Table of Contents:
- Why Elope in Europe?
- Top 18 Europe Elopement Locations
- Best Time of Year to Elope in Europe
- How to Travel Around Europe for Your Elopement
- Legal Requirements of Getting Married in Europe
- Where to Stay for Your Europe Elopement
- Europe Elopement & Wedding Photographer
As an elopement + wedding photographer living in Europe, I am the luckiest gal ever to get to photograph couples in some of the most incredible places on the planet. Europe truly has everything you could dream of when it comes to elopements: dramatic mountain landscapes? Check. Vibrant turquoise waters off the coast of an adorable village? Check. Romantic castles that make you feel like you’re in your own fairytale? Check! Who wouldn’t want to elope in Europe?
If you’re considering eloping in Europe, then you’re in the right place! I’ve put together the ultimate Europe elopement guide with everything you’ll need to know to plan your dream celebration, from the best places to elope in Europe to all the legalities you need to be aware of. I’m so passionate about not only documenting you and your love story, and helping you create beautiful memories, but guiding you along the way with my own tips, advice, and expertise, and I hope this guide does just that.
Why Elope in Europe?
Let’s begin by talking about why you should consider eloping in Europe, especially if you’ve never traveled there and have no idea what to expect! I may be slightly biased, since I’ve been living with my partner in a little German village for the past few months and it’s been an absolute dream come true—but trust me, Europe makes for an incredible elopement location no matter what type of day you’re looking for.
For starters, Europe is obviously an entire continent of its own, which means it has endless possibilities to create a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable elopement. You can find every type of scenery you could dream of (mountains, oceans, beaches, castles, cities, lakes, you name it); the world (or the continent, in this case) is truly your oyster in every sense of the word! It’s not hard to find unforgettable spots to elope when so much of Europe is filled to the brim with natural beauty, rich history, and gorgeous architecture galore. Seriously—whether you elope in the middle of a dramatic mountain range or along the cobblestone streets of a romantic, multiple-thousand-year-old city, you’ll never run out of things to do + places to go.
Europe also makes for a great destination elopement location for US citizens because English is widely spoken (especially in more touristy locations), meaning it’s not terribly difficult to get around or speak to locals when you need to. It’s not like you and your guests (if you invite any) are exploring a country with a culture that’s completely foreign to you, which definitely makes it easier to plan travel and to have a smooth, stress-free travel experience!
On a bit more of a personal note, one of the things I’ve been loving most about living in Germany is how easy it is to really live out the Hygge lifestyle that I have been embracing! The concept of Hygge is all about living a lifestyle of rest and coziness, finding meaning and joy in the small moments and experiencing contentment in your life, without needing to rush or hurry a thing. If, when you envision your elopement, you envision a celebration that revolves around intimate time with your loved ones, beauty in the small moments, and a laid-back schedule that allows you to flow with the day, then you’ll absolutely love the way many people live here in Europe.
Finally, a really amazing part about visiting Europe is that you’ll really never run out of places to go, sights to see, or activities to experience. Even if you and your partner are frequent travelers and love going to Europe for your vacations, you’ll pretty much have a completely unique experience every time you go thanks to the endless history, culture, cuisines, and scenery. Europe is also an amazing location to re-visit for future anniversary trips, special occasions, etc, whether you travel around the same area where you got married or you explore somewhere totally new. You will never be able to get enough of this amazing continent whether you visit twice or thirty times in your lifetime!
Top 18 Europe Elopement Locations
Before I dive into 18 of the best Europe elopement locations, I should make it clear that Europe is obviously a HUGE continent, so I can’t really cover every possible elopement location in this guide! So I did my best to include a variety of locations that cover different countries & types of scenery/landscapes, as well as a few of my favorite spots that I’ve gotten the chance to explore since living in Germany. I have yet to personally visit all of the locations on this list, but don’t worry—I’m a pro at location scouting and planning stress-free, seamless elopement timelines, even at places I’ve never been!
Mountain Elopement Locations in Europe
The Dolomites are without a doubt one of the most popular elopement locations in Europe, especially among couples who are looking for a bit of an adventure + want to hike in probably the most incredible mountain range on the continent. And trust me, that’s saying a LOT since Europe is brimming with phenomenal mountains! Nothing can beat the dramatic, jagged peaks of the Dolomite Alps that lie in northeastern Italy, surrounded by green meadows, wildflowers, and spectacular scenery at every turn. A couple of my favorite elopement locations in the Dolomites include Seceda, which offers panoramic views of the Dolomites, and Lago di Braies, a sparkling blue lake nestled in the middle of the mountains.
2. Swiss Alps
When you think of snow-covered mountains in Europe, I can almost guarantee you probably envision the Swiss Alps—the extraordinary group of mountains made up of almost all the highest mountains of the Alps. You’ve definitely seen the Swiss Alps on postcards before, or maybe even on one of those default screensavers you get with a new computer; they’re truly straight out of a fairytale, and the scenery is unmatched! Whether you visit a bigger city like Zurich, or a small mountain town like Lucerne (in which case you should absolutely take the Mt. Pilatus gondola for some insane views!), the Alps will leave your jaw on the floor + serve as such a beautiful elopement backdrop.
3. French Alps
You’ve heard of the Swiss Alps, but have you ever heard of the French Alps? That’s right—France has way more than just wine and cheese, my friend; it’s got a breathtaking mountain rainge that covers over 13,000 square miles (35,000 kilometers), making it the largest mountain chain in Europe. With some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Europe, the French Alps are the dream elopement destination for couples who want to celebrate among romantic fields of wildflowers, cozy mountain towns, crystal clear lakes, and so much more! Chamonix and Lake Geneva are two of the more popular destinations in the French Alps, both of which would be amazing spots to elope.
Next up are the Bavarian Alps, which are located in—you guessed it—the German state of Bavaria. I’m incredibly lucky to be living in Germany, where we get to enjoy such phenomenal scenery of the stunning Bavarian Alps, so I’m obviously partial to this mountain range. With tree-covered mountains, dramatic rocky peaks, and endless landscapes to explore, the Bavarian Alps are a no-brainer for couples looking for an elopement out in nature!
Fun fact: I’m originally from Washington State, and we actually have a little Bavarian-themed town called Leavenworth that tourists love to visit! So if you want these gorgeous mountain + Bavarian-village vibes without having to leave the country, head to Leavenworth—just like Analice and Kevin did for their wedding.
Austria is the final location on this list of mountain elopement locations in Europe, as it lies in the Eastern Alps and is home to three major mountain ranges of the Alps: the Southern Limestone Alps, the Central Alps, and the Northern Limestone Alps. There are almost too many jaw-dropping mountains to explore in Austria, whether you head to Salzburg to enjoy striking views and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, or an area like Tyrol with baroque-style landmarks, enchanting mountain landscapes, and a cozy alpine lifestyle.
Coastal Elopement Locations in Europe
Now if you’re more into the idea of eloping somewhere near a beach with warmer weather, colorful hillside towns, and a more laid-back atmosphere, consider one of these coastal elopement locations in Europe instead.
6. Amalfi Coast
Nothing beats the Amalfi Coast if you’re looking for a coastal destination brimming with little seaside towns, rugged shoreline views, gorgeous vineyards, and neverending romantic villas to stay in. This 50-kilometer stretch along Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula is oh-so-charming, with 13 different cities and towns to explore and one of the most iconic landscapes in the Mediterranean. Check out the Positano area nearby, as well, if you have some extra time to explore, as you’ll usually find nicer beaches and clearer views here than Amalfi.
If you feel like heading way south down the coast of Italy and staying on the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is a no-brainer! Famous for its stunning landmarks, sandy beaches, top-tier wines, and dazzling scenery, Sicily is a dream destination for a romantic seaside elopement, especially for any couples who love a good meal + want to try the local dishes. A few of the most popular spots in Sicily include Mount Etna, Taormina, Catania, and the island’s capital city of Palermo; you can’t go wrong wherever you choose to spend your adventure!
I’m sure you’ve seen enough photos of Venice on Instagram to know that it’s a must-visit during any time spent in Italy! Located in the northeastern area of the country and spread over 100+ little islands, Venice is best known for its art, Renaissance & Gothic architecture (especially in Piazza San Marco, its central square), history, and, of course, its canals. Gondola rides can be a little pricey, but are such a fun and iconic way to experience this stunning spot in Italy’s Veneto region!
Iceland is one of the locations on this list that I haven’t visited yet, but has been on my bucket list for years. I cannot wait until the day I get to explore the vast landscapes that Iceland has to offer, from volcanoes, to waterfalls, to hot springs, to laval fields. . . the list could go on and on! I’m dying to photograph a couple anywhere in Iceland, but at some of the most iconic elopement destinations in Iceland, including Skógafoss waterfall, Reynisfjara black sand beach, the Blue Lagoon, and Vatnajökull National Park. Who’s ready to pack their bags and go venture out onto an ancient glacier with me?
Last but absolutely not least on this list of coastal elopement locations in Europe is Greece, of course. Situated on the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula, in the southeast of Europe, Greece is a dream come true for, well, anyone and everyone. Whether you love exploring beautiful seaside towns and finding local restaurants, you want to see all the amazing historical landmarks, or you’re dying to hike along the coast in your elopement attire, Greece has something for every type of couple + every type of traveler. It’s got to be one of the most romantic on this list, with endless opportunities for memorable experiences and luxurious activities—especially if you stay in a cave hotel with your own private pool overlooking the ocean!
Castle Elopement Locations in Europe
This category is pretty unique to Europe, which is home to over 10,000 different castles or ruins—crazy, right? I felt like I had to give you a few castle elopement locations to choose from, including one that I visited recently and absolutely fell in love with. If you want your elopement to feel like your own personal fairytale, then this section is for you!
Neuschwanstein Castle is this incredible 19th-century castle located in the south of Germany, pretty close to the Austrian border, and is one of the most popular castles in Europe. 1.4 million people visit this castle every year, so that’s gotta tell you something—everyone wants to see this enchanting fairytale castle located high up on a hill in Bavaria. It’s been on my bucket list ever since I knew I was moving to Germany. And fun fact: Neuschwanstein is known as the “Disney Castle,” because it actually inspired the design of the castle in Cinderella. This is truly a fairytale elopement destination in every sense of the word.
I was lucky enough to photograph Aleyna + John’s proposal at Neuschwanstein recently, which was made even more magical by the snowy weather we got that day. Take a look at their breathtakingly beautiful gallery here to see more photos of this special moment!
If you vibe more with the idea of an Italian castle right on the water, the luxurious Miramare Castle is a breathtaking option. Located in northeastern Italy, directly on the Gulf of Trieste, this historic castle is filled with royal splendor, eclectic decor and furnishings, and Gothic Revival architecture that’ll leave your jaw on the floor. The history of this castle is actually quite sad, and the “legend of the Miramare Castle” even says that there’s a curse put on anyone who lives in the castle—so if you’re okay with this little spooky element, you’ll have an even more one-of-a-kind elopement destination and a great story to tell!
Nestled among the lush trees of Germany’s Hohenzollern mountain, Hohenzollern Castle is a 19th-century castle that attracts a ton of tourists, all coming to see the incredibly beautiful fortress and surrounding scenery as well as the museum with all sorts of historical Prussian artifacts. This is definitely a cool one to visit if you’re interested in the history behind the castle, as it’s actually the third castle that has been built on this site after the first was destroyed, and the second fell apart over time!
Last is Chateau de Chillon, which sits on the shores of the stunning Lake Geneva near Montreux, one of the dreamiest little mountain towns in Switzerland. This castle is the most visited historic building in all of Switzerland, famous for its beautiful, medieval European architecture that has been well-preserved over time. It’s an icon of Switzerland and is so worth visiting if you get the chance! And, would make an excellent backdrop when you elope in Europe.
City Elopement Locations in Europe
The fourth and final category on this list is city elopement locations in Europe, for the couples who love being in the city and being surrounded by beautiful European architecture, endless local restaurants and cafes, and having an abundance of opportunities within arm’s reach.
Home to lively cuisine, an iconic suspension bridge, world-class beaches, beautiful forests, and a neverending list of things to do, Lisbon is a personal favorite of mine! It’s the capital city of Portugal and is actually located on the coast, so you get the best of both the coastal + urban worlds (if you can even call this old European city “urban”). From the stunning arches of Jerónimos Monastery to the dramatic walls of São Jorge Castle, Lisbon is filled with centuries of rich history and so many hidden gems to explore.
I went to Lyon for an engagement shoot recently and absolutely fell in love with this gorgeous French city! With a collection of medieval and Renaissnce architecture, thousands of years of history, antique markets, vibrant night life, and top-notch cuisine, Lyon will easily become a city you just want to come back to. There are so many charming streets to stroll through as well as gorgeous historic architecture, and you even get a romantic, waterfront atmosphere with the city being located at the junction of the Rhône and Saône Rivers.
Budapest is one of those cities that may not have been on your bucket list before, but once you visit, you’ll have no clue why it wasn’t. Best known for its architectural marvels, thermal baths, lively festivals, Hungarian cuisine, and its iconic 19th-century Chain Bridge, Budapest is absolutely breathtaking from all angles, from every single street. Head up to Fisherman’s Bastion for one of the best views of the city and explore Buda Castle, or soak in one of the city’s many thermal baths to give your mind, body, and soul a bit of a breather. You can’t go wrong any way you choose to spend your time in this phenomenal city!
Let’s end this list on a strong note with Florence, the capital city of Tuscany and home to some of the most iconic art pieces in the world. Here, you’ll find a seemingly endless array of incredible artwork, from the terracotta-tiled cathedrals and massive bell towers, to Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture and Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.” It’s the embodiment of the Renaissance era, and is the dream elopement location for any art lovers!
Best Time of Year to Elope in Europe
After you’ve chosen your perfect Europe elopement location, one of the next big items to check off your to-do list will be choosing your date. Now this is obviously going to depend on where you’re eloping—there’s not one, singular best time to get married when you’re talking about a whole continent! However, I’m going to give you a few of the most important things you should keep in mind when choosing the time of year you elope, to help inform the best decision for your unique celebration.
Here are the key things to consider when you’re thinking about when to elope in Europe:
I’m sure you’re not surprised by this one, because weather is clearly a huge thing to take into account when picking your date! The weather can have a major impact on how your elopement day goes, if you allow it to; nobody really wants a totally unexpected, intense rainstorm on the day of their elopement, but if you’re in the right mindset beforehand, then you can just go with the flow (pun intended) and adapt as needed. Even though you can never really predict the weather (no matter if you look at years of historical averages to try and select the one best date), it is important to choose a time of year that tends to have weather you’re most comfortable in.
For example: if you know yourselves and you know that you do best in warm weather, then maybe a summertime coastal elopement is right for you. Or if you absolutely hate being sweaty, opt for an elopement in the spring or fall, instead, when temperatures will be more mild, and you won’t be drenched underneath your dress/suit! Truly, there is a perfect time to elope in Europe for everyone, no matter what your vision is.
The location of your elopement plays a big role in the weather, but it’s also important to pay attention to any seasonal restrictions or rules your location may have in place. Some venues, for example, have much higher rental costs in the summertime, and that may not align with your budget. And some outdoor locations, such as national parks, may only give out a certain number of permits during peak tourist season, while permits are way more abundant in the shoulder seasons! Make sure that you know exactly what to expect from your preferred location(s) at every time of year, and take that into account when choosing your date.
This is probably one of the biggest factors to consider when planning a time of year for your European elopement. You’re not the only ones who want to take an incredible European vacation + experience the magic that the continent has to offer—thousands of other people want the same! Summer will typically be the most crowded time of year at many destinations across Europe, as that’s when a lot of folks have time off of work or tend to take their annual family vacations. This is also when the weather is the warmest, the days are longer, and there’s usually a lot more going on in general—so if you want to elope in Europe in the summer, be prepared for crowds of other tourists who also want to experience this amazing time of year!
If you know you for sure want to elope in the summer, try to find a location that won’t be as crowded, or get married on a weekday instead of a weekend, if you can. If you’d rather not be surrounded by other people with their phones and cameras out while you’re trying to have a private ceremony, see if you can make a spring or fall elopement work with your schedule, instead. And if you really want to avoid crowds and see a completely different side of Europe (and probably save some money on your travel), elope in the off-season, which runs from November to March. Sure, the days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler, but trust me—you’ll have a much easier time getting around and into popular tourist attractions without the long lines!
Travel costs go way up in peak season, which runs from June-August in Europe—so if you want to elope in the summer, be prepared for much higher airfare, accommodation, and transportation costs! Ticket prices for tourist attractions (such as museums) can even go up during peak season, or have extra fees, so if you’re planning a big itinerary with a group of guests, then that’s definitely something to keep in mind. In order to save money on peak season travel, you’ll also typically need to book a lot further in advance than you would for, say, a spring or fall trip to Europe, when costs are significantly lower. So it largely depends on how far in advance you’re planning your trip for! There’s not a right or wrong way to go, it’s just up to what your personal budget is + what your priorities are for your elopement.
How to Travel Around When You Elope in Europe
Speaking of travel, let’s talk about how to actually get around Europe for your elopement! This one is also going to be dependent on where you’re eloping, as well as what your personal travel preferences + budget are. Some folks prefer to spend more money on travel and hire a driver to chauffeur them around, or to book Ubers/Lyfts to take them where they need to go; others may want to save money on travel and take public transportation such as buses or metros, instead. You can also rent your own car if you’re comfortable driving overseas and get your International Driver’s Permit through somewhere like AAA!
As far as traveling between European countries goes, one of of the best parts about Europe is the trains! It is SO easy to travel from one European country to another, whether it’s on a high speed train across the continent or a slower train between cities. 10/10 recommend spending some time exploring different countries if it works with your schedule and budget, because it’s pretty inexpensive to book train tickets and you get to see so many more incredible things. You can check out companies like Eurail to see a map of all the railways and get passes that’ll cover all your travels!
Legal Requirements of Getting Married in Europe
Next, let’s talk about how to actually, legally get married in Europe as foreigners; specifically, as US citizens, since that’s what I’m personally most familiar with.
Can US citizens get married in Europe?
Yes! If you’re a US citizen, you can get legally married in Europe as long as you follow the proper processes and get your legal license. Every country’s rules and regulations will be different, so make sure to pay careful attention to the local laws of the country you’re looking to elope in. However, it can sometimes be pretty complicated to get a foreign marriage license as a US citizen, so you may want to consider having a symbolic wedding instead—more on that a little later in this section.
If you do want to go through with getting a marriage license in a European country, you should take a look at the US Embassy & Consulate website of the country you’re getting married in for more info. Here are links for a few of the countries mentioned in this guide:
Do I need to register my marriage in the US if I elope in Europe?
Nope; if you get married abroad and follow all of the local requirements, your marriage will be legally recognized in the US.
Is it expensive to get married in Europe?
It totally depends on the country, and what fees they require from you. Many countries may require a fee for the notarization of an affidavit, fees to hire local officiants/judges, authentication fees for an affidavit, and more. These fees could range from $50 USD to $200 USD, or even more depending on where you’re at. Because every country is so different, you’ll wan to make sure to do detailed research beforehand and know exactly what to expect from the process!
Legal Weddings vs. Symbolic Weddings
Now a little earlier, I mentioned something called a “symbolic wedding:” essentially, a symbolic wedding is a wedding ceremony and/or celebration that doesn’t involve any legal commitments, but rather symbolizes the commitment you’ve already made. While you can get legally married in Europe as US citizens, you can avoid all the lengthy, complex bureaucratic processes by simply getting legally married in your home state first, then having a symbolic ceremony overseas instead! Trust me—this removes a ton of the stress that can come with the time and energy required to get a foreign marriage license, and will overall make your trip a lot less work to plan. Getting a marriage license abroad can often take weeks, so a symbolic ceremony may be preferred especially if you’re planning a last-minute elopement and don’t have the time to go through all the legal stuff. I promise that a symbolic ceremony will be just as special and meaningful as a legal one, as long as you’re with your partner + are surrounded by the people you love (if you choose to invite anyone)!
Special Use Permits
Additionally, if you’re eloping at any sort of tourist attraction or on land that’s protected by the government (such as national parks), you may need to look into getting a Special Use Permit of some sort. At Vatanjökull National Park in Iceland, for example, you’re required to get an Event Permit to hold a wedding in the park. Make sure to look up whether or not your top few location choices require additional permits, and that you know how to obtain them + what the process will entail!
Where to Stay for Your Europe Elopement
Finally, let’s talk about where you should stay for your Europe elopement! Obviously I can’t give you a list of every possible place to stay in the entire continent, as that would make this guide thousands of pages long, but I CAN give you a few recommendations about what types of accommodations to look into. Where you stay will be dependent on your budget and travel preferences, as well as how high accommodations are on your priority list—so know that there’s no right or wrong way to go!
A few things to consider when looking for the right accommodations in Europe:
- Proximity to your elopement location
- Proximity to shopping, dining, tourism, etc.
- Cost per night + additional local taxes
- Cleanliess and comfort
- Ease of access
- Available transportation
- Size + amount of space
If you value privacy above all else: opt for a hotel where you’ll have your own private room, or an Airbnb where you’ll have exclusive use of the entire property (not one that has shared rooms or spaces).
If you value keeping your costs to a minimum: find a hostel in the city, where you can stay with fellow travelers + easily walk to places you need to go, or a shared Airbnb.
If you value luxury and an upscale experience: book a luxurious hotel with an on-site spa, wellness center, gym, pool, hot tub, etc.
If you value walkability and would rather not have to drive everywhere: find somewhere in the city, rather than out in the middle of farmland or in the mountains.
If you value finding a space that your guests can stay at with you: choose a hotel where you can have rooms near each other, or rent a large Airbnb that you can all fit in.
The options are seriously endless, and there are a million amazing Airbnbs that you can get for fairly cheap around Europe—especially when you compare the prices to a lot of cities in the US! Picking the right place to stay is so important to your overall elopement experience, so make sure you take the time to do your research and find a place you’ll love + be super comfortable in.
If you made it through this entire Europe elopement guide, then chances are you’re already dreaming up your perfect adventure and have already made the badass decision to elope. As your Europe elopement photographer, I’ll be with you every step of the way to ensure you choose the best location, hire the right vendors, create the most seamless timeline, and so much more. If you’re ready to elope in Europe, whether it be at a castle in the highlands, a cabin in the mountains, or an epic cliff overlooking the ocean, contact me and let’s start planning this exciting next chapter of your journey together!