How to Include Family and Friends in your Elopement

Most people don’t realize, you absolutely can include family and friends in your elopement! It’s a super common misconception that eloping means you have to be totally alone, but that’s not what elopements are about.

Eloping is all about being intentional instead, because elopements have no rules! You can choose who and how you want to involve people, and create a personal experience that has everything you want, and skips the drama, obligations, and expectations that come with a traditional wedding.

So we’ve compiled all the solutions and options of how to include family and friends in your elopement, so you can have a personal wedding experience that is authentic to you!

Ways to Include Your Family & Friends in Your Elopement

Invite Close Family and Friends

Some could not imagine getting married without certain people present. And that could look different for everyone! Maybe you want to be walked down the aisle, or are looking forward to first dances. When eloping, you don’t have to make those sacrifices. You can still have elements of a wedding that you DO want and an experience shared with close ones, just in a more intentional way.

We define elopements as an intentional and non-traditional wedding experience, typically involving nature and with 20 or less people present. 

Anything over 20 people we consider an intimate wedding (though there is no difference when it comes to our pricing!)

So how do you go about deciding who to include?

Eloping is all about having a safe and comfortable space where you can be your true authentic self. And the people included should also make you feel comfortable and accepted for who you are. For some, that could be family. For others, just their closest friends. And there is no right answer, because this is your day, and about what’s best for you!

Always remember, that nobody has a right to be at your wedding. Entitlement from others towards your wedding is what can end up causing drama, stress, and tension when planning. And you shouldn’t be feeling stressed and drained during this chapter of your life.

It is a privilege and an honor for guests to be present at the start of your marriage. And when you choose to elope, you get to decide just who and how you want to include family and friends! And if that looks like that whole day together, that’s okay. Because with eloping there are no rules.

What Could This Look Like?

Imagine this, you walk an easy trail with 15 of your closest friends and family, and have an intimate and emotional ceremony at the volcanic black rocks of Michigan’s Presque Isle Park, overlooking Lake Huron (the parking lot is a five minute walk away for those that can’t walk far!) You then have an intimate airbnb dinner / party afterwards, with a bonfire, s’mores, and dancing barefoot under string lights!

You can still incorporate elements of a wedding that you want, but when choosing you elope, it becomes more personal and authentic to you. You can have a meaningful and joyous experience committing your lives together, and share it with those you’re closest with, without the stress or drama that comes with a traditional wedding. And more importantly, your experience is authentic and unique to you, so you can be intentional with your time and focus on what matters to you most: your love!

Split Your Time

Maybe you want a “just us” wedding experience, but still want to involve family and friends without it being a whole day huge event. Or maybe you want a personal and private experience together, but can’t imagine not having certain people in your life present for at least part of it. Elopements offer you choices, which means you can intentionally decide how to spend your time together on your wedding day, and with who! And instead of inviting people because you feel like you have to, you can invite those you want present, making your day so much more meaningful and personal to you.

What could this look like?

Imagine making breakfast and getting ready together in the morning, before meeting your ten closest friends at a trail head. We hike an easy trail to a gorgeous waterfall in the woods, where you exchange vows and marry your best friend! Then everyone heads back to an airbnb for dancing and jumping into a pool!

Or imagine this: You spend the morning writing letters to each other to read later, and then kayak to a private beach cove. There you change into your wedding clothes and read your letters to each other, with birds singing and the waves hitting the shore gently in the background. You then spend the day having a picnic, kayaking, and sharing a first dance before heading back for a fancy dinner with close family and toasts to end the evening.

Make it a Multi-Day Celebration

This is a great way to include family and friends in your elopement while still having a whole day to yourselves! And this makes the celebration of your love last even longer, because no one says your wedding has to be only one day.

Traditional weddings have a lot of pressure and formalities that come with. But you can include family and friends in your elopement in a meaningful way, just without the expectations and pressure of a traditional wedding. Instead of thinking of your wedding as an event hosted for guests, think about what a vacation with the closest people in your life would look like. If you went away for a weekend, with your best friends, what would you do together or see?

You also have choices on what traditions you incorporate into your elopement. Maybe you really want first dances, or maybe you would love to have a toast. Having a multi-day elopement means you can have meaningful time with just each other, but still celebrate with loved ones and have the elements you do want of a wedding!

What could this look like?

You could get a cabin airbnb for a weekend and spend Friday biking around, taking a pottery class, and getting gourmet pizza for dinner. Then Saturday you have a chill breakfast, get ready, and have an intimate first look at your cabin, before then meeting your family and / or friends at a parking lot near a forest trailhead. You hike an easy quarter mile to a private spot overlooking rolling hills dotted with autumn trees. Then you exchange vows and all the happy tears are shed, before then heading back to the airbnb with everyone for a campfire dinner, dancing, and being merry.

Or imagine this: You spend your morning getting coffee, and hitting up the beach, paddle boarding along Lake Michigan’s shore. After that you grab lunch and then take separate cars to Sleeping Bear Dunes trailhead where you put on your wedding clothes, get ready, and have a sweet first look. We then make our way to a private spot overlooking Lake Michigan where you exchange vows and have a private and heartfelt ceremony. Then until blue hour you relax, explore, pop some champagne, and have a first dance under a full moon with lanterns as our guides back to the cars, where you’ll spend your evening at a cute airbnb. The next day you meet 7 close family and / or friends at one of Michigan’s famed wineries and take a tour, enjoying good food and drinks, before then having toasts and heading back to your airbnb for a dance party in the evening.

The beauty of eloping is you get to choose just how much time you want to spend with each other, and how much you want to spend with the close people in your life. Some people get overstimulated or drained after hanging out with people, and that’s totally okay! You get to customize your day so that you can focus on what matters most to you, and having a space that’s comfortable and authentic for you to be in.

Have a Post Elopement Party

So maybe you want a completely private, just the two of you experience for your elopement, but still want to celebrate with family and / or friends somehow. Having a party or parties after eloping is a great way to keep the momentum going and celebrate with people you love, without having to have anyone actually present at your wedding.

And there are many reasons you may not want other people present at your wedding, of which all are absolutely valid. Because again, nobody has a right to be at your wedding, it’s a privilege! For some this could look like having a post elopement party with only close friends. Or with only close family. Or a blend of both. Or even having multiple separate parties!

The beauty of having a post elopement party is that there is no pressure or expectations. You can choose to celebrate with your close ones immediately after you elope, or you could wait a few months, or even years. There’s no pressure of when or how to celebrate after you elope!

What could this look like?

Imagine having an epic elopement with waterfalls and mountains as your venue. You exchange heartfelt and emotional vows at golden hour, share a first dance surrounded by wildflowers, and spend the day doing your favorite activities, (maybe getting tattoos to commemorate this day!) and end it with thai food and bubble tea at a local restaurant. A few weeks later you have family and friends over to your place for dinner, drinks, a group viewing of your photo gallery, and playing board games!

Or you could go out to a fancy restaurant for toasts, have a picnic in the park with music and dancing, or have a backyard cookout with a projector movie screening and smores. The possibilities are endless, because your celebration can be unique to you and however you want it to be. You can absolutely elope just the two of you and still include family and friends in your elopement without them being actually present day of!

Other Ways to Involve Family and Friends

There are still plenty of ways to include family and friends in your elopement without them being physically present the day of your wedding! Getting married and committing your lives to each other is an exciting time, and the people close to you may still want to shower you with love and celebrate you in other ways, even if they aren’t physically there.

And always remember, the focus of your wedding day is about your love and commitment for each other. This should be a time where you can be your most authentic selves, and celebrate in a space of peace and comfort where you’ll be fully accepted. Sometimes people have strained relationships with family, and that’s okay! Be sure to consider your own mental health when deciding who to involve and how much, and remember it’s nobody’s right to be a part of your day, it’s a privilege. A big part of traditional weddings can involve drama, pressure, and obligation from other people’s opinions, and can rob some of the joy of this experience.

Surrounding yourself with people who accept and love you for who you are, and encourage and support you will make this chapter of life so joyful and more meaningful to you. So with that in mind these are some great ways of how to include family and / or friends in your elopement without them being physically present day of!

Pre-Wedding Festivities

Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you can’t have all the regular wedding festivities! Eloping means there are no rules – so you can absolutely have an engagement party, a wedding shower, or even a “rehearsal” dinner! This still includes your close ones in your wedding celebration, even if they won’t be physically present. You could collaborate with them to plan these, or you could plan your own surprise engagement party to announce your elopement. This is a great idea to be able to explain the intentionality behind eloping, and give them an idea of what kind of wedding experience you want.

Go shopping together

Going shopping for wedding attire and details with the ones you’re closest to is a big rite of passage in weddings. And it’s totally okay if you don’t want to do this tradition! But if you do, this is a great way to include family and friends in the process, and be able to say “We made this choice for ourselves, but are choosing to include you in this exciting season.” You can be more intentional with your loved ones and have an exciting wedding experience that is more authentic to you.


Facetiming with your close family and friends at some point during your elopement is an awesome way to allow them a peak into your wedding experience and shower you with love. It’s also a great way to connect, without feeling drained if that happens for you!

Stitched Video Toast

Have your closest family and friends each record and send a video congratulating you and giving a toast that you can then watch on your elopement day together.


Have your closest family and friends each write you two a letter that you can open and read together on your elopement day.

Last Minute Prep

Have a few friends or family members go with you to get your nails done, go for a spa day, go shopping for last minute needs before heading off for your elopement.

Incorporate Sentimental Details

Incorporate something sentimental and meaningful in your details from friends or family. This could look like jewelry, a family heirloom, a pin, a photo, a watch, or whatever details are sentimental to you. And then you can have a piece of your loved ones with you when you commit your lives to each other!

Announcement Cards

Instead of sending out RSVP cards, you can send out an elopement announcement card instead! You can have a registry for those that want to shower you with love and gifts, include a link to a collaborative playlist, or a link to where they can submit a video toast / kind words as well.

Bring Back Gifts

I don’t know about you but I love getting T shirts and stickers and touristy things for my friends when on vacation. A lovely idea to include your family and friends in your elopement is to bring back little gifts from wherever you go. So that they have a little piece of your adventure as well!

Ready to Make Your Dream Elopement Reality?

Hopefully this guide has helped you narrow down how to include family and friends in your elopement! Maybe you’ve been on the fence about eloping, because you weren’t sure how to include your close loved ones.

Remember that at the end of the day, this is your wedding experience and you need to do what is ultimately right for you. Because you deserve a space of peace and acceptance, where you can be your complete 100% authentic self on your wedding day!

No matter how close or distant you are with family, never have a day that isn’t authentic to you. There are so so many incredible ways to still involve your loved ones with your elopement, and those that love and accept you for you, will encourage and support you no matter what you choose.

For more helpful elopement resources, check out:

Deciding if You Should Elope

Elopement Activities For a Unique Experience

Hey! I'm Corinne, an adventure elopement + intimate wedding photographer based in Indiana, but documenting love stories across the U.S. I believe in documenting the start of your marriage in an honest and emotional way that reflects your legacy. So that you can look back on photos fifty years from now with the same emotions of the moment flooding back. Let's take the road less traveled by together and craft your dream wedding day!

When I'm not documenting sweet couples, I spend my days with my sweet husband, Jake, two kitty babies and a crazy dog in our hometown of Fort Wayne. I'm obsessed with hiking and finding new trails, Game of Thrones, and creating art.


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