Skip big-wedding stress and run away to one of these exotic, quirky or just plain idyllic destinations for a fuss-free private wedding.
Sierra Nevada, USA
Last-minute Las Vegas elopements are legendary for a reason – you don’t have to do much more than ask nicely for a marriage licence in Nevada. But if you’re not the type to opt for a drive-thru wedding in an Elvis costume at The Little White Wedding Chapel, head upstate. The ski resorts and public parks perched over crystal-clear Lake Tahoe, near Reno, mean scenic views are standard with any marriage ceremony. Emerald Bay, sheltered from the wind by enclosing mountains, is one of the most picturesque locations.
There are ultimate castaway islands. And then there are the Seychelles. The talcum powder white beaches and lush, jungled hills of this Indian Ocean paradise drip with romance, and while only residents can get hitched next door in the Maldives, couples need only check into their Seychelles hotel two days prior to tying the knot here (and take their birth certificates). Most hotels offer a variety of wedding packages; some of the most romantic retreats include the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles on the main island of Mahé, Enchanted Island Resort on nearby Round Island, Constance Lémuria Resort on Praslin, and the more far-flung private islands Frégate, North, Denis and Desroches. Just bring your own biodegradable confetti – the Seychelles take sustainability seriously.
For spiritual seekers looking to make a symbolic commitment to one another rather than a union bound by religion (or law, for that matter), Peru may be just the place. Here, couples can opt for a traditional ‘Arac Masin’, or Andean wedding, among stunning sacred Inca sites such as the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. Officiated by an Andean priest – who conducts the ceremony in the native Quechua language – the simple but deeply spiritual ritual is designed to invoke the Inca gods to make your love last through eternity. To make it legal, however, you’ll have to complete civil marriage proceedings in Peru, or back at home upon your return.
Masai Mara, Kenya
The romanticism of escaping to Africa to get hitched is undeniable, but how on earth would you do it? Trust Richard Branson to come up with an answer. While the mogul’s luxury South African safari camp Ulusaba is perfectly set up for larger weddings (such as his son Tom’s in 2013), Branson’s newest camp in Kenya, Mahali Mzuri, specialises in luxe private nuptials. Simply leave it up to the wedding planner to arrange all the legalities of an achingly romantic ceremony for two (and perhaps the odd giraffe) in the northern reaches of Kenya’s famous Masai Mara, before enjoying a private dinner under the stars.
While the bureaucracy of marrying legally in most European countries renders a quickie wedding next to impossible, you only need proof of identification, proof of entering the country legally (and proof of a previous divorce, if applicable) to wed in Denmark. With its sleepy historical villages, gentle, rolling farmland and beautiful sea views providing the perfect backdrop for weddings, the Danish Baltic Sea isle of Ærø is among the most scenic – and popular – eloping destinations. With a wedding industry worth an estimated Dkr7 million, Ærø is part of a region sometimes called ‘Europe’s Las Vegas’ for its quick marriages.
Gretna Green, UK
When Parliament tightened marriage arrangements in the middle of the 18th century, requiring couples to reach the age of 21 before they could wed without parental consent, the southern Scottish village of Gretna Green became a haven for thousands of English couples running away to marry in secret. With Scotland allowing on-the-spot marriage via a simple ‘handfasting’ ceremony until 1940, English lovers could duck across the border and literally tie the knot before an irate father of the bride arrived on the scene. Almost 300 years on, the romance of pretty Gretna endures, with a reported 1500 couples married in the town’s famous Blacksmith’s Shop every year.
Eloping just about anywhere in the Caribbean is bound to be magical. But when it comes to scenery, it’s hard to beat saying ‘I do’ in the shadow of St Lucia’s majestic Pitons. With no residency period, you can simply turn up and do the deed as long as you’ve applied for a marriage licence at least two days prior. Luxury sister resorts Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain offer a fantastic list of locations (including underwater!) while the stylish Cap Maison will marry you on a yacht.