May 15, 2022

Ideas for Planning an Elopement With Family

While eloping can be really liberating—it can feel really good to release the weight of traditions and expectations!—that liberation can also lead to some really tough decisions. For big, old school weddings, the decision to involve family is easy: You just invite everyone because that’s what you’re supposed to do. But when you elope, you have the choice of how plan an elopement with family (or if you want to involve them at all), and for many, it’s a hard decision to make. 

A rainbow sits above the heads of a family watching their loved ones have an elopement ceremony in the blue ridge mountains at an overlook with benches.

Times are changing…

…and for many people in our generation, traditions just don’t hold the same weight they did for our parents, grandparents, or even our older siblings. Eloping gives you the opportunity to have a wedding experience that is totally unique to you, and that might mean excluding some or all of your family from some or all of your celebration. For the generations before us, being separated from your wedding day could be hard to understand or even hurtful, even if it feels true to you. Of course, we hope our loved ones will understand and support our vision for our special day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a scary and hard decision to make. 

A family stand around cheering for a couple that just ended their elopement ceremony in the foggy woods.

If you’re craving an intimate elopement experience and know that would be most fulfilling for you and your partner, you’ve got options. There are still ways to include your family without compromising your special vision of your wedding day. Here are four ways you can incorporate your family into your celebration. Each provide a range of inclusion and experiences that will let them feel involved, while also staying true to that intimacy and freedom y’all are craving. One of the greatest regrets of newlyweds is that they felt so distracted by guests on their wedding day. Meaning they didn’t get to spend much time with their brand new spouse—these options lets you do both.

Some Options for How to Plan an elopement with family

Option 1:
Divide the Elopement Celebrations into Two Days

A couple in their elopement outfits are dancing in a living room lit up with string lights with their family dancing around them.

If there’s ever an occasion that’s worthy of two days of celebration, it’s certainly your elopement! After all, you’re promising to love each other forever, and that’s a big freaking deal! If you’re wondering how to plan an elopement with family without losing any time together, this is it!

While extending your party across two days sounds just plain fun, it’s also a great approach for accommodating both your needs as a couple and your family’s desires. On one day, just the two of you can elope and declare your love intimately and personally. Without the expectations or restrictions of family and guests, you can make this day truly yours. Soak in the sweetness of the moment and each other’s company without any distractions. 

Split the elopement with family up

Then on another day celebrate with your family and friends. It could be the next day or in a different week entirely, before or after your personal elopement. With the emotional heavy lifting done on your personal elopement day, you’ll have lots of energy and attention to offer your family without feeling distracted from your partner. You could plan a family dinner, a mini vacation, or have a true party. You can do whatever you and your family will appreciate most, go for it!  If you’re exchanging your personal vows separately without an officiant, you’ll need to plan a time to go to the courthouse to get “officially” married.

Many couples choose to invite their family members to the red tape courthouse ceremony. This is because it’s a necessary formality that’s made a little more fun with the presence of some loved ones. Including your family in your courthouse ceremony before or after your personal elopement is a great way to get them involved!

A couple watches a family member give a toast in their elopement reception hall with lit candles and low lighting.

How to plan an elopement with family
Option 2:
Connect with Family Digitally Via Video Messages or Video Chat

A couple in their wedding clothes sits on a couch and holds hands while smiling at the screen of a computer.

How to plan an elopement with family without them being there at all? Just because your family isn’t physically with you on your elopement day doesn’t mean they can’t be with you at all. We all know that modern technology provides us with new opportunities to connect all the time. That applies to your wedding, too! 

Go digital to include family for your elopement

There are so many ways to check in with your family digitally on your big day. They could share well wishes via video messages with you in advance. You and your partner could spend some quality time together watching their videos after your intimate ceremony. You can do the same on your end; sharing short videos of sweet moments throughout your day with your closest family members so they can feel included. Or if you want to share these moments with them as they happen, you can video chat with them live on Zoom or Facebook. The video option is particularly valuable for couples who have family out of state or out of country. You can involve them in the day without the burden of big travel expenses. 

Technology is such a resource as you elope. It provides a unique, special platform to bring family into your day without the restrictions or straight up difficulties of actually having them there.

Option 3:
Invite Them only to the Ceremony.

An elopement ceremony with family in front of a big mountain scene in the late afternoon. The couple stands with an officiant in a rock outcropping while the people look on.

The details

With elopements, you’re free to plan an entire day around celebrating your love. You can divide it into separate events and experiences, some of which might be better suited to the involvement of your family than others. Your more traditional family members are most likely to connect with the ceremony portion of your elopement. That can be a great time to involve them in the day that they are most excited about. Then you reserve time to celebrate just the two of you before and/or after. 

If you do decide to include your family in your ceremony, choose a location that’s easily accessible. You will also need to consider a spot that is large enough to comfortably accommodate your group. A hiking elopement probably isn’t a great option unless it’s a quick and easy trek. That’s because some of your family might not be physically prepared to hike up a mountain. Also, many outdoor locations mean that parking is usually limited, and access is sparse. (Remember, for elopements, less than 20 guests is good, less than 10 is ideal).

Private or public vows?

Because you’re choosing a location that’s pretty easy to get to, that means you’ll probably also be able to find an officiant to host the ceremony. That allows you to take care of the wedding legalities and have an adventure all in one day. If you’d like, you can exchange your personal vows during your ceremony! But, some of my couples prefer those to be a more intimate moment. You can save them for a time when it’s just the two of you. If you want to do a full hike, that could be a great time to exchange your vows with more privacy! Your conventional family members will recognize these aspects of your ceremony and will feel involved in your big day, even if the most special moments for you come later.

A bride is kissing her family member (father) on the cheek as he drops her off at her elopement ceremony spot by a creek. Others are standing around watching
A close up of someone reading a note  with printed text in front of a pool of water.

How to plan an elopement with family
Option 4:
Include Family Throughout Other pieces of the Day

A couple and their family are sitting around a table holding beers up for their elopement. There is a cake in front of them and they are smiling at each other.

There are ways to involve different family members throughout the course of your day while still holding space for intimate moments alone. If you want your ceremony to be just the two of you, maybe a parent or close friend could help you get ready. When it comes to your ceremony, you could invite your extended family, just your parents, or only your closest friends. You could gather with your friends and family around a table, sharing a meal together and toasting. Have breakfast with your bestie, a nightcap with your dad. Maybe you gather your siblings for a team huddle before you walk to your ceremony—you do you!

The best part of eloping is that it gives you the flexibility to celebrate however you want. It means you pick to do it whenever you want, and with whoever you want. You can dedicate different times to different people in order to truly get the most of their company and your day. Nothing better!

Two family members, sisters are hugging in a cabin style room. One is wearing her elopement dress and the other is in a black outfit.

Don’t Lose that time alone

My greatest advice when you’re wondering how to plan an elopement with family is still to make sure you spend some time alone as a couple. When you do, make it really quality time. Whether you choose to spend the morning alone or the evening alone, I’d suggest giving yourselves that time without schedules or limitations; your moments alone together are the ones you don’t want to feel rushed. Don’t try to squeeze in couple time around family time—it should be the other way around. Dedicate your day to you two, and plan everything else around it.

A group of people sit around a campfire chatting in the backyard of a house at night time.
A couple stands in an outdoor courtyard dancing under string lights and surrounded by family during their elopement.

To sum it all up…

I know how difficult the decision of how to involve family in your elopement can be. Whether your relationships are rocky or you are super close, every couple struggles in some way when deciding how to plan their wedding day with family; It can be be scary and feel heartbreaking to think you might disappoint them. But ultimately I really believe the best thing you can do is be honest with yourselves and your family. Decide what you truly want from your elopement. If you compromise to make someone else happy, you’re not being true to you. That’s no good, since it’s not only what this day is all about, but what life should be about.

My hope is that when you make the decision that feels best for you, your family and friends will try to understand. Even if they don’t, at least you’ll know that you made the brave choice to be true to yourselves. Maybe they’ll understand someday! But even if they don’t, you can always look back on your day with no regrets. Knowing you lived it to your own standards and no one else’s will be the best choice at the end of the day.

It’s about you

Remember, your wedding day isn’t about anyone else but you and your partner. By eloping, you’ve already made the choice to create an experience that represents you as a couple. Plus, You can continue to do so by involving your loved ones in whatever way feels right to you.




I believe everyone deserves a wedding experience that feels genuine to them.
That’s why I help those who value intimate, unique, & adventurous memories
have a celebration they cherish for a lifetime.
If you’re dreaming of an elopement immersed in the natural beauty of Western NC,
get in touch and I’ll help you bring everything to life!




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