Eloping with Friends and Family

Planning an elopement wedding is an extremely fun process, but one question many couples face is how to incorporate to loved ones on their special day. Because each elopement is unique, you are in complete control of how you elope, where you elope, and who you want to be present on your elopement day. Many couples may desire both private intimacy with just their partners on their elopement day, as well as the shared support and love from family and friends. Finding the right balance between these two opposites while elopement planning may prove to be an interesting challenge. Here are some ideas and tips on eloping with friends and family.

Announcing to friends and family that you’re eloping

If you have been considering eloping over a traditional wedding, it may be scary to think about telling your loved ones, especially if you are planning on an intimate, private experience without guests. If this sounds at all like you, don’t worry! Here is a list of tips you can utilize on how to tell friends and family you’re eloping! Use these to strive for the easiest transition possible for you and your significant other into married life. These tips are useful whether you choose to elope with friends and family or simply just the two of you.

Be honest

Warn friends and family early if they are huge on big weddings. Some couples considering elopements have known since a young age that a traditional wedding isn’t the way for them. If you know early on, consider mentioning it to your loved ones. Be open, obvious, and upfront about your decision, and it is often the best choice to let your loved ones know face to face. Don’t lead people on, making them believe that an invite is on its way. Instead, let them know kindly and early that you are eloping, with or without guests, and share your reasons as to why it is a better choice for you. Those who know you and love you will understand.

Prepare for all reactions

If you have loved ones who are big wedding people, they may express disappointment. Because of this, it is important to prepare yourself for a range of possible reactions you could receive. Remember that it is your day, above anyone else’s, and the thought of letting someone down shouldn’t stop you from doing what you truly want to do. If necessary to avoid negative backlash, consider telling loved ones after your elopement ceremony is over. Remember that you have every reason to live your wedding day the way you dream it, rather than how others have dreamed it to be.

“We Eloped!” announcements

Save yourself some postage and skip the save the dates, RSVP’s, and invitations. Instead, send out an elopement announcement after it’s all said and done. That way, you won’t have to deal with the bombardment of questions from friends and family BEFORE your wedding day, and their reactions (whether disappointed or not) won’t play a role in your decision. Send an announcement using an amazing photograph from your elopement day to celebrate the news!

Consider a separate celebration

You may be in the boat where you would love to celebrate with friends and family, just not on your wedding day. Or you might be having a very small guest list, but would like to eventually share with extended family and friends outside of your immediate circle. Consider hosting a separate event where your loved ones can celebrate your new marriage. You can also have a low-key backyard wedding if you’d like to wear your wedding attire and share a short ceremony. A catered house party may be another option. If your family is struggling with accepting they will not be at your elopement, offer them this opportunity to create a special event for you.

This is YOUR elopement wedding day

Remind yourself that this is your day. Prioritize your and your partner’s happiness and desired outcomes, and do what it takes to make that a reality. Loved ones may be upset, and that can be challenging to navigate, but you’re choosing YOUR happiness and dreams. We live for ourselves and no one else. How to tell friends and family you’re eloping can seem like a daunting task, but it can be exciting for all! Think of it as the surprise of a lifetime and remember why eloping speaks to you. When all is said and done, you will look back on your elopement and cherish those special moments you chose to have.

10 Ways to Include Friends and Family in your Elopement

1. Be strategic in the planning of your day

Remember that your elopement wedding is your own, and it can look like whatever you want it to look like. Family and friends don’t necessarily have to be present during the vow exchange, although they most certainly can be included if that’s what you prefer. If you would rather say your vows in a private, intimate way with just the two of you, that’s perfect too! There are plenty of ways you can elope with family and friends without feeling like you need to entertain or be responsible for them. One of the best ways to do this is to be strategic in the planning of your day.

Consider splitting up your day so you enjoy are able to enjoy private intimacy with your partner, as well as experience the excitement, support and love from your family and friends. Maybe you could enjoy a beautiful morning hike with you and your partner, saying your vows at the peak of a sunrise hike, or sitting next to the flowing river where you first said you loved each other. Then, meet up with family and friends afterwards for an evening of celebration. Treat it more like a traditional wedding and keep your vow exchange ceremony private, and invite family and friends for a reception celebration afterwards.

Remember your elopement doesn’t necessarily have to take place in just one day. Splitting up your elopement celebration over the course of a couple of days, or even a long weekend, is a great option for many couples. That way, you will have plenty of time and freedom in deciding what moments you would like to keep as private, and sacred moments between you and your partner, and what moments you want to welcome loved ones into celebration with you.

Example Timeline

Here is an example timeline on how to elope with family and friends, while also maintaining a private period for yourself:

  • Wedding Brunch
  • Break for getting ready at your accommodation
  • Travel to ceremony location with friends and family
  • Ceremony with generic vow exchange
  • Champagne pop
  • You and your partner say your goodbyes and continue on with your photographer
  • Vow exchange: Share letters and private words.
  • First dance with Bluetooth speaker
  • Picnic together
  • Travel back to car
  • Meet with friends and family for dinner

2. Video call them on the day of

Dedicate a time to video call friends and family on the day of your elopement. Ask your photographer to add this into the timeline in preparation of your day. Friends and family that were unable to attend will still feel connected and a part of your wedding day with a video call.

3. Opt for a unique location

Because you won’t need to mess with accommodating large groups of people, a destination wedding, or an intimate getaway to a fun location are wonderful options. With the cost of a venue, party favors, meal, and vendors for a traditional wedding- instead spend it on renting out a gorgeous beachside property in a tropical location, or a private house in the mountains for the week. Invite your closest loved ones to celebrate with you for a few days at a time. This can be a special and adventurous way to elope with family and friends.

Intimate gatherings in locations that hold meaning to you and your significant other are another beautiful option. Because your group will be smaller, you will be able to utilize unconventional spaces and unique locations with ease. As long as you keep your group’s basic needs in mind if you are planning any sort of adventure for the day, your options are plentiful. A national park ceremony, a backyard bash, or a beachside ceremony become effortlessly appealing options.

4. Choose a family member to officiate your wedding

If you’re eloping with family members, choose someone special to officiate your wedding! It is an honor they’ll surely appreciate. It’s an incredibly meaningful way to incorporate them into a special event. Your officiant can tell stories or opt for a more comedic route.

5. Include family and friends in other important areas

Maybe you have an amazing elopement adventure planned with just you and your partner, but you still want to somehow elope with family and friends on the day of your celebration. Consider including family and close friends in those intimate getting ready moments, or dedicate the morning of your elopement day to spending time with your loved ones and feeling their support and blessings. You can include them in parts of the day where you will feel enriched by their presence and showered with love, without them being there the whole time. You can also offer them the opportunity to create a breakfast or special lunch for you to enjoy before you leave for your elopement. Include friends and family in activities leading up to your wedding, such as shopping for your wedding attire, assembling invites for your reception, touring locations or location scouting.

6. Read handwritten letters

Ask family members and friends to write handwritten (or typed) letters for you to read on your elopement day. Letters are an intimate activity filled with special words and emotions. You can ask for these letters to include wisdom or marriage advice along with any words of love.

7. Share a pre-recorded video

Record snippets of your day to later compile into a video to share with those who could not attend. You can set up a time to view this together, send it to them throughout the day, or whenever you’d like. It provides them with updates and “behind-the-scenes” activities they’ll be sure to enjoy. It also lets them know you’re thinking of them.

8. Livestream your ceremony

If connection allows, consider livestreaming your ceremony! This is a thoughtful way of including friends and family. If you’re unable to, set up a tripod or prop a camera up against a rock to record. You can share the video once back in reception and you’ll have it for your own memories as well.

9. Create a cardboard cutout

This is a silly and fun way to have someone there, but not really “there.” Alternatively, you can print a photo of them to place on a chair or glue to a popsicle stick for someone else to hold.

10. Celebrate again on a different day

In many cultures, weddings can be week-long and multi-day events. It doesn’t need to be a one-shot event if you’d like to elope, but also celebrate with friends and family. Plan an alternate day to host a party or get together for everyone to celebrate your new marriage with you.

There you have it! 10 ways on how to elope with family and friends. If you choose to have them as guests to your wedding, check out unique wedding ideas to enjoy together.

I’m Karen, a California adventure elopement photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to push the boundaries of tradition and create an unforgettable experience. 

I help all couples worldwide by providing personalized location lists, planning resources, vendor recommendations, permits, timeline-curation, and much more to curate elopement days that will be cherished forever.

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.


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