Elope with family

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Can I elope with family?

The question I get asked most often as an elopement photographer is “can I elope with family and friends?” The short answer is yes! You can elope in any way you want with whoever you want!

But maybe you’re wanting to maintain the intimate, just us feelings while also having your favorite people present. Or maybe you want them there the entire day, but want to limit it to a select few.

Whatever the reason is, I gotchu! We’re going to talk about how to elope with family, ideas for getting the best of both worlds, incorporating family into a “just us two” wedding and so much more!

Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

Couple in wedding clothes walking up the aisle after their wedding ceremony. Friends and family are standing around them.

Intimate Wedding Vs. Elopement

What’s the difference?

When you get down to it there’s not much of a difference between an intimate wedding and elopements. Both are intentional days set aside to specifically celebrate the couple in a way that’s meaningful and authentic to them.

Elopements definitely have had a bad rap in the past though. Most people still associate eloping with running away to get married in secret.

(btw if that’s what you want to do then go for it!)

But the term has become much more inclusive! Even Miriam Webster has begun to change the meaning of the term elopement.

The word “elope” is associated with the word “escape.” This could mean a number of different things – you’re escaping the costs of throwing a huge, 200 person wedding. You’re escaping every day life by having a destination wedding somewhere. Or you’re escaping societal norms and choosing to get married in the most YOU way possible.

However you look at it, it’s clear that intimate weddings and elopements have become synonymous with each other.

Whatever you choose to call it, you’re getting married and that deserves to be celebrated in a way that brings you joy!

Couple in wedding clothes walking on the beach with their bridal party

1. Have them be present for the whole day!

This may be a no-brainer to some of you. Of course you want everyone there for the entire day. This is probably the easiest way to incorporate friends and family with the least possibility for feelings to be hurt.

You can have them help you get ready, join in on the ceremony, and party with you into the night. This is a good option for couples who want to be surrounded by people during every part of the day and don’t mind a bit of spotlight.

This is the perfect way to actually elope with family present.

Some things to remember:

If you’re having an all out party and including everyone on your guest list the cost per person will go up. You may not be able to have the ceremony location of your dreams depending on accessibility or permitting restrictions. Many popular locations in national parks and public lands restrict weddings and events to a 10 person maximum.

Some things to consider about cost:

you may need to rent chairs which will then require hiring someone to deliver, setup, and take down those chairs. You’ll probably foot the cost for a catered dinner, but you may also need to provide food during the rest of the day. Open bars can get quite expensive and the more people present the more the cost will go up. If your ceremony site is any distance away from the getting ready and reception areas you may need to arrange transportation for you guests.

Some things to consider about location:

Have you always dreamed about saying your vows on top of a mountain? An oceanside cliff? Accessibility will be a big factor when inviting others to your ceremony. Thing about whether or not family members will be able to walk to the location or afford to pay for things like a helicopter or jeep rental to get there.

Some things to consider about permits: most places in the country will require some sort of permit to get married there. The costs involved would likely be much lower for just two people as opposed to a whole group.

Some places don’t even allow gatherings above a certain number of people so be aware of that when planning your wedding.

Couple in wedding clothes walking on the edge of a canyon in Moab Utah

Have them join you after your vows!

If you’re dreaming of a super intimate way to say your vows then a private ceremony may be right for you. You could do this with just the two of you and your photographer, or you could invite select people to join you. This is ideal if you’re wanting to head to a specific spot for your ceremony. Then when your adventure is over you can come back and celebrate your elopement with family and friends!

This may be best if your dream ceremony location requires hiking or alternate methods of access. Or maybe you just want a quiet adventure for yourselves while still partying into the night. Either way, this could be an awesome way to elope with family while still enjoying private moments.

If you want to have your cake and eat it too…

You may want everyone there for your ceremony but still want a private adventure. That can happen too! Arrange a portion of your day to include a private vow reading at a location of your choice. Then you can come back and have a full ceremony – or you could have your ceremony first and then opt for a sunset vow reading.

Remember, this is your elopement day and you can make it look however you want! There are no rules when planning out your dream day

You could also…

Have a multi day adventure! Picture this: day one you and your partner get ready, have a first look somewhere epic, spend the day adventuring and saying vows, the whole 9 yards. Then the next day have a more traditional destination wedding with your guests!

newlywed couple dancing at their reception with friends and family watching

Elope on your own and have a reception when you return home

If you’re set on having a completely private experience from beginning to end then this could be a good solution. Plan your elopement to be exactly what you want – a private, adventurous, super fun day with no one else but your partner. Bask in the intimacy and beauty of it, and then when you get home celebrate with everyone by having a reception.

If you’re worried about people being upset with your choice to have a private elopement this is a good way to mitigate some of those feelings (if that’s something that worries you). You still get the wedding day of your dreams, and your loved ones get to celebrate with you.

A few things to consider:

Receptions are expensive, no matter how small and intimate they are. Food costs, venue, drinks, decor, it all adds up. If you’re working with a strict budget definitely take all this into consideration before moving forward with a full blown reception.

A simpler option may be to do a send off dinner as opposed to a full on reception. A few days before you leave for your elopement gather your friends and family together for pizza, tacos, bbq, whatever you want. This way they feel included and you still get your day.

And although you do your best to ensure everyone feels included, there may be a few who still don’t understand why you’re choosing to get married this way. That’s ok! You can really hype up your pre or post elopement celebration and let them know how much you’re looking forward to celebrating with them.

couple in wedding clothes looking at each other while the sun sets in front of them. They're on a boat.

How to include family in your elopement without any additional celebrations

Letters from your family

One of my absolute favorite ways to include family into your elopement is to ask them to write letters to you. Read these letters together on your elopement day to really feel the love and support from your friends and family.

Pro tip:

If you’re afraid a family member will write something less than savory in these letters ask a trusted friend to screen them in advance and weed out the nastiness so you feel nothing but love on your wedding day.

Video Chat

If you want to chat with loved ones on your wedding day without actually having them present, Facetime is an amazing tool. Carve out some time to video chat with family.

Pre-recorded video messages

This is another super fun way to include family and friends into your wedding day. Have everyone send a recorded message to you or a friend who can forward them to you.

Eloping with family is so special

I love it when couples choose to incorporate family into their elopement day celebrations. It’s always so beautiful seeing the creative ways families support each other.

Are you eloping with family?

Leave a comment below and let me know if you plan on eloping with family!

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