How to Include Your Family and Friends in Your Elopement - Oregon Coast Elopement Photographer
Ideas for how to include your loved ones in your elopement without giving up personal time for you two.
Eloping is your chance to take back your wedding day and do what you actually want…that doesn’t necessarily mean leaving out your loved ones. There’s ways to include your loved ones on all levels whether they’re there with you physically or they join you from a distance. Elopements are open ended so you can fill in the day with what best suits you two and that means you can include your family in whatever way you’re most comfortable.
Opting to elope can be challenging for yourself and those who may have expected an invitation. Don’t let this discourage you from eloping! You do have lots of options that aren’t necessarily inviting everyone along. It’s understandable to still want include loved ones and it’s also okay if you want to focus on the two of you above all else on your wedding day. It’s your day and you get to decide just how much everyone is involved with your day.
Here’s some ideas to get you started:
Invite them along
That’s right, eloping isn’t just a solo venture. You can invite whoever you want but you’re also allowed to only invite who you truly want present.
Invite them for the ceremony but exchange personal vows in private. Maybe you want your parents to walk you down the aisle or for a family member to officiate your day. You can have all of that plus the emotional experience of exchanging vows only you two hear. Your family also gets to be part of your commitment without encroaching on your intimate vows. Check out this blog that features a beautiful venue option on the Oregon Coast (also featured in the photo below). It’s wheelchair accessible and protects your family from potential weather issues.
Have a “reception” or picnic. This blog features an awesome picnic area that overlooks the beach in Brookings that my couples frequently use for this purpose. You can make this reception as wedding-ish or nontraditional as you want. You can include your first dance or you can save that for just the two of you. Some other additions could be toasts, parent dances, cake, etc. You can have a formal meal with your family or have a simple charcuterie spread.
Hang out at a vacation rental after. If you value simple, quality time with your loved ones, embrace that on your elopement day too. You can play board games, just hang out, make a meal together, exchange gifts, or whatever else is natural for your dynamic.
Some extra advice if you want to invite your family…
Set boundaries. Just because you want your family present doesn’t mean you need to spend all day with them. Set the expectation with them early on for how much time you’re going to spend with them. This will help your family not feel left out when you go on adventures with just the two of you. Make sure to share the timeline of the day for the people in attendance and specify what times of the day are for just you two and what’s for the group. I’d recommend leaving as much time with your family as you do the two of you alone. You don’t want to rush either part of your day.
Pro tip: Guests change the vibe of your day. One couple I’ve worked with that included guests did a hike with just the two of them before they even got ready. This gave them a chance to relax and spend quality time together without the pressure of it being their wedding day. It set the intention for their day and filled their quality time tank before spending the next stretch with their family.
Don’t feel pressure to invite extras. Don’t let your parents pressure you into inviting all the aunts, uncles, and cousins only for it to turn into inviting second and third cousins, old coworkers, and every babysitter you had. If you need help explaining who is invited, check out this resource on how to tell your friends and family you’re eloping. The general idea will also help you explain to someone invited why more people are not invited. Most importantly, I want to leave you with encouragement. This is YOUR day. You get to pick who is in attendance. Not inviting someone doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. If the lack of an invite results in tension, that’s on the other person. The only relationships that will never recover are the ones that were broken before your choice to elope.
If you’re inviting family to your ceremony, I’d recommend getting a venue space. Maybe it’s a vacation rental or a public lands amphitheater, but you’re going to want a space for them to actually hang out. Anything more than 3 guests in addition to you two gets complicated when you don’t have a specific space for a ceremony. The only exception is beaches because there’s enough room to spread out without disturbing other people enjoying the area. This is a great thing to discuss with your elopement photographer to make sure everyone is comfortable during your ceremony and respecting other visitors!
Include details from them in your attire
Having an item of significance from loved ones can help you (and them) feel close to them even if they aren’t there. You could wear your a necklace from your mother or a grandparent’s handkerchief in your suit pocket. Maybe you especially go outfit shopping with a loved one and they help you pick an element of your wedding outfit. I even had one couple that brought along a family heirloom tablecloth for them to eat their first meal together as a married couple at. The bride pictured above had the jewel from her grandmother's ring made into the necklace she's wearing. Maybe the detail shows up in your flat lay photos. Maybe a piece of fabric from another family member’s wedding outfit in the background of the detail photos from your day. The possibilities are endless for this! The object just needs to have significance to you and connect you with your loved ones. Even the smallest, seemingly unrelated object can add a lot.
Have them virtually join you
Have them write you a letter. This is a great way to show your loved ones that you still care about including them in your day even if you chose to elope alone. This is also good if you’re bad at telling people know. If one family member hears of another writing a letter, you can include the additional letter without taking up too much of your day.
Have them record video clips for you to watch. It will be like having a video call without having to stress about cell signal while you’re out in nature. You can also better allocate how much time you’ll spend on it if you already know how long the videos are.
Video chat with your family from your ceremony location (or anywhere else you’d like). You can show off your outfits, cheer together that you’re officially married, and show them how much fun you’re having.
Live stream your ceremony so they can feel like they’re there. If you chose this option, I’d recommend you approach the ceremony like they were present. Consider saving your personal vows for just you two and doing generic vows in front of the camera. Or you’re welcome to do your personal vows in front of them if you’re comfortable (just don’t feel like there’s not other options).
Send photos to them ASAP! I send preview images to my clients within 48 hours of their elopement so they can share. In my opinion, this is essential for my client experience and I think it makes a big difference in sharing your news with family and coming off the “wedding high.”
Hire a videographer
This is great for you and your family. You can show them the video and let them feel like they got to experience it (without having to actually be there). Pictures are essential but video adds elements photos don’t have. Voice recordings, your vows, movement, and your emotions in action.
I think video is so important that I even partnered up with a videographer to make video more accessible for my clients. Check out more info on that photo and video package here.
Celebrate with them at another time
You don’t have to only celebrate your elopement on the one day. You can welcome them to celebrate at a different time so you still get quality time together.
Have a big family dinner at someone’s house. This would keep it casual but still get the family together. You could do this beforehand or you could do it after so you can show off your photos and video.
Have a separate reception. This is why my husband and I opted to do! We eloped and 3 weeks later, we had a big celebration with everyone. This makes the reception part so much less stressful. You won’t worry as much if something goes wrong or not quite perfect because you’ve already had your dream wedding.
Invite people along for the usual pre-wedding celebrations. Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you can’t have an engagement party, bridal shower, or bachelor/bachelorette parties.
Need more elopement planning help? Check out these other resources!