How to elope guide | Hints and tips for eloping to Cornwall

elope, cornwall, devon, beach

For the last few years I have had the absolute privilege of watching couples get married in all sorts of ways. From huge weddings to intimate ones. Weddings abroad and weddings in back gardens at home. I have also been a part of and captured over 50 elopements and I have to say, I have truly loved every single one. In the last 12+ years I have seen the idea of eloping become something more and more couples talk about and want to do, who actually do it.Whether it is for financial reasons or because the thought of planning a huge wedding was just too much for them, today, more couples are making that dream happen. Putting aside outside pressures and helping those they love around them to understand why eloping romantically really does get back to the heart of why you are getting married.

Every couple who’s elopement I have been a part of, watched and documented, they all said the same thing. They just wanted to be together.

Cornwall is an amazing place to elope to.

To elope is to do things your own way. There are some incredible places across the country you can run away to and be wed but many people choose to run away to beautiful Cornwall. It is a truly magical place to get married with so much choice to suit every couple. From the sea to the moors and woodlands, there is beauty everywhere.I have shared some of my favourite places a little further in this article below.

Scarlet, Hotel, Intimate, Wedding

You don’t need details… but you can if you want

I know couples that have said their vows in jeans. I have known grooms who have opted for tails and others who have worn shorts.

The beauty of eloping is that you get to do just what you want. No details, or all the details. For many couples they still want to have a day that is beautiful, special and a reflection on their life together and love to throw their creative ideas into day. From flowers to food, dresses to bow ties, it is totally your choice. You don’t have to spend thousands of pounds creating the perfect day, everything can be that little simpler.

elope, cornwall, devon, beach


In the UK you need two witnesses over the age of 18 who will listen to your exchange of vows and sign your marriage certificate.

This may be where you might like to consider family being a part of your day. Perhaps you would like your parents to join you as witnesses, or your siblings. Perhaps choose a couple of close friends who will adventure to the end of the land with you. But if it is just the two of you, you can also ask the venue you are getting married in to act as witnesses. I have even had the privilege of both documenting an elopement and signing the certificate too, a fair few times and once was asked to bring friend to act as the second witness. What an honour! Or you could go old school and ask a few strangers on the street!

Elope, Cornwall,

Go wild and listen to your hearts

The beauty of eloping is that the whole day is yours. From starting your day with breakfast in bed together and getting ready with one another (if you want to), to the time you spend after your ceremony just the two of you. The beauty of eloping is you can do it exactly as you want.

Why not organise a beautiful dinner for two in a magical spot that hugs the ocean or at a recommended pub or restaurant. You could arrange a hamper for a picture perfect picnic in a secluded cove. There are some phenomenal chefs in Cornwall that also offer a ‘chef in my home’ experience or perhaps you prefer to be active and have a surf lesion or go on a foraging exploration.

Or you could simply cosy up by a wood fire, with your favourite foods and a glass of wine, back at your accommodation. The true beauty of eloping is that you can do exactly what you want to do and you are in no rush.

Cornwall elopement picnic

Saying your vows

Your registrars will likely be more than willing to work with you to have a personalised ceremony within the structured format they will need you to follow. You will be able to write and say your own vows, a chance to truly say what you want to one another without feeling like you have 100 people listening in. Your witnesses can still do a reading for you and I have even known the registrars to do one too.

Elopement, Photography, Cornwall

The legal bit

Within England, you have to legally be married in a space that has been sanctioned for marriage. This makes getting legally married on a beach pretty impossible (I cannot wait for the day this changes!) but you could consider your legal ceremony taking place in a town hall with a blessing on the beach by a local celebrant. Do have a look at Cornish Celebrants, some of the loveliest I have ever met! The UK Government website has a listing of all the advice you need for getting married legally in the UK here and the Cornwall advice pages list legally approved venues here with advice on getting married in the county.

Where to elope in Cornwall

For a ceremony with sea views across the cliffs and Atlantic ocean, the boutique Scarlet Hotel has a beautiful ceremony room that looks out across Mawgan Porth Beach. An eco spa retreat that is pure luxury with cliff top hot tubs and incredible dining. It is also a perfect winter elopement venue with a roaring fire keeping you warm while you say your vows whilst watching the Atlantic crashing behind you. It is an adult only space, but does allow dogs.

If you want a hotel option by the sea and have children to join you, the Bedruthen Steps Hotel is great. Fireside ceremonies for wintertime and with views out to sea it is a magical escape for the family. If you would like to be married outdoors and have a family, The Green has a lovely pergola next to a lake amongst the trees and it is a gorgeous space for those with children or pets. I also love the Mexican inspired colour and the sunshiny energy of Lower Barns. Also perfect for those with children.

Or how about being married in an Art instillation? Tremenheere Sculpture gardens is hands down one of my favourite spaces and you can get married in a pergola in the treetops or SkySpace – a beautiful instillation in the gardens.

If you are still a little unsure where to start or perhaps want someone to help you plan, Petite Weddings can help you arrange your ceremony in the most amazing places, including a stunning art instillation in a beautiful botanic gardens and a stay in Fallen Angel, their incredible accommodation. They are a planning and elopement and intimate wedding specialist and will help you custom create something truly lovely.

elope cornwall

Document your day and share your memories

As an elopement photographer I am of course always going to say how important capturing your day is, but I truly think it is something to consider as a priority when looking at what budget you do have for your elopement. To have beautiful images of your day to keep forever and to be able to share your journey with friends and family who could not be there.

Even if it is just an hour of coverage to capture your ceremony and some portraits afterwards, you really will love having the images to look back on.

I find the most popular coverage I am asked for is 2 to 3 hours. To capture some of your prep, through your ceremony and then to head off to a stunning location for some portraits afterwards.

elope, cornwall, devon, beach

How to let your friends and family know.

Granted this bit is completely unique to you. You may plan on letting friends and family know before you run away to be married, or save it as the ultimate surprise for them.

My honest advice is to treat this very sensitively and speak to your immediate family before you go. Have a very clear reason why you are doing this and share with them the magical that it will be for you both. Help them understand why you are choosing to do it this way.

Many couples bring family members as witnesses. It really does come down to your family situation and dynamics.

If you truly do want to keep it as a surprise, from the conversations I have had with couples who have eloped, some things I have learned are

  • Be sure to let those you want to tell in person know in person. Make a list of those you need to tell first and give them a call before your big Facebook announcement
  • Be prepared that you may get a mixed response. Some people will feel they have missed out on a big event in your lives and any possible upset can be managed with some pre thinking or conversation between the two of you on how you want to tell your story. Some couples have a big old party afterwards, wear their dresses and suits again or have a blessing in church
  • Try and get a photo to share your news with. Even if you ask your photographer to take one on your phone for you, if they can’t turn one around quickly for you. I always try and take some instant photos for couples on my phone or theirs for the news. It makes it real and hard for anyone feel anything but happiness when they see your smiling faces.

Above all, embrace the idea of eloping and go with it. Be true to yourselves and your love for one another. Listen to the beating of your wild hearts… run away to the end of the land and be married.

Beach, Elopement, Cornwall, The Scarlet Hotel