Monday, July 22, 2024

14 Best Places to Elope

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It wasn’t until I started researching this story that I recalled that many moons ago I had actually eloped in Paris with my now former spouse. Our reasons for eloping were varied, but primarily based on the following: a need to keep costs down, the fact that weddings in Paris at that time weren’t considered cool or chic, a desire to maintain intimacy, our mutual aversion to all things bureaucratic, and I was totally overworked at the time. Oh, and also one petit détail: I was a runaway bride just a few years prior, and had called off a destination wedding shortly before guests started traveling. Le oops.

Historically, elopements have been considered to be a rather hush-hush and last-minute move. The word elope derives from the Anglo-French “aloper,” which translates as to “abscond,” “leap” or “run away.” Initially, between the 14th and 16th centuries, the term often applied to a woman fleeing her husband to be with a lover. Then, during the Great Depression, eloping was a necessary response to a lack of resources as couples sought to marry affordably and quickly, often before husbands left for war.

Elopements transformed again in the 1950s and onward, rising in popularity for celebrities in search of paparazzi-free nuptials, including Marilyn Monroe, Demi Moore, Penélope Cruz, and Scarlett Johansson (twice). These days, elopement-style matrimony is having another renaissance, resulting in a much wider scope of interpretations and destinations.

“Intimacy is a main theme of weddings right now,” event planner James Denio tells PS. “The idea of ‘elopement’ has crossed beyond its traditional definition and entered the colloquial, merging with ‘micro-wedding.’ Linguistically, eloping sounds much more romantic, so it’s used with more affection than micro-wedding, which sounds like one is making a business out of their engagement, and for many, that can feel yucky.”

According to Essentialist founder and travel expert Joan Roca, “We are seeing a combination of elopement destinations — from quick weekends away to elopement and honeymoon-in-one trips.” Budget is still a consideration for many couples, but just as often, there is a time constraint. Many people have limited time off, so when they do take a break, they want to ensure it is as fulfilling, stress-free, and fun as possible.

Some, like Rise Bagel Co. founder Kate Lloyd and artist Neal Peterson, love the thrill factor. Lloyd and Peterson eloped in Joshua Tree in 2022. “We love surprises and enjoyed keeping everything a secret even for the two years we were engaged,” Peterson says. “There is a special intimacy to eloping, an ‘us against the world’ feeling.” The couple is planning to return to Joshua Tree on an anniversary trip later this year. (But they may keep that a secret, too.)

Whether you and your sweetheart are in search of simplicity or ultra luxury, desert dunes or a mountaintop, a farm, forest, or full-on fairy-tale, we have you covered with a selection of the best places to elope.

Experts Featured in This Article

James Denio is an event planner and founder of Nest Events Planning.

Joan Roca is the CEO and founder of Essentialist, a private members’ service for travelers.

Mia Stallard is a photographer and founder of the travel blog The Vacation Atlas.

14 Best Places to Elope

1. Dunton Hot Springs, CO

Looking for adventure, stunning scenery, outdoor exploration, and healing waters? Consider Dunton Hot Springs, CO. Located in a restored former mining town just 31 miles from Telluride, this romantic hot springs resort offers intimacy and luxury with a variety of venues, including a charming chapel, rustic barn, or an outdoor ceremony amidst the aspens, rivers, and meadows of the San Juan Mountains. Don’t miss the farm-to-table dining, pampering massages, and, of course, the opportunity to soak under the stars in the on-site 19th-century bathhouse.

Additionally, getting married in Colorado can be particularly easy, as marriage license requirements are simple, there isn’t a waiting period, and the state recognizes self-solemnization, which means that you don’t need an officiant present to legally wed.

Between The Pine

2. Mount Tahoma, WA

With epic views, an abundance of wildflowers, glistening lakes, and great hiking, Mount Tahoma, WA — also known as Mount Rainier — definitely delivers on intimate outdoor elopement.

Located on the ancestral land of six tribes, in what is now known as Washington State, and at a height of 14,410 feet, Tahoma is the highest volcanic peak in the contiguous United States. Plus, it has the largest alpine glacial system outside of Alaska. And yet, depending on your exact destination, the permits are relatively easy to obtain, and the park is conveniently accessible from Seattle, Portland, OR, and Spokane, WA.

Dee Gatan, a nurse, and her husband Ray Hung originally planned to get married at Burning Man, but had to pivot due to the pandemic. Instead, they eloped at Mount Tahoma. Gatan says, “The amount of stress planning a wedding, even for a small group of people, is not worth the time and money — or the tears. Everyone tries to give input and it starts to feel like it’s not for us, and more like for them.”

Once they decided to elope, everything fell into place. “Planning the hike was easy since we didn’t have to consider any guests. We were able to pick a hike that was long enough to make our ceremony very private, plus an amazing sunset for our backdrop.”

Gatan and Hung exchanged vows in front of their one guest: their dog, Oliver. She adds, “It was simple, yet perfect.” Additionally, the money they saved by not having a wedding allowed them to buy their home in Taos, NM. Gatan’s top piece of advice is to invest in the right photographer.

Travel blogger and photographer Mia Stallard specializes in capturing noteworthy events in unique destinations. “As intimacy and deep connection continue to be the top priorities for modern couples tying the knot, photographers and videographers are being increasingly recognized as an essential component to the process,” Stallard tells PS. “People want to work with someone they know and have a relationship with. They want to feel seen, celebrated, guided, and distraction-free. It’s an honor to witness and capture these journeys.”

3. Joshua Tree, CA

With its vast open spaces, otherworldly rock formations, rugged mountains, and iconic trees, this desert destination provides a dramatic and picturesque backdrop for intimate ceremonies and celebrations of love. Unique and secluded locations can be found with relative ease. It’s also an ideal location for a nighttime ceremony with stargazing under the dark sky.

According to Denio, “National park elopements are particularly desirable, as both getting there and the adventure of being immersed in what the accommodations provide become part of the wedding experience itself. Also, a plus of holding your wedding in a naturally beautiful environment means that you’ve allowed nature to act as your design team too.”

4. Santa Barbara, CA

Coastal beauty, scenic vineyards, lush gardens, and charming Spanish architecture all contribute to this town’s appeal as an ideal spot to elope stateside. Venues abound in Santa Barbara, CA, ranging from historic estates and boutique hotels to beachfront resorts. The climate is also mild year-round and there’s an abundance of outdoor activities, including kayaking in the Channel Islands and exploring underground salt caves. Additionally, the city’s reputation for world-class dining, fine wine, and luxury accommodations contributes to an experience that is well-rounded and hassle-free.

Roca has noted an uptick in combination elopement-honeymoon destinations like Santa Barbara, CA and New Orleans. Speaking of . . .

5. New Orleans

Places like New Orleans are perfect “for the urbanite who wants to celebrate but not venture too far,” Roca says. Indeed, this uniquely charming and vibrant city is one that many travelers have an affinity for and return to again and again.

The local architecture ensures great photo ops, and venues like historic courtyards, elegant mansions, and quaint gardens convey charm and character like no other. Add to that high-end cuisine, warm hospitality, and its place on the map as a musical mecca, and you’ll definitely want to consider tying the proverbial knot in the Big Easy.

6. Tippet Rise, MT

Tippet Rise, also recommended by Roca, is a renowned art center and sculpture park located in Fishtail, MT, on a vast 12,000-acre working ranch. The center offers a unique blend of art, music, and nature in an atypical setting where a collection of large-scale sculptures and art installations are backdropped by the stunning Beartooth Mountains. Tippet Rise is also committed to environmental sustainability and conservation, with a focus on preserving the natural beauty of the land, making it the perfect place to make big memories with low impact.

7. Asheville, NC

Fresh and forested, Asheville, NC, has a rich arts scene, eclectic live music offerings, and noteworthy venues like the North Carolina Arboretum Botanical Gardens and the Biltmore Estate. The surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains offer breathtaking views and ample opportunities for outdoor elopement. Additionally, the city’s diverse culture, progressive values, and welcoming community make it a particularly safe haven for all couples.

Elizabeth Wells Photography

8. Taos, NM

New Mexico is a magnificent state with a rich culture and stunning landscapes, including mountains, alpine lakes, deserts, dunes, cliffs, and red rocks. What’s more, its eclectic, free-spirited vibe distinguishes it from its neighbors. While White Sands, Ghost Ranch, and Santa Fe, are all popular, worthy spots for elopements, it is worth heading further north to the groovy mountain town of Taos, NM.

This small town is home first and foremost to the Taos Pueblo, which has an active, off-grid village and is the longest continuously inhabited community in North America. Taos has elopement options in abundance, whether a strenuous hike up the state’s tallest mountain, Wheeler Peak, or a ceremonial stroll along the trails around the Rio Grande.

For guaranteed ease, consider booking Denio to host your ceremony at The Stakeout, a legendary Taos hideaway of desperados and outlaws. Close enough to town to be convenient, yet quiet and free of light pollution, nuptials at this legendary venue guarantee epic views from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the Cerro Pedernal mesa, panoramic sunsets, and potential for dancing under the stars.

9. Maundays Bay, Anguilla

Renowned for its pristine white sandy beach and crystal-clear turquoise waters, Maundays Bay offers an idyllic destination for travelers seeking a tropical paradise experience. Roca recommends the Belmond Cap Juluca resort for a “beautiful, relaxing destination that is a great alternative for both eloping or having a small intimate group of friends.”

This is a wonderful alternative to the Bahamas, perhaps one of the most popular Caribbean elopement destinations, because there are only two resorts on the bay, which guarantees an exclusive, private experience. The calm and shallow waters also make it an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding.

10. Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Roca also suggests Virgin Gorda as a Caribbean consideration. This spectacular island in the British Virgin Islands is renowned for The Baths, a series of unusual geological formations that create a labyrinth of beachside boulders, natural pools, and mysterious seawater-flooded grottoes.

Furthermore, Virgin Gorda has a rich history and culture, with charming villages and local cuisine. Home to vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life, it’s a paradise for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. Roca’s pick for accommodations? The Rosewood Little Dix Bay for total seclusion on 500 acres of natural gardens tucked between secluded beaches and rolling hills.

11. Annandale, New Zealand

Pack your bags for the trip of a lifetime to Annandale, South Island, New Zealand, a rural coastal farm in Pigeon Bay along the Banks Peninsula. Roca recommends this destination for “those who want to escape the world and celebrate privately as possible.” Though isolated, it’s also a convenient starting-point for those who wish to explore the rest of South Island.

Arrive by helicopter, then settle into one of the beautifully restored and modernized farm cottages, with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding countryside. Chill around open-air fire pits and bathe in one of the heated outdoor pools. Enjoy kayaking, hiking, and biking by day, and magnificent stargazing at night. Rested up and ready to elope, the only difficulty you may encounter is in choosing the proper venue, with options including a private beach, cliff-top location overlooking the ocean, or the lush gardens of the rolling hills.

12. Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, a region in eastern Anatolia, Turkey, is an otherworldly destination known for its natural beauty that includes surreal rock formations, ancient cave dwellings set against bone-white cliffs, and thermal pools. Shaped by centuries of volcanic activity and erosion, this dreamlike location is unlike anywhere else on Earth. Elopement options abound, such as a ceremony in an underground city, on a hike in the valleys, or in a hot air balloon over the stunning rock formations. The region is well-developed for tourism, making it a popular choice for visitors from around the world.

13. Athens and Costa Navarino, Greece

Greece is another option for couples who want to combine their elopement with a honeymoon. For a fun, easy, and magical trip, stay in vibrant Athens to exchange vows. (Lycabettus Hill, the area around the Acropolis, and the sweet spots along the Athens Riviera are a few favorites.) Then, take a ferry to one of the nearby islands or travel by car to Costa Navarino, a secluded, serene beachfront resort in the region of Messinia.

14. Bora Bora, French Polynesia

For the ultimate elopement-honeymoon, Stallard votes for French Polynesia as an all-in-one destination. “People want to take the money they’d normally spend on a wedding and splurge on that picturesque over-the-water bungalow which seems to be the pinnacle of romantic vacations,” she says. “With cost usually being a factor in elopements, it makes more sense to do the ceremony, honeymoon, and romantic vacation at once.” Our recommendation: the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, an all-suite private island paradise with overwater bungalows, beachfront villa estates, and the island’s best views of Mount Otemanu.

Alison Beckner is a writer, creative strategist, and embodiment facilitator. Her passion for inspired living, conscious travel, and empowering connections is her guiding light on this beautiful journey here on Earth.



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