The ultimate guide to your elopement in the Dolomites
The ultimate guide to your elopement wedding in the Dolomites
How to elope in the Italian Dolomites?
Where and when? In this elopement wedding guide I’ll share the most important tips, the do’s and dont’s when planning your elopement in the mountains from a wedding photographer’s perspective.
What is the best time to ELOPE in the dolomites?
First of all, let’s talk about seasons in the Dolomites. Depending on the area, the winter opening in the Dolomites usually starts around end of November and lasts somewhere to mid April. The time from mid April to mid June, as well as mid October through November is considered low season or shoulder season in the Dolomites.
Why is this important? Cable cars like the famous Seceda cable car or ski lifts that can take you high up into the mountains don’t operate and are closed for revision. Also many hotels can be closed during off season. In late spring there is often a lot of snow left in higher elevations and some mountain roads can be closed until summer season, mountain passes can be temporarily closed during the daytime due to avalanche danger and melting snow. Thefore, some destinations higher up in the mountains (like Tre Cime di Lavaredo) can’t be reached or are very unreliable elopement destinations. A lot of road closures depend on the current weather situation, so always be sure to check out opening times.
Summer season is usually rather short and lasts from mid/end of June to end of August, with often a beautiful golden fall all through September and sometimes into mid/end of October. Cable cars, rifugios and mountain roads are open until the end of September/mid October. During that time cold weather snaps can occur for a 2-3 day period with even minus degrees and snowfall in higher evelvations, but they are usually gone as fast as they came. One thing is for sure - the weather gets more and more unpredictable every year, so if possible, plan enough time when you visit the Dolomites and be prepared for every weather situation!
For winter elopements keep in mind that many locations are not as accessible as they would be in summer. There can be a lot of snow in the Dolomites, mountain passes can be closed and snow chains mandatory, and depending on the snow height you’re not as free to roam around as in summer. On the plus side - the Dolomites in winter are perfect if you plan to elope in a skiing resort and bring your skiing or snowboarding gear. Some hikes turn into skitouring slopes or snowshoe trails and locations like Tre Cime di Lavaredo are only accessible via a couple of hours of skitouring ascent. In any case - the location you prefer to elope always needs to be taken into account with the season you plan to elope.
Pro tip: I personally prefer summer time (July-August) and early fall for elopements (September) for various reasons. Most rifugios are only open during that time frame. Escpecially early fall is more stable in terms of weather (less thunderstorm threads as in summer), the air is clearer and the views are better. On the other hand, sunrise elopements during summer time are unbeaten!
Where to fly in?
The Dolomites are located in East-Northern Italy & South Tyrol (the autonomous Italian-German speaking part) and nestled close to Austria and Switzerland. Great airports to fly into are Venice and Milano in Italy, Munich in Germany, or even Zurich in Switzerland. Visiting the Dolomites often goes hand-in-hand with a road trip through Austria, Southern Germany and Switzerland as everything is quite close together.
Accommodation - where to stay?
The Dolomites offer a wide range of different accommodations - from luxury wellness hotels to more traditional B&B apartments, slow-tourism farmstays to the very rustic but iconic Rifugios (mountain huts high up in the Dolomites). There are over 140 mountain huts scattered that are run by the Club Alpino Italiano, the Alpine Club South Tyrol or owned privately - which gives you an idea about all the possibilites! The accommodation there is often very basic and rustic as they serve as base camps for multi-day hikes, climbs and treks. Some Rifugio‘s can hold up to 50 people or more and some are very intimate with maybe 15 to 20 beds. Regardless, the Rifugios are the best choice for a hiking or mountain elopement as it is essential to have a safe place to stay in case the weather turns bad, but even more so to enjoy the view for a sunset and sunrise.
Pro-tip: I’m an airBnB favorites list horder! Here’s my favorite airBnBs in the Dolomites for you:
My favorite AirBnBs in the Dolomites
Hiking elopemeNT or easy access by car
One thing to consider while planning your elopement is whether you want to incorporate a hike or not. Some locations are very easily accessible by car (mountain passes and trail heads), however the drawback is that easy to reach locations are often very busy and you won’t have a lot of privacy (Yes, Lago di Braies - I’m looking at you!)
The more remote a location is, the higher the chances are to find a unique, quiet and more secluded spot. A hiking elopement can be an amazing experience that goes way beyond what day tourists gets to see. A third option is to book a helicopter and fly exclusively to a spot that is unreachable by car or a more traditional hike. Specialized helicopter tour operators take you to the best spots!
Sunrise or sunset ELOPEMENT?
The question whether to elope and see your vows during sunset or sunrise it’s not easy to answer! Both are beautiful and both have their pro’s and cons.
I personally love both times of the day for the most dramatic and best light in comparison to eloping at noon (yikes!) Pros for a sunrise elopement are most definitely more privacy and more stable weather conditions. Yes, getting up in the middle of the night can be a con - but honestly? It’s a beautiful experience to get ready, arrive or hike in the dark waiting for the first rays of sunlight. In the summertime when the weather gets really hot, thunderstorms often build up in the afternoon and the air can be hazy. This almost daily afternoon thunderstorm thread is a phenomenon in the Alps that is and can be very dangerous. Usually thunderstorms build up very quickly and vanish as fast as they came. If you’re stuck on a mountain top with a thunderstorm in your neck - it’s time to head back to the Rifugio!
What to plan for your all day elopement in the dolomites
In the Dolomites usually everything is planned around beautiful views, mountains, lakes, cable car rides and hikes. Depending on where you go and what time of the year you are planning to stay, there’s different things to do:
Hiking up a Rifugio for an overnight stay before you say your vows for sunset or sunrise
Taking a bicycle ride through the valleys or on designated mountain trails
Head out for a motorcycle ride up the mountain passes
Climbing a via ferrata (an fixed iron rope climbing route)
Go for a winter wonderland walk
Skiing or snowboarding
Visiting a vineyard to taste the local wines
Picnicking on the alpine meadows or in the woods
Visiting one of the many scenic lakes
Unlike most US-national parks, no permits are required for a symbolic wedding ceremony or bringing a photographer to document your elopement in the Dolomites.
Ok, but for real now. where to elope in the dolomites?
There are so many places, mountain passes and hikes for beautiful views and it is very hard to suggest just one! Ask yourself first how your day should look like, what type of accomodation your prefer and how (easily) you plan to get to a certain location.
Every location should be looked at whether it’s possible to elope all year round or only in summer. Shoulder season is definitely less busy, but certain locations might not be accessible.
Some areas to chose as a base to plan your elopement from could be:
Auronzo di Cadore
Val Gardena & Ortisei
Corvara & Alta Badia
Alpe di Siusi
My favorite national parks for elopements:
Parco naturale Tre Cime
Parco naturale di Fanes-Sennes-Braies
Parco naturale Puez Odle
Parco Naturale Sciliar-Catinaccio
Parco Naturale Paneveggio Pale di San Martino
Parco Nazionale delle Dolomiti Bellunesi
Alpe di Siusi
How about getting legally married in italy?
Getting married legally in Italy isn’t impossible, but it’s a bit of legwork. The good news: You don’t have to be a resident in order to get married, however, you need to plan months ahead. Civil ceremonies can be conducted in town halls, old castles or palaces, outdoor ceremonies need to be approved by the local mayor or deputy - every town may have different requirements. The best practise here is to contact the local town hall you intend to get married at.
The documents you need for a civil ceremony will be:
2) Original birth certificates
3) Evidence of end of previous marriage status (Divorce papers, death certificate)
4) A Nulla Osta (certificate of permission to get married in Italy)
5) Marriage Declaration at the town hall in Italy that you intend to get married
Most couples chose to do the paperwork in their hometown in order to be free with planning their elopement and not worrying about the legal part.