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BEST PLACES TO ELOPE ELOPEMENT TIPS

Where to Elope- Tips for Choosing Your Dream Location

One of the biggest wedding day decisions you will make as a couple is where to elope. What piece of earth should you choose to get married on?

I strongly believe that a couple’s wedding day should be wholly representative of their relationship, authentic, and relevant to who they are as a couple. And, if their kids are involved, authentic to their little family, too. Everyone deserves a true-to-you wedding day experience. After all, these are moments that are going to stay with you over the years, something to celebrate during good times, and a buoy for your relationship when the waters get rough. One of the best ways to bring your true selves to your wedding day is to choose an elopement location that is completely you.   

The beauty of elopements and intimate weddings is that you can get married *almost* anywhere for any reason you wish. There is so much more flexibility to be had when your wedding day consists of just you, your kiddos, and a handful of others (or just you and your kids!). I’ve photographed weddings on mountaintops, lakeside, and in deserts, in 200 year-old barns, and in ancient old growth forests. Each of my experiences has shown me that commitment is enriched when it’s wrapped in the warmth of a location that speaks to your collective soul. 

I get it though, the seemingly limitless options can be downright overwhelming. All that flexibility can feel like both a blessing and a curse. I’m here to help! Keeping these considerations in mind while dreaming up a location can help you narrow down the options, and discover a location that is utterly and completely reflective of your family’s love story.

How to choose where to elope, whether it's in a slot canyon, like this couple, or anywhere else on the planet.

Wedding locations can be broken down into two main groups, 1) locations that have a nostalgic aspect, and 2) those that are novel/adventurous. Of course, a location can be chosen because it falls into both of these categories, as well! Let’s look at them more closely and, hopefully, spark some ideas in the process.

1. Nostalgic Locations

These are locations that evoke a sense of history. Perhaps yours, your relationship’s, your family’s, or a cherished relative’s. Maybe the place you had your first date or first hike, the place where you first said, “I love you,” or a special location that you often frequent together. Nostalgic locations may also stir childhood memories, a place where there are family ties. Such locations may be significant due to ancestral, religious, or heritage-related reasons. Maybe you want to marry your loved one in the exact location that your great grandparents met, or were wed.  

Nostalgic locations are steeped with history and, as a result, are oftentimes brimming with sentiment. These locations are a great choice for amplifying those feelings of purpose and intent that are already naturally present on your wedding day.  

A little Italian Chapel on Orkney Island  is the perfect nostalgic location for an elopement or intimate wedding.
Maybe your Grandparents were wed in a little chapel like this one on Orkney Island.

2. Novel/Adventurous Locations

Novel and adventurous locations become meaningful by virtue of the history that you will create with your partner and your children at that site. If you want a new experience or adventure to share as part of your wedding day experience, these types of locations do the trick.  

A couple exploring a slot canyon during their elopement day.

A novel location has the added benefit of providing challenge, both physical and mental. Facing an unpredictable new landscape or engaging in a new activity together leads to increased cooperation, feelings of trust, and heightened intimacy, all elements that you want present on the day you promise your life to your chosen person (and on all the days that follow!). Sharing a new adventure together forges memories of accomplishing something novel and meaningful as a couple. These memories can, in turn, be revisited when your marriage needs a little pick me up. 

Horseshoe Bend at sunset is an adventurous elopement location perfect for a couple or family that wants to share a new experience on their wedding day.

Your location might fit into one of the above categories, or may have qualities that make it an equally good fit for both. The most important thing to keep in mind when brainstorming where to elope, and eventually choosing a location, is that it truly represents you and your partner, either literally, symbolically, or both. Perhaps sequoias that have stood the test of time are the perfect giants to witness a union that will, likewise, be enduring. Maybe a placid alpine lake best represents your easy-going natures and the tranquility that you find in each other’s presence. Gazing out from a rugged cliff edge may perfectly embody the excitement that you feel about taking this leap of faith into building a life together. 

Where to elope, if you want wildflowers? This couple eloped at Discovery Park in Seattle, WA when the wildflowers were blooming.

Finding a location that speaks to your collective soul is incredibly important. And, let’s face it, it’s pretty romantic as well. But what about the more practical aspects of location selection? Thinking about the following early on in the planning process will help turn those elopement location dreams into a stress-free reality! 

3. Geographic and Ecological Interests

Probably the most obvious characteristic of a location is it’s geography, all those landforms that make a place so unique. Natural landscapes may be mountainous, coastal, riverine, desert, or tropical. Knowing what type of geography speaks to you is a good starting place for finding the perfect piece of earth to say “I do.”  

Interestingly, the geographic characteristics of a location are important enough on a psychological level that researchers in both environmental psychology and anthropology have dedicated their lives to studying how people develop attachments and emotional bonds with the land. It’s easy to see how bonds might form between humans and landscapes, beyond what you would expect is strictly necessary for survival. Landscapes seem to take on a personality and emotion of their own. Rugged mountainous landscapes can evoke a sense of wonder and awe, reminding us the world is so much bigger than we are. This sense of “awe” can make us more generous and increase other prosocial behaviors, like cooperation. And some landscapes just feel romantic.   

So ask yourself, is there a particular geographic landscape that reflects you as a couple. A place your family naturally gravitates to? Somewhere you seem to just “fit”? Move beyond choosing a landscape simply for the breathtaking images, and pick a place that provides additional meaning on your wedding day.

A couple eloping in the Superstition Mountain foothills with their toddler.

4. Activities

What activities do you and your kids want to do on your wedding day? Some locations lend themselves to certain activities more than others. Hiking works well in mountainous landscapes. Cliff walking necessitates the presence of cliffs. And you can’t kayak without a body of water. I know it seems obvious, but believe me, it’s worth pointing out! It’s funny how things like this can be overlooked in the excitement of dreaming up your day. 

If you’re eloping with your kids along, it’s also super important to be realistic about both your own and your children’s abilities. If you’ve never hiked as a family before, but are set on this type of adventure for your elopement day, go on some shakedown hikes (shorter and easier day hikes where you can practice and see how your kids cope). If you want to do something you don’t have a lot of experience with, it’s still absolutely doable, it just takes a little planning. 

The Sonoran desert at sunset is a stunning location to consider when deciding where to elope with family.

5. Time of Year and Weather

This is a super important consideration to make when choosing where to elope, as some locations are inaccessible during certain times of the year. If you envision your wedding day taking place in a snowy wonderland, but the location you love is closed during the winter months, you’ll want to know this and make alternate arrangements early. Likewise, if you dream of chasing the changing leaves, then you’ll want to make sure your chosen location puts on an epic show during the fall.

A couple kissing during their elopement under a giant tree in an old New Hampshire forest.

6. Privacy and Seclusion  

How private, secluded, and remote of a location do you want?And how much are you willing to work to get there? Some really remote locations require backpacking in. Others are so remote that they require access via a helicopter. If having a really private and secluded ceremony is important to you, a remote location may be the way to go. But a remote location isn’t necessarily needed to experience privacy and intimacy either. You can find pockets of seclusion in even the most frequented National Parks, but it, like everything else, does require some planning. You may have to opt for getting married during a particular location’s off-season. 

If you’re absolutely in love with a location, but crowds seem impossible to avoid, try exploring locations within a 50-mile radius of the place that you love. The landscape will likely be similar, and you can very possibly avoid hoards of people. The most geotagged locations (those that are popping up on Instagram and Pinterest again and again) will be the most popular. Use those as a jumping off point, and then venture out in all directions to find something that will provide both the landscape and the seclusion that you desire. 

When deciding where to elope, consider a mountain elopement like this couple did at Mount Rainier National Park.

7. Accessibility

This is a big one to consider. Not only because some locations are completely inaccessible during certain times of the year and under certain weather conditions, but also because they may restrict the number of guests who can attend. So ask yourself how many people will be attending. Also, keep in mind any guests that may need special accommodations to get to your ceremony site, and make sure your chosen location has these available. If it’s just you, your partner, your kids, and a couple of vendors (maybe your officiant and photographer), then you’ll have more options for where to elope. However, if close family and friends will be celebrating with you, it’s still entirely possible to find your perfect elopement location!  

Can’t bear to part with your dog during your wedding day? Don’t! Finding dog-friendly locations and trails is definitely doable, and definitely worth doing. After all, dogs are family members, too.

A Goldendoodle puppy running in the Sonoran Desert.

A note on permits. Many locations require permits for the ceremony and for photography as well. It’s worth researching and procuring these in advance. If you have a wedding planner helping you out with the logistics, they come in handy during this research. Some elopement photographers will look into this when scouting locations for you as well (I happen to be one of them!).

8. Advance Booking

How much time is needed to ensure the availability of a particular location? Are things booked out months, or even years, in advance? Your timeline is going to partially determine what locations are available to you. If you are putting something together in just a couple months (Hey! It’s possible!), some sites may no longer be available. Ask yourself what your timeline looks like, how flexible it is, and whether it meshes with your chosen location.

A little stone cottage perched on a hill in the North Cascades during Autumn.

9. Domestic or International 

There are additional special considerations for international weddings, such as visa requirements, local laws and customs, and general accessibility issues (among others). A lot of these are quite specific to the region. The good news is that many elopement photographers are more than happy to help you navigate these (Yep, me again!). So, if your dream location involves hopping on a plane and heading to another country, don’t let the logistics stop you!  

The Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye in Scotland is a family friendly elopement location to consider when choosing where to elope.

 

There are many moving parts to planning a meaningful and intentional wedding day, and while the above will help you choose where to elope, it’s important to keep in mind that spontaneity and flexibility are as essential as preparedness. In fact, it’s the spontaneity that oftentimes yields the most meaningful moments. So don’t be afraid to dream a bit and take some risks when choosing your wedding day location. This is your day and there are no do-overs, so above all else prioritize what matters to you!

I hope this helped inspire some ideas! Location scouting is actually one of the most fun aspects of my job. I love nothing more than helping families pinpoint the perfect location for a true-to-them wedding day experience. Get in touch and we’ll find your perfect spot!

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BEST PLACES TO ELOPE

Best Off-The-Beaten Path Locations to Elope in Arizona for Adventurous Families

How do you choose where to elope in Arizona? You have a few specific things you’re looking for, and the location has to be family friendly, but how do you narrow down choices? You don’t have time to visit all the vistas and trails you’ve saved on Pinterest and Instagram – and now you don’t have to! Below, I’ve detailed the Top 10 Family Friendly Locations to elope Arizona. Keep reading to learn more about each location, discover the best time to elope at each place, as well as what to consider when bringing along the kiddos for your Arizona elopement adventure!

These off-the-beaten-path elopement locations in Arizona are all tried and true family friendly adventures. Whether you’re looking for a waterfall, a desert scene, a lake, or a mountain peak – there are options below to satisfy any desired Arizona environment. My goal is to help you choose the elopement location that best suits your family’s needs while also being one of the most picturesque spots in Arizona that isn’t swarming with crowds. With a little planning, you can have the family friendly elopement of your dreams!

Eloping in Arizona with Family

Each of the below locations is suitable for families with kids. The hikes are on the shorter side and easy or moderate with no rock scrambling required. That said, depending on the age of your children, some will be more suited to your goals than others. Some have steep drop-offs so children should always be watched closely. It may help to designate an elopement guest as a child wrangler, if your chosen location warrants an extra close eye on your little ones.

Once you’ve picked a location for your elopement, we can discuss what specific things you’ll want to pack and prepare for that place. Every location is going to serve each family and elopement timeline a little differently. Below, I’ve outlined all the general things to consider when planning a family friendly elopement, and there are some rules that will apply to each family, every celebration, and all locations. For instance, you’ll want to pack A LOT of water! Arizona is hot most of the year and dry all year. When you think you’ve packed enough water, pack more. These locations also require a basic knowledge of Leave No Trace principles, so we can traverse the environment without negatively impacting it. An adventurous elopement is a perfect opportunity to teach children about protecting the environment, and you can set a positive example by including LNT education in your elopement planning!

There are dozens of stunning locations in Arizona perfect for eloping couples with kids. From secret slot canyons (Arizona is home to more than just Antelope Canyon!), to breathtaking vistas, Arizona has something for nearly every type of adventurous family. Even if you’re only adventure(ish), there’s a trail for that! The 10 locations to elope in Arizona listed below are some of my favorites, but if for some reason none have that Goldilocks-perfect feel, reach out, and we’ll find YOUR place!

Best Off-The-Beaten-Path Elopement Locations in Arizona

Watson Lake and Granite Dells near Prescott, Arizona on a clear day.

Watson Lake & Granite Dells image via Shutterstock

1. Watson Lake / Granite Dells

Closest City: Prescott, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: May – October

Length of Hike: 100 Feet to 10 Miles (Hiking is optional) 

Description: Rocky granite boulders give this lake a dynamic and dramatic landscape, especially when the water is still and the reflection gives the depths a sense of incredible beauty and mystery. The Boulder Creek Trail provides an optional up to 10 miles of hiking, if exploring beyond the water’s edge is of interest. This lake is accessible year-round, but does get pretty cold and possibly snowy in the winter months.

Fun for the Kids: The Highlands Center for Natural History and Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary are nearby. The site is also a popular location for camping, hiking, fishing, and boating. You can rent canoes or kayaks, or go rock climbing and bouldering.

The Painted Desert is composed of colorful striped mounds, making this an incredibly unique backdrop for an elopement.

Painted Desert image via Shutterstock

2. Petrified Forest National Park / Painted Desert

Closest City: Holbrook, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round

Length of Hike: 100 Feet – 1 Mile (Hiking is optional)

Description: The Painted Desert overlaps with the northern part of Petrified Forest National Park, and the colorful striped mounds make this an incredibly unique backdrop for an elopement. The Blue Mesa Trail is a .9 mile loop trail that takes you through one of the most picturesque areas of the Park, but there are also many gorgeous drive-up locations within Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.

Fun for the Kids: Rainbow Forest Visitor Center houses paleontological exhibits complete with skeleton displays of prehistoric animals. Little astronomers will undoubtedly enjoy visiting the massive nearby meteor crater, created about 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch.

Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona at sunset.

Coal Mine Canyon image via Shutterstock

3. Coal Mine Canyon

Closest City:  Tuba City, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round, though March – May can be extra windy and winters are on the colder side, June – November best

Length of Hike: 1 Mile + (Hiking is optional) 

Description:  We’ve all heard of the Grand Canyon, but this remote canyon has all of the beauty and none of the crowds. Only 70 miles from the East entrance of the Grand Canyon, this location receives fewer than a couple hundred visitors a year. That’s good news for those who wish to elope here and want epic vistas, but also prefer intimacy. Here you will find gorgeous intricately eroded spires, hoodoos, gullies, and cliffs in an impressive array of colors. While there are no clear trails down to the floor of the canyon, the view of this location is stunning from the rim. Just be sure to steer clear of the edges, as the sandstone along the rim is soft and crumbly. A permit is required to visit here ($12 in 2020) and is available at the Navajo Parks and Recreation office in Cameron or online at https://www.navajonationparks.org 

Fun for the Kids: Your budding paleontologists can visit some real dinosaur tracks (most dating to about 200 million years ago!) just West of Tuba City. Parking is free and tours are optional. It takes about 15 minutes to view all of the tracks, though with small children that like to explore it will likely take longer. The Navajo Interactive Museum is also nearby where kids can learn about Navajo culture, traditions, family systems, and see a traditional Navajo Hogan (home). Visit the Hopi Mesas (there are three) outside of Tuba City for a glimpse into ancient Hopi ways of life that still endure today. The settlement atop the Third Mesa, Oraibi, was established around 900 – 1000 AD making it the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the US!

The scenic Apache Trail in the winter with snow capped mountains.

Scenic lookout along Apache Trail image via Wild Kin Wandering

4. Apache Trail / Lost Dutchman State Park

Closest City: Phoenix, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: September-November or March-May

Length of Hike: 1.4 Miles +

Description: This is for you desert lovers! The red rock and wind-carved desert features combined with saguaro cactus give Lost Dutchman State Park a truly “Arizona” vibe. There are many trails to choose from and ways to access views of the Superstition Mountains. Driving along the 40 miles of Apache Trail gives dozens of options for short hikes or drive-up views.

Fun for the Kids: Goldfield Ghost Town is a reconstructed 1890’s gold mining town. Kids can visit an underground mine, ride a train through the town, pan for gold, see a reptile exhibit, and witness reenacted gun fights.

Slide Rock State Park near Sedona.

Oak Creek Canyon image via Shutterstock

5. Oak Creek Canyon

Closest City:  Sedona, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round, late September through mid-October for peak fall foliage, late October for apples

Length of Hike: West Fork Trail is a relatively flat 6 – 7 mile out and back trail, though families can hike as much or as little of that as they like. 

Description: Home to ancient ruins and gorgeous red rock, Oak Creek Canyon is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. The pine lined canyon itself is 12 miles long with Oak Creek winding along its base. Though the hike is long, the stroll is easy, scenic, and absolutely family friendly.

Fun for the Kids:  Located inside Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Rock State Park is rated one of America’s top 10 swimming holes by the Travel Channel, and is basically a series of natural red rock water slides. Sure to be a hit with water-loving kids, slide rock itself is an 80-foot long slippery shoot that is worn into the sandstone. You could easily spend an entire day enjoying the beauty of the red rocks that Sedona is famous for while cooling off in the nearby wading pools. Just be mindful of the summer crowds at all Arizona swimming holes and go early in the day to get a prime spot.

Elopement inside a secret slot canyon near Page, Arizona.

Secret slot canyon image via Wild Kin Wandering

6. A Secret Slot Canyon

Closest City:  Page, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Late March through early October

Length of Hike: Requires a kayak or paddle board to get into the canyon, but you’ll be rewarded for your trouble with very few other visitors and ample time to explore. 

Description: Similar to Antelope Canyon but without the crowds! If you are a water-loving family, this may be your perfect location to tie the knot. The slot canyon is accessible only by kayak or stand up paddle board so it guarantees that your elopement is on the adventurous side. And since it’s a bit more difficult to get to, you can expect fewer visitors and more time to explore the nooks and crannies of this canyon on your own timeline. Conveniently, both kayaks and paddle boards can be rented right on Lake Powell

Fun for the Kids: If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll find lots of fun exploring Lake Powell itself. Page is also home to Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River. The view is astonishing, and honestly, slightly scary. It’s definitely a place to hold on tight to squirming toddlers who like to climb (or keep them in a carrier), but so worth a quick visit. Just across the Utah border, you’ll find the Big Water Visitor Center for Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and the Dinosaur project. Here kids can learn about dinosaur fossils and receive their very own Junior Scientist badge.

Spider Rock rising from the floor of Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.

Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly image via Shutterstock

7. Canyon de Chelly + Spider Rock

Closest City: Chinle, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round

Length of Hike: 100 Feet + (Hiking is optional)

Description: Right in the heart of Navajo Nation, Spider Rock is an impressive sandstone spire rising more than 700 feet above the desert floor! It was formed more than 230 million years ago and is the centerpiece of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Guided tours are available by experienced Navajo guides, or you can visit on a self-guided tour along open and paved roads to take in impressive viewpoints.

Fun for the Kids: Hubbel Trading Post National Historic Site where kids can poke around to find treasures and souvenirs at the still-functional trading post, see old farm equipment and an old homestead, and make a trip to the visitor’s center where they can become junior rangers.

Cibecue Falls in the Salt River Canyon, Arizona.

Cibecue Falls image via Shutterstock

8. Cibecue Falls / Salt River Canyon / Apache Falls

Closest City: Whiteriver, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: May – June

Length of Hike: 1 Mile – 5 Miles

Description: This is located on Apache lands and requires a permit to visit, but if you purchase the White MT Apache Salt River Canyon Recreation Permit, you’ll have access to Apache Falls (1 Mile Hike) and Cibecue Falls (4 Mile Hike). Apache Falls are breathtaking and at the heart of the Salt River Canyon.

Fun for the Kids: For little ones, Apache Falls will be the better hike. For older kids that can handle a bit of canyoneering, Cibecue Falls might be a great place to hike and also camp at one of the two primitive campsites in the canyon. You may even be visited by some wild horses.

Sycamore Falls with snow cover in the winter time.

Sycamore Falls image via Shutterstock

9. Sycamore Falls

Closest City: Williams, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: March – May

Length of Hike: ½ Mile +

Description: This impressive waterfall runs through a rocky canyon with steep cliffs and pillars of fractured basalt. The hike from the parking lot to the viewpoint is only .25 miles, but many other trails diverge to access the canyon itself or the rim. At the viewpoint, you’ll be able to witness two waterfalls about 70 feet tall pouring into a natural rock basin at the foot of the canyon.

Fun for the Kids: Bearizona Wildlife Park isn’t home to just bears. There are Rocky Mountain goats, elk, Alaskan Dall sheep, tundra wolves, arctic wolves, mule deer, American burros, bighorn sheep, white and brown bison, among other wildlife. There’s also a great birds of prey demonstration where the birds swoop right overhead.

Couple eloping at a lookout on Mount Lemmon in Arizona.

Mount Lemmon image via Wild Kin Wandering

10. Mount Lemmon

Closest City: Tucson, Arizona

Best Time of Year to Visit: March – May or October – November (the latter is peak leaf peeping season)

Length of Hike: 3 Miles +

Description: With a summit elevation of 9,159 feet (2,792 m), Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. There are many intermediate trails in and around this mountain, and the forests will look distinctly different with each season. This is a wonderful place to explore the beauty of Arizona on a hike, different from many of the viewpoint-specific hikes mentioned above. Driving up from Tucson, you will witness various ecological transition zones and see the flora that accompany them.

Fun for the Kids: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has an aquarium, zoo, natural history museum, extensive botanical garden, art gallery, and loads of exhibits that will appeal to even your littlest wanderer. Small star lovers will enjoy Kitt Peak National Observatory. Spelunking at Colossal Cave Mountain Park provides over 5 kilometers of passageways inside the caves that can be explored, and dwellings previously used by Apache Indians that can be roamed.

A Few More Things To Consider When Choosing Where to Elope in Arizona

Learn the History

Arizona is a culturally rich and dynamic physical landscape, and there is also an interesting indegenous history worth knowing before setting out on any adventure. Whether the location you choose is still within the boundaries of sovereign indigenous nations or not, they all were at one time. 

Pay Attention to the Season

I’ve mentioned above the general best times to visit these locations. However, do your own research and stay up to date on any road closures, flood risks, etc. that could affect your chosen location during certain seasons or situations. You can rely on a few things from Arizona weather:

  • Fall is generally the best time to elope in Arizona (unless you’re looking for stronger flow at a waterfall, then spring is best!)
  • Winter is usually mild, but can cause flooding in canyons. It does snow in some areas, but don’t count on a typical “winter” by other state standards!
  • Spring is perfect for wildflowers, don’t be fooled by the desert stereotype. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a colorful desert bloom!
  • Summer is HOT, which means high-altitude locations will be some of your best choices for a summer elopement (and a great way to escape the heat).

Know Arizona Marriage Laws

If you’re getting legally married during your elopement ceremony have an officiant and two witnesses. Some couples choose to sign the paperwork beforehand or after and forgo witnesses and an officiant during the actual ceremony. Of course, we’ll go over the specifics of this during the planning process! A couple of things to note:

  • Arizona has no waiting period after applying for your marriage license.
  • You’ll both need to be present when applying.
  • There is an application fee (around $80 in 2020).

Once you’ve selected your perfect Arizona elopement location, you may be wondering how to include kiddos in your elopement plans. There are loads of ways to include your children in even the most adventurous elopements, and this post will tell you all about it.

Feeling better prepared to elope in Arizona? I hope so!

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BEST PLACES TO ELOPE

Top 8 Elopement Destinations for Adventurous Families

Family Friendly Destination Elopement Locations

From islands off Scotland to the west coast of Africa to New Zealand, these hidden gems are the best places to elope all over the world! Whether you’re looking to hike lush green hills to ocean overlooks, or you’re dreaming of sand dunes as far as the eye can see, there is a perfect elopement destination out there for your adventurous family! Ready to find it?

In Top 8 Elopement Destinations for Adventurous Families I go over some of my personal favorite destinations, the best times of year to travel there, and a bit of added fun for your little ones. When you’re ready to begin planning your elopement, reach out! We’ll dig deeper into the logistics of a destination elopement with children, and narrow down your location list to one that is perfectly YOU. Until then, keep reading and get inspired!

Best Places to Elope for Adventure Loving Families

Mayan ruins on the beach in Tulum on the Yucatán Peninsula
Mayan ruins, Tulum image via Shutterstock

Location #1 – Yucatán

Region: Southern Mexico, bordering the Gulf of Mexico

Best Time of Year to Visit: October – April

Description: Hello white sand beaches, lush exotic greenery, turquoise cenotes, and lands steeped in rich history! If you’re a free spirit and inclined to worship the sun, a boho elopement in Tulum will feel the perfect fit for your wedding day experience. And there will be ample stunning locations to say your vows, from old haciendas to having a traditional Mayan ceremony at the base of some ancient ruins. Climb a temple looking out over the forest and you’ll see vegetation covered mounds hiding countless structures yet to be revealed. Marvel at the astronomical precision at Chichen Itza, where Venus and the sun were used to orient temples and mark important ceremonial and agricultural times of the year. Cool off after your adventures by swimming in a cenote or “sacred well,” a cavernous limestone pool filled with deep blue waters. Cenote Cristal is even toddler friendly! 

Must Sees: 1) The evening light show at Uxmal, which celebrates the Mayan rain god, Chac, while illuminating palaces and temples. 2) Celestun, where thousands of flamingos congregate in the wild.

A Bit of History: One of the many attractions on the Yucatan peninsula are the Mayan ruins (some right on the beach in Tulum). Built between 300 and 900 AD, there are several impressive complexes in the peninsula. When you walk these ruins, remember that you are at the very edge of the impact zone of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.

For the Kids: All of the kid-friendly activities make this one of the best places for families to elope. Your little ones will love Campeche, an old walled Spanish town that was sacked by pirates many times over. If your kids love the beach, walk the white sands of the Bay of Campeche and play “I spy” with an unbelievable array of shells. Explore lantern lit caves with a local guide, and see bats swirling and swarming out at sunset. Witness species of animals you have never seen at the zoo in Merida, an old Spanish town and the peninsula’s capital. Merida also has a huge market where kids can shop for just about anything.

The Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye in Scotland is one of the best places to elope for adventurous families.
Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye image via Wild Kin Wandering

Location #2 – Isle of Skye

Region: Off the west coast of Scotland

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round

Description: The Island of Mist, right out of Middle Earth. Skye is a magical land of Neolithic cairns, caves, cozy pubs, and craggy peaks. Cuillin hills will please the novice hiker, as well as challenge the most seasoned mountaineer. Plus, the rugged coastline is stunning! I’ve found many off-the-beaten-path places perfect for a romantic Scottish elopement. You could elope at Fairy Glen or Brother’s Point (2.25 mile hike), but wear waterproof shoes because part of the hike takes you through a soggy bog!

Must Sees: 1) Dunvegan Castle and Gardens is home to a fairy flag and was built in the 13th century. It overlooks a sea loch, Loch Dunvegan. 2) The Trotternish Ridge is the longest landslip in the region and home to the Old Man of Storr, a 160ft pinnacle rock formation that looks like, well, an old man.

A Bit of History: After he and the Jacobites were defeated at Culloden in 1746, Bonny Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart), disguised as a maid, fled to the safety of Skye.

For the Kids: The beaches at Staffin or Duntulm have dinosaur footprints that are 165 million years old. Kids can climb the mystical hills of the well named Fairy Glen (if fairies are real, they most certainly reside here). Wade in Fairy Pools, visit a castle, sea kayak, or spot grey seals along the shoreline.

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland image via Shutterstock

Location #3 – Northern Ireland / Giant’s Causeway

Region: The northernmost tip of Northern Ireland, in the UK.

Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round, but watch out for high winds!

Description: An UNESCO World Heritage site made up of basalt columns formed by volcanic activity in the area more than 60 million years ago. Two different trails lead down to the Giant’s Causeway, the lower blue trail and the upper red trail. Neither trail is difficult, though the easiest is the blue (approx. .6 mile down a gentle slope). Go early to have the place to yourself, but the best light for photos is nearing sunset. If you’re staying for a few days, you’ll want to home-base out of Belfast or nearby. Take the opportunity to visit the Titanic Museum – you’ll be amazed how much you learn!

Must Sees: Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is suspended at almost 100 ft above the Atlantic Ocean and built so fishermen could walk from a tiny island back to the main island. You’ll need your hands for the bridge so it’s best for older kids or for babies/toddlers in actual carriers.

A Bit of History: Irish legend tells us the causeway was built by Finn McCool, an Irish giant who was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn McCool built the causeway across the North Channel so the two giants could meet and fight. 

For the Kids: Nearby is The Jungle in Moneymore – an outdoor activity center for kids of all ages. Montalto Estate, in Ballynahinch, is home to beautiful walking trails (all of which are suitable for both children and adults), an impressive wooden tree house kids will love, a natural play area, and a cafe for parents to refuel.

Lago De Braies, largest natural lake in the Dolomites
Lago De Braies, Italian Dolomites image via Shutterstock

Location #4 – The Italian Dolomites

Region: Northeastern Italy

Best Time of Year to Visit: Summer – Fall

Description: A land of jagged peaks and idyllic rolling hills. Wildflowers blanket the meadows during the summer months and make this an alpine heaven with fairytale scenery and one of the best places to elope for families. Hike the iconic Tre Cime di Lavaredo – the entire loop is 6 miles long and mostly flat with an elevation gain of 1115.5 feet. You’ll see three distinctive and jagged peaks rise up from the surrounding scenery, with lots of opportunities to let your little ones out of their packs to run around and explore on this hike. Make sure not to skip the short spur up to the Refugio Locatelli where you will find the best view of the Tre Cime. Chair lifts and cable cars run during the summer months to make hiking to various peaks optional.

Must Sees: 1) Lago De Braies is the largest lake in the Dolomites and the water is a gorgeous turquoise color in the summer, and covered with ice in the winter. 2) Livinallongo del Col di Lana Town has World War I trenches, ruins of forts, barricades, tunnels, and a museum for those who love history.

A Bit of History: The Italian Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 for being the “most picturesque range of mountains in the world.”

For the Kids: You’ll be near amazing adventure parks where kids have access to climbing walls, little streams with water games, mini golf, slides, adventure trails and geocaching. Visit Ötzi, the Iceman, a glacier mummy from the Copper Age at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.

The Atlas Mountains in Morocco are a top elopement destination for adventurous families.
Atlas Mountains, Morocco image via Pixabay

Location #5 – Morocco / The Atlas Mountains

Region: Northern Africa

Best Time of Year to Visit: March – June, September – November

Description: The Atlas Mountains, in northwestern Africa, separate the Mediterranean Sea from the Sahara Desert. The Atlas mountains are known for gorgeous snow capped peaks, box canyons, and gorges. In town, the main square in Marrakesh, Djemaa-El-Fna, has loads of entertainment – musicians, magicians, and artists take up shop in every corner and perform until the early hours of the morning. And you’ll want to try traditional Moroccan food at the dozens of stalls beckoning visitors in! Nearby, you can immerse yourself in a labyrinth of souqs, magical narrow streets that twist and turn until, if you wish, you are lost amongst a sea of colorful rugs and lanterns.

Must Sees: 1) Toubkal National Park, home to the highest peak in Morocco, is perfect for any length of elopement – from day hikes to multi-day outings with Berber mules carrying the freight (and your kids when little legs get too tired or the terrain becomes a bit too technical). 2) The Sahara desert. The dunes are a far ride from the mountains, but if you’re staying in Morocco for any length of time, you won’t want to miss a chance to stand on the edge of the largest desert in the world.

A Bit of History: The gateway to the High Atlas Mountains is Marrakesh, one of the four imperial Moroccan cities, with walls, or rampart, dating to 1100 AD. On the coast, the city of Casablanca is home to the largest mosque in Northern Africa, the Hassan II.

For the Kids: The souqs contain a myriad of tiny shops that should keep kids enthralled for hours – and if they look to the corners of these shops, they’ll undoubtedly spy a few sleeping kittens. Nearby parks have pony rides, or kids can ride a camel! Children can take an oasis tour, rock climb, visit an amazing garden or the informative Berber Ecomuseum, or just hang out in the Djemaa-El-Fna.

Ancient acacia trees sitting in front of the famous red sand dunes in Deadvlei Namibia.
Deadvlei acacia trees, Namibia image via Shutterstock

Location #6 – Namibia

Region: Southwest Coast of Africa

Best Time of Year to Visit: July – August

Description: Namibia is one of the safest countries in Africa – there’s no need to worry about malaria in tourist areas, or yellow fever. The landscapes are gorgeous, and varied. Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, and perfect for a sunrise elopement. The Sossusvlei red sand dunes are the largest in the world, and you can take a balloon ride over the dunes. Deadvlei is a white salt pan with ancient acacia trees – climb a dune to watch the sunrise. 

Must Sees: 1) Quivertree Forest is in southern Namibia – Bushmen used the branches of these trees to make quivers. Namibia’s national tree, Quivertrees bloom May to July with bright yellow flowers. 2) Giant’s playground – dolerite rock formations dated between 160 and 180 million years old. 3) Spitzkoppe, a gorgeous but less frequented landscape perfect for camping and a sunset elopement. 4) Etosha National Park in Northern Namibia is the biggest wildlife sanctuary in the country. 5) At the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, hundreds of thousands of seals hang out and call to each other.

A Bit of History: Namibia hosts the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein, which is the largest site of ancient Bushman rock engravings in Africa.

For the Kids: Visit the quirky settlement of Solitaire, with a permanent population of less than 100 people, on your way to Namib-Naukluft National Park. Anywhere you go, the varied landscape and wildlife viewing is sure to entertain your little ones.

Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand is one of the best places to elope in the world.
Hooker Valley Track, New Zealand image via Shutterstock

Location #7 – New Zealand

Region: South East of Australia

Best Time of Year to Visit: November

Description: The land of four climates, more waterfalls than you can count in one view, and the homebase of the greatest adventure ever taken – Hobbiton. Visit Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki / Mt. Cook National Park to see the highest mountain in New Zealand. Hike the 6 miles round trip (262 ft elevation gain), cross three swinging bridges, and end up at a stunning glacial lake with Mt. Cook in the background. This is a popular hike, but with so many lovely viewpoints, you’re sure to find an intimate nook or cranny perfect for exchanging vows. Visit the wineries in Marlborough, which are family-friendly, too! Wairau River has a large outdoor lawn and garden games, Cloudy Bay has a huge garden with croquet, petanque, and various bats and balls for kiddos to play with, and Forrest Wines & Wither Hills both have grassy lawns and toy boxes right in the tasting rooms. You can also visit Hanmer Springs, natural hot springs 90 minutes north of Christchurch. Soak in mineral rich thermal pools, while taking in the scenery beyond. 

Must Sees: 1) The Punakaiki Rocks are a landscape strewn with pancake shaped rocks and blowholes sending up jets of water along the coastline. A gorgeous natural wonder best viewed at high tide. 2) At Truman Beach you can walk under a small waterfall cascading from the limestone cliffs above onto the beach below. 3) Waipara River Boys Brigade Swimming Hole has a rope swing, tarp water slide, banks to picnic on and a nearby river to play in.

A Bit of History: Legend is that New Zealand was fished from the sea by a demigod named Maui. He fashioned a magical fishhook from an ancestral bone, and while fishing with his brothers hooked the world’s biggest fish. Upon carving into it, Maui and his brothers created the deep valleys and sharp mountain peaks of New Zealand.

For the Kids: Enjoy the drive to Kaikoura, a small town on the east coast of the South Island and about 112 miles from Christchurch.  Throughout the drive, you’ll view a stunning coastline, snow-capped mountains, wildlife, and clifftops. Watch for dolphins, whales, fur seals, and dozens of bird species! Kaikoura means crayfish in Maori, and here kids can catch their own. Kids 8+ can swim with dolphins, and those 5+ can go on a dolphin watch. Kids 3+ can go on a whale watch tour, depending on the sea conditions.

 Múlafossur Waterfall in the Faroe Islands looks like it's falling off the edge of the world.
Múlafossur Waterfall, Faroe Islands image via Shutterstock

Location #8 – Faroe Islands

Region: Pretty much directly between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic

Best Time of Year to Visit: Summer

Description: While some hikes are definitely more popular than others, the Faroe Islands has the epic views of Iceland without the throngs of people. One of the more well-known hikes is to Lake Sørvágsvatn / Leitisvatn, a lake sitting atop dramatic sea cliffs on the island of Vágar. The hike is 3.7 miles round trip and flat, but the views are stunning! The best view is from Trælanípa cliff, but make sure to continue on to Bøsdalafossur waterfall.

Must Sees: 1) Saksun Church on the island of Streymoy. The stone walls and grassy roof are backed by a cliffside waterfall and give the building a truly remote and natural aesthetic. 2) The sea inlet at Sund on Streymoy. When foggy and still, the reflection and silence here is eerily beautiful! 3) Mulafossur Waterfall on Vagar Island. The waterfall leads directly off a cliff to a sharp inlet on the coast, and feels like it’s dropping off the edge of the world.

A Bit of History: Irish monks were the first known settlers in the islands. In the 6th century AD they told of the “Islands of the Sheep and the Paradise of Birds.” The name is derived from old Norse and means Sheep, given by the Viking settlers coming from Norway in the 9th century.

For the Kids: Take a ferry ride to Mykines to see the puffins on a sunset guided hike and stay in a lovely small lodge afterwards (this hike would also be a gorgeous elopement location!). The views are epic, the tourists are gone come evening, and the puffins are pretty much the cutest creatures ever.

Things to Consider for Any Elopement Destination

Travel at Your Little One’s Pace

My favorite thing about photographing family-friendly elopements is the wonder and attention to detail that children bring to life! Even when hiking with kids means traveling at a snail’s pace, remember this is part of the journey – you’ll appreciate the stones beneath your feet and the vistas before your eyes more with them present! Seeing life through the eyes of your kids is pure magic. Yes, traveling is easier without kids, and so is eloping. Outdoor adventures with little ones can be tough! But would you really have it any other way? They force you to slow down and soak it all in. Every. Single. Detail. What at first may seem pretty dang annoying becomes the very best way to get married and to walk through life – with eyes, ears, and heart open to it all. Trust me, you’ve got this!

Be Prepared. Check the List Again!

Only you know what your family is capable of – what kind of destination will suit your elopement experience, and where to draw the line between adventure and struggle. I am in no way advocating that you go far outside your comfort zone for the sake of an adventure elopement! Everyone has different needs, expectations, and a unique family. My goal is to hear your dreams, learn what experiences you’re comfortable with, and help you plan a family friendly elopement wherever in the world you’re hoping to go! If you’ve never taken your kids on a hike longer than two miles, we probably won’t be choosing an elopement destination that requires an all-day hiking adventure. But there are many ways to make your day easier, and to craft a memorable experience for your family. For instance, if you have kids between the ages of 4 and 8, a pack animal to carry them when their legs get tired could be the difference between tears and laughter. Similarly, there are some basic safety rules that outdoor enthusiasts with kids try to follow. Example: When kids are ready to carry a bag of their own, make sure the maximum weight of the backpack doesn’t exceed 12% of their bodyweight. Second, be mindful of altitude and never take a child under 5 years of age above 8200 ft or a child under 10 above 9800 ft. 

Just be honest with yourself; only you can decide what works for your family. You want this adventure elopement to be fun, and ensuring it’s the best day ever takes proper planning. Pack sunscreen, water, jackets, and layers. Invest in comfortable and durable shoes suitable for the terrain. And bring a lot of snacks!

Want more elopement location inspiration? In this post you’ll find the best off-the-beaten-path locations for Arizona elopements. Wherever you choose to elope, I support you! I support your adventurous spirit, family connection, and love of nature. I support YOU!

Are you and your family ready to plan your own adventurous destination elopement?