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How to Include Family & Friends on Your Elopement Day

Updated: Jul 14


A bride and groom eloping with family running and smiling

How to Plan an Elopement With Family


Do you want to have an elopement but can't imagine getting married without certain loved ones there by your side? Are you drawn to the idea of adventure and an intimate experience, but something is holding you back? Perhaps you want to include your family on your elopement day, but have no idea about the logistics behind it or where to start?

Maybe you've even thought:


"I could never elope because I can't imagine getting married without my family there to see it"


Well friend, I've got great news for you- you don't have to pick between the two. You really can get the best of both worlds!


The beautiful thing about eloping is that there isn’t a standard way of doing it and no strict rules. If you want to elope just the two of you- great! If you want to elope with your closest family & friends there- that's great too. When most people hear the term "elopement" they imagine it being just the couple, but you can absolutely have an incredible elopement with your closest friends and family there with you. In fact, some of the most beautiful elopement days I've experienced has had other people besides just the couple getting married present for some part of their elopement day!


An elopement isn't about the number of people there (although typically they do include 20 or less guests). An elopement is an intimate, experience-driven, intentional celebration of your relationship that focuses on what matters most- two people exchanging their vows and committing their lives to one another.


If you're struggling to imagine how to incorporate guests into your plans and elope with family, how it would look logistically, or still want to have part of the day be a more intimate adventure with just the two of you- I've got you covered. There's many different ways to elope with your family and friends and include them on your elopement day. Ultimately you get to decide how that looks!


Pro-tip: Make sure anyone you invite to your elopement day is completely on board and supportive of your plans and of your day! You want to still have the fun, stress-free, meaningful elopement experience you're imagining! :)


Elope with Your Family & Friends

If you want to have an elopement, but want your closest loved ones to be there with you- invite them to come along! If you want them there with you by your side the entire time, from getting ready, to the ceremony, to adventuring, and to a celebration afterwards- do it. There's something so beautiful about having the very most important people to you present on your elopement day, surrounding you when you say your vows. It's such an emotional experience- one that usually leads to lots of happy tears and hugs!


Eloping with your immediate family & closest friends is so incredibly special. It gives you the ability to spend a really meaningful amount of time with the people who are the most important to you!


With a traditional wedding, inevitably your attention will be divided between 150+ guests and you won't get to spend as much time with your partner or the people who are the very closest to you- and the time you do spend with them will be very rushed. With an elopement you get to be very intentional with your time and who you spend it with.


Just keep in mind that the more guests you have, the more you may have to stray away from your original elopement vision. Not all elopement locations will be able to accommodate all group sizes due to permit restrictions or Leave No Trace considerations. You'll want to make sure your ceremony spot has a large enough area that is not on the main trail for you to go to. Not only does this ensure you don't impede on other visitor's enjoyment of the location, but it also ensures you'll have a better experience during your ceremony (versus having it somewhere people are going to be passing you or upset that you're in their way, etc.).


Additionally, you'll want to take all of your guests physical abilities into account when choosing an elopement location and consider what is reasonable for each guest in terms of accessibility (taking into account their health and if they are used to high elevations or not).


There are plenty of beautiful, accessible places in the outdoors where you could elope and include your family members! As long as YOU are ultimately happy with your elopement experience and don't make any huge sacrifices that compromise the vision of your day (that's what traditional weddings can do!) that is all that truly matters.


Other ways you can include your family on your elopement day include:

  • Having them help you get ready

  • Having someone be your officiant and marry you

  • Have them sign your marriage license

  • When you're celebrating afterwards, your loved ones can give toasts or kind words to celebrate your new marriage!

A bride smiling at her dad after eloping in Mount Rainier National Park with her close family

Split the Day in Half

If you want to invite your loved ones, and also want some time on your elopement day to have an adventure just the two of you, consider splitting the day in half to get the best of both worlds! This is also perfect if you need to choose a ceremony location that is accessible for guests for one reason or another, but want to have a bigger adventure or go somewhere more secluded. Spend part of the day with your family & friends, and part of the day just the two of you! You could even do a private vow reading with just you and your partner, and another different ceremony with your family and friends. Honestly, you can split it up however you'd like- it's your day, so do whatever will make you the happiest.


Imagine waking up in a cute little A-frame cabin in the woods on the morning of your elopement day. You're sipping on coffee while getting ready for the day, looking out into this green, lush forest and the anticipation of the day is building. A few of your loved ones come to help you and the morning is filled with laughter and love as you finish getting ready. Then you hop in the car and drive up this incredible mountain pass where you'll share your first look where you & your partner will finally get to see each other in your wedding clothes for the first time!


After an emotional first look, you and all your closest loved ones take a short hike to your incredibly beautiful ceremony spot, and it's the moment you've been waiting for. Surrounded by all of the people you hold most dear, you get to commit the rest of your lives to one another and get married! Then you can take some photos with your family, explore around, have a picnic or dessert, have a toast and spend some time together enjoying this beautiful place you chose to get married in.


Then, perhaps you want to go on an adventure just the two of you and have some time for yourselves for a different adventure! We could go to a different trailhead and hike to an incredible spot for sunset, maybe say a more private, intimate version of your vows, and take really relaxed & beautiful couples photos. Or you could hang out in a hammock, or kayak in an alpine lake, or ride in a helicopter to a glacier, relax on the beach- the options are endless! If you want more inspiration, check out these fun elopement activity ideas!


After sunset, you could head back to your Airbnb for a private-chef catered meal with your family (or just the two of you!), have your first dance in front of a bonfire & eat s'mores, go stargazing, or hang out in a hot tub!


The options for your elopement day are endless- if you want to include your family & friends in some elements of your day, you most definitely can! Whether you choose to have a "just us" adventure at sunrise or sunset, and spend time with family during some other point in the day, how you choose to elope is completely up to you! There is really no wrong way to do it.


Make Your Elopement a Multi-Day Celebration

This is the same concept as the idea above, but gives you a lot more time to celebrate with your family members and more time to go on an adventure just the two of you! If you have a lot of activities planned, want to go to multiple locations, or want to go on a longer hike- this would be a great option for you.


This is also a great solution if you feel like everything you have planned would be too much for one day and would leave you feeling rushed or tired and not able to fully enjoy the experience.


Including Your Family & Friends on Your Elopement When They Aren't Physically Present

If you decide to elope just as a couple, there are still many ways you can include your loved ones even if they are not physically present.


If you choose to tell people you're eloping beforehand, you can include them in the planning process by

  • Sharing your elopement location & activities for the day

  • Having them help you pick out attire

  • Have an engagement or a "send-off" party

For your elopement day, there are still many ways you can include your loved ones, even from far away. For example, you could:

  • FaceTime them when you're getting ready

  • Incorporate meaningful details like photos of your family, articles of clothing, or jewelry to remember them during your day

  • Make a fun video at some point during your adventure to send to them later

  • Read handwritten letters from them at some point throughout your day, or watch pre-recorded videos if they aren't letter writers. This is one of my personal favorites! It makes for some incredibly heartfelt moments, is a way for them to feel very present on your day, and makes for a sentimental keepsake.

Then, after your elopement, you can share your photos, stories, and memories with them from your fun experience!

A couple eloping with their dogs in North Cascades National Park

Elope With Your Dog

Dogs are family members too! If you can't imagine getting married without your pup, bring them along for the adventure too. Even if you can't bring them along with you on your day, I've had couples bring photos of their pets or even wear lockets with photos of their pets in them!


Have a Party or Reception Separate from Your Elopement

If you want to elope just the two of you and have an intimate ceremony where you can say your vows in complete privacy and have a fun day celebrating your relationship and new marriage to yourselves-do it! If you want, you can always have a party or reception separate from your elopement- whether it's something lowkey at someone's home, at a restaurant, or something a little fancier. Whatever you want to do, go for it.


Have Multiple Mini Parties

After your elopement, if you want to keep your social circles separate or if a lot of your loved ones are spread out in different regions across the world, another option is to have multiple mini parties celebrating your new marriage and love!


Bottom Line: There's no right or wrong way to elope and there are so many different ways you can include your family in your elopement day plans if you want!

 

Want More Resources?


Get a budget breakdown and learn how much an elopement costs in comparison to a traditional wedding.


Learn what it's really like to elope with these stories & helpful advice from couples who've previously eloped!


Learn How to Elope in Alaska step by step with this Ultimate Guide full of helpful advice such as the best time of year to elope in Alaska, location ideas, activity suggestions, and example timelines!

 

A couple eloping with friends in Lake Powell Utah

A couple eloping with close family having a Mount Baker wedding

A couple celebrating their marriage after eloping with family in Mount Rainier National Park

A bride being kissed by her grandparents on the cheeks after eloping with immediate family

Photo of a dog in a locket that a bride is wearing on her elopement day

Hire Your Elopement Photographer


Hi! My name is Kathleen and I'm an adventure wedding and elopement photographer (and your new friend!). I'm here to help guide you to having the ultimate wedding day experience, and to document every single moment of it. I would love to help you plan your elopement and answer any questions you may have! I photograph elopements primarily in Washington, Alaska, Arizona & Utah, but am always available for travel.


Check out my elopement packages to get started planning your dream adventure, and then get in touch with me- I'd love to hear from you!


CONTACT ME HERE!

Alaska elopement photographer by a glacier

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