How to Plan an Elopement With Family

ELOPING WITH FAMILY – A HOW-TO GUIDE

Are you thinking of eloping with family but can’t think of how to include them? It’s totally normal if you can’t imagine getting married without including the most important people in your life. If it makes you feel better, you’re not alone! It’s an all-too-common dilemma for a lot of couples who want to elope with family. But it doesn’t have to be an issue: You can totally have a family elopement without comprising on other important things. Yeah, you read that right!

Elopements have evolved since the days of a courthouse quickie ceremony. Your elopement can be as intimate or as inclusive to family and friends as you want! What makes an elopement special is that you get to consciously choose how and when to include your family members in a way that makes sense to you. You don’t have to bow to social pressure to do anything “traditionally.”

I’m here to help guide and walk you through ways to include your family in your elopement! Keep reading below for ideas, tips, and inspiration for your family elopement!


• DO A PROCESSIONAL

The bride’s father traditionally escorts his daughter down the aisle, but there’s nothing stopping you from giving tradition a twist for your family elopement. I’ve seen brides escorted by both parents, a brother, or even their son or daughter. Eloping with family is about celebrating your wedding exactly how you want, so give yourself permission to create the day that best represents you!


A father walking his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.

• INVITE GUESTS AND MAKE YOUR ELOPEMENT A FAMILY ADVENTURE

Just because the old image of elopement brings to mind drive-thru wedding chapels in Vegas, doesn’t mean that’s how you have to do it. You can still achieve the intimate, natural elopement you want while still surrounded by your closest family and friends. Your day will be unique, emotional, and totally unforgettable.

Just keep in mind that you may have to adapt your location depending on the physical abilities and ages of your guests. Another option I offer couples is an adventure session before or after their ceremony—exchange vows surrounded by family, then we’ll head out on a hike for a secluded photoshoot! This gives couples the best of both worlds. You can still elope with family, while also creating a private adventure to look back on with no regrets!


Couple with their friends at alpine lake.

• BREAK THE DAY INTO TWO PARTS

This is probably the most popular option because you don’t have to compromise on your adventurous spirits! A lot of my couples will do something by themselves with me in the morning – maybe a hike with a private first look and private vows – followed by meeting back up with friends and family later for another ceremony or just family photos.

This is really the best of both worlds for couples and families because you still get to have your own private adventure and your family still gets to be involved in your elopement. Win-Win baby!


A couple sharing a kiss with their family cheering them on.

• GIVE YOUR FAMILY AN EPIC TOAST

Look, champagne showers aren’t just for Super Bowl-winning teams. They’ve become the norm for newlyweds, too, and I’m here for it! At elopements, I want couples to have authentic and timeless images of their day, and celebrating with an epic toast to their family is a great way to remember an amazing day. So let’s toast to those family and friends so they can relive your joyous moments through your photos!


A family sharing a toast for a couples wedding day.

HAVE A FAMILY MEMBER OFFICIATE YOUR ELOPEMENT

If you’re eloping with family, you can ask a parent or sibling to be your officiant, including them in a meaningful way while still keeping the number of close family members small. You may want a sibling or best friend to take on the role of Maid of Honor or Best Man and stand beside you. 

An added benefit: Including a close family member will be a storyteller of your love moments, and someone to hold your tissues, fix your hair, and offer lots of love and family support for all the mushy parts.


A friend officiating a couples elopement in Yosemite.

GO SHOPPING WITH FAMILY FOR WEDDING ATTIRE TOGETHER

Do you have some close family members who won’t be joining you on your elopement? They can still be involved! Take special care of these guys by bringing them on your hunt for wedding attire! Both of my wife’s parents were with her when she made her final dress decision, and I went shopping for my suit with my mom. Feel free to invite your favorite family members to join you in these big moments that go into creating your wedding.


A bride getting emotional trying on wedding dresses.

HAVE YOUR FAMILY SIGN YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE AS A WITNESS

Your epic elopement is going to be the most memorable part of your wedding day, but there’s another chance to involve the family in your elopement when it comes to legal documents. The requirements for signing a license can vary between states, but you’ll still need some John Hancocks to complete your big day!

You could ask people in your families like your parents, siblings, or even your best friends to sign your marriage license. This is a great way to include family in an elopement without actually bringing them along on the trail!


Friends signing their friends marriage license in Colorado.

• PLAN AN ELOPEMENT FIRST LOOK WITH FAMILY

If you are eloping with family, invite them to be part of your first look! For some couples, this is their first intimate, emotional experience as a couple on their wedding day, and it makes for some amazing reactions! Just imagine how great it could be if your mom or dad were there too! You can even share a first look with some of your closest friends. This is one of my favorite ways to include family members in your elopement.


A bride sharing a first look with her girl friends.

• PLAN A FAMILY RECEPTION

Planning a reception with family is really the “best of both worlds” option. Keep your outdoor wedding private and intimate, and then throw either a second ceremony or just a party for family and friends later! (This is the most common option couples choose.) 

Remember, you can do this however you want. Maybe you want to say your private vows alone in nature with your partner, and then say some more traditional vows in your second family ceremony. Maybe you only want to have one intimate ceremony, but then have your family there to witness your cake cutting and first dance. Or you can just do your own thing and have a full-on reception later.

There are a ton of different ways to do this, but remember to give yourself permission to do exactly what speaks to you as a couple!


Bride and groom walking down the aisle after their elopement ceremony.

• HAVE A FAMILY MEMBER HELP YOU GET READY

Family elopements can make your life way easier by asking a friend or family member to help you get ready for your big day. There is nothing better than having a close one to help with your dress, hair, or some kind words on your wedding day. This is great for those who might get overwhelmed under normal circumstances, which might be heightened on your wedding day. Choose your closest friends or family to join your elopement getting ready festivities! This also makes for some amazing photos that you can look back on in time.


A brides friends helping her get dressed for her elopement.

• SHARE A FACE TIME WITH FAMILY

I’m generally a big fan of being disconnected and present on wedding days, but sometimes you have to embrace the technology! If your family can’t join in person then you can invite them to join via FaceTime or ask them to send you a short video. This is a great way to include family in your elopement without actually having them present. This still allows you to share those special moments with a modern twist.


A couple sharing a facetime with their family on their wedding day,.

• HAVE YOUR FAMILY WELCOME YOU BACK

This is a great option for couples who are wanting to do something by themselves while still keeping their families involved. You can have them wait for you after your elopement and celebrate your day with streamers and bubbles as you walk down your makeshift aisle. Such a fun option for those looking to include their families in their elopement!


A couple walking down the aisle with their families celebrating their elopement

• READ LETTERS FROM YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS

This is a new and fun way to include your family in your elopement. The idea is super easy as you ask your family and friends to write you a letter for you to read on your elopement. The letter can include blessings and wishes on your big day and future or they can write about their favorite memories you shared together. Either way, it’s a fun and emotional way to include your family on your elopement!


A couple reading letters from friends and family on their elopement.

• HAVE YOUR FAMILY SEND YOU A VIDEO

This is a fun option to have your family or friends prepare a premade video for you to watch on your elopement. They can either share some kind words, share stories, or even give you a toast! There really isn’t a wrong way for them to share a video with you and it’s a great way to include family on your elopement with a modern twist!


A couple watching a video from their friend on their elopement

FAMILY ELOPEMENT TEAM

My name is Sean, and I can’t wait to help create your family elopement! I’m a free spirit who has dedicated my life to exploring this wild world and connecting to the people in it.

I know firsthand what an important and personal decision eloping with family is. My passion has led me here, where I can follow my heart and share my love for the outdoors with others on their wedding day. It’s truly an awesome experience, and I’m stoked every time I get to document your day.

When I’m not photographing couples, I love to go exploring with my wife and our corgi.

Sound like the perfect match? Check out my packages and reach out so we can get started on your family elopement!


Colorado Elopement Photographer

Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by vowsandpeaks