Some couples love the idea of an elopement day that’s just the two of them – one where they’re free to explore, say their vows in complete privacy, and spend time together with no one else around (except the super fun 3rd wheel, of course). But other couples just feel in their hearts that their wedding day won’t be the same without the people they love most in the world – that they want their mom to see them exchange wedding vows, or their best friend to help bustle the dress, or they just want to share that moment with their family and friends.
Here’s the good news – eloping is about making sure your wedding day is everything you want, and skipping anything that you don’t. If you’ve decided that eloping is right for you, and you want to tie the knot with an adventurous, one-of-a-kind wedding day, but you want to include your nearest and dearest, this guide is all about eloping with family and friends! I’ll include tips for planning the perfect elopement day, and how to include your guests in the celebration.
Tips for Eloping with Family and Friends
Before we talk about ideas for including your family and friends in your elopement day, here are some things to keep in mind before you make the final decision as to who’s on the guest list!
Choosing a Location When Eloping With Family and Friends
The first thing to consider is that choosing a location can get a little harder if your guest list is long. You will of course need to consider the accessibility limitations of your family and friends, and a long hike might not be an option for your ceremony.
There are plenty of gorgeous, easily accessible locations around if you need them, but many national parks and other outdoor spaces have limits on how many people can be included in your elopement or will have a separate list of approved spots for elopements with guests.
For example, if you elope in Yosemite, you can elope anywhere in the park – if your elopement is smaller than 10 people total. Anything more than that, and you need to choose from a list. The same goes for Acadia National Park where you don’t need a permit for under 10 people total. But, these rules and regulations are so different for every elopement location, so you may want to do some research before deciding if eloping with guests is right for you! Many national parks have specific places dedicated to wedding ceremonies, where you can have as many as 50 people present. Usually, anything under 10 people is easy to accommodate in more parks and public lands – an elopement bigger than that can require a little extra research. Before you fall in love with one elopement location, check the rules and restrictions on ceremony sizes.
And remember, before or after the ceremony, you can head off by yourselves to adventure around and take photos somewhere else.
Have a Full Day Elopement – or Two Days!
That brings me to my next point – when eloping with family or friends, keep in mind that you can split up your day. You can spend the morning with the family, and have your ceremony with all your favorite peeps around. Then, go for a hike (or not a hike – you can paddleboard, take a helicopter tour, or just chill alone for a bit) and spend some time with your new spouse. This is an amazing way to get the best of both worlds – an elopement day with your nearest and dearest around supporting you, as well as some privacy, to soak in the moment and enjoy your first few hours of married life.
I recommend a full-day elopement to every couple – even if you aren’t eloping with guests! If you aren’t sure how an elopement can last all day, check out this guide for some tips. But for those including guests in their elopement day, it’s an extra great way to get some time to yourselves. Better yet, have a two-day elopement! You can spend one day with your family and friends, and one day having an epic adventure, just the two of you.
Ideas for Eloping With Family and Friends
Your guests can totally just be there as guests, but you can also find fun ways to include them in the day! Here are some elopement ideas with family and friends.
Have a Family Member or Friend Officiate
A fun way to include your loved ones when eloping with family or friends is to ask someone to officiate your ceremony! Getting ordained is surprisingly easy – all you need is a few minutes to answer some questions, and it’s totally free on ULC.org. Your family and friends know you best, and can personalize a ceremony for your elopement! Once ordained, they’ll be able to legally sign the papers to marry you.
Have Ring Bearers or Flower Children
Psssst you can keep some traditions when you elope. One of the many brilliant parts about eloping is you get to create new traditions, skip ones you don’t like, and pull from traditions you vibe with- maybe like having someone carry the rings or a basket of flower petals. If there are children attending your elopement, giving them a role in the ceremony can be a fun way to include them!
If they are your or soon-to-be children then consider writing separate vows just for them!
Heads up – in many places, flower petals aren’t Leave No Trace friendly. Though many think they’re okay because plants degrade, anything that isn’t native to the environment has the potential to cause some harm. So do a little research and see what’s allowed in your elopement location! Some fun alternatives include waving ribbons, carrying a sign or framed photo, balloons (tie them to their wrist if they’re younger – released balloons are terrible for the environment!), bubbles, or even just carrying a small bouquet.
Have Someone Walk You Down the “Aisle”
Even if there isn’t a traditional aisle, you can ask someone to walk with you when eloping with family or friends. This can be anyone – think about who’s supported you in life and in your relationship, and give them the honor of walking with you at your ceremony!
Let Your Guests Speak at the Ceremony
Aside from officiating, it can also be nice to give your guests some time to say a few words during your ceremony! It gives everyone a chance to talk to the two of you, whether it’s a funny story about you or your relationship or some good wishes. This can also happen during a group activity or dinner.
Have Someone Perform
Having a friend or family member perform can be a fun and unique way to include them in your elopement! This can mean playing or singing a song during the ceremony, or reading a poem or verse that you love.
How to Include Family and Friends in Your Elopement – If They Aren’t Invited
Some couples decide that a “just us” elopement really is what’s right for them – and that’s totally okay! Whether your guest list is short, or just nonexistent, here are some ways to include family and friends who won’t be there in person.
Read Letters From Family and Friends
One of my favorite ways to include family and friends is to have them write letters for you to read on your elopement day. It’s always such a special moment and gives them a chance to “speak” to you on the big day.
Have a Party!
If you want a private ceremony, but still want to celebrate with your loved ones, you can have a party before or after your elopement. A reception is a popular way to do this, and you can have one the day of, the week of, or even months after you tie the knot!
Another option is to celebrate before the elopement, with an engagement party. If someone in your family or friend group loves planning parties, this can be a fun way to make them feel included!
Include Family and Friends in the Planning Process
You can also include family and friends in your elopement by having them be a part of the planning process beforehand. This can be things like attire shopping and cake tasting or asking for advice when it comes to making decisions about your day. Your friends and family will feel included, and you’ll have people to bounce ideas off of! Only you know best so if feel this could stress you out then, like all of these suggestions, skip it!
Call Your Friends and Family on Your Elopement Day
Another way to include your friends and family in your elopement day is to schedule some time for a video call! You can call them after the knot’s been tied, or during the getting ready process to chat about the excitement.
Share Your Elopement Photos
You’re going to have the most epic wedding photos ever – so share them with your friends and family once you get them back! You can even throw a fun viewing party (with tacos and beer duh) and go through the gallery on a big screen or set up a projector! Whether you’re eloping with family and friends or just the two of you, they’ll love seeing the adventures.
You’re going to need someone to capture those adventures – authentically, so that when you look back at your photos, you see the story of your incredible elopement day, exactly as it happened. Don’t worry, I can help with that! If you’re ready to elope, contact me.
Hey, I’m Evangeline an adventurous elopement and intimate wedding photographer helping couples craft a meaningful experience for their wedding day in nature. I focus on capturing the vibe of your day with all of the little moments that you may not remember are happening and the epic landscape views all over the country and the world!