Eloping with Family: Ideas for including friends and family, plus other things to consider

Are you torn between eloping and including family and friends at your wedding? Well, guess what? You can do both! Learn why the notion of not being able to have guests at your elopement is a myth. Plus, lots of ideas for how to include family and friends, whether they are physically present or not!

Bride holds a bouquet of purple flowers while the groom holds her

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Why it’s a myth that you can’t have guests at your elopement

So you’ve come across the idea of having an elopement and find the idea absolutely thrilling! 

Maybe you’re feeling a lot of stress or pressure with planning a big, traditional wedding. Maybe adventure is a huge part of your relationship and the idea of hiking for your wedding has you over the moon! Perhaps a traditional wedding just never felt quite right for you because you don’t like being the center of attention. Or maybe you are really intrigued by a way to get married that costs less and is more environmentally friendly.

There are tons of reasons why a couple might decide that an elopement is the perfect choice for them.

But many of these same couples might not be so excited by the idea of getting married without their parents or closest friends there with them. When you have people in your life that really matter to you, it can be hard to imagine having your special day without them.

Well guess what? I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to compromise on this! You absolutely CAN have guests at your elopement (even your dog)! 

The old definition of an elopement, where you think of a couple sneaking away at night to get married under sketchy circumstances, really doesn’t apply anymore.

Today, an elopement is just another word for a smaller, intentionally thought out wedding.

When it comes to friends and family at your elopement, you can have your wedding cake and eat it too! Read on for lots of ideas on how to include family in your elopement, whether they are physically present or not!

Ideas for how to include family (and friends!) in your elopement

Of course you can always include guests in every part of your day similar to a traditional wedding, but if you need some creative ideas for how to otherwise include friends or family, here are several options!

Bride and groom holding hands in a field in the light from their headlamps as it gets dark outside

Have two ceremonies

One option for including friends and family in your elopement is to have one private ceremony for just the two of you, and another separate ceremony including friends and family.

This could be as simple as just a private vow reading before the larger ceremony, or you could even plan the ceremonies on separate days! 

This can be a great option if you want to have a more intimate, private set of vows for just you and your partner and a separate set of vows that you are more comfortable sharing with a larger group.

Have your ceremony with guests, then a private “just us” adventure

If you and your partner are the adventurous type but are not sure your parents or friends will want or be able to tag along, this could be a great option for you!

You can have your ceremony in a more accessible location and then, either before or after your ceremony, have an exciting adventure to celebrate your elopement. One of the things I love about photographing elopements in Colorado is that there are lots of accessible locations with beautiful views that are perfect for a ceremony with family.

There are so many fun, adventurous options that you might consider, such as hiking, backpacking, camping, or even a hot air balloon or helicopter ride! You can have the adventurous day of your dreams without compromising on being with your family!

Have a party or reception afterwards

If you love the idea of a private ceremony, but want to celebrate your marriage with others, consider having a separate party or reception after your elopement.

You could have the celebration on the same day, the next day, or at another time months down the road.

This could be a great option if you’re having a destination elopement and want to have a party when you get back home. You can even reread your vows if you’d like.

Check out this elopement reception planning guide for more ideas and inspiration!

Bride with black wedding dress and groom laughing together while standing in a field

Include family or friends in part of your day

If you still want most of your wedding day to be private and just for the two of you, there are still more options for including friends and family in your elopement.

You can include your loved ones in a part of your day, such as when you are getting ready, a first look, or a send off at the Airbnb or trailhead.

Getting ready is often one of the most special and yet overlooked parts of the wedding day.

It’s the time of greatest anticipation, and as an elopement photographer, I see so many beautiful moments come out of this time. 

Things like the bride or groom writing the last bit of their vows. Or when a father sees his daughter in her wedding gown for the first time. Some of these may seem like moments more traditionally associated with a wedding, but remember that your elopement day is still the day you’re getting married. It is still just as special, or maybe even more so, than a traditional wedding.

Including your friends or family in these moments can be very meaningful for everyone!

Multi day celebrations are a great option

While multi-day wedding celebrations are popular in many countries, for some reason many Americans have not yet caught on to how awesome these are!

The great thing about a multi day wedding is that it really opens up so many more options for how you want to have your wedding!

Splitting up your wedding over two days makes it much easier to have your own private elopement or adventure, while still planning a ceremony or celebration with friends and family.

It also allows you to really enjoy every moment of your wedding, rather than rushing through too many things in one day. 

Or combine some or all of the above ideas!

Remember that if more than one of the above (or below) ideas appeal to you, you can always combine them.

You really are only limited by your imagination!

Eloping couple stands on the top of some rocks with a moody and cloudy sky behind them

Ideas for when your guests cannot be physically present

FaceTime or Skype

Technology has really changed the elopement game! If your loved ones can’t physically be present with you, as long as you have a WiFi connection or cell service, you can always include them through a FaceTime or Skype call!

You have the option of doing a video chat with them during your ceremony, or you could chat with them before or afterwards. 

I always love the idea of doing a first look for your loved ones when you put on your wedding attire, before you have your first look with your partner! It really helps build up the excitement!

If you decide to have a call or video chat with your friends or family, I always recommend giving them a range of times when you’ll call. One of the great things about elopements is the flexibility and spontaneity, so it will be easier for you two if you’re not scheduled around an exact call time.

Bring a memento from your family with you

Another way to include your family at your wedding is to bring something from them with you.

Here are a few ideas you might consider:

  • A handwritten letter
  • A keepsake such as a piece of jewelry or a family heirloom
  • A video recording with a message from your loved ones
  • Pictures of loved ones who have passed on

Bonus tip: Surprise your partner by bringing one of the above special reminders of their loved ones on your elopement day!

Have an engagement party or pre-wedding celebration

If your friends or family can’t be with you on your wedding day, you could always have an engagement party beforehand to celebrate! 

Other ideas to celebrate beforehand would be a couples shower, bachelor or bachelorette parties, or a send off dinner, which is great for destination elopements!

Include family in shopping for your wedding attire

Another way to make your friends or family feel included when you elope is to bring them with you when you go shopping for your wedding attire.

Finding your wedding dress or suit is a really fun part of the planning process for many people, so it can be nice to share your excitement with your loved ones.

Grey suit jacket and bow tie hanging from circular decorative shelving unit with plants on either side

Have a watch party afterwards

If you decide to hire a photographer and/or videographer, planning a watch party with friends or family to look through the photos or watch the video together can be really fun!

You’ll get to relive your memories of how exciting and fun your elopement was, while sharing all of your stories with your friends and family!

Gift a keepsake photo album

This is another option if you decide to hire a photographer for your elopement. You can always gift a photo album of your special day to your parents or other close family members, and it’s something they can treasure forever.

Bride and groom walk through a path in a field with pine trees in the background

How guests may impact your elopement choices

There are so many fun ways to include the people who matter most to you in your elopement, and there’s really no right or wrong way to include others in your wedding! 

However, it’s important to be realistic when you choose to include loved ones in your plans. You may need to consider logistics and other factors when deciding what is the best way to include your loved ones!

Understand that just by the very nature of including others in your plans, your choices may start to be influenced by your guests.

Travel

When you think about including friends and family for your elopement, you may need to consider whether they are willing, or able, to travel.

While you may have an epic location in mind, if that location is hours from the nearest airport or town, some guests may not be on board with traveling that far. 

Accessibility

Similar to the above point about traveling, you will want to consider the accessibility of any locations you choose when including guests.

While you may love the idea of an 8 mile hike to a stunning ceremony location in the mountains, perhaps not all of your friends and family will be up for the adventure.

Kids

Similar to a traditional wedding, while many people love the idea of having their kids or their relatives’ or friends’ kids as a part of their elopement, others may want an adult only wedding day.

Consider that when you invite guests to your elopement, they may assume their children will also be invited. You may have to have a conversation with them about why you want to have an adult only celebration, and feathers may get ruffled. 

If your elopement guests are coming from out of town and bringing their children, consider hiring a licensed and reputable babysitting service if you want to only include adults.

Food

Don’t forget that if you’re inviting guests, you’ll need to figure out a plan to keep them both nourished and hydrated throughout the day.

Consider your family and friendship dynamics

It’s important to not only think about how guests will influence the logistics of your elopement, but also how guests will influence the dynamics and mood of your elopement day.

When thinking through who you are inviting, consider how do you normally act around your friends or family? Are you happy and laughing? Or are you more reserved? Also consider how your family and friends act around each other. 

It is helpful to think through these dynamics in advance, and ask yourself if this vibe is consistent with what you want for your elopement day. Either way, you can be better prepared and set your own expectations accordingly.

Other considerations when you elope with family and friends

Remember to stay focused on what’s important to you

While I truly believe it’s possible to include your family in your elopement and still have the wedding day of your dreams, the blunt truth is that when you include friends and family in your elopement, sometimes people take that as an invitation to have opinions and input about your day.

People may ask you to make compromises you don’t want to make. You may have to work through this, and it may become more complicated than you think.

Of course, this happens with big weddings too. But the difference is that the whole point of an elopement is to have your wedding day be about the things that matter most to you and to have a day that is truly special to you and your partner.

Because of this, it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time and really understand WHY you want to elope and WHAT matters the most to you, so when these conversations come up, you know exactly how to handle them.

Here are some tips for how to handle these situations.

Groom talking to laughing bride during the adventure elopement in the woods

Be Yourself

First and foremost, be true to yourself. That’s why you’re eloping after all! 

Figure out specifically what is important to you

Sit down with your partner (and maybe a glass of wine) and talk about what really matters to each of you for your wedding day. Preferably do this before you have any conversations with others so you’re opinions aren’t influenced.

Talk about things like what scenery or season you’d like, how far from home you are willing to travel, who absolutely has to be there, what activities you want to do, and what stressors you want to avoid. Decide what things are absolute musts, and what are just nice-to-haves. 

Then, write this stuff down! This part is important for two reasons. First, it will help you to better explain to others what your priorities are and why. And second, you’ll have something concrete to come back to in case you need a reminder. 

Know that you may need to educate your well-meaning friends and family who are just so used to wedding norms that they don’t automatically understand what you want or where you’re coming from.

Reactions

Expect some unexpected reactions when you tell people about your plans to elope.

Because weddings are so ingrained as the norm, you may not necessarily get the reaction you want when you tell people you’re planning to elope. 

Although, this also works in reverse. Some people may surprise you with how accepting they are about what you want to do. 

Either way, you deserve to speak your truth, and the people you love deserve the chance to support you. 

It’s important to remember that you’ll never be able to control how other people think, feel, or react, but you can control how you react.

Boundaries

Once you’ve figured out what is important to you for your day, it’s important to set boundaries.

Explain, but don’t feel the need to justify, and always be upfront with people.

Never let things get so far out of your control that you start to feel unhappy with your wedding day plans or like your vision for your special day has gone off the rails.

If you start compromising on all of the things that really matter to you, you’re really starting to get into wedding territory, not elopement territory. 

Bonus tip

A personal tip for when you have your discussions with family and friends:

It can be easy to slip into using the word wedding. But consider sticking with the word elopement instead during your conversations.

The reason for this is simple. If you use the word “wedding,” people already have a very deeply ingrained idea in their head of what a wedding means. “Weddings” come with certain connotations that can be very difficult to break. People will automatically think of things like a church, extended families being invited, receptions with DJs, etc. 

Even when you try to explain your vision for a totally different style of wedding, it can still be a difficult hurdle to overcome.

Instead, if you use the word elopement, you have more of a blank slate to work with. You may still have to explain that you’re not running off together, but once they get past that idea, it makes things easier. You can really explain your vision to your friends and families who will hopefully have more of an open mind. Again, although this may ruffle more feathers initially, if you want to be able to set clear boundaries and expectations from the beginning, using the word elopement will be helpful moving forward.

Rocky mountain national park elopement with bride and groom in front of mountain vista

Elopements are worth it and you CAN do it

While all of the above disclaimers about family and friends might make you a little uneasy, remember that all of this exists whether you choose to have a wedding or an elopement.

The difference with elopements is that you get to set the rules completely. The most important thing is the two people committing their lives to each other in a way that is incredibly special and meaningful to the two of them.

Having an elopement and including your friends and family is absolutely possible, and it can be really beautiful. 

Hopefully these ideas and tips have helped you with thinking through your options and creating a vision for your amazing elopement day!

FAQ on Eloping with Family

Can you elope with immediate family?


Yes! You can absolutely include family (and friends!) in your elopement! Modern elopements are simply smaller and more intentional weddings. There is nothing stopping you from including whomever you wish in your elopement day plans! It’s your wedding day, so you make the rules!

How do you elope and include family?


Here are some fun ways to elope and include your family and friends:
Have two ceremonies
Have an elopement reception or afterparty
Have a multi-day wedding celebration
FaceTime or Skype your loved ones
Bring letters, video recordings, or family mementos with you
Have a watch party with your elopement photos and videos
Include family or friends in shopping for wedding attire
Have an engagement party

How many guests can you have at your elopement?

Typically elopements have less than 20-25 guests, but you can really invite whomever you want!

How do you elope then have a wedding?

If you want, you can elope and then have a traditional wedding! You can have a private ceremony just for you and your partner, or even with a few close loved ones. Then you can have a larger, more traditional wedding, or even just a reception later on. You could have the wedding or reception either the next day or even months down the road. 

Colorado Springs elopement in the fall with mountains in the background

Looking for a microwedding or elopement photographer?

Looking for someone to help you document your special day? I’m a Colorado-based elopement and intimate wedding photographer, and I love helping couples turn their vision for their dream day into a reality!

I’d be honored to help you with photographing your elopement or microwedding. Learn more below!

Elopement and microwedding photography packages

What’s included in my elopement photography package?

My Colorado elopement/microwedding packages start at 4 hours, but when you work with me you’re getting way more than just a photographer. 

I am fully invested in making sure every single one of my clients has the most amazing elopement day possible. That’s why I offer help in ways that most photographers don’t! 

Here are just a few things that come with having me as your photographer, adventure partner, friend, and guide:

  • Documenting your epic elopement day. Of course as your photographer, I’m going to make sure you have amazing photos so you can relive your special day again and again. There are so many special moments outside of just saying your vows and taking portraits. Everything from the anticipation as you’re each getting ready, the laughs when your dog does something silly like always, the tears as you share your commitment vows, or your first champagne toast together as husband and wife. As a photographer, my focus is documenting these candid and REAL moments of your day, in a natural way. No forced or cheesy smiles here!
  • Custom elopement planning tools and guidance. Every client I work with gets access to customized planning tools, planning resources, and guidance to help make your small wedding or elopement planning as stress free as possible. From location ideas to timeline planning to vendor recommendations, no detail is overlooked. Forget the work, and focus on having fun!
  • All your photos. You’ll have access to a fully-edited online gallery of your images, which you can download in either high-resolution or web-size (ideal for sharing on social media). You can also order printed products like albums, canvas prints, or framed prints right from your online gallery if you choose. Or share your gallery with friends and family so they can relive the experience with you!
  • Travel included. All my packages include my travel, so you’re never surprised by extra fees.

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!

Get more elopement and microwedding info here!

Or check out more elopement planning resources…

A complete guide to Airbnb Weddings and Airbnb Elopements in Colorado
Eloping bride and groom standing in a field with What Does Elope Mean? text on the image
Step by step tutorial on creating a flower collar for your dog for your wedding
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!

Ideas for eloping with friends text over photo of eloping couple in a field

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