Croatia Elopement: A How-to Guide

Let’s talk about how to plan a Croatia elopement. For all of us romantics out there, elopements seem exciting, private, deeply emotional and utterly beautiful. I picture overlooks about seas or canyons, couples standing on sunset shores and the warmth of summer sunshine. But before these blissful moments can be created and vows exchanged, there are some practical and logistical steps that need to occur. In my other article The Perfect Croatia Elopement, I walk you through all my romantic and artistic designs. Today, though, we will focus on the practical must-dos to get you there and prepare for it. 

In short, your steps to a Croatia elopement are 1-9 listed below. You can jump to any of those sections if you want to read ahead.


What is an Elopement?

First, let’s answer the question “What is an elopement?” An elopement is a civil, religious or symbolic wedding union between two people. In some cases, the officiating can be done by the couple themselves and a third person is not needed. However in most elopements, a third-party officiates the ceremony. Often, elopements occur out of town, but spontaneous or secret weddings that occur in town are elopements as well.

Is an Intimate Wedding and Elopement?

Intimate weddings are small weddings that include approximately under 20 people. Technically speaking, an elopement is never more than two people. However, since we are talking about something fun like weddings, we won’t be sticklers about terms. Elopements and intimate weddings can be used interchangeably for the purposes of our discussion in this article.

What’s the Difference Between and Elopement and a Destination Wedding?

An elopement in Croatia or a destination wedding in Croatia are similar. The difference is in the number of guests. Elopements are small, typically just the couple, and involve some spontaneity or secrecy. While destination weddings can encompass any number of guests, but occur in a place other than where you call home.

Why Elope to Croatia?

Elopements are Logistically Simpler

Elopements are logistically simpler than full weddings. Plus Croatia elopements are absolutely breathtaking. There are fewer elements involved than in traditional planning. Like for example, a reception. Using the term elopement in the purest definition, a two-person celebration, there is no other parties to “receive” the newly married couple rendering a reception (reception/receipt/receive) impossible. Most elopements don’t have wedding receptions, so bands, menus and table decor are all unnecessary. Consequently, the financial investment in these areas is cut.

On the other hand, some couples decide on a large budget that they’d like to spend solely on them or their family and closest friends. Instead of having a large wedding at home, couples take the entire budget and apply it to traveling to a unique destination.

Elopements are Extra Beautiful – Consider a Croatia Elopement

Big or small, elopements are still meant to be a unique, once-in-a-lifetime celebration between a couple. As such, many couples choose to treat themselves with beautiful locations, attire and details. Brides should make themselves feel special with beautiful hair and make-up, per their liking, a gorgeous bouquet, if they are flower lovers, and tasty meal with their partner after the ceremony is complete. Grooms should always select tasteful attire that will make them feel confident and handsome. I always recommend my clients consider what they will want to see themselves wearing in 40 years. I ask clients to consider when they’ve looked at old photos of a grandfather, father or other man they respect, what was that man wearing? Then I suggest the groom consider wearing something akin to that. 

Couples elope to have their wedding in a meaningful place, to be close to their honeymoon, for the eleement of surprise….and so many other reasons. There are no rules of what must be done – elopements are meant to be an amazing, private celebration.

If you’re considering it, select all the things that make you look and feel your best and run with it. Let’s start at step one and discuss how to plan an elopement (or intimate wedding).

Decide Your Location and Style of your Croatia Elopement

Select your location and why it is meaningful to you. As you look at the landscape or city, consider where you can picture yourself saying your vows. Are vistas, vast plains or dunes, canyons, seas or cities your cup of tea? Do you see yourself up high away from people, or down low amongst crowds? What time of year is it? Is it tourist season there? Would you like your wedding at a private resort? How about a private residence or villa? If you love the water, have you considered a sailboat?

Depending on the style of location, tourist season can affect your elopement tremendously. Crowds, weather, cost and availability are the most impacted elements in tourist season. How does that affect your plans? Get an idea of pros and cons for a location in different times of the year or from two different locations. Make some notes and put this topic aside, for a moment.

Determine the Budget for Your Elopement

Consider if you have a budget in mind. Are you looking to treat yourself or are you looking to keep it simple in style and cost? Research transportation and accommodation prices and determine if these impact your location decision. Are there some things you can’t live without on your wedding day? Is that attire related? Meal related? Decor related? Some couples enjoy personalizing announcements and invitations for small groups with hand-painted vignettes of their venue and calligraphy. While others want to purchase beautiful garden-bouquets and floral arches. Since these add to the budget, start to factor these costs in to get a portion of your budget on paper. 

Create a Vision Board for Your Travel and Elopement

Begin to compile a vision board. While some couples cringe at this step, I encourage it, even if it is just a couple of photos. Vision boards help tremendously in describing what you want as you speak with any wedding professional. After all, they do say an image is worth a thousand words. 

Some things to consider on your vision board are: a photo of the location, a photo of attire, any words that convey the feeling you’d like to have on your elopement. You might add photos of a meal you wish to eat, the transportation you wish to have, the time of year, number of people and florals you’d like to have. There is again no right or wrong. The purpose of the board will be to keep you focused and add clarity to your planning. Keep your vision board in your back pocket. 

Hire Your Pro Team for Your Croatia Elopement

The four most common wedding professionals for any elopement, including a Croatian elopement are as follows: a planner (particularly if you’re eloping  in a different country), a photographer, an officiant and a florist. Depending on who you select, you may find that some photographers also offer a simple elopement package for planning also. That’s exactly what we offer at 5th Photography – planning and logistics, paperwork, floral and officiant – all in addition to your photography. If you hire a planner directly, you will find that they will then hire a photographer or make suggestion for you. Either way, be sure to have someone filling the planner role as well as the photographer role.

Once you have your team selected, review your budget and additional costs together with your planner. List out each item you expect to incur costs for and be realistic. Elopements can be economical, but they can just as easily be lavish. If budget is of no concern, don’t be afraid to treat yourself to dramatic elements. Enjoy a large bouquet, enjoy a couture gown, have ceremony decor and a high-end dinner at your Croatia elopement. Imagery can look extra incredible when eloping couples play as big as a couple hosting a classic wedding celebration. Elopement does not need to be synonymous with modest.

As an aside, I’d like to mention the importance of concurrently planning any at-home reception you may be considering. If you are opting for this type of a celebration to accompany the elopement, consider the at-home venue, planner, photographer, caterer, musicians or DJ, videographer, florist, stationer, etc. Depending on the size you’ll need at least one of the vendors in the list. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this.

Prepare Your Documents for Your Travel and Croatia Elopement

For any legally binding ceremony, a number of legal documents will be required. The typical documents include:

  • Birth Certificates
  • Passport Copies
  • Single Status Affidavit
  • Divorce Decree/Death Certificate

But for a Croatia elopement, you’ll have a few other needed documents. I have written a comprehensive article on How to Get Married in Croatia. It’s a comprehensive look into the details of legally binding ceremonies and very detailed on every step. In Croatia, you’ll also need a sworn court interpreters if you don’t speak Croatian fluently. Here is a list of sworn court interpreters of the government website.

For your elopement, no matter the destination, collect your documents, make colored copies and put those aside, until needed. 

Book Your Travel to Croatia

In some cases, your planner may even serve as your travel adviser and agent. If so, you can book all of your travel and planning in one place. But this is by far the exception, not the norm. In most cases, the clients book their own travel in coordination with the planner/photographer to ensure enough time is available for documents (if you are having a civil or religious ceremony) as well as walk throughs of your venue/location.

With travel, it’s important to remember that you may need to arrive early for legal paperwork reasons. This is not just for elopements in Croatia. Many countries have this requirement. Likewise, should you have any travel delays, cutting it close with your arrival and wedding date is a risk (and stress) you don’t need. 

If you’re traveling from a different continent, leaving yourself time to adjust to the time zone and acclimate to your new area is a must. 

Sleep is the biggest factor with time zone changes. Adjusting your clock 6-12 hours is hard on the body and can leave visible signs for days. Additionally, your body needs time to adjust to altitudes, foods, water and new routines. Drink plenty of water, eat healthy and consider supplements as well as probiotics for gut health.

Make the Final Selections for Your Croatia Wedding

Finalize plans as soon as possible. Certain countries, coastal Croatia included, run at a different pace than many English-speaking countries like the US, Australia, Canada or the UK. As such, prioritizing finalizations of logistics and order, in addition to locking in contracts, is a must. Be firm. Be persistent. And Be polite. In Croatia, it is customary to bring gifts to anyone with whom you’d like a successful business dealing. Common gifts are chocolates. Upgrading to a liquor is also common and well-received (this does not apply to police, but it does apply to government officials like those working on your paperwork for a civil or religious ceremony).

Legalize Your Marriage After Returning from Croatia

Depending on your country of residence, you may have to make translations and obtain various types of notarizations after your Croatia elopement. Inquire with your local court house or city hall. Be sure to obtain a copy of your marriage license in Croatia, to take back to your country of residence. 

Remember, an alternative to having a legally binding ceremony in Croatia, is to have a symbolic ceremony. For couples that do not wish to marry in a place of worship while in Croatia, a city hall marriage in your country of residence is often a simpler route. Then, while in Croatia, a symbolic ceremony can be performed with none of the paperwork requirements. 

Share the News of Your Croatia Elopement or Have a Reception

Some couples who opt for an elopement in Croatia, choose to host a reception upon returning home. If you choose to do so, ensure you are sending invites prior to your trip to Croatia. Sending an invitation to a wedding reception approximately 3 months prior to the date is customary.

Should you decide to forgo a reception, another common practice for elopements is to send out a “we’re married” message. This can come in the form of a folded card in envelope or a postcard. 

Let’s start planning your Croatia Elopement!

Thank you for inviting me into your day.

Reach out to Steph directly at steph@5thPhotography.com

I truly hope this article serves you. I would love to hear your plans. Together we would create photos that will stand the test of time and that will be ready to grace the pages of a magazine.

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