Wanting to reflex the laid back, colourful aesthetic of a Las Vegas elopement, but stay closer to home in Western Australia, Sofie and Alex chose Rebel Rebel Wedding Chapel in Perth for their June wedding. The chapel was already decorated in a modern, colourful style they loved, and fits under 30 guests, so it was the perfect choice for them.
“Our venue is one of a kind for Western Australia, nothing like it in the state”, they told us. “We had our mums as our ring bearers and only had parents, siblings and grandparents present.”
“Our celebrant was a very old family friend of mine”, Sofie continued, “and it was so special having someone who has watched me grown up marry us. We did our own vows and Alex’s were sweet, loving and straight to the point. Mine were a mix of loving, funny and emotional. I told Alex that I love that he shares his first chicken nugget from the box with me!”
Some top tips for planning a destination wedding courtesy of Valentina at planning and design studio The Stars Inside.
One of the joys of destination weddings is getting excited about the location. Whether you choose somewhere you know well, from a favourite past holiday or childhood haunt, or you embrace the new and choose a spot that you’ve been dying to see, I encourage my couples to really open that map up wide and consider all their options.
Manage your budget expectations
Some people assume destination weddings are always much cheaper, while others may think it is going to be prohibitively expensive to get married aboard. It actually depends on the location you choose and on the style of wedding you want. You might find that a particular country has very cost-effective catering and venue hire fees compared to what you’ve seen in your local area, but requires a higher-than-average investment for flowers or entertainment for example. Or perhaps the particular style of rentals you want are really tricky to find or are in higher demand, and therefore more expensive. Depending on how well your wedding vision aligns with what that country has to offer, you may need to reassess your budget or revisit what your priorities are. Spend smarter by choosing native, seasonal flowers and local ingredients and specialities where possible.
Give yourself lots of time and hire a team of professionals you trust
Destination weddings have more logistical challenges to plan for and you may also discover that the speed of communication and approach to paperwork is different to what you are used to. Have buffers for possible delays. It’s better to feel like you can go with the flow and making decisions at their natural pace, rather than like you’re constantly chasing up vendors for contracts, responses or translations. If you do find yourself with a short planning lead time, don’t panic – it’s still absolutely possible, it may simply require a little bit more flexibility and quicker decision-making.
Working with a planner that knows the area, or that is experienced with supporting couples internationally, will give you the peace of mind of knowing that every supplier will be managed and briefed, and that everything will come together seamlessly and beautifully on the day.
Become familiar with the legal bit well in advance
Make sure that you spend time researching and familiarising yourself with legal part of the marriage – even before choosing the country. Some countries will have easier, more friendly eligibility criteria for non-residents to marry there, while others may be exceptionally complicated (or may even not allow it at all). Or, you could keep your plans more flexible by doing the paper-signing legal bit locally to you, and having a symbolic (but no less meaningful!) ceremony abroad.
Taking it right back to the bare essentials, Donia and Tom took a week’s holiday, getting married right in the middle of it, among the red rocks of Looking Glass Rock in Moab, Utah. They wanted to celebrate their passion of hiking, camping and exploring, without all the frills of a traditional wedding day.
Donia explained, “When we decided to get married we knew we did not want a wedding. We’d both been married before and it just didn’t interest us. I came across a link to an elopement photographer’s website and just cried – everything about the idea seemed so perfect! No chaos. No rules. So much nature. The person I love. Intention.”
“We love hiking, camping, backpacking, paddling, and just generally exploring and it just seemed fitting that we’d spend a day doing what we love and come back married! We didn’t plan much of anything for the day. We had photographers, a rough sketch of the day, and we just explored. We didn’t even have guests! We got ready in a campervan and changed into our wedding clothes outside on top of a rock!”
Choosing an elopement followed by a large, classic wedding ensures your vows are only for you. Elaine and Andrew wanted a day to focus on each other, before celebrating with friends and family at a later date.
Opting for a non-traditional venue in true Vegas style, Elaine and Andrew chose Sonic Rodeo, Las Vegas’s newest music mecca, and were the first couple to get married there. With a collection of vintage guitars on the walls and surrounded by music memorabilia, they carefully selected songs to run throughout their ceremony.
Elaine explained, “We made a playlist in the days leading up to the event, a mix of our mutual favourite songs with some sappy love songs. We played it on a speaker during the whole thing, it was one of my favourite parts. I still remember the song that was playing while we said our vows.”
Armed with a budget of $2000, Lici and Jadon had their December wedding in Carrie Lynn’s Plant Shop, in Summerlin, Las Vegas. They didn’t have a formal reception, instead they went to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace instead. This laid back bride wore a dress and veil which her mum found in a thrift store in Florida – she didn’t even see them in person until the morning of the wedding!
“I think getting married in a plant shop pretty much stands out within itself”, Lici told us hen we asked about their day. “When I tell people they’re usually mind-boggled, trying to picture it. I wanted something natural and I love plants, and Berlynn, our wedding planner, had the idea for Carrie Lynns!”
It’s time to rip up the rule book. If you’re reading this website than it’s probably QUITE likely that you already agree with this sentiment, but today we want to encourage you to take it one step further.
It’s OK to elope It’s OK to not wear white It’s OK to accompany yourselves down the aisle It’s OK to cut your guests list It’s OK to not want to be the centre of attention Its OK to not invite children It’s OK to have a destination wedding It’s OK to spend very little… or a lot!
Inspired by their love of stargazing, science, geekery and our awesome universe, Emily and Alex’s Friday 13th elopement was their dream party and gave them the chance to wear and be surrounded by the things they find most beautiful in the world. The couple told us; “Our styling was inspired by Alasdair Gray’s zodiac night sky mural on the ceiling at the venue we chose, Òran Mór, which is the largest piece of public art in Scotland.”
As well as choosing Glasgow for sentimental reasons, Emily and Alex wouldn’t have been able to have the ceremony that reflected them in England. “Scotland allowed us to have a Humanist ceremony, and Scottish vows don’t require you to refer to your new spouse as a wife/husband or any aspect of traditional marital roles. This was really important for us as an equal partnership and queer couple, with one of us being non-binary. In a Scottish wedding, there are no ‘legally prescribed form of words’ (i.e. required vows) other than “I take you [name] in marriage” which meant that we could keep our ceremony short, simple, and focused on affirming our relationship as it really is.”
Mar and Nancy were Instagram friends for years before they met in person. Inspired by their spiritual journey, they chose to marry in Joshua Tree National Park, California, surrounded by their closest friends.
Their ceremony was unique to them and rather than plan every second, they let everything flow. They told us, “We didn’t plan our vows. We wanted everything to flow organically from our hearts. Our friends used their didgeridoos to cleanse our auricular field, and as a blessing for our union. It was simple, but powerful, given the location, the crystal grid our friends created, and the intention our friends and us set for our union.”
Corey and Brandon, from Melbourne, absolutely did not want a big, expensive wedding. Instead, they spent less than $5k (AU) to elope at The Altar Electric, a wedding chapel in their hometown. The venue provided all the décor and the Elvis officiant – they simply hired their photographer, found outfits and showed up!
Corey rocked a short sequin dress from Zara with Vans and a denim jacket (to which she added the patches herself), while Brandon was in jeans and also a DIY denim jacket.
“We were originally going to elope in Vegas but couldn’t because of COVID restrictions,” they told us, “so wanted to do something as close as possible to that. We wanted the day to represent us. We wanted it to be fun. We weren’t trying to be different just wanted it to be us.”
Eloping in a national park with just five of their close friends and family, Tabatha and Richie planned everything themselves, exactly the way they wanted it.
“We didn’t follow the expected traditions of a wedding itinerary,” Tabatha told us. “We booked a lake house in the national forest for four nights and cooked meals, played Switch games and board games, and just spent quality time together. The memories from that weekend are some of the most special that I have. I am so glad it became such a low stress, intimate event for us.”
Tabatha knew she wanted a black dress, but had a little trouble realising her dream. She explained, “I had several moments where I thought I had to give up on that vision because the options seemed either inaccessible for my budget, or too gimmicky. All the bridal shops in my area that had black options were the same dresses from the same couple of designers. And they were very trendy silhouettes. I wanted something that felt personal, and timeless, and unique.”
“I was very lucky to find an affordable option to have a gown custom-made. I went to a local boutique and tried on a few silhouettes to get an idea of what I felt was the most flattering, and then custom styled that to fit my vision. Seeing myself in all-white also solidified my thoughts that that was NOT for me.”
Paris and Danni’s elopement may just be the ultimate anti-wedding! Re-planned in just 48 hours thanks to ever-changing COVID restrictions, they held a private ceremony at a cottage in Meander, Tasmania with only their closet friend, a photographer and celebrant there with them. It all worked out great though as their new date, July 14th, is actually International Non-Binary People’s Day!
“We met and developed our friendship through indoor rock climbing, mostly bouldering (no ropes!)”, Danni told us. “For our wedding we were inspired by nature. We wanted to have a nice little holiday where we could be connected with each other and our environment. We basically did none of the expected things. We wanted our wedding to be an honest reflection of our authentic selves, a continuation of our relationship rather than a massive milestone.”
Dani and Dacari had been discussing how their big day would look for a long time. Having been together for eight years, they decided to elope because, as they told us, “The stress of figuring out how to include everything and everyone started to chip away at something that was supposed to feel like magic – elopement was the best choice that we could have made for ourselves and our union. We wanted the freedom to commit to each other in a way that felt deeply personal and private.”
The simplicity of an elopement means you can pick and choose exactly what you want (and don’t want!) included, making it deeply personal to you as a couple. Dacari and Dani continued, “The best thing about planning our wedding happened after we broke outside of the expectation of things looking a certain way. We leaned into the idea of choosing things that felt right for us and that felt like fun–and that’s when things really started to fall into place. We enjoyed picking things out and envisioning what our day would look like.”
They wanted their wedding to be relaxed and reflect them, so Inez and Ismail, opted to keep things small for their September wedding. They also didn’t want anything too traditional. The bride wore a black dress by Khaite, while the groom wore his favourite red Nike trainers and a black tee-shirt rather than a shirt. The ceremony was held at Marylebone Town Hall with just a few close loved ones present, and the went to a restaurant afterwards rather than having a formal reception.
“We had a civil partnership ceremony, which meant we didn’t have to follow any scripts based on tradition that didn’t align with our relationship”, the bride told us. “We organised everything within a month and we only picked the music the morning of the ceremony! For the entrance we had I’ll Follow You into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie, and for the signing we had Dance of the Dream Man from Twin Peaks (a favourite show of ours). The ceremony was super quick because we didn’t want any vows or readings, we ended up cutting a lot of the script off.”