Personally, we love big weddings. But for the minimalists among us, elopement is gaining steam as a worthy alternative for couples who want to skip the mayhem (and monster investment) of an over-the-top ceremony. If the very idea conjures images of kitschy roadside chapels, think again. These modern elopements trade the slapdash weddings of old for something sophisticated, refined, and totally wanderlust-inspiring. Think of it as a dream vacation with a little something else thrown in. Scroll on for the best destinations for a summer elopement, and don’t forget to bring your favorite destination photographer along. With scenery like this, the pics are going to be unforgettable.
1. Lombardy, Italy: Whether you and your boo like to hike or just prefer to lounge by the lake, one thing is certain: The views around Campomoro Lake and at the foot of Mount Sasso Moro and Pizzo Scalino are truly stunning.
2. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, CA: It’s impossible not to stay present when surrounded by thousand-year-old redwood trees. Channel stunning, earthy vibes for your “I Dos” by exchanging them in the shadow of the giants themselves.
3. Santorini, Greece: Is there anything more beautiful than Santorini? The city’s sunbleached whites and bright blues create the perfect de-facto color scheme for an intimate ceremony. Start at dusk for an even more incredible candlelit effect.
4. The Rose Garden At The Rodin Museum, Paris, France: Sure, Paris has always been synonymous with romance, but the rose garden at the Rodin museum takes it to another level. Surrounded by beautiful blooms, the manicured gardens are peppered with Rodin sculptures, and you can spy the Eiffel Tower over some of the hedges. In terms of infusing every photo with a Parisian spirit, we can’t think of a better locale.
5. Cartagena, Colombia: Get lost in the old-world style of Cartagena’s walled city with its stunning architecture and color-filled streets. Snap your elopement pics in the courtyard of the Hotel Don Pedro de Heredia, which is known for its tropical plants and rustic balconies.
6. Killarney, Ireland: Looking something a little more pastoral? The Muckross House and Gardens lie at the center of Killarney National Park and make a stunning location for any ceremony. The 19th-century mansion sits against Muckross Lake and the lovely hills of the park and three working farms that provide an extra opportunity for memorable countryside shots.
7. Waiheke Island, New Zealand: A little gem respite from nearby Auckland, Waiheke Island offers plenty of picturesque backdrops for your nuptials (including multiple vineyards, marinas, and annual art installations).
8. Chamarel, Mauritius: Mauritius is home to the Seven Colored Earths, a natural phenomenon of cooled lava that shows off a brilliant spectrum of colors in different lights — just imagine how unique your pictures will be! After exchanging vows, check out the breathtaking 300-foot drop of Chamarel Falls, or head to a luxe private villa and sip some locally harvested coffee (a regional specialty).
9. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia: Unlike any other place on earth, Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) is an otherworldly mix of orange hues and incredible natural formations befitting a sacred space. No wonder it feels extra-special for an elopement setting.
10. Portofino, Italy: The pastel houses that dot Portofino’s coastline will certainly draw you in, but the siren song of fresh seafood may make you (and your new partner) want to stay forever. Take picturesque strolls along the city’s many footpaths and relax on your hotel’s dreamy terrace without an itinerary (or a care in the world).
11. Yucatan/Quintana Roo, Mexico: The Riviera Maya has become a popular destination in recent years for its lush, tropical feel. After touring Quintana Roo, go a bit off the beaten path and take the trip to Coqui Coqui’s Valladolid residence (a 16th-century villa). While there, be sure to pick up one of the perfumeria’s signature scents so you’ll always remember your magical elopement.
12. White Sands National Monument, NM: The ethereal look of the Chihuahuan Desert’s striking white sands against a bright blue sky is not to be missed. Pro tip: Unlike most deserts, the sands here remain cool to the touch, which means you can take as many barefoot pics as you like against the unusual landscape.
13. The French Antilles, France: This paradise on earth has no shortage of natural beauty, but it may be most famous for the celebrity clientele that winter here. Reap the benefits of its hot-spot status by dining at Michelin-starred restaurants and luxuriating in a private villa with breathtaking views.
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(Images via Getty)