How to Plan an Elopement: Ideas and Checklist for Your Perfect Day

Recently married couple walking on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Step-by-step guide to the perfect elopement in Puerto Vallarta. From locations to a checklist, ensure your intimate wedding is unforgettable.


I. Why elope?
II. Elopement Ideas in Puerto Vallarta
III. The Best Beaches For An Elopement In Puerto Vallarta
IV. How to Plan an Elopement in Puerto Vallarta: A Checklist

Eloping can be a magical experience. It allows couples to focus on the most essential part of a wedding – their love for each other. Whether you’re dreaming of an intimate beach ceremony or a mountain-top vow exchange, eloping offers endless possibilities. If you’re unsure where to start, this guide will walk you through how to plan an elopement, sprinkle in some inspiring elopement ideas, and provide you with a handy elopement checklist. As a Puerto Vallarta photographer, we’ll exclusively focus on elopement ideas in this tropical paradise!


Why Elope?

The reasons to elope are as varied as the couples themselves. Some prefer intimacy and simplicity, while others want a unique adventure without the hefty price tag of a traditional wedding. Eloping also allows for personalized touches and an escape from potential familial or societal pressures. To learn more about elopements, read What Is An Elopement? Its Meaning & How It Differs From Traditional Weddings.


Elopement Ideas in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta, with its pristine beaches, cobblestone streets, and vibrant culture, offers a dreamy backdrop for couples looking to elope. This charming coastal town on the Pacific Ocean offers some of the most enchanting elopement venues in Mexico. These venues offer a combination of ceremony, celebration, and accommodation options, making them ideal for couples wanting to elope in Puerto Vallarta:

  • Beachfront Resorts: Puerto Vallarta is renowned for its luxury resorts. Many of them offer intimate beachfront ceremonies followed by private dinners, and of course, luxurious suites for the night. Examples include the Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa and the Hotel Mousai.
  • Private Villas: Renting a private villa can provide the intimate setting many eloping couples desire. You can have a ceremony overlooking the sea, a poolside celebration, and stay the night. Casa Velas and Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel are among the noteworthy options.
  • Boutique Hotels: These offer a unique and intimate setting, often with stunning architecture and ocean views. Casa Kimberly, once the love nest of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, is one such option in Puerto Vallarta.
  • Yachts and Catamarans: For a unique experience, consider chartering a private yacht or catamaran. Get married on the deck against a sunset backdrop, celebrate with a catered meal on board, and sleep under the stars.
  • Haciendas: While not as common as beach resorts, traditional Mexican estates or “haciendas” can provide a unique backdrop. They come with historic charm, beautiful courtyards, and often, luxurious accommodations.
  • Jungle Retreats: Embrace the beauty of nature by opting for a retreat nestled in the lush jungles around Puerto Vallarta. Venues such as Verana in Yelapa provide a unique blend of luxury and natural beauty, ideal for those looking for something a little different.

Read: Discover the Best Wedding Venues in Puerto Vallarta for a curated list of our favorite wedding and elopement venues.


The Best Beaches For An Elopement In Puerto Vallarta

For those seeking the romantic charm of an elopement, Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay offer idyllic beaches that serve as stunning backdrops. Spanning from the southern shores to the northern limits, here’s a guide to some potential beach locations for your intimate ceremony:

  • Yelapa Beach: Nestled in the south, this secluded beach with its ambient atmosphere promises an intimate elopement setting. Accessible only by boat, it sets the tone for a private ceremony, framed by beachfront eateries and quaint shops.
  • Las Animas Beach: This picturesque southern sanctuary, enclosed by cliffs, provides crystal-clear waters – a serene environment to exchange vows.
  • Punta Negra Beach: Located about 30 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta, it offers an intimate ambiance amidst soft sands, verdant hills, and rugged cliffs, ensuring your day remains undisturbed.
  • Conchas Chinas Beach: This tranquil nook in the south, surrounded by dense jungles, promises an elopement with breathtaking views and an intimate atmosphere.
  • Bucerias Beach: Situated in Bucerias town, this expansive coastline with its tranquil waters and vibrant beachfront can accommodate a larger elopement gathering if desired.
  • Playa Destiladeras: A short drive north reveals this gem with its azure waters and gentle waves, ideal for couples seeking a relaxed elopement setting accompanied by beach clubs and diverse dining options.
  • Sayulita Beach: Heading 45 minutes north, this surfer’s haven emits a bohemian charm, making it perfect for couples wanting a unique, spirited elopement setting.
  • Playa Patzcuarito: Tucked between Sayulita and San Francisco, this untouched beach with its natural beauty provides a serene backdrop for couples wanting to escape the usual and celebrate their union.
  • San Francisco Beach (San Pancho Beach): A favorite, located 40 minutes to the north, known for its extensive golden stretch and peaceful waters, it offers a versatile elopement location, especially for those considering a post-ceremony surf.
  • Las Caletas Beach: Located on the south side of Banderas Bay, Las Caletas is surrounded by dense jungle and features a beautiful beach, a natural amphitheater, and several outdoor spaces for wedding ceremonies and receptions.
  • Colomitos Beach: A hidden gem just a short boat ride away from Puerto Vallarta, Colomitos Beach is a small, pristine cove surrounded by lush jungle. Perfect for an intimate wedding ceremony, Colomitos offers a truly unique and unforgettable beachfront experience.
  • Majahuitas Beach: Majahuitas, a secluded beach destination near Puerto Vallarta, offers an idyllic and intimate setting for weddings. Known for its pristine beaches, clear blue waters, and lush tropical surroundings, Majahuitas provides a perfect backdrop for a wedding and a range of activities for guests to enjoy including snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and hiking in the surrounding jungle.
  • Las Careyes: Nestled in the enchanting coastal stretch of Jalisco, Mexico, this destination lies about 90 kilometers south of Puerto Vallarta. Las Careyes offers immaculate beaches and an opulent atmosphere, epitomizing the charm of the Mexican Riviera.

      A Few Tips:

  • Simplify: We recommend booking your accommodation and celebration in or near your elopement location to simplify the planning process. 
  • Local Expertise: Consider hiring a local wedding photographer familiar with elopements in Puerto Vallarta, such as Chas Studios. Their expertise can be invaluable, especially if you’re not familiar with the area or the language. 
  • Legalities: Research the legal requirements for getting married in Mexico to ensure your union is official. Another option is to hold the legal civil ceremony in your home country and hold the symbolic ceremony in Mexico.
  • Seasonal Considerations: While Puerto Vallarta is beautiful year-round, keep in mind that the summer months (June – October) can be humid and rainy. The most popular months for weddings are November through May.


How to Plan an Elopement in Puerto Vallarta: A Checklist

Puerto Vallarta offers an exquisite blend of beachfront charm, cultural richness, and tropical beauty, making it a sought-after location for elopements. If you’re considering this picturesque destination for your intimate ceremony, here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose your location: Before diving into the planning, familiarize yourself with Puerto Vallarta’s locales, from its beaches to its mountainous jungles. This will help you determine the kind of elopement you desire – whether it’s a beach ceremony, a garden, a resort, a private yacht, or something more adventurous. Many resorts in Puerto Vallarta offer elopement packages which can simplify the process.

  2. Legal Requirements for Marriage:
    • Legal Ceremony: If you wish for your marriage to be legally binding, you’ll need a civil ceremony in Spanish. Consider hiring a translator if you’re not fluent.  If you’re having a symbolic ceremony, you can choose anyone.
    • Officiant: Reach out to the local Registro Civil office in Puerto Vallarta. They’ll provide details about officiants available for civil ceremonies. The office will also brief you on the necessary paperwork and legal requirements.
    • Marriage Application: Obtain the application from the local registry in Puerto Vallarta and complete it.
    • Documentation: You’ll need valid passports, tourist cards (which you receive upon entering Mexico), and if applicable, divorce decrees or death certificates.
    • Blood Tests: Mexico requires couples to take a blood test in Mexico. This should be done at least a couple of days before the wedding. The tests check for HIV, RPR (syphilis), and blood type.
    • Witnesses: You will need four witnesses with valid identification (can be non-Mexican). Some resorts offer witnesses if you can’t provide your own.
    • Waiting Period: There’s often a waiting period after submitting your application, usually a couple of days.

  3. Hire a photographer and videographer: The importance of professionally capturing these moments cannot be understated. Not only do these photographs and videos act as a bridge, connecting the day’s emotions with loved ones who couldn’t attend, but they also serve as timeless keepsakes, allowing couples to revisit and relive their elopement.

  4. Hire a florist: Securing a florist for your elopement ensures a beautifully crafted bouquet, adding a touch of elegance and tradition to your intimate ceremony without the need for extensive venue decorations.

  5. Dress/Attire: Decide on your outfits – consider the venue and climate.

  6. Wedding Bands: Don’t forget these symbols of commitment. (If you’d like custom wedding bands made, we know a jewelry designer who crafted our wedding bands for us!)

  7. Vows: Write personal vows for added intimacy.

  8. Personal Touches: Think about the unique elements that can make your elopement special. Handwritten vows, a special champagne toast, a first dance to your favorite song, or even a unique ritual can make your day memorable.

  9. Incorporate Local Touches: To make your elopement even more memorable, consider adding local elements, like a mariachi band, local flowers like hibiscus or marigolds, or a traditional Mexican dish for your post-ceremony meal.

  10. Post-Elopement Plans: Book a romantic dinner or a local adventure to celebrate.

  11. Accommodation: Secure your stay, whether it’s a luxury resort or a cozy beachside cabana.

  12. Announcement Plans: Decide when and how you’ll share your news. Consider live-streaming the event through Zoom or Facebook Live.



  • What are the key steps in planning an elopement?
    Planning an elopement, while simpler than a traditional wedding, still requires thought and organization. It’s essential to choose a location, secure necessary documentation if eloping abroad, find an officiant, and decide on the details like attire, rings, and any personal touches.
  • How does an elopement checklist differ from a traditional wedding checklist?
    An elopement checklist is typically more concise. It prioritizes the essentials: location, officiant, witnesses, attire, rings, and potentially a photographer. While traditional weddings may focus on extensive guest lists, venues, and detailed ceremonies, elopements emphasize the couple’s intimate experience.
  • What are some unique elopement ideas to consider?
    Elopement ideas can range from sunrise ceremonies on mountaintops, intimate beach vows in places like Puerto Vallarta, ceremonies in secluded forests, or even urban elopements in a city’s iconic spots. The beauty of eloping is the freedom to make it as unique as your love story.
  • How can I ensure my elopement still feels special without a large guest list?
    The intimacy of elopements is what makes them inherently special. To enhance this, consider personal vows, a special location that holds meaning, or incorporating specific rituals or traditions that resonate with you. Hiring a photographer can also help capture the raw emotions of the day.
  • What should I definitely not forget on my elopement checklist?
    While every elopement is unique, certain essentials remain consistent: documentation (especially if marrying abroad), choosing an officiant, securing a location, and ensuring any required witnesses are present. Don’t forget personal touches like rings, attire, and any elements that make the day uniquely yours. Also, remember to hire a photographer to capture special, candid moments.


Are you looking for an elopement photographer in Mexico?

Chas Studios has an instantly recognizable aesthetic, defined by the soft, organic, and classic qualities that film provides. As a bespoke photography service, we apply a highly personalized and hand-crafted approach to each and every wedding and elopement. Our team goes above and beyond for our clients to stay true to our mission: to provide a one-of-a-kind experience! Submit an application to receive a custom quote or learn more about our elopement photography packages.

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