Many Americans wish to skip the pressure of a big wedding. Instead, they dream of eloping to a beautiful location. Or perhaps an intimate ceremony in a Medieval castle. Or just maybe a celebration on a sandy beach or among wine vineyards. If you are one of these dreamers, have you considered Portugal? Long a secret destination of Northern Europeans, Americans are now aware of the charm that Portugal holds for all kinds of eloping couples.
Packed into a compact space of just 35,603 square miles, Portugal offers a lot in a small country. Weddings in southern Portugal, i.e. the Algarve, guarantee couples sunshine and warm weather. Alternatively, the capital, Lisbon, offers a hip, international vibe and boasts itself as one of the sunniest capitals in Europe. If looking for traditional, Portuguese influences on the big day, head north to Porto and the Douro Valley. With so much on offer, we know it can be a bit daunting. That is why were are here to help you!
Language & Culture
Portugal is one of the most foreigner-friendly countries in Europe. Likely a legacy of its seafaring past that saw the Portuguese make their way the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Here it is no surprise to find Portuguese speaking fluent English, all in the name of wanting their guests to feel more at home. Add to this the lack of dubbing of movies. Plus the fact that English is taught from the first grade onward, finding someone to work with that speaks your language won’t be a problem.
Beyond the language, Portugal receives a lot of influence from the United States. From movies to TV shows to music, American culture is pervasive throughout the country. However, the country manages to balance the external influence of the US, with its own strong Portuguese culture. A culture that is comprised of hospitality, family, and pride in local food and wine. It is a beautiful place for eloping American couples who consider themselves cultural explorers.
Wedding styles & Weather
While Portugal is sometimes called the Florida of Europe, the weather and offering varies greatly.
The southern bit of Portugal, a region called the Algarve, is known for nearly constant sunshine throughout the year. Better than average temperatures mean that from March to October residents from all over Europe flock to the beautiful sandy beaches of this region. Known as a beach destination, the Algarve offers stunning, hidden beach locations. Locations that will allow for intimate elopements that feel like the whole landscape is just for you.
Heading north towards the Portuguese capital, Lisbon is proudly the second sunniest capital in all of Europe. As the capital, Lisbon offers the most international and trendy location in the country. Elopements in Lisbon can bank on a unique feeling that can include backdrops of trendy street art, botanical gardens, or epic sunsets over the river Tejo.
If you are in search of a beach elopement in Portugal, close to the easily accessible capital, Cascais is the spot for you. Just 30 minutes to the west of Lisbon, Cascais is known for its top-quality views over the Atlantic. Many spots boast crashing waves and rocky landscapes. Our only warning is that the beaches of Cascais can make for very windy elopements, so plan accordingly.
If in search of a romantic, nature-heavy, and whimsical feel, head to Sintra. Just inland of Cascais, Sintra is a beloved destinations for wedding in Portugal, as well a must-see for visitors. The hills and forest around Sintra make for a micro-climate that feels completely distinct from its surroundings. Filled with castles, former monasteries, and hidden gardens, this gem of a city offers a plethora of elopement locations. Our only warning is that Sintra is a tiny city. In the summer it is completely overrun with tourists. If you can manage it, plan your elopement to Sintra outside of the summer season and preferably on a weekday.
Further to the north, Porto offers classic Portuguese charm with traditional venues that will make your old-world dreams come true. Traditional big family houses, or quintas, offer tradition and beautiful landscapes. Porto is also a great spot for American eloping in Portugal who want a more manageable city. Porto’s cozy size, welcoming locals, hearty food, and breath-taking views will surely have you coming back! Our only word of warning is about the weather. Though just a three-hour drive north of Lisbon, Porto is not a city known for its sun. The winter is characterized by lots of rain and recent summers have not offered the same heat of previous years.
If eloping among vineyards is your dream, forgo Napa and head to the Douro Valley. The Douro is one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world. The rolling hills, covered in vineyards that line either side of the Douro River offer a beautiful location for an elopement. The best part of marrying in the Douro,, is the assurance that you will be enjoying delicious wines and perfectly paired meals throughout your stay. Our word of warning is to avoid the harvest season (September/October) when prices are higher.
Wedding Ceremony & Legal Considerations
Dear Americans dreaming of eloping in Portugal, we have just one request to make of you, please get legally married at home! It may seem a bit biased, especially because you are reading this on the blog of a symbolic wedding celebranting company. Nevertheless, we promise you that it is not worth the stress. Head to your local court house, sign the documents, and get your marriage certificate. Then come to Portugal and work with us (or any other celebrant) to create a personalized wedding ceremony. We promise it will be far more meaningful to take this approach than to undertake the legal process here in Portugal.
Don’t believe us? Chat with our founder, Carly, an American who married a Portuguese. Even though only one of them was a foreigner, the process was so arduous that they legally married in London, where they were living. If you still don’t believe us, please read this comprehensive guide to legally marrying in Portugal as a foreigner, written by a local wedding planner.
It isn’t just that we want you to avoid the collection of documents, the translation of said documents into Portuguese, the bureaucracy, and then the hassle of getting your Portuguese wedding certificate recognized in the USA. It is that we also want you to avoid the boring wedding ceremony that is a legal wedding in Portugal. The only personalized part of your ceremony will be your names. The rest will be read to you in Portuguese then translated by an approved translator, all of which will be terms of the contract that you are entering. After all, the person who is marrying you is a lawyer. So don’t expect romantic or personal. Expect dry, practical, and to the point.
If you would instead prefer a completely bespoke wedding ceremony, get in touch. Our team of native-English speakers would love to celebrate your elopement in Portugal.
Final thoughts on Americans eloping to Portugal
Portugal is a beautiful place for Americans eloping in Europe. Portugal combines a welcoming culture, an English-speaking population, a variety of landscapes, and the beauty to make your elopement memorable. We know it isn’t easy deciding to elope. However, if you do, consider Portugal as the place to make your elopement dreams come true.