Ultimate Guide to Elopement Ideas
So, you’ve decided to elope! AMAZING choice! Congratulations you on your decision to go against convention and have the wedding that’s truly authentic to you as a couple. Depending on where you are in your planning process, you may already have a ton of elopement ideas or know exactly what you want from your elopement ceremony. If that’s the case, hit me up and let’s make it happen!
But if you’re not quite sure where to start or what’s even possible for your day, or if you just want some unique elopement ideas, this guide is for you. My Amores and I have crafted some incredible elopements together, and I’m so excited to share some of our favorite ideas with you here.
First things first: Why are you eloping? For many couples, the answer starts with a feeling that traditional wedding conventions aren’t quite right for them. (And if we’re being honest, most people don’t even know the history behind our wedding traditions anyway!) Wedding culture is so ingrained in our society that while couples may be clear on what they don’t want, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how to do things differently.
The best part about an elopement is that it truly can be whatever you want it to be! If you have some imaginary rulebook in your mind about what a “real” wedding looks like, I want you to lovingly toss that right out the window. This is your day, your love, and your celebration. (Make this your mantra and repeat it as many times as you need to!)
Maybe your dream is to have a small ceremony with just a few friends or family members there to celebrate with you. Or it could be just you and your love saying some quick private vows and then spending the rest of the day racing around on snowmobiles. Whatever your unique elopement idea looks like, know that it’s a valid and authentic way to honor your love.
How to Incorporate Family and Friends Into Your Elopement
One of the questions I hear most about elopements is whether you can include family and friends into your day. The short answer is, “Of course!”
Many people have an outdated idea that all elopements are just about “running away” and getting married without telling anyone. While some couples may choose elope in secret for a variety of reasons, this is certainly not the only way to do it! If you can’t imagine having this day without your family or friends, here are a few ways to get them involved.
Have Them There the Day of the Ceremony
If having your family or friends there on the day of your elopement ceremony is important to you, there are many ways that you can include them. Unlike a traditional wedding where it’s assumed that guests will be included in the whole day, an elopement allows you the freedom to pick and choose which parts guests will attend. This can help to take the pressure off certain parts of the day, and can also allow you to have flexibility to enjoy more adventurous activities that your guests may not be up for.
Here are some ways my Amores have included their guests:
- Having a family member or friend help get them ready for the ceremony
- Inviting guests to a small ceremony before they had an adventure with just the two of them
- An intimate private ceremony followed by a party with guests afterwards
- Inviting a close friend or family member to officiate or witness the ceremony
- If your family members are of the 4-legged variety, include them in your ceremony. In some states (like Colorado), your furbaby can even be an official witness!
Celebrating in Other Ways
If you don’t plan to have guests or want to keep your guest list to a minimum but include people in other ways, here are some ideas to make people feel like they are a part of your day:
- Ask friends or family to write personal notes to read at the elopement ceremony
- Have them record videos with their well-wishes
- Skype or Facetime for part of the ceremony
- Have a big party (or multiple small parties!) to celebrate afterward
For more detailed info on how to include friends and family in your day, check out our post on How to Have a Friends and Family Elopement.
Unique Elopement Ceremony Ideas
While even the most unique elopements usually incorporate some type of ceremony, there is no template for what an elopement ceremony has to look like. As someone who wants to carve your own wedding path, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to follow traditions that are not meaningful to you.
If you’re looking for elopement ceremony ideas, here’s what some of my other Amores have done, but again, the best part about an elopement is that you can do whatever you want! There is no right or wrong way to have an elopement ceremony, so if none of these elopement ceremony ideas speak to you, go right ahead and make up your own tradition.
This Celtic tradition of handfasting involves tying your hands together to symbolize the union of your lives together. Handfasting has roots in Wiccan and Pagan culture, but has recently become more popular in secular and religious ceremonies.
Paint a Picture
Making a piece of art is a great way to spend creative time together during your elopement. Even if you’re not artistically inclined, you’ll have a lot of laughs and a special reminder of your day!
Have a First Look
To have a first look, dedicate time before the ceremony or activities to just focus on that moment when you see each other for the first time. It’s guaranteed to be an emotional moment for you both, so don’t be surprised if there are some happy tears (maybe even from your sappy elopement photographer).
Make Sand Art or Jewelry
If you’re planning a beach wedding, consider collecting some of the sand to create sand art or incorporate into a piece of jewelry.
Blend Your Own Drink
Who doesn’t love a signature cocktail? And, you’ll have something to sip every year on your anniversary.
Celebrate With a First Dance
Just because there’s no dance floor or cheesy cover band doesn’t mean you can’t have a first dance with your love!
Read Personalized Vows or Letters
Write your own vows or letters to each other and read them either privately or publicly to each other as part of your ceremony. You can even have a custom vow book created to keep your words forever.
Take a moment out of your day to slow down and exchange meaningful gifts with each other.
Custom Design Your Wedding Details
The possibilities to customize your wedding attire and decor are endless! Taking the time to make each detail a little more “you” will make the day that much more special. Etsy has some amazing artists who can custom create just about anything you want! We’ve had couples customize everything from denim jackets to shoes!
Get Matching Tattoos
A tattoo is a meaningful symbol of your love, and an awesome permanent reminder of your special day!
Plant a tree together
Planting a tree together allows you to give back to the earth and can serve as a permanent reminder of your day every time you visit.
Use Custom ‘Just Married’ or ‘We Eloped’ Signs
We love incorporating custom signs into our photos even for our most adventurous elopements!
Create a Time Capsule
Gather items and photos from your elopement ceremony and leave them for you (or someone else!) to discover years from now.
Wear Matching Outfits or Other Non-Traditional Wedding Attire
Even if you don’t want to go full matchy-matchy, you can find a way to coordinate or maybe add little matching details like socks, shoes, etc. It’s these little details that help to make this day special!
Whatever you wear, make sure it’s authentic to you!
Unique Elopement Activity Ideas
As I’ve mentioned before (and you know I’m gonna mention again ?), your elopement can be anything you want it to be. It can be as adventurous or as laid-back as you want, and some couples even incorporate two or more activities into their elopement!
Here are just some of the activities you can enjoy on your special day:
- Get ready together
- Play music
- Elope in a special place with extra meaning
- Rent a Jeep and explore off-road trails together
- Capture a steamy intimate moment
- Go rafting
- Swim in a lake or ocean, naked ?
- Charter a small boat
- Go surfing
- Ride in a hot air balloon
- Take a helicopter
- Ride ATVs
- Take a hike
- Go snowboarding or skiing
- Go ice climbing
- Ride snowmobiles
- Visit hot springs
- Go mountain biking
- Go dog-sledding
Unique Food and Drink Elopement Ideas
If there’s one piece of traditional wedding day advice that still holds for elopements, it’s this: “don’t forget to eat!” Sure, you can always just throw a few energy bars in your bag to keep you going, but many couples want to have something more special. Here are some ideas for a memorable elopement meal:
- Have wedding cake
- Make a charcuterie board
- Hire a private chef
- Have wedding donuts
- Have a picnic
- Pop some champagne
- Have pizza and beers
- Make s’mores around the campfire
Where to Stay and How to Get Around Your Elopement
If you’re planning a destination elopement, you’ll likely need lodging and transportation, so why not incorporate these details into your day? Many locations have unique AirBnBs (like this cozy A-frame in Colorado) that will not only serve as a home base for all your activities, but provide the perfect vibe for your photos or celebrations. Other non-traditional lodging options to consider: staying in a yurt, renting a camper van, staying in a vineyard or on a ranch, or renting a houseboat.
When it comes to transportation, your options don’t end at the rental car counter. Depending on your activities, you may want to explore alternate modes of transportation to get you to your elopement spot. My Amores have found all kinds of fun ways to get to their elopements, including helicopters, dog-sleds, 4x4s and boats!
Best Places to Elope
Now that you hopefully have some great elopement ideas, you’ll need to decide where to elope! For some, this decision is easy: they want to stay close to their current home or hometown. Others dream of a destination wedding in a locale that has their ideal climate, landscape, or activities. Wherever you choose, it should be someplace that has special meaning to the two of you.
Working with an experienced elopement photographer can help make your destination wedding planning easier, since we know the best places to elope and can help with permitting and logistics. Here are some of my favorite elopement locations:
Eloping in Colorado
Colorado truly has it all! Stunning mountain vistas are a given, but you’ll also find lakes, forests, and even sand dunes! For more, check out these 7 Best Elopement Locations In Colorado.
Eloping in Utah
Utah, and especially the Moab area, is known as a mecca for adventurers for a good reason. You’ll find some of the most unique landscapes in the world here, and along with that comes incredible opportunities for exploring. For everything you need to know about the area, read this Ultimate Guide to Your Moab Elopement.
Eloping in Hawaii
Hawaii doesn’t need much of an introduction as a dream elopement locale. With its incredible beaches, stunning views, and year-round sunshine, it’s no wonder Hawaii is a popular spot for destination elopements.
Eloping in Oregon and Washington State
There are a number of incredible elopement spots in the Pacific Northwest. Whether you’re looking for a moody forest backdrop or stunning beach views, you’ll find them here.
If you want to combine your wedding with the epic trip of a lifetime, you can choose to elope anywhere in the world! We have elopement packages for international destinations – no extra travel fees or costs. Grab your passport and let’s go!
Meet Your Elopement Photographer with Unique Elopement Ideas
Hi there! I’m Adam, an adventure elopement photographer who loves helping couples like you plan their dream elopements! If you’re thinking of eloping and want to learn more about unique elopement ideas, reach out! I offer elopement packages in locations around the world, so whatever you’re dreaming, I’d love to help you make it happen!