Things to remember when you’re planning your elopement
You’re thinking of eloping in Europe. Maybe you’ve already decided that an Ireland elopement is for you. Or you’ve seen Northern Ireland elopements and know that this is the place you want to start your marriage. As a Northern Ireland elopement photographer and planner, I’m here to give you some tips of where to start and some things to remember when it comes to planning your elopement.
Choose when to elope in Northern Ireland
When it comes to planning your elopement, it’s important to be flexible if possible when it comes to dates. Of course, you might have a specific date in mind: your anniversary, a family member’s birthday or a date that has meaning to you or that is easy to remember. But if you are flexible or struggling to decide when to elope, I recommend between September and April to elope in Northern Ireland. There are a few reasons for this, but the main ones being the light and privacy. The sun sets super late in summer and the coast is extremely busy with tourists making it more challenging to get to epic locations. In Autumn to Spring, you get beautiful light earlier in the day meaning you can go for dinner and enjoy your first evening as a married couple.
Depending on where you want to get married, you may need to be flexible with your date, and get it secured ASAP. Dunluce Castle requires booking in advance so be prepared to work around availability if this is a location you’re really keen on.
Find an elopement planner and/or photographer
Ok, so if you’re on this page, you’ll maybe have noticed I’m an elopement photographer and I also plan elopements for couples. I also work with other photographers if my photography style isn’t for you or I can offer bespoke elopement planning packages if you already have a photographer. I truly believe that having local knowledge is vital to your elopement success. From where the light hits best at certain times to alternative routes for when traffic is busy to vendor recommendations; it will save you so much time and energy working with someone who is local.
My couples also find that having me plan elements like hair, make up and flowers takes so much stress from them. They only have to deal with one person. They only have to pay one person. And they don’t have to worry about coordinating or making changes; it’s all handled for them.
However, most important when it comes to choosing your elopement photographer or planner, is ensuring they are someone who is aligned with you, your vision and your values. It may be only you guys and them for the entire day; can you imagine hanging out with them? Are they going to bring the right energy to your day? Are they going to add to your experience?
Make sure to read About Me pages. Check out reviews from other clients. Follow them on social media. Set up a zoom call. Be sure.
Planning your elopement ceremony
The most important thing to decide is whether you would like a legal ceremony or a celtic ceremony. A legal ceremony is possible but there are some logistical considerations. You can only get legally married easily at certain locations. You will also require a visa to get married here if travelling from outside the UK. The paperwork can be mostly completed via email, but you will have to attend the registrar office before your ceremony and provide original documents; so you will have to be in the local area of where you’re eloping a day or two before your wedding. Visas and the extra paperwork do add an extra expense so it’s worth thinking carefully about whether it’s worth the hassle or is it easier to just head to the courthouse before you come or when you get home.
A Celtic Ceremony can be conducted anywhere. There are a number of celebrants available to conduct your bespoke ceremony. There are Humanist celebrants or non-denominational religious celebrants who can marry you. You will normally have a zoom call with them so they can get to know you and put together a ceremony that is fitting and personal for you. They can advise you on some beautiful Irish and celtic wedding traditions such as handfasting and the quaich.
Alternatively many couples opt to forego a celebrant and say their own private vows. This is so special and intimate. I recommend purchasing vow books like these ones from Etsy. Don’t have your vows on a phone.
Ultimately your elopement ceremony should be personal and unique to you. This is a moment that you will look back on and cherish for the rest of your life. It’s the start of your marriage and so should be representative of all that has brought you to this point, all that you are now and all that you hope to be.
Elopement locations in Northern Ireland
When it comes to elopement locations in Northern Ireland, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, if you are having a legal ceremony, you will require the permission of the land-owner for the paperwork. Many of the most popular spots are owned by the government or the National Trust who charge significant amounts to get married there and require a lot of paperwork. By working with a local planner or photographer, you can find out who owns specific land and acquire the permissions.
If you are having a celtic or symbollic ceremony only, you can get married in many more locations as most spots do not require permits. However, you do need to consider how popular spots are. You do not want to be saying your vows with 2 other couples waiting to say theirs, or 1000 tourists taking pictures all around you. Again, this is where having an experienced elopement planner or photographer is essential when it comes to planning this element. You can check out my elopement guide for some elopement locations and all my couples receive an extensive guide as well as exclusive locations that I don’t publish in order to protect.
Get Married At Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle is one of the most iconic spots and the most popular elopement location in Ireland right now. So much so that bookings are being taken in to 2025.
The castle itself is open to the public and is owned by the NI government. You can go inside for photos, but there are other tourists there. Truthfully the inside is nothing exciting in comparison to the view from the cliff overlooking it. The fields on both sides are owned by a local farmer and can be reserved so you have exclusivity and privacy.
You are greeted by your hosts at a little cottage and transported down to the field in either a pickup truck or on a tractor pulled trailer if you have guests. The cottage is available for use if it’s particularly cold; and we have been known to do the longer parts of the ceremony by the fire and go down to field for moments like handfasting or exchanging of rings. It is a truly wholesome and wonderful experience and the photos speak for themselves.
Planning Elopement Details
Once you have your ceremony sorted, the next step is getting excited and thinking about the details. The joy of an elopement is that you don’t need very much. Hair and makeup? Would you like to do your own or get it professionally done? With someone like myself who offers an all inclusive elopement package, hair and makeup is included and I work with a local team that specialise in elopements. However, maybe you want to source your own. I recommend looking at their social media and website; check out reviews and correspond via email. Ask how they handle payment; will you have to make a bank transfer? A lot of vendors here don’t accept card payments so keep this in mind.
When it comes to your elopement hair and makeup, you are most likely not going to have time for a trial when you get here. I recommend booking a trial at home, take lots of pictures from all angles (and different lighting for makeup) and make sure you absolutely love it. Trials are more about you finding a style you love than the stylists. Show the images to the professionals when you get here and they’ll be able to recreate something similar and you’ll feel much more confident.
In terms of elopement flowers, I always ask my couples to give me a colour palette and flowers they either really love or really dislike. Often it’s much easier to tell a florist what you hate and then let them get creative with the seasonal flowers available. Think about whether or not you want to keep your flowers as preserved, artificial and dried flowers are all options now and you can post them back to keep forever.
What to wear for your Ireland Elopement
When it comes to what to wear for your elopement, there are a couple of key factors to consider. Practicality and your style! Stay true to you, whilst remembering that you’re going to be getting married outside in nature. Whilst there aren’t huge treks involved when eloping in Northern Ireland, you will still be walking across fields, climbing over fences and there is mud involved. As long as you have something that you can pick up and carry easily you’ll be great.
DO NOT WEAR HEELS!! I say this with love. I’m a short girly who loves a bit of extra height, but heels do not work well. Even if you think you could change in and out of them, it’s a hassle and it detracts from your experience. Also, your feet will get cold and muddy and dirty.
Boots work best, especially something with a good grip. Guys, check the soles of your shoes and make sure they have some grip. I’ve had some ladies wear trainers and flip flops and it’s worked out ok, but it’s not the most comfortable or safe. Honestly, if you’re wearing a long dress you’ll not really see them and it gives the epic adventure vibe you’re going for with an elopement if you wear boots.
Getting Around When You Elope In Northern Ireland
When you get to Northern Ireland, you will need to rent a car. Public transport here is extremely limited and unreliable; particularly in the coastal and rural areas where you will be visiting and where most elopement locations are. You can hire a car at the airport, but it is essential you prebook an Automatic car. There are limited automatic cars here and the last thing you want to be doing is learning to drive stick whilst driving on the other side of the road. It’s not actually as hard as you think driving in Ireland. The main thing to remember is always look to your right when you reach a roundabout.
On your elopement day itself, it may be worth considering booking transport so that you don’t have to worry about driving, especially if you want to have a drink. Car companies can drive you around. There are a range of car options; from VW campers to classic Ford’s to a Range Rover. The choices are endless and really reasonably priced.
How to get to Northern Ireland
The island of Ireland has a couple of major airports and several smaller airports. Northern Ireland has 3 airports. Belfast International, George Best Belfast City and City of Derry airport. Belfast International is the main airport. Sadly there are no trains directly from any airport. There are buses however. No US flights fly directly into Northern Ireland. You will have to connect; probably via London.
There are direct flights from the US to Dublin and it would be the recommended airport. Remember that Northern Ireland and Ireland are technically two different countries. Thanks to Brexit, Ireland is classed as the EU and Northern Ireland isn’t..or isn’t fully. It’s still all very up in the air. Whilst the island of Ireland is essentially split, there are no hard borders. The main difference is the roadsigns changing. In Ireland the speeds are shown in kilometres per hour. In Northern Ireland they are shown in miles per hour. In Southern Ireland they take Euro. In Northern Ireland they take British Pounds. Card payments are taken pretty much everywhere, but AMEX isn’t always available.
Places to Stay For Your Northern Ireland Elopement
If you’re getting married in Northern Ireland, I recommend staying on the Causeway Coast the night before and the night of your elopement. If searching on Air BnB, search for Portrush or Ballycastle. These are two great coastal towns with good restaurants and pubs. Portrush is the closest to Dunluce Castle. Belfast is an hour away, which I know is nothing for most of you who live in the US or Canada. But if you want to have a drink and relax during your elopement, it’s worth staying locally.
I personally work with a number of resorts in the area that you can hire if you a slightly bigger party and want to host a dinner.
If you’d like to know more about eloping in Northern Ireland or my elopement photography or all inclusive elopement packages, make sure to reach out here. I can’t wait to hear more about your plans. Lx