April 9, 2022
You’ve decided that a big wedding celebration in a ballroom or a hotel isn’t your thing – but you can’t shake the feeling that eloping just isn’t going to be the same if your family isn’t there.
Good news – eloping doesn’t have to mean it’s just the two of you! Having the people you love around you can make your day even more special, meaningful, and personal. This guide is all about eloping with family – including tips for planning an elopement with guests, ideas for including your loved ones in your day, and more!
First, let’s talk about the logistics of eloping with family. Adding guests to your elopement means there are a few more people to think about when it comes to choosing your location and planning your day!
One of the first things I recommend doing when it comes to planning your elopement day is to make a guest list! Sit down with your partner and talk about who you want around you on your day, and how big of a celebration you want it to be. When my partner and I decided to elope, we literally took out a piece of paper and wrote down names of people we couldn’t imagine not being there on our wedding day!
This step can be stressful – it’s normal to feel a little nervous about the decision to keep your wedding day small. But, it’s important to remember that this is your wedding day. You’re getting married, and that’s a huge deal! Keep in mind that this is all about what you and your partner want, and when it comes to the guest list, no one is entitled to be there. Invite the people that you genuinely want to be present when you tie the knot – people who have loved you and supported you.
There’s no “magic number” of guests that makes an elopement a wedding, so while there’s no maximum number of people you can invite, I recommend sticking to 10 – 15.
One of the reasons I recommend keeping your elopement to 10 – 15 people is because with bigger ceremonies, you’ll start running into restrictions when choosing an elopement location!
Deciding where to elope is incredibly exciting – you get to choose from national parks, trails, and gorgeous outdoor spots all over. Most parks will have a limit on how many people can be at your elopement ceremony. This varies depending on the location, but most of the time, anything over 10 people is when you start running into these restrictions! A lot of national parks have spots designed for bigger ceremonies (these are usually amphitheaters and campgrounds), that can accommodate more guests.
Keeping your elopement small will give you more freedom when you’re deciding where to elope, but there are also a few more things to think about when it comes to picking the perfect spot.
The accessibility needs of your guests are another factor when eloping with family – you might need to choose a spot that doesn’t require hiking, or find somewhere that’s more accessible. For our own elopement, it was important that my 87 year old Grandma was able to be present for our day so being considerate of her needs & comfort was a top priority. For some inspiration and guidance, check out these ADA accessible elopement locations in Oregon!
Once the logistics of your guest list and your elopement location are figured out, it’s time to plan the day! Here are some ideas for eloping with family, and ways to include them in the day.
I think every elopement should last a full day – because your wedding day deserves that. Having a smaller ceremony doesn’t make your elopement any less meaningful, and taking a full day to celebrate gives you the opportunity to plan adventures or activities that truly reflect your relationship. But when you’re eloping with family, a full day elopement can also give you the opportunity to split up your day, spending some time with your loved ones and then taking some time to yourselves.
Spending some quality time, just the two of you, is important, and if you have an adventure in mind, it can be good to have your ceremony with your family before taking off alone on a hike, or a 4×4 tour, or whatever adventure you have planned. You definitely can include your family in adventures too, but if they’re not up for what you have planned, or you just want some time to yourselves, you can split up your elopement day – or even plan a two day elopement, taking one day for family and one day alone!
While your family can totally just be at your elopement as guests, it can also be fun to include them in the day! Having a family member officiate your ceremony can be so meaningful, as they’ll be able to come up with a personalized script full of stories and memories. Getting ordained is super easy, and really quick! All they have to do is go to ULC.org, and after filling out the application, they’ll be ready to perform ceremonies!
Just because a lot of wedding traditions go out the window when you elope, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep ones that are meaningful to you! If there are kids attending your elopement, a fun way to include them is by giving them a role in the ceremony, like being the ring bearer or flower child.
A side note with this one – tossing flower petals outdoors is often not environmentally friendly! Even though they’re biodegradable, anything that doesn’t belong in that ecosystem has the potential to be harmful. Some alternatives can include carrying a bouquet, blowing bubbles, waving ribbons, or carrying a photo.
When you’re eloping with family, another fun idea is to have a reception after your ceremony. This can mean cutting your cake at a picnic table, or going back to the Airbnb for a nice dinner. You can celebrate the beginning of your marriage with toasts, desert, and some quality time together!
This one also works for couples who aren’t planning on inviting guests to their elopement – if you decide that a “just us” day is right for you, you can plan a reception for later, so that you still get the chance to celebrate with your family.
My partner and I did this, and it was perfect for us! Our elopement day was just us and 12 guests, and we had a reception about three months later with about 40 people – it gave us a chance to have a really intimate wedding day, but we still got to celebrate with some family and friends! We got to wear our wedding attire again (which is a fun bonus), re-read our vows, and had a photographer document the reception too. There was a part of me that wondered – “Will this feel just as special even though we got married already?” and the answer was a resounding “YES!” – we felt so loved and celebrated that day and I have fond memories of both our elopement and our reception that I will cherish.
After my now-husband and I realized that the big, 100-person wedding we were planning wasn’t what we truly wanted, we decided to elope! While the tiny elopement was perfect for us, planning a reception afterwards so we could celebrate with a few more people was icing on the (wedding) cake.
As an elopement photographer, I want every couple to have the perfect day – one that allows you to be yourselves, and one that truly celebrates everything you are together. From beginning to end, I’ll be by your side – from finding the perfect place to say your vows, to making a timeline of the day, I’m ready to help you plan a wedding that’s nothing short of incredible.
Contact me to start planning your elopement!