can do it before you go or after you get back – whatever feels best to you. I believe that you are married when you say your vows, not when you fill out some papers!