Elopement photographer Peggy Picot and I have been emailing since late 2019, she from an idyllic lakeside town in eastern Italy, me from my roost in northern Virginia. Something of a trailblazer in the world of elopement photography—she’s been capturing elopements since 2011, when Instagram was barely a year old and couples looking to elope in Italy had to conduct hours of online research to find vendors there—Peggy is now one of the most trusted photographers in the region, a go-to for wanderlust-filled couples and locals alike.
A native of France, Peggy’s approach to photography stems from her experience in journalism and love of storytelling, beginning with the origin of her website’s namesake, Maison Pestea, “the real name of my family house in the south of France, in the green mountains in the heart of the Country Basque,” she says. “I took the name of my family’s house because I have to tell a little piece of my story to explain that choice of name. Telling stories is part of my life from my childhood. With a pen and a piece of paper, later with a computer. Then with a camera as a photographer. My story is about family roots, travel, and destiny. I’m a French woman with an Italian heart. I document life and love.”
More than a decade after she began so thoughtfully documenting life and love, I caught up with Peggy to hear her thoughts on elopements today, her favorite places to elope in Italy, and a piece of advice for couples who are planning to elope abroad. I hope you enjoy our chat below, followed by more photos of Peggy’s stunning work.
How did you originally get into photography?
One of my best friends from France invited me to her destination wedding in the south of Spain. I was a journalist in Paris at that time, and already a photographer, but never thought to capture wedding pics at all (in my mind it was tacky!). I did a couple of pictures for her and it’s been a great experience as I’ve discovered modern wedding photography.
When I decided to move to Italy, it was not possible for me to work as a journalist and I decided to offer my service for wedding photography. In my portfolio, I had only these pictures in Spain and a couple of engagement sessions in Rome, but I’ve been lucky—the first year I shot 10 weddings. It was already an incredibly good start!
How would you describe your style of intimate wedding and elopement photography?
Natural, modern, true.
How do you define an elopement?
An intimate destination wedding, just the couple or less than 10 people.
When is your busy season for elopements?
You can elope all year—each season is interesting! The end of spring; summer; and beginning of autumn are the most popular.
What is your favorite location or city to photograph elopements?
I can’t choose only one, honestly, because I love different styles. In my top three, I will say: Positano, Amalfi Coast, Capri Island. Even if the area is full of tourists by summer, this is pure magic for elopements! Then Tuscany, especially around Val D’Orcia, for the landscapes, the light, the architecture of small towns. And then my two favorite cities: Rome because it’s truly the heart of la dolce vita [literal translation: “the sweet life”] and Venice for its astonishing and mysterious beauty.
When do you feel is the best time of day to photograph couples outdoors, and why?
Of course I love the smooth light of the end of the day—sunset and golden hour. But sometimes, we have to shoot earlier in the afternoon for planning matters; it depends on the season (for example, in June and July, sunset is very late in the evening). It’s part of the job to adapt and create the best images in any situation.
Why do you think elopements are becoming more popular with couples?
Because organizing a big wedding can be really stressful—so complicated and also very expensive. I talk a lot with my couples and many of them decided to elope for a second wedding as they were married before, or they want something different as they don’t recognize themselves in a traditional wedding. Something more personal. Wedding should be this way: at your image, the way you feel it to celebrate your love and begin a new life together. Each couple should do what suits them, not what everyone else wants.
What is one thing you wish couples knew when planning an elopement in Europe?
That it’s important to choose good vendors to get the best advice and create a personal adventure in Europe! For me, an elopement has to be tailored for you (I don’t recommend all-inclusive, impersonal packages). This is the essence of eloping. And of course, choose a great photographer because the pictures will be the only thing you will be able to show to your families and friends at home.
Follow along at @maisonpestea on Instagram.