How to Elope in the Dolomites for Every Budget

How to Elope in the Dolomites for Every Budget

This guide is for couples looking for tips on how to plan their mountain wedding or elopement in the Italian Dolomites! It can be a lot to organize, so whether you’re coming from the US, Canada, the UK or the Philippines or anywhere else, consider this blog your local’s guide and checklist. Below you’ll find three different budget options, starting with an all out luxe option, the average option, and something for the DIY minimalists. You’ll also be able to choose the best time of year based on your needs, what to pack, and what to consider when choosing locations and transportation in the area.

*NOTE: the Dolomites is an area of northern Italy often referred to as “South Tyrol” (tee-ROLL) in English, or Süd Tirol in German. The area is a rich overlap of Austrian/German and Italian mountain culture. Italian, German and English are spoken throughout the area.

couple wearing their wedding attire in the Dolomites during their elopement, facing dramatic rocky peaks

8 Quick Tips for Planning a Dolomites Elopement:

  • Base your trip around the cities of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Meran, Bolzano or Ortesei
  • Many metropolitan areas of Italy are best explored by public transit, however, I recommend booking a car for the Dolomites. This company is highly rated by Google and Trust Pilot for the Cortina area.
  • If you can drive stick, the cheapest rates are for compact, manual cars. Double check the transmission type before booking. Fair warning that Italian drivers are *extremely* aggressive and the steep, winding mountain roads are no joke!
  • Pack layers, all year round. Mountain weather changes quickly, and higher elevations bring chill no matter how warm the ground temps are. Always have a rain jacket or fleece hoody with, even during summer.
  • Bring hiking boots or trail shoes with good tread and ankle support. Mud and loose stone is everywhere, and you don’t want to slide or roll an ankle!
  • Be prepared for some places to speak little English. Study up on some Italian basics for checking in/out of your hotel, or have Deepl translator bookmarked in your search engine.
  • Don’t be discouraged by a little rain. Rain can be romantic and create some very atmospheric, moody conditions. Cloudy skies also make for the best midday photos.
  • Have a backup in case of lightning storms. Lightening is a no go in the mountains.

How to elope in the Dolomites for 3 different budgets

The range of activities and accommodations in the Dolomites means it is accessible for most budgets at or over €8,000. These options are based on average prices in 2022 for services and accomodations including two people. Please note that all budget descriptions are in the local currency of Euro. For the most accurate exchange rate in your currency, I recommend XE currency converter.

For “elopement activities” consider things like gondola rides, ski lift tickets, dinner with private chef or wine tastings, helicopter rides, overnight rifugio stays, paragliding, boat rides etc.

Eloping in the Dolomites on a luxury budget:

Base Budget: ~€20,000 for 5 days in the Dolomites; add 825 EUR per additional day

When it comes to luxury, the sky is the limit. These prices are for a “basic” luxury elopement, and you can easily double the price if you want to book the most impressive rooms, first class flights, rental cars and restaurant experiences. Italian shopping trips not included…

  • Two days of photography coverage: 8k
  • 2 days of elopement activities: 400
  • Bouquet and boutonniere: 150
  • Two business class, direct flights (return included) from NYC to Milan: 6k
  • 5 nights in 4-5 star spa hotels: 2k
  • 5 day BMW car rental: 1.5k
  • Highway tolls, gas and parking: 200
  • Food & Drinks (lunch and dinner): 750
  • 2 spa days with massages: 800

Eloping in the Dolomites on an average budget:

Budget: under €12,000 for 5 days in the Dolomites; add 520 per day

I would say the average elopement in the Dolomites will run you around €12k. You can adjust each area to save or splurge depending on what you value most, but ultimately, this is how much the average Dolomites elopement will cost a couple for 5 days.

  • Full day of photography coverage: 5k
  • 1 day of elopement activities: 200
  • Bouquet and boutonniere: 150
  • Two premium economy flights from NYC to Milan: 3k
  • 5 nights in 3 star hotels: 1k
  • 5 day sedan car rental: 1.2k
  • Highway tolls, gas and parking: 200
  • Food & Drinks (lunch and dinner): 450
  • Spa day with massages: 400

Eloping in the Dolomites on a DIY budget:

Budget: under €7,000 for 5 days in the Dolomites; add 325 per day

If you’re willing to do a little grocery shopping, make your own bouquet, can drive a manual transmission and stay in cheaper accommodation, you can have a dreamy budget Dolomites elopement for under €7k!

  • Half day of photography coverage: 3,500k
  • DIY bouquet from supermarket: 30
  • Two economy flights from NYC to Milan: 1.5k
  • 5 nights in Airbnb or 2 star hotels: 550
  • 5 day compact MANUAL car rental: 800
  • Highway tolls, gas and parking: 200
  • Food & Drinks (packed lunch with dinner out): 325

How to elope in the Dolomites: getting around

Book a car.

Driving a rental through the mountain passes is an amazing experience, and I promise you’ll want the flexibility of having your own transportation while in the area. Unlike Milan, Rome or the Almalfi coast, driving and parking in these areas is much more feasible and a lot cheaper. Many trail heads have ample parking (although it can cost you €10-30 for parking tickets in areas like Tre Cime or Seceda). Just be sure to arrive early in the morning or after dinner to secure a parking spot. Popular places fill up fast.

How to book a car in the Dolomites:

  1. Find out if you need to obtain an international driver’s permit. For my fellow Americans, check out AAA’s website here. It’s $20 and must be applied for BEFORE you leave.
  2. If you can drive stick, book that manual transmission. Car rentals have really surged in price since COVID and inflating gas prices. Expect prices to surge further during peak travel months July and August in 2023 and beyond. For the best rates, you need to book far in advance and manual cars run up to half the daily cost of automatic!

How to plan your road trip through the Dolomites:

  1. Consider your logistics before booking! Many rental companies, like VIP Cars in Cortina d’Ampezzo, include different pick up and drop off locations in their pricing. Some companies charge extra to drop off at a different location.
  2. Consider taking a train to the Dolomites, and booking a rental for only the Dolomites area. If you plan to visit larger metro areas like Rome, Milan or the Almalfi coast, you’re better off ditching the rental and using trains and buses to get around. Parking in those areas is very expensive, traffic is insane (and honestly, just dangerous sometimes – Italian drivers are WILD, trust me).
  3. Be aware of tolls and use your Google maps settings to turn toll routes on or off. Heads up that rerouting will sometimes automatically place you back on the fastest routes, i.e. toll roads. A toll calculator like this one will help you add up what your planned route will cost.

When to elope in the Dolomites:

Personally, my favorite months for eloping in the Dolomites are June and September. Depending on snowfall, early June is a gamble and many lifts, restaurants and rifugios are not open until the 15th or later. The end of June and all of September will give you the best balance of good weather, minimal crowds and prices. Here’s a breakdown of each season in the Dolomites:

  • Summer, July and August: SOMEWHAT IDEAL. if you want the warmest, sunniest weather possible and don’t mind crowds, surge pricing and somewhat chaotic conditions, July and August are beautiful and all the mountain passes and huts will be open.
  • Early Autumn, September to mid October: IDEAL. Warm to cool daytime temperatures, comfortable, generally dry and much less crowded than summer.
  • Late Autumn, mid October to December: NOT IDEAL. the last two weeks of October can either be great, or not great. It’s a gamble, although I’d say the odds are more in your favor. November to mid December are very unpredictable, wet and cold, with winter ski season not quite yet open in most years.
  • Winter, late December to February: IDEAL FOR SKIING. If you like snow sports, or just that cozy snowy vibe, this is your sign to book a winter elopement!
  • Early spring, March to May: NOT IDEAL. Not quite reliable enough to book a winter or a summer elopement. It’s an absolute shoulder season and things are just a bit wet, chilly and unpredictable.
  • Late Spring, June: IDEAL. Each season is different, and some years the highest passes and lifts don’t open until almost July due to spring snow conditions. Some years, they are completely clear by the end of May. It’s hard to know, so book things for mid June or later if possible.

Ultimately, choosing a time of year is very dependent on what is most important to you. Consider the weather, crowds and activities you want to experience to help you decide.

Where to Stay in the Dolomites:

Generally, there is a huge range of options for booking accomodation in the Dolomites. There are traditional guest houses, luxury spas and hotels, Airbnbs, BnBs, Rifugi and Glamping/Camping. It depends a lot on your budget, what kind of amenities you want and where you feel most comfortable. Expect prices to surge a lot in July and August. Many places are closed from October to early June. Cheapest prices from June to October will run you €100-200 on average. No matter which option below you go for, book early, which is 3-5 months in advance!

Let’s talk about my favorite option first: Rifugi or “rifugios” (Hütte, in German).

What is a “Rifugio”?

Rifugi are traditional mountain huts in South Tirol where day hikers and backpackers can grab food, drinks or a room. They are popular places to stay during the winter skii months as well. These huts sit close to summits or along alpine trails. Most are accessible only by foot, and some can be reached by cable car. Often, the food in these huts is classic South Tirol cooking and is an experience in itself!

When to Stay in a Rifugio: if you want to wake up right on the trail, go skiing, or experience sunset on the mountains without having to hike down in the dark, definitely consider a rifugio. They offer fast trail access and flexibility in ways that even the gondolas can’t, and are the ideal spot to stay overnight for a two day elopement.

AirBnBs and Bed & Breakfasts

If you need unique accommodation, like a full kitchen or multiple rooms for guests, consider an Airbnb. You’ll be able to find entire apartments or condos which are suitable for groups up to 10 in most cases. Access to a full kitchen means you’ll be able to prepare some or all of your own food, which is a great way to have family style meals, save money or accommodate for allergies or diet restrictions. It also means common areas to relax, instead of each having separate hotel rooms.

Traditional BnBs and guesthouses are also more casual and home-y options that reflect the food and culture of the area. They tend to be run by families, possibly going back generations, and are a far more immersive way to stay in South Tirol than a hotel. Check out this list of 44 great guesthouses throughout South Tirol!

Wellness Hotels

If you go the hotel route, definitely try a wellness hotel. These hotels have all the typical amenities and professionalism of other hotels, but offer a spa and sauna area. There are typically upgrades for a number of massage types, skin care and other ways to indulge. Bathing culture is sacred in South Tirol, and definitely something to experience while you’re here. If you want some great tips on how to behave in saunas, this list is spot on (and trust me…follow it exactly.) Then, come as you are and fully embrace the nudity!

Glamping

The glamping and camping in the Dolomites is impressive. Sites are extremely clean and quiet. Many places have pools, spas, laundry facilities, playgrounds and other bonuses. For a truly unique experience, this glamping site on the north side of the Tre Cime National Park has lodges, treehouses and a spa area.

How to elope in the Dolomites: planning activities

The Dolomites are a paradise for mountain sports, culture and food. Your elopement is NOT a glorified photo shoot, so fill it with the REAL things that make you both REALLY excited! Here are some activities to consider booking during your elopement to keep your day super fun:

If you need more ideas, or aren’t sure, consider this an opportunity to have a bucket list experience. It’s your wedding day, so splurge on something memorable that you’ve always wanted to do!

How to plan your vows in the Dolomites:

dolomites vows

Your vow ceremony is super special – it’s the focus point of your entire day. Consider your vow location and time carefully. The most famous spots you want to visit are great for excursions and photo ops, but not always for vows. You want to choose a location that is lesser known or trafficked by tourists so you can have some privacy. Consider doing sunset vows since most day hikers are gone to dinner by then, or take a gondola ride up to scenic points and explore the ridge trails to find a more private area. Privacy is important for your vows because you definitely don’t want this moment ruined by screaming kids, cell phone wielding tourists or photo bombing hikers.

How to include your family in your Dolomites elopement:

You can bring ’em as guests, or you can leave ’em at home. No matter what you choose, make sure it’s what YOU want. There is nothing more stressful or damaging than inviting guests you really don’t want there, but are too nice to say NO to. Let me repeat it for those in the back:

IT’S YOUR WEDDING AND YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO INVITE ANYONE. NO ONE IS ENTITLED TO A SEAT AT THE TABLE.

I promise, it’s seriously one of those, “those who matter won’t mind, and those who mind…don’t matter…” moments.

Here’s some ideas and tips for including a select number of guests:

  • Early in your planning, set an ideal number of guests and stick to it.
  • Set boundaries and expectations. Make sure everyone invited knows what’s expected of them, and when.
  • Make sure you have plenty of breaks for people, and that everyone is fed and hydrated.
  • Have them there for the vow ceremony, but leave them out of your first look
  • Have your dad or parent “walk you down the aisle”
  • Have them read letters or toasts out loud

And here’s some ideas for “including” none at all:

If you want a “just us” Dolomites elopement but want to honor your favorite humans and pets somehow, consider the following:

  • Have your friends and family record video clips of them congratulating you in a shared Google drive. Only watch them after your vows.
  • Same as above, but with hand written letters
  • Have a party before your trip, and take polaroids with everyone. Bring them with you along with your vows.
  • Bring your pet’s collars, or have a small custom plushy of them made
  • If you have a quirky sense of humor, printing faces on socks is hilarious
  • Write thank you or “wish you were here” cards on local post cards
  • Facetime them
  • Use the photos later to announce a party if you want to celebrate with them later!

How to pick the right Dolomites elopement photographer:

dolomites elopement photographer mariah arianna

An elopement photographer is a very intimate part of your day, and they can make or break your Dolomites elopement experience. Choose wisely. Pick someone you vibe with, who makes you feel supported, relaxed and seen. Your photographer may just be the only other person with you on this important day!

I recommend video chatting with multiple photographers and choosing the one you feel most at ease with.

If you want someone local to the Dolomites, trained in wilderness medicine, full of dad jokes and possibly part mountain goat – hey, stranger, let’s talk about it! I’m Mariah. I live in the Austrian Alps and Italian Dolomites and these peaks are my playground, gym and office.

My Dolomites elopement packages start at €4,900. To find out more about what’s included in my packages, check out my packages and pricing page here.

Ready to get started with a call?

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