If you’ve decided to elope, congratulations! Eloping—running off into the sunset to get married—is a powerful romantic gesture. It may also avoid fussy and expensive traditional ceremonies, having to be diplomatic with relatives, and often overcomplicated wedding planning scenarios at home.
Once you’ve decided to elope, it’s time to choose where you and your partner will go. Perhaps you’re in love with the idea of a wedding at sea or a romantic day in the Lowcountry? Can you envisage walking down the aisle barefoot, with the softest creamy-white sand warming your soles and the soothing sounds of gentle waves lapping on the seashore?
Start by researching local rules and regulations around getting married in the destination you’re eloping to. You’ll need a marriage license, and there may be extra paperwork to complete and fees to pay before you say “I do”.
From Canada’s Pacific coast to Bermuda’s blushing shores, take inspiration from the seven best places to elope.
Bermuda is one of the best places to elope, thanks to its alluring cotton candy-colored beaches. It helps that local authorities also make it straightforward to get wed in this remote island in the North Atlantic.
First, you’ll need to submit a Notice of Intended Marriage to the Bermuda Registry General and evidence that you’re free to marry. The Notice will be published in the official gazette twice, and after 15 days, the Registry General will issue your marriage license.
Timing is everything when it comes to obtaining a marriage license, as they’re almost always valid for three months from the issue date.
Some of Bermuda’s best beaches have a pink glow due to tiny broken seashells mixed with sand, including Horseshoe Bay Beach and West Whale Bay Beach in Southampton on the south coast. Both beaches make for beautiful wedding locations.
After your ceremony, enjoy a wedding lunch of island delights, including fragrant fish chowder made with local fish and spices, spiny lobster tacos, and pan-seared yellowfin tuna.
You and your beloved could spend your first afternoon as a married couple on an elegant catamaran with billowing white sails, sipping on a glass of chilled wine as you look for breaching humpback whales making a splash in the water.
If you’re more of an active couple, consider a horseback ride on the beach or an underwater odyssey to marvel at Bermuda’s many wrecks, reefs, and fascinating marine life, including the brightly-colored blue angelfish, eagle rays, and three types of seahorse.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city on Canada’s Pacific coast with a stunning mountain backdrop. It also happens to be one of the best places to elope in the world.
The first thing to note about planning an elopement to Vancouver is that you or your partner will need to go in person to obtain your marriage license within three months of your big day. Though only one of you is required to go, you’ll need to make sure you bring an ID, such as a birth certificate, for both of you.
You’ll also need to book a religious or non-religious officiant registered with the Vital Statistics Agency and ask two witnesses to sign the paperwork when the day arrives. Your witnesses could be strangers you’ve just met, family members, or travel buddies who are there to share in your joyous day.
Experience Vancouver’s nature and consider an intimate wedding at the summit of Grouse Mountain—known as the Peak of Vancouver—surrounded by lush alpine forest with the city’s twinkling lights in the distance.
Take the SkyRide from near Capilano Lake, located 15 minutes from central Vancouver, to be transported 2,800 feet from the Lower Terminal to the Peak Chalet at the top of the mountain.
Soak up the breathtaking views that Canada is known for, stretching to the dazzling Pacific Ocean as you rise high above green Douglas fir trees.
After the ceremony, celebrate the start of married life at a romantic restaurant, such as Jules, a French bistro on Abbott Street, in the historic Gastown neighborhood.
Gastown is filled with gorgeous cobblestone streets, independent restaurants, and fascinating architecture, and you’ll be able to capture some wonderful urban wedding photographs to complement the mountaintop portraits.
New Zealand is one of the best places to elope in the world for its jaw-dropping scenery.
Organizing a marriage license is easy and can be done online from three months to three days before your big day.
When you arrive in New Zealand, you’ll need to visit a registry office to sign a declaration before your ceremony can take place, with registry offices located in Auckland, Manukau, Wellington, and Christchurch.
Consider getting married in the unspoiled Bay of Islands—made up of 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula—in New Zealand’s North Island. Bay of Islands has beautiful coastal stretches and secluded coves, with penguins, dolphins, marlin, whales, and gannets among the incredible wildlife you might spot in the region.
After your elopement is officiated, sit down for an indulgent lunch at a local winery, such as The Landing, in Kerikeri. The chefs use homegrown ingredients from the estate’s orchards, herb and vegetable garden, complemented by award-winning local cheeses, olive oils, honey, and artisan bread.
Omata Estate winery and kitchen in Russell also offers an abundance of rustic charm, where you can raise a toast to married life with a glass of sparkling wine or a crisp Pinot Gris that New Zealand is famous for.
Once you’ve tied the knot in the North Island, travel south to admire some of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, including the pristine Fiordland National Park, part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You could also visit the 19th-century Larnach Castle & Gardens on the Otago Peninsula, Dunedin, and enjoy more wine tasting at luscious vineyards in Napier.
Catalina Island, California
Located just 22 miles off southern California, Catalina Island is home to soaring canyons where the American bison and gray fox roam wild among the cactus-filled hillsides.
The great news is, you don’t need to be a resident of California, or even a citizen of the United States, to get married on Catalina Island. You’ll need to organize your marriage license from the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder.
This vital document can be applied for online up to three months before your wedding date, though you’ll both need to collect it in person within two weeks of your big day.
On the island’s east coast, the charming seaside town of Avalon offers a spectacular backdrop for a romantic wedding. Elope at the city’s iconic Art Deco Avalon Casino, home of the vintage Avalon Theatre, or at the upmarket Descanso Beach Club, where couples exchange vows on the waterfront terrace.
To cap off your day, share an ice cream on Avalon’s brightly-colored Pleasure Pier and walk along the waterfront promenade from Avalon Bay’s sweeping cerulean harbor, to Lovers Cove.
Charleston, South Carolina
If you plan to elope in the United States, where better to do it than Charleston, South Carolina, a city known for its many churches?
Eloping in Charleston is made effortless with a marriage license easily obtained via an online application. The Charleston County Probate Court simply requires a valid photo ID that contains your social security number, which you’ll need to scan and upload along with your signed application form.
Two days after submitting the form, you’ll receive your marriage license by email. Once you’ve decided which type of wedding you’d like, you’ll need to book an ordained minister, rabbi, or another authorized person to perform the ceremony.
This seductive Southern belle boasts historic neighborhoods, pretty cobblestone streets, and a life-changing food scene. One of the most romantic getaways on the East Coast, Charleston also has myriad live oak trees—defined by their evergreen foliage—often found lining roads and sidewalks, creating attractive tree tunnels synonymous with the Lowcountry.
Roughly 30 minutes’ drive from the center of Charleston is Angel Oak Park on Johns Island, famous for its evergreen oak tree that’s thought to be 300 to 400 years old and is the largest specimen east of the Mississippi. You can hold a marriage ceremony under the tree’s green canopy if you arrange a permit.
After the ceremony, make your way to the vibrant King Street to continue the celebrations at one of the city’s best restaurants, such as the Charleston Grill, for upscale Southern fare.
On a warm afternoon, sit out on the rooftop Clocktower Terrace and savor a Charleston Place Punch of Malibu rum, fresh juice, grenadine, and dark rum float.
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
With its long swathes of tropical white beaches and aquamarine waters, it’s no surprise that the Caribbean is one of the best places to elope in the world. But with so many islands to choose from, which is the best?
You won’t go wrong with the U.S. Virgin Islands, made up of the main islands of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, to combine your wedding celebrations with a romantic getaway.
To get married in the U.S. Virgin Islands, apply online to the local court for a marriage license, which requires an eight-day waiting period. During this time, the application is posted for public inspection. You’ll need to appear before the Clerk of the Court or their designee before your license can be issued (offices are located in St. Croix and St. Thomas).
St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, boasts 150 churches, providing plenty of venue options if you’re set on a religious ceremony. If you’d rather take full advantage of St Croix’s satin-soft shores, Cane Bay Beach, Columbus Landing, Rainbow Beach, Cormorant Beach, and Carambola Beach are just a few of the magnificent spots to choose from.
Once you’ve entered a state of blissful matrimony, enjoy a stroll hand-in-hand beneath tall palm trees, dipping your toes into the tropical water. Pack a mask and snorkel and enjoy a rejuvenating dip in some of the best beaches in the Caribbean once you’ve exchanged rings.
St Croix’s crystal-clear shores offer the perfect chance to spot an array of marine life, including a variety of sharks, snapper, and barracuda. On the remote, two-mile-long Sandy Point Beach, a designated wildlife refuge on St Croix’s west coast, you may even witness leatherback turtles hatching.
Once you’ve dried off, stretch out on the sand together and enjoy a zesty Caribbean rum punch, made with the famous Captain Morgan rum that’s produced on the island.
On a Celebrity Cruises Ship
Start married life at sea by walking down the aisle on a luxury cruise ship. Endless ocean vistas and the opportunity to wake up in an exciting new destination each day make a cruise ship one of the best places to elope in the world.
A number of cruise wedding packages are available, tailored to either getting married while the ship is in port or sailing at sea.
If you choose to get married while sailing in international waters, you’ll need to organize a Maltese marriage license, which is where Celebrity Cruises’ ships are registered. Celebrity Cruises’ Marriage License Coordinator will assist you in arranging your marriage license.
Getting married at sea means the ship’s captain or a senior officer will perform the official duties. You could opt for an indoor or alfresco venue for your ceremony, followed by a reception for you and your guests that could range from an intimate meal at your favorite restaurant onboard to a larger gathering in one of the many other glamorous venues.
Whether you’re planning an elopement, a vow renewal, or an anniversary celebration, explore Celebrity Cruises’ itineraries from Australia and New Zealand to Alaska and the Caribbean to book your next romantic vacation.