we want to elope somewhere wonderful but is it legal?

WE WANT TO ELOPE somewhere wonderful

…BUT IS IT a LEGAL wedding?



we want to elope somewhere wonderful but is it A legal WEDDING?


In this 20 minute video Caroline explains:
What is an elopement wedding?
Is it legal? 
Why you should elope?
How to plan an elopement wedding


TOP tips for Elopement weddings

In this blog I explain what they are, the legal versions versus the non-legal versions, and how you can start to plan your own elopement wedding. Although I am based in the Lake District in Cumbria, a lot of the advice I give can be applied to wherever you are in the world. Do add a comment if you have any questions, or if there are areas I haven’t covered!

The Elopement story

I have been hosting elopement weddings for years, and they have come a long way from the secret and cheap options people perceive them to be. No more shimmying down the drainpipe in the dead of night to run away and marry in secret!

The Covid pandemic saw couples reducing their wedding guest numbers to within government guidelines. These restrictions gave a reason for couples to stop and think about what they really want. They could be more selfish and take charge of their weddings. Couples could plan to get married their way by choosing to elope. Sadly, many faced resistance from friends and family wanting a larger, more inclusive wedding.

The pandemic sparked this new approach,  and when added to the current economic climate, a rising trend in elopement weddings shows no sign of slowing.


Bride and Groom having their first dance in the open air at Cote How
Just the Two of you - by Jo Greenfield


The majority of people want to be “married” and are ideally looking for a legal wedding. In England and Wales, a legal wedding has to be conducted by either a registrar or member of the clergy in a registry office, Church or approved Licensed Premises.
If you can find an appropriate venue in keeping with your wedding location and theme, and you have two witnesses, you can arrange a legal elopement. 


Christmas Weddings - Bride and Groom Signing their Christmas marriage certificate
Signing the register - Simon Hughes


Some couples are opting for wild and wonderful elopements on a mountainside or under a waterfall. These are not legal elopement weddings in England and Wales. The photographs may look fabulous but if you are in England and Wales you still need to legally marry in addition to this non-legal style of wedding.
Couples can arrange a lovely commitment ceremony with a celebrant and photographer but they do need a legal wedding ceremony either in a registry office, church or licensed venue at a different time. Bear this in mind if you are planning something a little more adventurous for your wedding day!


Runaway Wedding! by Simon Hughes


One option is to try to find a venue in an amazing location where you can marry legally and use the immediate surroundings as part of your wedding. You can then have additional time off-site with your photographer to capture dramatic portrait photography.

We offer “Adventurers” elopement weddings at Cote How. Our team facilitate the ceremony from our venue in the foothills of Loughrigg Fell, an easy walk to the Lakeshore of Rydal Water. Couples then hike to Rydal Caves after their legal ceremony for a stunning photoshoot.
You can read more about our Adventure Elopement Weddings here.   

Adventure Couple on their Lake District Wild Elopement Wedding
Adventure Couple on their Lake District Wild Elopement Wedding - Jo Greenfield


A true elopement can still be like it was back in the day!  This wedding style appeals to couples head over heels in love and recently engaged. They decide to marry and simply don’t want to wait! Our short-notice weddings are perfect in this case.
Elopements are essentially simple weddings for just the two of you and can be easy to arrange! Perhaps incorporate your wedding into a little holiday or short-break in a romantic holiday destination.


Our Amazing Spaces - The grounds at Cote How Lake District weddings
Strolling the grounds post ceremony - Jenna Carpenter


I speak to many couples planning to elope and always ask if they intend to share their plans. Sadly about 50% of elopement couples intend to keep their plans a secret to avoid pressure and well-intentioned “advice” from others. But it is your day and you should be able to do it your way. A wedding day should be the happiest day of your life. Getting married should be relaxed, centered around the two of you, and filled with joy.


perfect elopement wedding at a perfect lake district wedding venue
Bring a sign to use in your photos, then "Send to All!" - Jenna Carpenter

PRIVACY - Findng a venue with EXCLUSIVE USE

Many hotels offer elopement packages where you can have a private ceremony but sometimes space for privacy is limited. The package can include a meal in their restaurant and an overnight stay in one of their bedrooms. However, if you want a venue with a little more privacy, look for places where you can stroll around the grounds or enjoy an outdoor wedding without other customers milling around.

There are a few dedicated wedding venues that are small enough to offer full exclusivity. If this is important to you then search for Exclusive Use Wedding Venues or Private Wedding Venues. These tend to be small, family-run independent venues, rather than larger hotels.
My couples always comment that a lack of privacy is one of their biggest concerns when looking for venues. 


Elope in the Lake District as a small family
Elope in the Lake District as a small family

DESTINATION WEDDINGS - Eloping somewhere fabulous

With only two of you to organise, it opens up a host of opportunities when searching for a desirable location for your elopement wedding. Many couples opt for a destination wedding, as part of a holiday,  in a place with a connection to them as a couple. It may be where they got engaged or enjoyed a  romantic break.  Often it can be a place with sentimental value and perhaps a place special to them as a child.

Bride and groom celebrate their marriage with a jubilant wave
Celebrating overlooking Rydla Water - Jenna Carpenter


Forget spending the national average of £30,000 on a bells and whistles wedding! When there are only the two of you to budget for, you can afford a little more luxury. Pushing the boat out a little further is common when it comes to eloping. Without a guest list, there is a wider choice of more desirable locations, providing the perfect opportunity to indulge a little more in the things you have always dreamed of.   

Check out our “Indulgers Elopements” here

Romantic Elopement wedding venue
Romantic Elopement wedding venue



If you are struggling with where to start looking for an elopement wedding venue, you first need to decide if you are looking for a legal wedding, and in what area you wish to be married. All legal weddings do need to be in a register office, church, or licensed venue. You then need to contact the County Council of that area. Each wedding venue has to be approved and licensed by the County Council which will provide you with a list of approved premises.

Elopement couple strolling the grounds at Cote How - by Jenna Carpenter


If you are planning an elopement and would still like a little tradition, such as a ‘first look’ on the aisle, we have the perfect solution. After breakfast in your hotel, you can get ready and arrive at your venue independently.  Alternatively, one of you could arrange to check in to your wedding venue early and get ready onsite ahead of your partner. At Cote How we have a dedicated Getting Ready Room, which has been a massive hit for 2022. It is the perfect place to prepare privately in a relaxed environment.

Simon Hughes - Indulgent Elopement Wedding photographer at Cote How Rydal Lake District Cumbria
Simon Hughes - Indulgent Elopement Wedding photographer at Cote How Rydal Lake District Cumbria



Eloping can make putting on your dress and doing your hair pretty tricky, so arrange for your stylists to come to your hotel room early to help get you ready. Alternatively, they could meet you at your venue if you have booked extra time to get ready on-site, for a real pre-ceremony treat.
Getting ready in the venue’s Beauty Suite means you can relax in style and perhaps have a sip of your favourite drink. You can sneak a peek out of the window to see your fiancé arriving too.
Another benefit is that you can be interviewed by the registrars privately and separately from your partner ahead of the ceremony. Your ‘first look’ as you walk down the aisle can be that super special moment you have both waited for!

Bride getting ready for the wedding
Getting ready for her wedding - Jo Greenfield


Outdoor wedding picnic for two
Outdoor wedding picnic for two - Photo Simon Hughes

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog. If so, please drop me a comment and share this post with someone you may know who is looking to elope and needs some guidance! 

You may also be interested in this blog: How to choose your Lake District Elopement Wedding Photographer

What type of elopement style is right for you?

The popularity of eloping has seen an increase in dedicated elopement venues well-versed in advising you on the best elopement style for you.  I try to understand what brings my couples to the Lakes. They might be active outdoor enthusiasts or prefer a more sedate style of holiday. This helps me advise them on our elopement wedding options.  

We offer a RUNAWAYS morning elopement, with arrival drinks and an intimate ceremony in a choice of locations. After celebration drinks, there is time for photographs around the grounds and along the lake shores of Rydal Water.
For couples seeking some amazing views, we have the afternoon ADVENTURER’S elope, with an adventurous hike up to the caves into magnificent higher landscapes.

Our  INDULGERS elopement is for couples who want an early check-in, a getting-ready room, and a honeymoon suite. We serve a light lunch whilst you prepare for your afternoon ceremony, followed by dinner at one of our many excellent restaurants. All our elopement weddings enjoy a central Lake District location. We offer fantastic scenery, yet total privacy and exclusivity. Eloping means to indulge a little more… after all, we only ever plan to marry once, so make it memorable!  

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