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!
- Eloping with Family: Ideas for including friends and family, plus other things to consider
- Why it’s a myth that you can’t have guests at your elopement
- Ideas for how to include family (and friends!) in your elopement
- Ideas for when your guests cannot be physically present
- How guests may impact your elopement choices
- Other considerations when you elope with family and friends
- Elopements are worth it and you CAN do it
- FAQ on Eloping with Family
Updated: April 25, 2023
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 sounds really exciting! 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 these days.
Today, an elopement is just another word for a much smaller, intentionally thought out wedding. Typically an elopement will have around 10 guests or fewer. If you’re looking to have a small wedding, but with more guests with an elopement, you can also consider a microwedding, which is about 50 guests or fewer.
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!
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, particularly if you’re having a smaller elopement with 10 guests or fewer. (If you’re planning to have more than about 10 guests, I always recommend getting a small wedding venue or other location that you can reserve).
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!
Include family or friends in certain parts of your day
You can include your loved ones in just a part or certain parts of your day, such as when you are getting ready, a first look, or a send off at the Airbnb or trailhead.
For example, 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!
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.
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.
Having a two day celebration (one for “just us” and one for friends & family) has become so popular with couples I have an elopement package specifically for this! So you can have the best of both worlds!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Bring a memento from your family with you for your elopement day
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!
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. The following sections talk more about different ways that guests may impact your plans.
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.
Depending on how many people you include, and where you want to go, bringing guests may impact your choice of where to have your wedding day ceremony. In many public places (such as state parks, national forests, city parks, etc.) there are limits to how large your group size can be for a wedding or elopement.
In other places, over a certain number (such as 5 or 10 guests) requires obtaining a special use permit. Sometimes this permit can take weeks or months to obtain.
This will all vary by where you are choosing to get married, and it’s part of why hiring a local elopement photographer is especially helpful for understanding the rules of various places and what good options you have! Most photographers who specialize in elopements include location assistance as a part of their services and if you’re planning to have guests, it is especially helpful!
If you are thinking of having more than about 10 guests, this post on Colorado microwedding venues might be helpful! While you might think 20 or 30 guests doesn’t seem like that many people (and it isn’t compared to a traditional wedding), when you start to consider the logistics of a group of this size, you can understand why it’s important to find a venue or other place you can reserve.
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 4 mile round trip hike to a stunning ceremony location in the mountains, perhaps not all of your friends and family will be up for the adventure.
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. If you do want to have an adult only celebration, you may have to have a conversation with them about why you’re planning this, 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.
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 one of the main reasons people choose 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.
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 beer or 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 your 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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
Typically elopements have about 10 guests or less, while a micro wedding is 50 guests or less.
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.
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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!