Ever dreamed of eloping in Italy? The Dolomites provide a wondrous backdrop for a dreamy destination wedding that will utterly wow you and your guests.
Imagine the joy of exchanging vows amid some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. We were beyond thrilled to help Natalie and David Heinrich do just that this past fall.
After seeing many others go through the stress of planning a large traditional wedding, they decided an intimate destination wedding was the better choice. We asked Natalie and David to share their South Tyrol wedding experience with us. Whether you are considering eloping in Italy or simply curious about what a wedding in the Dolomites is like, this interview is sure to elevate your romantic aspirations.
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Why did you choose South Tyrol as your wedding destination?
We were actually planning to get married in Lofoten, Norway but with the travel restrictions in place during the pandemic, we were unable to enter Norway in September 2021. We made a last-minute decision to find an alternative destination and in our hasty internet searches, each of us stumbled upon the Dolomites and decided it was meant to be! David is a pilot for Delta Air Lines and travels quite a lot so it was important for us to go somewhere he had never been. We also wanted it to be a place with beautiful scenery and quaint towns and South Tyrol fit the bill.
Can you tell us a little about what the ceremony and reception were like?
We traveled with only our immediate families (10 people total) and thus had a very intimate wedding day. We took a cable car up to Alpe di Siusi and meandered through the meadows until we found a beautiful backdrop for our ceremony (the towering Sassolungo massif). Our ceremony consisted of some readings by our family members, sharing vows, saying prayers, exchanging rings, and a champagne toast at the end! Everyone agreed it was the most memorable wedding we’ve all attended because everyone was able to play a role. There were lots of tears shed!
We then walked to Malga Schgaguler Schwaige for lunch and the staff graciously offered us grappa to celebrate. It was so fun to walk around Alpe di Siusi in our wedding attire and we received many words of congratulations from other tourists and locals in many languages we couldn’t understand.
We spent some of the afternoon taking fun photos in the meadow and also did some beautiful sunset photos at Compatsch with Schlern mountain in the background. We ended the night with an incredible dinner with our families at Tubladel in Ortisei. Tubladel even changed their “off” night to make sure they were open for our special occasion. True South Tyrolean hospitality.
Would you recommend a wedding in South Tyrol to other couples?
Absolutely! Everything in South Tyrol is so accessible by car, cable car, and foot, making it easy to see a lot of sites in a short amount of time. We also thoroughly enjoyed the accommodations, shops, restaurants, and wineries in the area. It was the perfect destination for a group of 10 as we could meet up and hike during the day and find a great spot to eat at night. South Tyrol is such a romantic place for a couple to elope. It can be as relaxing or adventurous as you want.
All the local businesses we used from the restaurants to the florist and more were perfect. They were so responsive, even on a short timeline. You really couldn’t go wrong with choosing this region.
What was the highlight of your wedding day in South Tyrol?
It’s impossible to pick one highlight. From start to finish, the day was a dream. Our ceremony was so meaningful — from the intimacy of the readings and vows to the incredible mountain views to the cowbells just over the hill.
The hospitality of all of the locals made us feel so special. The only thing missing was a lot of our friends and family but we took a moment of silence in the pasture to honor those who weren’t with us and we truly felt their presence.
What was the most challenging part about eloping in Italy?
We had only about 4 weeks to plan our trip, which initially felt stressful and rushed, but Throne & Vine truly put us at ease by putting together the most amazing itinerary for us. It was so helpful to have personal recommendations for hikes, restaurants, and our ceremony location.
We knew that we couldn’t go wrong in South Tyrol but it was our wedding day and we wanted it to be perfect! Our photographer was not familiar with the area but with Kate and Vin’s recommendations, we found some amazing places for photos.
Your photos are gorgeous! How did you select your photographer?
We found Ingvild Kolnes online when we were planning to get married in Norway. We held Zoom meetings with her leading up to our wedding date to get to know her and plan our elopement. Ingvild has previously spent much of her career shooting weddings and elopements in Norway but with Norway being closed to international travelers for much of the pandemic, she graciously offered to travel with us to Italy. She even arrived in Ortisei two days prior to the wedding so she could seek out great photography spots. We are immensely grateful that she decided to join us for our South Tyrol adventure!
If you are considering an elopement or destination wedding, finding a photographer who specializes in this type of wedding is a must. Our photos turned out beautifully and we have so many of them printed and framed around our house!
Did you have to fill out any special paperwork to get married in Italy?
We got legally married in the United States by our pastor so we did not do any of the legal paperwork in Italy. We looked into the process in Italy and it seemed too complicated, plus we didn’t want to waste our special time in Italy dealing with paperwork and waiting in lines at the U.S. Embassy or wherever we would need to go. We signed our paperwork in the United States as more of a send-off than a ceremony, and then completed our ceremony in Italy on the mountain.
Oftentimes with international weddings/elopements, couples opt to get married legally in their home country and then do a “symbolic ceremony” elsewhere. We still view our Italian wedding day as our true anniversary date (“9/14/22” was even embroidered into David’s wedding suit!).
Did you have a backup plan in case the weather was poor on Alpe di Siusi on the day of your ceremony?
We did not! With our initial plan to get married in Norway, we fully expected rain on our wedding day and planned our attire accordingly. Natalie packed fleece-lined leggings and a water-resistant Fjallraven jacket in case it got cold, but neither one was needed on our day on Alpe di Siusi! She did her own hair and practiced it ahead of time to ensure it would be a hairstyle that would withstand wind and rain.
Waterproof makeup is also a must for any wedding, especially outdoors. Had it rained on Alpe di Siusi, we may have shifted our timeline for the day to avoid the rain, or found a ceremony spot somewhat covered by trees. We were extremely lucky with the perfect conditions for the day.
Any tips for couples planning on eloping in Italy?
If you are planning an elopement, we would recommend finding a photographer who specializes in shooting elopements and knows the area well to take you to less popular spots. We would also recommend connecting with travel advisors such as Throne & Vine to discover unique photo locations.
We wanted our day to feel completely stress-free and natural. Having a photographer skilled in capturing us just enjoying the day rather than posing awkwardly was so great.
If you are eloping in Italy during peak season, we would recommend booking reservations at restaurants and wineries in advance. We traveled to South Tyrol during the pandemic and it was relatively easy to show up at restaurants and wineries without reservations, but as travel continues bouncing back that will likely not always be the case. Those eloping in South Tyrol must get accommodations with a view of the mountains! The glasses of wine we sipped on the balconies will be memorable forever.
Anything you would change looking back?
We would have planned our wedding to be in South Tyrol from the get-go rather than our original plan of Norway given the complications of the pandemic. Since our wedding day in September 2021, a few of our family members have coincidentally visited Lofoten, Norway, where we would have gotten married, and they all agreed that South Tyrol was a better wedding destination for this type of ‘elopement’ with family. That being said, we cannot wait to visit Lofoten sometime on our own as a quieter retreat.
As an intimate wedding destination, South Tyrol is truly a great find. I don’t think we would have changed anything about our trip but if we had more time, we may have done more rifugio-to-rifugio hiking and may have stayed in Merano longer (we only had 1 day as our honeymoon was in Tuscany).
Finally, Do you have a favorite destination in the Dolomites?
We absolutely loved the town of Ortisei and are glad we spent the majority of our time there.
Our favorite hike was Tre Cime di Lavaredo. We were so thankful to be one of the first few people out on the trail that morning to beat the crowds. It was a foggy morning which created a dramatic backdrop at times. Wild animals, wildflowers, and wild mountain peaks all showing up in waves of fog — a very cool experience we will never forget.
All photos credited to Ingvild Kolnes