Top 10 tips for planning an elopement

Last September, Josh and I eloped from the UK to Italy to get married. Initially, our wedding was in May with family and friends coming but due to covid, the universe had other plans! Here are some things we learnt along the way…

  1. Scout out the location! Photos can look amazing but also deceitful. We visited Capri, Italy in 2019 with the pure intention of scouting it out for a wedding. The main venue I had in mind wasn’t as good in real life and I’m so glad I went there to see it for myself. I trusted to be guided during this stay and found out final location by just wandering around! It was 5 mins walk from my air bnb! I don’t believe in coincidences 😉 
  2. While scouting, source local: photographer, florist, hotel and car options. The florist was the main vender I’m so happy we found. We had a chat with her and discussed pricing etc. We got her contact details which made it so much easier when it came to the day. We also sourced a range of hotels that our guests could stay at but turned out it was just us that needed a hotel! Having been before, we knew we wanted the only convertible car on the island. Their details were not online so when we arrived, we spoke to them directly. They gave us their number direct and discussed packages with us. This would be a good time to look at cake makers also. Our venue offered to make a cake for us. 
  3. Location, location! We spent 3 days visiting different “wedding” venues. I had a short list of 5 venues but also with a wedding party of only 20 we also visited some beautiful restaurants with fantastic views. We went to one hotel that flat out said they do not do weddings but after meeting us and hearing what we had in mind, agreed to host our wedding for us. This ended up being our final location where we had our own private balcony. It was vital for us to go and meet the hotel manager for this to happen. He was so accommodating and helpful! 
  4. Instagram became our go to! I found our amazing photographer and make up artist on Instagram. I spent time researching hashtags that related to our location and wedding, seeing their work and discussing packages with them. This is also where we found some venue pictures. 
  5. Everything is negotiable! As mentioned above, the hotel we held our wedding at said they didn’t do weddings. The florist initially said they had a minimum spend of €700 for weddings. Sharing your vision and how they can help bring that to life is key to negotiating. 
  6. Pinterest is your best friend! I initially stated using Pinterest for teaching resources but it’s ideal for wedding planning. I used this to send photos to the florist, make up artist and mood boards of what we wanted the set up to look like. 
  7. Check the legalities of your marriage. There are 2 types of weddings: a legal wedding and a symbolic wedding. For us to be legally married in Italy, we could only get married at certain locations (particular churches in Rome or court house style) and then would mean a tonne of translated documents to prove our marriage in Australia. We would also need a registered celebrant. We opted for a symbolic wedding which meant our celebrant could be anyone and the ceremony was tailored specifically to us. Lynn, our celebrant is a close friend of ours who always offers relationship advice. She knows us more deeply than anyone else. She was the only candidate that would have perfected our ceremony. She is also very spiritual so bought in elements to our wedding that we’re meaningful to us. We previously signed legal documents in Australia to legalise our marriage. 
  8. Luggage! I was under the impression that if you were travelling with a wedding dress, the airline would accompany by hang it for you… oh was I wrong! We flew with both BA and EasyJet which had different requirements. BA said you needed to notify them you were travelling with a wedding dress and they would get back to you about accommodating for this and how much the extra bag would be. Despite multiple calls and emails, no one ever got back to me. I ended up fitting my dress and veil into a carry on size suitcase and packing my clothes in a back pack which I took both onboard with me. No one questioned this. EasyJet was much easier to coordinate. I paid to select my seat which then included an extra suitcase. It ended up being €10. When I collected my dress from the bridal shop, I took the suitcase with me that I was travelling with. They backed it with tissue paper between the layers so I was all ready to go! 
  9. VAT free refunds. If you plan to buy any of your more expensive items such as rings or wedding dress internationally, you may be eligible for a VAT refund. Another “gift” from our wedding being cancelled and deciding to elope meant we were able to claim VAT refunds on both our rings and my wedding dress and veil, which ended up being over $1500 back. This is because we picked up the items in September but we’re leaving the EU within 3 months of these purchases to return to Australia. You need to have the unused items with you and the VAT receipts from the buyer upon leaving. 
  10. If something doesn’t “flow” don’t force it. This has always been a lesson for me and even more so when planning a wedding. Sometimes we imagine how something should be and get fixated on that. But what I’ve learnt is if something isn’t working out, there’s another way, even better than you imagined. Surrender to what’s happening, trust something better is coming through. For me, this was cancelling the May wedding we had initially planned and then having our elopement in September which was stress free and full of love! I also had 2 photographers (one from Australia and one from the UK) cancel on us but in the end, our local photographer was beyond amazing and cheaper than any past quotes. 

Dress: Enzoani Maylin from JS Couture, London

Photographer: Gian on Instagram: @gianpich_photography

Ceremony: Cesar Augustus Hotel, Anacapri Italy