You said yes to the love of your life, and now you’re engaged! But perhaps you’ve started wedding planning, and you’ve realised you don’t want a big expensive wedding, full of people that you feel obliged to invite. Then perhaps a crazy idea pops into your minds. Why don’t we elope?
Eloping is one of the most exciting and intimate ways to get married and start your new lives together as a married couple. One of the best things about having an elopement instead of a traditional wedding is that there are NO RULES! You can do whatever you like, and go wherever you want. And if you are picturing yourselves going to a big adventure to somewhere wild and beautiful, the Dolomites in Italy might just be the dream destination you’ve been searching for.
The Dolomites have it all; spectacular views, adventure and alone time that you have been craving for. If you’re looking to fill your lungs with fresh mountain air and your spirit with adventure on your wedding day, then the Dolomites have so much to offer. They are home to some of the most breathtaking alpine scenery in Europe, maybe even the world (although I am pretty biased)! Living in the Tyrol region (which borders the Dolomites) for almost 10 years, I’ve discovered some of the most beautiful locations that would be perfect for your elopement. Whilst some of these locations are known worldwide for their stunning beauty, many of these locations are off-the-beaten-path, and more of a local secret. Some are easy to reach and others require a bit of effort, but the views you’ll see when you get there will make it well worthwhile.
This Dolomites elopement guide is here to help you plan the most incredible day of your lives.
How To Elope In The Dolomites – A Comprehensive Guide
(updated February 2020)
Planning Your Trip To The Dolomites
Where Are The Dolomites
The Dolomites are a stunning mountain range in northeast Italy, part of the Southern Alps. They stretch across a number provinces, including South Tyrol, Trentino & Belluno, and in 2009 they became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’ve already done some research into the area, you might have noticed that some parts of the northern areas of the Dolomites have two names. The northern-most area sits in a region known as South Tyrol. This area borders Austria and used to be part of the Austrian Empire. The majority of people in this area speak German first and Italian second (as well as the local language, Ladin). When visiting South Tyrol you’ll notice how they Austrian (Tyrolean) culture is very much evident here. As you move further south into Trentino & Belluno, you’ll notice more Italian influences, with Italian being the only language spoken.
How To Get To The Dolomites
Despite being in Italy, many people overlook Austria as being one of the easiest gateways to the Dolomites. The closest airports to the Dolomites (depending on which province you are visiting) are Innsbruck, Verona and Venice. However, these airports mainly serve short-haul European carriers. For long-haul airlines from the USA, Australia or Asia, you’ll probably want to consider either Munich or Milan. Getting to the Dolomites, and getting around with public transport is possible, although you may find yourselves feeling restricted. Trains can get you to the outlying towns, but to really get into the heart of the Dolomites, you’ll have to take busses, which in some areas can only be a few times a day. If you want to explore lots of areas around the Dolomites, hiring a car certainly can come in pretty handy. Plus, there are some incredible mountain passes that are so much fun to drive (as long as you don’t have a nervous disposition)!
When To Visit The Dolomites
It is crucial to know the seasons in the Dolomites to determine the time of the year when you will get married. Winter usually starts around the end of November and ends mid-April, although there can still be snow on many of the trails until the end of June. Therefore, if you want a skiing elopement or have your wedding in the snow, the best time to go is between December and April. Do bear in mind that over the winter and spring months, many of the locations that are easy to reach in the summer will be inaccessible, and most of the mountain lakes, such as Lago di Braies, may be frozen. Shoulder season is usually the period between mid-April to mid-June and mid-October through mid-December, and this is when many of the hotel, ski lifts and mountain huts close down. If you are dreaming of a hiking elopement, you’ll want to consider the end-June until mid-October, as this is when the trails are usually free from snow and the mountain huts are open. During the summer months, you’ll also find lots of epic Via Ferrata routes and more adrenaline-fuelled activities such as paragliding or climbing.
Trip Planning Resources
Each of the different regions around the Dolomites has its own tourist office, which can be a great place to start planning and look for recommendations that aren’t the same ones you see over and over again on travel blogs. Here are a couple of websites that are great for trip planning:
How To Get Married In The Dolomites
Legal Marriage Ceremonies in Italy
Both civil and catholic ceremonies are recognized as legally binding in Italy. The best thing about the Dolomites is that you do not have to be Italian to get married here. You will, however, need to submit your paperwork a few months in advance to ensure that everything is set for the wedding day. Most civil ceremonies take place at the local government office but it is often possible to request an outdoor location in some areas too, as long as the local authorities have pre-approved it. The civil wedding ceremony is conducted by the local mayor or another government official in either Italian or German. For couples that don’t speak Italian or German, a translator is required. However, if you aren’t too fussed about doing all the legal paperwork on the day of your elopement, you could do like many couples and sort the legal stuff out at home so that you can create a truly personal and unique elopement day. Unfortunately, Italy doesn’t yet recognise marriage equality so LGBT couples can’t legally marry here yet (hopefully that will change soon), so that could be another reason to get the legal part taken care of separately.
(Alternatively, you could consider the region of Tirol in the Austrian Alps if you are looking for an LGBTQ+ civil ceremony).
Fewer and fewer couples are choosing to have their civil ceremony in Italy on the same day as their elopement. More couples are choosing to sign the legal paperwork in their home country before travelling or having the civil ceremony the day before.
Going down this route means that you are free to plan your elopement day exactly as you want, without the restrictions of all the legal stuff. With the boring, legal bit taken care of, the day is free for you to have the best adventure of your lives. If your dream is to hike up a mountain, have a picnic by a crystal clear alpine lake and say your vows to one another at sunset, you can absolutely do that!
You could choose to have a celebrant conduct a ceremony for you in your chosen location, bring your closest friends and family to officiate, or plan a private vow reading with just the two of you. The beauty is that possibilities are endless.
Elopement Locations In The Dolomites
Picking The Perfect Location
As a Dolomites elopement expert, I know so many incredible locations to elope. That’s because I spend a lot of time there hiking, skiing, climbing and exploring. Whilst I keep my absolute favourite locations secret and only share them with the couples that book me, there are a number of areas that I think are must-see places in the Dolomites. There are also some that, in my honest opinion, are slightly overrated, but I’ll come to that in more detail below.
Avoiding The Crowds In The Dolomites
The Dolomites have been gaining huge popularity on social media, with more and more visitors coming from around the world every year. And because some of these locations in the Dolomites are easily accessible year-round by car and ski lifts such as the famous Lago di Braies, Alpe di Siusi and Seceda, they can be super busy and can lack privacy, which might not be what you are looking for for your intimate elopement. If you want to beat the crowds, there are a few tricks, such as visiting locations in the off-season, getting there for sunrise, hiking or finding an equally beautiful, but less “Insta-famous” location. Hiring a photographer (like me) who is a local expert is a great way of finding these hidden gems of locations. Or of course, you could charter a private helicopter!
Whilst it might look like the perfect place to get married in the Dolomites, Lago di Braies isn’t actually a location that I recommend for an intimate elopement. For the simple fact that it’s incredibly busy almost year-round now. In the last couple of years, Lago di Braies has seen such an increase in tourism, that sometimes I think it feels more like a theme park than an area of natural beauty. Of course, the lake is still incredibly beautiful, and if you are visiting the Dolomites, I highly recommend visiting, just maybe not on your wedding day. If you do decide to keep Lago di Braies on your elopement day schedule, the best time to go is early in the morning. For some privacy, it is possible to privately hire the boathouse but even then, I’ve experienced members of the public trying to climb up the sides of the boathouse, and photographers on the shore shouting at couples standing on the dock (who paid to be there) because they were in their photos.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo (also known as the Drei Zinnen) is another one of the Dolomites’ most iconic locations. Reaching the base of the 3 peaks is extremely easy. There’s a private toll road from Misurina that takes you right to Rifugio Auronzo at the base of the towers (it costs €30 for a day or €45 for an overnight stay). For the best light and the most privacy for your elopement, I highly recommend staying overnight in one of the mountain huts around the Tre Cime and getting up for a sunrise ceremony before the majority of the crowds arrive. The most famous rifugio is the Drei Zinnen Hütte (also known as Rifugio Locatelli), but you also have Rifugio Auronzo and Rifugio Lavaredo.
My Favourite Areas in the Dolomites
A lot of the people who contact me about their elopement in the Dolomites don’t realise quite how huge the area is, and how far some of the driving and hiking distances are to some of the most famous locations. If you’re planning on visiting the Dolomites, I would definitely recommend basing yourself out of one particular area and exploring as much as you can in that area, rather than trying to simply tick off all the famous locations on a list. Below are some of my favourite areas to visit:
Summer Hiking & Climbing Elopements in the Dolomites
Summer is awesome for hiking, via ferrata, and climbing (sport and trad climbing) in the Dolomites. From July to September, most of the mountain huts (rifugios) are open, giving you almost endless opportunities for adventures. For multi-day hiking elopements, following sections of some of the famous Alta Via routes can be an epic way to start your adventure into married life together. There’s nothing quite like hiking up to a mountain hut the night before and waking up for a sunrise vow ceremony with the epic views all to yourselves. Even if you don’t fancy hiking to the top of the mountain, there are many cable cars that run through until October that will also bring you to some incredible spots. You also have the option of taking a road trip over one of the many mountain passes and simply pulling over at one of the many parking places and going for a short hike from there to find the perfect location.
For more advice on how to plan a hiking elopement, check out this backpacking elopement planning guide.
Get inspired by these real hiking & climbing elopements in the Dolomites
Multi-Day Hiking Elopement On The Alta Via 2
3-Day Climbing & Hiking Elopement in the Dolomites
Fall Hiking Elopement in the Dolomites
Winter Skiing, Snowboarding & Snowshoe Elopements in the Dolomites
For couples who love winter and the snow, you should travel to the Dolomites between December and April. For the best conditions for skiing and snowboarding, I recommend January to mid-April, as over the last few years the snow has been coming later to the Alps and staying longer. The Dolomites are a paradise for anyone considering a ski touring or split-boarding elopement because many of the most iconic summer spots can only be reached by touring in winter. If you’re looking for a more mellow winter elopement in the Dolomites, there are also a number of beautiful hiking and snowshoe trails to take you out into the magical winter landscape.
If you’d like to read more about how to plan a ski wedding, check out this ski wedding planning guide.
Dolomites Elopement Packages
Your Dolomites elopement isn’t complete without the right photographer to capture this incredible adventure for you. You’ll want to have an experienced elopement photographer, who is also a local expert, and that’s where I come in! I’m a multi-award-winning adventure wedding & elopement photographer, and I’m based close to the Dolomites on the Austrian/Italian border. As a local expert, I’m here to help guide you through the whole process of planning your elopement in the Dolomites. My Dolomites Elopement packages include helping you find an epic location for your intimate elopement ceremony away from the crowds, sharing all my local contacts with you such as wedding planners, florists, videographers and makeup artists, and helping you plan the perfect elopement day timeline so that your day is filled with adventure and excitement without having to feel pressured with time. I’m here as your Dolomites elopement guru!
Want to know more about eloping in the Dolomites? Fill in the form below and contact me today to chat about the next steps on planning your Dolomites elopement.
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