Shelly Pate

How to Have a Dolomites Italy Elopement: Our Vow Renewal Love Story

couple stands beside lake at their Italian Dolomites elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu

My husband and I made a deal. Besides promising our lives to each other on our wedding day, we promised a second celebration. We decided to have a traditional wedding followed by an elopement-style vow renewal on our five-year anniversary. Our marriage recently hit the five-year mark and we celebrated in Italy! Here’s a glimpse of our Italy elopement adventure in the gorgeous Dolomites.

Why We Did Our Wedding Twice

couple kisses by Italian mountainside lake
Photographed by Henry Tieu

When we were planning our traditional wedding back in 2015, my husband Patrick and I discussed a destination elopement. Getting away just the two of us or with a small group of people were both options on the table. 

couple jumps into air at Dolomites Italy elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Since we were right out of college, and the first in our friend group to get married, we wanted to just throw a big party that could include everyone. But, we promised to do an Italy elopement on our five-year anniversary as our vow renewal adventure. 

If I could go back in time and redo my wedding I still wouldn’t change a thing. But, if we were planning our wedding today, the two of us would definitely choose an Italy elopement adventure with a small group of people!

couple jumps into air at Dolomites Italy elopement
couple kisses lakeside at the Dolomites Italy elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Planning an Italy Elopement in the Dolomites

the dolomites covered by clouds at Italy elopment

Our sunrise adventure began at 2 AM with getting my hair and makeup done by Sunshine Brides. The Dolomites have a wide range of areas to explore and we chose to catch the sunrise beside the Dolomites where we could take a boat ride across a lake.

Patrick and I planned our Italy elopement there so we could spend 2-3 days in small towns throughout the region experiencing the culture with its different German and Swiss influences. Our plans got a little sidetracked when after our sunrise vow renewal, we had to move the sunset session up because of an incoming rainstorm.

The storm was avoided, but you can see the dark clouds rolling in throughout our shots! Enjoying a surprisingly large sandwich and charcuterie board on top of the mountain became the perfect end to our day!

couple stands on mountaintop at the Italian Dolomites
couple stands under cloud-covered mountains at the Italian Dolomites
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Our photographer, Henry Tieu, did such an incredible job capturing our Italy elopement day. I enjoyed being on the other side of the lens, since it was so great working with him. I met Henry at a photography workshop and already knew that we had a similar approach to photographing the day. It’s always nerve wracking to shoot another photographer, but he made us not feel like robots, relaxing us and creating a memorable experience!

couple embraces with sleeves flowing in wind at mountaintop elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu

I couldn’t avoid shooting entirely, and experimented with my film camera from the mountaintop having Patrick and I take photos of one another. It was the first time in forever that I had used it!

photographer takes photos of groom at mountaintop elopement

What Makes a Vow Renewal Different Than Your Wedding Day

couple exchanges vows at Italian Dolomites elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Some of the details that we carried over from our wedding day included reading our original vows, wearing my sparkling rose gold Keds shoes, and Patrick putting on his wedding day tie.

groom holds suit jacket wearing watch and flower tie
Photographed by Henry Tieu

But, there were some twists and surprises.

Patrick wanted to be completely surprised by my wedding vow renewal dress. Since there was no place to change clothes, I wore a hotel robe walking over to our wedding vow renewal ceremony spot. We also both added to our vows, expanding on the past five years by sharing how we’ve grown together, overcome challenges, and really become like home to each other.

couple walks through woods for Italian Dolomites first look
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Just like a wedding day isn’t just about capturing photos, it’s about making a commitment that lasts a lifetime. In the same way, we wanted to celebrate this beautiful milestone with an epic marriage vow renewal adventure.

couple has first look beside Italian Dolomites
couple hugs at Italian Dolomites elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Why a Destination Italy Elopement Was Worth It To Us

couple embraces on mountaintop at Italian Dolomites elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Patrick and I decided to do a vow renewal in the Italian Dolomites because we wanted an adventure. More than that, we wanted to enjoy setting aside time just for us. A trip somewhere that celebrated how much we’ve grown together over the years.

couple holds hands looking away in front of Italian Dolomites
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Compared to our wedding day, this adventurous experience was way less stressful. There was freedom in the timeline and the ability to go with how we were feeling instead of our decisions affecting others. It felt so different not having to ask anyone’s opinion about anything and just do what we wanted to do.

We didn’t have any regrets because our Italy elopement was entirely our choice.

couple holds hands in boat about to kiss in lakeside Dolomites elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Envisioning our Italian vow renewal came from a desire for adventure at a place we both were strongly tied to but had never visited together. This trip was spent soaking it in and taking some time for ourselves. Time to pause and be intentional together in the midst of our very busy lives. This entire experience left me excited for all of our future adventures and lazy days together.

couple snuggles in boat at Italy elopement beside the Dolomites
couple walks through grass on mountaintop at Italy elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Our vow renewal ended up being everything I had dreamed of despite our wild ride getting there. Read the full story of our vow renewal travels!

couple sits on mountaintop and eats picnic at Italy elopement
couple walks through grass on mountaintop at Italy elopement
couple stands on mountaintop with wedding train in wind at Italy elopement
couple stands on cliff edge below the Dolomites at their Italy elopement
stormy cloudy sunset over the Italian Dolomites
Photographed by Henry Tieu

The Team

Photographer | Henry Tieu
Florist | Rain and Pines
HMU | Sunshine Brides
Dress | Lovely Bride DC

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