5 Dolomites Elopement Planning Mistakes To Avoid

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Planning your elopement in the Dolomites should be a super fun and exciting process. And if you’ve got the right vendors on your team, it almost certainly will be. Unfortunately I’m seeing countless numbers people, photographers in particular, visit the area once and then publish a “guide to eloping in the Dolomites” that paints them as an expert in the area. However, as someone who lives close to the Dolomites, and spends a lot of time there, I must say that often disagree with much of their advice, and often this can lead to some big planning mistakes that can easily be avoided.

Mistake #1 – Choosing The Wrong Accommodation Location

One of the biggest mistakes I see occurring when a couple is planning their Dolomites elopement is booking accommodation that is in the wrong location for the places you want to visit. This isn’t helped by the fact that there are hotels out there who are marketing themselves as a “Dolomites hotel” when in fact, they are over an hour drive away.

How to avoid making this mistake:

  1. Choose Your Elopement Location Before You Book Your Accommodation.
    If you’re working with me, I’ll suggest the some convenient accommodation options for you based on your preferred locations. That way, you can choose your accommodation based on it’s proximity to the places you want to visit.
  2. Stay in the Dolomites, Not In Brixen-Bressanone, Bozen-Bolzano or Merano.
    While accommodation in the heart of the Dolomites (which is a huge area) can cost a bit more, it’s worth paying for. Not only will you have the opportunity for epic views, but you won’t be wasting time on your wedding day travelling between your hotel and the Dolomites.

    Couples often are recommended places like Bozen (Bolzano) and Brixen (Bressanone). While these are on the motorway and close to the entrance to the Dolomites, I don’t personally recommend them. While you might be close to one area, you may find yourself spending so much time travelling (and not the fun kind) if you’re wanting to explore the Dolomites for a few days.

    Similarly, Merano is a top destination in South Tyrol. But not all of South Tyrol is close to the Dolomites. Castel Fragsburg in particular is one particular location that allures a lot of couples planning a Dolomites elopement. However, unless your plan is to fly by helicopter (as there’s a heli landing nearby), then you’ve got a 1.5 hour drive each way just to reach the first valleys in the Dolomites.
  3. The Province You Choose Can Make A Big Difference To Price & Quality
    The Dolomites stretch over multiple provinces; with the most popular elopement locations being in South Tyrol, Belluno and Trentino.

    If you’ve read about the Austrian influences in the Dolomites, this is more specifically in the area known as South Tyrol (Südtirol in German or Alto Adige in Italian). In this area (in my opinion), you’re more likely to find a higher standard of accommodation for your money. The choice of high-quality accommodation in this area is really outstanding.

    On the other side, you have Belluno, and most people tend to head to the most well known town, Cortina d’Ampezzo. While this town has a reputation as a luxury ski resort, honestly I find most places here quite shabby and overpriced for the quality of what you get. Sure, there’s more “Italian charm” here (if by that you mean buildings in disrepair) and the food has more Italian influences than South Tyrol, but you’re really paying for Cortina’s reputation rather than actual quality. That being said, there are some newer, nicer hotels there. But honestly, I find Cortina d’Ampezzo really over-priced compared to what you can get for the same money just a short drive away in South Tyrol.

People also commonly overlook the fact that some areas (such as Alpe di Siusi which has some popular hotels) can only be accessed during certain times of day. While some areas can be reached 24/7 by car and by foot, there are some roads that have restrictions, either by the time of day or time of year.

Read more about Hotels in the Dolomites

Mistake #2 – Underestimating Distances Between Locations

This is linked really closely with point #1 and booking your accommodation in the wrong location, but it goes so much deeper.

The Dolomites might look like a pretty small area on a map, but due to the geology of the area, driving between locations may take longer than you think. The roads are often small and winding mountain passes with single-lane traffic. If you’re not used to driving around hairpin bends and negotiating mountain roads, then you can find yourself driving a bit slower (plus you’ll want to take in the scenery as you go). Add into the mix some cyclists on the road or trucks and tractors, that you might not be able to overtake for a mile or two, and the driving time quickly adds up.

How to avoid this mistake:

  1. Hire A Car
    I’m a huge fan of using public transport when possible, as it’s so much better for the planet. Unfortunately, it’s just not practical for a trip to the Dolomites, as in some areas the connections are too infrequent. If you are flying into Venice, Milan, Innsbruck or Munich then you’ll most likely find the best deals on car rental through the bigger agencies operating out of the airports.
  2. List Your Top Destinations & Look At Driving Times
    When you are planning your trip, you might start out wanting to visit a number of locations in one day, but just reality-check how far apart they are to drive, and whether you really want to spend that much time in the car on any single day, especially if that’s your elopement day.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had people request to visit Lago di Braies, Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Seceda in one day. However, when I’ve explained that this is over 3 hours of driving between the locations, (without counting the drive from your accommodation), most people quickly reconsider.

    If you do want to visit a couple of locations, try to pick ones that are close together and require minimal driving time.

    If you’re working with me, that’s part of the planning guidance that I give you. Knowing the areas really well, I’ll suggest locations that won’t take all day to get to that you might have never heard of.

If the location you want to reach is accessed by mountain lift, remember that these usually run between 9am and 4pm (some start at 8am and stay open until 5pm but hours are limited), so you’ll also need to keep that in mind when planning your day, especially if your vision was to do sunrise or sunset – this isn’t possible at many of the locations due to the lift times unless you’re planning on sleeping in one of the huts or doing a long hike in/out.

Two brides embrace with the snowy Dolomite mountains in the background

Mistake #3 – Picking The Wrong Time of Year To Visit

During the high season, which is usually from mid July until the beginning of September, a number of places in the Dolomites, such as Lago di Braies, have started restricting access due to the huge crowds that are visiting.

As a general rule, I hate the Dolomites in August and I don’t recommend it. Car parks fill up fast, and cars line the sides of the narrow mountain passes, trails are busy and loud, it’s super hot and there can be big afternoon thunderstorms. Accommodation is also at its most expensive (simply because demand is so high). It can be possible to find quieter places, but you have to venture far far away from all of the usual places that you’d want to go. July is a bit of an improvement, but it’s still busy too. If you have to pick July, go for early July.

April-May-early June and October-November are shoulder months in the Dolomites. While they can be ideal if you don’t mind spring or winter hiking conditions (think mud, ice or snow on the trails), for many people they don’t offer enough options. Many locations are inaccessible at these times, as the mountain lifts are closed, and many trails are not yet suitable for hiking. For valley or lower-level hiking from the mountain passes it can be perfect, but if your dream is to stand on a top of one of the many high peaks, you’ll want to come between mid June and early October.

Mistake #4 – Only Considering One Of The Famous Locations

Lago di Braies, Seceda, Alpe di Siusi, Tre Cime di Lavaredo. There are the top spots when it comes to the Dolomites – aka the ones everyone knows and wants to go to. And these are the ones that most people visit if they only have a short time in the Dolomites and want to see the “highlights”. But there is so much more to the Dolomites than these locations. Yes, they are beautiful. And they are easy to get to (another reason why they have become so popular). But there is SO MUCH MORE to the Dolomites than just these locations. It’s just that most people don’t stay long enough or visit multiple times in order to discover all the other possibilities.

How To Avoid This Mistake:

  1. Work With A Local Photographer and/or Planner
    Many of the Dolomites elopement guides you’ll read online will list these locations as their top elopement locations. That’s often because they are the most famous, and they are the ones that that person has visited on a trip to the Dolomites. They may have only visited the location once, and been lucky with crowds but may not have a true picture of what that location is really like throughout the different seasons.

    If you’re working with a local vendor team who are experts in the area, they may be more likely to try and convince you NOT to consider these famous areas, because they are fully aware of the reality of visiting them. They will also have a number of other options for you to consider, often based upon knowledge gathered over multiple visits.

    When you are choosing your vendors, especially your photographer and planner, have a look around their website. Check out where they are based (many don’t live in or even close to the Dolomites) and how much they actually work in the Dolomites. The more expertise they have, the better.
Hiking boots are the best footwear for the Dolomites

Mistake #5 – Not Dressing Appropriately

One of the reasons I love the Dolomites (asides from the epic scenery of course) is the ease of access of some really incredible locations. Cable cars and mountain passes make locations that were once remote, now super easily accessible. But just because a location is easy to reach, it shouldn’t be under-estimated that you are still in alpine terrain.

The mountains can be an unforgiving place if you are underprepared. And a huge amount of that preparation is choosing the right clothing to wear. From your choice of footwear to sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun, and everything in between.

How To Avoid This Mistake:

  1. Choose Mountain-Appropriate Footwear
    The most important decision you’ll make, when it comes to what to wear on your elopement day is your footwear – even though these may never be seen if you’ve got a long dress. Even short and easy trails in the Dolomites can have the potential for you to slip and fall if you don’t have the correct shoes. Depending on the locations you’re visiting, they may not need to be ankle-high hiking boots, but for anything where you’re in the mountains, you NEED to have a good tread profile on your shoes.
  2. Layer Up
    Even in the middle of summer, the wind can be really cold. Nude leggings underneath a dress work really well as an extra layer, as well as having a warmer jacket or wind stopper for over the top.
  3. Don’t Forget Sun Protection
    Whether it’s summer or winter, cloudy or sunny, you can still get burned. Not just your skin, but also your eyes, especially if you’re around snow or water where light is reflected back up. Sunscreen, sunglasses and some lip protection are super important.

    Read More – How to Prepare For Your Elopement

Why Is Working With Local Vendors So Important?

The Dolomites has become one of the most desirable elopement locations in Europe. However, when a location becomes popular, lots of people:

  • Visit a location once on vacation, hire models or attend a workshop with a photoshoot of a fake elopement
  • Advertise to work there, giving the impression that they are local, when sometimes they live on another continent
  • Give advice based on what they have read on online or from only spending a few days there and not really knowing the area
  • Want to get paid to return to the area so they get a free holiday and can boost their portfolio
  • Don’t register that they are working there with the local government (which is pretty shady if you ask me)

However, being someone who lives and works in areas where lots of overseas photographers are coming and shooting for free (or cheaply), there are some really huge impacts on the area, including:

  • They don’t respect the areas they are visiting. They are here to get the most epic photos and to show you a good time. Many don’t respect private property, jump fences, disturb wildlife and fly drones where they aren’t allowed.
  • They only know the popular locations because they have researched locations online (it may surprise you that most of the locals don’t share their favourite spots online because they don’t want the tourists to go there).
  • They are travelling in and out of the location for your elopement, and usually don’t have the flexibility that a local photographer can give you if you need to change plans (not to mention the additional CO2 emissions of flying in from overseas when our planet is already suffering so much).

Working with local vendors means supporting local communities, and the local economy, helping reduce the impact of your elopement on the environment. There are also some other huge benefits, including:

  • Accurate and up-to-date advice on the current conditions of trails, roads etc.
  • Having multiple backup options available at the drop of a hat
  • Having no agenda/personal gain from your elopement except from wanting you to have the most incredible time ever.

Related Reading

How to plan an elopement in the Dolomites blog post image
best Dolomites hotels
how to prepare for your adventure elopement

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