Wedding guests celebrating on lake dock.

30 Unique Ways to Elope with Family and Friends

Planning your elopement wedding is such a fun and exciting journey! One big question that pops up for many couples is how to include their loved ones in their special day. The cool thing about elopements is that they’re totally unique to each couple, meaning you get to call the shots on how, where, and with whom you tie the knot. Some couples crave that private, intimate moment with just their partner, while others want to feel the support and love of family and friends surrounding them. Striking the right balance between these can be a bit of a puzzle when you’re planning your elopement. But don’t worry, this blog is here to help. I’m going to share 30 unique ways to elope with your family and friends, offering you ideas and inspiration to make your day as perfect as your love story.

Wedding guests celebrating on lake dock.

For Elopements with Family and Friends in Attendance

1. Invite them!

The most obvious idea is to invite family and friends to be physically present on your elopement day! While elopements are typically thought of as just-the-two-of-you affairs, having your nearest and dearest around can really add something special. By inviting them, you’re not only making them a part of your big day, but you’re also creating a feeling of inclusion and shared happiness. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cozy little gathering or a small destination elopement – having your loved ones around means you’ll be surrounded by the warmth and support of the people who mean the most to you.

2. Choose a family member to officiate your wedding.

Why not pick someone special to officiate your wedding? This is a really meaningful way to involve someone close to you in your big day. It’s an honor they’re likely to cherish. Having a friend or family member as your officiant adds a personal touch to the ceremony. They can share stories, add a touch of humor, or bring their unique style to make your wedding even more memorable. It’s a great way to make your ceremony uniquely yours and involve someone important in your life in a really special way.

3. Host a breakfast brunch or dinner reception.

Hosting a breakfast brunch with your family and friends is definitely a unique and delightful way to celebrate your elopement. Imagine everyone gathering in the morning, buzzing with excitement and anticipation for the day ahead. It’s a fresh, bright start to your special day.

Alternatively, you could go for a dinner reception. This is a wonderful way to bring everyone together after your ceremony. Picture all of you enjoying a delicious meal, sharing stories, laughing, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Both these options are fantastic for spending quality time with your loved ones and they add a nice traditional element to your elopement, blending the new with the old in a beautiful way.

4. Opt for a two-day elopement.

Why limit your elopement celebration to just one day when you can stretch the joy over two days? A two-day elopement is an amazing way to really make the most of this special time with family and friends. You can plan a beautiful, intimate ceremony on the first day, creating a personal and memorable moment. Then, follow it up with a relaxed gathering where everyone can unwind and celebrate together.

The second day is perfect for some fun activities or just chilling out and enjoying each other’s company. It’s like a mini holiday with your favorite people! Extending your elopement to two days not only allows everyone to be a part of the celebration but also turns the entire event into a cherished experience for everyone. Plus, it gives you and your partner more time to soak in the love and joy of your special occasion.

**I document and help plan two-day elopements, reach out to view my packages!

5. Choose guests to sign as witnesses on your marriage license.

Selecting a close family member or friend to be the witness on your marriage license is a wonderful way to add a personal touch to the official part of your day. It’s a special role that turns a simple signature into a meaningful gesture, making sure that the people who matter most to you are a part of every aspect of your elopement, even the formalities. It’s these little details that make your big day feel even more intimate and special.

Family member reading poem at elopement ceremony.

6. Have a family member read a poem during your ceremony.

Incorporating a poem that resonates with your relationship into your ceremony is a beautiful way to deepen the emotional connection of the moment. You could choose a piece that has always been meaningful to you both or even something written specifically for your big day. Then, ask someone close to you, like a family member or a friend, to read it during the ceremony. It’s a wonderful way to include their presence and emotions in your special day. For example, at my own intimate ceremony, we had my sister read “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran. It was incredibly moving and added so much to the atmosphere and sentiment of the occasion.

7. Incorporate them into a ritual.

Incorporating a ritual like candle lighting, a sand ceremony, or any other meaningful act is a fantastic way to not only include your family and friends in your elopement but also to add a unique touch to your special day. You might choose a traditional ritual from your culture or even create a new one that’s personal to you and your partner.

For example, in my Salvadoran culture, there’s a tradition called Las Arras where 13 gold coins are passed down and used in the ceremony. Traditionally, the man gives these coins to the woman to symbolize his commitment to support his bride and their future home together. The 13 coins represent Jesus and his 12 apostles. But for our wedding, my husband and I decided to add our own twist to it.

We assigned each coin a different quality or wisdom that we believed was important for a lasting, healthy marriage. During the ceremony, we gave each guest a coin to take part in a coin warming ritual. They warmed the coin in their hands and infused it with their personal blessings and wishes for our marriage. This way, every family member and friend got to be part of this very special tradition, making it a deeply meaningful moment in our wedding.

8. Invite them to your ceremony, but have a private vow exchange.

If you’re in a dilemma about having a crowd or wanting more privacy for your ceremony, there’s a way to balance both. Organize the main ceremony with all your guests, but keep the vow exchange just between you two. This lets you celebrate the big moment with your friends and family, while the vows – the heart of your commitment – remain a private affair. By separating the formal ceremony from the vow exchange, you allow everyone to be part of your special day without compromising the personal intimacy of the promises you make to each other.

9. First looks with family and friends.

Having a first look with your family and friends is a fantastic way to capture their genuine and emotional reactions when they see you in your wedding attire for the first time. It’s a chance to share a really special moment with your guests before the ceremony even starts. This experience can create some of the most memorable and touching photos of the day, filled with pure joy and surprise, and it adds another layer of excitement and anticipation to the whole event.

10. Stay in the same hotel or Airbnb.

Choosing to stay in the same accommodation with your guests opens up a wonderful opportunity for casual get-togethers, late-night chats, and spontaneous celebrations! It creates a warm sense of togetherness and makes for an elopement filled with informal, yet incredibly memorable moments. This setup allows everyone to feel more connected and makes the whole experience more intimate and special, turning your elopement into a joyful and communal celebration.

11. Walk down the aisle with someone.

Having a family member or a close friend walk you down the aisle is a sweet touch that brings a bit of tradition to your elopement. It’s a simple act, but it means a lot. It’s a way to involve someone important in your ceremony, and it also makes for a really meaningful and memorable entrance. These little personal touches that can make your big day feel even more special.

12. First dance with a family member.

Select a song that’s special to you and share a dance with a significant person in your life. It honors their role in your journey, making your elopement more memorable and heartfelt.

13. Let them help you get ready.

If one of your guests has a special talent, like being a make-up artist or hairstylist, why not let them help you get ready? It’s a fantastic way to turn your preparation into a collaborative and bonding experience. They can lend a hand with your attire, steam out the wrinkles in your shirt, gather supplies for the ceremony, or help out with anything else you might need. It’s a fun and practical way to involve your friends and family, making them feel like an integral part of your big day.

14. Host a welcome dinner.

Hosting a welcome dinner is a great way to kick off your wedding celebrations. It’s a chance for you and your guests to connect before the big day. This is especially great for destination elopements! It’s a casual, relaxed get-together that makes everyone feel included and builds a sense of unity.

15. Share a toast.

During or after your ceremony, consider raising a glass or taking a shot to celebrate the occasion. It’s a fun and festive addition to your elopement, letting everyone share their good wishes for your future. This can also be a moment to remember loved ones who couldn’t be there. For instance, at our wedding, we took a shot of whiskey to honor a dearly missed family member.

16. Bring a guestbook.

Grab a notebook or journal that you really like, and use it as a special way to collect the warm wishes from your guests. Encourage your family and friends to jot down a note or two. It’ll turn into a treasured keepsake, brimming with heartfelt messages and memories. This book will be a beautiful reminder of all the love and support surrounding you on your big day.

Collection of vintage phones.

17. Rent an audio guestbook.

We’re taking the traditional guestbook to the next level by recording spoken messages from your family and friends. This is one of the most fun and unique ways to elope with family and friends. This allows them to share their blessings, memories, and humor in their own voices. I used After the Tone and HIGHLY recommend them! They make the process super simple, quick, and easy. They even offer the option to purchase a personal vinyl record of your recording as a souvenir. Use my code KAREN10 for 10% off your After the Tone rental.

LGBTQ women embracing inside a canyon.

For the “Just Us” Elopements without Guests.

18. Video call on the day of.

Set aside some time on your elopement day to video call friends and family who couldn’t make it. Ask your photographer to include this in the day’s schedule. This way, everyone who couldn’t attend can still feel connected and be a part of your special day, even from afar.

19. Read letters from family and friends.

A heartfelt and unique way to elope with family involves reading their written letters. Encourage them to pen down their thoughts, wisdom, or marriage advice for you to read on your elopement day. These letters will be filled with special emotions and words, adding an intimate touch to your celebration.

20. Shop for wedding attire together.

Ask your friends or family to join you in choosing your wedding attire. It’s a fun way to include them in the anticipation for your ceremony and to be involved with the preparation of your elopement day.

Crochet ring pillow holding wedding rings.
Handmade ring pillow from the mother of the bride.

21. Bring handmade gifts with you.

Bringing handmade gifts with you adds a personal and sentimental touch to your elopement. These thoughtful gestures are meaningful and unique ways to elope with family and friends, even when they’re not there themselves. This can include anything from custom jewelry to a handmade ring pillow, creating lasting mementos for your elopement day.

22. Livestream your ceremony.

If connection allows, consider livestreaming your ceremony! 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. Livestreaming your ceremony enables friends and family to virtually witness your elopement, despite not being physically present. This modern approach ensures that your loved ones can share in the moment, no matter the distance.

23. Incorporate family heirlooms.

Incorporating family heirlooms into your elopement adds a touch of history and sentimentality. Whether it’s wearing a necklace passed down through generations or scarf your grandpa loved, these cherished items connect you to your roots as you embark on this new chapter together.

24. Bring home favors and souvenirs.

If you’re eloping and want to keep your family and friends in the loop, think about grabbing some souvenirs or little gifts from your special day. It’s a cool way to let them in on your experience. These little mementos mean a lot – they’re like a piece of your big day that your loved ones can actually hold onto. Plus, it’s a sweet gesture to make everyone feel included, especially those who couldn’t be there with you.

25. Send updates throughout the day.

Sending updates throughout the day keeps your closest friends and family in the loop, even if they can’t be physically present. Sharing snapshots, videos, or messages about different aspects of your elopement helps them feel connected and involved in your celebration.

26. Have a bachelor/bachelorette party.

Not many people think about it, but having a bachelor or bachelorette party, even if it’s just a small get-together, really adds to the excitement of your elopement. It’s a fun way to let off some steam before the big day and make some unforgettable memories with your besties.

27. Throw an engagement party or wedding shower.

Hosting an engagement party or wedding shower before your elopement is a fantastic way to celebrate your upcoming marriage with those close to you. It’s a fun event to share your excitement and get well wishes from folks who might not be with you on your actual elopement day.

28. Host a separate reception.

Sometimes you want to celebrate with your family and friends, just not on your actual wedding day. Maybe you’ve got a small guest list but still want to party with your wider circle later. Hosting a separate reception is a great solution. You could even have a laid-back backyard wedding to wear your outfits again and have a mini-ceremony. Or how about a catered house party? If your family’s bummed about missing the elopement, planning a separate shindig can be a great compromise.

29. Send postcards.

Sending postcards from your elopement location is a sweet, old-school way to take your loved ones on a bit of your journey. These postcards turn into cherished keepsakes, and the messages you write make your folks feel like they’re part of your adventure, even from afar.

Elopement announcement on newspaper.
Ivory and Lace Studio on Etsy

30. Create elopement announcements.

Announce your elopement in style with a stunning photo from your special day! Creating elopement announcements is a stylish and thoughtful way to break the news. Whether you go for a beautifully designed card or a snazzy digital announcement, it’s all about making sure your loved ones find out about your union in the most heartfelt way possible.

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

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

I’m Karen, a Southern California Elopement Photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to create an unforgettable experience. 

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

Your Southern California Elopement Photographer, planning expert, and adventure pal.

I'm here to empower you to create memories that will last a lifetime.

About Karen

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