Ultimate Guide to Your Family Elopement 2024

LAST UPDATED December 27, 2023

Planning A Friend and Family Elopement While Keeping Your Love at the Center of it All

For some, tying the knot would just not be the same without teary-eyed family and friends there on your special day. Your friends were there the day you came home, gushing about your “new crush,” and they were there the day you said, “This person is really someone special!” For many it is important they are there to watch you say “I do.”

But the world of elopements, particularly friend and family elopements, seems to remain shrouded in mystery. 

“If I choose to elope, are my friends and family even allowed to be involved?”

Couple poses with friends at their Colorado mountain wedding

“And if so, in what ways can my family and friends be a part of my elopement? And if no, how do I break the news?”All wonderful questions, my Amores. I will start by giving you the abridged answer, referencing my favorite 1960’s pop song: “It’s your party and you’ll cry if you want to, invite who you want to, include who you want to!” (Or something like that.)

In all reality, it is important to consider the details of who to invite, and to what degree you want them involved in your friend and family elopement. When you get clear on what you and your partner want for your special day, you are able to more clearly communicate this to your guests.

Now kick up your feet, pull your partner close, and let’s figure out how to have a successful friend and family elopement where we keep your love at the forefront.

A Friends and Family Elopement: How to Include Them

The guest count for a friend and family elopement is generally 16 or less. This helps to prioritize the intimacy and flexibility of the big day – two pros of taking the elopement route. Once you have made your guest list of who to include in your friend and family elopement, you will need to determine to what degree you want each individual involved. You may want some guests to simply write down their good wishes so you can read them at the ceremony. For other guests, you may want them to hike with you to that epic mountaintop location! You may even want them to officiate on your big day!

Couple hikes with friends at their Colorado elopement

Friend and family elopements, and Colorado Adventure elopements in general, are created to be exactly what you Amores desire. They just don’t have to adhere to any structure or ‘traditions’, so include who you want! Whoever brings joy to your face and is prepared to celebrate your happiness is the right person to invite (whether that is Great Grandma, your college roommate, or the Barista that always knew you two would end up together and kept giving you shots on the house).

For Those Present on the Day of the Ceremony

Some couples will want guests intimately involved in the ceremony. It is perfectly acceptable to bring them along for the adventure. If you plan to get married atop of an overlook after a hike, keep in mind that you will want to inform your guests exactly what they are signing up for when they are getting involved in your ceremony (and remind Aunt Edna she probably doesn’t want to wear her stilettos for this one).

A woman smiles as her wife and mother kiss her at her wedding

Wedding traditions don’t have to go out the window just because your celebration is less traditional than others. You can have your family partake in the traditions you care about: whether that is a walk down the aisle, toasts, flower or ring bearers, or any other unique traditions important to you.

Another great option that my Amores often opt for is splitting the ceremony so part of the celebration takes place with your honored guests, and the other portion is just for you and your love. That can look like a ceremony that includes family and friends, followed by a short adventure that just includes you and your partner. This allows you to maintain the sweetness of having a moment with just you and your love while maintaining the excitement of celebrating with a friend and family elopement.

For Those Participating, But Not Present at the Elopement

Keeping others in the loop about your elopement, but not planning on them being present for the ceremony? There are plenty of ways for them to stay involved! Have special people in your life write or record messages the day before your celebration. Then, plan to watch the warm wishes as a couple once you have officially said: “I do!”

Other ways to have individuals involved is to have them Facetime or Skype into the ceremony or the associated activities. (Ahh, the benefits of technology.) Or, invite a guest to witness the signing of the wedding license once the celebration is complete (a very special memory for this honored guest). 

Don’t forget… friend and family elopement receptions are a thing! Maybe it’s just you and your love as you celebrate atop a snow-covered peak. But, maybe after you and your boo say I do, there’s a wonderful reception and party in the warmth of your lodge, with hot chocolate, dancing, and more sixties hits.

One huge benefit of an elopement is the opportunity to celebrate time and time again. Don’t forget that a friend and family elopement party in conjunction with your celebration is always an option! People love love (and they also love parties). More on this later.

Pets and Your Elopement

Brace yourself for the best news you have heard all week: Fur babies can be witnesses for weddings in the state of Colorado! You read that right: If it is important to you that Fluffy is involved in your special way in a big way, we can set them up to be the official witness at your elopement. Not only is it a great “fun fact” for two truths and a lie, but it will also make for some adorable photos.

Things to Consider When Eloping with Family and Friends

So you have determined that you want a friend and family elopement. But it is not as simple as inviting everyone to do their part, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best. This is your big day and guests need to be reminded to play their role in the way you see fit.

Remind Them of The Focus

Whether it is a wedding or a friend and family elopement, it is important that guests keep the couple top of mind. I get it, it can be easy to be concerned about whether mom’s hiking boots fit, or if the cake is gluten-free for grandpa. But in a ceremony as intimate as an elopement, friends and family need to be especially aware of where the attention gravitates.

Try explaining to guests what this day is about in your initial invite, “This wedding will be a little different than most, we will not have all of the traditions, but things included in the celebration are incredibly important to me and my partner. We want to ensure that all of the guests respect that!”

Telling guests what the day is not about can be another way to communicate expectations: “We are so glad you will be able to join the ceremony. However, it is important you realize this is not the time for mountain top selfies or to try out your sick new mountain bike. We really want to stick to the schedule we laid out.”

Taking Care of Your Guests

When determining where to host the celebration for your friends and family elopement, it is important to keep in mind their activity level. Sure, a cliffside ceremony may be your dream, but if your young flower and ring bearers still believe in the tooth fairy, perhaps you have a celebration more accessible to those involved. 

Leave No Trace Principles are also extremely important when having a friend and family elopement. Guests need to realize things like confetti are not traditions you will be packing in because you will be hosting this celebration in nature. Remind guests that you want to leave the place of celebration cleaner than you found it, so everything from tear-stained tissues, to baby diapers will need to be carted out after the celebration.

Along with accessibility, be sure that there is adequate food, lodging, and transportation for everyone involved. I know, I know, you and your love are mountain goats who can go for miles on little more than a granola bar and some sunshine. But your guests will likely need more accommodations. Be sure to research nearby amenities. Also keep in mind things like cell service and the means to charge electronics will be important for your guests! Do the research ahead of time so no one is caught off guard with no bars or *gasp* a low phone battery.

The After Party (Or Beforehand Party)

I am a big party guy. (See my party face here.) And that is one of the reasons I love elopements! Elopements don’t mean you miss out on a big party. For guests that do not attend the celebration, consider other ways they can be involved.

  • An engagement party is a great way to celebrate an elopement and share in the joy before the actual celebration.
  • You can hold a reception after the intimate ceremony. Only include friends and family you’ll want to party with after the happy tears have been shed and the “I do’s” have been said.
  • Consider a party after the ceremony date. Many couples feel emotional exhaustion after the wedding day, and this allows some “recoup” time. This also means you have as many parties as you want, with whoever you want. Oftentimes, this is way cheaper than a regular wedding party.

Navigating the Details

Feeling the excitement of having a friend and family elopement? Me too. But before sending out the invites, ringing the wedding bells, and calling grandma to see how far she feels comfortable hiking, let’s go over a few details.

How to Invite People to Your Friends and Family Elopement

First things first, you are going to let people know you are eloping! (Lucky for you, I have laid that all out here.) Once you have broken the news that an elopement is in the works, it is time to let your guests know they are invited! Get creative with this invite, whether that is simply to go dress shopping or to officiate the ceremony. Need help getting started on a few fun ideas?

  1. Elopement announcement cards or engagement cards.
  2. A fun video where you ask them to be involved.
  3. A cute party bag with favors (think a water bottle for the hike!) that invites your guests to the celebration.
  4. An authentic and genuine phone call inviting them to your friend and family elopement.

The truth of the matter is, the people you invite love you. No matter how you ask them, they will be excited to be included and thankful that you chose them to include in your big day.

How to Tell People They Are Not Invited

This section may have a scary headline, but the answer is simple… if you don’t want to invite someone, there is no need to tell them they are not invited. In fact, elopements make this conversation even easier. With small celebrations, people are less offended if they don’t get an invite. (Meanwhile, if I don’t get an invite to your 500+ person wedding, I am going to be questioning our friendship!)

If it comes up, simply tell the person that you are having a small friend and family elopement, and you would love them to be involved in a celebration after the fact. That could simply be a celebration dinner, or a big bash highlighting the fact that you are officially hitched. That’s it! 

*Adam crosses his arms and smiles smugly like he just bestowed some great wisdom on you. Because, surprise, he did.*

You’re the Boss, Boss

Don’t be afraid to let people know what you expect from them when celebrating your big day. Is it a priority that no one wears white but you? Let the people know! No cell phones at the ceremony? Make it happen, booboo, and have one of the guests be sure to enforce this rule. Arrive early, bring pizza, no Fireball? You got it, Captain. 

You have chosen to elope because it is authentic to you and your partner. Having a friend and family elopement should not detract from this authenticity. Make a list of priorities and ensure guests are aware of expectations. (Of course, in that classy and cool manner you always do.)

At the end of the day, it will be your celebration and guests will be grateful they had the opportunity  be involved.

A Friend and Family Elopement: Creating a Community of Love and Support

My Amores, the reason you want a friend and family elopement should be this: To help you and your partner create a community of love and support on your special day. If you are inviting guests for any other reason, then I challenge you to take another look at your guest list.

Fill this day with people who give you the warm fuzzies. Fill it with people who make you cry happy tears and remind you to wear waterproof mascara. Fill it with people who would wake up at sunrise for you.

The Best Colorado Elopement Photographer for You

Colorado Elopement Photographer stands next to a Jeep

Hi there! I’m Adam, I hope you also choose Colorado’s best elopement photographer to capture all of the love and activity you create on this particularly memorable day. I can help guide you to the best elopement package for you and answer any questions you might have about eloping in Colorado. Interested in getting this elopement party rolling? Reach out. I can’t wait to hear about how I can help make your dreams come true.