Okay, so obviously we love weddings. There’s nothing better than getting all of the people you care about together to celebrate your love, especially when you have great food, gorgeous flowers, and plenty of booze to go around. But…what if you could get married without all the planning, stress, and having to wrangle your in-laws? Eloping is as common as ever, and with wedding costs at an all-time high, plenty of couple are choosing amazing destinations for their non-weddings. Catherine Luther Wedding Films did a deep dive into the world of elopements on Instagram, and what they found makes skipping the big wedding sound more appealing than ever.
Unsurprisingly, the main reason that most couples cite for eloping is cost. The average wedding in the US costs over $30,000, which just isn’t realistic for many people. For the venue alone, the average cost is a cool $15k. You could go on one hell of a vacation for just a fraction of that. Rather than going into debt or cutting tons of corners on a wedding, eloping is a way to have an unforgettable experience with a much more moderate price tag.
But the most interesting part of Catherine Luther’s research revolves around the destinations that couples choose for their elopements. Coming in at number one is Bali, Indonesia, which makes sense because who wouldn’t want to go there? We just published a Honeymoon Guide to Bali, but that could double as an elopement guide with minimal adjustments. (Seriously, reading that guide, I want to find someone to elope with just so I have an excuse to plan a trip there.) I guess when you think about it, an elopement trip kind of doubles as a honeymoon, so Bali really is the perfect spot.
The list of top destinations is a mix of domestic hot spots and international getaways, perfect for whatever kind of money you’re trying to spend on your elopement. After saving a ton of money by not having a wedding, lots of couples are able to ball out on an amazing elopement trip. The top international elopement spots after Bali are Paris, Reykjavik, Istanbul, Melbourne, and Tuscany. Lots of variety, but I wouldn’t be mad about a trip to any of these places.
The biggest cities in the U.S. also rank highly on the list, with New York coming in at number two, followed by Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Diego. Feeling extra frugal? Just do a weekend trip to someplace a short flight away, or you can even plan a special staycation where you already live, and invite as few people as you want. The great thing about elopement is that there are really no rules or traditions you need to follow, so it’s 100% customizable for what you want.
Just because you’re not having an extravagant wedding doesn’t mean you don’t want some epic photos, and there’s an elopement route that’s perfect for that: national parks. Yosemite National Park in California is one of the top five elopement destinations, and other national parks like Joshua Tree, Zion, Glacier, and Grand Canyon are also among the most popular spots. If you and your partner enjoy once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experiences, a national park elopement is kind of a no-brainer. Again, if anyone can find me someone to elope with so I can take one of these trips, that’d be greatly appreciated.
Of course, some people have their hearts set on a traditional wedding, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But not everyone needs a white dress and a cake, and that’s okay too. Planning a wedding (or a non-wedding) should be all about matching your vibe as a couple, and an elopement is exactly what some people want. Either way, Bali is definitely on my bucket list.
Images: Artem Beliaikin / Unsplash; disco_infern0, sarah27gamble / Instagram
I’ve never related more to an annoying post-abroad college student than when returning from my honeymoon. I, like those 21-year-old kids coming back from Barthelonaaa, now consider myself an expert on a place where I spent two weeks of my life. However, I did spend a full year researching, mapping out, and planning for this trip, so I like to think I know a little more than those college kids.
Our wedding took place on Saturday, September 7th, and we left for our honeymoon at 9pm on Thursday, September 12th, ultimately landing in Bali at 11am on Saturday, September 14th. I only had 11 vacation days to work with, so I went back to work Monday-Thursday and took an overnight flight to reduce the amount of vacation time I needed to take. First of many pro tips: don’t waste your vacation days on travel days when you can just suck it up and take a late-night flight, which works better with your sleep schedule anyway.
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Officially official!!!! Yesterday was a dream. Shoutout to our friends and family who traveled from near and far and kept this party going well into the morning. @bircheventdesign you created the most amazing atmosphere and @atomicfunkproject is the best band I’ve ever heard. love my hubby @justin_rothberg 🍾🍾🍾🍾 #rothbergAF
Let’s talk geography for a moment: Bali is an island in Indonesia, and is 600 miles east of the capital, Jakarta. It is also 1,600 miles north of Perth in Western Australia. To put this in perspective, Bali is to Australia what Mexico is to people in the U.S.—something I learned after asking the 200th blacked out Australian I met during my trip. They LOVE to rage. Also surprising to me was that we only met ONE other American during the ENTIRE trip (a couple from Cali who were also on their honeymoon)—everyone else was from Asia or Australia. My husband loved this and kept saying over and over, this is definitely the right honeymoon move since it isn’t infiltrated by Americans. (I think those Americans he was referring to got off the plane in the Amalfi Coast and/or Greece.) Another pro tip: if you’re looking to get away from Americans during your honeymoon, choose a place that is at least 16+ hours from your point of origin.
To be fully transparent, we were originally looking to go to the Amalfi Coast and then Greece, but the price of one hotel room in Positano was the equivalent of six nights in a hotel in Bali, for the exact same luxury offerings. Yes, you read that correctly. Bali is CHEAP AS F*CK, and you won’t skimp on quality. The most expensive dinner in a restaurant we had in Bali was $90. NINETY DOLLARS. Rooms are cheap, food is cheap, booze is cheap, shopping is cheap, and transportation is cheap. You name it, it’s cheap, which is why YOU DO NOT NEED A TRAVEL AGENT. They are a rip-off. But more on that later.
We decided to explore Bali’s three most popular, yet very distinct areas, take a three-day trip to Komodo Island, and hit Singapore for 24 hours on the way home (we had a layover through there heading to Bali, so we wanted to take advantage coming back). We started off the trip in Bali’s party area, Canggu/Seminyak, which we thought was the best decision. Immediately upon landing, we went right to a beach club, which also helped us adjust to the time difference. We then went for the complete opposite vibe in Komodo Island before flying back to Bali to spend time in Ubud, the jungle area, and Uluwatu, the cliffside surfing and partying area.
I can’t sit still, but my husband (so weird to say!) likes to chill, so we had a combo of both during the trip. With that being said, here is our itinerary, which I planned completely by myself after our travel agent fired us twice, because I kept trying to out-plan her. Pro tip: travel agents are “free,” but they receive kickbacks and commission from the hotels, so the prices they give you for things are often inflated if you compare them to the prices on Expedia or the property’s website. I quickly realized this, and decided to plan the trip myself so that we could save a ton of money and do more things. If you are staying for longer than 12 days, you could explore places like the Gili Islands and Nusa Penida. We just didn’t have the time for that and wanted to maximize our days by seeing and doing the most possible.
We stayed at Ametis Villa, where we legit lived like royalty for ~$335/night. We had an entire VILLA to ourselves that was made up of an outdoor kitchen, indoor/outdoor bathroom, king-size bed, private pool, and outdoor living room. The package we got included welcome massages, daily breakfast for two, a butler, car service around the area, and transportation to/from the airport. This was actually recommended by the travel agent, but it was cheaper to book it through Expedia (we got the same perks).
We opted to stay in Canggu instead of Seminyak for a more local and authentic experience, as recommended by my friend who moved to Bali from California (shout-out to you, Amanda Forth of The Crystal Boutique—more on that later). Seminyak is more commercialized (think Hyatt and Marriott type hotels).
– Arrive at villa
– Go to Mrs Sippy Beach Club
– We booked a daybed reservation in advance, but the cost of the reservation can be applied to food and drinks. This is the case at every beach club, which is amazing, considering when you buy a table in NYC, you literally only get the table and then have to buy booze on top of it.
– Dinner at the Ametis restaurant, Billy Ho
– ‘Back Room’ at Mason Restaurant (the current ‘it’ place for locals, recommended by Amanda)
– Amo Spa: this local “hangover” spot was recommended by Amanda. Locals have monthly memberships where you can get massages, use the steam room and sauna, and soak in their outdoor cold plunge pools and jacuzzis.
– Shopping/wandering at the Love Anchor Shops, an indoor/outdoor marketplace (make sure you bargain—start at 1/5 the price and go up from there)
– Brunch at La Brisa (this was in my top three places we visited)
– Finns Beach Club, voted the world’s best beach club; this was my husband’s favorite place. Think Vegas on steroids.
– Go home to change for dinner and going out
– Dinner at Merah Putih—this place was awesome!! We each got apps, main courses, and four cocktails for $90. You’re basically dining in an atrium.
– Motel Mexicola: this was also in the top three because you can dance on tables—evidence below (click through).
– Barre class at The Canggu Studio
– Lunch at Loft Canggu
– More shopping and wandering around town
– Drinks at The Lawn (loved this place, had a pool directly overlooking the beach)
– La Plancha for sunset. These are the colorful bean bags you see on Instagram—worth it!!
– Dinner at La Lucciola—great Italian food right on the beach, but they do have a dress code
– Post-dinner drinks at Potato Head Beach Club
– Dancing and partying at La Favela Bar Y Restaurant—this was the number-one partying spot we went to. They have the same owners as La Plancha.
– Husband’s birthday!
– Fly to Komodo to stay at Ayana Komodo
– Private dinner on yoga deck
– Full day of relaxation at the hotel
– Dinner at hotel
– Take shuttle from hotel into town to explore
– Full Day Boat Tour through the hotel which includes hiking on Padar Island, visiting Pink Sand Beach & Rinca Island to see the Komodo Dragon (willlllld), and snorkeling to search for Manta Rays. Big pro tip: The people in Bali are photo pros. It looks like we’re on top of that dragon but we’re probably 10 feet away, and they angle your phone so it looks like you’re on top of it. This will become important again, so remember it. And another pro tip: invest in a comfortable pair of sneakers (pictured above). I LIVED in a pair of Morrison shoes by Naturalizer & I can’t stop wearing them now that I’m home.
– Dinner at hotel
– Early flight back to Bali
– Check in to The Udaya Resorts And Spa Ubud
– Trek through Tegalalang Rice Terrace (included in hotel honeymoon package)
– 100 Candlelight Dinner at Swept Away at Samaya Ubud. This was our splurge meal, but it was a private candlelit dinner along the river and you only honeymoon once (hopefully).
– Head into town to walk around and check out No Mas Cocktail Bar
Saturday, we toured East Bali. But before we get to the places we visited, here is another pro tip: Ubud is where you are going to do most of your sightseeing, and that requires either a driver or tour set up through the hotel or another company. Our original travel agent was trying to push $400+ tours on us, which I thought was a little ridiculous, because you didn’t even have a say in what you were visiting. Instead, I went on Yelp and found a highly recommended personal driver named Wayan. He only charged us FIFTY dollars per day to drive us around to locations WE CHOSE. If you are traveling to any area of Bali, hit up this man either through WhatsApp (+6283119035088) or Instagram DM (profile here).
Also, beware—Instagram is a great resource when booking travel, but half the time what you are seeing IS A LIE. I came across this place, Temple Of Lempuyang. Wayan informed us this is the worst tourist trap in Bali. People drive two hours to wait two more hours to get this photo:
Looks awesome, right? Jumping through a building and having it reflected in the water below? Worth the wait for the ‘Gram, you think. Hah. What you don’t see is that there is a local sitting there with a deli counter-esque number distributor for you to get a number to wait on line AND another local with a MIRROR to create the reflection that you think is some sort of body of water. So you wait two hours for the photo, BUT IT ISN’T EVEN A REAL PHOTO!!!!!!
We went anyway because it was near other sites we were checking out and Wayan said we could sneak a pic from the back of the temple, plus there were other attractions at this location. Here is the photo from behind this temple:
The places we visited were the Temple Of Lempuyang, Tirta Gangga, Taman Ujung Water Palace, and the Besakih Temple. Tirta Gangga (first pic below) was a cool place to see, but again, it is literally another Instagram trap. You are stranded on these little floating discs while you wait for people to have photoshoots. We went, hopped through the exit (lol), took a few pics, and left. My favorite place we visited this day was the Taman Ujung Water Palace (second pic below).
After we got back from the tour we did a candlelight dinner in the Rooftop Yoga Hut at the hotel that was included in our honeymoon package (probably valued at $250).
– Another full day of touring with Wayan
-Monkey Forest and North Bali Tour that included a swing park and a hike to Nungnung Waterfall
– Check in to Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, to live in the lap of luxury.
– Dinner at Kubu at Ritz Carlton
It didn’t take us that long to realize that half the sites are Instagram traps, and once you’ve seen one temple you’ve seen most (don’t mean to offend, but halfway through this day we were over long drives to sightsee). The monkey visit was definitely a highlight of the trip. If you look through Instagram, you’ll see monkey selfies all over. How the hell do you get a monkey to take a selfie? Well first of all, you don’t. You sit there while one of the workers teases a monkey and then takes a photo at an upward angle from your phone (similar to the dragon situation). This was one IG trap we got behind.
The waterfall hike was hard AF but worth it once you got to the actual waterfall. Plus, it made us feel like we were exercising, something we gave up on in Komodo. Not a ton of people know about this spot, so it’s not filled with tourists…yet.
It’s time to talk Bali Swings—another picture you will see ALL OVER INSTAGRAM, which is confusing because it was the scariest thing I have done in my entire life. My husband loved it, but he also loves upside down roller coasters, while I would rather ride the spinning tea cups. But in the spirit of YOLO I sat on a swing and let a local tie a rope around me, since he promised it was safe and no one has died, so you know, I’ll be fine. F this. I went up for five seconds, got a pic and video, and cried to be taken down. What I didn’t know was that while I was up there, they busted out the mirror trick to take this photo, which I admit is pretty cool, despite (you already know) it being a lie:
And here is the photo my husband got…
The key difference you’ll notice here is that he ISN’T HOLDING ONTO ANYTHING, while I held on for dear life. There are a ton of these swings all over Ubud, so don’t think you need to go to the main place. In fact, I suggest you don’t because there will be very long lines and that’s just not worth spending your valuable time on.
After the swings, we decided to cut our tour short because a) we were sick of IG traps, b) we were tired AF, and c) we wanted to enjoy The Mandapa. We spent the most time at this hotel because it was definitely the nicest we stayed at, and the poolside service was amazing. Oh, and let me mention ELISABETH F*CKING MOSS was there at the same time. Yes, I saw her in person but didn’t approach her, because I wasn’t sure if discussing our Handmaid’s Tale recaps was how she wanted to spend her vacation. It was the most expensive, which is why we only did two days, but it was well worth it. At night, we had dinner in a cocoon in their restaurant Kubu, along the river. This was fancy AF and we were very into it.
– Vintage Volkswagen Tour through Mandapa inclusive of visiting the Sebatu Water Temple, Gunung Kawi, Ceking Village, and having a picnic at a coffee planation. Driving through the area with the top down was probably the best part of the tour.
– Ubud Art Market and visit my friend’s store, The Crystal Boutique
– Spa treatment at The Mandapa—this was legit the best massage I have ever gotten and I guess that should come as no surprise. Before you even go into the massage room, you get to use a roof deck pool that is smack in the middle of the jungle. The room itself is a huge couple’s treatment room, with one side being completely open to the river.
– Dinner at Locavore: this was the WEIRDEST yet most fun dinner we had on the trip. You need to book a reservation 1-2 months out (I think we made ours 5 months out because I’m a psychotic planner). This is Indonesia’s only restaurant to be on the top 50 restaurants worldwide list. You will have no idea what you’re eating, but it’s fine because they have a vegetarian and meat-eaters menu, so all your dietary restrictions will be respected. I don’t want to give too much away, but this is a MUST for any Bali honeymoon. It’s not terribly expensive (because nothing in Bali is).
At this point we were OVER sightseeing, so the remainder of our time in Bali was spent at beach bars and clubs.
– Pick up by Wayan to drive us to Uluwatu
– Drive by GWK statue (real name: Patung Garuda Wisnu Kencana)
– Check into to Banyan Tree Ungasan Bali—the hotel surprised us with an upgrade because I noted that it was our honeymoon in the reservation. Our room had an entire other guest house (we didn’t even go in there) with its own bathroom and access to the pool. As for our room, you could walk out of the bedroom INTO the pool. Pro tip: this place was out of our budget when I was originally searching for a hotel, but I kept checking Agoda.com for sales and finally it went on sale for 70% off (I have no f*cking idea how or why) and I booked it immediately.
– Head to Sundays Beach Club for massages on the beach—this is a MUST and I think it was $60 total!!
– Daybed reservation at Omnia Dayclub Bali (yes, the same one as in Vegas). We RAGED here and it was worth every cent. The entire pool is filled with people trying to get a picture for Instagram, but such is the case at any beach bar or pool across the globe. We spent the rest of the day here and ate dinner in our hotel room because we were in no state to go out in public. The service was amazing: staff members literally watched your stuff if you left it on your daybed, and there are little safes underneath the bed for when you go in the pool or up to a bar. If you are traveling to Uluwatu, you need to spend an afternoon here, especially if you’re going on a weekend.
– We were supposed to go check out the Uluwatu Temple but we were sick of touring so we read reviews on Yelp that were negative and used that as enough reason to skip this.
– Ulu Cliffhouse—this was another day club but it was v chill when we went. We spent the afternoon floating on pool bean bags and reading. We left before it turned into a party scene.
– Rock Bar at Ayana Resort—a friend went on her honeymoon and said this place had the best sunset and we had to go…so we did. They don’t take reservations, so you have to arrive an hour or more before sunset so you can get a table, but it’s definitely worth it. You take a cable car up and down from the hotel, which is an activity in and of itself. Everyone in the area knows this is a hotspot, so it’s bound to draw a crowd regardless of the day of the week (we went on a Wednesday).
– Single Fin Bali—because we’re not your average honeymooners, we decided to end our Bali trip with a bang. We regrouped with people we met at Omnia and stayed here until the bar closed at 1am. We got lucky because Wednesday and Sunday are their big nights, so the place was packed and this may have been our most fun night out. If you’re staying in Uluwatu, you need to have a NIGHT here.
– Afternoon flight to Singapore—we jam packed as much as humanly possible into 24 hours
– Check in at Marina Bay Sands Hotel—when we arrived I told them that is was our honeymoon and we booked the worst room ($543 including tax) and essentially begged for an upgrade. They confirmed that I had, in fact, booked the worst room available (it was the cheapest!) and happily upgraded us.
– Sunset drinks by the Infinity Pool at CÉ LA VI. This was our first purchase in Singapore and we were shocked the price was $25 for a weak-ass drink. It took us about three hours to realize the prices were in Singapore dollars and not USD, but it was still alarmingly high when compared to Bali prices.
– 15-minute light show at Gardens by the Bay. Of things that were not in the hotel or the hotel itself, this was the highlight of Singapore. These huge man-made trees make you feel as if you’ve stepped into Avatar. Lights dance across the trees to music while hundreds of people come out to watch.
– Dinner at Koma, a new restaurant concept by NY’s famous Tao group. BOMB DINNER, make a reservation and eat here.
– Bar hop around Singapore
– Lantern: best bar of the night.
– Mr Stork: drink in a little teepee on top of the Andaz Hotel (pic above in Instagram carousel).
– Atlas: brand-new bar, we just stopped in to see, and it was enormous. Definitely go here.
– 1-Altitude: Ridiculous cover, not worth it.
– Hang out at the infinity rooftop swimming pool
– Check out and store bags
– Go back to Gardens of the Bay to walk through their two garden domes. This is a must-do if you’re in Singapore.
– Visit Raffles Hotel, if the line isn’t bad go to the Long Bar where the Singapore Sling was created
– Visit Sultan Mosque, but be sure to check the opening hours before going
– We walked to Little India, but DO NOT DO THIS. There was literally nothing to see, and everyone looked at us like we were lost tourists and were not happy we were there. We got a cab and immediately went to Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown so the husband could eat what can only be referred to as street meat.
– Check out Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum and Sri Mariamman Temple
– Go back to the hotel so I could eat something that is not street meat
– Get in car with bags at Marina Bay Sands to go to airport
Overall, I am very happy we stopped in Singapore, because that hotel is everything Instagram and Crazy Rich Asians portrays it to be. I am even more happy that we only stayed for 24 hours, because as Sami stated in her Singapore travel guide, this is a weird place to visit. You really can spend the entire time inside the hotel, not that I suggest you do that. It’s basically like if Avatar and Las Vegas had a baby.
If you have any specific questions about any of the above, please feel free to DM me through Instagram here!
And one last pro tip: in the Betches Brides honeymoon podcast episode, I talk about an email you can send to hotels in advance of your stay in hopes they will either upgrade you or hook you up in some other way for your honeymoon. My best friend sent this letter to every hotel she stayed at and she got upgraded at EVERY SINGLE PLACE. You’re welcome…
“Subject Line: Honeymoon Stay
Hi there, My fiancé & I are so looking forward to our stay next week. Since we’re not using a travel agent I just wanted to confirm again that it’s been noted on our reservation that we’ll be enjoying our stay fresh off of our wedding as newlyweds celebrating our honeymoon.
If there’s anything the hotel can do to make our stay extra special to celebrate our honeymoon that would be delightful and greatly appreciated. We never ask for upgrades however since this is our honeymoon, to have a large suite where we could really experience the luxury of your hotel would certainly make it a more incredible stay.
I fully understand that if someone comes along prepared to pay for those rooms, we would need to relinquish that upgrade. We’re only asking for the chance to enjoy what you don’t happen to have sold for the specific days of our stay. In return I can assure you that I would write a fantastic review of our stay on TripAdvisor, actively promote your hotel to my friends and colleagues in New York traveling to , and if a work or personal engagement brings me back to , I will happily stay with you again.
Thank you so much!”
And that’s how it’s done.