Wedding on a dream island

More and more couples are choosing Madeira to get married, combining a holiday with one of the most important moments in life

Two people, a great love, and the will to share the rest of their lives together. All the necessary conditions are present for an elopement wedding - a marriage for two, an intimate way of discreetly uniting two souls, which may mean an open-air celebration, in nature, with stunning scenery, or on the beach, with the sea as a witness.

The term comes from the word 'elope' which means, in English, to secretly go away in order to marry. Basically, this type of marriage avoids the traditional wedding reception with a large number of guests. The objective is the experience and the vows of love exchanged between the couple and the celebrant, with few friends or family or even no one to witness this unforgettable moment of married life.

The concept is to choose a location, pack your bags, fly to your destination, and get married there. It's a mixture of adventure and escape from the conventional. The fact is that Portugal is on the list of the 10 most searched countries on Google for the 'Wedding Destination' segment, with the Algarve leading the list of engaged couples’ preferences when it comes to getting married.

In Madeira the concept is growing and there are those who come to the island on purpose just to get married or to celebrate. Pleasant climate all year round, picturesque locations, charming villages, cliffs with superb views of the sea, an island recognised many times as the best island destination in the world, are, without a doubt, important reasons when it comes to choosing your dream place to tie the knot.

Raquel Nascimento, responsible for the Madeira Celebrant company began performing symbolic ceremonies in the Region in 2019 and says that, at the time, the concept was already known, but less explored than today, since we are facing a worldwide trend, which gained space, especially at the time of the pandemic. 

From her vast experience she highlights that in the concept of 'elopement' the demand in Madeira is great and diversified, Pico do Areeiro being the most desired place to mark the union of two lives. Raquel Nascimento highlights that her services are sought out, above all, by engaged couples from the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Poland, Switzerland, Ireland, and Australia. In fact, she admits "that 70% just come to celebrate [the wedding] and 30% even ask for help with the documentation for the civil [wedding]" and in this second case, "one of the spouses is usually Madeiran".

Passionate about the theme, she says that "being a celebrant is an art" and that "of all the services that encompass wedding preparation" this is the most special part, and she details why.

"The contact with the bride and groom on a personal and intimate level, being able to get to know their love stories and tell them is a privilege and even a challenge that gives me immense satisfaction", emphasises the Celebrant who uses the following slogan on her company's website 'celebrate your love in Paradise'.

But besides 'love and a cottage', within this concept there are those who choose to celebrate their union in a more luxurious way, as award-winning photographer Miguel Ponte tells us. He stands out in the international Wedding Destination scene and has worked with couples from over 50 different countries.

From his experience, he reveals that the choice of where to get married "depends a lot on the economic capacity of the bride and groom". Even so, he points out that his clients prefer hotels such as "Reid's, the Savoy Palace, Quinta do Furão, Porto Mare, VidaMar and Vila Baleira in Porto Santo".

Miguel Ponte also highlights that Madeira is asserting itself in this market and guarantees that "10% of all official marriages performed annually in the Region correspond to citizens of other nationalities", a number "that does not include symbolic ceremonies which represent the largest slice".

In this sense, the photographer, who is passionate about this segment, vehemently affirms that "it is clear that there is an increase, over the last few years" of the "elopement" wedding on the island, especially from Central and Eastern European markets such as Germany and Poland or even British and American".

Given this increase and this market opportunity, Miguel Ponte warns that "there is no investment by official entities or even hotel groups in promoting this niche", since the "increase in demand" for Madeira for this type of wedding is due "almost exclusively to the work of promotion on social media by photographers and therefore the Region is far from competing with destinations such as Tuscany (Italy), Cote d'Azur (France), Santorini (Greece).

Finally, he notes that "couples complain about the lack of investment in venues that are truly dedicated to this market", but they praise the quality of the professionals who work upstream and downstream of weddings, such as photographers, videographers, make-up artists, florists and the like.