Eloping with Family: How to Elope with Guests or How to Include Them If They’re Not Present

January 15, 2024

For some couples, deciding whether to elope with family present is a super easy question to answer. For others, it’s more of a debate that requires careful consideration. In a landscape where wedding traditions are evolving, the choice to share your intimate moment with close friends and family adds layers of complexity to the decision-making process. The allure of a private ceremony is undeniable, but the prospect of including guests introduces both excitement and hesitation.

Let’s delve into the intricacies of this decision, exploring the joys and challenges that come with blending the intimacy of an elopement with the joyous presence of guests, acknowledging that for each couple, the answer might unfold in unique and unexpected ways.

There’s no right or wrong here as you’re following your heart. Don’t compromise. Don’t fall victim to any expectations that may be flung your way. They aren’t your problem. Don’t let anyone else tell you how to have your day. (That’s what those big weddings are for 😉)

A couple stands on top of a mountain, by themselves and without an family, and admires their wedding bands at their adventurous elopement.

Whether or Not to Invite Guests at All

First thing’s first, and that’s making the big decisions — deciding on “who” to invite, or not invite. When inviting family and friends to be a part of your elopement experience, there is going to be a handful of important things to consider in order to make your elopement experience as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Your Ideal Ceremony Location

If you decide to invite guests to your elopement, you’ll have to take their limitations into consideration at that time. Let’s say, for example, you ideally want a “cliffside” ceremony. How accessible do you envision that location will be? Will all of your guests have the ability (and furthermore, the comfortability), to get to your ideal ceremony spot?

Hype Squad or Debbie Downer?

This here is a big one, folks. It’s not something couples typically think about, but it’s really something that could possibly make or break your wedding day. How excited are your guests with this idea of an adventurous elopement? Will they also be fully on board with the idea like you two are? If not, maybe it’s best they stay at home. Compromising with others on your wedding day shouldn’t be in the cards for you.

Reading Your Vows

Think about that moment where you are in front of your partner, reading your vows to them. Is this a moment you envision is a private moment for the two of you? Or do you think there is someone who would find it really meaningful to hear your vows? Taking some time to reflect on how you want that moment to look like could really “set the stage” for the outcome to the rest of the day.

Transportation and Lodging

If you decide on a destination elopement where most — if not all — of your guests will be traveling in from out of the area, will you take care of their accommodations or leave it up to them? Maybe you envision renting out a mountain chalet where you can stay and mingle with all of your guests. Perhaps you like a more camp type of vibes and would like to rent out a cluster of cabins or yurts. Depending on your guests, maybe they’ll be more comfortable making their own arrangements. It’s really all going to depend on your ideal vision for incorporating them into your elopement experience, as well as their overall experience as a guest, and of course your budget, too.

A couple is eloping at Lake Louise in Canada, with the bride's sister officiating the ceremony and their parents looking on to witness the moment.

Eloping with Family

It’s totally okay if you can’t imagine getting married without the most important people in your life by your side on your big day. If you decide to invite guests to your elopement, thankfully there are so many fun, memorable, and meaningful ways to incorporate your guests into your elopement experience.

Have an Intimate Ceremony

Having your ceremony surrounded by your closest family and friends is a beautiful way to have those who mean the most to you be there for your on your elopement day. As I’ve touched on before, you’ll have to keep your guests in mind and consider their possible limitations when choosing a ceremony spot.

Split Up the Day

If you want to involve guests in your ceremony, but you don’t want to compromise on a location, you could think about having a private vow reading and then have a ceremony with your guests present at a later point in the day. You could re-read the same vows during both moments, or change your vows up for the ceremony. By doing this, you could find yourself having a little more privacy with your partner while also having that dedicated time with your guests, too.

Spread It Out Over Two Days

You could completely maximize your elopement experience by stretching it out over multiple days. This is always an excellent idea when considering guests, especially when it’s a destination elopement. Maybe you like the idea of two ceremonies but feel like that could make for a very long day. Imagine an ideal 2-person elopement day with just your partner, followed by a celebratory day with just your guests. Incorporate all the fun activities for just you and your partner as well as activities for you two with your guests. Let your imagination run wild and create the perfect two days of your dreams.

Include Them In Other Moments

There is no shortage of possibilities and ideas you can dream up to incorporate your closest people in your elopement. Here’s just a few ideas out of many:

  • Have a family member help you get ready
  • Sentimental first looks with family members
  • Ask someone to play a song
  • Have a family member read something during the ceremony
  • Have family sign as witnesses on your wedding license
  • An epic group toast
  • Family members welcome you back

Involving Friends & Family if They’re Not Present

There are so many beautiful ways to include family and friends in your “getting married” experience, beyond having to be there the moment you read your vows.

Throw an Engagement Party

Shortly before you leave for your elopement, allow your friends and family to throw you an engagement party! This will give them the space to share in the excitement for your upcoming marriage with you. Make it as low-key or as lavish as you’d like!

Go Shopping for Wedding Attire Together

Invite your closest people to come along with you to shop for your wedding day attire. It’s such a big part of the whole planning process, so it fully deserves its own moment.

Invite Them to Witness Your Marriage License Signing

Invite your loved ones to come to the courthouse to witness the two of you sign your marriage license. Although it’s paperwork, it’s still a HUGE step in your wedding process! It’s like a little wedding ceremony, too. Depending on the time of day, you can follow the festivities up with a lighthearted lunch, afternoon tea, or a celebratory dinner downtown.

Include Family Heirlooms as Detail Items in Your Day

Details can mean so much more than the flowers you order and the shoes you’ll wear. It could also be the sentimental things you incorporate into your wedding day. I’ve seen so many family heirlooms used, from grandfather’s bible to dad’s pocket watch, or a handkerchief with a letter from grandma sewn on the front. There’s so many ways, big or little, to make your elopement day special and meaningful.

Have a Family Member Officiate Your Ceremony

After you have signed and filed your marriage paperwork back home, you can technically have whoever you want to officiate your ceremony! Although you can easily look up scripts online for them to follow, it’s make it so much more beautiful when there is a bit of uniqueness and personalization added to the mix. Think of stories that can be shared, kind words that loved ones can say, so on and so forth.

FaceTime with Them on Your Elopement Day

At some point on your elopement day, when you’ll have the service capability to do so, chat with your family and friends over a video call! They can be there for you, without being there for you, giving you the space you’re looking for on your elopement day.

Have Them Record Videos for You

Imagine ending the ceremony on your 2-person intimate elopement day with you and your partner cuddling up to watch all the videos your loved ones have recorded for you. This will of course take a bit of pre-planning, but all you’ll have to do is give your family and friends some time before the wedding day to record a video and send it to you. Put them all together in a folder on your phone for when it’s time to watch them.

Open Gifts or Letters from Them on Your Day

This one is very similar to the idea mentioned above, instead you’ll have your guests write you tangible letters to read and/or send you gifts to open on your wedding day. Again, them give a good heads up so they have time to get it done and get those items to you.

Have a Party or Reception with Them After the Elopement

Once you’ve returned home from your amazing elopement experience, allow your friends and family to throw some sort of celebration for you! Think anything from a fabulous sunny Sunday brunch or a dinner party at your favorite spot. You could tell them all about the exciting moments you experienced on your elopement!

Share Your Elopement Photos with Them

Your elopement day photos taken by me will be shared with you in a personalized online gallery, which you will then be able to share with your family and friends! Allow them the opportunity to relive that exciting day with you over and over again.

Gift Them Prints or An Album

Within your personalized online gallery is the ability to purchase prints, albums, wall art, and more directly through the showcasing gallery. You’ll have so many beautiful images to share with many beautiful ways to share them, all at your fingertips.

No matter whether you choose that eloping with family present is for you or if it will just be the two on your elopement day, I’m always here for you and will fully support your decision!

Contact me today to start chatting about your ideal elopement experience.

My bags are already packed and ready to get this adventure started!


I’m a firm believer that you deserve the best, most unforgettable wedding that focuses on your love and this amazing commitment that you two are about to make to one another.

I’m not only your photographer, but I’m also your guide to your wildly different photography experience that’s adventurous, intimate, and completely yours.

You deserve unique and beautiful memories to carry with you forever. And I’d love to help bring your dreams to reality.