Let's bust a myth together, shall we?
The Myth: An elopement is a selfish wedding, just the two of you, and friends and family are never invited.
The Reality: An elopement is an intentionally small wedding, which may or may not include friends and family, that brings the focus of the day back to the couple.
The very definition of an elopement is changing — and all for the better. Gone are the days where it's this shameful, run-away act of irresponsibility, and here to stay is the radical idea that it's a more authentic way of celebrating your union in a way that feels the most "you". And that does not mean that you have to exclude your loved ones. In fact, most eloping couples really value and cherish their close relationships and want to celebrate this milestone with them.
If you're on the proverbial fence about eloping and have hesitations because of this ill-conceived notion that your most important loved ones can't be present, allow me to put your mind at ease. Here, I'll talk about some different ways in which you can include them in your best adventure yet!
You probably didn’t think that would be the first thing on this list, but here we are! So to clear the air on this one, yes, you can invite your nearest and dearest to your elopement.
Some couples would like a few guests to join them for the actual ceremony and it's understandable to want key members of your inner circle to be there with you during this time. This is also a great way to still have witnesses for your marriage license (for states that require it) without the grand audience of a traditional wedding. Speaking your vows to one another with only a small selection of those you feel most connected to can be a huge relief and a very rewarding experience.
Couples who would like an even more private ceremony, just the two of them, can keep this part of their elopement for themselves and then include a handful of guests for an intimate reception at a different time the same day. Friends and family are still included and welcomed for your wedding and you don't have to feel the pressure of performing during the most meaningful part of your elopement. It's definitely a win-win situation!
You can also opt to have an "official" ceremony, officiant and all, with your friends and family present and then go off later in the day to a secluded location where you can read your personal vows to each other. And yet others would like to have their friends and family be included throughout the whole day, hiking adventures and all! There are a lot of great, easy-access ideas and activities that can accommodate folks of all ages and abilities, too.
Planning a separate reception/after party — be it the next day, a year later, or anywhere in between — is a great way to get the best of both worlds: an intimate experience for the two of you on your wedding day, and the celebratory vibe of a party with a much larger crowd at a later date. Most especially if your elopement day includes more strenuous activities where guests simply aren't feasible, even though you would have liked to have people there with you, this is an excellent time to celebrate together after the fact. As an added bonus, if you've planned your party at least a couple months out, you can even share your gallery of images with everyone to show them what an amazing time you had!
Before your elopement, you can ask your loved ones to write letters or record personal videos for you to read/watch on your elopement day. Sitting down to absorb congratulatory sentiments and well wishes is an immensely satisfying and emotionally fulfilling way to spend some time together as a couple after you've tied the knot. This is, hands down, one of my favorite ways for couples to include others in their elopement. You still get the private, intimate day you've always dreamed of, while friends and family can take part in that experience in a truly meaningful way. You're allowed to laugh, cry, and wholly be yourself while you take it all in without feeling the need to perform for anyone.
On the flip side, you can always set aside some time in your day to quietly reflect on your most important relationships and create something for them. This can be handwritten letters, a small piece of art (for the artists out there!), or short video messages after you say, "I do". Whatever this may look like for you, it's a fantastic way to hold space for those you love and to let them know how much they and their support means to you.
If you're anywhere that has decent WiFi or cell reception, you can plan to video chat with your friends and family! Depending on your itinerary, this can be done at any point during the day. You can talk with your parents while you get ready, laugh with your besties after you've made it official, or have a few "gatherings" where different friend and family groups can say hello at the same time and wish you well on your wedding day.
Just because your loved ones can't be there in person doesn't mean they can't be there in spirit. Simple things like heirlooms and family/cultural traditions can always be included in your wedding! Because of the nature of an elopement where there is inherently "less" (in regards to material items), a lot more thought and meaning can be put into what you do choose to incorporate. A few examples might be your great-grandmother's necklace tied around the stems of your bouquet; wearing one of your dad's ties; hair accessories that your sister gave to you; or your grandfather's watch. They don't have to be big items, nor do they have to be visible, so long as they hold sentiment and meaning to you.
I'm not saying let your friends and family plan your elopement for you, but you can always include them in the process. What details are you planning for your day, and are there ways they can help make that happen? Creating a personalized wedding jacket, sending out elopement announcements, or helping you to make the more difficult-to-choose logistical decisions for your itinerary and/or travel are all great ways to make your loved ones feel included in your wedding day, despite not being there in person themselves.
Just because your actual wedding isn't the traditional experience doesn't mean you have to throw out all of the traditions (if you don't want to!). Plenty of folks will still throw a wedding shower, a bachelor/bachelorette party, or go shopping with friends and family for the perfect attire. And, since we debunked the myth that guests aren't allowed at your elopement, you can even have someone walk you down the "aisle" (aka: trail, slot canyon, meadow, etc.), give you away, and even have a Best Man/Maid of Honor and a wedding party. It's your day, you can do what you want!
One last great way for your friends and family to partake in the elopement experience is to have photo and/or video documentation to share with them. Wedding photography and videography is not strictly reserved for big weddings! This might seem self-serving on my end, but the moments and memories you create during your elopement are no less important or meaningful simply because you chose to break from the status quo — they deserve to be captured.
For family members who might feel hurt that you are choosing not to have a traditional wedding where they can attend, this is an incredible way to physically show them how much this meant to you and why it was right for you as a couple. Oftentimes, upon seeing the happy smiles and gorgeous scenery, they get it!
This list is obviously not exhaustive, but it's a comprehensive set of ideas to get you started. Pick and choose what feels best for yourselves and remember that you are the most important aspect of your wedding day!
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