The Ultimate Elopement Reception Planning Guide

Are you planning to elope but still want to celebrate with a party or reception afterwards? Check out this guide for everything you need to know, so you can forget the work and focus on having fun!

Patio with elopement reception dinner tables with wine and water glasses, maroon napkins, and white linens

Updated: March 22, 2023

An elopement reception allows you to celebrate your elopement with friends and family

There are so many reasons why a couple might choose to elope these days, but celebrating with friends and family is still important to many eloping couples!

Similar to a traditional wedding reception, an elopement reception allows you to celebrate your marriage, but in a much less stressful way than having it on the same day as your wedding.

P.S.–an elopement reception is just one way to include friends and family in your elopement. For example, one idea that is becoming very popular with couples is to have a two day celebration–one day spent on a “just us” adventure and the other day spent celebrating with friends and family. I even have an elopement package just for this so you can have the best of both worlds! If you’re looking for more ideas about how to include friends and family in your elopement, check out this post.

What to do after eloping: Post elopement reception ideas

Reception is a general word, but really it can mean any type of celebration, party, or get together that you can think of. It can be as formal or informal as you want. Here are a few ideas to help you visualize the type of party you can have, but really the options are endless!

  1. Wedding-style post elopement reception. If you still want the same type of reception as a wedding but you want the ceremony to be private, you can still host a more traditional reception after eloping. This comes with the drawback of being much more stressful to plan, but the effort might be worth it to you. You could also hire a wedding planner to put together just a reception for you and avoid the stress altogether.
  1. Backyard BBQ. On the other end of the spectrum, this is a much more informal gathering, but just as fun. I recommend asking a friend or relative to man the backyard grill so you can focus on having fun. Or you can always order food in from a local BBQ restaurant, which has the bonus of typically being more affordable than many other types of catered food.
  1. Potluck style celebration. Another more relaxed option for a celebration would be a potluck. Instead of asking for wedding gifts, you can ask your friends and family for the gift of being there to celebrate with you and bringing their favorite dish. This type of party has such an intimate feel because everyone is really a part of making the celebration special.
  1. Picnic reception. This is another twist on a BBQ or potluck idea, but instead of being at someone’s home, you can rent a public pavilion or choose another outdoor location nearby.
  1. Brunch. If you love brunch (and who doesn’t) you might consider this type of meal for your elopement celebration. You could make food at home, order in your brunch, or choose a restaurant to host your meal.
  1. Airbnb/VRBO celebration. If your friends and family live elsewhere (or even if they don’t!), you could rent a house together through Airbnb or VRBO and turn the celebration into a multi-day affair. Check out this post for more info on Colorado Airbnb Weddings and to find a stunning property to host your elopement reception!
  1. Camping reception. This is a great option for people who have family and friends that love to be outdoors together. You might go on a weekend camping trip together and celebrate your elopement on the trails and around the campfire.
Dinner table at elopement reception with wine glasses and orange napkins in a backyard with string lights hanging from the trees

Steps to planning your elopement reception

  1. Get inspired and think about what elopement reception style fits you best
  2. Decide on a budget
  3. Make a list of who you want to invite
  4. Decide when to have your reception after eloping 
  5. Decide where to have your elopement reception
  6. Decide what you want to do for your elopement celebration
  7. Think through food and beverage options, such as a potluck, catering, private chef, or even a food truck!
  8. Announce your elopement and send your elopement reception invitations
  9. Confirm headcount
  10. Get any decorations together that you want to have
  11. Hire any vendors you want (planner, food/beverage, DJ, photographer, videographer)
  12. Celebrate your elopement!! 

When to have your reception after eloping

Most people have their elopement celebration within a few months after eloping, but it’s really up to you and your schedule.

You might choose to postpone your reception due to a life event such as the birth of a baby, a deployment, or any other number of life events. You might also want to wait until a different season or time of year. 

For example, if you live in the United States and decide to have an adventure elopement in New Zealand in December (which is summertime down there), maybe you want to wait until the summertime back home to have a picnic celebration.

If you choose to delay your celebration, you might consider having it on your one year anniversary and renewing your vows.

Or you can even have a pre-elopement party,  similar to a couples shower or rehearsal dinner, if that works better for your schedule!

Where to have your elopement reception

When you’re thinking about where to have your reception, the first thing you need to decide is the city or state where it will take place. 

If you and your loved ones live in different cities or states, you might decide to have the reception where you live or you might have it where most of your family lives. Or if your friends and family are scattered, you might decide to have the elopement celebration in a fun destination spot.

You’ll also need to decide on a location for the reception, which could be a formal or informal location. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Traditional wedding venue/reception hall
  • Your home
  • A friend or family member’s home
  • Restaurant or bar
  • Local brewery or distillery 
  • Winery
  • Local picnic pavilion
  • Campsite
  • Airbnb/VRBO
Toast at elopement reception dinner

Elopement party ideas

You have lots of options for what activities you want to do at your elopement party. If you need some inspiration, here are some ideas:

  • Lawn games, such as this cornhole wedding set, croquet, or this giant jenga wedding set.
  • Speeches or toasts. This could be a great way to include friends or family and make them feel like they are a special part of your day.
  • Dancing. You could hire a DJ or even just make Spotify playlist.
  • You could have the traditional wedding dances such as the bride and groom’s first dance, the mother-son dance, or the father-daughter dance.
  • You could show a slideshow of your photos from your elopement day or show the video if you hired a videographer.
  • You might consider presenting heartfelt letters or meaningful gifts to parents or special loved ones.
  • Does your family have any special wedding traditions? You might still be able to incorporate these into your post elopement party.
Wedding tablescape put together by a Colorado couple's wedding planner

How to announce your elopement and elopement reception invitations

Elopement reception invitation wording

The number one piece of advice for announcing your elopement and inviting loved ones to your elopement reception is to make it clear that this is a celebration of your marriage and not an actual wedding invitation. In fact, it might be best to avoid using the word wedding altogether to eliminate confusion.

For example, instead of using the words “invited to the marriage of,” you could use the words “invited to celebrate the recent marriage of,” or something along those lines. You may want to include the date that the elopement occurred to make it even more clear.

Here are some ideas for phrases you could use on your invitation:

  • We couldn’t wait, but let’s celebrate!
  • Oh, Yes! We did!
  • We did it! Let’s Party!
  • We tied the knot!
  • Happily Ever After Party
  • Surprise! We eloped!

You may choose to include details on when and where you eloped, but know that it is really your choice to decide whether to explain your rationale for choosing to elope rather than have a big wedding. If you want to explain to people, you can. But no one has a right to know, and you can keep it as simple or elaborate as you choose.

Elopement Reception Invitations

Check out some of my favorite elopement reception invitation designs here from Etsy:

More of my favorite elopement reception invitations on Etsy here!

Pictures above from Etsy,

What to wear to your elopement reception

It’s a common question: what do I wear to my elopement reception? 

Well, again, it’s really up to you! If you want another excuse to put on your wedding attire from your elopement day, by all means you should go for it. Many of your loved ones would probably enjoy getting to see what you two wore on your big day. You might even decide to get your hair and makeup done again!

You might also consider a more relaxed version of wedding attire. Stores like Lulus have very affordable long white dresses that might work well for this type of event. For guys, you could choose just to wear a button up shirt and dress pants, or something similar for a more relaxed version of a suit.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to wear wedding attire at all, you really don’t have to. You can choose either dressy or casual attire. 

Three wedding cakes sitting on a wooden table in a grassy yard at an elopement reception

Tips for planning your post elopement celebration

  • Remember that your elopement reception can be as formal or casual as you want it to be! You chose to elope for a reason, so don’t let this balloon into something that causes you stress.
  • Consider creating a spreadsheet to keep all of your ideas and details organized.
  • Tread carefully with a gift registry. It’s a personal decision, but many people are of the opinion that if you didn’t invite people to your wedding, you shouldn’t ask them to bring gifts. 
Elopement reception table with a white linen, white bouquets of flowers, and a wooden mountain centerpiece that reads "Green Mountain"

You’ll find that if someone really wants to give you a gift, they’re going to do it anyway. They may just bring something, or they may ask you what you want and insist. In that case you can either accept and let them know what you’d like. Or you can decline by saying something along the lines of “Thank you so much, but we’re lucky enough to have everything we need already.” 

If you don’t want any gifts but find that certain loved ones are unwavering, you might also suggest they donate to a charity of your choice instead.

  • Consider whether you want to get some traditional wedding vendors involved, such as a planner, florist, DJ, bar service (like a mobile bar) or photographer/videographer. Having memories of your celebration may be just as meaningful as the memories of your big day.
  • Set a firm deadline when you invite your friends and family so you can get a solid headcount. Your headcount can affect a lot with a celebration, such as food costs or capacity at your chosen location.
  • But finally, remember that just like with your wedding, no one has a “right” to be there (even though that may be an unpopular opinion). Invite who YOU want to be there to celebrate with you. Maybe that means 10 people or maybe it means 200 people. It’s your wedding so YOU get to make the rules!

Have a question about planning your own elopement reception? Leave a comment!

Are you planning your own reception and have a question about the process? Leave a comment below!

Or if you found this post helpful, I’d love to hear from you!

Are you planning an elopement or microwedding?

I’m more than just a photographer. Helping couples create their dream day is what I do best!

Get in touch and let’s chat about your vision!

Or check out more elopement planning resources…

Elopement Photographer Kim from Wild and Found Photography

Hi I’m Kim, a Denver, Colorado based photographer specializing in Adventure Elopements in Colorado and worldwide! Photographing couples on the most special day of their lives is a true honor for me. But I’ve made it my mission to take it one step further than that. When you work with me, you’re getting more than just a photographer. I’m here to help you with all of the planning resources you need to have the most amazing elopement day ever! That includes everything from assistance with location ideas, timeline planning, and lots more free resources. So you can forget the work, and focus on having fun!

This post may contain affiliate links. While I may receive a small amount through affiliate links, it is always at no cost to you and all opinions are entirely my own.

Elopement reception planning guide cover


  1. What a great planning guide for all things receptions! These can definitely be a bit overwhelming to plan for some but this guide covers everything and it’s so true – receptions can be whatever the couple wants them to be! Love this!

  2. Your guide gave every single detail, even ones I wouldn’t have thought about, for elopements! I would hire you based on the info alone.

  3. what a great resource for couples who want to elope but also want to party with their closest friends and family! elopement receptions should not be forgotten about!

  4. This is so awesome and helpful for couples planning elopements! I really wanted to do a potluck for my wedding, but because everyone was traveling and Covid, we decided not to. It all worked out great in the end, but you have some awesome ideas that I will definitely be implementing for a vow renewal down the road!

  5. Thanks for the tip about how brunch food can also be a good choice for a wedding reception. My fiancé and I are interested in learning more about wedding catering services because we have a bit of a tight budget to work with. Maybe opting for wedding food trucks would be a good idea.

  6. Gratitude for sharing such an astonishing and intriguing article. This guide is truly perfect and supportive in arranging an extraordinary gathering which appears to be great for the others like visitors. The manner in which you depict things about post-elopement gathering thoughts is excellent. Keep up sharing such kind fo things which is really great for other people.

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